Leaving Work Behind

Information Overload

Written by Tom Ewer on July 27, 2011. 3 Comments

Information OverloadMy enthusiasm to succeed in my online efforts has led me to read an enormous amount of information. I am sure that the same can be said for many of you.

I would like you step back for a moment and consider how much of that information has actually been helpful to you. I would personally estimate perhaps 10%.

Now, you might argue that you have to read a lot of rubbish to uncover the rough diamonds, and that is true to an extent. But I do not believe for a second that we need to read as much as we do in order to be successful. In fact, I believe it can be to your detriment, and I’ll tell you why.

The Three Types Of Internet Marketing Content

Any article you digest relating to internet marketing is likely to do one of three things:

1. Introduce you to a new concept
2. Reinforce your knowledge of an existing concept
3. Provide you with a “micro-strategy” inside of an existing concept

If you are already up and running with your online business, and have a good idea of what you are trying to achieve, then all three of these article types carry little value compared to what you could be doing instead. Let’s look at them each in turn.

A New Concept

Let’s say you have set up a niche site for dog training (yes, that old nugget). You have created content, carried out on site SEO, and are busy building up backlinks. Then you read an article called “Affiliate Marketing Made Easy”. You have never really looked into affiliate marketing before, so this is all new to you and sounds exciting.

How does that help you in your current efforts? It doesn’t. Not only that, it can distract you. If progress on your dog training site has not lived up to your expectations to date, then your enthusiasm may be dropping. Reading about how you can easily make money elsewhere is not going to help you in focusing on your efforts.

Success takes time. If your efforts are constantly distracted by the promise of greener grass on other side, then your chances of hitting your targets will decrease rapidly.

Knowledge Reinforcement

Let’s say your backlinking strategy is going along quite well. You are leaving relevant comments on blogs. You are establishing yourself as a helpful source on a couple of related forums. You are submitting your published content to article directories in the hope of getting it syndicated. You have set up a complex linkwheel that is drip feeding SEO juice to your main site.

It seems like you have got a really good strategy going on. So why do you need to read about how to do something you already know all about? You’re probably hoping that there will be a little nugget of additional information in there that can help you further. But I’ll tell you what can help you – doing more backlinking. You will gain far more knowledge and experience in doing, rather than reading up on something you already have a good familiarity with.

Micro-Strategies

I’ll give you an example of a micro-strategy. Let’s say you have your backlinking strategy down pretty good. You’ve got it all laid out – all you need to do is execute. Then you come across an article with an all-new way of backlinking that is just guaranteed to work.

The natural temptation is to try the new strategy, but that would be entirely the wrong thing to do. The only you way you are going to find out what truly works is through your own experience. If you are going to be successful, you are going to try many things, and the majority of those efforts will result in failure. But it is only in experiencing the failures that you learn enough to lead you to success.

Flitting from one idea or strategy to the next without committing enough time and energy to each will never get you anywhere. If you are constantly reading articles about the new and exciting strategy, then you will struggle to remained focussed on your current efforts.

Having Said All That…

I should include a caveat before I leave you to give me your thoughts in the comments section below – I still think you should read. You should never stop reading, and you should never stop learning. However, I think everyone can gain value in considering how valuable doing is. In my opinion, learning by doing beats learning by reading every single time in the long run.

Of course, if you have no idea what to do to achieve your goals, you will need to establish a solid base of knowledge – and this will require reading. However, once you are past that point, you should be pouring the vast majority of your efforts into advancing your knowledge and experience through action.

One final thing – yes, it is rather ironic that I am arguing that you should read less, as I am producing a blog. There is quality content available on the internet, and you should still be digesting that as part of your overall workload. And I would of course like to think that my content is amongst that quality. Therefore, I still think you should read my blog. However, if you only had say an hour a day to commit to your online business, then I would say that you shouldn’t be reading any blog, including mine. I am not afraid to say that, because ultimately my aim is to help you, not myself!

Graphic courtesy of My Melting Brain

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.

Read The Whole Series

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