Blogging tips

i love bloggingAre you new to blogging and looking for the secret about how people pump out all that information consistently and make money from doing it?

Where does the passion come from and the ‘being consistent’ thing, wow, that’s the bit that blows me away.

Well your not alone in wondering about it all and I can at least point out a few tips that may help.

1. Revenue

This is the number one most important part so read what little wisdom I have, and here it is – No one and I mean ‘NO ONE’ makes money from blogging. That’s it, I did say a ‘little wisdom’

What they do make money from is selling a product or service. The product or service may be advertising or someone else’s product (usually by selling advertising) or even their own product or service but please, do not go into blogging thinking that you will make money by writing for a subject you are passionate about without considering a revenue stream.

2. Passion

If you have a passion about the subject that you want to write about, you are way ahead of the pack because it’s very hard to fake passion.

3. Consistency

Write about the subject that your blog is targeting, so if your blog is about snow dogs and you start blogging about surfing in Bali you have lost your audience unless they are snow dog surfers (hey, you never know!)

4. Frequency

This is good topic and one I personally am just coming to terms with. I have read blogs by the big name bloggers and they all say to try to at least post a new article 3 times a week. This is good advice if you want to build and audience,

I am attempting to produce 5 articles a week, ie. Monday to Friday and to post in the morning, my time and it is proving to be difficult. It’s not an easy task for me to achieve so I am trying to develop a method or strategy for achieving my goal.

5. Goals

Firstly I mainly write when I am traveling on the train or bus by whipping out the iPhone and firing up WordPress
I composing articles locally on the iPhone. I outline several subjects and work on them a bit at a time or go crazy and do one in one session, that is the strategy, it’s not great but I at least have a plan.

This article was done over a 5 days, a bit here and a bit there. When I have finished an article I send it to ‘draft’ on the server where I pretty it up with H2,H3 and other layout features and then add an image.

I hope this helps you and my final tip is ‘nike’ – just do it

6 Things I Need in Twitter

twitterTwitter has changed since it first come to my attention, not in what it does but in the way people use it.

Most of all, marketers have taken to it ‘big time’, 140 characters to get you in and back to their website, wow what a way to sell.

I have to admit that a majority of traffic to Sitemaster comes from tweets.

I use Hootsuite to send out all my tweets using either the desktop or the phone version. At this time Hootsuite dose not do everything I want in an online application but it comes close.

6 Things I Need in Twitter

Here is a list of 6 features I need for my life in the tweet lane.

1. Multiple Twitter accounts

It has to have the ability to allow multiple accounts. I have several Twitter accounts and I want to be able to view them all without having to log in and out.

2. Research function

I’m a nosey bastard and I like to know more about just about everything including what a particular subject is about. For instance, if I see a #paragliding tag I want to click it to know more but I don’t particularly want to leave the page I am on

I may just want to know about the person doing the tweet. I am not asking for much, just a good HTML5 interface with a lot of good thought behind it.

3. Auto follow

One of the feature I want in my tweet arsenal is to be able do an auto follow so that when someone follows me I follow them back. It’s a great marketing tool

4. Auto follow message

If you have signed to follow me on Twitter you would have received an auto generated message asking you to ‘like’ my Facebook page.

There is a whole discussion out there about what you should and should not be sending out in these welcome tweets, I am using a service that allowed me to have a heap of different thank you messages and it sends a random message in response to anyone signing up. Now I just have one message and that points at my Facebook page.

5. Auto un-follow

As well as an auto follow I use an auto unfollow so if someone unfollows me, I unfollow them. Twitter has limits to the ratio of people you follower to the number of followers you have, I don’t know what the ratio is because they say one thing and in practice it is totally different. That’s my reasoning behind not following people that are not following me.

6. Statistics

Who, how many and when are all questions that interest me. Sometimes it drives me crazy (that’s when I look at it to much) but it’s all good information to have.

How do you Organize your reading?

Some people in Twitter land have many thousands of followers and also follow many thousands of people. This makes me wonder how do they organise themselves to view all of the tweeted content getting thrown at them or what and how do they decide what to look at.

I have a select group of twitterers I look at that provide me with a range of information that satisfies my information needs and give me a good laugh now and then.

I always look at what’s coming through, you never know what gold you will come across.

If you have a way you organise your Twitter life, I would love hear from you.

Seven Mile Restaurant Website

Seven Mile Restaurant

The Mission

To build a website to complement the restaurant and upgrade and expand the online brand.

The Outcome

I’ve just finished the ‘Seven Mile Restaurant‘ website, their Facebook page and their Twitter page and they all look great (even if I do say myself…)

The Seven Mile Restaurant is located at Lennox Head on the north coast of NSW.

The Websites

Seven Mile Restaurant

Facebook page

Twitter page

The Brand

The owners where great to work with, Lisa outlined what she was after and we went through the process to achieve a great look that goes well with their restaurant. The Facebook page and the Twitter page also complement the look of the site and a continuity has been achieved between the 3 sites to establish the brand that is Seven Mile Restaurant

Phone SEO

Search Engine Optimization is so important to your online presence that not spending time or money on it will kill the time or money you have already spent on your website and that is where getting out the mobile phone comes in.

SEO tactics have made a major move into Youtube and you can easily take part in it just by using your phone.

What? You say, does my phone have to do with SEO?

It’s simple, you can make a quick movie, review it and re make it till you get something that gets the message across about you.

You do not need to have a slick production you just need to tell the story, that’s it and you will get better as time goes by.

I was at a local business expo a few nights ago and caught a short presentation by Nick Bowditch from The Bowditch Group. Nick talked about a client who did a 90 second video on their old phone, just the two owners of a coffee shop sitting down telling us about their business and to come in for a coffee and a chat. The quality was not so good, it didn’t go viral and it is not on the front page of YouTube but it did help push their site page rank up and, believe it or not, , it contributed to a 16% increase in revenue.

Never, ever under estimate what a little bit of effort can do to help your business.

Since then the coffee shop has turned out 20 plus videos demonstrating things from cooking eggs to staff introductions helping to boost their SEO page rank and increasing traffic through the door, you can hear the sound if the cash register clinging away from here.

That’s why I have dubbed it “Phone SEO”, so do it right now and if you have a smart phone you can post it from your phone to YouTube with no delay.

Video your customers and let them tell their friends and family about how they are on YouTube, it’s not a major viral campaign but more like a case of the sniffles or a slight cold but it works.

Act now, prosper tomorrow

If you know of a similar story, let me know about it or write a guest post and see it on Sitemaster

Someone is Using My Content

Have you spotted your blog content on someone else’s blog and feeling a bit ripped off? Usually you have found out about this because of a back link that has come up on your site telling you that there is a link back to your article.

Maybe your upset that someone has posted the content you have poured over to create. You did the work to post to your audience so why should just anyone be able to use it.

The glass is half full

If the post has your name on it and a link back to the article your a winner.

You now have your work in front of a bigger audience, you have a back link that Google will give you a credit for, and if the site that is re-posting it has a good page rank, you benefit even more.

If you guest post on another blog it is exactly the same situation, you don’t do a guest post because you love writing for other peoples blogs, you so it because you want to raise awareness about your blog, raise your page rank and increase your audience.

So don’t take the attitude that your being plagiarised and the world (or just that blog) is out to rip you off, it’s probably just that someone thinks your worth telling their audience about and your article is worth a read.

On the other hand if your not getting the credit, kick up a stink but in most cases the credit is there.

Contact the owner of the blog and see if they will enhance the author section with the information you want about you and make sure you have a Gravatar linked to your email address, you can at least have your picture up there without any effort.

After all we all want to build an audience and of someone thinks your worth talking about, you must be doing something right.

If you think I am right or wrong, hit the comment section and vent your spleen

How to Use Active Listening to Improve your Online Reputation and SEO

active listeningActive listening is a critical tool for consultants and freelancers to employ in conversations with their clients in order to make certain that they get the full story. But did you know that the process of active listening can actually improve your online reputation and your SEO?

In person, you spend time asking questions and developing an understanding of what exactly is being communicated. Online, you can spend time leaving comments on blog posts, following up via Twitter and discussing topics in forums. This is great as it helps you get to know the meaning of specific posts, and others can join in on the conversation providing real community involvement helping you get noticed.

How does this help my online reputation and SEO?

It helps your reputation and your own SEO by providing a useful resource for others to read. Think about it. You leave a comment and leave a link to your site. If you provided something of value to the conversation, either by posing a clarification question or expounding on the original post, you’ve provided something of value and other readers will consider checking up on you. Now, this won’t necessarily, directly increase your SEO performance just by posting a comment, but, it will likely get you visitors, if you provide enough value, the blog owner may get in contact with you or even write a post about your comment and link to your site. Now we’re talking.

Take it one step further and get involved outside of blog posts on Twitter or Facebook. Even though not everything is indexed by Google and others, the conversation value and pass-along value transmitted through these services offers a significant amount of benefit to your online reputation. And, as always, more hits means better SEO and more publicity across other people’s blogs and Twitter accounts as well as their Facebook pages. That brings me to another point which I will cover in another post in the near future: Social Networks pass information based on trust.  A link or piece of information passed through a trusted friend is much more likely to get clicked than a link all by itself. Social networks hold massive amounts of power in this respect.

So get involved!

Read blog posts, post comments, share information via Twitter. Become a fan of something on Facebook and create content that is valuable to others. If you give you will receive. It will take some effort, but the internet is a world-wide community of people looking to share something. Content is king. Contribute and get noticed.

An Author’s Plan for Social Media Efforts

Here’s a freebie: if I were an author looking to get the most out of the social web (and I am), I’d do something along the lines of what I’m about to share. Your mileage may vary, but here’s a decent approximation of the things I’d do. Please feel free to share liberally. Just link back to An Author’s Plan for Social Media Efforts, please.


An Author’s Plan for Social Media

  1. Set up a URL for the book, and/or maybe one for your name. Need help finding a URL? I use Ajaxwhois.com for simple effort in searching.
  2. Set up a blog. If you want it free and super fast, WordPress or Tumblr. I’d recommend getting hosting like Bloghost.me.
  3. On the blog, write about interesting things that pertain to the book, but don’t just promote the book over and over again. In fact, blow people away by promoting their blogs and their books, if they’re related a bit.
  4. Start an email newsletter. It’s amazing how much MORE responsive email lists are than any other online medium.
  5. Have a blog post that’s a list of all the places one might buy your book. I did this for both Trust Agents and Social Media 101.
  6. Make any really important links trackable with a URL shortener. I know exactly how many people click my links.
  7. Start listening for your name, your book’s name. ( Covered in this post about building blocks.)
  8. Consider recording a video trailer for your book. Here’s one from Scott Sigler (YouTube), for his horror thriller, Contagious. And here’s one from Dallas Clayton for his Awesome Book. (Thanks Naomi for pointing this out).
  9. Build a Facebook fan page for the book or for bonus points, build one around the topic the book covers, and only lightly promote the book via the page.
  10. Join Twitter under your name, not your book’s name, and use Twitter Search to find people who talk about the subjects your book covers.
  11. When people talk about your book, good or bad, thank them with a reply. Connect to people frequently. It’s amazing how many authors I rave about on Twitter and how few actually respond. Mind you, the BIGGEST authors always respond (paradox?)
  12. Use Google Blogsearch and Alltop to find the people who’d likely write about the subject matter your book covers. Get commenting on their blog posts but NOT mentioning your book. Get to know them. Leave USEFUL comments, with no blatant URL back to your book.
  13. Work with your publisher for a blogger outreach project. See if you can do a giveaway project with a few bloggers (here’s a book giveaway project I did for Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years book).
  14. Offer to write guest posts on blogs that make sense as places where potential buyers might be. Do everything you can to make the post match the content of the person’s site and not your goals. But do link to your book.
  15. Ask around for radio or TV contacts via the social web and LinkedIn. You never know.
  16. Come up with interesting reasons to get people to buy bulk orders. If you’re a speaker, waive your fee (or part of it) in exchange for sales of hundreds of books. (And spread those purchases around to more than one bookselling company.) In those giveaways, do something to promote links back to your site and/or your post. Giveaways are one time: Google Juice is much longer lasting.
  17. Whenever someone writes a review on their blog, thank them with a comment, and maybe 1 tweet, but don’t drown them in tweets pointing people to the review. It just never comes off as useful.
  18. Ask gently for Amazon and other distribution site reviews. They certainly do help the buying process. And don’t ask often.
  19. Do everything you can to be gracious and thankful to your readers. Your audience is so much more important than you in this equation, as there are more of them than there are of you.
  20. Start showing up at face to face events, where it makes sense, including tweetups. If there’s not a local tweetup, start one.
  21. And with all things, treat people like you’d want them to treat your parents (provided you had a great relationship with at least one of them).

This sounds like a lot of steps. It is. But this is how people are finding success. Should this be the publicist’s job? Not even a little bit. The publicist has his or her own methodology. The author will always be the best advocate for his or her own work. Never put your marketing success in the hands of someone else. Always bring your best efforts into the mix and you’ll find your best reward on your time and effort.

You might have found other ways to be successful with various online and social media tools. By all means, please share with us here. What’s your experience been with promoting your work using the social web?


Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book, Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at [chrisbrogan.com].

Know what you’re selling

Brand AwareI recently had some beers and a meal at a place called Little Creatures dinning hall in Melbourne Australia.

For the uninitiated, Little Creatures is a craft beer which has it’s origins in Australia and has recently opened a flagship ‘dinning hall’

They’ve simply taken this to a new level. I’m not taking about the fact that they have weird and groovy beer flavours, all naturally brewed. I’m talking about the way they take you on a personal journey with their service.

My favourtie was the beer education programme. They have a ‘pony show’ – I don’t think it’s called that, but it is what I’ll call it for this post.

You get a taste in little groovy pony glasses of all their different beers, then choose one you like. One of their ‘Little Creatures Beer Experts’ comes and sits down on your table with you and they explain all the different types of beers. A real sit down for 10 minutes. A rare treat when the usual sitiation is waiting 10 minutes for crappy service in bars and restuarants. They teach you how to taste each beer and the slight nuances of each. They even provide an idea what type of people generally like the different types.

It’s really nice and fun. I even heard the word “sessionable” to describe a beer – They invent some nice jargon to make you feel part of a tribe. Cool.

No need to advertise this little venture. We’ll do that for them….

And this is what cool startups are doing in retail.

Google Experts Answer your SEO Questions

Google SEOIf are looking for tips to improve the visibility of your website in Google search, or if you need answers to some common SEO related problems, here’s an interview with the Google search quality team that you will definitely find useful.

Before we jump to the answers, a big thank you to John Mueller (Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google Zurich), Matt Cutts (Webspam Engineer, Google California), Zareen Kazim (Strategist, Google India), Koteswara Ivaturi (Project Manager, Google Hyderabad) and Kaspar Szymanski (Strategist, Google Dublin) for giving their precious time and such valuable suggestions.


[*] You can also download the entire Q&A as a PDF file for offline reading.

Q 1: Google now considers page loading speed as one of the many factors for ranking web pages in search results. Does this mean I should switch my blog to a faster, and more expensive, web host or even consider using a CDN (like Amazon S3)?

Zareen Kazim: If you are sure that switching your blog to a faster webhost or using a CDN will enhance your speed then I say go ahead my friend.  Making your site faster will not go unnoticed by your users.

Having said that, increasing server speed alone may not help in some cases. The most common problem is not the time for a page getting sent to the user, but the time it takes to deliver and render all page objects. It’s always good advice to fine-tune your site and implement some options (compress your CSS, reduce the amount of JavaScript you need to load and also improve on the caching) to ensure faster loading.

There are lots of tools to help you identify ways to improve the speed of your site. Our official blog post gives lots of links, and some of the links lead to other tools. But just to highlight a few, the site performance tool in Webmaster Tools shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world.  In addition, various free-to-use tools offer things like in-depth analysis of individual pages . Google also provides an entire speed-related mini-site with tons of resources and videos about speeding up websites.

Please note, site speed is just one more signal (out of many ) in larger picture of Google’s search ranking , this is not a high -impact change and therefore better loading speed will not guarantee ranking.

Q 2: Like most other blogs, I have tons of “archive pages” on my blog that don’t have any content but merely group content by author, category or tags. Will these pages constitute “duplicated content” and should I block them from the Googlebot?

John Mueller: Good question. Duplicate content within your site is generally not a problem, however it always makes sense to try to limit it to a reasonable amount to make it easier to recognize your preferred pages. There are several methods to handle duplicate content, and when it comes to archive pages, one simple solution might be to just show a snippet instead of the full article.

Q 3: Over the years, my university has moved my Web site from server to server, and, as such, the URL has changed six times. They use aliases to map all six to the same IP address, so my old links still work  but Google considers it as six separate Web sites. Is there anything I can do to consolidate the six URLs?

John Mueller: One easy way to handle duplicate content across different websites is to use the rel=canonical link element. Other possibilities are included in our blog post about handling legitimate cross-domain duplicate content.

Q 4: I was looking at my Google Webmaster Central report and under Sitemap, it says that the total number of URLs is ‘x’ while the number indexed in Google is only ‘x-y’. What can I do to get more of my pages in the Google Index?

Zareen Kazim: Google uses a large number of factors to determine which pages to crawl and index. Two important elements to work on are:

  • Make sure that it’s easy to crawl your pages; try your site with JavaScript disabled and also check your crawl errors in Webmaster Tools.
  • Make sure that your site provides unique and compelling content.

Q 5. We publish a lot of original content but there are scrapers who copy our content without giving any credit. The sad part is sometimes these sites, who copy our content, rank higher than the original content creator. How can we tackle this problem? Does Google Search take into account the timestamp when an article was published for search results rankings? Why does Google even index scrapers?

Koteswara Ivaturi: This is a popular question. At the outset, duplicate content due to scraping does not equate to a webmaster violation because we know that it is not the fault of the webmaster to not have control over who is scraping the content from his website.

Google is very good at identifying the original source in such cases and so that takes care of the any potential negative effects that the original source may have. It is very rare that the scraped sites rank better than the original site in the search results; but if that happens you can follow the instructions.

Q 6. For an image or media-rich website, what are best practices? Too often, the focus remains on written textual content — which of course is a major factor towards a website’s relevance to search terms, but sometimes, artworks are also relevant to the search. Other than adding good ALT text and using descriptive file names for image, what can I do to improve my site’s visibility in Google Image Search?

Koteswara Ivaturi: Image Search can be a great source for some additional traffic to your website. Adding the ALT text and using descriptive file names are a must when it comes to image- or media-centric websites.

Beyond these, context for the image is going to really help the search engines understand the images much better. For example, if a page has an image of a flower the text or caption that describes the flower should be around or next to the image. Lastly, we recently announced that you can now submit information about your images while you submit your Sitemaps.

Q 7. I already have an XML Sitemap for my website. Should I also create an HTML sitemap? Also, should I include every single page of my blog in the Sitemap (including tag pages and the date-based archives) or just the important ones?

Matt Cutts: In general, HTML Sitemaps can be very handy for your human visitors, and it’s a nice additional way to help search engines make sure that they know about all of your pages as well. If you have time or a script that can generate a pretty HTML Sitemap (e.g; for a blog, you could have one page for each year or month of your blog, depending on how much you write), that can work nicely.

If you don’t have the time or motivation to do that much work, you might consider creating a “Top 10 most popular posts” feature for your blog. I know that as a regular user, I love stumbling on a new blog and discovering that the site owner is pointing out some of their best or most popular posts.

John Mueller: It’s always a good idea for your XML Sitemap file to include all pages which you want to have indexed. If you have pages such as tag or archive pages which you prefer not to have indexed, it’s recommended to add a “noindex” robots meta tag to the pages (and of course, not to include them in the Sitemap file).

Q 8. I have read on forums that domain expiration dates are a factor in Google rankings and domains that are due to expire soon may be penalized in some way. Is that correct? I have registered a domain through Google Apps and it won’t let me renew the domain for more than a year.

Zareen Kazim: Matt Cutts addressed this issue in a Webmaster Central video recently and confirmed that the length of a domain name registration isn’t a ranking factor.

[On Google Apps] Your initial domain registration is valid for one year. If subsequent registration renewal fails, you’ll have several opportunities to change your billing information and renew your registration. If you purchased the domain through Google Apps, you should make sure that you have the renew option checked in your Google Apps account and have a valid Google Checkout information. You can find more detailed information here.

Q 9. How does search quality team look at links from Newspaper Websites & Editorials? In recent times there have been incidents where leading editorials were selling paid content (which include links) on their website for brands & business interested in ranking well on search engines.

Although they explain they only offer advertorials with SEO benefits to agencies to promote brand content, doesn’t this mean offering a paid content (links) to manipulate SERPs is a direct violation of Google’s TOS? These sites indeed have a long reputation & trust but Google TOS should be same for all regardless of the brand or individual?

Matt Cutts: If you’re talking about the recent incident in the UK, we saw that. Google’s quality guidelines are clear on this point: paid links shouldn’t pass PageRank.

Whether the paid links are in an “advertorial” or somewhere else on the page, that would violate our quality guidelines and Google would take action on those violations, both so that the link buyers wouldn’t benefit and so that the link sellers wouldn’t be trusted in the future by Google.

Q 10. I do have a couple of affiliate links on my website that point to Amazon.com and some other websites. I am not getting paid to insert these links into my content but will get some commission on a sale. Should I use nofollow with such affiliate links?

Zareen Kazim: If linking is natural, based on relevancy of a site’s content, I don’t see a violation of any Google Webmaster Guidelines.

While it is legitimate for a webmaster to monetize great content, in order to perform well in Google’s search results  it is important to take technical steps in order to prevent unnatural passing of PageRank through paid links, e.g. by either using the “nofollow” attribute or by creating a robots.txt file.

Q 11. I have launched a new blog and it obviously won’t rank in Google because none of the reputable blogs are currently linking to it. Therefore, I am actively writing guest posts on other blogs as that gives me a chance to get a link from them. Is Google fine with guest blogging and do links ‘earned’ from writing guest blogs matter?

John Mueller: Making and promoting a new site takes time and effort. In general I would recommend putting that work into your own site, instead of creating content for other people’s sites.

It’s much better to create great content for your blog and to let other sites refer visitors to your site on their own. Good luck!

Q 12. What’s your take on articles submission websites? I do a lot of article marketing & distribution for my clients. These are original articles written and distributed through sites like eZineArticles and iSnare. Obviously besides the exposure my clients get as experts, I am also looking at the SEO benefit of earning backlinks from these posts. How do you treat multiple copies of the same article spread over different sites?

John Mueller: As mentioned in an earlier question, it generally makes much more sense to create great content for your own site, instead of giving it to a large number of other sites to publish.

Personally, I would recommend not looking at it with regard to the links; think about how users will view the content and the people who created it. Having high-quality content on your own site will make it stand out much more than if that content is posted all over the web. If the content is unique and compelling, it will generally attract links naturally over time.

Q 13. Are all links on a page treated the same or does the order of links matter. For instance, will Google flow more juice to the links that are in the first paragraph of the story than the ones that are in the page footer?

Zareen Kazim: Our link analysis is getting much more sophisticated than the original PageRank used to be. To answer your question, we may treat links across different areas in a different way, as some areas of a page might not be as relevant to the content of the page as others. Check out Matt’s video where he talks about links in paragraphs:

Q 14. My website has a country specific extension (like example.in for India) but the content is of interest to a global audience. How do I ensure that my domain /site is visible in Google search results of other countries as well?

John Mueller: Any website can be relevant to users globally; it doesn’t have to use a generic top-level domain (gTLD) for that. Using a country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) is fine if you want to create a website for users all around the world.

If you’re looking to target specific countries (instead of the whole world), you may want to review our recent blog post on multi-regional websites for more information.

Q 15. How do I know whether my site has been penalized in Google or not? I know Google Analytics reports can give me an idea but are there are any other methods? Will Google inform me about the penalty through Webmaster Tools?

Zareen Kazim: Many webmasters worry about penalties when they see their site change in the rankings, and for most times, these changes can be attributed to the nature of the web itself. Google algorithms are constantly changing, to reflect the changing content of the web, and these changes can affect how your website is ranked in our search results.

Working on improving your content and the user experience of your site should be your number one priority. In our Help Center, we have an article with suggestions for potential fixes if you see your site’s ranking change significantly. Google uses the Message Center in your Webmaster Tools account to communicate important information to you regarding your Webmaster Tools account and the sites you manage.

If we have noticed there is something wrong with your site, we may send you a message there, detailing some issues which you need to fix to bring your site into compliance with the Webmaster Guidelines. Once you fix your site you can submit your site for reconsideration. Please note, while not all of the messages in the Message Center are for issues involving our Webmaster Guidelines, it’s strongly recommended that you make sure that these messages are forwarded to your email account, so that you are informed about changes or issues as quickly as possible.

Q 16. There are times when I have searched for a ‘query’ and clicked on ‘ads’ as they offered better content than the natural listings. However when I tried the same keyword few days later, the site that I clicked through ‘ads’ was listed in natural listing this time. Would the future of SERPs based on Google Algorithm involve correlating large number of user clicks on ‘ads’ and adding them to natural result pages?

John Mueller: We work hard to provide high-quality search results. In many cases providing personalized search results can help to make them more relevant to you. Ads, however, are separate from natural search results, so I would assume that what you’ve seen here is a mere coincidence :-).

Rest assured that ads do not affect our natural search results.

Q 17. My site is all about movie reviews and now I am planning to expand it into food recipes. Should I use a sub-domain (food.example.com) or a sub-directory (example.com/food) for the new topic.

Zareen Kazim: When it comes to Google, there aren’t major difference between the two, so when you’re making that decision, do what works for you and your user. If you use Webmaster Tools (which we hope you do 🙂 ), you’ll automatically be verified for deeper sub directories of any sites you’ve verified, but sub domains will need to be verified separately.

Q 18. I have two blogs – one is about food and other one is about movies. Will it be OK if cross-link the two sites even if the content is not related? I am worried that Google might consider that as a “paid link” even though I run both the websites.

Zareen Kazim:  Before you begin cross-linking sites, consider the user’s perspective and whether the crosslinks provide value. Ask yourself if you would place this link in a highly visible place on your page — if no, maybe it would make more sense to skip the link.

Cross-linking between dozens or hundreds of sites, however, probably doesn’t provide value, and I would not recommend it.

Q 19. Googlebot can read and execute JavaScript files but do you also pass any juice to the links that you may have discovered through the scripts?

Kaspar Szymanski: It’s true that we started crawling JavaScript.  We don’t recommend for webmasters to focus on linking; instead a much wiser way of spending your time is by enriching the site with great content and useful tools. However, if you are concerned about JavaScript links passing PageRank, feel free to use “no follow” attribute. Check out Matt’s video on the same topic:

Q 20. I have an active blog where I post anywhere between 10-15 articles in a week and Google indexes my new stories often within minutes of publishing them. I am however planning to take a break and won’t be adding any new content to my site for a month or so. How will that impact my site as far as indexing and rankings are concerned?

John Mueller: Your existing content will hopefully remain relevant in that time :-), so I wouldn’t worry about Google’s crawling, indexing or ranking during your break. Google will be ready to pick up your new content when you’re back; you don’t have to do anything special in a case like that.

One thing that you will want to do — if your site is self-hosted — is to make sure that it’s running the most current version, is properly locked-down, secured against hacking and monitored accordingly during your break. We see many blogs get hacked nowadays, and that in turn can affect your site’s standing in our search results if it’s left in a hacked state for a longer period of time.

Q 21. Some people call a portable computer as a notebook while others use the term ‘laptop.’ Similarly, a Flash Drive is known as a USB stick, a thumb drive and even a memory stick in some cases. Now if I am writing an article on say “10 best laptops,” how can I also optimize it for all “notebook” related queries?

Matt Cutts: When you’re writing an article, it pays to think in advance about the words that regular users might type when searching for your content. If you identify 2-3 common terms before you start writing, it’s not hard to incorporate those synonyms into the content of the post in a natural, non-spammy way.

Don’t keyword stuff in the article, but you might write “a flash drive (also sometimes called a USB drive or thumb drive) is a handy way to carry around data in your pocket.” Or you could sometimes call it a flash drive and sometimes call it a USB stick. As long as you’re doing it in a natural way, sometimes it can make the content even more readable than repeating the same term over and over again.

Q 22. Is there any ‘optimal’ length that you can recommend for the page URL and the title?

Kaspar Szymanski: Not really; instead it’s probably best to decide upon these things with the user experience in mind, rather than search engines. If you are interested in optimizing your snippets, feel free to have a look at our blog post on that topic.

Q 23. I know that inbound links will help my site’s ranking in Google search results but is that true for outbound links as well? I always link to quality websites from my articles where my visitors can read more about that topic but do these outbound links aid search rankings as well?

Kaspar Szymanski: No, they don’t contribute directly towards your site’s rankings; however they add value for your readership and they contribute to the community, so feel free to continue this good practice. On the other hand, being selective and preferring quality sites to link to might help in how Google perceives your site.

Q 24. Do ads on a web page affect search rankings? All other factors remaining the same, will pages having 3 ads rank better than a page with say 5 ads?

Zareen : No, ads don’t affect a page’s rank in our natural search results.

Q 25. Would you recommend any books on web search and SEO?

Zareen Kazim: Given the dynamic and constantly changing nature of the web, it might not make sense to stick to a single book. But we have an entire page in our webmaster Help Centre about SEO including the SEO starter guide [PDF] which I highly recommend.

Originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal.

Why I Use Social Media

Social MediaWhy I Use Social Media

There are lots of different reasons why I personally use social media, here I will make some suggestions for how I practically do this.

I will start with the most common platforms, and build up a description for each of these.

Facebook.

I personally use Facebook as a tool for staying in touch with my friends primarily. Although I have begun to experiment with using landing pages within the different types of facebook “pages”. This can be a really cool way of generating subscribers to lists, and can really make facebook work on your behalf. This can really turn facebook from a platform to stay in touch to a highly sophisticated business platform.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is perfect for me, as there are lots of my contacts which I have made over my business career which I can now stay in touch with. I personally use this as a way of approaching people and introducing new ideas and concepts. I don’t know what it is about LinkedIn, but it just seems to have a much more commercial edge than Facebook for example, although I think that Facebook is rapidly catching up and probably will overtake. I guess the angle which Linkedin has always been focused on is the Business relationships. I have initiated some good business relationships through LinkedIn and would recommend using it regularly to expand your contact list.

Twitter

I personally use Twitter to drive traffic to websites. Nothing more exciting than this! I have tried a whole range of different types of approaches with Twitter, and have found that if you are to drive traffic to a free report or service, which then down the line has upsells, this is the formula that works best. Due to the nature of Twitter and all of these Social Media platforms people expect free stuff. Therefore you have to build up the trust and confidence with individuals prior to getting them to part with their money!

My Twitter following which I have developed over the past couple of years is around 40,000 over various accounts. I have used various methods to build up such a significant “follower” list, and this has worked very well for me. I would certainly recommend using Twitter if you are a business owner. The difficulty that most businesses will have is the time that it takes to get the critical mass of followers to make it worthwhile to justify spending the time on it. If you are to persevere this will work for you in the end!

I welcome your thoughts and comments around this and would like to see how you use these services yourselves!

Connecting Brand Messages with Teens on the Social Web

Brand AwarenessThe teen demographic is a coveted consumer audience that can drive big bucks to a business, and these days, teens spend a lot of time on the social Web.  Whether they’re exchanging messages on Facebook or uploading videos to YouTube, they’re an active, influential group, and brands are desperately trying to connect with them.

In a May 2010 report, myYearbook and Ketchum revealed data about online teen influencers and how brands can engage them on the social Web.  The most interesting results show the sources of information that U.S. teen influencers (i.e., the top 15% most active and engaged myYearbook members) trust the most are as follows:

  • 52% trust friends
  • 13% trust consumer reviews
  • 9% trust adults
  • 5% trust what they hear from ads
  • 5% trust information that comes directly from companies
  • 4% trust celebrities
  • 3% trust bloggers
  • 3% trust news reporters
  • 7% trust other sources

If you try to remember what you were like as a teenager, then these results probably aren’t too surprising.  The key for brands to connect with the teen audience on the social Web is to get teen online influencers to talk about them, recommend them, and share content from them.

Interestingly, most teens who responded to the survey indicated that they prefer to share humorous content with their friends online but prefer straightforward content from companies and brands.  This shouldn’t be that surprising given that 2010 is the year of brand transparency for most consumer demographics.

Considering that the study also found that, “the top 15% of teen social network users are 70% more likely to share purchase decision information with their friends” (via eMarketer), brand managers would be wise to take note of the products teens are most likely to recommend and talk about with their online friends.  As shown in the chart below, entertainment, electronics, new food or beverage, clothing, footwear and sneakers, video games, and makeup and skin care products are the most talked about products among teens who spend time on the social Web.

emarketer teen influencers Connecting Brand Messages with Teens on the Social Web

It’s important to note this doesn’t mean that other products aren’t discussed by teens at all on the social Web, but brands that operate in the channels listed above are missing a big opportunity if they’re not trying to engage teens on the social Web where they’re already spending time.

Why Becoming an Expert in Your Niche is So Important

Becoming an Expert in Your NicheI think one of the most untapped areas in SEO is developing expertise in your niche. Search specialists know a lot of link building and keyword research but how many of them are experts in the industries where they work?

Search marketers who do not have expert knowledge in their niche are leaving a lot of money and traffic on the table. I made this realization after reading Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent is Overrated. He argues that niche expertise is essential to become a top performer and reach your highest potential.

He cites research showing that the best performers have a deep knowledge base to draw from. They are able to leverage it to outdo their peers. For example, the top doctors can interpret an X-ray reading much more accurately than new residents. Using their knowledge and experience, they see the subtle but important cues that the new residents miss. Also, the top pilots are much better at navigating through the chaos of air traffic control than the new pilots.

You can see this phenomenon in SEO. An experienced search marketer can look at keyword logs and stats and quickly see opportunities for traffic growth. On the other hand, a newbie will totally miss them.

Search Marketers and Niche Expertise

All of this emphasis on knowledge and expertise may seem elementary and obvious, but I see many competent search marketers entering niches without much knowledge of those niches. Because of their lack of knowledge, the content they produce is pretty boring and reads just like most of the other commercial content on the web.

Many of them still do well because their SEO skill compensates for their lack of niche expertise. But this strategy is not a good one for the long term.

See right now, you don’t really need niche expertise to compete. Most companies are clueless about SEO. You can easily outrank them even though your content is average. However, as more webmasters learn SEO and the search space gets more saturated with new marketers, it will become more difficult to rank. You will need expert knowledge to keep and grow your market share.

Now you might be thinking, as you work in a niche, you will learn more about it. That is true but your competitors are experiencing the same thing. Plus, after you learn the basics of an industry, it’s tempting to just rely on that knowledge instead of acquiring more information.

What Geoff Colvin advises is being intentional with the learning process. Niche expertise should not only be a by-product of your work but a major goal.

He writes on page 121 of his book:

Imagine the difference if you made domain knowledge a direct objective rather than a byproduct of work. If you set a goal of becoming an expert on your business, you would immediately start doing all kinds of things you don’t do now. You would study the history of the business, identify today’s leading experts, read everything you could find, interview people inside your organization and outside it who could provide new perspectives, track key statistics and trends. The exact steps would vary depending on your business, but it’s quickly apparent that you could make yourself impressively more knowledgeable about your business than you are today, and probably do so in short order. With time, your knowledge advantage over others would become large.

I think Sugarrae is a great example of search marketer who understands this concept. Here’s what she said in an interview last year on SEO Book regarding the telecom industry where she made her mark as a successful affiliate marketer:

I knew crap about telecom when I started – I learned, learned, learned the field.

Also, she gave this advice:

I always say you don’t need to love the topic, you need to learn TO love the topic. To make the best site, you have to be willing to either immerse yourself or pay to immerse someone ELSE in a topic.

The Benefits of Niche Expertise

Niche expertise is the gateway to many benefits. I’ll highlight a couple of them and how they relate to SEO.

Forecasting

Imagine if you could predict the next major trends in your industry. Wouldn’t that be helpful and give you a big competitive advantage?

The top experts have robust mental frameworks that allow them to see the future before it happens.

With expert knowledge, you can create content about the upcoming trends. As you predictions come true, you will attract links and gain authority and trust.

Innovation

Geoff demonstrates that the innovative leaders from many different fields all had vast amounts of knowledge about their respective industries before they came up with their creative breakthroughs. There was always a long preparation period of learning before any major innovation.

Innovation has always been a great way to build links. Whoever comes up with something new that adds value gets rewarded with traffic and citations.

Unique Content

Search marketers have always talked about unique content as a fundamental strategy. If you want to have truly unique content, not just reworded wikipedia style content, you need to go deeper in your niche.

An expert by definition knows many things that the average person doesn’t know. Creating content based on your expertise helps you stand out from the crowd and builds your reputation.

Speed

Time is money. With a wealth of knowledge at your disposal, you can create content more efficiently and improve your site faster.

Discernment

Experts can discern quality from mediocrity.

You can leverage this discernment in various ways. For example, you can hire other top performers and avoid mediocre ones. You can point your readers to the best information and warn them of misleading content. When seeking advice from others, you can distinguish good ideas from bad ones.

Action Plan

Once you have a solid grasp of the SEO fundamentals, start developing knowledge about your niche. Read books. Watch videos. Add the top blogs to your RSS reader. Have that same zeal for acquiring knowledge in your niche as you had with learning SEO.

You’ll get a much higher ROI if you combine SEO knowledge with niche expertise. SEO prowess + expertise in the niche = an unbeatable combination.

The industry knowledge you learn is an investment that will pay off in the long term. But even in the short term, you will receive benefits like new content ideas.

The process may seem like niche research. But unlike the common advice of doing the research once in the beginning, you will be learning on a regular basis to become an expert. Plus, industries don’t stay stagnant. They change with the times. With a regular learning schedule, you will be up to date with the latest changes and new issues that come up.

Over to You

How well do you know your niche?

What methods would you recommend for learning more about a niche?


Dee Barizo is an affiliate marketer and search specialist. His latest project is an online degree site called The Best Degrees. He is developing expertise in the online education industry by browsing forums and blogs, reading books and scholastic journals, watching videos, and connecting with students and college faculty and staff. Also, he plans on taking an online course soon.