Leaving Work Behind

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…

Read The Whole Series

The Importance Of Mindset

Written by Tom Ewer on July 13, 2011. 11 Comments

The Importance Of MindsetPat Flynn has enjoyed another stellar month. His gross income for June was over $30,000 (and before you think otherwise, his overheads are not very high).

Now when you checked out Pat’s income report, one of two things probably crossed your mind:

How inspiring – Pat is, by his own admission, just a regular guy. It just goes to show what is possible.

or…

Some people get all the luck.

Now what you thought in that instance, believe it or not, can have a huge impact on your potential for success.

The Mindset of The Majority

There is very unhealthy mindset amongst the majority – it seems to be a natural human defence mechanism. Apparently, it is much easier to moan about how lucky someone has been, rather than accept their achievements as a result of their hard work and determination. We all know these people, or worse, we are one of them.

In order to battle this debilitating mindset, you need to do two things.

  1. If you know people like that, you need to limit or exclude them from your dealings (as Amber Rae recommends).
  2. If you are that person, then you need to change your way of thinking.

Luck Does Have A Part To Play, But…

Everyone is lucky at times, and by its very definition, luck is indiscriminate. But if it could somehow be quantified, it could be proven that some people are luckier than others. Despite that, luck is not the defining factor in people’s ultimate success or failure. A factor yes, but one that on the majority of occasions, takes a back seat to good old fashioned hard work and endeavour.

Hammering The Point Home

I cannot undersell how important mindset is to success. A positive mindset is what pulls you through the difficult times when so many give up. Just take Pat for example again. His blog was very slow to get started, but with a positive frame of mind, he persisted, and look at him now with his 20,000+ subscribers. If you have ever given up on a blog that at one stage you truly believed in, take a moment to mourn what it could have been. Now make up for it, and don’t make the same mistake again.

You can learn a lot from the success stories out there. But the best thing those stories can do for you is spur you on to emulate or exceed them. After all, why the hell not? At the root of every success story is a mere human, just like you.

So What Is Your Mindset?

Do you admire, or look on jealously? And how do you think it affects your ability to succeed?

Photo courtesy of Eleanor Ryan

3 Steps to Reigniting Your Enthusiasm For Your Blog

Written by Tom Ewer on July 11, 2011. 10 Comments

How To Combat A Loss Of EnthusiasmLosing enthusiasm for your blog is a common curse. There are many potential causes, but the underlying theme is typically a distinct lack of desire to write. And if you stop writing, you no longer have a blog.

So often, someone with a genuinely good blog and huge amounts of potential gives up. If only they had fully appreciated that it is more a waiting game than anything else. Persistence is your best friend in the early months. I strongly believe that if you create quality content, employ sensible marketing strategies and persist in your efforts, you cannot fail to succeed.

I am willing to bet that many of the most successful bloggers out there have considered giving up. In my experience, the majority admit to just that. That comes as no real surprise — it is a funny old business. Success in blogging does not follow a steady curve. It only takes a mention from a high-traffic fellow blogger to kick-start your ascent to popularity.

I am sure that many six figure internet marketers have at times considered their endeavours fruitless. Now they are hugely successful. They were once in your shoes, and now they have moved onwards and upwards. What is to stop you from doing the same?

A Call To Action

If you are reading this then you may already be running on fumes. In order to fill the tank back up, we need to explore two key issues:

  1. Why have you lost your enthusiasm?
  2. How can you get it back?

Any battle-hardened blogger out there will tell you that blogging can be a thankless task. There are thousands of articles on the internet that offer advice on how to attract traffic and build a loyal readership. However, all of that advice is completely irrelevant if your perspective is out of whack.

There are three broad areas that I want you to explore: internal adjustments, external adjustments, and practical adjustments. I will go into all three in detail.

1. Internal Adjustments

In approaching the many situations you face in life, you will have a certain mindset.

If you have a healthy mindset then you needn’t be reading this article, as you already have great enthusiasm for what you are doing. However, if not, you will need to make some internal adjustments so that your mindset is correctly calibrated.

Consider the following:

Direction

Where are you going and why? Have you laid out a clear path that you intend to follow? If you are blogging aimlessly, then you are bound to lose enthusiasm. You have to know your endgame and you have to set goals, otherwise you will never have a sense of forward motion.

So, if your endgame is to quit your job, I suggest that you consider starting by creating a blog that centers on your passion in life, whatever that may be. That would certainly be a step in the right direction. So set that as a goal.

Once you have reached that goal and your blog is up and running, it is time to set the next one – let’s say, to reach 1,000 subscribers. Chris Guillebeau believes that 1,000 subscribers gives you a great launch pad for your first paid product. Create that product. That’s your third goal completed. Keep going.

The above doesn’t have to be your path — it can be whatever you want it to be.

If you break down your Endgame into manageable, shorter term goals, everything will seem so much easier and your enthusiasm will be self-sustaining.

Realism

There is absolutely no point in setting goals if they are overly-ambitious.

Don’t get me wrong – I am all for ambition. I love ambition. But your ambition has to be tempered by a healthy dose of realism in order to bring about a positive effect.

For instance, if your first milestone is to grow a 20,000 strong email list in three months, then quite frankly, you are almost certainly doomed to failure before you have even started. A lack of realism is as big a cause of a loss of enthusiasm than setting no milestones at all.

So temper your ambition with realism. Set big goals, but make sure that they are actually within touching distance.

2. External Adjustments

External adjustments are all about setting up social checks and balances to ensure that you do not stray from your desired path. These are a little more intimidating than internal adjustments, but can be very powerful. I would recommend that you employ them all, and screw the consequences.

Socialize

“But I already do!”, you might say. Of course you do – but I am talking about a specific type of socialising. I want you to introduce yourself to your niche. Get involved with people. Search out the top blogs and start commenting. Make yourself a known entity.

The fact is, you do not have to be alone in your endeavour. There are many people out there who:

  1. are trying to do the same as you, and
  2. want what you have to offer.

The first group does not need to be your enemy – make friends! Your blog needs to be all about what you bring to the table, which is exactly what nobody else can replicate. If you execute that well, then you have no competition, as no one can be you.

Sign up to Twitter, Facebook and forums, and find likeminded people. Introduce yourself, but don’t force yourself on people. I never advocate forced marketing on social media or blogs. Simply make yourself known, add value, and good things will come of it.

Create Accountability

There is nothing quite like accountability to galvanize you into action.

It can be employed in all walks of life, from dieting, to fund-raising, to learning a foreign language. Tell people what you are aiming to do, and you will be far more determined to do it. That is exactly what I am doing with this blog.

So, set an Endgame and goals as above. Then tell everyone – friends, family, your dog — what you are trying to do.

Yes, this can backfire. But hopefully, if you have employed realism, then it will not. And the massive benefit will be the increased drive to reach your Endgame. I don’t know about you, but I value highly my ability to follow through on things, and as such, accountability provides me with a great deal of motivation.

If you want a real boost in terms of accountability, consider creating or joining a mastermind group.

3. Practical Adjustments

These are tangible actions that you can start on right now. And if you are feeling underwhelmed by your situation, I suggest  that you do.

Get Away

Take a walk to clear your head. Even if it’s raining. Especially if it’s raining. Have a swim. Or sit down in a quiet room and think. Just get away from blogging.

The activity needs to give you time with yourself. You will be amazed at what kind of positive thoughts can surface when you give yourself the opportunity to clear your mind.

Generate Enthusiasm With The Passion Of Others

There are resources all over the internet that can galvanise you and set you back onto the path of enthusiasm. I couldn’t tell you what they all are. However, if your field is internet marketing and/or blogging (which it likely is if you find yourself on my blog), then I can happily recommend the following:

Be sure to ration these out. In my experience, reading more than one of these in a sitting tends to leave you feeling rather overwhelmed!

Confide

Talk to someone who you trust. Explain your situation – your frustrations, your lack of enthusiasm and drive. Getting someone else’s perspective on your situation can often be very revealing.

If You’re Still Struggling…

If you still lack any enthusiasm for blogging, I would advise that you take a few days off. By that, I mean that you do nothing connected with your online presence at all. No blogging, no tweeting, no reading of other websites connected to your interests. Get away from it all.

See how you feel after that. You may come back refreshed, in which case, you should then action the above things, to reinforce that fresh enthusiasm.

If you’re still lost at sea, then fortunately I can still help. Check out my article, Thinking Of Giving Up? Read This. And of course, you can always contact me. You are not alone!

The Value Of Action

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

The Value Of ActionJust a quick note before I start –  the photo in this article has absolutely no relevance to the subject matter. It is just AWESOME, and needed to be here. Enjoy!

If you have been following this blog closely then you may have noticed that I have not yet offered anything in the way of strategic advice relating to internet marketing. This might seem rather odd to you, given that Leaving Work Behind is geared towards making money online.

But it is not actually odd at all. I will offer advice on such topics, all in good time. I will do so only when I feel I am sufficiently experienced. There are far too many people out there whose “advice” is not matched by the requisite level of expertise. I have pledged to myself (and now to you) that I will never fall into the trap of offering unqualified advice.

What you can find on my blog at this time are musings on success, mindset, attitude, and so on. Things I know all about. I may not yet be a six figure internet marketer, but momma didn’t raise no fool. I have learnt a thing or two in my life about the topics I blog about, which is why I blog about them.

There is no shortcut to success. You need to read, take action, then rinse and repeat. But be sure not to fall into the trap of just reading – the best form of experience is by your own actions. The sooner you realise this, the quicker you will progress.

The more I delve into the world of internet marketing, the more I realise that there are 101 ways to do everything. Two respected internet marketers may disagree vehemently on a particular strategy. So who is correct? Perhaps neither of them; perhaps both. The only way you will know is you test their arguments and learn for yourself.

Success will probably come to you more quickly if you devote half of the time you currently spend reading, to action. Even if you read the best method of website promotion ever, it won’t be of any use to you until you take action.

And do not be afraid to fail. If failure leads to you giving up, then you haven’t got your head screwed on straight. Failure is one of the greatest teaching tools available. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it.

In broad terms, the difference between ultimate success and failure is defined simply by those who give up, and those who don’t. Be sure you are in the second category.

So, what is my “killer tactic”? Well, it isn’t a one liner, that’s for sure. It is everything that I have said in this post. But for ease of use, I will summarise:

Now do something, right away, that benefits your business. Once you are finished, feel satisfied that you have taken one step closer to success.

Photo courtesy of kire