Leaving Work Behind

Is Guest Posting Dead?

Written by Tom Ewer on July 25, 2011. 8 Comments

Is Guest Posting Dead?I recently had a guest post published over at Feel Gooder. You can read the article here: 6 Reasons Why You’ll Never Succeed.

The article was published on Wednesday, and to date there have been a grand total of 12 clicks through to Leaving Work Behind from it.

A lot has been said about “the death of guest posting”, and I tend to believe that it is far less powerful than it once was.

The problem is, if you look around many popular blogs, guest posting is now (and has been for some time) a regular occurence. My theory is that people have become accustomed to them, and as such, are more likely to ignore any outgoing links in the article, much like they would ignore advertising.

Having said that, I do think that guest posting serves a purpose – I am just not convinced that it offers great benefits in terms of promoting your blog.

How about you? What are your thoughts on guest posting?

My First Niche Site: Update #3 – Failure! Failure?

Written by Tom Ewer on July 22, 2011. 12 Comments

This is Part #3 of a series. A list of all the other updates can be found at the bottom of this post.

Please note that Modeling For Kids is no longer an active site. If you’d like to know why I shut down the site and started up a new one, click here.

My First Niche SiteWhen it comes to internet marketing, a decrease in morale is often caused by two things – not hitting, or losing sight of, your perceived goals.

Take my niche site for example – Modeling For Kids. If you have been following the updates on my progress (Update #1 | Update #2) then you will know that most recently, a period of frustration was alleviated by the site moving up two spots in the Google rankings – from #13 to #11. This was just enough to take the edge off my growing frustration.

However, since then, the site has fallen back down to #13 in the rankings.

Failure! Failure?

It is at this point that I could throw my hands up in despair, moan about how unfair Google is, and generally carry on in a very unhelpful manner.

But hang on – what was my original goal when I first started out? To reach the number 1 spot in Google within 90 days. How many days in am I? 60. So what is the problem? I still have 3o days to reach my goal.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I can just sit back on my haunches and simply wait for my site to climb the rankings. However, my reality check does provide me with a fresh perspective so that I can kick start a new effort.

First Reevaluate, Then Strategize

So, at this point I have decided to step back and analyse what I can do to better my chances. It is at this stage that you should be realistic with yourself. It is so easy to simply claim that Google is out to get you, and that no amount of work will move your site up the rankings. Logically speaking however, this is simply not the case.

As I revealed in my recent article, “The Ultimate SEO Strategy”, the theory behind ranking well for Google is not rocket science. Provide quality content, and obtain plenty of backlinks.

The Power Of Reevaluation

It is very easy to consider that you have done everything that you can, and that you are at a loss. However, if you step back and objectively analyse your efforts, you may see a different story.

I have recently been doing very little in terms of backlinking for my niche site. Quite frankly, I thought that I had done enough. I foolishly thought that if I just waited long enough, the site would climb up to the top spot, where it deserves to be.

But that has of course not happened yet, and I need to figure out why. Now it may just be a waiting game, but I am not just going to sit back and wait for something to happen. The site has been pretty stagnant in terms of rankings for several weeks, so as far as I am concerned, I need to reevaluate what I am doing and press on with more backlinking.

A Fresh Approach

So, in terms of besting my chances, I am simply going to proceed as if I had done nothing to date. Nothing at all. I will start from scratch, and see where it takes me.

I have been far too lazy in my backlinking strategy recently, and that changes right now.

The simple fact is, I shouldn’t be even worrying about my ranking until my 90 days are up. I just need to worry about giving myself the best possible chance to rank. The rest is largely irrelevant.

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How To Stop Boring Your Audience

Written by Tom Ewer on July 20, 2011. 2 Comments

How To Stop Boring Your AudienceYour content is boring. Just thinking about it is sending me to sleep.

I do not know this of course – your content may be breathtaking. My life may be worse for not being aware of its existence.

But even the most brilliant of bloggers should periodically ask the question, “Am I boring my audience?” If you are publishing a few articles a week, then it is all too easy to fall into the trap of writing tedious, monotonous, bog-standard tripe (please forgive my British vernacular).

It is easier to spend money than make it. It is easier to fail than to succeed. And it is easier to write rubbish than inspirational content. So, how do you stop yourself from doing what is so easy? Consider the following.

Be Good At What You Do

In order to produce great content, you need to be a good writer. I use the word “good” very deliberately, as you do not need to be a great writer. If you can string a sentence together with good grammar, spelling and punctuation, but Shakespeare of our age you are not, you do not need to worry unduly.

If your audience can understand your message, you are half way there. You then need to make your message compelling. That topic deserves an article all to itself, which it will get in the future.

Be Ruthless With Your Writing

Seth Godin writes rubbish. It is what he does next that is the key to his success – he discards it, and keeps going until he produces something brilliant. Trust me, he doesn’t sit down and simply allow his daily nuggets of wisdom to flow unconsciously onto the page. He considers the quality of what he is writing, and separates the wheat from the chaff. You need to relinquish the emotional attachment you have to your content, and publish only what is worthwhile.

Produce Quality Through Endeavour

Ask any experienced writer for advice. They will tell you to do two things – read, and write. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is. No matter your talent, the more you read, and the more you write, the more you will improve. So just start writing. Don’t worry about subject matter, just go for it. You never know, you might uncover a new niche for yourself.

Be Astonishing

If your readers want anything from you, it is uniqueness. There has to be a reason why you are compelling. So, you either need to have something astonishing to say, or you have something to say in an astonishing way. Or both, if you really want to hit the jackpot.

It’s All In The Mix

You need to combine a healthy mix of the above elements in order to produce content that will engage your audience. Ultimately, If you feed quality in, you will get quality back. If you feed drivel in, you’ll likely get nothing back.

Photo courtesy of Simon Hucko

The Ultimate SEO Strategy (Featuring A Liberal Serving Of Irony)

Written by Tom Ewer on July 18, 2011. 7 Comments

The Ultimate SEO StrategyI have to be honest with you – I am getting fed up of the proliferation of the attention-grabbing headline. Quite rightly, experienced internet marketers advise that only x% of people will get past your article’s title. If you make the title more engaging, then more people are likely to read your article.

This is all well and good until you get an internet’s worth of hacks spawning awful articles with eye-catching titles. I mean really, how many “ULTIMATE” guides can there be? That is why you will find very few articles at my blog featuring titles stuffed to bursting point with hyperbole. Yes, it is not a good blogging strategy by a lot of people’s definition, but I don’t like to mislead my audience.

Having said that, I honestly believe that this article can stand true to its title’s claim, and the whole eye-catching title/rubbish article content endemic provides a fitting analogy.

What Hat Are You Wearing?

Let’s talk first about “white hat” and “black hat” SEO techniques. I need to lay down my definitions of these well-worn phrases. It is really quite simple – I define white hat techniques as those that align with Google’s aims in serving its customers, and I define black hat techniques as those that do not. It does not need to get any more complicated than that.

Black Hat

In the case of my article title analogy, your black hat SEO is represented by the chap with an enticing title, but awful content. The reader is fooled into clicking through to the article, only to leave frustrated moments later. In a similar way, Google is initially fooled by black hat SEO techniques, only to eventually discover the ruse and dump the site down the listings.

Black hat SEO is never a sustainable strategy, unless you are willing to attempt to constantly outthink one of the largest corporations in the world. Quite frankly, that is not something I have the time nor the inclination to do. More importantly than that (and call me naive), I want to provide value to the end user. Black hat SEO techniques offer value to no one.

White Hat

Moving on with our analogy, we have the chap who writes great content, with a relevant but unflashy title. This is our white hat SEO guy. So what is his strategy? It is probably nothing you haven’t heard before, and perhaps you don’t want to hear it, but it is quite simply the ultimate SEO strategy.

Google’s Aim

Earlier I defined white hat techniques as those that align with Google’s aims. So let’s follow that through. Google’s ultimate aim is to make money. In order to make money, they need customers. In order to attract and retain customers, they need to provide a quality service. They are in the business of search, and as such, they need to provide quality search results. To the end user, quality search results are (a) relevant and (b) of a good quality. Therefore, white hat techniques are those that align with promoting relevant and good quality content.

How Google Achieves Its Aim

So how does Google know what is relevant and of a good quality on the internet? Well, it may be backed up by mind-boggling algorithms, but it is beautifully simple in principle. If a relevant site links to your site, then Google, quite reasonably, can assume that the site considers your content both relevant and of a good quality. If many relevant sites also link to yours, then Google sits up and takes note.

Additionally, Google considers your site’s content in order to assess (a) what keywords it is relevant to and (b) the relevance of sites linking to it. There is more, but the two principles of backlinks and content form the core of Google’s interest in your site.

So, That “Ultimate” Strategy…

The ultimate SEO strategy is actually very simple in principle. Write relevant content that other people will feel compelled to link to. That’s what our chap with his great article with an uninspiring title did. But then you need to take it further. Promote that content to those people. Spread the word and make it known. Get your content syndicated. The power of relevant links to your site will soon become apparent.

The internet is still in its relative infancy, but the story still remains the same, even when it comes to blogging. Create great information. Expose it to your relevant audience. They will love it, and they will link to it. Your blog will climb the rankings. And as every internet marketer loves to say: rinse and repeat.

Well That’s All Very Simple…

…But of course it isn’t.

First of all, writing great content is no mean feat. Producing something that stands out from the crowd, that grabs people’s attention and compels them to link to it, is extremely difficult. Great writing ability, having an encyclopedic knowledge of one’s topic, having a unique voice, and plenty of practice will help improve your abilities.

This article is a mere 1,000 words long, which any SEO expert would claim (quite rightly) is not nearly enough to fully explore SEO in depth. I could go into far more detail about outbound linking, writing regular content, Page Rank, and much more. But that will have to wait for another article, as although they are necessary things to consider, they run secondary to what should be your main aims.

If you take on board the key principles touched upon in this article, you will be well placed to make friends with Google.

How About You?

Do you consider your strategy white hat or black hat? There are certainly “grey hat” strategies out there too – what works for you?

Photo courtesy of britl

My First Niche Site: Update #2 – Metrics And Keyword Analysis

Written by Tom Ewer on July 15, 2011. 17 Comments

This is Part #2 of a series. A list of all the other updates can be found at the bottom of this post.

Please note that Modeling For Kids is no longer an active site. If you’d like to know why I shut down the site and started up a new one, click here.

Hello all! It feels like an age since I published my last progress update, but it has only been just over three weeks. Time moves slowly in the world of niche sites when things aren’t going your way…

My First Niche Site: Update #2

Up until an hour ago, I was not particularly looking forward to writing this. Although there was a quick jump in rankings shortly after publishing my last update, during the last three weeks, Modeling For Kids has remained stubbornly in 13th position in Google for it’s primary keyword. However, just a couple of hours ago, it moved up 11th place – just one spot off the front page! I must admit that I was rather relieved to finally see movement.

Now then, on with the vital statistics…

My Niche Site’s Key Statistics

Hang On A Second…

I’m sure something has caught your eye. Why is gross income “not applicable”? Simple – I do not currently have Adsense on the site. Why? Well, I was chatting to my pal Robert Dempsey about the site. He threw a few suggestions my way, one of which was to ditch the Adsense for the time being. This idea was borne out of a greater general strategy – that the site should be optimally “clean” for SEO purposes.

The proof behind this is anecdotal only as far as I am aware, but it does seem rather logical that a clean, tidy and well-presented site will rank better than a cluttered, ad-ridden counterpart. I also did a plugins clean-out – most of which I did not need (after all, why would you need any plugins for a site that is only attracting 17 visits a day?!).

So, the strategy for the time being is to hold off on unnecessary clutter until I establish myself and start to attract decent traffic.

One final thing – I changed the front page. Whereas before it was in a “typical” blog format (i.e. post previews displayed in reverse chronological order), I have now opted for a static, keyword-rich homepage. This was inspired by Pat Flynn’s Security Guard Training niche site – if it works for him, it’s worth me giving it a try! Now did the uplift in my rankings have anything to do with this change? Who knows…it certainly didn’t seem to hurt!

The Wonderful World Of Metrics

When your site starts to attract a bit of traffic, you can start analysing certain metrics. Take the screenshot below for example:

My First Niche Site: Update #2

First off, I should explain that giant dip in traffic around July 4th. I managed to delete my traffic tracking code in the middle of my plugin purge. I got a bit of a shock when I saw the traffic die, and I was rather relieved to find out it was nothing serious!

There are three key metrics in the screenshot above that can be very useful for a webmaster. Let’s go into them in some detail:

Bounce Rate

This metric is defined incorrectly by many. Wikipedia defines it as follows:

[Bounce rate] represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.

It is not anything to do with a user leaving before 30 seconds has elapsed, or anything similar (as I have read elsewhere). So how is bounce rate useful? Easy – it shows us how well your site converts. By conversion, I mean, when a browser hits a page on your site, do they explore further, or do they leave?

So what is an acceptable rate? Let’s turn to “Digital Marketing Evangelist”, Avinish Kaushik, for his opinion:

My own personal observation is that it is really hard to get a bounce rate under 20%, anything over 35% is cause for concern, 50% (above) is worrying. I stress that this is my personal analysis based on my experience, but hopefully it gives you a feel for what you are shooting for.

So, in his opinion, I should be slightly worried, with my bounce rate of 37%. At the moment I am not concerned – there are strategies I can put in place to improve my bounce rate, but that is not my focus at the moment.

Average Time Per Visit/Average Actions

These two metrics should be easy to understand. How long is a browser staying on your site, and how many actions do they take (e.g. clicking onto another page)? In my opinion, they go hand in hand – someone might spend 5 minutes reading a particularly long article, or they might spend the same amount of time reading 3 shorter ones – either way, the two metrics compliment each other.

I couldn’t find any reliable “average” data for these metrics, but I have a hunch that an average time per visit of 3m 37s and 2.6 average actions are pretty healthy.

Keyword Analysis

My First Niche Site: Update #2

There are a few interesting things to note from the screenshot above. A caveat first though – you shouldn’t rely heavily on such limited data (i.e. the number of searches is very low). My conclusions below are not set in stone and I am not using them to make any changes to my strategy. At this point, the data only serves to point me in a rough direction.

The most searches are for “child modeling”, when my chosen keyword is “modeling for kids”. This is likely due to the fact that “child modeling” is a much higher-traffic keyword – despite me ranking some 30 or so places lower down for that keyword, I am still able to get more visitors from it. When I rank highly for “modeling for kids”, the ratio should reverse.

“Child models” is the second most searched for keyword. I happen to know that this is a very high competition keyword, and it is in my sights for the long term.

There have been 5 searches total for “modleingforkids” and “modelingforkids.net” – the former search term was likely a user looking to get to my site specifically, and the latter term definitely was. This, along with direct traffic numbers, shows that the site is deemed worthy to return to by some – encouraging indeed.

So What Next?

Well the clear aim remains to rank 1st in Google for my keyword phrase. I will continue with my backlinking strategy and remain patient.

However, I will ultimately look to branch out. I have been looking at the competition for the keyword phrase, “child modeling”. As you can see below, the competition isn’t too horrendous, and the potential traffic is higher than “modeling for kids”. I am already ranking 47th for this keyword without even trying (although that ranking is bouncing all over the place day by day).

My First Niche Site: Update #2

The combined traffic between these two keywords, in addition to the varied long tail keyword traffic that I receive, would be fairly considerable.

This is a strategy often employed by experienced internet marketers when it comes to creating authority sites – target a low competition keyword first, and as the site grows, get more aggressive with your keyword targeting. As long as you are going about things in the right way, the ability to rank for more competitive keywords should increase as your site matures.

As For The Long Term…

I have a lot of exciting ideas for Modeling For Kids. However, there is no point implementing them, or even planning them in detail, until I have a good level of traffic. So I will continue to play the waiting game. Patience and persistence are my friends…

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