Friday, 25 May 2012

Top 10 Non-Monetary Reasons to Start Blogging

Contrary to some of the false, negative information that has been going around lately, blogging is on the up and rising fast. The popular blogging and publishing platform alone hosts almost 74 million blogs! Blogs hosted on Wordpress are read by 342 million people, and these blogs produce a combined total of 500,000 posts every day, while receiving 400,000 comments (on average) daily.

Blogging is therefore, an ever-expanding field. More and more people are joining the blogosphere.  There are thousands of blogs dedicated to every field and subject out there – movies, music, automobiles, web development, sports, food, fashion, technology and a lot more.

And while it is true that money is why most blogger take up this hobby (or profession) in the first place, most of the bloggers you’ll come across would tell you that money was a motivational factor when they decided to take up blogging, there are several factors, apart from the obvious monetary ones, that people blog.

So what are the other reasons, apart from the monetary of course, that would have you jump in on the action? Here are a few advantages of blogging which are not monetary in nature:

1. Platform for Expression: By far, the best reason for blogging is to express your opinions, express your thoughts, have your say, and put what’s on your mind on paper. If you have something to speak about, something to say, and you want your message to go across a large group of people, blogging is the perfect way to do it. Microblogging (think Twitter) also lets you achieve the same purpose, but in a much more concise format. With blogging however, you have the freedom to speak your mind in as many words as you want. You can support your argument using multimedia (images, videos, and infographics), statistics, references from and to other sources… the whole deal!

2. Networking: Blogging is a great way to network and connect with people. It can help you develop all kinds of relationships – including business and professional ones. It could even be a great way for you to make friends, and connect with people who could help you in your careers, for instance. In a similar way, when you comment on other blogs, you network with many different people. Blogging is a great platform to connect with like-minded people as well.

3. Authority Figure: When you blog, people eventually start looking at you as an authority figure in your niche, and you develop a following. You are seen as an expert of matter in your field, you build a good reputation as someone who know what he is talking about. For instance if you dabble in technology, or guitars, as blog would help establish you as an authority in the said fields.

4. Global Reach: You meet people and make friends with people from all across the world, you speak with them, learn about them and share and connect with them. You get your views across, and they get theirs across. There is discussion and debate. And you do this all from the comforts of your living room. Think of the impact you could have through your blog and your words!

5. Branding: When you take up blogging, you’re creating your own identity, you’re crafting a name for yourself, and you’re branding yourself. Having a strong online presence and a well-reputed image is vital. Blogging allows you to achieve just that. Combined with your social networking profiles, your blog is just another powerful tool in your arsenal that helps you brand yourself in a better way. For example, you build an online portfolio for yourself which could help you get freelance work – such as writing, web designing, photography, journalism, etc.

6. Accessibility: Blogging makes you much more accessible to the world, especially on the internet. From potential employers, headhunters, recruiters, even old classmates, you are making it easier for people to find and access you. There are a lot of people on the internet looking for valuable human resource, and these people will search blogs.

7. Bragging Rights: Blogging is ‘cool’; and gives you’re the ability to stand out among your peers. Above all, blogging allows you to showcase your personality and your knowledge, more than any résumé or cover letter would ever be able to. And you can brag about being a ‘blogger’ when you meet up with your friends, family member or colleagues the next time!

8. Raising Awareness: Given its global reach and ease of accessibility that blogging brings, it is a great platform to raise awareness about issues and bring help to people. For instance many NGOs operating around the world have informative blogs which help raise awareness on issues, natural disasters and other problems and how these can be tackled globally.

9. Helping People: In a similar way to point no. 7 above, blogs can also be a good source to provide help to people, in form of advice, tips, counseling, DIYs, assistance, or simply to help people who are going through tough situations that the blogger himself might’ve experienced at some point.

10. Staying Connected: Blogging is a great way to stay connected – be it with family, friends from other parts of the world, old high-school pals, or anyone else. You can easily share stories, photos, videos and more. People will feel connected with you no matter where they might be in the world.

A word of advice: if you still haven’t started blogging or are relatively new to the field, you might think it is easy to make money from blogs. However that is a huge misconception. Despite the fact that AdSense and other tools have made it easy to earn money off blogs, building a profitable blog takes time and dedication. Until you reach that level, it would be best to just enjoy blogging like mentioned in the article: by speaking your mind out, putting your thoughts on paper, helping people, building your brand and connecting with the world!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

What to Do When You’re in a Blogging Rut

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?! It is frustrating to say the least, but every blogger has experienced times when the words just don’t flow. You don’t feel like writing, in fact, you loathe it! You feel exhausted, you keep ignoring you schedule, your calendar, and you cannot be bothered to think about and write on anything at all, let alone a new topic. Sitting in front of the computer feels like a chore, and your writer’s well has well and truly dried up. The words that you do manage to put together are programmed instead of coming to your naturally.

If it’s just a writer’s block or not is arguable, however it’s a frustrating time in any blogger’s life, truly a low-point. You’re stuck in a blogging rut.

The question is, if you’re boring yourself, how do you expect people to not be bored with what you’re writing? How do you expect them to share your content? If you’ve stopped writing regularly and people still expect a post from you every week, there is a good chance you will lose many of your regular visitors, and that doesn’t even begin to mention the potential PR-drop your blog(s) might face.

How do you pick yourself up and get out of this rut? How can you pick yourself up, and restart? From someone’s who been there, I’ve got good news: it’s doable! Here are 8 tips on how you can fight the blog burnout, and achieve writing nirvana once again:

1. Take a Break: Take a step back, and take a breather. Put your blog off your mind for a couple of days, maybe even a few weeks. Do something totally else, something that you haven’t don’t for a while. Maybe even take a vacation, or go on a road-trip. Log out of Wordpress, and forget about your blog, put it at the end of your priority list for at least some time. Try your hand at cooking, hit the gym maybe, hang out with friends. Try a change of scenery and environment. Maybe this change is just what will get those creative juices flowing again.

2. Change Your Routine: In continuation of the first point, simply changing your routine, such as when you write or changing how and where you write could do wonders. Sometimes, your best, most inspired work comes to you at the most unexpected of place. Change things around, break your habits and force yourself to expand your thinking and your horizons. Take a different route to work, watch reality TV instead of your usual sitcom, get a book to read (with actual pages!). Read a different blog tonight, instead of those usual ones.

3. Change Your Blogging Perspective: I remember when I was stuck in this bad blogging rut, I discovered it was because I was looking at it all wrong. I looked at blogging like it was a chore, like something that ‘I had to do’, regardless of whether I wanted to do it or not. It is important to remember that blogging is NOT a chore, and should never be one. Furthermore, expecting yourself to blog amazing or mind-blowing content daily is a steep ask, and an unreasonable expectation. It is important to understand that you’re not the second coming of J.K Rowling! At times, the words just won’t come, and other times, they will. For me, quality will always take precedence over quantity. Write less, but write well. When you’re having an ‘on-day’ write a couple of posts and put them on schedule. Or you could…

4. Invite Guest Bloggers: Inviting other bloggers to guest post on your blog is beneficial from multiple perspectives, and has many advantages: (a) your blog gets updated regularly, (b) Your blog gets updated with high-quality content, (c) The guest blogger bring in his own perspective to your blog, which might be different from yours – something that might interest your readers, (d) you’re building an invaluable network of backlinks, and above all (e) If you’re stuck in a rut, a guest blogger will keep bringing in quality posts while you take a break, or at least until you feel like writing again.

5. Give Your Blog a Design Overhaul: A design refresh could do wonders for your motivation. What happens when you buy a pair of new shoes? As lazy as you might be otherwise, buying a pair of new running shoes will most definitely have you go on a couple of runs. You will feel the need to run. In a similar way, putting on a new theme and changing things around your blog might just reignite the fire, and urge you to create new content that is as good and sophisticated as the new look of your blog.

6. Make a Running List of Blog Topics: It helps researching and making a list of topics related to the content material of your blog or in your niche, especially when (or if) you run out of things to write on. Write them down somewhere, make a list, and bookmark interesting blog posts from the internet that you could refer to later on. Look at news that might be affecting your niche market and see if there’s something newsworthy enough to write on.

7. Network with Other Bloggers: Sometimes, all you need to do is just talk it out with fellow bloggers and people in your niche that you network with. That’s the beauty of blogging, it lets you connect with the community, share ideas, and maybe even be a source of inspiration. Most bloggers in your niche would be more than willing to help you out, and get you out of your rut. Because they all are bloggers too, and they too know that being stuck in a rut every once in a while is part of the job. Connect, network, ask for advice, ask for ideas and seek inspiration.

8. Focus: One of the great things about blogging is that you can choose to be totally diverse about it, and write on and about anything. Unfortunately, that is the biggest pitfalls of blogging as well. Being focused provides you with a roadmap on what to write. You could cover the happenings of the sports world on your blog, but if you narrow your focus on a single sport, or the team you’re a fan of, for instance, narrowing your focus will help you determine what to write on, as well as provide your readers with an idea of what to expect.

Changing things around is the key to fighting blogging boredom. What do you do when you feel like being stuck in a blogging rut? Have you even been in one? Got a point of your own to add to this? Leave your comments in the comments section below. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Make Money off a Small, Low-Traffic Blog

Making money off a low-traffic blog is a tough, tough ask. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. Even though it might seem to be a daunting, nay, impossible task at first, I can assure you that it is indeed do-able.

And while there is quite literally tons of information, thousands of blogs on ‘making money online’, most of them assume that your blog is already doing well in terms of traffic and visitors. Run a Google search on the said phrase right now, and you’ll see what I mean. There’s a serious dearth of information for an average blog – one that is a relatively new blog and doesn’t really get a lot of visitors, in all probability being run by someone who is SEO-inexperienced.

Most of the material that you will come across online will recommend affiliate ads, using AdSense and Image Ads, but exactly how useful will these be on a blog that gets less than a hundred unique visitors a day?

Luckily, there are ways where one can earn off his or her low-traffic blog as well. However before we look at some of these ways, it is generally recommended that you work towards getting your traffic up to high levels. Traffic is good, if you ask me, it is the single-most important thing for a successful blog, and as a rule: the more the merrier. Traffic is the foundation on which a successful, money-making blog can be created. In order to get more traffic, try different link building techniques, and aim to rank well on the SERP.

If you’re not really up there yet, here are simple things you can do with your blog to make some money off it:

1. Google AdSense – AdSense is the most common, most widely-known solution for blog-owners and webmasters to make money off their websites. It’s a simple solution, and requires you to do nothing apart from displaying a couple of related ads on your website, link your blog to your bank account and start making money. AdSense can be used by anyone, provided your blog passes the eligibility criteria.  Traffic details are not part of the eligibility criteria, which means even small blogs can benefit from this.

2. PPC and CPM – PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertisement programs involve ads that are place on your blog, and you are paid whenever someone clicks on those ads. Very common, and hands down the most easiest way of monetizing your blog. As traffic increases, so does the money. Similarly, CPM or Cost-Per-Thousand advertising involves you getting paid based on how many times a particular ad shows up on your blog. Another very easy way to earn money online for small blogs, as it only requires page-views.

3. Loyal Base of Subscribers – The one thing that could potentially be significantly more important than traffic, is a loyal base of returning customers. Even if you don’t get a lot of traffic on your blog, advertisers will value the fact that you have a small base of loyal subscribers, who value what you have to say, are loyal to your blog, and follow and subscribe to your ideas. This means that if you endorse or recommend a product or service, your followers too would be inclined to try it out. This could be a good base for you to get some advertisements on your blog.

4. Image-based Third-Party Advertisements – If you are an authority figure in your niche (despite the fact that your blog does not get a lot of visitors), this will still be a valuable proposition to many advertisers out there, who will be interested in advertising on your blog. Because, as was the case in point no. 2, your visitors see you as an authority figure, and it is therefore loyal traffic. You could ask advertisers if they would be interested in putting up small ads on your website, those 125x125 ones which are quite popular nowadays as well.

5. Service Provision – Look around and see if you can offer some kind of a service to someone. Offering a service that someone might require is a sure-shot way of earning some money, however expect to put in a bit of effort while you’re at it. Think you’re good at something? Put it up as a service (remember Joker’s quote from The Dark Knight: ‘If you’re good at something, never do it for free!). Think you can write, write guest posts for other blogs. Good at development, web-designing, link-building or something else? Add a popup box on your website and advertise your service there.

6. Become an Affiliate – Similar to AdSense, affiliate marketing is another straightforward way of earning off your low-traffic blog. Affiliate marketing has the potential to be quite lucrative as well. Basically, you earn money by using your blog to recommend products and services to your readers. Every time someone purchases something off your blog, you are given a share of the sales. A LOT of bloggers are doing this, and affiliate marketing blogs can be found on the internet by the dozens. The best thing about being an affiliate is that you’re simply responsible for marketing a product, you won’t be manufacturing it, or selling it.

7. Reviews of Products and Services – Product and service reviews, a concept akin of service provision and affiliate marketing, will have you write reviews, focusing on products that you’re blogging on. This could be anything – from iPhone app reviews, to reviewing computer hardware, home furniture, etc. Reviews can be particularly profitable if you have some authority on the topic you blog about. In addition, once you build up a considerable amount of reputation and authority, you could even do paid reviews, or reviews for money. Being an authority figure in your field is vital here.

8. Ask for Donations: Don’t expect people to give you hand-outs. While adding a donation box or a ‘Donate’ button to your blog may be a good idea, apart from being the easiest way to rake some dough, expect little to no revenue through this avenue (ask yourself this, how many times have you donated on a blog?). If you’re offering a service for free (for instance writing reviews, offering a plugin, etc.), it makes much more sense to ask for donation and in that case, people might even be inclined to give you their money.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Google AdSense Eligibility Criteria and Tips for Quick Approval

Fact: Google earns close to one-fourth of its revenue (28%) through AdSense! Fact: Google made a massive 2.5 billion USD revenue from AdSense in Q1, 2011, which totaled up to almost 10 billion USD in the 2011 fiscal year! Fact: Google currently shares 68% of revenue generated by AdSense with content network partners, and 51% of revenue generated by AdSense with AdSense for Search partners. Fact: Bloggers are earning massive amounts of money (some in the thousand, monthly) from AdSense alone!

Google’s AdSense has to be one of the most popular online revenue-generation mechanisms out there, if not the most popular one. Thousands of bloggers out there are using AdSense to monetize their blogs and make money online, turning their online ventures into virtual cash machines within a short span of time.

AdSense is brilliant really. Do it right, and you could potentially earn a load of cash easily, while doing absolutely nothing! All you have to do is put up some ads, and the cash rolls in on autopilot.

Darren Rowse of Problogger fame, for instance, claims to have earned a monumental $400,000, ever since he started using AdSense!

And while it would be extremely unreasonable to expect someone to become a millionaire overnight by using AdSense, it is important to understand that it takes time – usually years – before one would be able to earn a significant amount of dough off AdSense.

AdSense Eligibility Criteria

The best thing about AdSense is that it can be used with both small and big websites and blogs. However there is certain criterion which needs to be met before you set off with your AdSense program and be able to display AdSense ads on your website:

1. You must have a working website/blog, and you must either be the owner, administrator or webmaster of that website or blog. The website should be fully functional, as under-construction websites are ineligible.

2. Depending on your geographical location, you can use any newly-created or old website/blog with AdSense – although your blog has to be at least six months old before you can apply for the AdSense program in India or China.

3. AdSense has strict content policies, all of which are aimed to protect the interests of its advertisers. In short, content (including text and pictures) needs to be original, and duplicate, copied, or spun content gives Google ground for disabling the account.

4. The same applies to website having illegal (file sharing) content or Adult material. Or any blasphemous or hate-content.

5. Another consideration as far as content is concerned, is that the website/blog should have a good amount of content. Sites with very less content are ineligible.

6. An important consideration is the quality of the traffic. Artificial traffic, generated through grey or blackhat channels is prohibited since these would unfairly raise advertiser costs.

7. Fraudulent accounts, such as those in which applicants click on their own ads are disabled.

8. Applicant websites are required to publish a privacy policy that meets AdSense terms and conditions.

9. Applicant’s minimum age should be 18 or older at the time of applying. However under-18 applicants can still ask their parents to apply on their behalf.

10. Another personal requirement includes applicants having their own bank accounts so that that are able to receive payments.

Tips to Get Quick AdSense Approval

Here are a few tips, ensure that your blog adheres to as many of these as possible, before you apply for AdSense, as it will save you a lot of hassle later on:

1. Ensure that you have a reasonable amount of content on your blog, my recommendation would be a minimum of 10-15 posts, before you apply.

2. You should have a reasonable amount of traffic on your blog. Blogs with less than 20 unique visitors per day would probably not be entertained.

3. Older domains are preferred by AdSense. It looks at the age of the domain, but bear in mind that age refers to the time a domain has been live, and has been in use. Domains which are more than an year old are recommended.

4. If you plan on using AdSense, avoid any alternatives, such as other click-based ad services.
5. Do not give Google the impression that your blog exists solely for the purpose of making money, rather than the provision of information and value.

6. Make sure your website or blog has quality content on it, which is unique and not taken off article resources or spun. The quality of the content is a big consideration for Google, before it approves or disapproves your application.

7. Authority blogs and websites, with a strong network of high-PR backlinks will most certainly impress Google enough to ensure that your application is approved as quickly as possible. Google likes the fact that your blog is getting traffic from highly-ranked sources.

8. If you’re a business owner, try adding related material to your blog before you apply for AdSense. Add relevant and high-quality content to your blog, and promote it enough to get a decent amount of traffic on it. Show Google that you are an authority in your niche.

9. Alternatively, you could stick with niches which Google particularly likes, such as Open Source, charity, technology, OS and app development, and Google just might like your work enough to grant you an AdSense account.

10. If your website is a traditional website and not a blog, make sure it has at least 10 pages, and above all, is well linked internally. Your home page should be linked to these 10 pages in a clear and concise way. Other must-have pages include the ‘About’ page, a ‘Privacy Policy’ page. Make sure to add information about yourself and your website on respective pages.

11. Your website/blog should be easy to navigate, legible, should have proper breadcrumb navigation setup, and should adhere to some of the best practices out there. It should not have broken links.

12. It is generally recommended to apply for an AdSense account with a account, as Blogger accounts have a higher chance of being approved by AdSense.

13. Register for AdSense through Google’s partner websites such as Youtube, it has generally been known that doing so gives you a better chance of approval.

Concluding Words

These are just a few of my own used, tried and tested tips that will ensure that your AdSense application does end up getting approved, and as quickly as possible.

If you have something to add to this, do leave us your comments in the comments section below.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Top Ways of Generating Targeted Traffic

Picture this: if someone types in ‘best place for premium Wordpress themes’ in Google, and is redirected to your blog which specializes in premium WP themes, that’s targeted traffic right there!

In the SEO, SEM and IM industry, the ability to be able to get a large amount of traffic and visitors might be a good thing, however to be able to get the right kind of traffic, or ‘targeted traffic’ to your website, is an invaluable asset.

This is especially true when you look at things from a monetary perspective. Targeted traffic is traffic that comes to you from your niche; people who are interested in buying your products and/or services, and are interested in what you might have to offer. Traffic that leads to sales. This means that these are people who are most likely to respond to your CTA, and give you their money – which in turn means that targeted traffic is the kind of traffic that is converted into dollars, and translates into a steady stream of revenue.

The ability to get targeted traffic is an art, a skill. It requires precise marketing tactics, since you want to be able to reach out to as many potential customers and people in your niche as possible.

Creating backlinks might aid you in ranking well on Google, and getting a lot of traffic and visitors, but simply being able to rank well is no guarantee that you will be able to get targeted traffic, traffic that converts into money. So what exactly should you be incorporating into your SEO strategy, in order to attain the ability to get targeted traffic? Here are 8 tips:

1. Choosing the right keywords – According to Google, 20-25% of all search queries are new, which means that every day, one in every four search query is new and something that hasn’t been looked up before. This means that instead of choosing keywords that might have a lot of competition, you can instead choose to target new keywords that have very little to no competition, and rank for these keywords.

2. Value Proposition – What is your value proposition? What is it that you’re providing your customers? If you create something that is mind-blowingly good, and gives great value, your content will get shared on the internet, over social mediums, and through word-of-mouth, and help you get targeted traffic from your niche. Provide people with something valuable, and you will understandably get a lot of targeted traffic.

3. Guest Blogging – One of the most important (and free!) ways of getting targeted traffic is guest blogging. How or why you might wonder is guest blogging beneficial in terms of getting targeted traffic. By inviting guest bloggers from your niche to post on your own blog, or doing guests posts on other blogs, you create a valuable network of backlinks, increase exposure to your blog, and direct targeted traffic back to it. Guest blogging is a highly ‘whitehat’ link-building strategy as far as Google is concerned, and gets you high-quality content as well, something that Google absolutely loves.

4. Press Releases – Press releases is a form of traffic that can spread the word about your blog all over the world. Google loves press releases, and if done right, press releases can get you a massive amount of targeted traffic. The idea is to write story or content that will potentially generate a lot of buzz and hype within your niche, and promotes your business at the same time. After doing so, submit it on a PR submission service that will distribute your story to the audience, for instance, or any one of these from Mashable.

5. Email Marketing (Lists) – Lists are another invaluable way of getting targeted traffic to your blog. A good email list or subscription list will be filled with contact information of people who are already interested in hearing from you and knowing about what you have to offer (which is why they subscribed to your list in the first place). In other words, your list is already a goldmine of contact information of people within your niche. You can use this to your advantage and use these lists to reach out to these people. You can also buy targeted email lists for your own niche (category), such as the ones being provided by Emarketing Solutions.

6. Connect with People – Connecting with people such as social influencers, prominent bloggers, people with high social networking potential, media mavens, and other authority figures will allow you to develop relationships with them, and not only will this help you grow your business, but socializing is usually a lot of fun.

7. Submitting Blog on Content Directories and Aggregators – As a rule of thumb, submit your content to aggregators and syndication websites such as, and, as well as directories like Digg, Reddit and StumpleUpon that find and recommend content to their users. These portals can help you get targeted traffic easily for days on end, on autopilot!

8. Newsletter Syndication – Why pay newsletters to put your ad, when you can do the same for free, by simply submitting an article. When others would pay money for advertisement, you cane easily get solo ads for free by submitting just one good article. This allows you to get instant exposure (especially if it’s a magazine a lot of people subscribe to), and a lot of traffic from within your niche. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

4 Kickass Call-To-Action Ideas

Loyalty is a rare commodity these days. So is standing out from the crowd. A good Call to Action allows you to stand up and above your competition, and get loyal followers, who not only read your content but subscribe to it, ‘like’ and ‘tweet’ it on social mediums, share it via email and so on. Having an effective CTA won’t turn you into a super-blogger instantly, but it’s a good way to start.

Trust and loyalty has to be earned. In order to be someone the people give their email address out to, you need to give them something that is valuable to them, in return. Doing so will allow you to connect and build a loyal base of subscribers and regular visitors who are eager to read what you say, purchase what you offer, subscribe and like your posts, share your content, and in general, do what you want them to do. Because that ultimately is the purpose of an effective CTA right?

So without further ado, here are 4 kickass Call-to-Action ideas that will allow you to achieve all this:

1. Be Clear and Present a Tangible Offer: It is a proven fact that when you provide a tangible benefit to your customers, they will be inclined to take the action you want them to. Creating a tangible offer is a 3-step process: (i) in the first step, you create an interesting and precise headline, for instance instead of a headline that says ‘get more Facbook likes’, go for one that says ‘Get 1000 Facebook likes in less than a month’. It’s a compelling headline that tells the audience exactly what benefits they get. (ii) Secondly, tell your readers the true value of your service, e.g. ‘get material for $100 for just $9.99. This tells your readers that you are offering them a bargain, increasing their interest. And finally, (iii) make use of visuals (such as pictures and images) to show what exactly it is that you’re offering, a webinar, manuals, eBooks, access to videos, etc.

2. Have Someone Endorse Your Products: Pick up any New York Times Best Seller, flip it around, what do you expect to see on the back? Snippets of reviews from at least a couple of well-renowned critics or experts on how good the book is. Similarly, many adverts on TV are endorsed by celebrities and athletes. Almost all successful CTA’s are endorsed by authority figures – not necessarily celebrities but it depends on your niche – for instance if you’re selling Wordpress themes and plugins, you could get a well-known developer to endorse the product and put it up along with the CTA. When users see that an authority figure endorses your products, it will make it more likely for them to subscribe to your list, like your page, buy your product, or whatever it was that you intended them to do.

3. Give Your Readers what they Really Want: Take a step back, and think what your readers really want. What is it that someone who would visit your website really want, what would he be looking for? How can you give your readers value? How can you speak with them, and truly connect with them? For starters you could give your subscribers free stuff, because everyone loves free stuff. Other ideas include discounts, special offers and giving your readers important tips. Solve their problems, provide them with solutions, and speak to their desires.

4. Be Relevant: Every good CTA is relevant to a post, and in coherence with the blog’s material. If you’ve finished writing a blog post about how the new iPhone will change the cellular phone industry again, why not include an optin which lets people subscribe to your blog which covers the cellphone industry? If you’re writing about how to use analytics to get conversions, wouldn’t it be a good idea to add a link at the bottom of the post, which offers an eBook or a video course on the same topic at a discounted price? Being relevant allows you to increase conversions, and offers people a way of receiving more information on a topic that they are clearly interested in. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Content Creation 101

‘Content is King!’ Or so they say.

Whether content really is the king or not, it is hands down, one of the most important aspects of a successful SEO strategy or marketing campaign. And regardless of whether you’re a SEO consultant, a webmaster, an internet marketer or a search engine marketer; unique, high-quality and high-value content remains of the utmost importance.

This especially holds true after Google’s updates to its search algorithm (dubbed the ‘Panda), after which Google starting de-indexing and permanently banning low-quality blogs and websites, in particular those which had copied or spun content. Subsequent updates to Panda (such as the latest one, called ‘Penguin’) have only gone on to reinforce this assertion.

Therefore, a successful SEO campaign, that yields tangible results such as high-rankings, traffic and monetary gain, certain on-page and off-page SEO factors must be considered. An important on-page SEO metric is high-quality content. Content that not only is unique, high-value and relevant, but content that is shared within the community, shared on social mediums, and of course, content that can help you get high-PR and high-authority backlinks.

However it is easier said than done!

How to Create High-Value Content

Content creation is a step-wise process, which if done correctly, can potentially yield high returns. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to come up with a well-rounded content creation strategy:

1. Research: The first step towards creating valuable, quality content, and arguably one that is the most time-consuming. Often times, all the research and the time one spends reading up, looking stuff up and analyzing data ultimately ends up yielding close to nothing. In other words, time wasted. Look at it from a corporate or a client’s point-of-view, what tangible results do you have to show for all your research? On the face of it, it might just look like wasted time. However it remains one of the most important step, and a foundation for all the subsequent ones. Research allows you to create content that is relevant to your niche, factually accurate, provides quality is popular, and perhaps most importantly, is interesting. Using tools like Google News Google Trends, Google Insights and Reddit, StumbleUpon and Twitter will aid you in this process.

2. Presentation: Once you’ve laid the foundation, i.e. research, you will be required to determine how to deliver it. Value is the key term here. What can you provide your users with, that provides them with value, that forces them to read what you have to say, subscribe to your posts and share it online? How can you be unique while at it? What are the different ways of putting forth the information – good old text, image (infographics), videos, flash-based content, etc. What will the information be focused upon – an event, a celebrity or athelete, etc.

3. Placement: So you have your information, and how you will present it, the next step is determining where it will be placed, aka. placement. In most cases, the content will probably end up going on your own website. If not it is essential to determine who your target market is, and what niche does it belong to, in order to be able to place your content and its various aspects (such as language, tone, and style) effectively. Whether you work on placement of your content before creating it, or afterwards is totally your call. If the content is meant for another website (such as a guest post), make sure to run it by the owner before publishing it.

4. The Creation: D-Day is here, its zero-hour as you will now set about creating the content. This process will depend heavily on the kind of content you’re putting together, as well as your target niche. However you could go with an array of content types: infographics, text (blog posts), videos, flash-based games, eBooks, etc. Use colors, be vivid and be creative. Give your viewers a visually-stimulating experience. Be creative. Look up online for ideas. Blog posts are generally a great way to create content, they can be informative, educative, as well as entertaining, and a wide array of content (images, for instance) can be put in with text. Google in particular seems to rank websites and blogs which are informative and provide value to readers. A few rules of good blog posts are as follows: (a) they are grammatically correct, (b) they provide valuable information, (c) these posts are engaging, and invite visitor feedback (in the form of polls, comments, etc), (d) are helpful to readers (such as provide tips, information, facts, etc) and lastly (e) are well organized posts, properly formatted and broken down into readable paragraphs.

5. Promotion: After you’ve made sure that you’ve covered all bases, and end up hitting that ‘publish’ button, it is now time to promote your content. This is the process where your off-site SEO will be truly put to the test! There are dozens of ways you can go about doing this. Send emails, submit to online directories, put links on authority sources, share your content on Facebook, Google Plus, Youtube, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other social networking mediums. Commenting on other blogs, Facebook pages and websites is another good source of promoting your content, but as a rule of thumb, make sure your comments are helpful and add value; avoid spamming at all costs. Engage in guest posting, ask people to guest post on your blog and put the link to the post on their blogs, and vice versa. This way, you’ll create a valuable network of backlinks very easily. Don’t promote your content in a haphazard manner, be meticulous about it and plan it out. Above all, make sure your content gets across to a wide range of people when it is ‘oven fresh’, as irrelevant, outdated or old content would understandably garner little interest. Ask people in your niche to plug your content for you (especially authority sources), and don’t be afraid of doing some good old offline marketing as well!

Ending Words

So in a nutshell, the content creation process can be listed as follows:
Research – Presentation – Placement – Creation – Promotion.

If you have something to add to the content creation process, agreed or disagreed with anything from the article, do not hesitate to comment in the comment section below!

Friday, 18 May 2012

8 Important Tips to Rank Well on Bing

Introduction to Bing

‘Bing; is Microsoft corporation’s flagship web Search Engine (or ‘Decision Engine’ as it is referred to by Microsoft at time), and is today one of the largest names in the search engine world, probably second only to the mighty Google itself.

Bing now even powers Yahoo Search after the two companies struck a deal in 2009, and Bing now boasts an impressive 15% market share in the US as compared to 66% market share of Google. But what might be surprising to some is that Bing has seen a steady upward growth since its inception in 2009, although most of it has been at the expense of Yahoo Search.

However upon closer inspection, Bing rise in fame and market share shouldn’t come as a surprise. Microsoft is working to make Bing an essential part of all its products and integrate Bing Search with all its new and existing offering – most importantly with its Windows desktop OS. Bing Search (or Bing Mobile) is also a common sight on all cellular phones powered by Microsoft’s Windows Phone (WP) OS, and will continue to be featured in all its upcoming iterations as well.

Microsoft also intends on expanding Bing by making it the search engine of choice across not only all its own products (such as Windows, Hotmail), but also on other products – most notably Facebook – by forming partnerships with these products.

In addition, Bing search is available in as many as 40 languages, offers a whole slew of products which include web search, dictionary, finance, image search, Bing maps, news search, and video search (to name just a few), as well as Bing Webmaster Services for website owners and webmaster.

But perhaps most importantly, Microsoft continues to work on improving Bing in a manner that is similar to Google’s updates to its search algorithm.

Why is it Important to Rank Well on Bing

If Bing’s extremely impressive market share of 15% isn’t enough, the fact that almost one-third (close to 30%) of all search engine queries are now powered by Bing (15% on and 15% on Yahoo), or the realization that Bing will continue to gain market share in the future, and maybe even at the expense of Google will persuade you to try and focus your efforts on ranking well on Bing as well!

As Google’s dominance steadily goes down, and Bing rises to prominence in the Search Engine industry, more and more SEOs, SEMs and IMs realize Bing’s importance and potential, and strive to rank well on Bing as well.

How to Rank Well on Bing

So now that we’ve established why it is important for your website, organization, brand and for you to rank well on Bing, here are 8 Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tips for Bing Search, both on-site and off-site criterion as defined by Bing (in  no particular order):

1. Titles of the Webpages – As with Google, it is important that the webpage titles be crafted a certain way for Bing: (a) the webpage title should be under 60 characters, (b) should contain all the keywords that you wish to rank for, and (c) should be able to tell Bing’s crawlers what your website is about by summarizing its contents.

2. Domain Age – Bing seems to rank websites with older domains better than newer ones. The older the domain, the better Bing will rank it, therefore if you are planning on developing a new website, use (or acquire) a domain that was registered at least a good few months ago.

3. Text and Content – Bing loves a lot of content. Like Google, Bing prefers to rank pages with an excess of 300 words better. While it is not a written rule, some experts believe that the ideal amount of words should be 300-500. But unlike Google, you would need to make sure that the text and the content on the page is relevant to the page title, because Bing focuses the relevance of both with each other. The content should also be high-quality, valuable and of course, unique.

4. Backlinks – fairly obvious, but Bing lover quality backlinks to your website, and as is pretty much the case with Google, would rank your website once you get traffic from authority sources. However relevance is essential here as well, so make sure that your backlinks are related to your content. And backlinks on older domains (aged backlinks) will appear more natural to Bing, helping it rank you better.

5. Outgoing links – Create limited amount of outbound links, such as those linking to an external page (such as one that is outside your website). No-follow outbound links would be a safe bet.

6. Robots.txt – Having a robots.txt file in your main directory will alow MSNBot – Bing’s web crawler – to find and index your website much easily.

7. Tags and Broken Links – Avoid incomplete HTML tags/codes, improper and/or incomplete meta information, and broken links.

8. Keywords – Stick with not more than 2-3 keywords per page. Use those consistently throughout the webpage – in the title, meta description and the body but the title and description should be unique.

Concluding Words

At the end of the day, you might think that Bing and Google’s criteria is pretty similar, and on the face of it, it might look so as well. However both algorithms work and function differently. However SEO ‘best-practices’ will help you rank well on both search engines.

If you’re looking for more Bing-specific SEO information, do read up on their Webmaster Blog.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The 5-Step SEO-Audit

SEO exists to serve one main purpose: helping you get ranked on search engines and improving the visibility of your website in order to get the maximum traffic. Conversions, CTR, bounce rate, revenues, etc. are all indeed core aspects of SEO as well, but secondary to the one main aim.
There are a plethora of tools out there which let you assess, measure and improve your SEO efforts. However at times, it is equally important to be able to audit your SEO practices manually. Here are 5 different ways you can conduct an audit of your website right now:

1. Checking your Meta Information

Meta information is one of the core aspects of good SEO. Therefore, each and every page on your website should have complete meta information; short summaries of what the page is about and the information that can be found on it. On Wordpress, you can make use of various well-known plugins for this purpose. Meta information provides Google with information about the page, what the page is about, and allows it rank your pages for certain keywords. Meta descriptions also appear in Google search results, right below the link to a page. Meta descriptions should be short (150-160 characters ideally), it should be unique for all pages, and should contain keywords important to your business and related to the page.

2. Checking Page Title

One of the first things a search engine looks at is your page title, and these give search engines a fair idea about the content on a page. Pages titles are found between the <title> and </title> tags, and must be placed between these tags on your page. They can be viewed by clicking ‘view source’ of the page, and edited through the HTML code of your page. As expected, title tags should be short (60-70 chars) and precise. They should be unique, contain the keywords important to your business and relevant to the page. For e.g. if the page reviews webhosting services, the title tag should be something like ‘Review of Top 10 Best Webhosting Services’.

3. Adding H1, H2, H3 Tags

Within a single webpage or post, the most important headline or important bit of information should be assigned an H1 tag. In the HTML version of your webpage, add H1 tags in the following manner: <h1>text</h1>. As was the case with title and meta info, add important keywords under H1 headings, preferably those which are important to your business and which you want to be ranked for. Also remember that using too many H1 tags on a webpage could have your website penalized by search engines. Reserve H1 for only the most important bit of text, and use H2 and H3 tags for other headers.  

4. Use Alt Text for Images

Images add value to your page, in terms of visitors looking at your page, as well as search engines looking to rank your page. Unlike human, Google cannot ‘see’ or ‘look’ at images. It needs something that will help it know what the image is about, identify and rank it appropriately. That is where Alt text comes in. Alt text helps Google see an image, identify what the image is about, and helps rank it accordingly (according to the keywords in that image). All images on your website should therefore include Alt text, in order for the images and your page to be ranked accordingly. Add your keywords here, but avoid keyword stuffing or spamming. For instance let’s say you run a pet website, and add an image of your pet, a proper Alt text would look like this: ‘pet Chihuahua chases woolen ball across living room floor’. This gives the image proper description, adds your keywords (pet, Chihuahua) to the image, and consequently helps Google rank it better.

5. Anchor Text Optimization

Linkbuilding, internal linking and inbound links are the foundation of any good SEO strategy. Hyperlinks, or otherwise known as anchor text, are important to search engines and rankings because these help search engines determine the content of a website by checking what is covered on the page that it is being linked to – for external sites linking to your page, and your own internal links. Avoid hyperlinks like ‘click here’ for anchor texts and instead use text which tells search engines what the hyperlink is about, for e.g. ‘You can read more about iPhone 5 and its leaked specs on ABC website’. In addition, your first anchor text link should contain your keywords because Google only looks at the first anchor text on a page, and ignores the others even if they all contain the same URL. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Wordpress Themes 101

So selecting a theme for your Wordpress blog, should be simple enough right? You look a few themes up on Google, maybe look through a list of galleries, and click on the one that looks best or has the best interface and voila! That is it, you’re done.

While you may think that choosing a theme is as simple as choosing one which looks the best, it is not as simple as that. The looks or aesthetics of a theme is just one part of what makes a good WP theme. There is a lot more to it than just the appearance.

Free and Premium Themes

Before I begin, I need to get this out of the way: avoid free WP themes if at all possible! Spend a few bucks on a premium theme, go for the Thesis theme, or the Elegant ones, and if those are not viable options budget-wise,  stick with a cheap premium theme but in general, stay away from the free ones.

Why, you might be wondering, am I in vehement opposition of free themes? It is because of one simple reason: ‘there is no such thing as a free meal’. Free themes might look to be totally harmless, however most of them come with strange code encrypted in the footer section. As a rule of thumb, you would never want to have any unknown code on your website!

Solutions and Alternatives?

If you rule out free themes (which, like I said, you should), be prepared to fork out some cash, because at this point, you have 2 alternatives: either have a custom theme developed by an in-house team or outsource it to a partner or a 3rd party, or choose one from any of the hundreds of premium themes for WP available on the internet.

Purpose of the Blog

The kind of theme that you select would entirely depend on the purpose of your WP blog. Wordpress is a powerful platform, and with WP, you now have the ability to build any sort of a website.

Like I said, your choice of theme would depend on the kind of blog you have. For instance there are themes for personal blogs, video or photo blogs, corporate websites, e-commerce websites, advertisement and IM blogs, e-magazines, sports blogs… the list goes on.

Start with what the purpose of your  blog will be, what kind of a blog it will be. And choose your theme accordingly.

Things to Consider when Purchasing a Theme

Apart from what sort of a blog it will be, there are numerous other considerations when it comes to purchasing a premium theme. The following set of aspects should be considered:

1.       Price – Most probably, the most important thing for a majority of the people out there. As a blog owner, you will in all probability have a limited budget, and a specific amount of money to spend on a premium theme. In addition, to get the best value, make sure you get a multiple-site license if you plan on putting the theme on more than one website. To ensure that you get the best bang for your buck, consider the following points before making the purchase:
§  Is the theme you’re purchasing appropriate for your blog and its conent?
§  Are you getting access to a single-site or multiple-site license?
§  Is the cost payable a one-time cost, or a recurring yearly cost?
§  How many themes are included in the package?
§  Refund options?
§  What kind of after-sales service do you get?
§  Is the Photoshop (PSD) file included with the package?
§  What extra goodies do you get?
2.       SEO Concerns – Regardless of what anyone says, SEO is an essential aspect of getting traffic and being able to make money off your website. It is therefore all the more important that an ‘SEO-friendly’ theme is chosen for the purpose. For two reasons: (a) if you do SEO yourself, such a theme is essential, and (b) if you don’t have time or the expertise for SEO, a SEO-friendly theme will pretty much take care of at least the on-site SEO metrics for you by its own self, such as setting meta information, using headings, setting up categories and tags, support for all popular SEO plugins and having a clean and simple layout. You can demo the theme to check if it indeed offers these things.
3.       Browser Compatibility – With the advent of many internet browsers, the popularity of IE, the surge in the use of Firefox and Chrome, and not to forget, cellphone browsers, a good theme will provide support for all browsing platforms and browsers. As the website owner, you would need to ensure that your website look uniform on all browsing environments. If the theme is browser-friendly, it will provide this information on its website, or you could check this yourself by demoing it on various browsers yourself.
4.       Customizability – A good theme will let you edit the layout and customize, edit and change just about each and every aspect of it. Finding a good theme that fits your exact specifications is easier said than done, however a highly customizable theme will certainly make the job much easier. Good theme developers understand this and design their themes accordingly. For instance customizable headers, switching sidebar layouts, choosing a different color scheme and allowing you to put your corporate or brand logo. All important aspects to a good theme.
5.       Widget Support – Widgets are small applets that you can add to your blog to improve its functionality in one way or the other. Most common areas to add widgets is the sidebar, footer or header of the website, however some widgets do not appear on the website, and function without being visible. For instance some widgets let you create popup opt-in forms, others add different SEO aspects to your blog, add a ‘recent comments’ or a ‘recent/popular posts’ field, allow for improved search functionality, add adverts to your website, while some allow you to add Facebook ‘like’ boxes or Twitter ‘follow’ boxes, add additional menus to the blog and so on and do forth. Every theme comes with its own set widget-ready areas.
6.       Customizable Homepage – A homepage traditionally displays all recent posts in one place. And in WP, that is still the default setting, however since there is a whole host of different blogs that can be started on WP now, it is important that the theme allows you to customize your homepage accordingly. For instance if it’s a photo blog, you might go for a completely different homepage than the traditional one. A good theme will not only allow you to do so, it will also let you change various elements on the homepage.
7.       Videos and Images – Google, with its recent Panda update to its search algorithm now places a great deal of emphasis on image and video integration, and adding these to your blog will not only allow your blog to be ranked higher on Google’s SERP, it will also attract and engage visitors and bring traffic to your blog. A good theme will make multimedia integration as easy as copy-and-paste: convenient, easy and simple. No tinkering about with the code, simple copy-paste embedding mechanism. Furthermore, it will also allow you to easily set size, change orientation, alignment etc.
8.       Social Media – In addition to multimedia integration, Google also takes notice of blogs which make social media integration an important aspect of their websites. Getting traffic from these sources is considered to be authority referral traffic, and could see you get ranked very quickly. Besides, everyone is on Facebook and Twitter right? It’s an amazing, free marketing platform. And superior quality themes will almost always provide some form of social media integration: whether it’s like, tweet or share buttons to all popular social networks, follow buttons, and at times, even Facebook ‘like boxes’ and streams. You will of course need to set these up.
9.       Appearance and Looks – Last but certainly not the least in any sense, is the way a theme looks visually. Aesthetics are important, and an visually-attractive, appealing-looking theme will attract users. If your theme looks dull and boring and doesn’t do anything to catch attention (even if it has great content), chances are that your visitors will be put off before they even get to the content on the page. You need to wow them with looks, and present them with an attractive looking website as soon as it loads up.