The Guest Blogging Snafu: Critical Info for Blog Owners

 The Basics:

guest blogging penalty flag

Accepting guest blog posts might soon result in Google penalties.

Google’s anti-spam chief Matt Cutts started an explosion across the SEO and Blogging worlds when he announced in mid-January that ‘Guest posting for SEO is dead.”  Since then, other Google officials and Cutts himself have revised this assessment – but it is still clear that Google is getting ready to pay a ton more attention to blogs that host guest posts – and it is clear that there will be SERP penalties for blogs that intentionally or unintentionally allow spammy backlinks in guest posts.

If you own a blog that gets requests involving offers of guest blogging – this could obviously be a huge problem, especially if you do not understand the nature of the problem from Google’s eyes.

At the core, this is a dispute about backlinks, so you will need to understand how links work and how to respond to requests post-Google’s Guest-blogging crackdown.

This post will:

  • Review what happened to get Google so fired up about a seemingly innocuous practice (guest blogging)
  • Explain all the details about how to understand and police your backlinks (especially from Guest Blog Posts)
  • Explain why you should still allow guest bloggers/blogging with conditions
  • And, explain how you should answer requests from potential guest bloggers.

What Got Matt Cutts so Grumpy?

You may be saying to yourself,

“um….self, why in the world do I need to understand anything new about guest blogging – I have a blog, I sometimes get someone new to post on it….it seems to be good for my blog and for the guest poster – right?”

Sadly, the answer to your question may often be – “wrong” – even when your heart is totally in the right place about why you want to accept guest blogging posts.

In theory, and for many people in practice, guest blogging is a mutually beneficial activity contracted between a blog owner and a guest writer.  Guest posts add additional content from a new voice – they potentially bring in new readers – and they can add to your blogs search engine rankings.

And therein is the rub…

That last point – helping SEO – is what has created this massive amount of new drama.

Black-hat SEO geniuses are in many ways like hackers – they keep probing until they figure out holes in Google’s anti-spam policies and then exploit those holes to help their clients SERP – often at the expense of people unintentionally in the crossfire.

We have seen all kinds of tools go from good SEO strategy to possible SEO penalization as a result of these tactics (for instance blog rolls, comments, Wikipedia, etc.)  In the series of posts that Cutts has posted on guest blogging he broke it down like a frustrated parent – he said basically that SEO’s are not capable of having nice things.

Cutts sometimes comes across like that guy that holds his anger in and lets it build until finally it explodes.  He is like a tea kettle that builds to a good boil then makes a TON of noise.  He started posting about spammy link practices in 2005 – introducing the nofollow and dofollow concepts for links (we will talk more about this in a few minutes).  Since then, he has slowly identified, warned, grown frustrated with, and exploded on most of the spammy SEO practices mentioned above.

His current annoyance is spammy guest blogging for SEO and he has reached his breaking point – it seems clear that there will be Google consequences for spammy guest blogging.

But, how is Guest Blogging spam?

Over the last few years black hatters have exploited popular blogs by offering to provide to those blogs with guest blogging services –even often offering to pay for the privilege of providing guest posts.  This offer is, of course, a Trojan horse – allowing black hat firms to pass page rank to their client sites through backlinks in the guest blogging posts.

One of the ways Google determines the importance of a site is by evaluating the backlinks that it generates.

If you have a popular site and you link to another site, Google assumes that means the other site is important too.  When you bless another site by linking to it you are giving it your seal of approval in the eyes of Google.  Google calls this “passing page rank.”  As in you pass the rank of your site on to the other linked site.

One of the primary no-no’s in Google’s list of webmaster guidelines is paying for, or accepting payment for, passing page rank.

Google does not like paid links.  They feel it corrupts their ability to determine which sites actually are quality sites that provide valuable information to Google searchers and which sites are unhelpful sites that provide spam filled nonsense.

web-master

Google wants webmasters, and if you run a blog or website you are technically a webmaster, to alert Google’s bots (or Googlebots or spiders the algorithms that determine site value crawling the web looking at sites) to links that are really advertisements (spam) as opposed to legitimate organic links.

So what is the scam?

Black-hat SEO experts offer their guest blogging services – and even pay you to provide this guest blogging content.  They then load these posts up with spammy links that pass page rank to their clients.  The posts that they deliver might be well written and even have decent content germane to your readers – but they are done to pass page rank from your popular site to their clients sites through the spammy backlinks contained in the body of the post.

For any of you who once received phishing scam emails offering to “gift you” a large portion of a distressed Nigerian Princes wealth (only under the condition that he could be given basic access to your bank accounts) you may have smelled something “phishy” when you got your first guest blogging offers.  But for many blog owners, these guest blogging offers have been taken as both a way to earn a bit of extra money and a way to get more content to their blog.

Google thinks that the whole purpose of what they do is to identify value through providing search results that matter to the searcher.  It is easy to see how Google gets mad because often the links will attach to a site that has nothing at all to do with the subject in the post itself (Cutts has detailed a litany of examples – once he gave the example of a post on linux with links to online casinos).

Ok, but how do links work for Google exactly?

There are two kinds of backlinks in Google’s eyes.  The first kind is called “dofollow” and it is the default – in other words, any link unless noted otherwise is considered a “dofollow” link.  This just means that the link creator wants bots to be able to follow the link when they try to determine where the link goes and the value of where the link goes.

The second kind of link is called “nofollow.”  If you do not want bots to follow your link to determine where the link goes and the value or where it goes you can add a “nofollow” attribute in the html coding (links are set off in the htmll by the href attribute – so the nofollow goes after the href attribute and the link url – you add the text rel=nofollow> at the end of the string).

A dofollow link would look like:

<a href=www.imadethisup.com>I Made This Up </a>

A nofollow link for the same thing would look like:

<a href=www.imadthisup.com rel=”nofollow”> I Made This Up </a>

Googlebots examine the text and determine what they should or should not follow by examining the html.  Google wants webmasters to treat the bots like newspaper editors treat readers when they explicitly identify areas of the text as “advertising.”  Nofollow links identify to Google bots that a link is advertising and should not be followed.

What you should do – Part One – Policing your Backlinks

guest-blogging-police

As a general rule, you should get in the practice of making all links in your guest posts “nofollow” links.  You should start to go back through your back catalog of posts and add “nofollow” to any guest blog links.

This is really important to you!

Once Google gets rolling on policing Guest Blogging spam they will punish webmasters not the writers.  In other words, the site that hosts spammy links through guest blogging will be the sites that Google penalizes.  And the Penguin update to Google’s algorithm was all about being able to identify exactly these kinds of spammy links.  In other words, it is in your interest to start protecting yourself.

What you should do – Part Two – Continue to Accept Guest Blogs but With Conditions

In Cutts’ addendum to his original outburst he explicitly mentioned the potential benefits of guest posting, “I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water.  There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community etc.).  Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future…I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I think Cutts over-generalizes all SEO into black hat SEO but given that he spends all his time dealing with creative black hat trickery – he can certainly be forgiven.

Even if Guest Posting is not done for the reason of passing page rank – it can still be of SEO value.  For instance, if linkage between two popular sites creates more reader-ship for both that will eventually convey an SEO benefit.

Guest posts can also be directly beneficial to your blog. A nofollow link is still a way to connect two popular sites and create increased readership by linking two popular sites.  Readers are not Googlebots – clicking on “nofollow” links does not stop their journey.  Links still create visibility for both sites.

What you should do – Part Three – How you Should Respond to Guest Blogging Requests

I believe most of this whole snafu could be cleared up with one simple blog owner response – “Yes, I would love to consider posting your content as long as you do not mind that I insist on all links being “nofollow” links.”

If everyone who hosts a blog used this response – every single time – guest blogging for spammy SEO truly would be dead.

Google has stated that they are only concerned with spammy “dofollow” links in Guest blogs.  If someone is fine with all links being “nofollow” links they are probably ok.

Another good rule of thumb is to accept Guest blogs mostly from people you have a relationship with and/or trust.  If you are going to accept someone you do not know, do some research, read other things they have written and see if they are involved in selling links.

Summing it all Up

Google is going to penalize blogs that they identify as accepting guest posts with spammy links.  It is in your interest to:

  • Take control and look through all your guest blogging content – police your links and be alert to the scam.
  • Don’t pass page rank for money.
  • Learn to use the “nofollow” link in your html code.
  • Only accept guest posts that agree to only “nofollow” links in that content.
  • Be willing to play detective and look into the kind of content people offering their blogging services have provided to other sites.
  • Pay attention to what Google is saying about being a webmaster.  A great place to start is reading Matt Cutts blog.

If you are ever approached by someone offering to pay you to post something they have written (guest blogging offers) you should now know exactly what to do – ask them a simple question, “Sure, as long as you are ok with all links being nofollow.”

If you never hear from them again – you will know what they were after.  Forewarned is forearmed!

Josh

The Definitive Guide to Forum Marketing for Bloggers

Forum marketing is one of those tools that, when used effectively, can produce tremendous results. On the other hand, if abused, it’s the quickest way to destroy your online reputation — permanently. The benefits from forum marketing, though, are just to great to avoid.

When you do it the right way, you can build authority, brand your business, increase traffic to your blog, and get hundreds of free leads.

Here’s a detailed “forum marketing for bloggers” guide – how to follow the basics of forum etiquette, and how to maximize personal benefit at the same time.

What Is Forum Marketing?

In essence, forum marketing is marketing your online business by the means of an online community i.e. a forum. Simple concept.

You post on forums, and use them to gain traffic, get leads, increase sales via your signature link. You market your product, service, or website through a forum.

Why Is It (Sometimes) Considered Unethical?

Often, eager young entrepreneurs go a little overboard with forum marketing. In other words, they spam the stuffings out of forums just to get their links out there.

They use a keyword stuffed username, write one-liner trash posts, and link to their blog posts in every single reply and thread they post. Needless to say, their stint on forums is usually relatively brief, once the mods catch on.

They never add any sort of value to the forum. It’s just take, take, take.

Their post devalues the forum, devalues the community, and even devalues themselves.

How To Do It The Right Way – Forum Marketing Tips

Forums are all about community and helping others – getting answers to questions, getting opinions on controversial subjects — just building relationships, getting social, and helping each other. No forum was ever created with the sole purpose of getting its members free traffic.

Here are a few tips on forum marketing to help you get started increasing your blog traffic.

High Traffic Forums
Image Credit(s): Gerard Stolk via Flickr.

Provide value – This is a no-brainer. If what you post on the forum doesn’t really provide value to anyone in any way and only restates a topic that has been used and abused, then there’s no point. You are not providing value, so there is absolutely no reason for you to post it.

Dropping trash one-liners like “great post” and “thanks!” will help you lose your reputation faster than you can say “Jack Robinson”.

Post on threads you know about – If you don’t know about search engine optimization, don’t post a thread/reply about it (unless you’re asking a question or sharing a personal experience).

When you post in categories that you actually know about, you mark yourself as an authority in the subject. Since you know your stuff, people click on your signature link to learn more.

Be relevant – If your signature link leads to a recipe blog, then you should be posting on recipe forums, NOT on an Internet marketing forum.

If the forum is not relevant to your niche, your link won’t get very many clicks. Whatever traffic does happenstance to make its way to your blog will be untargeted, and won’t actually convert and make you money.

Post threads as well as replies – Comparatively, new forum threads will get you considerably more traffic than replies would. That’s for a simple reason – everyone who views the thread is guaranteed to see your post (and thus, your signature link as well).

When you reply, your post often gets lost in the already-present sea of other commentators. No one sees your sig link, and no one clicks on it.

That said, don’t post new threads too often. Nobody likes to see five recent threads on one page of a board all by one person.

Get there first – If you’re gonna reply to a thread anyway, do your best to get there first. The first reply always gets the most exposure (after the original post).

The 1st or the 51st reply – which do you think gets more traffic? It’s the same with blog commenting.

High traffic forums – Another no-brainer. If the forum you post on gets 10 visitors daily, chances are that you’ll get 10 visitors yearly as a result. The higher the amount of traffic to the forum, the higher the amount of traffic to your signature link. Simple equation.

Most of the popular forums will show up on the first page of the SERPs for their respective niche keywords. Just type in [your niche] + forum, and you’ll find high traffic forums to get started on in the blink of an eye.

How To Format Your Signature For A Higher Click-Through Rate

Forum Signature
Image Credit(s): Scott Ableman via Flickr.

Conversion rate optimization is one of my favorite pet peeves. My belief is that you should start testing everything (that includes your blog design, your landing page, your sales funnel, and your autoresponder series) as soon as possible. That way, you don’t miss out on potential traffic.

Here are a few tips on how to format your signature links for more clicks with less impressions.

Use formatting – Use HTML to format your signature text. Underline, italicize, and bold your text to make it stand out. When viewers scroll down the page, your text will catch their eye.

Include a small image – Also paste a small version of your logo in your signature. This also helps it to stand out. Keep in mind that some forums may require you to pay before you can include an image in your signature.

Don’t use your keywords as anchor text – Nofollow or dofollow, remember that your signature will be duplicated across hundreds of different forum threads as you become an active member. Never use your primary keywords as the anchor text. Use a more generic “click here” or “learn more” to stay safe.

Give people a reason to visit your blog – It’s a great idea to link to your squeeze page (where you should be giving something away free in exchange for their e-mail address) in your signature. Mentioning your free report will give viewers a reason to actually click on the link and visit your site.

Wrapping Up

Forum marketing is a powerful tactic, and can be a useful engine to power your blog’s success. As with all things, do it in moderation. Never abuse a forum — always put providing value for others in front of personal gain.

When you do that, chances are that you’ll end up gaining a whole lot more, anyway.

 

The 10 Best Secrets to Blog Post Titles that Attract Readers and Get Noticed

With so many blogs existing in the world, you have a very short amount of time to catch the attention of your valued readers. Your title is what most readers will see first – in an RSS feed, in Google or Bing or embedded in an email. If your title is clunky, too long or plain lackluster, your blog post will likely be lost, forgotten and just plain not seen. With so much pressure to perform, you may find your title writing skills flagging when it matters most. If your goal is to create blog post titles that attract readers, whip their heads your way, and click on your latest blog posts with fervor, here are the ten most well-kept secrets for optimizing your blog titles that every blogger should know.

Enticing Blog Subject Matter

If you are stuck on what to write about, these three title categories are sure to lure new readers to your blog in droves.

  1. Provide a Benefit: Titles that get clicked on the most promise a clear benefit to the reader. They solve a pressing problem, they offer advice from luminaries in the field and they generally seek to improve readers in one way or another.

Whether readers are trying to improve conversions, lose weight or train their dogs to sit and play fetch, get to the heart of their passions, desires, apprehensions and fears and craft blog titles that speak to your readers and promise results; and make those results fast if possible. A good example of this is the blog title How to Eradicate a Zit in a Single Evening.

This will require extensive research in order to accurately analyze the psyches of your reader base, but today’s social networks and popular forums make that research easier than ever before.

  1. Spread the News: Some of the most popular blog titles are those that strive to keep your audience informed of updates and happenings as they relate to your niche. Scour the news, read the latest press-releases in your industry and write blog titles that keep your readers on the up-and-up. A good example of a title for an IT blog might be Ten Industry Updates All IT Professionals Should Know. 
  1. Pique the Curiosity: Attempt to write blog titles that are different than everyone else’s and that resonate with your audience. Use odd but relevant word choices, personal experiences, funny anecdotes and quirky subjects that no one else is using. Your readers won’t be able to help themselves but click and read. An example of a title for a construction blog might be Hammers and Hamburgers: A Day in the Life of a Construction Worker.

Proper Title Construction

Use the following tips to develop titles that drive traffic and attract comments.

  1. Set Expectations and Tease: Your blog title should let readers know exactly what they will get out of reading your blog in its entirety. For best results, tickle your readers with a hint of what’s to come and force them to commit to experience the true payoff.

Consider this title for a weight loss blog: See What Happens when Weight Loss Happens Too Quickly. Notice how the title doesn’t say what happens, it just urges readers to continue reading and pay attention.

  1. Concise is Nice: The shorter your title happens to be, the better. Remember, you only have a very short window to reach your audience. Not only that, but your readers will typically have very short attention spans. Long, drawn out titles get ignored more often than shorter ones. A short and sweet title for a gardening blog might read 7 Plant Watering Secrets.
  1. Optimize for Search: Use your primary keyword very early on if you want to beat out competitors that are optimizing for that same term. For example, if you are writing for a cosmetics blog and your keyword is ‘eye shadow’, your title might read Eye Shadow Tips from the World’s Top Makeup Experts. While not a sure way of improving rankings, there is always the chance that this technique will give you an edge against other bloggers that are using the same term keyword term a little later on in their titles; so this tip is always worth considering. 
  1. Beat Competitors: Once you get a good idea of the title you would like to create, get online and start searching for others who are writing about the same subject. Take their titles in, process them and then use what’s available to make yours even better. 
  1. Use Active Language: Stay away from passive verbs and instead use plenty of action words to get your readers’ hearts racing. Instead of the title How the Best Athletes are Running and Jumping Today, it would be better to use the title Run Faster and Jump Higher Just Like Today’s Best Athletes. 
  1. Lists Bring the Clicks: Blogs that contain numbered or bulleted lists tend to always perform well. Readers prefer blogs that contain easily digestible content, and lists provide exactly that. For instance, 10 Mistakes All New Police Recruits Should Avoid. 
  1. A Strong Title Never Lies: Your titles should always come through on the promises you make. In other words, if your blog title promises to help readers Change a Car Tire Quickly, Even in the Rain, make sure you provide exactly that advice. If your readers are ever made to feel misled, you may lose those readers forever.

Test Your Titles for Better Results

The above advice should help you develop titles that get results, but don’t stop there. Keep testing your titles, feeling your audience out and start looking for patterns of most-read blog posts by studying your analytics data. If you notice that some titles get more clicks than others, replicate your results for even more blog conversions.

They say that your choice of title can make or break every blog post you write. With these ten tips, your posts are sure to strike a nerve with every reader you target.

10 Blog Commenting Tips To Get Traffic From Other Blogs

Probably one of the easiest (yet widely underrated) traffic strategies out there is blog commenting. The bloggers who haven’t yet latched on to this simple traffic generation method are missing out, because there are few things better than leveraging the already-existing audience of a blog and channeling it to your own.

If you think in work-to-result ratios, then blog commenting probably tops the scale by a wide margin. A simple, short comment on a popular blog that took two minutes to write can get your blog quite a few visitors — especially if you employ the following techniques.

Yes, techniques. You can’t just post one-liners all over the blogosphere and expect people to click your links and check out your blog — it just doesn’t work that way. Reading and applying the following ten blog commenting tips, though, will help you get your comments read and your links clicked.

Let’s get started!

1. Comment On Relevant Blogs

This goes without saying. If your website is all about healthy eating, cars, or funny comics, you shouldn’t be commenting on a blog about the rises and falls in the stock market.

It never ceases to amaze me — so many would-be commenters on my blog want to tell me about garcinia cambogia, home decor, or real estate in South Dakota.

Guess what well-meaning-but-seriously-misguided-commentators — I’m not gonna publish those comments on an online marketing blog. Those comments won’t get approved in a thousand years.

But there’s another downside to commenting on blogs that don’t fit in your niche — whatever traffic you get (IF your comment gets approved and IF someone actually clicks on your link) is untargeted. Simply put, the visitor isn’t necessarily interested in what you offer. And those visitors will never convert or bring you revenue.

2. Comment On High Traffic Blogs

High Traffic Blogs
Image credit(s): Gerard Stolk via Flickr.

If only ten people end up reading the blog post you commented on, then there’s little/no chance that one of them will click on your name and visit your site.

On the other hand, if the blogs you comment on regularly get thousands pageviews per day (think ProBlogger, HubSpot, UnBounce, and the like), then you can expect a lot more traffic than the odd visitor here and there.

If nobody sees your comment, nobody clicks on your name.

Simple.

3. Comment On Blogs That Use The CommentLuv Plugin

CommentLuv is a nifty little WordPress plugin that automatically displays a commentator’s latest blog post. It takes the information from the “Website” field.

Through my own research, I’ve found that I can get 10-12x as much traffic when I add a thought to blogs that use commentluv.

CommentLuv has gotten to be rather popular with blogs, especially in the last year or so. It kills two birds with one stone — increases the number of comments, and rewards commentators, all at the same time.

If you’d like to use it on your own blog, it’s got a free and paid version you can use (the free version is more than enough).

Check out this case study on NetMarketSuccess on how a newbie blogger used CommentLuv-enabled blogs to increase his traffic by 8 times, and his number of inbound links by 12 times.

4. Be A Regular Face

Blog Commenting Tip
Image credit(s): EpsosDe via Flickr.

Even though you can probably get 10-20 visitors from a single comment on a popular blog, you can get a lot more from ten comments on the same blog.

Don’t just drop in, say hi, and leave. Stick around a while. Browse the blog’s archives, and comment on the posts that interest you.

Not only does this generate traffic to your blog, but it also builds a connection with the blog owner. You’ve taken time out of your busy day to read and add a thought to one of his/her blog posts (and there is absolutely nothing we bloggers like more than that).

Here’s another scenario — suppose that a random user has just finished reading a blog post. He sees your comment, but doesn’t click on your name.

But then, he follows an in-text link to another post on the blog, and again sees a comment from you. He has been exposed to your link twice (which results in a much higher click-through rate).

5. Get A Gravatar

Gravatar With Blog Comments
Screenshot @ Gravatar.com.

If you haven’t yet signed up for Gravatar yet and added your image, do so. Right now. Absolutely no excuses.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years and don’t know what Gravatar is (just kidding!), it’s basically a tool that displays your profile image on any WordPress-managed blog you comment on.

Pretty cool, right? I thought so.

Remember: faces and logos stand out a whole lot more than some lousy default icon. You can brand yourself, build blogger-to-blogger relationships, and increase traffic.

This blog commenting thing gets cooler all the time!

6. Get There First

Which comment do you usually read – the 1st, or the 51st?

The 1st? You got it.

On any and every blog post, the first comment ALWAYS gets the most visibility.

Only a small percentage read the comment section in any case. A lot smaller percentage actually scroll all the way down and read all the comments (including the 51st).

Getting their first and being the first one to add a comment to the blog will usually result in huge exposure for you and your blog.

To stay on top whenever a blog post gets published, subscribe to their RSS feed (nearly every blog worth commenting on will have an RSS feed).

7. Reply To The First Comment

Here’s a sneaky lil’ trick.

If, for some reason, you weren’t able to beat whats-his-name to the first comment space, then just reply to his comment.

Your comment will get just about the same visibility as the first commentator did.

However, this might not always work out so well, as some comments are really the type that can be replied to (think comments like “Great post!” or “I wish my blog could be more like yours!”).

Make sure that whatever you say when your reply actually says something. “Good comment!” doesn’t cut it. Oppose one of his thoughts (explain why he’s wrong), add to what he said (explain why he’s right), or answer his question.

8. Answer A Question

Answering a question is probably the greatest tip I could give you.

Answering someone else’s question puts you on the same level of knowledge as the blog owner.

For example, if someone needed to know something about SEO, and you stepped in and quickly answered his question, you’ve basically told everybody that you know the niche, which makes them a lot more likely to click your link, browse your blog, and subscribe to your newsletter.

For a bit more on answering questions in the comment section, check out this YouTube video by Ana Hoffman from Traffic Generation Cafe.

9. Add Some HTML In

Bolding (<strong>), italics (<em>), underlining (<span style=”text-decoration:underline;”>) and otherwise formatting your text goes a long way towards generating more traffic with your blog comments.

Formatted text always sticks out (which is why you’ve read all the bolded words on this page). If a viewer scrolls down the comment section, your comment is likely to catch his/her eye.

10. Remember: Long, Helpful Comments Always Get More Clicks

Period.

Blog commenting is great, but if you don’t have something to say, then don’t say anything.

If your comment doesn’t add value to the discussion, answer a question, or express appreciation for the post, then it doesn’t need to be (or shouldn’t) be there.

It’s the commentators who write lots, add value, and sincerely try to help who are the ones who end up leveraging the most traffic to their own blog (even if that wasn’t their primary motivation in the first place).

Summing Up

Blog commenting is a vastly underrated free traffic technique that (believe it or not) does work in 2015. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s easy.

In short, there’s no reason not to do it.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think of blog commenting as a traffic tool. Who knows? You might even get a few visitors back to your blog! 😉

7 Ways To Blog With Google In Mind

Google SEO? Seriously?

At this moment you might be literally pulling your hair out – wondering how, after getting so much of your life sucked into your blog, you will have time to learn about writing for Google too?

Your blog is not just about what you write about.

For your blog to be successful it also has to be about people seeing what you write.

Nobody knows your blog exists until they encounter it – and for most the middle man between you and your potential readers is Google.

As Rand Fishkin of Moz mentioned, “According to the Statcounter data (the only source I really trust)…Google has maintained 80% of search in the US, and 90% plus around the world.”

Yes, Bing is a good search interface. Yes, people go other places. 80% (Did I mention 80% of search….80%!!!!).

Luckily, I have seven simple tips to help you make friends with Google!

How can you start making friends with Google?

1.  Use Title Tags

You only have a few organic ways to get click-through to your blog: 1) Showing up in search and 2) Having the most magnetic Title and ‘Snippet’ on the page when people see you in search

When you do a search in Google – each organic result that turns up has three parts: a Title; a URL, and a Snippet.  I call this area “Snippet Space.”

You have heard the saying, “You only have one chance to make a good first impression?”  Snippet space is that one chance in search. And the title tag is the most important part of Snippet Space.

Your HTML title tag is what forms the “Title” part of snippet space when your site shows up in Organic Searches.  If the keywords a person is searching for are in your HTML title tag – those words will be bolded in the results (obviously a benefit to standing out in relevance to the searcher).

Automation Google Bots

When Googlebots crawl your website/blog and try to determine how important your site will be to potential searchers the Title Tag is one of the ways they determine if your content will satisfy searchers.  It is important to write the way Googlebots read.

Title Tags are also one of the ways you can use Snippet Space to attract people to your page.

Imagine that every time your site shows up in search the snippet space is free advertising space – but it is only as valuable as it is magnetic.

How many times have you done a search and immediately passed over whole pages of results that did not immediately catch your eye?

How many times have you simply ignored an advertisement on television or the radio because it did not command your attention?

Snippet space is Showtime for your blog.  If you do not get attention here – you will not grow your readership through search.

Don’t just take my word for it, Part one of Google’s “Search Optimization Starter Guide” is titled: “Create unique, accurate page tiles.”

Some Title Tag Best Practices

  • You can write your title tags using your blog platforms SEO tool
  • Experiment with writing these tags just like you practice writing headlines for your blog posts. – Don’t publish a post without optimizing it
  • Title tags ought be a maximum of 70 characters, including spaces
  • When you write your title tags, separate the things you write using the pipe symbol “|” (it’s located right above the enter key).  For instance, if I were writing a title tag for this post, and I wanted to include the blogs name it would read:  7 Ways to Blog with Google in Mind | Learntoblog,com
  • Try to put the most important keywords early in the title and if you are working on local SEO also include where you are located.
  • Create unique tags for every page that accurately describe the content of that page
  • Try to avoid ‘stop words’ – words that have no possible keyword value

2.  Use Meta Descriptions

Your Meta Description most often is what forms the Snippet – the description of the webpage below the URL.  Think of it as another opportunity to hook the searcher.  If you caught their eye with your title tag – you can move them down the funnel with the description.

The important thing here is not to ignore the opportunity to control your snippet space.  Always fill these tags out for every post/page on your site.

Some Meta Description Best Practices:

  • You can write your Meta Description using your blog platforms SEO tool
  • Experiment with writing these tags just like you practice writing headlines for your blog posts. – Don’t publish a post without optimizing it
  • Google will display up to 150 characters of your description
  • Try to include structured data that might get attention and would not be in the results otherwise
  •  Write your descriptions as calls to action
  • Try to answer the questions you think represent the reasons people are searching for you

3. Alt Images Tags

Googlebots are pretty smart (for algorithms), but they cannot always see pictures or interpret what they represent.  In order for you to get credit for the value of your images to your content, you need to label them (explaining succinctly what they include).  This is fairly important because images matter in how Google values your content.

Some Alt Images Best Practices:

  • You can write your Alt Image Tags  using your blog platforms SEO tool
  • Experiment with writing these tags just like you practice writing headlines for your blog posts. – Don’t publish a post without optimizing it

4.  Anchor Text

Anchor text is the colored and underlined clickable text that can be clicked on to take the reader to another site.  Anchor text is one of the ways Googlebots try to match your site to the importance of its content.

Anchor text wears many hats in online publishing.

It is the main way you give credit to the people you are quoting or referencing in your writing and it is a means of generating links between your blog and other sites (which is important to establishing the authority of your blog)

You can make your anchor text be an exact match of the site you are quoting from, you can tie the anchor text to keywords or long-tail keyword phrases you are targeting, or you can have the anchor text say “click here” or something similar.

As Google moves from keyword driven search to semantic search (where it uses all available information to determine exactly what people are searching for by using contextual devices like search history, geo-location, or what fits your personal history best) – for blog writing, it makes the most sense to choose your anchor text where it makes the best sense naturally in your writing.

In addition, there is a great deal of debate among SEO experts right now over if anchor text will begin to be less valued by Google’s algorithm.  However, this change certainly hasn’t entirely devalued anchor text – and making sure your anchor text and your content is connected to ideas that show the value of your content to a searcher is what likely matters to Google.

In other words, Google wants everything to be written and marked up in the most conversational style possible.

In the old days of SEO you could game the search engine by simply loading up content with irrelevant anchor text and links, now Google is committed to making search serve the searcher and not the site.

The most important thing to remember about anchor text is to use it whenever it is appropriate.

I like to use anchor text to allow the reader to get more context and deeper information about anything I am writing about.

You should be able to apply anchor text using your blog platforms SEO-tool.

5.  Sign up for Google+

Google Plus

In 2013 Google changed drastically, deciding to connect all of their projects and platforms through their Google+ social network.  In other words, the universe of Google is now connected through the Google+ network.

A few months ago, a friend asked me to give him just a few easy to ideas for getting his business website higher in search results.  The first question I asked him was:  Are you a Google+ member?

Long story short, just by having him sign up for Google+ and having him tie his site to Google+ his site jumped from page three to page one for his local targets..  There is debate over how important Google+ is but there is pretty solid evidence connecting Google+ and optimization.

Worst case scenario, it’s a pretty small price to pay for a potential SEO benefit.  Best case scenario, it is another route for people to use to find your content and one that gives your blog an SEO boost.

Google+ Best Practices

  • Make sure you fill out all your information in sync with how it is filled out on your website – Inconsistent listings cause ‘Googlebot confusion’ and can actually hurt your SEO.
  • Fill out your profile completely
  • Link your website to your Google+ profile (the option for this is in settings)
  • Add Google+ badges on your blog and +1 clickable icons so that people can click to add you
  •  Input your blog URL in the intro section, provide a call to action giving people a reason to check your blog out, add your blog again in the links section
  •  Search and join circles that would appreciate the content you provide through your blog.  Participate when possible so that people see you as an active community member
  • Write teaser versions of your blog content and publish them with links to your blog through Google+

6.  Sign up for Google Authorship

One of the biggest new concepts Google deepened in 2013 was Authorship.  Google wants to be able to ensure that the content the search engine points to is written by real people.

The first step to getting seen by Google as a credible real-person is signing up for Google Authorship. Obviously, there are some SEO benefits to being seen as an author by Google.  One of the biggest benefits occurs in “Snippet Space” – Google authors often appear in search results with an addition to the snippet – a Rich Snippet which includes the head shot from your Google+ profile – and a count of how many Google+ circles you belong to.

How Google says to sign up for authorship:

  • Put a profile photo on your Google+ account
  • Make sure a byline with your name appears on every page of your content and that that byline name matches your Google+ name
  • Have an email address from the same domain as your content.  If you publish in places that are different than your domain (guest blogging) make sure there is a link to your Google+ profile in your author bio space in that content.
  • If you do blog for other sites, there is a place on your Google+ profile where you can enter up to 10 sites you publish for and want to get authorship credit for (in the ‘contributor to’ section of your profile)
  • If you have a business that publishes through your blog also sign up for the rel=publisher attribute

7.  Sign up for Google+ Local

iphone google plus

There are some confusing things about the recent changes to Google’s architecture for local search.  In particular, Google recently moved everyone from “Google Places” to “Google+ Local Pages” and “Google+ Business Pages.”

It is, however, important to keep up with these changes to Google’s architecture and maintain a presence in local search – especially if there is a relationship between your blogs relevance and the area you live in.

In addition, with people spending more and more time on mobile devices, Google+ local becomes increasingly important even if you do not have local intent (Local has a ton to do with how Google is adapting to mobile).

You should also have a Google+ business page.  There are real benefits from integrating fully into Google+ – everything from SEO to how you turn up in search.

However, you should be really careful to not make Google+ a substitute for your blog.  It is important to remember that all of your peripherals (social media sites etc.) are ways to get people to your blog not a substitute for your blog.  It is called “inbound marketing” for a reason – the goal is to own media and bring people to your own space.

Google’s instructions for signing up for Google+ Local Pages are here

Google’s instructions for signing up for a Google+ Business Pages are here

Bringing it all together

Google Plus

It can be frustrating keeping up with a blog. It is hard enough to find the time to keep enough content on your blog to make it relevant much less learn all the tricks necessary to bring people to your blog.

As hard as it is, you have to remember that there is more to blogging than writing.  Unless you are writing only as a creative outlet, your main goal should be to get eyes to your posts.

At least 80% of the time Google is the middle-person (middle-algorithm?) between searchers and your blog content – It is critical to your success that you write with Google (and Googlebots) in mind.

Hopefully, these tips will help you please Google!

What did I leave out?  Please take a second and share your own best tips for keeping your blog prominent on Google!

 

Rel=Author: Increase Click Through Rates and Social Rankings

 

Traffic. That’s the name of the game. If you have traffic, you’ll be able to turn that into a strong, loyal audience, and then finally, you’ll be able to make money off them.

Getting that traffic, though, is difficult. I’d be remiss to say that getting people to come to your blog, participate, and hopefully result in profit is an easy task. It’s anything but easy. Tiring, stressful, and often demoralizing.

Rel=Author

Now that I’ve gotten the gruesome out of the way, let me lay out a tactic that should help you to increase your rankings in Google, increase your click through rates (CTRs), and have the right people coming to your site that will increase your profitability. Is it the end all be all to getting audience? There isn’t one-way to do that. But if it can help increase your organic traffic by over 30%, perhaps it’s well worth your time.

The tactic that I am referring to is the implementation of the “Rel=author” tag on your site. For those that haven’t seen, this enables a small face of the author to appear to the left of the result. Since most of the results don’t have this, it draws the searcher’s eye to it. While it’s not the only variable that entices a click—your title tag and meta-description are definitely big parts here—it will help significantly.

what-is-rel-author

Just one last thing before I explain the details. There are actually two variables. The “rel=author” and the “rel=me” tags. The basic structure works as follows: you set up a Google+ account, add the site that you are a contributor to, and then link to your Google+ account on your site. That makes the connection. But you can also link to other pages with the “rel=me” tag that tells Google those other links are also part of your network.

In other words … you should link to your Twitter account using “rel=me.” That’ll tell Google which Twitter account is YOUR Twitter account.

So the question is: how do we set it up on our own sites? I’m glad you asked.

Step 1: Google+

Google PlusIf you thought you were going to get away from Google+, you were mistaken. Google’s social networking site is alive, kicking, and ready to try and dominate. Google will do whatever it can to make their social network work. So play along.

If you haven’t already created an account, create one. But assuming you have, head on over. When Google+ loads, it always displays your posts to constantly remind you that you should participate. Click “About” in the navigation. Scroll down until you get to “Links.” This includes links to anything of yours off site: your other social accounts, your blog, and any sites that you contribute to.

Punch in the URLs that you write for and voila, you are done with this step. This is Google’s way of having a control variable when setting up the authorship tag. It’s also how Google pulls data so that it will include your name, your picture, and the number of people in your circles.

Google Plus Profile

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 11.23.55 AM

Step 2: Your Site

Now you need to put the code on your site so Google knows to search for your Google+ account. That sentence is a bit tricky to understand, but it works like this. The Googlebot lands on your page and starts to read your site’s information. It stops at “rel=author” and sees either a link to your Google+ or the profile number. It holds this information and then continues reading the rest of the page. I would need 20,000 words (or more) to explain the details of everything that helps your site rank.

I digress …

You’ll need to put the following into the header:

Just copy/paste from your Google+ and subtract the /posts/ Google always adds.

But since most of you are likely building your blog on WordPress—I really hope all of you—then there is a far simpler way to do it.

Some WordPress frameworks, such as Genesis, come with the functionality for Authorship already built in. Therefore, all you need to do is go to your profile page in the backend of WP, locate the Google+ section, and paste the Google+ URL.

Then you’re done.

But if you’re not using a framework, all you’ll need is one of the two big SEO plugins available today: All in One SEO Pack or Yoast SEO. My favorite is Yoast, but either one will result in the same outcome.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 11.28.22 AM

Just like with the framework, both of these plugins take the data from your WordPress profile. A new field will show up in your profile, paste your URL, and then it’s connected. To ensure this is happening, go to publish a new article and it’ll include a drop down of Author metadata.

Step 3: Test

Just because you’ve added the code doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Fortunately, Google has provided us with a simple tool called the “Structured Data Testing Tool” to guarantee that your implementation has worked. Copy and paste one of your articles into the tool and if it’s working, it’ll say: “Your authorship setup is finished. Congratulations! However, please note that Google will only show your author portrait in search results when we think it will be useful to the user.”

If it doesn’t confirm that it’s working, you’ll need to go back and make sure you added the correct URL to your profile or in the SEO plugins or you’ll need to confirm that you connected the correct site to your Google+ contributor section. If both are working, your test should come up positively.

Structured Data Testing Tool

But I’m Just a Writer

So let’s say you’re the minority visitor to this site and you’re not interested in running a blog, but rather, you just want to write on other blogs as a freelance writer. It’s a great career and you can make plenty of money.

There is a theory in the SEO community that Google will start to gauge your authority based on the types of articles you write, where you publish them, and other unknown variables. In other words, if you write about finance on a diverse number of sites, Google might see you as an authority in finance.

As a freelance writer, this is very valuable for you. You are, effectively, bringing your authority to other sites. Should you get a job writing an occasional column for another site, that site benefits from your authority as well; therefore, you are in a position to negotiate. If you run a site about SEO, would you pay more from a beginner or an expert? If you have a ton of authority in Google’s eyes, other sites are going to pay you more money. Period.

None of this has really been proven yet, but ask yourself: if you could prepare for the future of SEO before it happens, would you do it? If the answer is no, you’re likely in the wrong business. There is no harm preparing and even if it never comes to that, you’re still going to have the picture in the SERPs which will, inevitably, increase the CTR.

You should know that Google is constantly in change about what pages they show the data on. About a month ago, there was a report that the image snippet had stopped showing on real estate sites. Does this mean that Google is against commercial and they view real estate as commercial? Who knows? But what we do know is Google always changes.

Increase your click through rates, get more traffic, and plan for the future is what you’re doing when you implement the authorship tag.

If you have trouble setting up your Authorship, please post in the comments. I’ll try and help you out and help figure it out. But if you’re using WordPress, you’re likely going to have it done in about two minutes. It really is that simple.