Thursday, July 30, 2009

The importance of persistence in blogging

"Persistence pays off." It's a very old and often used aphorism, but it's definitely true, particularly when applied to the internet.

Take blogging, for instance. If you only write a 200 word post every couple of days consistently for a year, then you'll have over a hundred posts up. That's 20 000 words! Even if you did no link building whatsoever, you would still be drawing in some regular traffic just from that.

But imagine if you combined that blogging rate with a persistent link building campaign, such as one article a month and 5 free directory submissions. After a year you'd have 72 relevant backlinks.

Of course, the level of traffic depends on many other factors as well. But that amount of content with that number of backlinks would certainly bring in a respectable number of hits through search engines. Yet the work required wasn't much. (It would be if you had to do it all in a month or so!) The key is to do a little bit every day, or most days. And keep at it.

But if you work only very occasionally, you'll see little or no benefit. You could easily become disheartened, and give up. The blogosphere is littered with such blog corpses. Sad, because they could still be alive, kicking and very popular if their owners had just kept at it a bit more consistently.

Writing for the internet

The internet has meant that there are many more opportunities for writers. But it also means that they'll make much less money for their efforts. There are just so many people competing with each other - and from all over the world. Subsequently the price writers can charge for services will often be extremely low. If you have a look at some of the freelance forums you can see what people are offering for projects. It's peanuts.

Sure, you might get lucky and work through a content broker who charges big bucks to clients, so it ultimately becomes worth your while. But that would be very unusual. That's why I think it's a better idea to use your own writing for yourself, and monetize it with affiliate programs, etc. You won't make much money up front, but it will grow over time. Also, you'll have mountains of material that you can turn into e-books - or even the old fashioned variety. These products have further earning potential.

It's almost like renting as opposed to buying a house. Renting is always a temporary solution. Sure, you have somewhere to live from week to week. But ultimately you're just making someone else rich. But paying a mortgage means that you are actually amassing wealth. (Needless to say, writing content for others is like renting. Writing it for yourself is like buying.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SEO training often hugely overpriced

Out of curiosity I have been Googling for SEO training, courses and tutors. What amazes me is what some people have the gall to charge for their services. I have seen some sites with so called experts offering one-on-one training and charging several hundred dollars for a few hours. (I won't link to them; don't want to give them the benefit!)

They would of course be spending much of that time teaching the basics, which you can learn in a couple of hours (or even less) from free online tutorials. Maybe these "gurus" might have a few powerful insights they can share. But nothing could be worth what they are charging, surely.

There are cowboys and BS artists in every industry, of course. But I think it's particularly bad in SEO and SEM now because it's such a new industry, and pretty much unregulated.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lists of free advertising forums

Still on the subject of using forums to promote your site: While most forums encourage actual discussion between members, the forum structure is often used as a kind of free classifieds site, where people can just flagrantly post ads to their hearts content.

While I wouldn't go overboard with this they could be of some use, particularly to the newbie webmaster. Why? Basically it's a very easy way of getting links back to your site. Also, I know from personal experience that free directories can work as a way of targeting particular keywords in the anchor text. So free advertising forums should have a similar benefit.

With this in mind I found some lists of these forums. As with discussion forums, see that the forum does have some PR, and check that the links in the posts are dofollow. And if you post ads, vary the wording a bit between submissions. Unique content is always valued more highly by the search engines, even in small, short entries.

Blogging quality vs. quantity

Just a thought on blogging motivation: It seems that once you decide that you'll make money form your blog you realize that you then have to get as much targeted traffic as possible. To do that you have to keep adding lots of relevant content. Of course you can never do enough!

That presents a problem because you can start to feel guilty if you're not adding posts at a high enough frequency. It also means that the quality of what you're adding might drop somewhat, since you're valuing quantity over quality.

That's why I think it's important to keep recalling why you started in the first place (that is, for enjoyment!), ease up a little and just work when you feel like it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Things to look for in a discussion forum

As I've written before, participating in online discussion forums is a worthwhile activity for bloggers and webmasters. You can learn lots of new stuff as well as contribute what you have already learned and thereby help others. It's also a great way to develop material that you can rewrite substantially at another time and post to your blog or an article directory. And if the forum allows signatures that are dofollow, then you will be building links to your site with your chosen keywords in them, thereby helping to optimize it for search engines.

If you do want to get SEO benefit for your participation, then obviously it's worth checking a few threads on each forum you've Googled to see if the posts do have dofollow sigs in them. Also check how many posts the signature owners have racked up. Sometimes the forum administrators only allow sigs after a certain number of posts. It might be 10, 25, or sometimes more. (The massive, active forums at Digital Point, for instance, require you to make 10 posts if I remember correctly.)

Also check the page rank. It's not hugely important. But if the forum has been around for a while yet still has no page rank at all that's not such a great sign. It probably won't hurt you to join it, but it won't help much either. A really high PR forum will tend to help your SEO more (although this is not guaranteed, since there may be just so many people posting in it that this factor becomes almost meaningless). Still, it's something to consider.

The other main factors to look for relate to how large and "alive" the forum is. The problem is that a lot of forums are too small, inactive, dying or dead already! Needless to say, you want to avoid these.

So check the forum home page and look for the numbers of posts and threads. The more the merrier, of course. But also take note of the proportion of threads to replies. If the ratio is close to 1:1, then it's an inactive forum. But if it's something like 1:7 then it's buzzing. Also check the dates of the most recent posts. If there are lots of threads with "today", "yesterday" and recent dates listed, with posts by many different members, then that's another very good sign.

You should also check for pharmaceutical or adult related spam. Some forums are just saturated with the stuff. If there is just a little bit there - even in an otherwise fairly active forum - it probably means that it's already dying, or that the administrators are bit lazy. Either way, its best days are probably behind it and it should be avoided.

Of course you would inevitably learn these things a little while after joining each forum even if you didn't look for them. But by keeping an eye out for them beforehand you can save quite a bit of time in the long run.

Why you can learn too much about SEO

In any field the more you learn about something, the better you get at it. That's satisfying, of course, and enjoyable. But there is a downside: Knowing too much about something can make it seem like hard work!

Here's an example: In the past, when I started blogging I just did it solely because it was fun. I didn't have much of a clue as to whether my approach to it was right or wrong. Thankfully, I was doing two things in particular that were beneficial: writing often and commenting on other blogs. So before too long I had accumulated quite a bit of content on my first blog and a few good backlinks here and there. (These were mostly from the bloggers who had seen me commenting repeatedly and had put a permalink to my blog in the sidebar.)

I just kept chipping away at it, and gradually became curious about the nuts and bolts of blogging. I'm no Darren Rowse, of course. But I have amassed quite a bit of knowledge now. That means that when I post I'm mindful of SEO aspects - keywords in titles, for instance. (That's not something I spend much time investigating; I'm just aware of it so that it might help draw more traffic.) What I've found is that this awareness has complicated the experience and therefore diminished the enjoyment a little.

The process is a bit like what happens to a film buff who becomes a writer/director. In the beginning, he just loves watching movies. He gets caught up in the world on the screen and has a great time. Then he decides he wants to write and direct films himself. So he gets comprehensive training, making several films in his course. After that he can never look at a film in the way he used to because he keeps seeing the craft. It doesn't mean that he can't enjoy them at all; he's just lost his innocence (for want of a better word). The simplicity, or purity of his original experience has gone.

That may not be the best analogy to use when talking about the journey bloggers go through since they were writing from the start as opposed to reading them, then writing them! But they do go through a similar journey, I believe.

Basically, bloggers run the risk of becoming too constantly aware of what they're doing, rather than just doing it! That's why I think it's worth taking a break from learning about (and consciously applying) various blogging techniques and simply writing about your passion. By doing this you can let the stuff you have learned become second nature, while still enjoying the process.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Article and forum marketing vs. blog commenting

As just about everyone who's got a blog or website learns pretty early on, three of the best ways to get those all important backlinks to your site are via article bio-boxes, forum promotion (with dofollow signatures) and commenting on dofollow blogs.

From what I can tell, articles will give the best SEO value per backlink. Not sure which comes next out of the other two. I think it's probably the blog comments. In any case, I do prefer the forum marketing.

This is because blog commenting can be more time consuming than participating in forums. Firstly you have to find the blog, then find the post that you sincerely want to contribute to. Finally you write your comment.

Also, blogs are usually written by just one person, so many of them are only updated occasionally. You can return again and again to a quality blog and not find a post you can comment thoughtfully on for weeks!

On the other hand the content in forums is contributed by hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. So if you find a nice big active forum, you can keep coming back and there'll almost always be lots of new stuff there to comment on and contribute to. You just go to the relevant section and scroll down through the list of threads to see what catches your eye. Because of this, you can build backlinks far more quickly.

There's another advantage that forum promotion (and article marketing for that matter) has over blog commenting: You can go back to what you've written and edit it, including the links back to your site. You can't do this with blog comments. Once you've posted your comment on someone else's blog, that's it!

This may not seem like a big advantage. But it definitely comes in useful if you want to launch a new website or blog. If you've got dozens of posts up there are you've got a very useful instant SEO tool. You just log into the forum, go to your account, then add the new link to your signature. Same with your article bio-boxes. While some of the big article directories allow a maximum of two bio-box links, many of them allow three. If you haven't used all these then you can just put the new one in for each of your previously submitted articles. If you have used them all then you can just replace one of the other backlinks with the new one.

If you have a really large number of these up already then it's probably not a great idea to do them all at once since Google might not approve! But if you spread them out a bit, particularly if you've done some other incremental link building in the past, then it shouldn't be a problem. And it will definitely help with SEO.

Beware blogger burnout!

Every now and then articles about how people burn out while blogging pop up in the media. It seems odd that something people do in their own time, and on their own terms, can cause them so much stress. I mean, burnout is usually associated with people working too hard in "real" jobs.

While I don't think I'm even near that point, I do understand why such a thing occurs. It's simply that with blogging there are no set limits. There's no point at which you - or some separate authority - says, "that's enough; you've achieved what's required". In other words, there's no "knock off" time, and no bell to tell you it's arrived.

When you start blogging for fun, it's enjoyable just to post regardless of anyone else's reaction. So you just keep at it with no real goal in mind. But eventually you see that the more you write the more traffic you get. (Of course there are other factors, but this is certainly one of the main ones.) You like the attention, so you keep posting more frequently. You get to the point where your blog is drawing a few hundred hits a day, say. You don't want your traffic to wane, and you don't want to lose your regular readers. So you make sure that you keep up that pace. But eventually even that's not enough. Your traffic is a source of some pride, but it's nothing compared to the readerships of bloggers you admire. So you keep trying to up the ante.

If you're making money off the blog the same motivation applies. You start with a few bucks here and there, which is a nice surprise. It slowly increases, but never fast enough. So you post even more. And more, and more ...

In both cases there are no upper limits. The more you get the more you want. So your blog becomes like this huge magnet that keeps demanding your time and effort. Before you know it you haven't slept or showered for a week, and can barely say your name!

Needless to say, it's a good idea to take a break from blogging occasionally and just "smell the roses" as they say. Blogging is great fun, and can be a good source of income for some. But it's certainly not worth sacrificing your health for.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Update on page rank update!

Earlier I wrote about how the PR for one of my other blogs had dropped from 3 to 1. Well, it has gone back to 3 again.

I doubt there was even a page rank update at all. I think the last one was a month or so ago, and it will be at least a another month before there's another. So I suspect that the fall was merely due to some little glitch in my browser.

So I haven't offended the Google God after all! That's a relief ...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The importance of insight

There's that saying "there's nothing new under the sun". That's true generally. And it's particularly true on the internet. There are just so many blogs about internet marketing, for instance. They all have the same or very very similar information: how to get traffic, how to build backlinks for free, etc.

So it seems that to distinguish yourself from the pack you have to do one of two things (or both of them together): Be the very first to post the new information. Or you have to write uniquely insightful posts about your niche.

That's not an easy thing to do. And it's very hard to do consistently.

Friday, July 17, 2009

SEO benefit of forum signatures

While I've long known that building dofollow backlinks through forum participation benefits site SEO, I just didn't know how much. But this blogger has managed to quantify it somewhat by running an experiment.

His results show it's clearly worth doing, even if the forums you participate in are not related to your site.

Personally, I like participating - particularly on some of the bigger forums - because there's almost always something to provoke a response. So you're not just sitting there looking at a blank screen trying to come up with something new and interesting to say. The process of writing is pleasurable, and you're link building without thinking about it. Also, the forum posts you write can be used again as the basis for articles or blog posts. As long as they are rewritten substantially, they will be unique content.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Social media for SEO

Up to now I've been very slack about joining social networking sites. I'm time poor and just never get around to it.

Still, I've heard that they can be fantastic for traffic generation, and good for SEO too. For instance, simply signing up to many of these sites will get you a backlink that counts for SEO. Here's a good list of them.

Google Profiles is not on the above list, but is worth joining for the same reasons.

Latest page rank update

I know that people tend to obsess a bit too much over page rank. It's only one factor in Google's estimation of your site, after all.

Still, it's hard not to be chuffed when your PR goes up, and miffed when it goes down. I'm feeling pretty miffed now, because the PR on my humor and opinion blog has just dropped two notches! It was PR 3, and it's now down to 1! And about 6 months ago it was PR 4. I don't know what I've done to provoke this fall. Maybe nothing; perhaps it's all due to algorithm changes ...

In any case I definitely don't want it to slide any further. I think I'll submit a few articles at various directories linking back to that blog URL. Hopefully it will help.

Thankfully my daily traffic hasn't fallen at all. So it seems PR has little or nothing to do with that.

This blog remains steady at PR2, however. Not bad considering that it's still pretty young, without much content.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Newly discovered dofollow forums

Participating in online forums can be a good exercize. Needless to say, you can learn quite a bit. You should be cautious, however, since a lot of the information can be less than reliable. There are a lot of newbies on these forums who know next to nothing, yet still think that they know it all! That said, you eventually learn to sort the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly.

A major benefit is that you can promote your website or blog as you participate. You just place a link to your site in the "signature" that appears at the bottom of all your posts. You'll get some clicks directly and if the signature link is dofollow it will help a little with SEO.

My advice would be to join quite a few forums, and participate every now and then. While forum signature links are not as valuable as article bio-box links, they are worth something. And having them coming from a range of sites is helpful (the search engines do like variety in link building, remember).

There are a few lists of these dofollow forums floating around the internet. They include a lot of common sites, though. Of course, it's not to hard to find some new forums yourself with a bit of creative Googling.

Here are some I found just recently: Marketers Space Forum, Net Affiliate Talk, Web Hosting Forum.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Patience required when link building

I have been building backlinks to this site and others lately, mainly through commenting on blogs and forum posts. It can be very frustrating, because the search engines index these links in their own good time. So you can add a couple of dozen links and you don't see any benefit at all for weeks, if not months.

It's the same slow process when you add unique content to a blog or website. But at least you can see it there. So you do have a bit of sense of achievement about it.

Off site optimization through link building is very important, though. So you should do as much as possible - without letting it make you go crazy with frustration!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dofollow blog list's high attrition rate

Many months ago, when I first learned about dofollow blogs and the SEO benefit that commenting on them confers, I did quite a bit of searching for them. I amassed quite a substantial list and did comment on a few here and there. I then gave it up for quite a while.

I just returned to it recently, intending to write a few more comments. What surprised me was how many of the blogs had "died". And quite a few of them that were previously dofollow had been switched back to nofollow, presumably because the bloggers had become sick of all the spammy comments.

It just confirmed my view that while dofollow blogs are definitely worth commenting thoughtfully on if you find them, you can waste quite a bit of time and energy with this particular method of link building. I think that the best approach is simply to find blogs you like, return to them from time to time, and comment when you feel like it.