How (and Whether) to Invest in and Structure Online Communities – Whiteboard Friday

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/seomoz/~3/XncOSxUMXtc/invest-structure-online-communities

Posted by randfish

Building an online community sounds like an attractive idea on paper. A group of enthusiastic, engaged users working on their own to boost your brand? What’s the hitch?

Well, building a thriving online community takes a great deal of effort, often with little return for a very long time. And there are other considerations: do you build your own platform, participate in an existing community, or a little of both? What are the benefits from a brand, SEO, and content marketing perspective? In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers all your questions about building yourself an online community, including whether it’s an investment worth your time.

How and whether to invest in and structure online communities

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re chatting about how and whether to invest in and structure online communities.

I want to say a thank you to @DaveCraige on Twitter. Dave, thank you very much for the question, an excellent one. I think this is something that a lot of content marketers, web marketers, community builders think about is, “Should I be making an investment in building my own community? Should I leverage someone’s existing community? How can I do that and benefit from an SEO perspective and a content marketing and a brand awareness perspective?” So we’ll try and tackle some of those questions today on Whiteboard Friday.

Strategy first!

First off, before you go and invest anywhere or build anything, I urge you to think strategy first, meaning your business has goals. You have things that you want to accomplish. Maybe those are revenue growth or conversions. Maybe they have to do with entering a new sphere of influence or pursuing a new topic. Maybe you’re trying to launch a new product. Maybe you’re trying to pivot the business or disrupt yourself, change with technology.

Whatever those business goals are, they should lead you to marketing goals, the things that marketing can help to accomplish in those business goals. From that should fall out a bunch of tactics and initiatives. It’s only down here, in your marketing goals and tactical initiatives, that if online communities match up with those and serve your broader business goals, that you should actually make the investment. If not or if they fall below the line of, “Well, we can do three things that we think this year and do them well and this is thing number 4 or number 5 or number 10,” it doesn’t make the cut.

Online communities fit here if…1. A passionate group of investment-worthy size exists in your topic.

So if, for example, you are targeting a new niche. I think Dave himself is in cryptocurrency. There’s definitely a passionate group of people in that sphere, and it is probably of investment-worthy size. More recently, that investment has been a little rocky, but certainly a large size group, and if you are targeting that group, a community could be worthwhile. So we have passion. We have a group. They are of sizable investment.

2. You/your brand/your platform can provide unique value via a community that’s superior to what’s available elsewhere.

Second, you or your brand or your platform can provide not just value but unique value, unique value different from what other people are offering via a community superior to what’s available elsewhere. Dave might himself say, “Well, there’s a bunch of communities around crypto, but I believe that I can create X, which will be unique in ways Y and Z and will be preferable for these types of participants in this way.” Maybe that’s because it enables sharing in certain ways. Maybe it enables transparency of certain kinds. Maybe it’s because it has no vested interest or ties to particular currencies or particular companies, whatever the case may be.

3. You’re willing to invest for years with little return to build something of great long-term value.

And last but not least, you’re willing to invest potentially for years, literally years without return or with very little return to build something of great long-term value. I think this is the toughest one. But communities are most similar in attribute to content marketing, where you’re going to put in a ton of upfront effort and a lot of ongoing effort before you’re going to see that return. Most of the time, most communities fail because the people behind them were not willing to make the investments to build them up, or they made other types of mistakes. We’ll talk about that in a second.

Two options: Build your own platform, or participate in an existing community

You have two options here. First, you can build your own platform. Second, you can participate in an existing community. My advice on this is never do number one without first spending a bunch of time in number two.

So if you are unfamiliar with the community platforms that already exist in interior decorating or in furniture design or in cryptocurrency or in machining tools or in men’s fashion, first participate in the communities that already exist in the space you’re targeting so that you are very familiar with the players, the platforms, the options, and opportunities. Otherwise, you will never know whether it’s an investment-worthy size, a passionate group. You’ll never know how or whether you can provide unique value. It’s just going to be too tough to get those things down. So always invest in the existing communities before you do the other one.

1. Build your own platform

Potential structures

Let’s talk quickly about building your own platform, and then we’ll talk about investing in others. If you’re deciding that what matches your goals best and your strategy best is to build your own platform, there are numerous opportunities. You can do it sort of halfway, where you build on someone else’s existing platform, for example creating your own subreddit or your own Facebook or LinkedIn group, which essentially uses another community’s platform, but you’re the owner and administrator of that community.

Or you can actually build your own forum or discussion board, your own blog and comments section, your own Q&A board, your own content leaderboard, like Hacker News or like Dharmesh and I did with Inbound.org, where we essentially built a Reddit or Hacker News-like clone for marketers.

Those investments are going to be much more severe than a Facebook group or a Twitter hashtag, a Twitter chat or a LinkedIn group, or those kinds of things, but you want to compare the benefits and drawbacks. In each, there are some of each.

Benefits & drawbacks

So forums and discussions, those are going to have user-generated content, which is a beautiful thing because it scales non-linearly with your investment. So if you build up a community of people who are on an ongoing basis creating topics and answering those topics and talking about those things in either a Q&A board or a forum discussion or a content leaderboard, what’s great is you get that benefit, that SEO benefit of having a bunch of longtail, hopefully high-quality content and discussion you’re going to need to do.

Mostly, what you’re going to worry about is drawbacks like the graveyard effect, where the community appears empty and so no one participates and maybe it drags down Google’s perception of your site because you have a bunch of low quality or thin pages, or people leave a bunch of spam in there or they become communities filled with hate groups, and the internet can devolve very quickly, as you can see from a lot of online communities.

Whatever you’re doing, blog and comments, you get SEO benefits, you get thought leadership benefits, but it requires regular content investments. You don’t get the UGC benefit quite like you would with a forum or a discussion. With Facebook groups or LinkedIn groups, Twitter hashtags, it’s easy to build, but there’s no SEO benefit, usually very little to none.

With a Q&A board, you do get UGC and SEO. You still have those same moderation and graveyard risks.

With content leaderboards, they’re very difficult to maintain, Inbound.org being a good example, where Dharmesh and I figured, “Hey, we can get this thing up and rolling,” and then it turns out no, we need to hire people and maintain it and put in a bunch of effort and energy. But it can become a bookmarkable destination, which means you get repeat traffic over and over.

Whatever you’re choosing, make sure you list out these benefits and then align these with the strategy, the marketing goal, the tactics and initiatives that flow from those. That’s going to help determine how you should structure, whether you should structure your own community.

2. Participate in existing communities

Size/reach

The other option is participating in existing ones, places like Quora, subreddits, Twitter, LinkedIn groups, existing forums. Same thing, you’re going to take these. Well, we can participate on an existing forum, and we can see that the size and reach is on average about nine responses per thread, about three threads per day, three new threads per day.

Benefits & drawbacks

The benefit is that it can build up our thought leadership and our recognition among this group of influential people in our field. The drawback is it builds our competitor’s content, because this forum is going to be ranking for all those things. They own the platform. It’s not our owned platform. Then we align that with our goals and initiatives.

Four bits of advice1. If you build, build for SEO + owned channels. Don’t create on someone else’s platform.

So I’m not going to dive through all of these, but I do want to end on some bits of advice. So I mentioned already make sure you invest in other people’s communities before you build your own. I would also add to that if you’re going to build something, if you’re going to build your own, I would generally rule these things out — LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Twitter hashtag groups. Why? Because those other platforms control them, and then they can change them at any time and your reach can change on those platforms. I would urge you to build for SEO and for an owned media channel.

2. Start with a platform that doesn’t lose credibility when empty (e.g. blog > forum).

Second, I’d start with a platform that doesn’t lose credibility when it’s empty. That is to say if you know you want to build a forum or a content leaderboard or a Q&A board, make it something where you know that you and your existing team can do all the work to create a non-graveyard-like environment initially. That could mean limiting it to only a few sections in a forum, or all the Q&A goes in one place as opposed to there are many subforums that have zero threads and zero comments and zero replies, or every single thing that’s posted, we know that at least two of us internally will respond to them, that type of stuff.

3. Don’t use a subdomain or separate domain.

Third, if you can, avoid using a subdomain and definitely don’t use a separate domain. Subdomains inherit some of the ranking ability and benefits of the primary domain they’re on. Separate domains tend to inherit almost none.

4. Before you build, gather a willing, excited crew via an email group who will be your first active members.

Last, but not least, before you build, gather a willing, excited group of people, your crew, hopefully via an email group — this has served me extremely well — who will be those first active members.

So if you’re building something in the crypto space, as maybe Dave is considering, I might say to him, hey, find those 10 or 15 or 20 people who are in your world, who you talk to online already, create an email group, all be chatting with each other and contributing. Then start your Q&A board, or then start your blog and your comments section, or then start your forum, what have you. If you can seed it with that initial passionate group, you will get over a lot of the big hurdles around building or rolling your own community system.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we’ll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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How to Deal with Fake Negative Reviews on Google

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/seomoz/~3/vl_Uc5BN_rw/fake-negative-reviews-on-google

Posted by JoyHawkins

Fake reviews are a growing problem for those of us that own small businesses. In the online world, it’s extremely easy to create a new account and leave either a positive or negative review for any business — regardless of whether you’ve ever tried to hire them.

Google has tons of policies for users that leave reviews. But in my experience they’re terrible at automatically catching violations of these policies. At my agency, my team spends time each month carefully monitoring reviews for our clients and their competitors. The good news is that if you’re diligent at tracking them and can make a good enough case for why the reviews are against the guidelines, you can get them removed by contacting Google on Twitter, Facebook, or reporting via the forum.

Recently, my company got hit with three negative reviews, all left in the span of 5 minutes:

Two of the three reviews were ratings without reviews. These are the hardest to get rid of because Google will normally tell you that they don’t violate the guidelines — since there’s no text on them. I instantly knew they weren’t customers because I’m really selective about who I work with and keep my client base small intentionally. I would know if someone that was paying me was unhappy.

The challenge with negative reviews on Google

The challenge is that Google doesn’t know who your customers are, and they won’t accept “this wasn’t a customer” as an acceptable reason to remove a review, since they allow people to use anonymous usernames. In most cases, it’s extremely difficult to prove the identity of someone online.

The other challenge is that a person doesn’t have to be a customer to be eligible to leave a review. They have to have a “customer experience,” which could be anything from trying to call you and getting your voicemail to dropping by your office and just browsing around.

How to respond

When you work hard to build a good, ethical business, it’s always infuriating when a random person has the power to destroy what took you years to build. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit upset when these reviews came in. Thankfully, I was able to follow the advice I’ve given many people in the last decade, which is to calm down and think about what your future prospects will see when they come across review and the way you respond to it.

Solution: Share your dilemma

I decided to post on Twitter and Facebook about my lovely three negative reviews, and the response I got was overwhelming. People had really great and amusing things to say about my dilemma.

Dear: Whoever spammed my listing this morning with fake reviews. You probably should have gone with more believable usernames. #StopCrapOnTheMap pic.twitter.com/9Nat163d93

— Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) January 16, 2018

Whoever was behind these three reviews was seeking to harm my business. The irony is that they actually helped me, because I ended up getting three new positive reviews as a result of sharing my experience with people that I knew would rally behind me.

For most businesses, your evangelists might not be on Twitter, but you could post about it on your personal Facebook profile. Any friends that have used your service or patronized your business would likely respond in the same manner. It’s important to note that I never asked anyone to review me when posting this — it was simply the natural response from people that were a fan of my company and what we stand for. If you’re a great company, you’ll have these types of customers and they should be the people you want to share this experience with!

But what about getting the negative reviews removed?

In this case, I was able to get the three reviews removed. However, there have also been several cases where I’ve seen Google refuse to remove them for others. My plan B was to post a response to the reviews offering these “customers” a 100% refund. After all, 100% of zero is still zero — I had nothing to lose. This would also ensure that future prospects see that I’m willing to address people that have a negative experience, since even the best businesses in the world aren’t perfect. As much as I love my 5-star rating average, studies have shown that 4.2–4.5 is actually the ideal average star rating for purchase probability.

Have you had an experience with fake negative reviews on Google? If so, I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment.


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The Google Ranking Factor You Can Influence in an Afternoon [Case Study]

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/seomoz/~3/zmiPvIGD0HU/influence-googles-ranking-factor

Posted by sanfran

What does Google consider “quality content”? And how do you capitalize on a seemingly subjective characteristic to improve your standing in search?

We’ve been trying to figure this out since the Hummingbird algorithm was dropped in our laps in 2013, prioritizing “context” over “keyword usage/frequency.” This meant that Google’s algorithm intended to understand the meaning behind the words on the page, rather than the page’s keywords and metadata alone.

This new sea change meant the algorithm was going to read in between the lines in order to deliver content that matched the true intent of someone searching for a keyword.

Write longer content? Not so fast!

Watching us SEOs respond to Google updates is hilarious. We’re like a floor full of day traders getting news on the latest cryptocurrency.

One of the most prominent theories that made the rounds was that longer content was the key to organic ranking. I’m sure you’ve read plenty of articles on this. We at Brafton, a content marketing agency, latched onto that one for a while as well. We even experienced some mixed success.

However, what we didn’t realize was that when we experienced success, it was because we accidentally stumbled on the true ranking factor.

Longer content alone was not the intent behind Hummingbird.

Content depth

Let’s take a hypothetical scenario.

If you were to search the keyword “search optimization techniques,” you would see a SERP that looks similar to the following:

Nothing too surprising about these results.

However, if you were to go through each of these 10 results and take note of the major topics they discussed, theoretically you would have a list of all the topics being discussed by all of the top ranking sites.

Example:

Position 1 topics discussed: A, C, D, E, F

Position 2 topics discussed: A, B, F

Position 3 topics discussed: C, D, F

Position 4 topics discussed: A, E, F

Once you finished this exercise, you would have a comprehensive list of every topic discussed (A–F), and you would start to see patterns of priority emerge.

In the example above, note “topic F” is discussed in all four pieces of content. One would consider this a cornerstone topic that should be prioritized.

If you were then to write a piece of content that covered each of the topics discussed by every competitor on page one, and emphasized the cornerstone topics appropriately, in theory, you would have the most comprehensive piece of content on that particular topic.

By producing the most comprehensive piece of content available, you would have the highest quality result that will best satisfy the searcher’s intent. More than that, you would have essentially created the ultimate resource center for everything a person would want to know about that topic.

How to identify topics to discuss in a piece of content

At this point, we’re only theoretical. The theory makes logical sense, but does it actually work? And how do we go about scientifically gathering information on topics to discuss in a piece of content?

Finding topics to cover:

Manually: As discussed previously, you can do it manually. This process is tedious and labor-intensive, but it can be done on a small scale. Using SEMrush: SEMrush features an SEO content template that will provide guidance on topic selection for a given keyword. Using MarketMuse: MarketMuse was originally built for the very purpose of content depth, with an algorithm that mimics Hummingbird. MM takes a largely unscientific process and makes it scientific. For the purpose of this case study, we used MarketMuse. The process

Watch the process in action

1. Identify content worth optimizing

We went through a massive list of keywords our blog ranked for. We filtered that list down to keywords that were not ranking number one in SERPs but had strong intent. You can also do this with core landing pages.

Here’s an example: We were ranking in the third position for the keyword “financial content marketing.” While this is a low-volume keyword, we were enthusiastic to own it due to the high commercial intent it comes with.

2. Evaluate your existing piece

Take a subjective look at your piece of content that is ranking for the keyword. Does it SEEM like a comprehensive piece? Could it benefit from updated examples? Could it benefit from better/updated inline embedded media? With a cursory look at our existing content, it was clear that the examples we used were old, as was the branding.

3. Identify topics

As mentioned earlier, you can do this in a few different ways. We used MarketMuse to identify the topics we were doing a good job of covering as well as our topic gaps, topics that competitors were discussing, but we were not. The results were as follows:

Topics we did a good job of covering:

Content marketing impact on branding Impact of using case studies Importance of infographics Business implications of a content marketing program Creating articles for your audience

Topics we did a poor job of covering:

Marketing to millennials How to market to existing clients Crafting a content marketing strategy Identifying and tracking goals 4. Rewrite the piece

Considering how out-of-date our examples were, and the number of topics we had neglected to discuss, we determined a full rewrite of the piece was warranted. Our writer, Mike O’Neill, was given the topic guidance, ensuring he had a firm understanding of everything that needed to be discussed in order to create a comprehensive article.

5. Update the content

To maintain our link equity, we kept the same URL and simply updated the old content with the new. Then we updated the publish date. The new article looks like this, with updated content depth, modern branding, and inline visuals.

6. Fetch as Google

Rather than wait for Google to reindex the content, I wanted to see the results immediately (and it is indeed immediate).

7. Check your results

Open an incognito window and see your updated position.

Promising results:

We have run more than a dozen experiments and have seen positive results across the board. As demonstrated in the video, these results are usually realized within 60 seconds of reindexing the updated content.

Keyword target

Old Ranking

New ranking

“Financial content marketing”

3

1

“What is a subdomain”

16

6

“Best company newsletters”

32

4

“Staffing marketing”

7

3

“Content marketing agency”

16

1

“Google local business cards”

16

5

“Company blog”

7

4

“SEO marketing tools”

9

3

Of those tests, here’s another example of this process in action for the keyword, “best company newsletters.”

Before:

After

Assumptions:

From these results, we can assume that content depth and breadth of topic coverage matters — a lot. Google’s algorithm seems to have an understanding of the competitive topic landscape for a keyword. In our hypothetical example from before, it would appear the algorithm knows that topics A–F exist for a given keyword and uses that collection of topics as a benchmark for content depth across competitors.

We can also assume Google’s algorithm either a.) responds immediately to updated information, or b.) has a cached snapshot of the competitive content depth landscape for any given keyword. Either of these scenarios is very likely because of the speed at which updated content is re-ranked.

In conclusion, don’t arbitrarily write long content and call it “high quality.” Choose a keyword you want to rank for and create a comprehensive piece of content that fully supports that keyword. There is no guarantee you’ll be granted a top position — domain strength factors play a huge role in rankings — but you’ll certainly improve your odds, as we have seen.


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The Biggest Mistake Digital Marketers Ever Made: Claiming to Measure Everything

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/seomoz/~3/IY5gkVsxKIs/claiming-to-measure-everything

Posted by willcritchlow

Digital marketing is measurable.

It’s probably the single most common claim everyone hears about digital, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen conference speakers talk about it (heck, I’ve even done it myself).

I mean, look at those offline dinosaurs, the argument goes. They all know that half their spend is wasted — they just don’t know which half.

Maybe the joke’s on us digital marketers though, who garnered only 41% of global ad spend even in 2017 after years of strong growth.

Unfortunately, while we were geeking out about attribution models and cross-device tracking, we were accidentally triggering a common human cognitive bias that kept us anchored on small amounts, leaving buckets of money on the table and fundamentally reducing our impact and access to the C-suite.

And what’s worse is that we have convinced ourselves that it’s a critical part of what makes digital marketing great. The simplest way to see this is to realize that, for most of us, I very much doubt that if you removed all our measurement ability we’d reduce our digital marketing investment to nothing.

In truth, of course, we’re nowhere close to measuring all the benefits of most of the things we do. We certainly track the last clicks, and we’re not bad at tracking any clicks on the path to conversion on the same device, but we generally suck at capturing:

Anything that happens on a different device Brand awareness impacts that lead to much later improvements in conversion rate, average order value, or lifetime value Benefits of visibility or impressions that aren’t clicked Brand affinity generally The cognitive bias that leads us astray

All of this means that the returns we report on tend to be just the most direct returns. This should be fine — it’s just a floor on the true value (“this activity has generated at least this much value for the brand”) — but the “anchoring” cognitive bias means that it messes with our minds and our clients’ minds. Anchoring is the process whereby we fixate on the first number we hear and subsequently estimate unknowns closer to the anchoring number than we should. Famous experiments have shown that even showing people a totally random number can drag their subsequent estimates up or down.

So even if the true value of our activity was 10x the measured value, we’d be stuck on estimating the true value as very close to the single concrete, exact number we heard along the way.

This tends to result in the measured value being seen as a ceiling on the true value. Other biases like the availability heuristic (which results in us overstating the likelihood of things that are easy to remember) tend to mean that we tend to want to factor in obvious ways that the direct value measurement could be overstating things, and leave to one side all the unmeasured extra value.

The mistake became a really big one because fortunately/unfortunately, the measured return in digital has often been enough to justify at least a reasonable level of the activity. If it hadn’t been (think the vanishingly small number of people who see a billboard and immediately buy a car within the next week when they weren’t otherwise going to do so) we’d have been forced to talk more about the other benefits. But we weren’t. So we lazily talked about the measured value, and about the measurability as a benefit and a differentiator.

The threats of relying on exact measurement

Not only do we leave a whole load of credit (read: cash) on the table, but it also leads to threats to measurability being seen as existential threats to digital marketing activity as a whole. We know that there are growing threats to measuring accurately, including regulatory, technological, and user-behavior shifts:

GDPR and other privacy regulations are limiting what we are allowed to do (and, as platforms catch up, what we can do) Privacy features are being included in more products, added on by savvy consumers, or simply being set to be on by default more often, with even the biggest company in the world touting privacy as a core differentiator Users continue to increase the extent to which they research and buy across multiple devices Compared to early in Google’s rise, the lack of keyword-level analytics data and the rise of (not provided) means that we have far less visibility into the details than we used to when the narrative of measurability was being written

Now, imagine that the combination of these trends meant that you lost 100% of your analytics and data. Would it mean that your leads stopped? Would you immediately turn your website off? Stop marketing?

I suggest that the answer to all of that is “no.” There’s a ton of value to digital marketing beyond the ability to track specific interactions.

We’re obviously not going to see our measurable insights disappear to zero, but for all the reasons I outlined above, it’s worth thinking about all the ways that our activities add value, how that value manifests, and some ways of proving it exists even if you can’t measure it.

How should we talk about value?

There are two pieces to the brand value puzzle:

Figuring out the value of increasing brand awareness or affinity Understanding how our digital activities are changing said awareness or affinity

There’s obviously a lot of research into brand valuations generally, and while it’s outside the scope of this piece to think about total brand value, it’s worth noting that some methodologies place as much as 75% of the enterprise value of even some large companies in the value of their brands:

Image source

My colleague Tom Capper has written about a variety of ways to measure changes in brand awareness, which attacks a good chunk of the second challenge. But challenge #1 remains: how do we figure out what it’s worth to carry out some marketing activity that changes brand awareness or affinity?

In a recent post, I discussed different ways of building marketing models and one of the methodologies I described might be useful for this – namely so-called “top-down” modelling which I defined as being about percentages and trends (as opposed to raw numbers and units of production).

The top-down approach

I’ve come up with two possible ways of modelling brand value in a transactional sense:

1. The Sherlock approach“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
– Sherlock Holmes

The outline would be to take the total new revenue acquired in a period. Subtract from this any elements that can be attributed to specific acquisition channels; whatever remains must be brand. If this is in any way stable or predictable over multiple periods, you can use it as a baseline value from which to apply the methodologies outlined above for measuring changes in brand awareness and affinity.

2. Aggressive attribution

If you run normal first-touch attribution reports, the limitations of measurement (clearing cookies, multiple devices etc) mean that you will show first-touch revenue that seems somewhat implausible (e.g. email; email surely can’t be a first-touch source — how did they get on your email list in the first place?):

Click for a larger version

In this screenshot we see that although first-touch dramatically reduces the influence of direct, for instance, it still accounts for more than 15% of new revenue.

The aggressive attribution model takes total revenue and splits it between the acquisition channels (unbranded search, paid social, referral). A first pass on this would simply split it in the relative proportion to the size of each of those channels, effectively normalizing them, though you could build more sophisticated models.

Note that there is no way of perfectly identifying branded/unbranded organic search since (not provided) and so you’ll have to use a proxy like homepage search vs. non-homepage search.

But fundamentally, the argument here would be that any revenue coming from a “first touch” of:

Branded search Direct Organic social Email

…was actually acquired previously via one of the acquisition channels and so we attempt to attribute it to those channels.

Even this under-represents brand value

Both of those methodologies are pretty aggressive — but they might still under-represent brand value. Here are two additional mechanics where brand drives organic search volume in ways I haven’t figured out how to measure yet:

Trusting Amazon to rank

I like reading on the Kindle. If I hear of a book I’d like to read, I’ll often Google the name of the book on its own and trust that Amazon will rank first or second so I can get to the Kindle page to buy it. This is effectively a branded search for Amazon (and if it doesn’t rank, I’ll likely follow up with a [book name amazon] search or head on over to Amazon to search there directly).

But because all I’ve appeared to do is search [book name] on Google and then click through to Amazon, there is nothing to differentiate this from an unbranded search.

Spotting brands you trust in the SERPs

I imagine we all have anecdotal experience of doing this: you do a search and you spot a website you know and trust (or where you have an account) ranking somewhere other than #1 and click on it regardless of position.

One time that I can specifically recall noticing this tendency growing in myself was when I started doing tons more baby-related searches after my first child was born. Up until that point, I had effectively zero brand affinity with anyone in the space, but I quickly grew to rate the content put out by babycentre (babycenter in the US) and I found myself often clicking on their result in position 3 or 4 even when I hadn’t set out to look for them, e.g. in results like this one:

It was fascinating to me to observe this behavior in myself because I had no real interaction with babycentre outside of search, and yet, by consistently ranking well across tons of long-tail queries and providing consistently good content and user experience I came to know and trust them and click on them even when they were outranked. I find this to be a great example because it is entirely self-contained within organic search. They built a brand effect through organic search and reaped the reward in increased organic search.

I have essentially no ideas on how to measure either of these effects. If you have any bright ideas, do let me know in the comments.

Budgets will come under pressure

My belief is that total digital budgets will continue to grow (especially as TV continues to fragment), but I also believe that individual budgets are going to come under scrutiny and pressure making this kind of thinking increasingly important.

We know that there is going to be pressure on referral traffic from Facebook following the recent news feed announcements, but there is also pressure on trust in Google:

Before the recent news feed changes, slightly misleading stories had implied that Google had lost the top spot as the largest referrer of traffic (whereas in fact this was only briefly true in media) The growth of the mobile-first card view and richer and richer SERPs has led to declines in outbound CTR in some areas The increasingly black-box nature of Google’s algorithm and an increasing use of ML make the algorithm increasingly impenetrable and mean that we are having to do more testing on individual sites to understand what works

While I believe that the opportunity is large and still growing (see, for example, this slide showing Google growing as a referrer of traffic even as CTR has declined in some areas), it’s clear that the narrative is going to lead to more challenging conversations and budgets under increased scrutiny.

Can you justify your SEO investment?

What do you say when your CMO asks what you’re getting for your SEO investment?

What do you say when she asks whether the organic search opportunity is tapped out?

I’ll probably explore the answers to both these questions more in another post, but suffice it to say that I do a lot of thinking about these kinds of questions.

The first is why we have built our split-testing platform to make organic SEO investments measurable, quantifiable and accountable.

The second is why I think it’s super important to remember the big picture while the media is running around with their hair on fire. Media companies saw Facebook overtake Google as a traffic channel (and then are likely seeing that reverse right now), but most of the web has Google as the largest growing source of traffic and value.

The reality (from clickstream data) is that it’s really easy to forget how long the long-tail is and how sparse search features and ads are on the extreme long-tail:

Only 3–4% of all searches result in a click on an ad, for example. Google’s incredible (and still growing) business is based on a small subset of commercial searches Google’s share of all outbound referral traffic across the web is growing (and Facebook’s is shrinking as they increasingly wall off their garden)

The opportunity is for smart brands to capitalize on a growing opportunity while their competitors sink time and money into a social space that is increasingly all about Facebook, and increasingly pay-to-play.

What do you think? Are you having these hard conversations with leadership? How are you measuring your digital brand’s value?


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236: 5 Areas to Focus on to Grow Your Blogging Income

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ProbloggerHelpingBloggersEarnMoney/~3/NDCEdyTYsj8/

Growing Your Blog’s Income

In today’s episode, I want to talk about growing your blogging income, particularly when you’ve already started building some traffic and income streams on your blog.

This one will be most relevant if you’re at an intermediate to more advanced level. If you’re just starting out you’ll learn things that may not be relevant for you today, but will be good to know going forward.

Series on Growing Traffic to Your Blog: 2 Questions to Ask to Help You Find Readers for Your Blog 2 Types of Content that Help You to Find Readers for Your Blog Turn Surfers into Blog Readers by Building a Sticky Blog Find Readers for Your Blog Through Commenting and Relationships Grow Traffic to Your Blog Through Guest Posting and Creating Content for Other Blogs, Forums, Media and Events Podcast on Autoresponders: How to Drive Traffic and Profit in your Blogging with Autoresponders Check out our two courses – ProBlogger’s ultimate guide to start a blog and the soon to be released 31 Days to Build a better blog: Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog ProBlogger Pro – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Join our Facebook Group Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view

Hi there and welcome to episode 236 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, a blog, podcast, events, job board, series of ebooks, and courses, all designed to help you as a blogger to grow your blog and to build profit around your blog which is exactly what we’re talking today in today’s episode. You can learn more about ProBlogger at problogger.com. Also, check out our two new courses, How to Start a Blog course for those of you who are wanting to start a blog. You can get it at problogger.com/startablog or 31 Days to Build a Better Blog which will be launching in March which is more relevant for those of you who’ve already got a blog whether it’s a relatively new one or you’re at that intermediate stage. You can find that at problogger.com/31days.

In today’s episode, I wanna talk to you about growing your blog’s income, particularly those of you who’ve already got a bit of a start with building some traffic and income streams to your blog. This episode will be much relevant for those of you are perhaps at more of an intermediate level, maybe more of an advanced level. You’ve got a start but you’re not satisfied with the level of your income. Those of you who are just starting out, you’re probably gonna hear some things that may not be relevant to you today but you might also find them useful to have in the back of your mind as you go forward.

Today’s show notes and full transcript of the show are at problogger.com/podcast/236.

Today’s show is inspired by a conversation I had this week with a blogger who had been blogging for a couple of years now. She built some traffic up to her blog. She’d already started to experiment with selling sponsored content on her blog. She was in sort of a style, fashion, beauty type niche and had been selling sponsored posts on the site but was not satisfied with the level that she was at. She’s been blogging for two or three years and when she started out had hoped she’d be full time by this point. Whilst she had some success so far with building the income on her blog, she came to me asking, “How do I double what I’m doing?” She really needed to double what she was doing to get to a full time level.

On one hand, it was great, getting to a half time level with your blog is something that many bloggers dream of but she also had this thirst for more because she wanted to be able to give up other par- time work, children were going to school now and she had a little bit more time on her hands and so she wanted to really sink herself into her blogging, and to justify being able to do that full time rather than having to have a bitsy kind of life doing lots of different things. She came to me asking, “How do I double my income?” Now, it’s a tricky question and to answer it, I actually took her back to my own kind of tipping point of my own blog.

Back in, I think it must have been 2004, I’ve been blogging for a couple of years by this point, and for the first year I didn’t even know you could make money from your blog. I hadn’t made any money and then the second year, I started to dabble with some Google AdSense ads on my blog, some Amazon affiliate income. Many of you have heard me tell the story before, I did not start spectacularly, I had a few dollars a day really in those first months or so. But it did gradually grow and I got to a similar point to the blogger that I had this conversation with this week where I was starting to see it as a part-time job. I began to have this dream that it could be a full time job.

To cut the long story short, I realized I needed to really escalate the growth of my income. Because it was a very slow, steady growth, and it eventually was going to get to be a full time thing if it kept growing the way that it was, but it was gonna take me 10 years to get to that point. Vanessa and myself decided that really, if I wanted to be a full time blogger, I needed to escalate the growth of the income. We set ourselves a six month time limit to do it which perhaps is not the most realistic deadline saying, “I’m gonna be full time in six months,” isn’t something I would recommend every blogger do. But we kind of sensed that I really needed to have this deadline because I was treating it as a one-day thing. We set ourselves this deadline.

The problem was to get to that deadline, I needed to not double my income, I needed to quadruple my income. I was a quarter time kind of blogger, if you like, at the time. I wanted to get to a full time level.

Having that deadline really did help me to spur myself on. One of the things I actually said to tis blogger this week was, “Maybe you need some sort of a deadline.” In my case, we actually said that if I didn’t get to full time level in six months that I would go and get a real job, and that would kind of put a real halt on my blogging. Potentially, could have even had to give it up, that six month mark. I wouldn’t suggest you do that but at least having some sort of date in mind, some sort of a deadline in mind, can actually be helpful. It certainly helped me. It motivated me incredibly.

Some of you heard me tell the story before, but the day I set that deadline was the day I started doing things I always knew I should do, but I had no real reason to do. Like ringing up an advertiser for the first time and saying, “Hey, will you advertise on my blog?” Thinking seriously about growing traffic and all the things I knew I could be doing and I should be doing, I actually had a reason to start doing them. That deadline really did help in that regard. Over the next six months, I worked really hard on the things that I knew should be doing. I got to the point after a few months, I think it was three or four months, where I did reached that full time level, things just took off as a result of me doing things I knew I should do.

The first thing I encouraged this blogger to think about was, “What are the things you already know you should be doing that you’ve been putting off?” Most bloggers I talk to have this someday list, one day I’m going to do this, or one day I’m going to do that. I really wanna encourage you to look at your someday list and ask yourself, “What have I been putting off doing?” It’s such a powerful exercise to do, and to write out your someday list, and then to identify the things on that list, the things you already know you should be doing, identify those and start with those because you already probably know what you need to do to get to a full time level.

I’m gonna suggest to you, five areas that will help you to grow your blogging income. I wanna encourage to just pause this podcast for a moment and to ask yourself this question, “What do I think I need to do?” Because I suspect, that as I go through this list, if you have paused and you’ve asked that question, you’re probably gonna already have the answer. Once you do it, go listen to the rest of the podcast. I also wanna encourage to listen to you because I suspect you already intuitively know what it is that you need to do.

Some of you will remember I did a series of podcasts. I think it started back in episode 66 and then went for 10 more episodes over the next few weeks. It was called 10 Things That You Can Do Today That Will Payoff In Your Blog Forever. The whole idea of that series was to identify the things on our someday list and to do those things today, to bring those things forward. I suggested ten things in that series that will help to escalate the growth of your blog. Things that you can do today that are gonna payoff forever. I wanted to say right up front, for me, this is the key. This is the key to escalating the growth of your income in your blog, to take off of your someday list and start doing them today.

I think it was episode 66 right up to I guess episode 77. You might wanna check out that. But as I think about the growth of my own blogging income back at that point, in 2004, but also eversince. Since 2004, I’ve been full time pretty much the whole time. My blogging income did dip for one short period after that where Google decided to deindex me from their search result but apart from six-week glitch where I felt out of Google’s result, I’ve been a full time blogger ever since 2004. My blogging income has gone up and down over that time. But there’s been these spikes or there’s been these periods where the blogging income has escalated really quickly. I think it was back in 2004 things really took off and I got to the full time. But 2008, it plateaued, it was steady, and then it took off again.

What I’ve put together today for this podcast episode are five things that I can see over the last 15 or so years that have led to spiking my income and growth in my income. As I think about it, there’s five main things that have led to that type of growth. I wanna share them with you today. These are not tactical things, these are more general things, and then I’m gonna sort of dig into some tactical things as well.

The first thing that almost always has led to growth in the income is spikes in traffic. I can see very clearly as I look at my earnings over the last 14, 15 years that there’s a correlation between an increase in traffic and an increase in income. It’s not always exactly correlated. Different types of traffic can lead to different increases in income. A spike in traffic from Google for me pays off really well when it comes to Google AdSense earnings. But it doesn’t necessarily lead to a massive increase in affiliate earnings, but other types of traffic do convert with affiliates. It’s not an exact science but in the general principle I will say if you can increase your traffic, you’re going to increase your income, at least potentially.

This is a no-brainer in some ways. I know most of you kind of understand this. But one way that I grew my income back in 2004 when I went from part-time blogger to a full time blogger was to put a lot of effort into growing my traffic. I learned SEO in that period. I started to write content based upon the words that I felt people would be searching google for. I put a lot of effort into creating guest content for other blogs and participating in forums. Back then, there was no real social media, but today I will put more time into social media. These types of activities can drive more traffic to your site which can lead to an increase in your earnings.

Another one that you might wanna try is advertising your blog, investing some money into driving some traffic. Maybe you wanna spend some more time on a new social network, maybe it’s time for you to really invest your learning into Pinterest. There’s a variety of different ways that you can grow traffic to your blog.

I don’t wanna get into the nitty-gritty of growing traffic to your blog in this particular episode because I’ve covered it so many times in the past. I would encourage you, if traffic is the thing you know you need to grow and particularly if you’re a new blogger, this is probably the one that’s going to lead to the biggest growth for you in terms of income. You really need some traffic.

Go back and listen to episode 33, 34, 35, 36, and 37. There’s five episodes there that I did as a series on growing traffic for your blog. I talk about the different types of content that can grow traffic. I talk about creating guest content in different places. I think I talk about using challenges to grow traffic. There’s five episodes there that will help you to think about how to grow traffic to your blog. Again, I don’t wanna promise if you double your traffic, you’re gonna double your income because it does depend upon where the traffic is coming from, and the type of traffic you could get.

I remember there were times, way back in the day, where I got a lot of traffic in from a site like Digg which is similar to Reddit today. That really did not grow my income at all because it was the wrong type of traffic. It was teenage boys who were there to make fun of my content, some even went viral because it was funny but it didn’t really lead to an on-going growth to my income.

Part of the process is to try and work out what type of traffic and what type of reader you’re going to get as well. But in general, if you’re gonna grow your traffic, you’re gonna grow your income.

Again, that’s a bit of a no-brainer in some ways but it just has to be said. If you can grow your traffic, you’re gonna hopefully grow your income as well. So that’s number one, traffic.

Number two, and this has happened time and time again for me, to grow your income, one of the ways that you can do that is to add a new income stream. One of the first times I learnt this was when I had been playing around with AdSense for a while. I think I was probably earning $30 or $40 a day from AdSense which I was pretty happy with. AdSense, for those of you who don’t know, is Google’s ad network. I was kind of managing along okay and then I began to realize other bloggers were using other ad networks as well as AdSense.

Back in the day, there were some rules around what kind of ads you can have on your blog alongside the AdSense. You couldn’t have exactly the same types of ads. But there were these other ad networks beginning to emerge. One of them that caught my eye was Chitika which is still around today. You might wanna check that out. I’ll link to it in today’s show notes. It doesn’t work on every blog but back in the day, it was a different type of ad. They were image-based ads but they weren’t sort of like the banner ads that we see today. They actually featured little products. It didn’t break AdSense’s Terms of Service to run these Chitika ads alongside the AdSense ads, and so I decided I’m gonna experiment with Chitika. I didn’t replace AdSense, I actually added these new ad units onto my page.

I remember doing it thinking maybe I’ll land a few extra dollars a day. I went to to bed the night after I did it, the reports took a little while to come in so I didn’t really know what impact it was going to have. I was a bit worried that maybe it would decrease my AdSense revenue. I woke up the next day and checked my reports and I couldn’t believe it because my AdSense had not gone down at all but my Chitika income was the same as my AdSense income. What I realized is that I doubled my income overnight. Now it took me a few days to work out this was actually true, because I thought I’ll give it a few days to work it out, but I doubled my income simply by adding a new couple of ad units onto my site. Adding this extra income stream obviously led to an increase in my overall income. This has happened time and time again for me.

I wanna say right upfront you wanna be a bit careful about adding too much onto your site in terms of ads particularly because it can have a downward effect on your Google search rankings. Google doesn’t like it when you put too many ads on your site particularly if they’re really up or above the fold, and they can’t see any content vault. You wanna be a bit careful there, you don’t want to plaster yourself with ads.

But there’s such a variety of ways that you can monetize your site. I saw this when I added Chitika. I saw this when I began to added a job board onto ProBlogger. I saw this when I started to create ebooks for my sites, when I started to create other products like courses. I started to promote affiliate products, other people’s courses and ebooks. There was a period on ProBlogger when I offered coaching services. There was a period where I did some freelance writing for other sites, that was another income stream.

There’s all these different ways that you can explore adding a new income stream onto your site. This is probably one of the things I would encourage those of you who have one or two income streams on their site to begin to think about. Have a look at what other bloggers in your niche are doing. What are they doing to make money from their blogs? You might discover by looking around that they’re all using this one type of ad network, or you might discover that they’re all promoting this type of affiliate product, or you might discover that there’s an opportunity for you to set-up a membership area on your site where you charge a little bit of money per month for some premium content to your community area. Or maybe you could offer some coaching, or maybe you could set-up a mastermind group, or maybe you could set-up a Patreon account. This is where people donate money and you maybe give them some extra bonuses, maybe you could run a little event, maybe a meet-up in your area, or an online event. These are all different income streams that bloggers use at different times.

Again, in today’s show notes, I’ll link to a money map that I created with 30 or 40 different ways that you can make money from blogging. For me, this was one of the ways that I went from part-time to full time, adding these new income streams into my blog. It wasn’t just a matter of doing this or increase my traffic, I actually focused on both of these things, and that had this compound effect as well.

Maybe now is the time to begin to think about adding a new income stream to your blog. But for me, the most powerful one that I ever did is I doubled my income by adding Chitika but that went from $30 to $60 a day. It was significant at the time but it wasn’t huge.

For me, the big one was when I began to do ebooks and I began to sell my own products. That’s a fairly serious investment of time to create a product of my own but it paid off. I’ve talked about that first experience on this podcast before – overnight earning $10,000 or $15,000 when I first launched my first ebook. Over that first week, making $70,000 from that ebook. That blew my mind but I have to say that was based upon the first thing I talked about, building the traffic. You’re not gonna have those massive results unless you also do number one.

Again, the first one is traffic, second one was adding a new income stream, the third one is better execution of an existing income stream or better conversion, I guess you might wanna talk about. This really does apply to almost any income stream. What you are doing presently to earn income, you could possibly do it better. There’s probably some way that you can improve what you are doing. Again, this was another thing that I really focused on back in 2004.

I had these AdSense ads on my site but gradually, over time, I began to learn that I could earn more from AdSense on my site, even with the same amount of traffic. I could get better at doing AdSense. For me, Adsense, it’s a about a number of things. How many ads do you have on the site? Where are they positioned on the site? What size ad units do you have? Back then, it was also the design of the ads because you can change the colors of the texts ads. There was a variety of things that I began to learn about AdSense that improved the conversion that I was getting from that. That increased my, to get a bit technical, the CPM, what I could earn per page view.

If you’re running ads on your site, invest some time and energy, and maybe even some money to do a course on a how do you convert better with those ads. But the same principle applies no matter what the income stream you have. I saw this work for AdSense, I saw it work with Chitika.

I also saw it work when I began to think about how do I increase my earnings with Amazon’s affiliate program. I learned that sticking widgets, Amazon affiliate widgets on my sidebar didn’t really convert very well but when I mentioned the product inside my blog posts and had little calls to action that specifically said, “Get the price on this product on Amazon,” that lead to an increase in conversions. I learned that creating bestseller lists of products worked really well. Again, I can link to that in today’s show notes, a previous episodes where I’ve talked about creating bestseller links. These things led to increased conversions for me with Amazon.

The same is true for all of the different income streams. If you are selling an ebook, maybe you could convert better if you split test your sales page, run two different versions of the sales page, and there’s plenty of tools around that will enable you to do that. We talked in a few episodes ago that Thrive Architect as a tool that we’re using to create landing pages, that will allow you to split test different versions of a sales page. Test different headlines, test different pictures, test different calls to action, maybe you can increase the conversions that you’re getting on that particular page.

If you’re monetizing with sponsors, the blogger I was talking to, she’d been selling sponsored posts on her site. One of the things I encourage her to think about is what else could she be offering those sponsors in addition to the sponsored posts. Maybe she could create a little bundle of things that they could do on her site. Maybe if they pay double the price, they could get some banner ads on the site or maybe they could get a mention in her newsletter, or maybe they could run a competition with her, maybe they could do a giveaway with her audience, these extra things on top of the sponsored content.

This is one of the things that we’ve done over the years is begin to offer our sponsors extra stuff if they’re willing to upgrade what they’re spending with us. It maybe some mentions on social media, it maybe a competition we’ve done, all of these different types of things. We find particularly newsletter advertising works well with our advertisers as well. They’re getting better results because they’re not only buying a banner ad on our site but they’re being mentioned in these other places which reinforces their messaging. This allows us to charge more for the ads.

What could you do to improve your conversions you’re already getting? Look at your current income streams and ask yourself, “How can I grow those income streams?” It’s not just about adding new ones but improving and optimizing the way that you’re currently earning an income.

Another quick one that you could try if you are selling a product is to add an upsell. We did a test on this just last week. We had a launch on Digital Photography School. We had a course, 31 Days To Become A Better Photographer, makes sense to me and to some of you because we use that same sort of format on ProBlogger, 31 days. We had this course and we decided to add an upsell in the check out. The course was, I think, $49 for the course, and if you paid the extra $9, we give you an ebook. It’s just like a little upsell. It was converting okay. I think the first few days we made $700 from that upsell, and that was a nice little extra $700 that we would never have had.

As I began to think about it, I was like, “$9 upsell on a $49 product, I wonder what would happen if we did an upsell of a bundle of our ebooks for a little bit more.” So we tried overnight one night, we tried an upsell of three ebooks for $19. We immediately saw that that converted at a higher rate plus it was earning more because it was a higher price. We immediately saw that that led to an upswing in people taking the upsell. I think by the end of the campaign, we’ve made close to $7000 from that particular upsell. It was converting at a high rate.

These are all the little things that you can do and it’s just about tweaking, and testing, and trying new things. Similarly, you can do an upsell after a sale. You could, in the thank you email say, “Here’s another offer that you might wanna take. It’s a great companion to what you’ve already bought.” There’s a variety of different ways to do that.

Tip number one was to grow your traffic. Put effort into that. That is going to set almost like a baseline, a foundation for the growth of your income. Adding a new income stream is number two which in conjunction with the traffic is great. Number three is better execution of what you’re already doing, better conversions, focusing upon those tweaks that will lead to growth.

The fourth thing that you might wanna try, I’ve seen this work time and time again, is what I would call extra promotional activity. You could almost argue that this fits into number three as well, it’s better execution. But it’s where you do an extra burst of promotion of something. This particularly works if you are promoting one of your own products or if you’re an affiliate as well.

For us, the best example I can give you is, I think, it was seven or eight years ago now on Digital Photography School. We started to do 12 Days of Christmas campaigns. Typically, we’re launching three or four products a year and we would see big spikes in income everytime we launch a new ebook, or a new course, or when we would promote an affiliate product of someone else. I kind of came out with this idea with one of my team members to do this intense burst of promotion of all our products at the end of the year and the lead up to Christmas.

Most of you, by this time, seen 12 Days of Christmas campaigns, you possibly even run them yourself. For us, it was a matter of sending 12 emails in 12 days about each of our products, and some affiliate partners as well which is pretty intensive. It was a lot of work. It felt a bit risky because we’re doing a lot of promotion over a short period of time with our audience. I was worried about our list but it led to a massive spike in income as well.

Our audience seemed to like it. They like this event that we put together. So we’ve run 12 Days of Christmas in different forms over the years, different times. This led to an increase in sales. I wasn’t really adding a new income stream, although I guess you could call that whole campaign a new income stream, but it was really just growing the sale of our products, and the sale of affiliate partners which we were already doing anyway. It wasn’t really tweaking or better execution of what were already doing, it was a new thing. It was this extra burst of promotion.

There’s a variety of ways that you can do that. You can do a seasonal promotion. We just had Valentine’s Day. I saw some bloggers running specials on the products that they have or some affiliate stuff around that. Christmases are our ideal time for that Black Friday, Cyber Monday. We see all these different times of the year where it’s possible to do promotion. Maybe it’s a seasonal promotion. Maybe it’s just a flash sale. This is something we did a little bit more last year on Digital Photography School.

We decided to just do these 24 hour sales on some of our products. They didn’t led to massive spikes but they did lead to increases in sales of our products. It’s just a matter of looking at your calendar for the year. You’ve probably got some big promotions that you’re doing but what goes in between them? What could you do? Something small, something targeted, something focused, that might lead to increase in sale. So a flash sale might be one way to do this.

Maybe it’s about creating an autoresponder. Autoresponders are something that we’ve talked about numerous times over the years. I think back in episode 177, I talked about autoresponders. Autoresponders are basically a sequence of emails that you send your list. Maybe that’s something that’s been on your someday list. I know a lot of bloggers, that’s something that they wanna do. An autoresponder could be a sequence of emails that promote your old archives which drives more traffic to your site which can lead to higher income in terms of your AdSense or it might include some promotional emails as well. Maybe setting up a new autoresponder that takes your readers through some of your archives but also promote an affiliate product or one of your own products could be useful as well.

There’s some bloggers who, in their autoresponder sequences, have partnership emails. This is where they do a deal with a sponsor to have an email in their autoresponder that promotes that sponsor. That’s another income stream that you might add, or if you’ve already got an autoresponder, and I know a lot of you do, when was the last time you added an email to that sequence? Maybe, one way that you can grow some income is simply to add one more email into your autoresponder sequence. Maybe it’s an email that promotes something you’ve got that does almost like a little sale to anyone getting that particular email.

That’s something that’s worked really well for me over time as well because everyone getting that one email, anyone who’s at the end of your sequence who gets this extra email, they could potentially buy what you’re selling. But it’s also an ongoing income stream as well. There’s all the different things that you can do to promote what you do a little bit more, to drive more targeted traffic towards the thing that’s converting for you.

I guess another one that you could do is potentially set-up and begin to learn about advertising your products as well. If you’ve got a product or an affiliate product, maybe another way that you can promote that more is to do some Facebook advertising or some Google advertising or something along those lines.

Lastly, another way to promote what you’re doing more is to think about the user interface of your site and the design of your site. Maybe you’ve got this product in your shop or maybe you’ve got an affiliate product that you’re promoting but no one ever knows that you’re promoting that thing because you really haven’t updated your menu to include the fact that you’re promoting this thing. That might be another way that you might wanna try. We are redigging out our menus at the moment to be a little bit more focused on driving people to those type of activities as well.

The last one that you might wanna think about there to get more people to those activities is to create a resources page. If you go to ProBlogger and you look in our menu, you’ll see resources there. On that page, we list our affiliate partners. The people we recommend for servers, and some of the tools that we use as well. That page drives affiliate income for us. Actually having a landing page that doesn’t just sell one thing but sells a variety of things can be useful as well.

If you go to Smart Passive Income and look at Pat Flynn’s site, you’ll see that he has resource pages as well. He actually, on the front page of his site, promotes quite heavily some of his main partners as well. It really comes down to the design of your site, maybe you can actually promote what you’re doing better as well.

The last thing that I wanna talk about, the fifth thing is one that, again it’s a bit of a no-brainer, but it is something that’s incredibly powerful and it can lead to increased income as well. That is to increase your prices or at least to change your prices because sometimes decreasing your prices can actually lead to more income as well which is a bit of strange one. But in most cases, I think considering increasing your prices can work as well. We’ve seen this a number of times over the years.

Digital Photography School, we were selling our courses for a long time for about $29. We realized, one, a lot of our competitors were selling courses for $300 that were very similar to our courses. I guess having seen the value in our own courses, we put a lot of time and energy into creating them but we were underpricing them. We weren’t actually putting them forward at the value that they really had. As a result, some of our customers weren’t actually thinking that they were any good. I remember talking to some of our customers who were buying these $300 or $400 products from our competitors. I remember having conversation with one of them, I was like, “Why do you buy that product when ours is $30?” They were like, “I just thought their product was better.” And I was like, “Why?” And they were like, “Well, it’s $300.” There’s this perception there, there’s a lot of psychology behind that.

I’m not saying that you all need to 10X your prices just because it’ll make people think they’re more valuable. You gotta price your product at a price that is actually reasonable and that does give value to your customers. But sometimes, I think, we underprice ourselves. If you’re like me maybe that’s you. At our events every year, people come up to us and say, “Your event’s too cheap. It’s amazing what you deliver at your events for $300 or $400. There are other people charging a lot more.” I have this internal battle going on. I wanna keep our event as affordable as possible so that people can come to it so it serves them, as many people as possible.

But at the same time, I know that the value that we deliver is above and beyond the price that we charge for it. It’s a wrestle sometimes. If you’re like me, it’s probably something that you feel, but I wanna encourage you to think about increasing the prices if you’re selling something. Or, connected to this, add a premium level to your product. This is something we discovered last year at our event that when we added a mastermind day to our event, that there was a certain segment of audience who were willing to pay considerably more to get a more intimate experience, a more personal experience with myself, and my team, and the speakers.

James Schramko, I think I heard him say once that there’s 10% of your audience who’s willing to pay 10x more than what you are charging for something that is at a higher level. I don’t know if it’s 10%, I don’t know if it’s 10x the value, but I found that to be true. There is always a segment of your audience is willing to pay more for something extra. One, they’ve got the budget, but two, they’ve got the demand. They want something extra, above what you’re doing. What could you add to what you currently sell that is at a premium price? Maybe it’s that more personal attention, maybe it’s extra content, maybe it’s more advanced, maybe it’s a mastermind group of some kind. Increasing your prices can significantly help.

When we actually did increase the prices of our courses, eventually we did, we actually realized, and it’s a bit of a no brainer really, but you don’t need to sell as many courses to make the same amount of profit. If you can sell the same amount then you significantly your profit and your income level as well.

The other thing worth mentioning is sometimes decreasing your price can actually lead to more sales as well. That’s a whole other podcast to talk about as well. But experimenting with that, you can split test your product pricing can actually be a really worthwhile thing to do to better optimize your conversions as well.

There’s five things that you can do to grow the income of your blog; more traffic, a new income stream, better execution of an existing income stream to increase your conversions, extra promotional activity to really get more eyeballs on the thing that you’re doing which I guess is 3.5 really, I say those two things is quite connected, and then the last thing is to play around with your pricing, particularly considering adding a premium level pricing to what you do as well.

As I’ve said all through this podcast, you don’t have to do any of these things in isolation. It’s actually probably the combination of two or three of these things that’s going to lead to the growth in your business. This is the reason that I went from a very part-time blogger to a full time blogger within a few months because I worked so hard on increasing my traffic.

Over that six months, I increased my traffic significantly but I also added new income streams, and got better at what I was already doing. As a result of those three things that I focused on over those months, my income more than quadrupled over the six months. I went from being someone who dreamed of one day being a full time blogger to being a full time blogger, and actually growing the income beyond what I ever thought I would do from anything that I would ever do.

I really wanna encourage you to do that. Again, pay attention to what you already know. You probably already know the answer. It may not be doing something completely new that you never thought of, it might actually just be learning SEO, or setting up that autoresponder, or sending some emails to your list, or creating a product. These are the things that you’ve probably already been dreaming of doing. I encourage you to put those things on your today list instead of keeping on dreaming of doing them one day.

I hope this has been helpful to those of you who are listening. This is literally life-changing stuff. I went from, in 2004, from being part time to full time, my dreams came true because of the intense amount of action that I took over those six or so months. Your life can really change in many ways as a result of this burst of today action, just remember that, and keep at it.

If we can serve you and encourage you in any way through that process, head over to our Facebook group and let us know the questions that you have. Let us know what you’ve decided to do so we can keep you a bit of accountable to that as well. Just search for ProBlogger Community on Facebook and you’ll find our little group as well.

Also, check out our 31 Days to Build a Better Blog course which is coming out in March. I think it’s perfect alongside this particular podcast because a lot of the activities that we’ll be teaching in that 31 Days to Build a Better Blog are about increasing the traffic to your site as well. That certainly is gonna help you with that. problogger.com/31days and you can sign-up to be notified when that particular course goes live.

Thanks for listening. Chat with you next week in episode 237, I think it is. Thanks for listening. Chat next week.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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The post 236: 5 Areas to Focus on to Grow Your Blogging Income appeared first on ProBlogger.

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Using the Cross Domain Rel=Canonical to Maximize the SEO Value of Cross-Posted Content – Whiteboard Friday

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/seomoz/~3/XnXpbiFXiIE/cross-domain-rel-canonical-seo-value-cross-posted-content

Posted by randfish

Same content, different domains? There’s a tag for that. Using rel=canonical to tell Google that similar or identical content exists on multiple domains has a number of clever applications. You can cross-post content across several domains that you own, you can benefit from others republishing your own content, rent or purchase content on other sites, and safely use third-party distribution networks like Medium to spread the word. Rand covers all the canonical bases in this not-to-be-missed edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Using the Cross Domain Rel=Canonical to Maximize the SEO Value of X-Posted Content

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about the cross-domain rel=canonical tag. So we’ve talked about rel=canonical a little bit and how it can be used to take care of duplicate content issues, point Google to the right pages from potentially other pages that share similar or exactly the same content. But cross-domain rel=canonical is a unique and uniquely powerful tool that is designed to basically say, “You know what, Google? There is the same content on multiple different domains.”

So in this simplistic example, MyFriendSite.com/green-turtles contains this content that I said, “Sure, it’s totally fine for you, my friend, to republish, but I know I don’t want SEO issues. I know I don’t want duplicate content. I know I don’t want a problem where my friend’s site ends up outranking me, because maybe they have better links or other ranking signals, and I know that I would like any ranking credit, any link or authority signals that they accrue to actually come to my website.

There’s a way that you can do this. Google introduced it back in 2009. It is the cross-domain rel=canonical. So essentially, in the header tag of the page, I can add this link, rel=canonical href — it’s a link tag, so there’s an href — to the place where I want the link or the canonical, in this case, to point to and then close the tag. Google will transfer over, this is an estimate, but roughly in the SEO world, we think it’s pretty similar to what you get in a 301 redirect. So something above 90% of the link authority and ranking signals will transfer from FriendSite.com to MySite.com.

So my green turtles page is going to be the one that Google will be more likely to rank. As this one accrues any links or other ranking signals, that authority, those links should transfer over to my page. That’s an ideal situation for a bunch of different things. I’ll talk about those in a sec.

Multiple domains and pages can point to any URL

Multiple domains and pages are totally cool to point to any URL. I can do this for FriendSite.com. I can also do this for TurtleDudes.com and LeatherbackFriends.net and SeaTees.com and NatureIsLit.com. All of them can contain this cross-domain rel=canonical pointing back to the site or the page that I want it to go to. This is a great way to potentially license content out there, give people republishing permissions without losing any of the SEO value.

A few things need to match:

I. The page content really does need to match

That includes things like text, images, if you’ve embedded videos, whatever you’ve got on there.

II. The headline

Ideally, should match. It’s a little less crucial than the page content, but probably you want that headline to match.

III. Links (in content)

Those should also match. This is a good way to make sure. You check one, two, three. This is a good way to make sure that Google will count that rel=canonical correctly.

Things that don’t need to match:

I. The URL

No, it’s fine if the URLs are different. In this case, I’ve got NatureIsLit.com/turtles/p?id=679. That’s okay. It doesn’t need to be green-turtles. I can have a different URL structure on my site than they’ve got on theirs. Google is just fine with that.

II. The title of the piece

Many times the cross-domain rel=canonical is used with different page titles. So if, for example, CTs.com wants to publish the piece with a different title, that’s okay. I still generally recommend that the headlines stay the same, but okay to have different titles.

III. The navigation

IV. Site branding

So all the things around the content. If I’ve got my page here and I have like nav elements over here, nav elements down here, maybe a footer down here, a nice little logo up in the top left, that’s fine if those are totally different from the ones that are on these other pages cross-domain canonically. That stuff does not need to match. We’re really talking about the content inside the page that Google looks for.

Ways to use this protocol

Some great ways to use the cross-domain rel=canonical.

1. If you run multiple domains and want to cross-post content, choose which one should get the SEO benefits and rankings.

If you run multiple domains, for whatever reason, let’s say you’ve got a set of domains and you would like the benefit of being able to publish a single piece of content, for whatever reason, across multiples of these domains that you own, but you know you don’t want to deal with a duplicate content issue and you know you’d prefer for one of these domains to be the one receiving the ranking signals, cross-domain rel=canonical is your friend. You can tell Google that Site A and Site C should not get credit for this content, but Site B should get all the credit.

The issue here is don’t try and do this across multiple domains. So don’t say, “Oh, Site A, why don’t you rel=canonical to B, and Site C, why don’t you rel=canonical to D, and I’ll try and get two things ranked in the top.” Don’t do that. Make sure all of them point to one. That is the best way to make sure that Google respects the cross-domain rel=canonical properly.

2. If a publication wants to re-post your content on their domain, ask for it instead of (or in addition to) a link back.

Second, let’s say a publication reaches out to you. They’re like, “Wow. Hey, we really like this piece.” My wife, Geraldine, wrote a piece about Mario Batali’s sexual harassment apology letter and the cinnamon rolls recipe that he strangely included in this apology. She baked those and then wrote about it. It went quite viral, got a lot of shares from a ton of powerful and well-networked people and then a bunch of publications. The Guardian reached out. An Australian newspaper reached out, and they said, “Hey, we would like to republish your piece.” Geraldine talked to her agent, and they set up a price or whatever.

One of the ways that you can do this and benefit from it, not just from getting a link from The Guardian or some other newspaper, but is to say, “Hey, I will be happy to be included here. You don’t even have to give me, necessarily, if you don’t want to, author credit or link credit, but I do want that sweet, sweet rel=canonical.” This is a great way to maximize the SEO benefit of being posted on someone else’s site, because you’re not just receiving a single link. You’re receiving credit from all the links that that piece might generate.

Oops, I did that backwards. You want it to come from their site to your site. This is how you know Whiteboard Friday is done in one take.

3. Purchase/rent content from other sites without forcing them to remove the content from their domain.

Next, let’s say I am in the opposite situation. I’m the publisher. I see a piece of content that I love and I want to get that piece. So I might say, “Wow, that piece of content is terrific. It didn’t do as well as I thought it would do. I bet if we put it on our site and broadcast it with our audience, it would do incredibly well. Let’s reach out to the author of the piece and see if we can purchase or rent for a time period, say two years, for the next two years we want to put the cross-domain rel=canonical on your site and point it back to us and we want to host that content. After two years, you can have it back. You can own it again.”

Without forcing them to remove the content from their site, so saying you, publisher, you author can keep it on your site. We don’t mind. We’d just like this tag applied, and we’d like to able to have republishing permissions on our website. Now you can get the SEO benefits of that piece of content, and they can, in exchange, get some money. So your site sending them some dollars, their site sending you the rel=canonical and the ranking authority and the link equity and all those beautiful things.

4. Use Medium as a content distribution network without the drawback of duplicate content.

Number four, Medium. Medium is a great place to publish content. It has a wide network, people who really care about consuming content. Medium is a great distribution network with one challenge. If you post on Medium, people worry that they can’t post the same thing on their own site because you’ll be competing with Medium.com. It’s a very powerful domain. It tends to rank really well. So duplicate content is an issue, and potentially losing the rankings and the traffic that you would get from search and losing that to Medium is no fun.

But Medium has a beautiful thing. The cross-domain rel=canonical is built in to their import tool. So if you go to Medium.com/p/import and you are logged in to your Medium account, you can enter in their URL field the content that you’ve published on your own site. Medium will republish it on your account, and they will include the cross-domain rel=canonical back to you. Now, you can start thinking of Medium as essentially a distribution network without the penalties or problems of duplicate content issues. Really, really awesome tool. Really awesome that Medium is offering this. I hope it sticks around.

All right, everyone. I think you’re going to have some excellent additional ideas for the cross-domain rel=canonical and how you have used it. We would love you to share those in the comments below, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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4 SEO Survival Tips for the Voice Search Revolution

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/WordStreamBlog/~3/E7p2S3mPaI0/voice-search-seo

Voice search isn’t a fad, and if you haven’t yet incorporated it into your 2018 SEO strategy, then you need to. Now.

optimizing for voice search seo

In 2017, there were 33 million voice search devices in circulation, with 40% of adults using them every day. In fact, Google’s voice search tool received 35 times more search queries in 2016 compared to when it launched in 2008.

Now with Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana, any smartphone user can physically ask their phone a question. This has also extended to the home, with the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home cropping up in houses across the world.

ComScore has predicted that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be via voice; and 30% of searches will take place without a screen.

So, what does this mean for SEO? Here, we’ll take a look at four ways you can optimise your website to help you rank highly for voice searches.

1. Aim for Featured Snippets

voice search seo featured snippets

Google Home and Google Assistant currently read out featured snippets when they answer voice search queries, so it makes sense that you aim for the elusive “position zero”.

Whilst there is no definitive answer as to how you gain that top spot, plenty of research has been undertaken to figure out how. The below works pretty well as a set of guidelines, and is worth bearing in mind when writing your content:

Answer Specific Questions: Use Answer the Public to find common questions on your chosen subject, and use that as a basis to create your copy. Include the question as an H2, and answer it in the body text directly below. Answer Questions Concisely: You don’t want to use a load of jargon that people won’t understand. Google wants to feature the best answer, so make sure yours is clear and easily digestible. Answers in the form of lists have fared particularly well in featured snippets. Write Engaging and Interesting Copy: 99.58% of featured snippets come from a page that ranks in the top 10. It goes without saying you should already be ensuring your page is well-optimised: your content should be engaging, your meta data optimised, and your internal and external link building game strong.

Remember: voice search queries will be more conversational than written queries. Make sure this is reflected in your tone of voice, to help you climb the rankings.

2. Perfect Your Local SEO

39% of voice search users are looking for business information; so it’s never been a more important time to optimise your local SEO.

local seo for voice search

Ensure your Google My Business Page is up to date, with the correct address, contact details and opening hours listed.

After all, if a user is asking “where’s my nearest hairdresser”, you want to ensure you’re in the top position (provided of course, you’re actually a hairdresser!).

Similarly, if a user is asking what time your store shuts, you want to make sure the correct information is provided, otherwise they’ll be misinformed, and you could miss out on a sale.

Other ways to optimize for local searches include building your online reviews and using structured data markup (Schema).

3. Improve Your Site Speed

page speed for voice search seo

Voice search is almost exclusively used on mobile, and it goes without saying that your website should be mobile-optimised. If it’s not, then users will simply bounce back, which will harm your rankings. A page that takes five seconds to load is 90% more likely to suffer from bounce backs, compared to a page that loads in just one second.

Google found that bounce rates on mobile are 9.56% higher than on desktops. Mobile users – and especially those using voice search – are likely to be on-the-go, and won’t have time to hang about.

Not sure if your mobile website is up to scratch? Try out Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to see if it’s deemed acceptable.

From there, you can check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which will provide you with advice on how to make your mobile site faster.

4. Get Inside the Minds of Searchers

Google has mentioned that it’s looking at including voice search data in Search Console, with the idea being that these searches will be separated from keyboard queries, much like desktop and mobile search data is currently separated.

The issue with this – and why it hasn’t been implemented sooner – is because voice searches are naturally longer tail search queries, due to the conversational nature of speaking out loud. Therefore, the volume of each specific query is likely to be so low that Search Console automatically excludes them.

There hasn’t been a specific announcement or deadline set for this, but it’s certainly one to watch out for. Once launched, you’ll be able to see which voice search queries are driving traffic to your pages, enabling you to optimise your site and climb the rankings further.

voice search trends data

Via KCPB

In 2018, you really can’t afford to discount the power of voice search. The market is set to be worth $601 million by 2019; and if you don’t start to optimise your website now, you’ll be missing out on a lot of traffic in the long term.

Looking for more advanced tips? Check out WordStream’s in-depth guide to optimizing for voice search.

About the author

Elle Pollicott is an Owned Media Executive at digital marketing agency Hallam Internet. She graduated from the University of Manchester with a BSc(Hons) in Management & Marketing of Fashion Textiles in July 2014. Elle has over three years’ experience in digital marketing, having worked in a range of industries including fashion, travel and finance.


Reading Between the Lines: A 3-Step Guide to Reviewing Web Page Content

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/seomoz/~3/FkTdDMGu5U0/guide-to-reviewing-web-page-content

Posted by Jackie.Francis

In SEO, reviewing content is an unavoidable yet extremely important task. As the driving factor that brings people to a page, best practice dictates that we do what we can to ensure that the work we’ve invested hours and resources into creating remains impactful and relevant over time. This requires occasionally going back and re-evaluating our content to identify areas that can be improved.

That being said, if you’ve ever done a content review, you know how surprisingly challenging this is. A large variety of formats and topics alongside the challenge of defining “good” content makes it hard to pick out the core elements that matter. Without these universal focus areas, you may end up neglecting an element (e.g. tone of voice) in one instance but paying special attention to that same element in another.

Luckily there are certain characteristics — like good spelling, appealing layouts, and relevant keywords — that are universally associated with what we would consider “good” content. In this three-step guide, I’ll show you how to use these characteristics (or elements, as I like to call them) to define your target audience, measure the performance of your content using a scorecard, and assess your changes for quality assurance as part of a review process that can be applied to nearly all types of content across any industry.

Step 1: Know your audience

Arguably the most important step mentioned in this post, knowing your target reader will identify the details that should make up the foundation of your content. This includes insight into the reader’s intent, the ideal look and feel of the page, and the goals your content’s message should be trying to achieve.

To get to this point, however, you first need to answer these two questions:

What does my target audience look like? Why are they reading my content? What does my target audience look like?

The first question relies on general demographic information such as age, gender, education, and job title. This gives a face to the ideal audience member(s) and the kind of information that would best suit them. For example, if targeting stay-at-home mothers between the ages of 35 and 40 with two or more kids under the age of 5, we can guess that she has a busy daily schedule, travels frequently for errands, and constantly needs to stay vigilant over her younger children. So, a piece that is personable, quick, easy to read on-the-go, and includes inline imagery to reduce eye fatigue would be better received than something that is lengthy and requires a high level of focus.

Why are they reading my content?

Once you have a face to your reader, the second question must be answered to understand what that reader wants from your content and if your current product is effectively meeting those needs. For example, senior-level executives of mid- to large-sized companies may be reading to become better informed before making an important decision, to become more knowledgeable in their field, or to use the information they learn to teach others. Other questions you may want to consider asking:

Are they reading for leisure or work? Would they want to share this with their friends on social media? Where will they most likely be reading this? On the train? At home? Waiting in line at the store? Are they comfortable with long blocks of text, or would inline images be best? Do they prefer bite-sized information or are they comfortable with lengthy reports?

You can find the answers to these questions and collect valuable demographic and psychographic information by using a combination of internal resources, like sales scripts and surveys, and third-party audience insight tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Audience Insights. With these results you should now have a comprehensive picture of your audience and can start identifying the parts of your content that can be improved.

Step 2: Tear apart your existing content

Now that you understand who your audience is, it’s time to get to the real work: assessing your existing content. This stage requires breaking everything apart to identify the components you should keep, change, or discard. However, this task can be extremely challenging because the performance of most components — such as tone of voice, design, and continuity — can’t simply be bucketed into binary categories like “good” or “bad.” Rather, they fall into a spectrum where the most reasonable level of improvement falls somewhere in the middle. You’ll see what I mean by this statement later on, but one of the most effective ways to evaluate and measure the degree of optimization needed for these components is to use a scorecard. Created by my colleague, Ben Estes, this straightforward, reusable, and easy to apply tool can help you objectively review the performance of your content.

Make a copy of the Content Review Grading Rubric

Note: The card sampled here, and the one I personally use for similar projects, is a slightly altered version of the original.

As you can see, the card is divided into two categories: Writing and Design. Listed under each category are elements that are universally needed to create a good content and should be examined. Each point is assigned a grading scale ranging from 1–5, with 1 being the worst score and 5 being best.

To use, start by choosing a part of your page to look at first. Order doesn’t matter, so whether you choose to first check “spelling and grammar” or “continuity” is up to you. Next, assign it a score on a separate Excel sheet (or mark it directly on the rubric) based on its current performance. For example, if the copy has no spelling errors but some minor grammar issues, you would rank “spelling and grammar” as a four (4).

Finally, repeat this process until all elements are graded. Remember to stay impartial to give an honest assessment.

Once you’re done, look at each grade and see where it falls on the scale. Ideally each element should have a score of 4 or greater, although a grade of 5 should only be given out sparingly. Tying back to my spectrum comment from earlier, a 5 is exclusively reserved for top-level work and should be something to strive for but will typically take more effort to achieve than it is worth. A grade of 4 is often the highest and most reasonable goal to attempt for, in most instances.

A grade of 3 or below indicates an opportunity for improvement and that significant changes need to be made.

If working with multiple pieces of content at once, the grading system can also be used to help prioritize your workload. Just collect the average writing or design score and sort them in ascending/descending order. Pages with a lower average indicate poorer performance and should be prioritized over pages whose averages are higher.

Whether you choose to use this scorecard or make your own, what you review, the span of the grading scale, and the criteria for each grade should be adjusted to fit your specific needs and result in a tool that will help you honestly assess your content across multiple applications.

Don’t forget the keywords

With most areas of your content covered by the scorecard, the last element to check before moving to the editing stage is your keywords.

Before I get slack for this, I’m aware that the general rule of creating content is to do your keyword research first. But I’ve found that when it comes to reviews, evaluating keywords last feels more natural and makes the process a lot smoother. When first running through a page, you’re much more likely to notice spelling and design flaws before you pick up whether a keyword is used correctly — why not make note of those details first?

Depending on the outcomes stemming from the re-evaluation of your target audience and content performance review, you will notice one of two things about your currently targeted keywords:

They have not been impacted by the outcomes of the prior analyses and do not need to be altered They no longer align with the goals of the page or needs of the audience and should be changed

In the first example, the keywords you originally target are still best suited for your content’s message and no additional research is needed. So, your only remaining task is to determine whether or not your keywords are effectively used throughout the page. This means assessing things like title tag, image alt attributes, URL, and copy.

In an attempt to stay on track, I won’t go into further detail on how to optimize keywords but if you want a little more insight, this post by Ken Lyons is a great resource.

If, however, your target keywords are no longer relevant to the goals of your content, before moving to the editing stage you’ll need to re-do your keyword research to identify the terms you should rank for. For insight into keyword research this chapter in Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is another invaluable resource.

Step 3: Evaluate your evaluation

At this point your initial review is complete and you should be ready to edit.

That’s right. Your initial review.

The interesting thing about assessing content is that it never really ends. As you make edits you’ll tend to deviate more and more from your initial strategy. And while not always a bad thing, you must continuously monitor these changes to ensure that you are on the right track to create a highly valued piece of content.

The best approach would be to reassess all your material when:

50% of the edits are complete 85% of the edits are complete You have finished editing

At the 50% and 85% marks, keep the assessment quick and simple. Look through your revisions and ask the following questions:

Am I still addressing the needs of my target audience? Are my target keywords properly integrated? Am I using the right language and tone of voice? Does it look like the information is structured correctly (hierarchically)?

If your answer is “Yes” to all four questions, then you’ve effectively made your changes and should proceed. For any question you answer “No,” go back and make the necessary corrections. The areas targeted here become more difficult to fix the closer you are to completion and ensuring they’re correct throughout this stage will save a lot of time and stress in the long run.

When you’ve finished and think you’re ready to publish, run one last comprehensive review to check the performance status of all related components. This means confirming you’ve properly addressed the needs of your audience, optimized your keywords, and improved the elements highlighted in the scorecard.

Moving forward

No two pieces of content are the same, but that does not mean there aren’t some important commonalities either. Being able to identify these similarities and understand the role they play across all formats and topics will lead the way to creating your own review process for evaluating subjective material.

So, when you find yourself gearing up for your next project, give these steps a try and always keep the following in mind:

Your audience is what makes or breaks you, so keep them happy Consistent quality is key! Ensure all components of your content are performing at their best Keep your keywords optimized and be prepared to do additional research if necessary Unplanned changes will happen. Just remember to remain observant as to keep yourself on track

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What Happens When You Want to Sell Your Blog? A Case Study

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ProbloggerHelpingBloggersEarnMoney/~3/h9axuAH4trc/

When I started my travel blog back in 2005, I never imagined I’d be selling it.

After all, I just wanted to tell my family and friends what I was up to. I had no idea it would become a business that supported my family.

Even when it became a central part of our lives ten years later, it was like another child to me. I loved it, coddled it, and put so much of myself into it.

I learned a lot from growing and monetising my blog. I also learned a lot from selling it. And in this post I want to walk you through the process of selling my blog, and what I learned.

The interesting part is that getting a blog ready to sell is really about making your blog more valuable. And that’s something every blog owner can benefit from—even if they never plan to sell.

So whether you’re planning on selling your blog one day or not, my tips will help you get your blog earning more without needing your constant attention. It will help reduce the stress of running your blog while making more money. And if you ever decide to sell, you’ll walk away with the maximum amount possible.

Why I decided to sell my blog

So how did my blog go from something I thought of a another child to something I couldn’t wait to get rid of?

There were a few reasons.

I had way too many sites, and needed to let some go so I could focus my energy better. I’d just sold my first niche site, and letting it go felt so good that I decided to sell all my other niche sites and have just my two main blogs.

Then I realised I’d be better off getting rid of the blog (where I spent a lot of my time) rather than the sites that brought in money without any effort.

It also coincided with me restructuring my business. Thanks to some bad advice, I’d just discovered  I’d have to pay capital gains on the value of my business to move it to a company structure. I couldn’t afford to pay tax on something I wasn’t getting and value from, so selling it made a lot of sense.

And of course, the money from the sale would remove a lot of the financial pressure as I worked on building up my second blog.

But the biggest reason I decided to sell it is that I simply didn’t want to do it anymore.

I started writing about travel because I was passionate about it. Travelling was the one time I could really live in the moment.

But blogging about travel ruined that for me. I took it very seriously, and while my blog became very successful, travel became more and more stressful. My brain worked overtime as I analysed every aspect of what I was doing and how I would write about it.

We also did crazy things like visiting six attractions in a day. Try that with three young kids.

Towards the end I was exhausted and burnt out. I hated everything about the blog, and stopped working on it.

Thanks to my business model (using Google for traffic and affiliate marketing for income), money was still coming in. But no income is truly passive, and I knew my earnings would decrease over time if I couldn’t rekindle my passion.

And then I found myself on Facebook, where I described my blog as a gangrenous arm that needed to be cut off.

It was time to sell.

What buyers are looking for in a blog

No-one buys a blog because they’re passionate about the topic. They buy it because they think it’s a good business to own.

Which means they’re looking for a good business model.

They aren’t interested in what many of us bloggers stress over—page views, number of followers, etc. They want to know:

How much money the blog makes How much time you spend on the blog The business costs

That’s it.

Yes, a blog with strong metrics in page views, email subscribers and social media can make it more attractive. And they may want to talk about how you do what you do. But what they’ll care about the most is how much money the blog makes.

So don’t be too concerned about page views, number of likes, etc. They really don’t matter that much. What you should be concerned about is whether your blog is doing what you wanted it to do. Anyone looking to pay good money for a blog will want to be sure they’re getting good a return on their  investment.

And page views don’t pay the bills.

A lot of people didn’t think I could sell my blog because my name and image is all over it. But that’s not a problem so long as it doesn’t need you to make money.

How to work out the value of a blog

Figuring out the value of a blog is the same as figuring out the value of any businesses. You need to look as the profit it makes.

Along with my travel blog I’ve sold three other sites, and each time the value was based on a multiple of its monthly or annual profit.

Note that we’re talking about profit, not revenue, which means you need to subtract a wage for the effort you’ve been putting in.

A good broker will ask you to estimate how much time you spend on your blog each month, and put a value on that time. For me, they recommend US$25 an hour.

And just like any other business cost, this gets subtracted from the revenue.

While multiples vary, a good starting point is:

monthly profit x 20 for a site less than three years old monthly profit x 30 for a site more than three years old.

Monthly profits are based on the site’s average income over the past year.

If profit has been steadily increasing you may be able to base your calculations on the past six or even three months’ worth of figures. But chances are you’ll get a lower multiple. For example, the profit of one site I sold was going up steadily, and the overall profit of previous six months was higher than the six months before that. I was able to use the average of these months, but the multiple went from 30 to 29.

My travel blog had a good steady income, big audience numbers, and potential for monetisation beyond affiliate marketing. It also appealed to people who wanted a passive income and to be able to claim their travel as a tax deduction. That meant I could list the site for a higher multiple than those earlier examples.

Depending on your site, and exactly what you’re offering, you may have to negotiate the price when you find a buyer.

But again, page views and social media followers didn’t matter, and played no part in the negotiations.

How to sell a blog

You’ve probably heard of Flippa—a well-known platform for selling sites.

I sold two sites on there recently, and it’s a relatively painless process.

However, I only recommend Flippa for low-value sites worth less than $10,000. At this price level, you’ll struggle to get a good broker.

For a blog doing well, you’re better off using a broker.

For the two higher-priced sites I sold last year, I used Empire Flippers and FE International.

I had very positive experiences with them both.

They both have a similar process. Expect to spend a few full-on days getting your financials together. There’s a format they need to go in, and you’ll have to show proof of everything – a receipt for every payment and some type of tracking for every payment.

You’ll also need to write a lot about your blog to explain to potential buyers what it’s all about, why it’s a good purchase, what tasks you work on, etc.

Once you hand over everything, expect them to keep coming back with more questions and wanting more proof of various things.

This was the most (and possibly only) frustrating part of the process for me. I wanted my sites for sale immediately, but we did this back and forth for a couple of weeks and sometimes it didn’t seem necessary.

When this process is finished, they’ll tell you the price they want to list the site for. (You’re allowed to negotiate.)

Once you both agree on a price, the details are put up on the broker’s site and sent out to their email list.

Potential buyers may ask questions that you’ll need to be ready to answer. They may request a phone call to discuss it further, and will probably want access to your Google Analytics and, in my case, Amazon affiliate account.

For each buyer there might be a contract discussion (more about this later) and possibly haggling over the price.

These options took a 15% cut of the purchase price. Empire Flippers and Flippa also have listing fees. It can be a lot of money, but I think it was worth it. My sites all sold not long after they were listed, which would never have happened otherwise.

While Flippa doesn’t really do much for the money, using a broker is fantastic. I didn’t have to deal with enquiries, and they have processes to ensure they only deal with serious buyers and I’m not sharing my financial information with everyone in the world.

Buyers also like buying through a broker because they know they’ve done a lot of due diligence, which minimises the risk of fake information and protects both parties.

Once you have a buyer, they also make the transition process very painless. They’ll do the negotiations, write the contracts, and ensure you won’t be ripped off by someone taking your site without paying you.

I highly recommend FE International or Empire Flippers for selling your blog.

I found Empire Flippers better for sites that are straightforward, such as my niche site that I spent basically no time on and was all about SEO traffic and affiliate income.

They also make potential buyers pay a refundable deposit to see your site data, which helps keep away nosey people (and potential competitors).

For sites that have a higher value and/or get more complicated (e.g. most blogs), I found FE international better. I’m  glad I sold my blog with them. They tell you how they’ll value the blog and what price to expect before you have to start providing all the information.

Empire Flippers will only discuss this after you’ve provided all the information. But they do have a calculator on their site you can use to value your blog.

Making a contract for your blog

The biggest concern I had about selling my blog was that the new owner would use photos of my kids in ways that I didn’t like or that they would impersonate me.

Thankfully, you can make a contract for your blog sale that has any conditions you want (assuming the buyer agrees of course).

I made sure my broker understood that I needed to negotiate clauses that helped me feel less concerned about these points.

The buyer is likely to have things that concern them too that they will want to negotiate.

You can expect one condition to be that you can’t build a competing blog for the next 2 years at a minimum. There may also be conditions around you training the new buyer to run your blog.

There will also be conditions on when you get paid. On Empire Flippers, the buyer had a few weeks to verify the income by default before the money would be released from escrow to me.

FE International had a policy of releasing the money to the seller as soon as it was verified that everything had been handed over.

If you have any concerns about how the new buyer will handle your blog and the assets that make it up, discuss this with your broker and potential buyers in advance and you can probably find a solution.

Handing over the blog

This was actually far less painful than I expected.

After the buyer has put the money for the blog in escrow, you will start handing over. Your broker can help with this.

FE International helped me complete a huge handover document with everything the new owner needed to know from how to get the actual blog to social media logins to which affiliate accounts they needed to set up where to how to run the site day to day.

This made it so much easier and meant the buyer had access to everything immediately making the transfer fast and smooth.

To make things easier we tended to give our hosting accounts to the new owners. Hosts like SiteGround will allow changing the owner’s details. Otherwise, the broker or your host can help if you can’t transfer the site yourself.

I also used shared Google drive folders when handing over sites where I put everything related to my sites from logo images to affiliate partner contacts.

It’s a good idea to be readily available at handover as we had Skype calls in all cases to help things move along. After all, the faster things are handed over, the faster you are paid.

Within a few days of the sale going through, I had the money for my blog.

My top 3 tips for selling your blog (or for building a more valuable blog) Start removing yourself from the blog 12 months in advance

The only mistake I made in selling my blog was not deciding 12 months in advance so I could better remove myself and my family.

There are two reasons you may want to do this.

Firstly, a blog is going to be more attractive to buyers if it doesn’t look like it relies on you. Having your photo all over it isn’t ideal.

A better idea is to start using a pen name in advance and limit the amount of yourself on the blog.

This is also a good idea if you feel nervous about selling your image, and what can feel like part of your identity, to someone else. It is much easier to just have anything you don’t want on their gone when you sell it rather than coming up with conditions for the contract that you have to hope the other person follows.

You may also want to remove some of the more personal posts.

You should do this 12 months in advance because you can’t change anything that could affect the business operation of the blog right before you sell it.

If you remove posts or change the site much in the months leading up to the sale then the buyer will have a legitimate concern that the earnings that you have declared are not correct as obviously how much your blog earns is affected by what is on your blog.

It’s also good if you can remove yourself from the day to day running on the blog. Your blog will look more attractive if you have an already trained VA which the new buyer can hire as well.

This should also help the value of the blog as a VA usually costs less than having an hourly rate for yourself.

I recommend looking at these areas of your blog even if you don’t plan to ever sell. I think it’s good to regularly reflect and adjust how much of yourself and your family you want to share, for example, and making you less essential in the day to day running of the blog is a great way to save yourself a lot of stress and give you more time to work on more important tasks in your business.

Concentrate on passive income sources

The value of your blog is all about the profit you are making so the easiest way to increase your blog value is to make more money while putting in less effort.

Thankfully, this is easily achievable in blogging.

I always concentrated on getting traffic with SEO and converting it with affiliate marketing which helped my blog not only earn good money, but made it worth a lot of money because this is largely passive once you get it working.

I recommend you work on this aspect of blogging before getting to the point of wanting to sell your blog.

The way to do this is to concentrate on learning about buying keywords and reader intent.

Making affiliate profits is easiest when you attract readers to your site that have a buying mindset. This means that they already have the intent to buy something; they just need you to point them in the right direction.

SEO is a very powerful way to do this as you can write articles using keywords that people use when they are in this buying mindset. These are called buying keywords and are statements like “best juicer”, “juicer reviews”, “top juicer on the market”.

If you have a health blog and published an article on the best juicers that helped people looking for one find the perfect one (with an affiliate link of course) and were able to rank on the first page of Google for these keywords, you would make a lot of ongoing cash with very little effort.

If you can have even a few articles like this ranking well in Google and converting well with an affiliate, this can add a few extra thousand a month to your profits.

Times that by 30 and you could add an extra $90,000 to your blog value.

And if you never sell your blog, the extra money will be great in your pocket.

There are other ways to make more passive income as well. Display advertisements using services like Mediavine or Google AdSense are a good option.

Products can also be passive once you have a sales funnel set up if they are items like eBooks that require little ongoing support.

Stop worrying about page views and social media followers

The best way to find time to work on the things I mention above, like growing your passive income, is to cut out all the tasks that don’t really matter.

This will also mean you don’t need to work as much which will also increase your profits.

I highly recommend going through your task list monthly and removing anything that isn’t directly related to your blogging goals whether you plan to sell or not.

This means that unless your prime goal is to get x number of page views, stop working on tasks just to get more traffic. More traffic generally doesn’t lead to more income unless it’s the right sort of traffic. For example, if you want to make good money with affiliates, you need readers with the right reader intent as mentioned above.

It can be hard to let go of something like going on social media, but if it’s not helping you reach your goals and is only sucking away your time then it can be highly valuable to focus that energy elsewhere.

Final thoughts

It’s been a few months now since I sold my blog and I haven’t regretted it for even a second. It does feel strange to not be a travel blogger anymore when I was so focused on it at one point, but it feels great to have let it go and to have moved on to my other blog, DigitalNomadWannabe.com, where I get to do work that I love.

Whether you should sell your blog or not is a very personal decision.

If you are at all considering it, I recommend you start doing the tips I recommend above as soon as possible so it leaves you in a better position when it comes time to sell. By the time I realised I wanted to sell, I was so over it that I couldn’t give myself a 12 month run up to remove myself in the way I would have liked.

If you do this and you never end up selling, having more income and less work to do will be a bonus anyway.

Bio

Sharon Gourlay is an Australian blogger who now only blogs about SEO, internet marketing and making money from blogging at DigitalNomadWannabe.com.

The post What Happens When You Want to Sell Your Blog? A Case Study appeared first on ProBlogger.