Guest Blogging to Gain Traffic And Links

So I’m right in the middle of a link building campaign for a large site, and one of the tactics is guest blog articles.  If you’re not familiar with this, it’s a great way to build traffic and links, and all you have to do is create some quality content and be willing to give it away…

So here are a few basic tips.  This is not meant to be comprehensive, but will at least get you started:

Here is how to do it:

  1. You choose a blog you want your article to appear on.  (be picky)
  2. You approach the author of the blog to make sure they accept guest articles (most of the good bloggers do)
  3. View past articles that have been published on the blog to get a good sense of the topic and quality
  4. Write your post (make it truly valuable and unique otherwise you’ll be wasting your time)
  5. Submit the article to the blog.
  6. Get rich and famous  (some results may vary)

Best Practices:

  • Do your research (know what the other blogger likes and doesn’t like)
  • Make it relevant and valuable to the other blog’s audience.  Don’t write about what your audience is interested in… write something valuable for the other blog’s readers.
  • Make it clear up front to the blogger that you want a resource box at the bottom of the article.  (this is where you add your link!)
  • Once it’s published, promote the heck out of it.  The other blogger will appreciate this, and you’ll reap most of the benefit.
  • Explore your opportunities to become a regular contributor.

What’s the Point?:

  • Free links from blogs of your choice.  (if you don’t count the time investment)
  • Expand your reach to target other blog readers
  • Traffic from popular blogs.
  • Extra brand awareness.
  • Subscribers.  The saavy blog reader will recognize that you wrote the article and visit your blog to subscribe.
  • A new relationship with a blogger that loves you for taking the time to add quality content to their site.

THE Ultimate Guide To Blogging

I’ve been thinking alot lately about how to provide a single source for people to learn about how to blog effectively without having to jump to 50 different articles on the subject to find what you want.  So, I came up with this half baked idea to provide all the best tips into one post (there are 109 and counting).  Sort of a one stop shop for all the information you’d ever want to know about blogging.

I will be updating this post regularly to make it the most relevant and useful tool on blogging available.  I apologize in advance for the length, but there is simply alot to talk about; I will do my best to be brief and link to outside resources where available.  If you would like to add your own tip, please leave a comment and I will consider adding it to the post (and give you credit of course).

*** Updated 11/10/10 ***

Please consider bookmarking this post and sharing it with others:

Contents:

  • Tips For Getting Started
  • Basic Blog Formatting & Structure
  • Blog Design & Features
  • Blog Content Tips
  • Blog Participation
  • Blog & Article Promotion Tips
  • SEO For Blogs
  • Blog Link Building
  • Social Media

Tips For Getting Started With Blogging:

  • Track Your Analytics – I’m a huge fan of Google Analytics, but sitemeter can work for the more basic user.  Tracking all this data can be huge for SEO efforts, and help to give you benchmarks on traffic, pageviews, and search traffic.
  • Sign Up For Webmaster ToolsGoogle Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, and MSN Webmaster Center.  All of these can give you great insight into crawl data, errors, strong pages, keyword data, and alot more.  It’s like looking through a window into the secret search engine world… albeit a bit cloudy.
  • Register On Blog Directories – This is the classic first step when setting up a new blog or website.  Get on some relevant directories.  Since you have a blog, blogging directories would be appropriate here.
  • Get on Dmoz, Yahoo, and BOTW – Yes, there is a small financial investment here, but it’s worth it.  These will all help you build trust with the search engines.  When you submit to Dmoz, only do it once, and don’t write about your site like you’re writing an advertisement.
  • Claim Your Blog on Technorati – Go to Technorati.com and register.  Simple.
  • Use An RSS Reader – As a blogger, you’re an RSS publisher.  Because of that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with an RSS reader and get used to the technology.  Beyond that, it’s a great way to process alot of information quickly and will help you progress as a blogger.
  • Naked?  Put On Your Avatar - Register for the following:  Gravatar.com, Mybloglog.com, Blogcatalog.com, Yahoo Avatar, Blogger.com, WordPress.com.
  • Don’t Blog For Someone Else – Let me explain… there is nothing wrong with participating on industry blog sites like Activerain.com.  But don’t use them as your primary outlet.  It may be a great way to promote your articles, and network with other people, but you need a voice of your own on… a web property that you own.  When you write for a blog network site, you are giving away the rights to that content… read the fine print!
  • Have a Launch Party – Email everyone you know, send out cards, tell everyone you meet… the launch should be BIG.  Make sure you build up a decent amount of articles before you open the doors.  Your first big push (if done properly) should be able to secure many subscribers and create a buzz in your industry for at least the first couple of months.
  • Create an About Page or Mission Statement – Every blog needs a purpose.  There is nothing worse than going to a blog and not being able to figure out why it exists.  Make your purpose clear, and introduce yourself properly so readers understand the direction you want to take them in.
  • Build Core Relationships – Find 10 experts in your industry, and do what you can do to get to know them.  Comment on their blogs, participate on social media, interview them, write about them, call them, and work on building meaningful relationships.  These are the people that will help to grow your blog.
  • Write Your Brains Out - When you start, it is extremely important to build a base of content.  Try for 5 new posts per week for the first 3 months.  That will give you roughly 60 articles to work with and a good base to build from.  After the first 3 months, write at a pace that is comfortable for you.
  • Build Basic Directory Links – This can be a daunting task, but it’s completely necessary in order to build some basic links and trust with the search engines.  Here are some links to some lists of directories and tips:  From: Blogger Buster, From: Search Engine Journal, From Searching Solutions: Article #1, Article #2
  • Setup Google Alerts – This is a very simple way of finding out who is saying what about you or the blog.  Setup alerts for your blog name, company name, blog url, and anything else you want to be notified of.  Also, read this post on how to find new customers through Google Alerts.
  • Read The Best “How to Blog” blogs – In my opinion, these blogs have the best information about learning how to blog effectively… in no particular order: Problogger.net, Real Estate Tomato, CopyBlogger.com, ihelpyoublog.com,

Basic Blog Formatting & Structure:

  • Learn How to Make a Blog Post Pretty – There is nothing worse than a poorly formatted blog post with alignment problems, multiple fonts, poor use of bolded text etc.  Practice aligning pictures, and previewing posts before you publish.
  • Proofread – I’m as guilty as anyone in this area…  Spelling AND grammar.  Frankly, it makes you look like a dork when you mipsel wrds in a poast.
  • Use Complimentary Pictures – As opposed to uncomplimentary… think about how a picture can actually add value to an article.  What does that picture communicate to the reader?  Is it valuable, or is it just wasting space.
  • Learn a bit of html – There are great wysiwyg editors on most blog platforms these days, but a basic knowledge of html will save you in some instances when your editor is being uncooperative.  I still struggle with line breaks in WordPress… argh!  Focus on basic things such as: bold, headings, hyperlinks, spacing, breaks, etc.  Need help?  Try this html tutorial site
  • Choose Your Categories Wisely – For most blogs, categories act as a sort of table of contents.  Try to stay under 15 if you can and use them as an outline to stay on topic.
  • Subtitles are Crucial – Big blocks of text are the last thing people want to read online.  Even if it’s the best article ever written, people will still only scan it to find what they are looking for.  Try to break things up by using subheadings (H2-H4).  Don’t go more than 10 lines without breaking it up.
  • Create Lists & Use Bullet Points – The list post is a classic way to catch readers attention.  One of the reasons they are so popular online is because they are easy to digest.  The same can be true of bullet points.  If you can condense your ideas into small chunks, your readers will thank you.
  • Fewer Words – Don’t use 10 when 7 will do.
  • Titles Are Your Most Important Asset - Yes, you heard me right.  Titles can make or break a blog.  Not only is it the first thing people see on the page, but it is typically the first thing people see in search engines as well when they find that post.  Titles have implications with: search engine ranking, click through rates, clickability, readership, subscriptions, popularity, sharing, bookmarking, and more.  The perfect title will capture the attention of an audience by using emotionally charged words, and also include relevant keywords to help you rank higher in the search engines.  Check out Brian Clark’s blog for ideas.  His titles are so good it’s almost sickening…
  • Hold Off On Advertisements – Some new bloggers are gung-ho to throw adsense and banners all over their blogs thinking that somehow it will help supplement their efforts.  But this is rarely the case.  I suggest at least a few hundred subscribers before launching an ad campaign.  The last thing you want to do is turn off potential readers with intrusive ads.
  • Ditch Your Blogroll – The traditional blogroll appears in the sidebar of your blog… which in turn appears on every page of your blog… bad.  If you can’t help but create a large list of your blogging peeps, create a single page.  Your internal Page Rank will thank you.
  • Set Up Keyword Rich URL Slugs – Some people will argue that using a URL with an ID number is better for usability, such as: http://yoururl.com/post/1234   But I suggest using a keyword rich slug that matches the title of the post.  Not only will this improve click throughs in search engines, but it will also help identify your hyperlinks.
  • Can’t Help But To Monetize Through Advertisements? – A couple tips ago, I suggested holding off on advertising, but if you simply can’t help yourself, there is alternative.  Try some affiliate marketing.  This is a super easy way to make money from the sites that you are probably already linking to.  Simply sign up for the affiliate program, and when you create links in your posts to different services/products, make sure to include the affiliate code so you make some money if that person converts.  This can also work well sprinkled throughout an email newsletter.
  • Include Relevant Pictures in Posts – Pictures and visual elements can speak volumes by themselves in a blog post
  • Editing Pictures – Of Course Photoshop or Photo Elements are good choices, but if you’re technically challenged in this area (like me), try an online tool like: picnik.com, or a simple editing and screen capture tool like Snag it.
  • Finding The Best Pictures for Posts – I prefer to use a site like istockphoto.com where you pay a small amount as a license fee per photo.  But there are plenty of ways to get free pictures too.  Read this post about licensing before you go “borrowing” pictures from Google Image search.

Blog Design & Features:

  • Create a Best Post List – This is an awesome way to help promote some of your best work.  There are some posts that will become a legacy so to speak.  Your “Pillar” posts that people will come back to again and again.
  • Use a Favicon – These are those cute little icons that appear next to the URL in your browser and on bookmarks.  They are simply a neat way to brand your site, and I find that they can become quite memorable over time.
  • Social Bookmarking Options – Social bookmarking is becoming pretty commonplace in the blogging world.  Giving people options in this area can really help.  I prefer using the plugin called Share This, but there are a host of other plugins that do something similar.
  • Include Useful Widgets – I’m not a huge fan of widgets because they slow down blogs, and are rarely useful, but in some industries there are some very user friendly widgets that can add alot of value.  Make sure you think of the reader first, and not just how “cool” a widget is.
  • Publish Full Feeds – It is a well known fact that post people prefer to see the full version of your article in their RSS reader and email.  Don’t truncate to try to snag extra traffic… you’ll just end up annoying your readers.  Give them full access on their own terms.
  • Setup A Proper XML Sitemap – This is a basic plugin for WordPress.  If you don’t have WordPress, you can great a basic page that simply links to all of your posts and important pages.  Make sure to use relevant anchor text.
  • Update Your Design – Blog feeling a bit stale?  I feel that way about every 2 weeks.  If you haven’t changed your design in over a year, it may be time for a snazzy new design.  If you have the dough, get a custom design or at least a premium theme.  Even the simplest design changes can make a huge difference.
  • Call to Action | Related Articles Section – This is vital for any blog.  Make sure you have a section somewhere on each post (typically near the bottom) that lists articles related to the current one.  This can really improve page views, length of visit, stickiness, and overall usability.
  • Call to Action | Email Subscription – Every blog should have an easy way to subscribe.  For your technically challenged readers, the easiest way is through an email subscription form.  You can use a link, but a form looks so much nicer.  Go to the email management area on your Feedburner account to find the html for this form.
  • Call to Action | Connect on Social Media – Are you a Facebook, Myspace or Twitter user?  Make sure you give an invitation to connect via these sites.
  • Call to Action | Social Bookmarking – If you ask nicely, your readers and friends just may help you social bookmark your posts on sites like Digg and Stumble Upon.  This is good.  Giving them easy options can make it a painless process for them.
  • Call to Action | Extra feature – Have any extra features on your site?  Many real estate based blogs will have a MLS search feature built in.  If you have a valuable tool or service on your site, make sure to call attention to it often.
  • Call to Action | “The Classic” - Sometimes only a direct in your face call to action will work.  Not always appropriate for every post or every situation, but your phone number, email, and contact forms are all examples of the “classic” call to action.
  • Calls to Action | Where Do They Go? – Most calls to action will fit nicely into the bottom section of a blog post, but you can be creative.  If you can sprinkle them throughout a post without sounding too commercial, you’re in good shape.  The goal?  Try to include at least 2 calls to action in each post.

Blog Content Tips:

  • Pick a Niche – What is no one else writing about?  What are you an expert in?  Grab your corner of the web and hang on to it.  Set out to create the most useful and unique content in your area of expertise.  Adversely, you could find a topic alot of people are blogging about, and simply out-blog them.  Bottom line: pick something you can write alot about, and try to pick something you’ll enjoy.
  • Create a Slideshow – Too many pictures for one post?  Make a slide show.  They add a very nice feel to any post.  I like using slide.com, but nearly every photo sharing website has a slideshow creating feature.
  • Interview Other Bloggers In Your Industry – This can be a great way to meet people, give your website some clout, and build great content.  Try a simple email questionnaire or invest in a recorder for podcasts.
  • Hunt For RSS Feeds to Find Topics – One of the best ways to find topics to write about is through following what other bloggers have to say.  Pay special attention to the sites that are in your niche.
  • Find Insider Topics With RSS – Blogs aren’t the only sites that use RSS.  But most people subscribe to the top level RSS feeds and ignore the good stuff.  Hunt around for specialized RSS feeds.  Try subscribing to a tag feed in Delicious, subscribing to a special topic on a press release site, or subscribing to a single category of interest on a popular blog.
  • Write 5-10 Pillar Articles – The post you are reading right now could be considered a pillar article.  They are blog posts that are at least 500 words and help define the blog you write for.  It is a long term strategy for building links, visitors, and value to a blog.
  • Keep Track of Ideas - Most bloggers tend to one extreme or the other.  Too much to write about, or not enough.  You want to be the kind that has too much to write about… that way you can be extremely selective and only write the good stuff.  The best way to do this is to write your ideas down as they come.  I personally use a notebook gadget with Google desktop, and also write ideas down on my phone when they come.  The point is to keep the ideas coming and have lots of options to choose from when it comes time to actually write.  Good bloggers will only use about 1 in 10 ideas.
  • Hold Posts in Reserve - Sometimes the creative juices are really flowing and you can’t help but write 3 or 4 posts in one sitting.  But fight the urge to publish everything at once.  You may want to reserve posts for a later date when the writing isn’t coming so easy.  This can really work well if you don’t write alot of time sensitive posts that need to go out immediately.
  • Consistency & Frequency is Key – When famous blogger Darren Rowse asked his audience the biggest reasons why readers unsubscribe from blogs the #1 and #2 answers had to do with frequency.  Posting too much, or not posting enough.  This is huge.  You need to set a standard with your readers and stick with it so they know what to expect.  Do you post 3 times a day?  twice a week? twice a month?  There is no magic number… just make a decision, then make a commitment to stick with it.  Going on vacation?  Post date a post to be published while you’re gone… yes, it’s that important.
  • ReWrite An Old Post – I just did this recently with some success on this post: Competitive Website Resarch.  Chances are you have some great content that may just need a little sprucing up or updating to be a great post.
  • Write a Series on a Topic – Looking for a way to get readers to come back for more?  Try breaking a long post into 2 or 3 sections and linking them all together.  You could also try posting within a time frame like week long series on a particular topic, or 1 tip a day for 30 days.  Keep your readers hungry for more.
  • Make a List of Your Posts – This seemingly simplistic tip can really come in handy when you’re working on linking to related articles, building internal link juice, staying on topic, and keeping track of your goals.  A simple spreadsheet of all the articles you’ve written so far can help tremendously.
  • Take Pictures & Share – Many bloggers are in industries that lend nicely to photography.  If this works for your industry, make sure to capitalize on it.  Take alot of pictures of your subject/topic/product.  Set up an account on Flickr.com and join groups that relate to your subject.  You may also want to consider showing off these pictures in your sidebar with a widget, or by creating a slide show.
  • Leverage Your Friendships on Social Media - This can be a great way to get ideas for a post.  Try running a poll, asking advice, etc.  Before you post, try sending out a quick message on Twitter or Facebook to get feedback on a topic you are thinking about writing.  If they give you some good tips, make sure to credit them in the post.
  • Create a Video Post – This isn’t actually as daunting as it sounds.  There are plenty of cheap digital video cameras out there that take great video, and will upload to your computer and to video sharing websites without any editing or converting.  Try getting the help of an assistant, practice staring into the lens when you talk, don’t feel embarrassed, and invest in a small tripod.  Before putting it on the blog, you’ll want to upload it to a video sharing website.  I prefer Vimeo because of the quality, but Youtube and Google Video can work great too.  Oh, and if you have time, transcribe the video into a text version.

Blog Participation:

  • Return Comments – It’s common courtesy.  Not necessarily expected… but it will go a long way in building relationships with other bloggers, and show them that you care.
  • Answer Your Comments – This is expected.  Especially when someone asks you a question.  There is nothing that can kill the conversation on a blog faster than the author ignoring commenters.
  • Turn on Trackbacks – This will give the other bloggers that choose to link to your posts a benefit and show them that you’re not afraid to link out to them and share the love.
  • Have Feedburner Deliver Your RSS FeedFeedburner is in desperate need of updating, but it’s still the best tool out there to track your feed statistics, customize your feed, and have it delivered by email.
  • Allow Email Subscriptions – Make sure these are turned on with Feedburner.  Alternatively you can sign up for a service like Feedblitz.  Either way, this is a vital part of any blog and will help the technically challenged readers subscribe with ease.
  • Comment Reciprocation – Teaming up with another blogger to comment on each other’s blogs can be a great way to build some credibility and show your readers that your blog is active.  There’s nothing worse than have a page full of posts with no comments.  It can kill morale, and drive readers away.
  • Extra Blog Features – This can be anything from a message board to a Q&A to a job board.  There are alot of different features you may want to consider adding that will enhance the participation on the blog.
  • Ask a Question – One of the simplest ways to get people to comment is to ask a question.  It’s like giving an open invitation to participate.
  • Make a Guerrilla Comment – This is the art of being the first person to comment on a popular blog.  The first commenter will typically get very good visibility and traffic from a well visited blog, and will continue to generate long term traffic on some posts.

Blog & Article Promotion Tips:

  • Link To Other Blogs – This is huge.  Especially when getting started, linking to other blog posts on outside blogs can get really get things jump started.  Most bloggers will stand up and take notice when another blogger links to them, and this can be a great way to build relationships, and get the word out.
  • Submit a Guest Article – Classic way to get incoming links, readers, and traffic to your site.  Especially when submitted to popular blogs.  I find that these have real staying power and can effectively work for you over the long term.
  • Participate in a Blog Carnival or Contest – A no brainer.  Super easy, usually little competition, and fun.  Go to BlogCarnival.com to find one in your industry.
  • Ping Your Blog – This can be set up automatically if you use Feedburner, but for those of you that prefer to do it manually, Pingoat, and Pingomatic are the way to go.
  • Syndicate An Article – Try a site like Ezine Articles.  This can be a great way to get your post shared and help to build links.
  • Put on Your Own Contest – This is surprisingly easy to do and can be very fun.  If it’s your first time, try teaming up with some other bloggers to help you promote it and administrate.  Make sure the prizes are decent to capture people’s attention, and create a button for the contest winners so you can get some incoming links.
  • Publish a Press Release – Press releases can be great tools as long as they are about something actually newsworthy.  The trick is to write/launch/publish something that actually IS worthy of a press release, otherwise you’re just blowing smoke.  Try PRweb
  • Write a White Paper – Think of a white paper as a mission statement.  When your industry has a problem, or needs innovation… write a white paper about how you propose to change it or solve the problems.  People these days treat white papers like regular articles because the concept has been so watered down.  But if you write a truly quality paper that speaks to your industry and provides real value people will stand up and take notice.  Try Michael Stelzner’s blog for tips.
  • Offer Something Free For Registering To Your Email Newsletter - This is your classic give and take.  Offer something valuable enough for someone to sign up for your email newsletter.
  • Maintain a Separate RSS Email & Newsletter List - You’ll always have your RSS email subscriber list, but consider starting a separate email newsletter list that offers more flexibility, and isn’t bound by the content being published on the blog.  This is where you can email a monthly post roundup, offer special promotions, and customize at your discretion.  I’ve personally had success with Constant Contact.
  • Give Away A Free Pdf E-book – People love free stuff, and an e-book full of “secrets” will keep people coming back.  Make sure to create a special download landing page that describes what people are getting and gives people an opportunity to share and link to your freebie.

SEO For Blogs:

  • Block Duplicate Content – With the nifty All In One SEO pack for WordPress, you can easily set your category and archive pages to be noindex/follow… meaning that Google will follow the links to the individual articles, but not index those pages which will help guard against the duplicate content problem.  For those of you not running WordPress, try turning off your archives, and not placing posts in more than one category.  Read more about: Multiple categories & Onsite Duplicate Content.
  • Keyword Research Before You Post – This little tactic has helped me tremendously.  Before you get ready to hit publish, run the keyword phrase that you used in your title through a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Tool.  You may often find that with just a slight variation, you’ll be targeting phrases that get a higher volume of searches.  For more help on keyword research, read this post I wrote about the money tail.
  • Internal Link Juice – In order to properly pass Page Rank, and link value to deep pages of your site (like older blog posts), you’ll want to link to these posts often.  This can be achieved through a related posts section, or by simply linking back to previous articles as resources.  Sometimes a few basic internal links with proper anchor text can have a great effect on that page’s ranking.  Andrew Shotland gave a great tip related to this when I interviewed him about local search marketing.
  • Keep Your Link Count Down – This can be a problem with some
  • blogs… too many links on one page.  It can water down your internal Page Rank, and cause problems with full indexing.  Generally, try to keep the number of links on a single page below 100.  Google has said that it may not crawl any links past the 100 mark.  So be careful with your categories, archives and blogrolls.  These are the things that can eat up your links fast especially on the home page and category page.
  • Use Unique Titles For Blog Posts – Diversify your ranking potential by using unique titles on blog posts.  I’ve written about this topic extensively here: Keyword Cannibalization.
  • Each Post is a Ranking Opportunity – View each post you write as a new opportunity to rank for a unique keyword phrase.  Each post has it’s own content, title, title tag, and URL slug making it a prime candidate for unique ranking for certain phrases.  Don’t try to target the same phrases over and over in each post.
  • Use Heading Tags – Not only is this important for usability, it’s vital for search engine ranking.  If you are targeting a phrase in the title of the post, try to incorporate that phrase somewhere in the post within a heading tag.  This will also break up the article nicely and make it easier to read.
  • Label Pictures Properly – Each picture should include the tag that can be used to describe a picture with text.  Be descriptive, but try to also include keyword phrases that you are targeting.
  • The Perfectly Targeted Post - When you are attempting to rank a post well, you must do the following: 1. Identify a keyword phrase  2. Place the phrase in the post title towards the front  3. Place the phrase in the first sentence of the post  4. Use at least one subheading in the post that includes the phrase  5. Place the phrase in any images on the page using the alt tage.  6. Let the phrase flow naturally throughout the post.
  • Write a Linkbait Post – This is a post that is written for the sole intention of building more links to the website through viral popularity and interest.  It could be something funny, something controversial, a hoax, insider news, a free resource, and more.  Just about anything can be linkbait if it ends up getting other people to link to you.
  • Create Link Clusters – Each post has it’s own keyword phrase ranking potential in the search engines (usually based on the keywords used in the title and body).  Create extra links to pages like this in clusters.  Example:  you have a post that is targeting: “blue widgets”.  Create 10 links to that post from other related articles with that exact anchor text as the link: “blue widgets”.  This can dramatically increase the ranking of that page for the chosen keyword phrase.
  • Leverage Strong Pages – Every website has a few strong pages.  Usually these are the most popular posts that have the most incoming links and comments.  These pages can be leveraged to help build the authority of other pages on the site that may not be performing to their full potential.  Link generously.  Try using this tool for finding your strongest pages.
  • Monitor 404 Error Statistics – Using Google Analytics and Google webmaster tools can help identify error statistics.  Keep your eye 404 errors for pages that get consistently accessed.  It probably means that there is an old link to that page that is bringing traffic to it.  You’ll want to set up a 301 redirect for the 404 error page, or talk to the webmaster of the other site to have them change the link to a working page.
  • Check Status of Outgoing Links – Many times the pages we link to get moved, taked offline, etc.  It’s important that all of your outgoing links work properly so your readers can be taken to outside resources that actually work.  Try this dead link checking tool.
  • Find Missed Link Opportunities – Many times, your company or website can be referenced online without the actual hyperlink.  It can be an effective strategy to find these references and ask the webmaster to turn them into a link.  Use this query to find pages with these references.

Blog Link Building:

  • NEW!! – Blog Directories – First find any blog directories in your niche… then submit to the top 20, and to BOTW.
  • NEW!!Wikipedia – Find a couple of articles in Wikipedia that you can write intelligently about, and that are relevant to your blog.  Then, create a related article on your own blog.  Then, link to this article from the resource section in the Wikipedia article.  Make sure you take your time and make it truly resourceful.
  • NEW!!Get a .edu Link – Lots of ways… 1) Become an adjunct professor at your local city college. 2) Sponsor an event put on by a local school.  3) Look for an admissions page at your local college; many times they will have a local resources page you can get listed on.  4) Make friends with a teacher and shamelessly ask them for a link to one of your informational pages.  5) Create content that can be used in a class being taught locally and make the teacher aware of that content.
  • NEW!!Link Generously to Other bloggers – Pick out 20-30 other relavant blogs and link to them throughout a few of your articles.  They will see this link, and will often return the favor.  You will increase your chances of success by building a relationship with this other blogger through social media, commenting, and phone conversations.
  • NEW!!Links From Local Businesses – The best way to get links from local businesses is through relationships and flattery.  Create a simple links page that links to local resources including local businesses.  Then, contact each business, introduce yourself, and tell them that you linked to their website because you liked it so much.  Then, if the opportunity presents itself, ask for a link in return.  Better yet, write a complete article about the business or interview them.  They will almost always give you a link in return.  Link exchanges can also work well.  Check out the links on this local page for some examples: Loveland home inspection
  • NEW!!The Email Interview – Create a short list of questions you want to ask the top bloggers in your industry.  Then contact each one and ask if they wouldn’t mind answering each question through an email that you will post on your site.  You will get links from others in your industry that enjoy the informative post, and from the interviewees themselves.
  • NEW!!Make a List of the Top Bloggers – Create the definitive list of the top bloggers in your industry.  If it’s been done before, pick an angle like:  “The Top 50 New bloggers of 2009″, or “The Top 50 Most Subscribed Bloggers”.  This will create links from multiple directions including from the blogs you link to.
  • NEW!!Make a List of the Top Posts – Similar to the above… create a monthly or yearly roundup of the best posts in your industry.

Social Media:

  • Photo Sharing – Take your own photos for your blog?  Upload everything to a sharing website like Flickr or Photobucket.  This can bring significant traffic to your blog over time.
  • Twitter – This is a highly addictive tool/site/community.  It’s great for meeting new bloggers, solidifying relationships, and promoting articles.  Try TwitterFeed.com which takes each blog post you write and automatically publishes it on Twitter for you.  By the way, do you follow me?  @justinnerd
  • Go to a local Twitter or Blogger Meetup – There’s nothing like social networking in person.  These meetups can instantly solidify a budding online relationship and turn it into something beautiful like a blogging partnership.  Meeting in person can open up some huge doors… don’t be shy.
  • Attend a Conference – The next best thing to a meetup is a conference.  Many people go for the purpose of networking, and you’ll find that most people are down to earth even though they may seem untouchable at times online.  People such as: Rand Fishkin, Matt Cutts, Matt McGee, Seth Godin, and Chris Brogan just to name a few…
  • Network with Local Bloggers – You’ll likely find that local bloggers are very receptive to networking.  Even if they aren’t blogging about your industry there is value in the local relationships as they can lead to links and sticky traffic since local visitors seem to be more inclined to participation.  Make sure you have ways to connect with local people on the blog like a twitter feed, local photo feed, or GPS feed on your about page or sidebar.
  • Participate In Social BookmarkingCredit: Carol Cohen – Social bookmarking sites were born out of the social web content explosion that has happened over the last few years.  There is so much great content out there, and a social bookmarking site is a great way to share it, and make it known to a wider audience.  Leveraged properly, sites like Delicious, Digg, and StumbleUpon can provide boat loads of traffic, links, and subscribers.

***  Updated 11/10/10  ***


And it just keeps on growing… please comment if you have a tip you’d like to share (I’ll give you credit and a link).

    Come back soon for more tips!

Searching Solutions provides Denver Search Engine Optimization Services

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5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Making a Comment

Commenting is pretty straight forward right?  Name, email, website, comment.  Rinse Repeat.

But beleive it or not, one of the most common questions I get in classes is:

“How do I know what blogs to comment on?”

Behold: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Making a Comment

1.  Do you like the blog you’re about to comment on? – Sounds simple right?  Not so fast… You wouldn’t believe how many people I talk to that treat commenting like a regimented duty.  Spam commenters out there… take note.  If you hate commenting, don’t do it.  If you don’t enjoy what you’re reading then stop.  Life’s too short to leave useless comments when there are plenty of other enjoyable activities you could be doing to market your site or blog.  Commenting is not the only way to market.

2.  Is this blog relevant to my industry? – Commenting CAN be a great marketing tool, but it’s really not going to help too much if you’re simply commenting on every blog in site.  A big part of leaving a comment is the relationships that can be built.  Not only with the author, but with other commenters as well.  Commenting on a sports blog isn’t going to do you a whole lot of good if you maintain a gardening blog.

3.  Do I have anything intelligent to say? – If you’re only going to leave a comment because you think it can help your own website/blog, then don’t leave a comment.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have that mentality, but some people just don’t have anything to say except “great post man”.  That’s garbage.  I can safely say that 95% of those people have an ulterior motive for commenting.  Write something intelligent and meaningful.  And if you can’t do that, it would be better to just leave.

4.  Does this blog reach my potential audience? – This doesn’t necessarily mean comment on a competitors website… but it does mean that you want to focus on your industry.  The reason?  Because you could potentially be reaching a customer.  Especially on a popular blog with alot of people participating and commenting.  You may be staring your next customer right in the face.

5.  Does this blog get any traffic? -  One of the best ways to see if a site has traffic…  comments.  Make sure people are participating regularly on the site by leaving comments.  It’s pretty easy to tell if a site is popular or not through the comments section.  If you find a site that regularly has 3+ comments per post, chances are it gets a decent amount of traffic. If you’re going to use commenting as a way to market your own website/blog or service, you’ll definitely want to focus on the sites that get higher traffic.

Just ask these simple questions before you make your next comment.  Hopefully they can be used as a litmus test before you start commenting on unrelated blog that get not traffic.  Just a thought…

The Value of Social Networking Relationships

This video post is all about why it’s important to build relationships online.


The Value of Social Networking Relationships from Justin Smith on Vimeo.
Social Networking is such a huge topic these days, but I don’t find many people that truly understand the value behind building online relationships.  Most people I meet are sort of haphazardly participating on these social networking sites and have a basic understanding of their value, but don’t really get the point.

This video attempts to explain that much of the value of networking online comes with tapping into a wider audience.

The Golden Era for CMS WordPress Blogsites

It has been so cool to see the evolution of blogs in the last year. One of the biggest changes in my opinion has come with the look and feel of blogs. We haven’t necessarily seen any revolutions in content or even delivery aside from a few innovations. But the biggest shift has seem to come with design.

Since I’m a WordPress junkie; I love previewing and testing new themes…  I’m far from an expert on CSS or design, but I get a kick out of seeing the new designs that are out there. And nothing has impressed me more than the newer CMS (Content Management System) themes. So, I simply wanted to take a few minutes to preview a few of these themes for my readers.

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Vibrant CMS by: Woo Themes

vibrant cms wordpress theme

You’ll immediately notice the lack of a blog on the home page.  I love the idea of having a huge attention grabbing slideshow right at the forefront that can be used to feature certain products and services.  The entire “storefront” of the site is all about the company/products/solutions the business has to offer.

But… this is still wordpress, so you have a very powerful blog engine built in, and you can see that the main page has a company/product news section that pulls right from the blog.


Revolution News Theme  by: Brian Gardner

Revolution News Theme for WordPress

The Revolution set of themes is really built for sites that are media centric.  The music, news and sports themes all have big emphasis on large picture headings and video.  These are all great options for the company that’s big on creating visually based content.

Magazine News Theme  by: Zidalgo

zidalgo wordpress theme

One of the biggest innovations in themes has been the move towards “magazine themes”.  These are themes that move away from the standard blog look and have really changed the way that content flows over the page.  Most of these themes have a featured post section that dominates the page like the one above, and also leave default space for advertisements which is another popular shift in blogs that is a topic for another day…

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The mindshift that has come in blog design has been born out of the necessity for customization.  The standard blog layout had to be uprooted at some point.  I never thought I’d say it, but I’m getting sick of the same old reverse chronological order, categories, comments, Blah, Blah Blah…

It’s about time we had revolution in this area.  If you or your business is shopping around for a website design, a CMS blogsite may be the perfect solution.

The Publisher’s Guide to Understanding RSS

RSS is such an interesting technology.  It has truly spearheaded a complete mind shift in the way people design, look at, and interact with the internet.

When I first read an e-book in 2003 about this new RSS technology that was becoming more mainstream, I have to admit, it was a little fuzzy.  The only RSS readers available were software programs you had to download and install.  Only a few sites even published RSS feeds, and the few popular blogs that existed only had a handful of subscribers.  But even in my ignorance, I ran out to get a blog realizing at the time, that it was one of the fastest and cheapest ways to publish your own RSS feed.

Now look at where we are today!  Most sites that publish content on a regular basis have an RSS feed.  All blogs have one, or multiple feeds.  We have over a dozen very high quality web based RSS readers that keep getting better, and subscription options are more plentiful than ever.

Awareness of RSS is still growing, and it has really begun to pick up steam in the last 2 years.  Even for people that aren’t very technically saavy… it’s easier than ever to get them plugged in as an RSS subscriber through new easy to use tools.

Still Unclear About RSS?  Here are some resources and a video that will help:

Great Video Explaining RSS:

If you are just getting started, I highly recommend the new version of bloglines, which can be found at: http://beta.bloglines.com or Goolge Reader.  Both offer easy ways to subscribe to new feeds, and are really easy to manage.  I particularly like Bloglines because it has a great folder organizing option, and automatically checks off articles you’ve already read.

Quick Steps to Getting Started as an RSS User/Reader/Subscriber

If you are still unclear about how to sign up to an RSS feed, I’ll make it really easy for you:

Step 1:  Make sure you have Firefox 3.0, or Internet Explorer 7 or 8 installed.

Step 2: Navigate to a website you want to subscribe to.

Step 3: Find the Orange RSS Icon rss in the browser bar and click on it.  (some sites don’t have an RSS feed)

RSS Tutorial

Step 4: Choose Your feed reader

rss 2.0

Step 5: Visit your RSS reader to make sure you subscribed (optional)

RSS is my friend

Do You Publish An RSS Feed?  If You Have a Blog, Then The Answer Is YES!!

In this post, I want to review not only what it means to be an RSS user/reader/subscriber, but what it means to be an RSS publisher! If you have a blog, chances are you already have an RSS feed

First, find your RSS feed by navigating to your website or blog and following the instructions I gave above.

This RSS feed is important, it’s your lifeline to your readers.  One of your primary goals as a blogger is to get as many people as possible to subscribe to your feed.  The beautiful thing about RSS is that your content will be pushed to your subscribers.  You won’t have to trust that people will come back to your blog every time they want to read your articles (which isn’t likely to happen).

Your basic RSS feed is a good thing, but it can have it’s shortcomings…

What is Feedburner, and Why Should You Care?

Feedburner is a Google owned company (as of recently), that is in the business of RSS delivery.  In a nutshell, they will take your plain old RSS feed, and will provide a number of services including:  more browser flexibility, more subscription options, subscriber statistics, RSS email delivery, and alot more…  Feedburner is your RSS feed on steroids.

If you are serious about getting RSS subscribers, giving your readers more flexibility, viewing subscriber stats, and delivering your feed via email, then I HIGHLY suggest you sign up for feedburner.

Getting Your RSS Feed Set Up With Feedburner:

Step 1: Sign up for an account at Feedburner.com

Step 2: “Burn” your RSS feed.  (tell Feedburner to start managing your RSS feed)

Step 3: You’re done…. wasn’t that easy?  Now you simply need to promote your feed.

How to Promote Your Feedburner Email Subscription Form

Next I want to go over a few ideas for promoting your Feedburner email form.  You’ve probably noticed by now that the html form I showed you last time isn’t compatible in many places.  You can’t place it into many blog platforms, and you can’t place it in your email signature.  Unfortunately, there are many places you can’t place an html form.  But, the good news is that you have other options.

Just because you don’t have a nice form to give to people doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.  At this point, I think it would be helpful to point out where you can get a hyperlink to your email form.  A hyperlink has ultimate versatility.  You can attach it to a banner or button, you can put it in your email signature, you can create a text link… you can use it just about anywhere.

But, to get the link you need, you’ll have to follow a couple steps.

First, navigate to your Feedburner feed.  Mine is at: http://feeds.feedburner.com/hismove

Then, follow these steps:

Feedburner is good

Make sure to hang on to this link.  Bookmark it, write it down, whatever… just don’t lose it.  You’ll want to use it later.

Pretty simple so far right?  Remember, you can take this link just about anywhere to allow people to sign up via email.

In my opinion, your email subscription tool is one of the most powerful in your entire arsenal.  You should be promoting it religiously everywhere you leave a footprint online.  You can even promote it offline if you have the means.  I had a student that sent out blog announcements to their SOI offering a free $5 Starbucks card for the first 50 email subscribers.  It was a great way to build awareness and get new subscribers.

Tips on Increasing Your RSS Subscribers

Here are some tips that I’ve personally used to help increase my RSS subscribers:

  1. Write Great Content – Ok, ok… it’s not earth shattering, but you have to have a solid base to work from.  If you write bad articles, building a subscriber base will be excruciatingly difficult.
  2. Write Consistently – This was found to be one of the number one reasons why people UN-subscribe from a blog.  Lack of consistency will kill you.  Even if you can only realistically write 2 posts per month, that’s better then setting a 1 post/day precedent, then not writing for 3 weeks.
  3. Give Some Incentive – People like free stuff.  A gift card can work well, but if you’re working on “the cheap”, try offering a free e-book to subscribers.  If you promote it right you’ll create a great value, and build your subscribers at the same time.  If you really want to get advanced, you could offer exclusive content in the feed itself.  This would create a sort of “secret tips” feed that only your subscribers can see.  There is a post here on how to do it.
  4. Don’t Just Promote It On Your Blog – If you’re like most bloggers, you probably have a pretty large online footprint… Social Networking, Forums, Bookmarking, Social Media…  these are all places where you can promote your feed.  We typically use our websites as a signature, but why not our RSS URL’s as well?
  5. Publish a Full RSS Feed – It’s tempting to want to publish a truncated version of your feed to try to drive traffic back to the site, but it rarely works like that. What you end up doing is just making people mad.  This was listed as the 3rd most popular reason why people UN-subscribe from blogs.
  6. Place an RSS Icon in a Prominent Place – This is an easy one, but you’d be suprised how much it can help.
  7. Seek Out People that Didn’t Confirm – One of the frustrations of Feedburner is that it’s a double opt-in system.  It’ good for protecting spam, but sometimes people will try to subscribe but never confirm their subscription.  These people are listed in your Feeburner account.  Simply email them again asking them to confirm their subscription.
  8. Stay on Topic & Don’t Overpost – These were both popular reasons why people UN-subscribed from blogs.  If you write a mortgage news blog, don’t write about what you had for breakfast.  No one cares.  And if you’re a prolific writer, try to keep it down to 1 per day.  Each post you write should be very high quality.  If you have too much to say try using Twitter as an outlet…
  9. Write Great Content – Um… did I already mention this?

I hope this guide was helpful to you as an RSS publisher.  Please email me if you have any questions about how to implement the above tips and suggestions on your site.

Oh… and don’t forget to sign up to my blog!   ;-)

Email:  www.searchingsolutions.com/email

RSS: www.searchingsolutions.com/rss

Carnival of Real Estate #102 | Farming For New Real Estate Blogger Talent

Farming For New Bloggers

Welcome to the Carnival of Real Estate #102

I had an awesome time last year hosting Carnival #45, and was pleasantly surprised last week when I found out from Drew that I was on the schedule again for this year. You’ll notice that I’m blogging on a different site, but I still work for the Christian Real Estate Network, and am still the director of coaching for the Real Estate Tomato.

In keeping with the tradition of last year… I decided to theme the carnival around a funny picture I found online. This year, it’s all about farming for new real estate bloggers. I thought it would be cool to feature some of the newer up and coming bloggers in the real estate arena. One of my favorite things about the carnival is discovering new blogs that I’ve never seen before. There is some great new talent out there, and I hope to be able to showcase some of it here.

So, without further ado, here are the top 3 winners for this week:

#1 “My Real Estate Investment Strategy Changes Again” | By: Jeff Wilcox of MindingMyOwnBusiness.net

Blogging since: March 30th 2008 – Never mind that Jeff was a Top Gun instructor in the Navy (WOW!), his talent as a blogger really impressed me. His angle as a real estate investor makes for some great reading. His style almost reminds me of a Casey Serin, without all the hype and drama. Thanks for the great article Jeff!

#2 “Don’t Trust What You See or Read on the MLS!” | By: Scott Ficek of MinnesotaInvestmentRealEstate.com

Blogging Since: August 6th 2007 – Scott is coming right up on his 1 year anniversary with this blog, and as I went all the way through the archives, I was really impressed with the quality of each post, and how his writing has improved over time. Scott should probably be considered a veteran blogger, but since it hasn’t been a year yet, and technically, according to the CREST Study, the median start date for real estate blogs is Aug. 1st 2007, I thought he deserved to be on this list as one of the up and coming bloggers.

This article was a fun read. I’m a sucker for articles that show bad MLS photos. He points out why you should never trust the info you see on the MLS because often times it can be misleading, or downright wrong. Thanks Scott!

#3 “Planning For Higher Gas Prices” | By: Patrick Duffy of HousingChronicles.com

Blogging Since: November 12th 2007 – Patrick looks to be a long time real estate writer/journalist. His stuff has been published since 2006, but it appears that he just started blogging in late 2007. The professional style shows, and most of his posts get right down to business. I could easily see him writing for a blog like Bloodhound. Patrick’s article went over some of the implications of rising costs in energy, and how it is affecting the housing market.

Runner Ups:

Look Who’s Moving To Colts Neck” – By: Sarah Bandy of TylerTalkAlot.com (Blogging since: Sept. 7th 2007)

HR 3221 – Good For Tallahassee” – By: Joe Manausa of Manausa.com (Blogging Since: Jan. 8th 2008)

Bush Signs Historic Housing & Economic Recovery Act” – By: Michael Bergin of GWSleptHere.com (Blogging Since: Jan. 30th 2008)

Thanks for everyone who participated this week! And thanks again to Drew for organizing a great Carnival!