Revealed: These Tactics Will Help You Win at Guest Posting

Guest posts form an integral part of any blogging strategy. But can you still get them in today’s overcrowded environment?

Actually, the issue of guest posting is not an easy one to cover.

Some blogs that used to offer guest posts are now totally closed to the idea. Others that would never dream of accepting them are opening up to the idea of having multiple authors.

So how do you get a guest post in today’s blogging landscape? And do you even want to still try and get them?

Let’s take a look.

A quick overview of some guest posting tactics

Let’s start this article by taking a quick look at the overarching principles behind pitching for guest posting opportunities in today’s environment:

Now let’s get into the real details of this article. Hopefully by the end of it you’ll have some new ideas for your guest post pitches and approaches.

So, is guest posting still possible these days?

Shall we touch on a little bit of history first?

Go back in time 10 years and you would have seen a thriving guest posting industry in almost every blogging niche.

People were swapping articles on each others blogs and it was helping them get traffic and even boosting their Google rankings up and up.

Some bloggers were even making a lot of money by charging advertising to put links on their site in the form of a guest post because they knew how valuable that backlink was for the person doing the post.

This all changed with the advent of the Penguin update back in 2012, and then even further in 2014 when Google’s Matt Cutts basically told people to stop guest posting for SEO purposes.

Some bloggers wrote about how this was not exactly accurate but, for the most part, it had the effect of making it a lot harder for people to get a guest post on another blog because everyone started to get afraid of Google penalties.

So what happens when guest posting is part of an overall blogging strategy like this one, or a strategy like this one that is aimed at getting more traffic from Google?

Guest posting to increase exposure to your brand, tap into different audiences, etc. are still very important and valid reasons for wanting to write on a blog that isn’t your own.

Well, the good news is that, despite all of this, guest posting is still very possible and can have extremely positive results for everyone who takes part, as long as it is done cleverly.

How NOT to get a guest post these days

My intention here is not to embarrass anyone who sends out guest post pitches but rather to highlight a few issues that pop up in the hope that it helps in the future.

As someone who is fortunate enough to own a pretty big blog, I get approached by people looking to do guest posts every single day. Sadly, most of these pitches fall on deaf ears because the majority of them contain the same errors that get repeated again and again and, as the guy who sees the emails every day, they start to stand out a lot.

Here is one example from this week:

At first it looks like a pretty decent email pitch. Short, to the point, etc. But when you see these every day (and they all look the same) you start to notice some things.

Nothing is personalized
The first thing that you notice is that they haven’t addressed me by my name or role. This automatically makes anyone in the internet marketing space think that it’s auto-generated.
Incorrect link
Secondly, they have pointed to my blog archive at /blog/ and said that it was a post and that they liked what I wrote. This doesn’t bode well for someone hoping to write on a blogging site – either they don’t know what a post is or the email is incorrect.
Generic details
The last paragraph has no details about their idea for a guest post, what they are suggesting for my site, how it will help my readers, etc. Again, it seems a lot like a mass generated email.

This is all a little bit frustrating when my contact page says at the very top that we do not accept any guest posts at this point in time, even if you are Seth Godin himself.

Interestingly, I’ve started replying to these pitches asking politely where they got the email address from and have never once heard back from any of them. I’m not sure what that means…

How to get a guest post in today’s landscape

If you are a new blogger that is looking to start guest posting then I applaud you – it’s a good strategy that still works.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the same tips that worked for me when I first got started still have a big effect now. Guest posting has changed, but a lot of the same things are still working.

Let’s have a look.

1. Build relationships before engaging

As we saw in the example above, it’s very unlikely that you are going to get a guest post by emailing a blogger randomly with a half-baked pitch. The reason is simple – your pitch is getting received with dozens of others and there is no way for it to stand out.

What this means is that it’s really important to build relationships with bloggers first. This helps to differentiate yourself from the masses and makes it more likely that you’ll get a leg up.

One example of this is my Internet-friend, Vishal, who you might have seen in the comments section of Blog Tyrant leaving massive essays that are filled with value (seriously, some of them are like 1,000 words long!).

After a while I began chatting to Vishal and he expressed that he’d like to learn more about my industry and that if I needed any small jobs done that he’d be interested in helping. I remember feeling instantly excited about this idea because I’d seen the quality and care of his comments and knew that he was a trustworthy person.

I ended up hiring him to do a few little research and writing tasks which will be published very soon, but the main point is that it was much easier for me as a site owner to take the step towards working together when I’d seen him around the blog creating value and sharing knowledge. When Blog Tyrant gets opened up for other authors I’d be delighted to ask him to participate.

Actually, it has always been like this. Back when I was fortunate enough to be asked to do some writing on ViperChill I had been friendly and communicated with Glen for a long time before. It absolutely wouldn’t have happened from a cold email.

2. Show legitimate value first

Closely related to the idea of building relationships is the fact that you’re much more likely to get noticed if you can show something interesting or valuable that you’ve done.

For example, at least half of the guest post pitches that I receive are from bloggers with no existing blog, or from those with a blog that is brand new.

While I appreciate that they are trying to get guest posts so they can build that new blog up, it’s also a little bit like going for a job interview for a manager’s position without having any experience in the entry-level positions first.

Trying to land a guest post without sample work is like applying for a manager’s role with no experience.Click To Tweet

One of the most incredible things about starting a blog is that you can use it as a digital resume that shows people your skills, your brand, and what you are about. They can explore it on their own time, and you don’t have to explicitly describe anything, you just let your work do the talking.

So when you’re trying to land a guest post on a particular topic, it’s important that you already have some kind of successful content on that topic. This doesn’t mean you need viral posts with millions of views, but show that you can actually write a long-form piece that is well researched, helpful, etc.

3. Find a way to be different

As I showed in the example above, when you pitch is just like every other pitch it’s easy for the site owner to think that you’re just mass emailing with no real value to add to the blog.

One of the most important things you can do in any marketing exercise is find a way to be different and memorable so that you stand out in the mind’s of the people who encounter you and your brand.

One incredible example of this is a guest post that appeared on Copyblogger by a dinosaur robot called Fake Grimlock.

This entire post was written in a kind of broken English with the caps lock button turned on for the whole thing. I remember laughing out loud to myself when I saw it – it was such a contrast to the other perfectly formed grammar masterpieces that usually appeared on Copyblogger.

This is a really fascinating (if not extreme) example of how you can approach your pitch differently. It’s important to remember how many emails your target gets on a given day, and to try and find some way both in the email itself and leading up to its sending to set yourself out from the pack.

4. Link to the people you want to work with

This is something we have talked about before in posts about blogging strategies and the like, but it’s really important to remember when you are trying to get a guest post.

The idea here is that you want to “give before you receive” by linking to the sites that you want to work with in the future.

This is something that every website owner appreciates because links are such valuable currency in our industry. If someone gives you a link in a guest post that they’ve done you really take notice because the act of citing your blog in a guest post is extremely kind.

Kristi Hines was someone who did this extremely well by creating highly useful content around the web that always linked back to a copious amount of bloggers.

For example, this compilation post that she did on Unbounce was one of my top traffic referrers for a long time. It got almost 400 comments and thousands of social shares.

After seeing this post I linked to Kristi more often and I noticed that her profile kept growing and growing until she was guest blogging on some of the biggest sites in the world. I am convinced this style of blogging really helped to showcase her writing skills to the right people.

I really don’t want this all to sound too much like I’m encouraging you to link to Blog Tyrant, I’m just being honest about the things that stand out when you get dozens of pitches every week. When someone has a demonstrated history of knowing your blog and citing it in other articles it really does go a long way.

5. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work right away

Guest posting is a hard gig and it’s important to remember that it can take a long time for the results to start showing up. I had an interesting chat about this topic on Twitter the other day and Brendan Hufford shared a very on-point insight:

Whenever I write about things like making money from blogging or working from home I always try to do it from a long term, sustainable perspective.

Sure, there are bulk/mass/automated ways to do all of these things and sometimes the work. But often when they work they usually only do so for the short term and then you are left scrambling to find the next thing that cuts through.

Try to keep track of the things that work for you and then try to replicate them for different campaigns, sites, etc. And if you ever stumble across something that is done well, consider popping it in a “Inspiration” folder in your bookmarks so you can refer back to it later and try to learn from it.

So many small wins in blogging come from just looking at what is working well for others and then trying to replicate or improve on that for your own blogs.

Have you had any luck guest posting?

As we’ve talked about throughout this article, guest posting is a lot harder than it used to be. I’d really love to know if you’ve had any luck and if you’d recommend anything to new bloggers who are hoping to get started and chalk up some early wins. Please leave a comment and let us know.

New Strategies to Get You More Blog Comments

Getting more comments on your blog can be a very hard task, but there are some new strategies to try that might make things easier.

One of my favorite parts of running a blog is the friends that get made in the comments section.

The conversations that have been had on this site over the years, for example, have been a truly wonderful experience and something I’m so grateful for.

As I’ve often said – and I mean it – the comments are usually more valuable than the articles I write.

But not everyone seems to get a lot of interaction on their blog. Today we’re going to try and fix that once and for all.

Let’s take a look.

Are these basic issues discouraging comments?

Before we get into some of the strategies that can help you get more comments, we want to take a look and see whether there are any basic errors that could be getting in the way.

Is your site mobile responsive?
If your site is (still!) not mobile responsive then there is a good chance you are making it too hard for a good portion of your visitors to interact and leave comments. Remember, upwards of 50% of your traffic could now be coming from mobile devices.
How is the load time on assets?
We know that your blog’s loading speed is important, but you also have to make sure that certain assets are also loading fast. For example, if you use a comment plugin like Disqus you need to make sure that it isn’t slow.
Are the questions answered?
Some article are so complete that there isn’t much room left for discussion. It’s worth going back to see whether your headers, content, and conclusions leave anything left to chat about. Every good blog post should be extensive but perhaps not totally solved.
Is your design too complicated?
Sometimes bloggers, in a genuine attempt to be on top of trends, add way too many things to their design which leaves less experiences web users confused about what action to take. How many options do you have available on your blog? Any more than two or three and you’ll be losing people.

Now that we’ve got some of the negative things out of the way, let’s take a look at some new things bloggers and marketers are doing to get more comments.

New strategies that lead to more comments

I should mention at the top that not all of these things are take from blogging examples but we can take lessons from each one and apply it to our own blogs.

1. Asking for mentions or tags

There is a new trend going around on social media at the moment that mixes humor an the innate power of social networking sites to get people to embarrass their friends.

The above example is a screenshot from a local football Facebook page that asks their fans to tag a mate who is losing his hair. It has over 45,000 comments…

Now, this isn’t exactly the best example to give, and a lot of these meme-based ones are sexist or stupid, but they do give a good insight into what people will respond to when asked. It’s important to note that it is totally okay to ask your readers to perform an action.

At the end of almost every blog post I like to devote a whole paragraph and closing statement to encouraging people to leave comments, and to expand on all the things that I’ve missed in the post.

In this post on starting a blog for the first time, for example, I really noticed that by asking people to comment on their own experiences or the factors that were omitted from the article that I was likely to get more comments.

2. Taking a popular event/theme and applying it to your niche

One tactic that has been working really well lately is to create marketing material out of the latest news events or themes in the world and apply them to your niche.

Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness does this really well, and one of his latest articles called You Are Flawed. And So Are Your Superheroes. is a fantastic combination of brilliant long form content and a twist on a modern topic that every one is talking about or seeing in the movies.

One niche where we see this more and more is on late night TV where hosts like Stephen Colbert are raking in tens of thousands of comments, links, shares, etc. by commentating, night after night, on the current political climate. Just a few years ago, it would be interviews with celebrities that got the main attention, but now it is commentators like John Oliver making sense of news and politics that is getting talked about.

One way you can make the most out of this while still helping people is to create content that touches on these subjects but guides people through a difficulty. For example, if you were parent who ran a blog that talked about family, schooling, politics, etc. you could do an article about how to talk to your kids about [insert law] that Trump passed.

Another example of this can be seen on sites like The Oatmeal who go into incredible detail to study a different angle about something everyone is talking about. Their latest comic is all about how hard it is for people to change their minds and is extremely relevant for the current political climate.

It has had almost 100k shares and thousands of comments, a lot of which are really touching stories and experiences that people are sharing.

Remember, the point is not to be controversial for the sake of it, but rather to add something useful and truthful to the noise that is out there at the moment that often seems like it is trying to do the opposite.

3. Asking a popular question and making it the headline

Making headlines a question is not a new tactic, but it has definitely been getting more effective as social networking sites allow you to share that question in different formats.

Last week in the article on whether WordPress is still best we had some incredible discussions and I really learned a lot about the different options that were out there, the problems people had with WordPress, etc. All of this meant that the comment count got pretty high.

I don’t share this one to brag (the comments were often showing flaws in the post!) but rather to show you how powerful it can be to make your article about one evergreen question that lots of people have experience with. It can lead to some really wonderful conversations.

The same occurred in posts like Is Blogging Finally Dead? and Will Your Blog Ever be Profitable Enough to Support Your Family – both questions that touched a lot of people and something that was easy enough for everyone to weigh in on.

Although they don’t have a comments section, the New Yorker does this type of headline extremely well as you can see this week with Is the Gig Economy Working?. These are always in the most popular section and you regularly see them cited in other blogs and discussion threads which makes them extra valuable for building links.

8 MAY: Is this the best way to get your crying baby to sleep? Daniel Eisenman tried this unique technique to calm his baby girl. #OMBaby #Om #Babies #DaddyOM #OMingDaddy Baby #BabiesofInstagram #DanielEisenman #BBCShorts #BBCNews @bbcnews @danieleisenman

A post shared by BBC News (@bbcnews) on May 8, 2017 at 7:18am PDT

Another example of this is BBC News who often post images and videos to instagram with a question over the top of the photo. This creates a lot of discussion as you can see in the post above on whether or not this is the best way to get a crying baby to go to sleep.

Making your headline/topic part of your marketing collateral on social networking sites or advertising campaigns is an extremely good way to increase organic reach because you get people discussing on and off-site.

4. Running a contest in your mail outs

Another strategy that I have found to be quite effective is to run a contest that asks people to leave a comment on a certain post in order to get entry to win some kind of giveaway.

This works especially well when you promote it to your mailing list first as they are more likely to be active in getting involved with something that takes a few more steps than usual.

As you can see in the example above, some physical businesses do extremely well by mixing a “tag a friend” promotion with a giveaway. This particular one is celebrating a cinema’s birthday with an iPhone giveaway and has over 55,000 comments so far.

It’s unclear how successful these things are – some niches will be more likely to get ongoing traction than others. This cinema, for example, probably did quite well because all of the comments would be from friends of people who already like the cinema and are in the same location.

Before running a contest, make sure you think carefully about the goals and outcomes, the prize you giveaway, and then any local laws that you need to abide by. Some countries/states have very strict things about who can run a contest and the language and prizes that can be offered.

5. Requiring a comment for a result

This is quite similar to the one above but is more like a request or registration that is a little more public or accessible as opposed to a straight email submit form.

For example, in this article Glen asked people to leave a comment if they wanted to get access to his private Facebook group as a way to protect members. It’s had over 1,000 comments and continues to grow.

I really like this idea as it creates a bit of discussion around the topic and gets people anticipating the result. It’s also a very clever way to keep the site looking alive and busy which can be very valuable social proof for new visitors who are encountering the content for the first time.

Some tricks to help with your comments

If you’re running a WordPress blog there are some really cool plugins that you can utilize to help make your comment areas more engaging and useful for both you and the readers.

Redirect your comments
You can redirect first-time-commenters to a landing page that encourages them to sign up to your list, shows them new content, or just says thanks!
Email when someone replies
A plugin like this one will automatically notify someone by email if their comment got a reply. This is essential for encouraging good ongoing discussion.
Add extras features
A plugin like wpDiscuz allows you to add extra features like emojis, searchable comments, tagging commenters, replying directly from email, and much more. This can make the comments section feel more like a forum.
Avatars next to your comment
If you’re new to WordPress you might want to head over to Gravatar to get your globally recognized avatar next to your comments whenever you use the same email to post a message in a comment thread.
Display your most popular posts
If you have articles where ongoing comments is important then consider adding a widget somewhere on your blog that shows those most commented on articles so people know what is being talked about right now.

As always, make sure you test these things on your own blog and make a determination as to whether it is adding the right type of functionality to your blog and not detracting from important things like email sign ups or affiliate conversions.

Do you have any tricks for more comments?

I’d really love to know how your blog goes for comments. Do you find it hard to get them, or is it something that has happened quite easily for you? If you have any tips or tricks that you’d like to share please leave a message below as it might really help someone who is struggling.

Is WordPress Still the Best?

I am a huge fan of WordPress.

I’ve run my business on it for a decade, recommended it to thousands and feel eternally grateful for what it’s allowed me to do.

But is it still the best option?

As you might have noticed, the blogging scene has changed a lot in the last five years.

There’s free platforms like Tumblr and Medium that are now absolutely booming and doing things slightly differently.

Squarespace, the ultra-sexy hosting service (and podcast industry mega-patron!) is everywhere and is pretty awesome too.

Then there’s the fact that a lot of people blog on social networking sites like Instagram and Facebook and that seems to be enough for them.

Today we’re going to take a look at whether WordPress is still the best bet for bloggers and website owners who are just starting out.

As always, I’d love your comments below.

Every platform has it’s own advantages

One of the first things to note here is that each platform will have some features and advantages that are lacking in the other platforms.

When you’re looking to start a blog or website it’s important to note these features because one something that’s important to you might be completely irrelevant to me.

For example, if you write a blog on LinkedIn you’ll enjoy the fact that it’s pretty easy for all of your contacts to see the articles that you write, and everyone who reads it will be pretty targeted to your niche. Try to integrate a product to sell or a mailing list, however, and you’ll be pretty stuck.

So, when reading the rest of this article please note that the evaluations are made based on what I consider to be the most important features and options for running a successful blog.

So, what does WordPress have going for it?

Let’s start this little analysis by looking at some interesting facts and stats about WordPress so you have an idea of what we are working with.

Over 24% of the entire web is powered by WordPress.
There are over 500 new sites created per day.
Over 1,200,000 people have downloaded WordPress plugins.
WordPress is available in 56 languages.
17 posts are published every second on WordPress

It truly is the most popular platform in the world and for good reason. Here is why I still use and recommend WordPress for bloggers and online entrepreneurs of all levels.

Please keep in mind that I’m talking about a self-hosted WordPress blog here as opposed to the free version.

The main advantage that WordPress has always had over its competition is the seemingly unlimited ability to customize everything from the source code to the look at feel.

As you can see above, there are roughly 40,000 plugins available – each one giving you new abilities and functions on your blog – and it’s all usually for free or a very small cost (compared to actually building the feature).

You might add a store, harden your security, add icons, generate opt-in forms, change your header design, improve your SEO… the list is endless.

And if you don’t like the way a particular plugin works you can open up the code and tweak it yourself. Or you can pay someone to re-write the whole darn thing until it works exactly like you need it to. You can do this at the plugin level, or open up your server and change it from that level. You have complete control – something missing from many other platforms.

Now if we take that same idea over to the topic of themes/templates you’ll see that the WordPress theme directory itself has over 2,000 themes in just the popular section alone – all of them free. There are thousands more available.

Then you can go premium and look at sites like Theme Forest which has around 9,000 premium themes designed by professional WordPress designers whose sole job is to design themes that function well.

People who say that places like Squarespace are better because they offer better support often overlook this fact. Sure, you can get support on the free WordPress forums, but you also have support from your theme designer and your WordPress host.

Once again, if you’re not happy with the way your blog is looking you can open up the source code in five seconds and change colors, fonts, or engage a designer to help you re-work the whole thing.

For me, having a WordPress blog is all about owning your asset, controlling your future, and having complete freedom to tinker and tweak whatever you like.

On most other platforms (Medium, Tumblr, Squarespace, etc.) you are limited to their servers or their APIs and as such there is always going to be something that is limited. It might not be a big things, but when you’re trying to run a business it might just be big enough to be a problem.

There’s got to be some downsides, right?

As was mentioned at the top of the post, every blogging host or platform has it’s downsides. And, as seems to happen with WordPress, sometimes your big advantages can turn into weaknesses.

Security issues come with popularity

For example, as WordPress becomes more and more popular we see increased instances of security breaches. It makes sense – the more people using the platform the luckier the intruders can get by sheer statistical probability.

This issue is compounded by the fact that the open source nature of WordPress means that anyone can build a plugin and that plugin can either have bad intentions behind it, or just be coded in a way that leaves it vulnerable.

To avoid this, it’s important to always use up to date plugins, make sure you read the reviews first, and follow basic security protocols on your blog to ensure it stays safe. And remember, WordPress is not less secure than anything else it is just a target because more people are using it improperly.

Lack of direct sources of traffic

One of the reasons Medium and Tumblr have been doing so well as new blogging platforms is that they have their own little ecosystems that feed your blog’s traffic and chances of success.

For example, the front page of Medium has staff picks and popular items for the day, and you’ll see recommendations from those in your social networks.

This means that content has a good chance of being seen and shared by someone without all of the blogging SEO work that we need on WordPress self hosted setups.

And here’s one I found on the front page of Tumblr today that has had around 60,000 shares within the Tumblr network itself.

https://creativekandi.tumblr.com/post/159852440361/bill-nye-should-just-be-the-answer-to-all-our

The way that these newer platforms have started to bridge the gap between “website” and “social network” is very interesting and I think it will be a trend that we see more of in the future.

This does not mean, however, that it’s the best place to start a blog or website (especially if you want to make money with it) because you simply don’t know if it’ll be around in five years. Look at MySpace and Google+ and similar websites which everyone thought would be around forever. If you’d invested your time and effort into building a career there you may be in trouble.

So what’s the verdict on WordPress?

While some other blogging platforms have made some big inroads recently, I still can’t imagine moving away from a self-hosted WordPress setup.

For me, it really comes down to the fact that WordPress offers you near unlimited options for configuration, design changes, feature development and expansion. You are never going to run out of room or power, and you’re never boxed in to a different company’s API or strictures.

And while a lot of people decry WordPress updates as annoying, what they really represent is constant improvements, security patches, feature additions, etc.

It is actually pretty amazing for something you essentially get for free.

If you want to build a blog that supports your family or perhaps is the basis of a business that allow you to work from home then I would 99 times out of 100 recommend a the WordPress and host combination for the sheer fact that it’s changeable and you control it.

What do you think about WordPress?

As always, I’d really love to know your opinions on how WordPress compares with the other platforms out there. I sometimes am a bit worried that I’m blinded to the features of the new players because I’ve been using this setup for such a long time, so please feel free to teach me a thing or two in the comments below.

Don’t Put Ads on Your Blog

Ads are still the primary way that bloggers try to make an income online. But is it really the best solution? Probably not.

There seems to be a common perception (among newer bloggers in particular) that the best way to make an income with a blog is to write content and then put some kind of advert in the sidebar or at the top of each post.

I regularly hear from people who want to know how to get more AdSense clicks, or where to find advertisers to pay them for a prime piece of website real estate.

In my experience, this is one of the worst ways to make money online.

Today’s post will take a look at why ads are not the best way to make an income from your blog, and what alternatives are available to us in the short and long term.

Note: I’m always happy to be wrong and learn new things so make sure you read to the end if you’ve got a different point of view!

Why I don’t like ads on blogs

Let’s start this post by jumping right in and looking at why advertising and programs like AdSense aren’t the best fit for blogs.

Lack of quality control
One of the first things you notice when you sign up to a program that delivers ads on your blog is that you often don’t have much control over the ads that are then displayed on your blog. I often find it a bit sad to see a high quality magazine, for example, displaying ads from questionable products that they would otherwise never approve.
Site load time
If you run a speed test on any website that uses an advertising network you can almost guarantee that it will be slowing down their site. As we know, a fast loading blog is essential for good Google rankings and, as such, we should be a bit careful about installing anything that affects this negatively.
Low earnings per lost reader
When you think about it, a program like AdSense is sending readers away from your site for a few cents (or maybe a few dollars in a good niche). While this can add up to a lot, it’s still a relatively cheap way to lose readers that are quite difficult to acquire through content creation, SEO, networking, etc.
Intrusive display options
From an advertisers points of view, they are going to want to maximize the amount of coverage they get on your blog. But from your readers point of view, that represents an annoying intrusion or a big break in page momentum. This can have a huge effect on bounce rate and subscriber conversion rates.
Lack of trust
In some extreme cases, ads can cause readers to lose trust in the site. For example, there are some blogs that have so many ads and pop ups that I no longer visit them (even with a pop up blocker) because I don’t like the scripts and cookies and some of the nasty things they can do to your computer.

We’ll take a look at the flip side of all this in a minute, but these are the main reasons why I don’t think bloggers should consider ads as a main source of income for their long term careers.

A quick example of the problem with ads

Now that we’ve gone over the basics, I thought it would be good to look at an example of how advertising might have a negative effect on a site. Please keep in mind that this is me talking personally as a user/reader of a site. I don’t have any data on this particular example.

The above is a screenshot from News.com.au which, at the time, had at least five ads on the homepage for well-loved painkiller, Panadol. For many web users this makes it extremely difficult to determine where the news ends and the advertising begins. I think there would be a lot of accidental clicks, which, to me, doesn’t do any favors for the advertiser or the seller.

I acknowledge that news sites in particular are in a difficult position at the moment as revenues fall, fake news gains popularity, and budgets are tight. But I can’t help wonder whether this is doing more harm than good over then long term, as opposed to sites like the New York Times and New Yorker which are adjusting quite well with subscription models.

Note: This is also why I don’t recommend free blogging platforms where ads are often a non-negotiable part of the user experience.

So, what’s the alternative?

At this point you’re probably wondering what a good alternative is. That’s where it gets a little bit tricky and we have to start thinking from a more long term perspective.

  1. Develop a strategy for the future
    The first thing we need to do is develop a long term blogging strategy that factors in all the different goals and ideas you have for your blog over the next five or so years. This really helps to make the next stages more focused, and gives you ideas about where to go next.
  2. Explore temporary sources of income
    In my guide on how to make money from a new blog we go into some better details about what is possible for short term income sources that enhance your blog instead of detracting from it. For example, using your blog as an Internet business card to sell services to businesses in your area, freelancing, etc. This really helps while you’re getting established.
  3. Build a mailing list around a particular niche
    Throughout all of this, we should be focusing the majority of our efforts on building a mailing list that is very closely targeted to the area that we want to monetize in the future. For example, if your blog is about Bonsai growing you could set up a mailing list with a weekly Bonsai expert tip and, throughout this process, introduce people to some affiliate products that you use with your own Bonsai garden at home.
  4. Create a product that appeals to your mailing list
    The majority of bloggers who have gained some level of success have created a product that they then sold to a mailing list that was primed for the sale. Examples include ViperChill opening an SEO training course after writing about Google for months, Darren Rowse selling photography guides to his enormous community at Christmas, Pat Flynn building a podcast player while also having the best how to podcast guide on the net, etc.
  5. Reinforce these systems with more traffic
    Once you have a good system of email list > affiliate products > original products set up then your main job is to drive relevant traffic to those posts and pages that promote the funnel. This can mean getting more traffic Google and then exploring things like advertising, guest posting, instagram marketing, etc. as a way to ensure that you get a continuous and reinforcing flow.

One of the main reasons that I like this style of monetization is that the whole process, if you so choose, can be of value to your readers – the content that originally lands them, the email course, the products – all of it can solve problems and help people in their daily lives.

A quick example of this being done right

There are so many places to see this type of strategy but I thought I would just show you one that I really like in the hope that it’ll give you a few ideas for your own blog. This example is from The Chess Website.

This is a fantastic demonstration of how to use free content as a way to encourage people to sign up for a highly relevant paid product – in this case the unlocking of further strategies.

The Chess Website is also prolific on YouTube and its videos get millions of views to its free training and strategy videos.

Once you visit the website to practice more chess openings or strategies you see that you can get many more tutorials unlocked by paying a small membership fee. This is a really flawless transition from free to paid content and gives them so many opportunities for further promotions as they already have an active and very engaged customer base.

When are ads on blogs a good idea?

I couldn’t end this post without taking a look at the inevitable situations where ads are a reasonable idea.

This mainly occurs where traffic is relatively large but the time on site is relatively low because readers are getting the information they need quite quickly, or the information doesn’t require much analysis.

For example, product review sites where the products aren’t that interesting (think fridges, vacuums, etc.) are going to really struggle to get people subscribing for a mailing list. It’s different when the product has a cult following (think iPhones, video games, PC hardware, etc.), but where someone is just looking to see if a thing is good or bad based on others’ reviews then there isn’t much more you can do than ads.

Another situation might be where you site gets a lot of traffic but is about a very generalized group of sub-topics. Some magazines and newspapers run into this issue – while one reader might like to see articles on climate science updates that doesn’t mean they’ll want to read about elections in New York. In this situation it’s still preferable to use affiliate product where you can, but some advertising might be necessary.

The last option I wanted to throw out there is when an advertiser approaches you directly and wants to place ads on your blog exclusively. They might buy naming rights, or sponsor your site for a period of time. This could happen, for example, if your blog is about a new movie or video game that is coming out. In that scenario you have complete control over the ads and the price.

Do you use ads on your blog?

I know that a lot of you gals and guys use ads on your blog and I’d really like to know whether you disagree with my assessment, or whether I’ve missed any important point. Have ads worked well for you? Or have you found another alternative that you think bloggers might like to know about?

Please leave a comment.

Top photo © Danomyte Scared Man.

How to Make a Quiet Blog More Interactive

Cats! You do it with cat photos. Thanks for reading. Just kidding…

One of the most rewarding parts of running a blog is the community that springs up around it. Making your blog more interactive could be one of the best things you do.

Here at Blog Tyrant I feel so fortunate to be able to read and respond to dozens of comments on each post. Those comment threads are regularly more valuable than the articles themselves.

And while comments are great, they aren’t the only way a blog can be made more interactive.

In this post I’d like to take a look at how some people are building more interaction on their websites and how we can apply similar tools, principles and ideas to our own.

Cool!

Why make your blog more interactive?

Before we get into the “how” I thought it would be useful to have a talk about a few reasons why making your blog more interactive is so beneficial.

It can really help people
The most important thing for me is that an interactive blog can genuinely help people. Experiencing some human connection (even over the net) can be extremely beneficial for people, especially if the content is helping them with work, life, family, depression, etc.
It helps you develop content
Interactive content often leads to more content opportunities as discussions and debates can provide questions or fuel for extra content. This is a great way to involve your tribe and/or save time on content creation.

It can improve sales
An interactive community makes your blog or website appear more trustworthy and as such you have a larger and more engaged audience to launch products and make money from the blog.

It can motivate you
I try really hard to respond to every comment and email that I get because I know that everything I have is due to the readers of this site. It’s something that gives me a lot of motivation to produce honest content and be as genuine as possible, especially when I get harsh feedback.
It’s good for SEO
Google likes to see websites that are regularly updated and comments, social shares and other forms of interaction can often play a role in how well you are ranked on Google compared to other more stagnant websites.

Some blogs really benefit from their community in big ways, so it’s definitely something we should put a little bit of effort in to.

How to make a quiet blog more interactive

Let’s take a look at some fun ways that people have made their blogs more communal places and how we can apply some of that creativity and cleverness to our own websites. As always, if you know of something cool please let me know in the comments.

1. Use design techniques to encourage interaction

It’s good to start with some basic design characteristics that encourage people to interact in some way. As with many areas of blogging, if you don’t get the design right you can undo a lot of your previous hard work.

For example, here on Blog Tyrant I try to make the comment count prominent by putting it high on the page, and I have edited the code to make it a little bit more interesting than the usual “10 comments”. You can do that on your blog by going Appearance > Editor > Single Post and then looking for code like this:

php comments_popup_link(__(‘Get the Top Comment, Quick!’, ‘am’), __(‘1 Awesome Comment’, ‘am’), __(‘% amazing comments’, ‘am’)); ?

You just want to change the text to reflect your preferences. As always, make sure you copy the original code before making changes in case something goes wrong.

You can also include some subtler design elements like this one from the Guardian:

Whenever an author gets a comment that she or he likes they can add a little badge that highlights it to other readers and sort of promotes it as being something worth noting. On other blogs I’ve seen similar things where the best comments gets highlighted in a different color. We’ll look more at this kind of thing below.

One of the main things you want to think about from a design point of view is that your interactive sections should be simple to use and easy to find if you want anyone to pay attention to them. As always, take a look at what others in your niche are doing and see if you can improve.

2. Add a membership/premium area

Something that has been becoming more and more popular on blogs these days is a membership section where users pay a small price (or just create an account) to access premium content and forum areas. This works so well is because it gives the content an exclusive feel and people often find themselves wanting to be part of that club.

One successful one that comes to mind is the my.copyblogger.com which was launched by Brian and the team after running a very popular blog for many years. It was a way to consolidate masses of content and allow new subscribers to access it in a very deliberate and clean fashion.

A word of warning though – you’ll want to make sure you have something distinctive to put inside these types of member areas or you run the risk of having it look bare or not all that different to the blog itself. As long as your content is perceived as valuable, though, this shouldn’t be a problem and you could simply “upgrade” your content with videos or podcasts, etc.

You can achieve this kind of thing with plugins like Wishlist which allow you to create a password-protected area and drip feed content to people over different periods of time. Here’s a guide by Yaro that I’ve personally read and enjoyed a lot that has a lot of good information about making a quality membership site.

3. Hold a contest for new and existing readers

One tried and tested technique that has been working for bloggers since the beginning of blogging is the good old contest. This is a great way to get old and new readers engaged and interacting in a more active way.

This can be an incredible way to get more interaction with readers as well as motivating new kinds of actions like we did in this post where we asked for comments, predictions and so forth.

An example that stands out in my mind is when ProBlogger held a competition to win a trip to the Great Barrier Reef and blog about the experience. At the time it gained a lot of momentum and interest around the web, and created a lot of new opportunities for people.

Make sure you check your local laws before holding any contests because some places have funny regulations, and always make sure that the prize and outcome is relevant to your niche and product. The idea is to make it fun and engaging while also showing off your content (or the content of your readers) to the people participating.

4. Specifically invite interaction

When I first started blogging I was really afraid of asking for anything. It always seemed like bad etiquette to specifically ask someone to subscribe or leave a comment or perform a particular action.

But, over time, I’ve started to notice that people really don’t mind so long as it isn’t happening all the time, and as long as the content that you provide is somewhat valuable. For example, I always ask people to leave a comment at the end of my blog posts, and usually throw in a second invitation to my mailing list when I notify them of new posts.

One place I’m starting to see a lot of invitations to interact is when I listen to podcasts. Podcasts like Radiolab or This American Life will regularly ask for feedback about certain stories, and often use voices and interviews from people who ring in.

One of my favorite podcasts, Reply All, recently did a show where they took phone calls for 24 hours and recorded the whole thing without sleeping. It was a lot of fun and helped to get some longtime listeners involved in the process of producing a show.

Boing Boing has an interesting feature where you can highlight some text and leave a comment or emoji on that particular section and then share it with friends.

I think bloggers could get a lot better at this type of thing – especially if it means including more reader creations in the posts themselves. I’d love to know if anyone has ever done this successfully.

5. Use gamification

Gamification is a technique being used more and more to make some dry topics seem a little bit more exciting and motivating by making them more like a game.

The human brain is hardwired to seek rewards, and all those little sounds and flashing lights you see when you “level up” cause a rush of dopamine to be released in our brains and help to keep people coming back. As a side note, that’s why young children shouldn’t spend much time on screens.

But, if you’re trying to help people achieve positive things in their life it might be a good thing. We’re seeing that in meditation apps, for example. Websites like Bodybuilding.com also have some cool ideas on this front:

This screenshot shows one of the popular members and how she has achieved certain weight loss targets over a certain period of time. Other members can track the progress and compare it to their own as motivation.

This type of thing basically works like an advanced forum and encourages people to interact by making certain goals and achievements public and making it a supportive environment. Blogs could also use badges for top commenters, active members, etc.

A plugin that can help you achieve this type of thing is De:comments which allows you to have voting systems, badges and other features within your blog comment area. You can expand on this concept by getting certain ratings to appear in Google search results .

Another type of gamification is things like quizzes which can give people new insights about their behavior. We did a quiz called Are You Ready to Start a Blog last year and, while the quiz could be better from the results output point of view, it was something to make the blog post a little bit more fun.

6. Embed content from other sites

This one is a little bit tricky because you have to be careful about how your source content so as to avoid copyright problems as well as duplicate content penalties from Google. That being said, there are some ways that you can do it effectively and ethically.

For example, if you wanted to write an article about Donald Trump’s recent activities you might embed a series of tweets that help to provide context or background to your position.

All you have to do is go to Twitter, find the specific tweet and then click “embed tweet” and paste the code into your blog post. That way you get a live updated and clickable message that shows re-tweets, likes, etc. You could also link to your own tweets as a way to get conversation happening there.

One plugin that can help make this a bit easier is Embedly which allow you to embed content from dozens of sites with just a URL and without any need to style or change the design.

How interactive is your blog?

Is your blog a very interactive place? I’d love to know what you think makes a difference. Are there any tools or techniques you have used that had an impact? Please leave us a comment below.

How to Get Google to Send You 119,717 Visitors Every Month

Last Updated February 23rd, 2017

Are you wondering how to get more traffic from Google? This post might be able to help.

I’ll never forget the first time I got 100,000 visitors from Google in one month. I still feel extremely lucky. Today I’m going to show you how I think I did it in the hope that something will be new for you.

When you first think about starting a blog you kind of don’t imagine you’ll ever get more than a trickle of traffic.

And then you have your first 100-visitor day.

Then your first 1,000-visitor day.

After a while you might even have a 10,000 or 20,000 visitor a day and you still can’t believe it’s happening.

What I want to do today is show you as much of what I did as possible to see whether it helps your blog get more traffic. Let’s look at all the ins and outs of how to get over 100,000 visitors a month from natural organic Google search.

Things are so much nicer when you have a plan.

Why is Google traffic still the best?

If you’ve been reading Blog Tyrant for a while you’ll know that I occasionally warn against relying on Google too much.

And I stand by that.

Organic traffic from Google search is still the most valuable traffic you can get because it grows, it’s free (sort of), and people who are using search engines are usually in a buy-ready frame of mind.

A screen shot of my Clicky Analytics account showing one of my first 28 day periods where I had 100,000+ unique visitors hitting my blog from Google searches.

However, if your begin to rely solely on that traffic you run the risk of getting yourself into a bit of trouble in the longterm. Every time Google updates its algorithm there is a chance your blog is going to be less relevant.

And that means your traffic vanishes.

My own little story with this issue

I’ve told this story before but when I first got into blogging I had a few fitness blogs which made money pretty exclusively through Google Adsense. One day I woke up and all my traffic (and revenue!) had gone – I’d received a pretty significant Google penalty for some unknown reason.

Lucky for me, the traffic came back.

But it was a very scary experience and it taught me that I need to ensure that I have diversified traffic sources that act as a back up in case one of them gets accidentally or deliberately turned off.

How long does it take to get 100,000 visitors a month from Google?

Something I want to stress in this post is that my approach to Google traffic is one that is very clean, natural and safe.

And “safe” isn’t always a word that sits well with entrepreneurs.

Because it usually means slow.

If you’re after some short term SEO tricks to help you get an inferior website ranked in two weeks then this isn’t the post for you. This is all about a high-value approach to blogging that you can use on a site that you love and don’t want to take unnecessary risks with.

But saying it will take 6 months or a year is kind of irresponsible of me because every blog and niche is different. It will depend a lot on how prolific you can be, and how willing you are to learn a new approach.

How to get 100,000 visitors a month from Google

Okay, now we can get into the real tofu and potatoes of the post.

And, as always, if you get to the end and think I’ve missed something important or have any questions please leave a comment and let me know.

1. Choose a topic, keywords and target market that has the depth

The very first thing you need to do if you want to have a good SEO strategy is know what keywords you are going after and what target market you are trying to tap into.

Too often I see blogs that have a very generalised topic which leads to a lot of fragmented content, an unresponsive mailing list and not a lot of success.

When researching your topic, please make sure you know what you want to talk about and how your blog is going to be different to all the others out there. It is very important that you think about deliberate ways that your topic is going to stand out.

When researching keywords, it’s a good idea to know who your competition is and how saturated the market is. There are some niches that are very, very hard to compete in. The main worry, however, is a niche with not enough traffic.

One simple place to start is by logging into Google Adwords and using their suite of Tools. One of them will estimate search volume and show you the Adwords bidding competition. This will give you a pretty good idea about whether your market is worth the effort.

Make sure you try a lot of variations of your keywords here. Even small changes like plurals or alternative words that seem similar can have a massive effect on traffic numbers.

At this stage you’ll also want to look at your competition using a service like Majestic to see what keywords are going around, who is working on what, etc. You can then go and spend some time manually searching and clicking through to websites to see if there is anything that you can do better than what is already out there.

At this point I’d like to just mention that passion really is the most important thing here. It’s something I’ve heard successful bloggers like Glen from ViperChill say again and again. Even if you find a profitable niche to work in, you’ll soon lose interest at all the hard (and boring tasks) if you don’t love it and sincerely want to help your readership.

That is very important.

2. Get your own domain name and self-hosted WordPress setup

How many times have you seen a free blog like Tumblr or Blogger in the first position on Google? Not often is the answer.

Google gives a much higher weighting to websites and blogs that have their own domain name and host because it is a pretty basic signal that that website is going to be taking itself more seriously – hence better quality. Here’s a quick video explaining my preferred setup.

So how do you choose a good domain name? Well, there are several options:

Exact match keywords
A few years ago if you could get an exact match phrase you’d be more likely to rank at the top. Now this isn’t so popular and can look a bit spammy. However, for local search, things like ArchitectMelbourne.com.au still rank extremely well if you can get them.
Keyword + noun
Another popular method is to take the keyword that you are targeting and add a noun or adjective to it. Blog Tyrant could be an example of this approach if I was targeting the keyword “blog”.
Distinctive domains
This is actually now the best option given that all the good keyword domains are taken. Being distinctive is important. Look at a site like ViperChill where the domain name has nothing to do with anything but you’ll never forget it.

Once you’ve decided on your domain name you can register it and do all your WordPress set up through BlueHost. This is a good idea because then everything is in the one place. Here is a tutorial on how to start a WordPress blog and bit more about blog hosting in general if you’re interested.

3. Change your general WordPress settings for better SEO performance

For the most part, WordPress is a pretty SEO-friendly platform. That being said, there are a few little default things that we want to change from the get go.

The first is your default permalinks structure which is often set to some combo of the date and name. I like to set this to just post name as we will want the keywords that we are targeting to show up in the post. Just go Settings > Permalinks > Post Name.

Remember, if you already have your blog up and running you don’t want to change any existing permalinks as that will result in any links pointing to that old structure to throw an error. We only want it for future things.

The next thing you want to make sure is that your post titles are set to h1 tags and not anything else. Often you find that WordPress themes have the site name as the first header and then the post title is h2 which is a mistake. You can change this by going Appearance > Editor > Single Post and then changing your post title to the right tag.

The last basic WordPress thing we want to change is your sidebar. Get rid of everything in there except for an email subscriber opt-in form and maybe some links to your most popular posts. You don’t need all that Meta stuff in there, and you especially don’t want any blogroll links.

4. Install an SEO-specific plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast

Now you’ll want to get a little more advanced and install a plugin that has been specifically designed for improving your WordPress blog’s search engine performance. The most popular and well respected is WordPress SEO by Yoast.

This plugin is actually quite intimidating for beginner/intermediate level bloggers. There are a lot of settings and options and you will be introduced to a whole new lexicon of SEO-related words.

Don’t panic.

Firstly, Yoast has written a really comprehensive guide on how to get yourself properly setup. Secondly, it’s not the kind of thing you need to get totally correct before you do anything else – you can tweak as you go. I would earmark half a day of your time to add the plugin and go through the above article making changes and then just leave it for a while.

The great thing about this plugin, as you can see above, is that it will tell you if you are making any large mistakes or errors as you go along. Combine this with the installation guide and you will find yourself learning a lot about SEO best practices for a WordPress blog setup.

5. Carefully tweak and improve your user experience ranking factors

The above plugin and settings mostly tweak your site to make it look better in the eyes of Google bots. But what we want to do now is make sure it looks good in the eyes of your human readers.

The interesting thing about this is that improving a blog’s user experience also leads to a better ranking performance because Google only wants to refer its customers to highly useful sites.

Start by making sure you have a mobile responsive WordPress theme. This is especially important since the Google mobile update that happened a few weeks ago.

If you’re not sure whether your site looks good to Google then use their mobile testing tool. Here’s what it says about Blog Tyrant:

The next most important user experience ranking factor is speed. Google only wants to send visitors to website that load extremely quickly because they know that people are impatient. If your site is taking longer than about 2-3 seconds to load then it is too slow.

The above is a screenshot of a speed test I did on Blog Tyrant using Pingdom Tools where the results are very positive. Of course, this speed varies depending on the location of the user, how many people are on the website, etc. but overall my site is loading pretty well.

Some of the basic things you can do to ensure your blog is loading quickly include:

Shrinking images
I’m always surprised at how often bloggers upload images that are > 2MB. It’s too large. Ideally you want to shrink your images down to around < 50KB or smush them.
Talking to your server technicians
If you are on a good web host you will usually find that your server technicians will offer you some free advice on how to best optimise your blog. Open up a support ticket and tell them you need to make some site speed improvements and see what tips they give. They can do things like enabling GZIP which is a server-side speed improvement.
Using a caching plugin
Caching is another big topic that takes a while to get your head around. A lot of it can be done on the server side of things, but there are also several good WordPress plugins like W3 Total Cache which you can install and get good results with.

Now that you’ve taken some steps to speed up your blog, you’ll want to start looking at the layout of your theme and ensuring that you have the design setup in a way that will encourage visitors to take an action.

For example, it’s a very good idea to ensure that you important stuff is above the fold. This is the area of your blog that people see before they have to scroll. Any opt-in forms, calls to action, etc. really need to be in this area, or at least catered to in a design that encourages scrolling.

You’ll also want to look at things like your typography and replace any slow self-hosted fonts with either web safe versions or a Google Font version which always seem to be quicker and you can test out text to see what looks nice.

Make sure you use a large, easy to read font size that fits with your branding. The general wisdom is that fonts like Arial, Verdana and Georgia are good choices because people are used to reading them and thus it feels familiar. Here’s some interesting recommendations from Apple on the topic.

6. Create strategic content based around keywords, value and point of difference

Ever since I first sold a blog in college I’ve preferred to approach blogging, SEO and online business with a “quality first” attitude where my stuff hopefully helps people.

And one of the mantras you hear a lot in the blogging world is the idea that content is king.

Well, I actually think that is a pretty ordinary phrase.

Quality content alone is not enough. It needs a strategy. – Tweet this.

If you really pay attention to what is appearing at the top of Google these days you’ll notice that there is a mix of local stuff, videos, long form content, aged content, fresh content, photos, etc. Have a look at a few results for the term “email marketing”.

It is quite varied.

So instead of just attempting to write something “quality”, what we need to do is really dig deep into the niche and figure out what we can create that is not only useful, but different. How can I make something that will get attention?

That is very important.

But that content that we create also has to form part of an overall blogging strategy otherwise it is all a complete waste of time. There is absolutely no point in getting over 100,000 visitors to your blog each month if they aren’t taking some type of action towards your goals.

Here’s some more reading on why a blog is not enough in and of itself.

Let’s look at WPMU DEV as an example of someone who does strategic content very well. If you do a Google search for “most beautiful responsive WordPress themes” you’ll see they have this article ranking near the top.

Then at the top of that article they have this in-house promotion:

This is a really clever way to build traffic using organic methods in order to sell a product that you own and control. A lot of their tutorials and articles are very closely related to the plugins and WordPress themes that they develop. This has the dual effect of benefiting their existing customers as well as finding new ones through Google.

Oh yeah – they have over 370,000 customers paying minimum $24 a month.

7. Leverage other sites’ authority and build links by providing value around the web

There is something quite intangible about this point but I want to write about it anyway because I feel like it has been really important for my own Google rankings.

Over the last few years I’ve noticed something interesting.

If you can write something really good about a topic everyone knows but have a new angle to it, and then get yourself in front of influencers regularly, you will find that they start to link to your articles quite naturally.

In the last few weeks alone I’ve had links from Neil Patel, Moz and Search Engine Watch all for things I’ve done on my About page or my article about About pages!

Another example would be the link I got on Boost Blog Traffic for an article about controversial titles where they featured a controversial title that I wrote.

Simple stuff.

This is another example of the fact that you don’t have to be first in your niche, you just have to try to find a way to stand out and be noticed. Sometimes you can do that with something as basic as your own personal story.

One of the other ways I do this is to make sure I link to all my favorite bloggers regularly when I write something that I think is pretty good. Bloggers really love getting links, and if you’ve included them on some awesome new resource that you’ve made you might just find that they link back to another one of your posts when they’re writing something new.

If you’re doing a guest post on someone else’s blog then this is the absolute best time to mention someone that you’d like to get in front of.

8. Update old stuff (including titles and descriptions)

These days Google is giving a lot of weight to fresh content.

What that means is that some of the brilliant articles that you wrote five years ago, even though they may be the best thing on the web, might not be appearing as high as they should be because some new whipper snapper is stealing your thunder.

One way to combat this is to go back and figure out which posts might need a bit of a fresh coat of paint and add things like new information, graphics, photos, videos, etc. and really make it feel modern again.

One of the good things about the WordPress SEO plugin mentioned above is that it lets you re-write your titles for search engines. One of the main reasons you might want to do this is to show that it has been updated.

For example, in 2014 I wrote a post about the things to know before starting a blog in that year. The content is still perfectly relevant today in 2015 so I updated the description to reflect that fact.

If it still had the old 2014 information in there I might see a lot fewer people clicking through from Google. I don’t recommend you go and do this for every post in your archive either – just try and keep the posts that need to be updated updated.

9. Reinvest part of your earnings to increase exposure

I know a lot of you might be getting sick of me talking about this but it’s so important so I’m going to keep saying it.

Advertising on Facebook Ads and Google Adwords is actually a really big part of good SEO.

Expert SEOs are going to laugh at me for saying that but I don’t care, hear me out.

When you have a really good piece of content that you’ve invested countless hours into researching, writing and editing, you want to make sure it does well. Now, even if you main goal is to get that article to rank on Google you’ll want to make sure you spend money on social advertising.

And the reason is simple.

The wider reach your article has the more likely it is to get seen by someone who’ll eventually link to it.

Think about it.

You can go onto Facebook and in five minutes create an advert that will target only people interested in XYZ niche. That might include other bloggers in the XYZ niche – hopefully even some influencers. If your article is any good it’ll be on their radar next time they are writing about that topic.

This type of promotion works extremely well for long form content and types of content that people can download and use as an everlasting resource. I reckon I’ve probably link to Jon Morrow’s headline PDF at least five times.

10. Listen to Google but don’t be afraid of Google

One of the things that I’ve learned from ViperChill that I’m very grateful for is the idea that you should listen to Google but not always be afraid that you are doing something terribly wrong.

Glen takes a lot of risks with his SEO approach, something that I’m not willing to do here, but he’s also kind of helped me loosen up about trying out new things without fear of a Google penalty.

I wrote about one example in my post on why guest posts still work.

When Matt Cutts told everyone that guest posts were a dangerous way to build backlinks everyone just kind of stopped doing guest posts.

That’s silly.

Guest posting is still a fantastic way to get traffic to your site and find a whole new readership, many of whom will link to your content, promote it on social media and share it with their own audiences. So guest posting for SEO is still very much alive, it’s just smarter now.

Make sure you know what Google wants and doesn’t want, but don’t be so scared of the rules that you stop making content that people want to consume.

One practical task you can do right now

I want to end this post by giving you one practical task that you can start today that will get you closer towards your first 100,000 visitors from Google in a single month.

Start by reading this post (I’m assuming you have if you’re this far) and taking into account all the ideas on keyword research, strategic content, etc. your task is:

Write one brilliant post of at least 3,500 words (include links to big bloggers in your niche, graphics, photos, etc.) based around one strategic keyword set and a point of difference. Find another blog to give it away to as a guest post.

This is something that I notice a lot of bloggers still really struggle to do. When it comes to getting traffic from Google a lot of it really starts with getting your name out there and building links by building up your brand awareness. And that can be done really simple with some good guest posting.

How much traffic do you get from Google?

If you have any questions about how to get more Google traffic I’d be more than happy to try and answer them in the comments below. I’d also be really interested to know how much traffic you get from Google searches and whether you think you could be doing better.

This post took quite a while to put together so if you enjoyed it please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons below. I’d really appreciate it.

Top image © Alexoakenman | Dreamstime.com.

How to Write the Perfect Blog Post: A Complete Guide to Copy

Want to learn how to write the perfect blog post? Of course you do! Let’s start with a graphic you can save for future reference.
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Feel free to share or use this graphic on your own blogs if you like. Please just link back to this post as a credit.

Now we can get into the bulk of the details that you might want to bookmark and follow along whenever you write a new article.

Okay, so what makes this the perfect blog post?

Okay, so let me do a bit of explaining.

I’m not saying that I know how to write the perfect blog post and that everything I do on my blog is perfect.

It’s not.

In fact, I really don’t like my writing that much at all. (Do all bloggers feel like that?)

But I have been blogging for quite a while now and in that time I’ve been able to hone my posts by looking at what has worked and what hasn’t over the years.

It’s basically a lot of trial and error.

Today all I am doing is sharing the elements, strategies and ideas that I have seen make a big difference to the stuff I write. I’m hoping that you might read something new, apply it to your own blog and see a big difference in your own results.

So it’s more like a quest for finding your own perfect blog post based on what has worked for me.

5 things to keep in mind before you start

Let’s start this post by talking about a few background idea that you kind of need to keep in mind while you are writing your posts. This is a bit like the instructions as opposed to the actual creation.

1. Ask yourself “…and then what?” before you start writing

One of the best lessons that I ever learned as a blogger is this:

All your blog posts should form one big beautiful picture as opposed to each being stand alone items. Tweet this.

What this means is that you need to sit down and carefully figure out what it is that you want your blog, and your blog posts, to achieve every single time.

The question “… and then what?” seems to help me the most.

I’ll sit down, log in, and fiddle around with a title and an idea. Once I’m pretty sure on the topic I’ll ask myself very deliberately what I want people to do before I write any words.

Make sure your post all work together as a team to achieve one or two very deliberate goals – and remember that everything that you write should help people solve problems in their lives and generally be something that adds a bit of goodness to the world.

This is so important.

2. More is more

The next few items are really going to grate on a few people – the idea that more is more is kind of something we’ve all been trained to disbelieve.

But, in blogging at least, the longer posts with more perceived value seem to have some of the best results. This also counts for landing pages that are selling a product or service.

Of course, no one is going to read 5,000 words of rubbish. But in my experience, if you can write a hugely long post you are more likely to grab someone’s attention as they instantly associate the length or number of compiled items as being of high value.

As always, test it for yourself. But here on Blog Tyrant I rarely publish anything less than around 2,500 words.

3. The way it looks matters as much as what it says

When I’m drafting my posts (I always do that in WordPress) I’m constantly hitting “preview” in order to see how the post is looking from a visual point of view.

Many writers out there will hate this idea.

But the more I go on, and the more aware I become of my own blog-reading habits, the more I realize how important it is for the layout to be appealing, simple and easy to read.

That means making sure you have:

A nice large font-size
I talked about this a little bit last week but you want to make sure your font is easy to read and matched to your brand.
Quality images
Draw people in with high quality (but fast loading) photos and images that add value to the post and pull the eye down.
Small paragraphs
Make sure you don’t waffle on for lines and lines of text. People are used to skimming so keep the paragraphs short.

Bold text and bullet points
Whenever you can break up the text with burst of bold or bullet points you should do it. Just imagine this section as one big bulk paragraph vs how it is now.
A narrow-ish content width
Don’t make people read your text over a hugh long line. You want your content area to be no more than around 700 pixels (mine is 650) because tired eyes will get lost.

A lot of this is not based on any data I have from my blogs, but more based on how I go about reading blogs, and how I used to design websites for clients. Readability is very important, and you want to develop a level of consistency so that all of these things add up to a blog post that “looks” like one of yours.

The reason I say that this stuff matters as much as what the post actually says is because I firmly believe that a lot of people just won’t read even brilliant text on a super-ugly blog.

4. Adding something for everyone helps uptake

It’s very difficult to please everyone, but one thing you can try to do is cater to as many “groups” of people as possible.

For example, when writing my post about blogging in 2015 I noticed something interesting: the people who shared the post on Twitter weren’t the same people who shared it on Pinterest.

What this means is that people consume things in different ways. Some people like technical explanations, others like a big old infographic and a quick skim.

If you can create a blog post that covers all of these things you are on to a real winner because you are going to touch a lot of different groups of people who will hopefully want to pass on the element of your post that they found compelling.

This also has the dual benefit of being excellent for SEO – Google is constantly looking for websites that have different formats and features in order to provide a more varied front page of results.

5. Each headline/post should address a single evergreen problem

Something that we’ve talked about a few times is the idea of “breaking down” your blog posts and just focusing in on one smaller topic.

For example, a post about How to Be Awesome at Karate might actually be better of as a dozen posts made up of smaller topics like How to Throw the Perfect Karate Punch or How to Make a Fist in Karate.

Dudes like Mehdi from Strong Lifts have absolutely killed it by focusing in on topics like how to bench press.

Over the years I’ve noticed that articles that focus in on one problem such as how to sell a blog or how to start a fashion blog seem to do the best because they solve very narrow problems and these problems never really go out of fashion.

A guide to writing the perfect blog post

Okay, so, with all those things in mind, here is the way I go about writing my perfect blog post. I hope these steps might be useful to you as well.

  1. Generate your idea
    Idea should be distinctive in the market. Try to base the post on reader feedback, a known problem in the industry or competition analysis. Research the front page of Google and your main competitors at this stage to see how you can improve on what’s out there. If you can’t, don’t bother.
  2. Develop headline
    Address problem in the headline using fear (not to scare people, but to show how you’ll solve it!), scarcity or intrigue/questions. Keep under 65 characters long. Ensure SEO key phrase is in title. Constantly refer back to headline as you write. Use websites like ViperChill, Boost Blog Traffic and Viral Nova as a guide for headline generation.
  3. Write introduction
    First line of post should re-address your problem, headline and key phrase. Rest of introduction aimed at drawing eye down towards main points. Tell people what you’re going to do with the rest of the post, what they’ll learn, etc.
  4. List out the main points
    Rattle out your main points of the blog post so you can see the shape of the article and what you’re going to be covering. This helps to avoid double-ups and omissions.
  5. Open up tabs
    At this point I open up dozens of tabs relating to research, competition and topics that I want to cover. I then link to them as I go and if I get stuck I re-read information and try to improve on it.
  6. Write a base of 2,000 to 2,500 words
    I have a little personal rule that if I’m not hitting at least 2,000 words I’m not covering the topic deeply enough. I write out my main points to at least 2,000 words addressing the main keyword.
  7. Add bonus material
    At this point I’ll add extra paragraphs, tips, quotes, videos, photos, click to tweets, references, etc. in order to take the main content to the next level. This might take the article up another 1,500 to 2,500 words. Try to link to influencers who have written extensively or well on the same topic. Make sure you link to your own posts extensively.
  8. Don’t finish topic/pose question
    Don’t quite complete the topic. Leave room for discussion. Pose a question at the end of the article to encourage discussion.
  9. Select main photo
    I spend quite a lot of time looking for a good photo. I want it to be curious, involving a human being and something that fits with my brand. I use a lossless smusher to keep the size down but the quality high, and always make sure they are the same size and format.
  10. Publish at a peak time
    Do a quick read over for spelling and formatting but don’t waste too much time. Hit publish at a peak time. For me that is between 8am and 10am on Monday, Wednesday or Friday on East Coast USA time.

Okay so that’s the main formula that I follow every time I sit down to write. Of course, sometimes it varies based on the topic or strategy that I’m following but for the most part that’s how it goes.

How to ensure your perfect post gets results

Once you’ve written your post there are a few follow up things that you’ll want to take care of.

1. Email the people included

If I know the people well I’ll shoot them an email and let them know that I’ve included their website/post in my own article. I usually don’t ask them to share it because I don’t like putting the pressure on, I just let them know and that’s it. If your article is good enough they’ll usually give it a tweet.

2. Mail your list

I always mail my list to let them know that a new post has gone live. I send these out at peak times when the most people are online and I follow a very simple template of plain text with one link to the post. These emails are a great way to test your short-form copywriting which is aimed at getting people to open emails and click links week in, week out.

3. Test regularly

The perfect blog post will only be revealed through testing. You might hit a winner and go viral and never be able to repeat that success because you aren’t actually sure what made it stick. Split testing titles, formats, length, timing, etc. are all very valuable things to do.

4. Throw $20 at it

Sometimes it takes me a whole week to write a post, especially if it’s 9,000 words like my guide on how to start a blog. And if I’m spending that much time working on an article I want to give it the best chance of success. A quick $20 on Facebook Ads or Twitter Ads can really help to give it a boost.

5. Tweak it regularly based on feedback

As a blogger you get feedback from both human and non-human sources. It’s very important to keep posts “alive” by tweaking them based on things you hear and see. For example, if someone tells you that you’ve missed something, add it in. If Google Webmaster Tools tells you that your title isn’t getting a good CTR then change it and monitor.

Examples of some perfect blog posts

It wouldn’t be right to finish this post without showing you some of the most perfect blog posts that I’ve seen out there in the wild.

The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet
Steve Kamb’s post over at Nerd Fitness has had over 2,000 comments and 45,000 likes on Facebook. It’s a massively detailed article with photos, videos and even it’s own app! Incredible value for anyone searching the topic.
Northern India: the Good, the Great and the Ugly
I only found Legal Nomads recently but have been blown away by the quality of the articles that Jodi puts up. This one on India took my 20 minutes to get through and is filled with the most wonderful photos – a blog post made only after actually visiting the place!
How to Start a Podcast
This tutorial from Pat Flynn is absolutely massive and contains the most complete instructions you’ll find on the topic. It includes a complete walk through and then a bunch of high res videos that take you through each step. This isn’t ranking number one on Google yet but it will be soon.
A Long, Ugly Year of Depression that’s Finally Fading
One of the most heartfelt and comprehensive posts you’ll ever read from a CEO. Rand completely laid out his story of depression but also included emails, screenshots, slides, etc. about how and why it all happened. Fascinating read that touched a lot of people.
The Advanced Guide to SEO
These guides that Neil Patel puts together are absolutely outrageous. Different design and content features and often longer than an actual book. They cost a lot to put together but they really cut through. This is the type of value we should be aiming for.

Do you have a perfect blog post?

Have you ever written a blog post that went viral or brought you a heaps of awesome results? I’d be really keen to hear about it. Please leave a comment below and feel free to leave your links as long as they are appropriate and on topic. Oh, and as always, let me know if I’ve missed anything!

A Huge Guide on How to Write Effective Post Titles

Ever wondered how to consistently write effective blog post titles? It’s one of the most important skills to have in the online world. Let’s look at a graphic summary and then jump into some big details below:

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An introduction to blog post titles and headlines

An entertaining and eye-catching headline can help a blog post (that might otherwise have gone unnoticed) get thousands of social shares, hundreds of comments, and a boost in Google rankings.

Write a boring title, however, and even the best blog post will get skipped.

Now, I’m not saying that I always write effective titles for my blog posts – I still have so much to learn and there are countless websites that do them a whole lot better than me. But, I’ve been asked about my methodology a few times now and thought it might be something a few of you might like to read.

So here we go!

A question about titles from Frank

In a post about mailing lists I got a question in the comments section from Frank which got me thinking about this topic some more:

Now, Frank’s question is primarily about email subject lines and crafting them so that people open up your emails. But seeing as there is a lot of similarity and crossover between email subject lines and blog post titles and so I am going to talk about it all in one post.

What makes for an effective post title?

Let’s start this post by talking about what makes a title effective.

To my mind there are a few things we can talk about here – each one slightly more challenging than the last:

  1. It should catch their eye
    The very first thing a title needs to do is catch someone’s eye whether they see it in an email, Facebook feed, Tweet or whatever. Cutting through noise is hard.
  2. It should get a click
    The next thing you need to do is get them to click through to read it. This is much more difficult than it sounds – some formats only have 0.5 to 1% click through rates.
  3. It should cause an engagement or action
    Some people will share or like an article simple based on whether they think their friends will like the article’s title. More likely, however, is that your title encourages someone to read your excellent content.
  4. It should assist your longterm Google rankings
    A good title not only gets people interested in the article but also helps you to rank well on Google. More about this later.

You might write a title that you really love and think is clever as hell but unless it is leading to these types of responses you will be wasting your time.

How to write effective post titles

Okay so writing a good title is not easy.

We all know that.

It takes a lot of practice and it also requires a lot of testing to see what works and what sort of tiny variations you can make to elicit a big change in performance.

But there are some things you can do every time, sort of like a routine, to ensure that you get the best possible chance of success.

Today’s post is not going to be a formula that you can follow – mostly because I don’t follow one myself. Rather, what I want to do is just give you a few different things that you can think about and do each time you sit down to write.

Hopefully that helps you get results.

1. Always consider your target audience first

Before you write a title for a blog post you need to think about your target audience.

Who are they? What do they do? How old are they? These are all important questions that can have a big impact on how your titles form.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the question: what problems do they have?

If your title can tap into that anxiety (and perhaps solve it!) you’ll find yourself getting a much better engagement rate.

Always know who you are writing for and what issues they are having. Successful websites that are aimed at professional corporates “feel” completely different to music sites for teenagers. That’s important.

2. Think about where they are reading the title

This point relates heavily to Frank’s question about email subject lines because when your title is designed to be read in an inbox you need to factor in things like mobile screen sizes.

Here’s a screen shot of two emails that I sent to myself using some pretty lazy examples of my own headings. You can see how on my iPhone the subject gets quite cropped and the text underneath plays a really big role. If you have a large percentage of people reading your emails on their mobile you’ll need to pay careful attention to how much fits.

3. Know exactly what short and long-tail keywords you’re targeting

Keywords are a vital part of blogging success.

You need to know exactly what keywords your blog as a whole is targeting, and you need to know what keywords each individual post is targeting and how that helps to create a big blog-wide picture. To do this well you need to know a little bit about short and long-tail key phrases and how they all work together.

Here’s an example if you aren’t sure:

Short-tail: grow a blog

Long-tail: how to grow a blog in 2017

As you can imagine, short-tail keywords are extremely competitive and difficult to rank for. What most people now do is try to rank for a series of longer-tail alternatives where you add an extra bit of information on the end to target a smaller group of people.

I’ve written a bit about keyword research for blogging before so I won’t go over it again in too much detail. At a minimum, you want to spend 20 minutes to an hour researching and making sure you can compete and are targeting the right things.

4. Pick a post title strategy and work your keywords into it

So now we are up to the bit where you actually start to draft some titles.

This is where it gets lengthy!

It’s at the point where we have to communicate our ideas to our readers, show them what we want to achieve, generate some curiosity, and also add in the key phrase for the benefits of Google SEO.

Each thing that you leave out makes for a less effective title.

So how do you do that?

Well, the best bet is to use some kind of title strategy that gives you a little method or guideline to follow.

Here are some examples:

Shock value
Two titles that have worked really well for me personally are Why I Hate Copyblogger which was published on Copyblogger itself and an email I sent with the subject Goodbye Old Friend about switching to my new responsive theme. Both caused a big stir, but had the downside of a bit of negative feedback for scaring people! Note that these don’t address all of our criteria.
Scarcity
Human beings are hardwired to minimise loss and as such using a title that indicates that readers are already losing something, or that there is a limited amount of something available to them can be incredibly effective. My most effective example of this is probably Why Blogging is a Waste of Time because so many of the readers were already heavily involved in blogging.
Time sensitivity
Time sensitivity is closely related to scarcity – if there is a limited amount of time available people will be more likely to act. My favorite example of this is from Glen who actually uses that phrase in the title Time Sensitive: How to Reach 100,000,000 Unique Visitors in Just 6 Months. If you don’t feel compelled to click this link you might actually need to see a doctor. Another big example from this week is the article Google Search is About to Make a Major Change.
Exclusivity
Sticking to our biological needs, humans really love being part of something exclusive. We can see this awful ego in action all over the place with premium memberships; the clubs and groups you join when you buy a Porsche, for example. Even just hinting at something exclusive can be very powerful as I was happy to see in my post REVEALED: 19 Things to Know Before You Start a Blog which has been a big post for me.
Fear and anxiety
Marketing is normally about solving a need that someone has (although we could argue that these days marketers create artificial needs to sell us crap…). If you can incorporate a fear or anxiety into your title you’ll generate immediate interest. The title How a Single Guest Post May Have Gotten an Entire Site Penalized by Google does that extremely well because we’ve all done guest posts and we’re all kind of scared of that penalty. Note: Please only do this is you feel the fear is necessary and your post has some answers. Don’t just aim to scare people.
Extraordinary value
Titles that communicate an extraordinary amount of value often do really well, especially if the article itself actually follow through with the promise. I tried to do this with a post called My 9,381-Word Guide on How to Start a Blog and Dominate Your Niche. It took a long time to write but the results have been pretty good. In my opinion Glen is the king of these types of titles with examples like How 3 Guys Made Over $10,000,000 Last Year Without a Single Backlink.

These are just some very basic examples. I’ll try to give you a few more tactics towards the end of the post in case you want to go deeper on how to work these motivations into your title and headline writing.

5. Keep your title in view and constantly tighten it

When I was in university someone told me to read the essay question every few minutes to stop myself going off track.

It was very good advice.

I like to keep my title in view and read it again and again as I type each paragraph. This helps me stay on track, but it also forces me to review the headline and tighten it up as the post evolves – which it always does.

On average I would say that my titles get re-written at least 20 to 40 times before I publish.

Sometimes the title will change because you realize that there is a better topic/angle for your overall blogging strategy, other times you just figure out better and better ways to say what you want.

The main iterations of this post’s title went:

How to Write A Blog Post Title
Why My Blog Post Titles Take Hours to Write
My Method of Writing Effective Blog Post Titles
How I Write Effective Blog Post Titles
Why Writing Blog Post Titles Can Take Hours
Why My Effective Titles Take Hours
How I Write Effective Post Titles (and Why it Can Take Hours)
How I Write Effective Titles (and Why it Takes Hours)
Etc.

(Dear Google, I am not keyword-stuffing here. )

Each one of these variations also probably had two or three versions that I toyed with. Sometimes I will sit there and do this until I feel solid about it, other times I will revise the title as I write the article itself in order to get the whole entity flowing together.

6. Publish your post and tweak for different versions

Okay so this is where the “art” of title-writing starts to turn more into the “science” of title-writing.

Once you’ve finished writing the perfect blog post you hit publish and then start to take care of all the other versions of your post title that need to be addressed.

For example, the way your title appears on Google, Facebook, your blog itself, and your mail out can all be completely different if you so choose.

I touched on the mail out above with the iPhone sizing so let’s talk more about the appearance in the search engine rankings here.

With a plugin like All in One SEO Pack or Yoast’s WordPress SEO you can actually change the title of your posts so that they appear different in Google.

For example, here’s a result from Blog Tyrant:

As you can see, the blog post title is too long and gets cut off. The tricky thing about this, however, is that the title length that Google shows will be longer depending on the key phrase that was searched. In the old days it was around 70 characters and so we could easily cater for that. Not anymore.

So it’s important to think carefully about the main key words you want to rank for an ensure you have a good appearance for that main target.

You can track all of this in Webmaster Tools and a bit with Clicky.

Here you can see a post where I’m getting a 46% click through rate from Google for the displays where I rank in the first position. This could be better but depends on lots of things like the type of search people are doing (how-to’s vs general info), the number of ads around it, etc.

One thing that’s good to note here is that you don’t want to change your title too much on Google (or anywhere else…) such that people get mislead when they arrive on your post and see the actual title. That will cause a big increase in your bounce rate.

If you want to test the effectiveness of your subject lines for mail outs it’s a good idea to segment your list and split test different versions and see whether you can get any meaningful results that you can learn from and replicate next time.

Some more tips for writing effective post titles

Now that I’ve kind of gone over my own process for writing effective titles, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a few miscellaneous tips and resources that I have found useful over the years.

In other words, here are some things that I couldn’t figure out how to fit into the main content:

Jon Morrow’s free eBook on writing headlines is probably the best resource on the internet for headline development. I regularly refer to it to “borrow” ideas. You’ll need to submit your email to get it.
Write a lot. There’s a story here that Brian Clark made Jon Morrow write 35,000 headlines in one year in order to help him become the best at it.
Copyblogger has an absolute boatload of headline material that you can get all in one place. Man I really hate these guys.
Find people to learn from. I regularly look at ViperChill and ViralNova to see whether they have any super-successful post titles that I can adapt to my own blogging formula.
Study your real results. Learn to look at your data and see what is getting the actual results that count. That could mean subscribers, sales or some other metric important to your blog. Once you know, copy those posts.
Be scientific. Tools like AWeber, VWO, etc. can help you use different testing methods to see what is working most effectively.

In the end, writing effective titles is just like any other skill that you want to develop – it takes study, practice and a lot of testing to get it right.

What is your most effective title?

I’m really kind of curious to see what kind of post titles the Tyrant Troops have come up with. If you know what your most effective title has been please write it out below in the comments. We might all learn a thing or two from your success!