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Tag: SEO

Web Photography: Why Great Pictures Are Insanely Important for Your Website

With so many different tasks to handle on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget the importance of great photography on your website.

Sure, stock photo libraries make it easy to find compelling photos for your site, and whatever you can’t find in a library, you can probably just shoot yourself, right?

Chances are, you don’t have the time, equipment, or experience to produce great photography on your own, and there’s a laundry list of reasons why the important and often overlooked step of photography needs to be addressed.

Today, we’ll tackle the importance of great pictures for website use, and why it’s easier than you may think to get started today.

Visual Content Marketing

Visual content marketing refers to all of the visual elements of your site. This includes graphics, photographs and any other visual elements that are part of your site.

Creating synergy between the different visual elements on a page are important ways for you to create lasting brand imagining, but it’s also important for another reason: the human brain.

In the 21st century, we’re bombarded with so much information that it’s often impossible to recall the things we learn on a daily basis. It’s estimated we only remember about 10% of what we read in text. But, when a photograph or visual accompanies that text, we’re able to remember 65%.

Focusing on visual content marketing not only helps create a lasting brand image; it also makes it easier for people to recall the information they saw on your site.

What Photography Means for SEO

Another critically important reason for you to have great pictures for website use is the SEO implications.

Great photography compels people to stick around your website longer. This signals Google that you’re providing a great user experience on your website, which in turn gives you an organic boost in search.

Hook Agency – Minneapolis SEO experts, use quality photography to improve their customer’s websites, search position, and user experience. Whether you’re an SEO newbie, or a seasoned pro, employing quality pictures for website use is a great way to impact your site’s SEO.

Consumer Trust

While this is especially important for businesses that sell physical products, everyone can earn a lesson in consumer trust when it comes to website photography.

A recent consumer survey discovered that a whopping 94% of survey participants consider image quality important in their product buying decisions.

That means that poorer quality images don’t inspire the same level of consumer trust that high-quality ones do.

Keep in mind that everything, from your products to your copy to your photography, has a profound impact on how consumers view your business. If higher quality images are going to inspire more consumer trust, it’s in your best interest to provide them.

Quality Photos Make Your Job Easier

Unless you have a photography or design background yourself, it’s easy to overlook the small details that go into what makes a good photo objectively good.

Things like the composition, cropping, and orientation of a photo have a major impact on the overall look of your site.

Working with a professional photographer helps to ensure that each element of the photograph is well composed and that the behind the scenes stuff like orientation and cropping is all designed to fit your website’s aesthetic seamlessly.

Nothing can derail an otherwise good website like poorly matched photography that’s warped, poorly cropped, or squished to fit the frame. Most importantly, these design and composition tasks are things your photographer will take care of for you, so you won’t have to worry about them at all.

Copyright Concerns

Perhaps the most compelling reason to own all the photography on your website is concerns over copyright.

Anyone who has tried to get by with photos they scraped together off the web can tell you; copyright law is comprehensive and difficult to understand. Even some fair use images come with requirements and concessions that makes understanding how you can and can’t use them difficult.

By having your photographs taken professionally, you’ll never run into the copyright issues that are common when using other people’s photographs, and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing every aspect of your site belongs to you.

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Advanced Amazon SEO Tactics You Need to Know

Amazon has made many businesses a lot of money. Its unprecedented growth has transformed the world of eCommerce.

And yet with all this, sellers are facing more competition than ever. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a product on page 1, let alone becoming the top-ranking product.

This is why we are writing this article. 

Here are some of the best Amazon SEO tactics you need to know to get your products further up the SERPs.

Become familiar with how Amazon ranks in the first place

Amazon’s product ranking system is controlled by an algorithm named A9. A9 uses simple keywords as the major part of their ranking criteria.

To quote them directly:

“Customers must be able to find your products before they can buy them, and searching is the primary way they can do that.

Customers search by entering keywords, which are matched against the information (title, description, and so on) that you provide for a product. 

Factors such as degree of text match, price, availability, selection, and sales history help determine where your product appears in a customer’s search results. 

By providing relevant and complete information for your product, you can increase your product’s visibility and sales.”

So, to rank a product on Amazon, the product listing must aim to meet each of these points.

Optimize the product title

If your product title is not optimized, you are going to be losing out on a lot of sales. The product title has a big impact in terms of rankings.

Titles must include product keywords, your brand name and a brief description eg the color and size.

Keywords are by far the most important aspect of a product title. They must relevant to the product, so it appears when searched for. If you have a few short and longtail keywords, use the primary keywords for the product title.

This is where keyword research and selection become very important. You should be using an Amazon tracking software that keeps an eye on how well a keyword performs for your product.

The best product listings have their most relevant keywords at the beginning of the title. This is because customers can quickly tell that your product is what they’re after and A9 likes relevant keywords in the title as early as possible.

The more that you can satisfy what A9 wants from a product listing, the better.

Optimise the product features and descriptions

Product features play a large role in conversions. This section should focus around what the product does, rather than how it benefits the customer from using it. You should be looking to use secondary keywords in the product features section.

Another thing you need to know is that the features must be written in bullet point form. This makes it far easier for a customer to scan through and read what the product does.

Now for the descriptions.

This is the section where you say why the customer should buy your product, describing all the benefits they will get from using it. Like the features, the description is also important in terms of increasing conversions. 

If possible, try and incorporate some high-quality images of the product. These should be different from the lead product images and focus on it being used.

If applicable, include a link back to your website in this section. From an SEO perspective, this affordable link building tactic (we say affordable, it’s free!) places a link in a very authoritative site, boosting rankings in Google at the same time.

Encourage product reviews

Amazon is very much aware that people will buy products that are favored by past purchasers.  Having great product reviews are key to getting your product higher in the rankings.

Reviews are essentially social proof that you have a good product. Amazon is looking for products that have a high number of reviews because they realize it will sell more, which makes them money.

Products that have both a high number of reviews and high ratings boost conversions. 

There are several ways you can get people to leave a review, the simplest being just by asking.

Once a sale has completed leave it at least a week for before following up with the customer to leave a review.

For newer Amazon seller stores, take a look at Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program.  This is a service provided by Amazon that is aimed at getting new products reviewed.

Amazon reaches out to a random number of customers who have bought the product and asks them if they would be interested in writing a review.  They will offer a small incentive to that customer in return.

Amazon will only contact customers that have an honest record when it comes to previous reviews.  You can be sure that their opinion will be genuine.

If you’re going to use other methods to encourage reviews, be sure to check Amazon’s Terms of Service beforehand.  The last thing you need is your account banned from selling activities, with little to no chance of successful appeals.

Back end search terms

The search terms section is only shown in the back-end of the listings. There is a lot of debate around this section, but honestly, it is something that does not need to be complicated.

Simply place your primary keywords in this section, entering only one keyword per line. 

Remember to not only input keywords people are searching, but change these if you find that, for example during your PPC campaign, some keywords convert a lot better than others. Always remember to mix the keywords up in the search terms. Do not just put the same thing but with connectors. It’s also worth considering using misspelled keywords here too. Mistakes can happen when typing so if your product has some words that can easily be entered incorrectly, include them here. This will improve the product’s visibility in search results.

Our guest author, Tom Buckland is the Founder of an organic marketing agency based in the UK. Specialising in increasing revenues on Amazon & Google, he’s the #1 ranked Amazon marketing consultant with & the owner of HQ SEO.

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6 Highly Effective SEO Strategies for Small Business

There are more than a billion websites online today, and new ones are being created at a rate of about 500 per minute. The breakneck speed at which online content is being created makes search engines an indispensable tool for finding your way on the web. Conversely, businesses looking to expand their customer-base online have to rely on search engines to drive traffic to their websites. This is where search engine optimization comes into play. To sustain and increase online presence, it is not enough to simply create and maintain a website, and hope that search engine algorithms will do the rest.

A website needs to be optimized in several key areas in order to increase its likelihood of appearing as a relevant search result. These include technical, content, on-site and off-site optimizations, and others. Depending on the size of the business operation, investing in each of these optimizations to some extent is proven to have an impact on search engine rankings on services like Google or Bing. Ideally, a company should implement every kind of SEO for maximum effectiveness, but those with limited resources will likely have to choose a few areas on which to focus. The following article will try to give an overview of what these areas are, and how to utilize them properly.

Technical Optimization

Technical SEO refers to the practice of optimizing the design and structure of your website so search engine crawlers have an easier time indexing it. More importantly, search engines take into account technical characteristics when determining search rankings. Technically well-made websites score higher among users than those that are barely functional, which is why search engines rank them higher. Here are two example strategies that utilize technical optimization which any small business can use to improve their rankings.

  1. Focus on speed. According to Google, page load times of 3 second or less should be adopted as the standard for website speed. Anything longer risks lower rankings, as well as increased bounce rates for visitors. To optimize page load speed, websites should be hosted on reliable servers, have a proper load order for various page elements, and compress their images for lower bandwidth usage.
  2. Adapt for mobile. Recent data shows that more users now browse the web on mobile devices than on desktop ones. To reflect this change, Google has announced the introduction of the mobile-first index sometimes in 2018, which will rank websites based on their usability on portable devices first. Optimizing for mobile can be do by implementing principles of responsive design into your website, ensuring that it scales well on different screen sizes, and maintains the same level of functionality.


Content Optimization

Content SEO is simply the practice of adapting text, images and video of your website to include relevant search keywords and long-tail answers to popular search queries. Content optimization is an area where most improvements can be made. It can be done relatively cheaply, making it attractive for smaller companies.  Writing quality content involves a no small measure of creativity on the part of the content writers, whether they work in-house, or if they work for a white label SEO service. Two strategies to keep in mind while optimizing content are to follow.

  1. Create Credible Content. The be-all and end-all of content creation is quality. In this sense, there is no difference between writing for SEO purpose, and writing something that meets user quality standards and expectations. Creating good content can be a timely investment, but one that inevitably pays off in the long run.
  2. Promote Content. Creating good content is essential, but further adaptation is necessary to ensure it has marketing appeal as well. There are always multiple ways a sentence can be phrased while retaining its meaning, but some ways are just more common among search engine users. Optimizing content to sound enticing while maintaining quality is not easy, but it can be done with some effort.

On-Site Optimization

This form of optimization has overlapped with the others mentioned above, in that it involves both content and the way it is implemented. Specifically, it refers to all forms of optimization which are focused on the website itself, in contrast to off-site optimizations which are done through developing links from other websites. On-site SEO is broader in scope than technical and content optimization, and as such it involves a variety of different strategies. The two mentioned here are only the tip of the iceberg.

  1. Create a quality user experience. Technically- optimized websites make access to content easier. Well-written content keeps visitors engaged. The two combined create a positive browsing experience, which generates good user feedback, social media sharing, backlinks, and numerous other benefits. All of these factors contribute to search engine rankings, and companies such as Google are increasingly stressing their importance as well. Creating a positive UX is equal parts art and science, but that just means you can use principles of both to your advantage.
  2. Try local SEO. Ranking well on global search engines such as Google is important, but smaller business that target a local market can benefit greatly from optimization aimed at state, regional or municipal levels. Studying local competition, tracking relevant keywords on the level of everyday discourse, and similar strategies can take on a wholly different shape in comparison to their global application. Make sure to use them extensively, if your products and services allow for it.
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Advertising vs. Marketing – No, They’re Not the Same, and Yes it Matters

Advertising practices date back as early as the 1700s, when the first real estate ad was placed in a newspaper. Marketing is thought to have existed since the beginning of time in some form, but started evolving in 20-years cycles post World War II.

Neither concepts are new, that much is obvious. So why do companies still have a hard time differentiating the two in 2017?

The line between marketing and advertising was bound to blur at some point. Shrinking budgets and new ways to connect with audiences mean employees are wearing multiple hats to ensure business can keep going. Marketing departments begin absorbing advertising responsibilities to cut costs. Even sales and marketing are now interchanged more often than they used to be.

In spite of this sales/marketing/advertising musical chairs, it’s important to realize that advertising is NOT marketing, and marketing is NOT sales, regardless of who is handling what.

Companies would do well to take note the similarities and differences between the two if you want to get the biggest ROI for your efforts.

Marketing vs.Advertising – What’s the Difference?

Nowadays, it seems like you can’t venture out of bed without seeing an advertisement for something. They’re everywhere! From ads on social media or in apps to announcers interrupting your morning routine while listening to Pandora, most folks are exposed to dozens of ads before they even leave the house each day.

However, these ads don’t just happen by accident. For savvy companies, these ads exist only because of well-planned marketing strategies that place those specific ads in specific channels at specific times. You could say that marketing is the magical force pulling the strings behind every advertisement you encounter.

Simply put, advertisements are promotions for products or services for a company. Ads are often created around a central goal or message that is intended for a specific audience. However, for an ad to do its job, it’s up to marketing to decide who the ad should target, where it should be placed, and what it should say.

The Role of Human Nature in Marketing and Advertising

Advertising is a huge part of marketing’s responsibility, but it’s not the only responsibility. Marketing also encompasses branding and targeting, as well as managing the perceptions that result from them.

If you’re still having a hard time defining the ultra-fine line between marketing and advertising, you might need to look no further than how human nature affects each one.

For marketing to be successful, it relies on things like data, facts, and logic to create a strategy. The focus here is less on hunches and more on substantial evidence that it will work.

Advertising, however, uses creativity, cleverness, and artistry to get its message across via whatever strategy you’ve crafted. Advertising’s sole purpose is to promote a specific product or service, and often relies on design elements and witty copy to communicate its value to others. Logic and data are used to initiate the creative side, but in a way that’s obscured from the viewer, leaving nothing but a memorable message in place for them to enjoy.

As consumers, we’re often intrigued by eye-catching visuals, addicting tunes, or other attention-grabbing components. Focusing on data alone is, as MarketingLand’s Peter Minnium suggests, like clapping with one hand. You need both hard cold facts (the marketing side) and bursting creativity (the advertising part) to create a successful campaign. Neither will be nearly as effective without the other.

Combining the Strengths of Advertising and Marketing

Although advertising plays but a small role in marketing’s big picture, marketing’s success is often determined by its advertising.  If you want to see that success thrive to its highest potential, you need to clean up your marketing before advertising can do its job.

Start by defining your unique selling proposition (USP). In other words, what makes your company different, and why do these differences matter to your customers? You might have the lowest prices, or you’ve been in business longer than your competitors. It might be your rapid turnaround times or your ability to tailor every experience to the individual’s needs.

Try to avoid using generics like customer service and friendly, knowledgeable staff. At this point, those are expectations people have of every company, not differentiating factors (unless you’re Nordstrom or, of course). Make sure that whatever you tout as your bread and butter, you do it better than anyone else, and have made it difficult for others to copy.

Once you decide what you’re great at, make sure you communicate those features in your advertising. True, you’re promoting products and services in your ads, but your creative should speak for itself on why people should do business with you.

If you inject your brand voice in every ad and place it in front of the right people, advertising and marketing become one unstoppable, profit-building force.

Author: Ben Shepardson is the founder of NoStop Ghost Bloggers, a boutique writing agency focusing on helping small business clients take their websites to the next level. From social media topics to articles on niche industry issues, NoStop’s articles are written with style, attention to detail, and with the client’s audience in mind.

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GUEST POST: SEO vs. PPC: Why Not Both?

When faced with this marketing dilemma, many people evoke visions of two opposing forces clashing on the digital battlefield. Yet, these notions about the great divide are overblown at best. Strong organic search pays dividends for marketing and branding and improves the bottom line; then again, PPC also has some unique benefits to offer. So, how about a combination of both? We will make the case for such a sound tactic, which weighs pros and cons of various marketing tools and utilizes them accordingly and synergistically.

In two minds

Marketers often struggle to figure out whether they should focus on paid or organic search methods. The answer to the questions which one is better is not really clear-cut. There are many benefits of PPC campaigns one can reap and the same must be said about SEO ones. How these strategies will play out for you depends on your resources, objectives, and the marketplace. Likewise, how your target audience uses the internet has a profound impact on the ultimate decision.

A matter of cost-efficiency

Organic search significantly enhances traffic at excellent cost per lead.  In this regard, it outmatches paid search. Namely, traffic from SEO comes free in a sense that you are not charged anything for all those clicks. Instead, you need to invest time and money to lay the groundwork and make it happen. Besides, the results do not fade away once you stop paying. That is why the ROI associated with SEO is higher than any form of paid media, including PPC.

More bang for your buck

With SEO, you get a chance to get your business in front of the customers and spread brand awareness using targeted keywords. Boosted visibility allows you to build credibility and trust with the audience and improve not only traffic and click-through rates (CTR) but also sales. Most users have confidence in search engines, unlike ads, which they tend to avoid. Hence, you can count on a higher amount of overall clicks and once you establish visibility, you make it hard for competition to buy their way in.

Problems in heaven

Still, new businesses struggle to get the ball rolling in the area of SEO and sometimes opt for PPC as a more straightforward tactic.  Visibility in organic search neither comes quick nor easy. The task becomes borderline impossible in case you have to go for keywords that also targeted by behemoths such as Amazon or Apple.  Moreover, to make the most of SEO, one has to employ content assets, build links, acquire listings, and use SEO crawler tool to see if the resources are allocated optimally towards boosting organic traffic.

Pay to play

Those who do not fancy the scattergun approach of SEO and like to target with laser-like precision lean towards PPC. Ads are targeted by keywords, but also geography, time, language, device, demographics, etc. Therefore, using this method, marketers can ensure they get noticed by the right people. What is more, they exercise more control and gain more space for the delivery of marketing messages. It helps also that Google gives you an opportunity to take advantage of visual shopping ads that are proven to increase CTR.

PPC advantages

It must be mentioned that paid search is linked to some specific benefits as well. For instance, ads have a distinguished position on the page and dominate above-the-fold content. Users always see them, even when they decide to simply scroll past them. Furthermore, marketers are in a position to gather marketing intelligence and launch campaigns quickly. Finally, PPC may not be as cost-effective as SEO, but the ace up its sleeve is that you have a tight control over a budget: It is possible to set a fixed limit to how much you will spend per day.

The best of both worlds

SEO is the undisputed king when it comes to cost-effectiveness and click-through rates, but it is not a silver bullet that always does the trick. Done right, PPC delivers value and takes your marketing efforts to the next level. As it turns out, an integrated approach is the most fruitful strategy to achieve digital greatness in 2017 and beyond. To make the right call, see where these strategies fit within your overall marketing plan. Select channels that make sense considering your situation and you will be able to stand out in the crowded digital realm.

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Writing as a Business: Your Google Ranking

We’re going to skip ahead a little bit in this series to a marketing piece, primarily because I have received a lot of questions about it lately. So here is the deal: as a writer, you need to have your own website and blog, you need to post there regularly, and you need to deliberately link to it from other reputable sites.

Why? Because when people search for certain keywords or phrases on Google, you want to be on the first page. At the very least, you want to rank for your name, but better yet would be to rank for something specifically related to the books you write.

For instance, I rank high for Troy Lambert, in part because the name is not very common but also because I have deliberately built links to my site with the keywords of my name. At the same time, I rank in an okay spot and rising for freelance writing in Idaho. Again, this is intentional. It did not happen by accident.

So what can you do? Here are some tips, and a pretty straightforward guide to boosting your search rankings. These same principles apply to other businesses as well, because after all the point of this series is that writing is a business, and you need to treat it that way.

Most things you can do fall into three categories. The first is that your site needs to be technically accurate. The second is that it needs to be full of relevant and meaningful content, and last it needs to be well respected, both as a website and as a business.

Did you catch that last piece? As a business. You, as a writer, are your business, whether you write only books or articles and blog posts as well. I will let you in on a secret: it is easier to build authority as an expert if you also write articles and blog posts, or if you write non-fiction books along with fiction.

How do you make sure these things are true about your website? It is simpler, and yet much harder work than you might think.

Analyze Your Website Technically

There is this nebulous concept called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short. However, there are concrete steps you can take to make sure your website has the right SEO for the areas you want to rank in.

As with many of the other topics we have discussed in this series, if you don’t know how to do this or don’t want to take the time to learn, you probably want to hire a professional. A simple analysis and good web design is not that expensive in the long run because your website is your home base online.

It’s really like your physical store if you had one. Your domain name matters. So does the appearance of your website. It should look good, and the color scheme and style should be relevant to what you actually do.

The user experience, or how a user interacts with your website is like employees at a physical location. If it is easy to move around your website, for users to find what they need, and even easy for them to buy, they will return to buy again. A website with a poor user experience is like a rude employee: it will drive customers away, and they won’t ever be back.

The main difference is that in a physical store you might have one bad employee, and some customers might have a good experience. In the case of your website, you only have one employee on duty all the time, and the customer service it provides must be excellent every time.

In the case of a writer, the website experience you deliver reflects directly on you. You are your business, your store, and your only employee. Users who have a bad experience on your website might expect the same from your books.

Analyze Your Content and Create More

This step addresses two areas: technical accuracy and filling your site with relevant and meaningful content.

The first area you should already have covered: you should be an expert when it comes to your writing no matter what kind of writing you do. Whether that is fiction or non-fiction, technical or instructional, or SEO blog posts, what you share on your website should be as accurate as possible. Posts should be well researched, and state only what is known to be fact. Any guesses should be clearly stated as such.

The second part is often the trickiest for writers, especially if you create fiction. What will be most meaningful to your readers?

This can fall into several categories. You can explore some or all of them, or figure out your own.

Research: Often in researching fiction, we as writers become experts in some obscure subjects. Sharing that knowledge doesn’t have to give away anything to your reader, but they may be fascinated by serial killers if that is what you are writing about, and after reading about your research, they may want to read more.

Setting: Where are your books set? Is it an unusual place, r somewhere many readers may not be familiar with? Is it a place you made up? Your readers will be happy to ready about it, and how you relate to that place. This is especially true if it is real, and you have fictionalized parts of it. Readers may have visited the area or may even live there, and will find your perspective interesting.

You: Believe it or not, readers want to know that you as a writer are human. You can share your stories to an extent, and the exciting things you do in your life. You can even share your struggles, as your readers may empathize with them, and therefore feel like they know you.

You are your greatest asset, your greatest salesman, and you are also the foremost expert on your characters and your writing. No one else knows it like you do, and sharing that can add a great deal of value to your site and your readers’ lives.

Link Building

Because you are the foremost expert on you and your writing, you can offer guest posts to other websites, including those of other authors, blog tours, and other sites with an excellent reputation.

In those posts, be sure to link back to your website at least in your bio, and even better in the text of the article or blog you contribute. Be sure you also link to your product pages and profile on Amazon.

The result of this is that your website will have a greater authority in the eyes of Google and other search engines. The more that sites, especially the ones in your niche, link to your site the better. There is also a science behind keywords, and how those sites link to yours. This is a large subject, but for now it is enough to say that it is important that your deliberately build links on other sites to yours.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to trade blog posts with other authors, although this is not as effective as posting on higher authority writing sites. The reason it works at all is that quantity as well as quality of links matters. Having a variety of sites that link to yours is best.

This is a very rudimentary post about SEO, content marketing, and link building. Books have been written about each category, and you should be at least a little familiar with all of them.

As with many other items we discuss in this series and in the section about technical website building, if you don’t know how to do these things or you feel like you don’t have time to do them, you should hire an expert.

The more Google and other search engines advance, the more important it is to pay attention to these things and have a good Google ranking. This is how many new readers will find you. When it comes to marketing, this is a vital piece we will discuss in more detail in later posts.

For now, write on. And let me know what you think about Google rankings and their importance in the comments below.

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Guest Blogging: An Ultimate Guide for Writers

As a writer, you are encouraged by many to include blog tours as a part of your platform building and marketing strategy. Why? There are two really good reasons, but the second one is often lost on authors.

Building Your Audience

The first reason is that you are building your audience, introducing yourself to new readers, reviewers, and other bloggers. (You do have your own blog, right?) If not, there are many guides on how to get started blogging as a writer. Read them, follow the steps, and come back when you are done.

Why do you need your own blog? As you introduce yourself to readers, reviewers, and others you need to tell them where they can find you consistently. This does not just mean giving them your social media handles, though you should be sharing those too. At the minimum, you should be on Twitter and Facebook, but Instagram and Pinterest sometimes work well for writers. This is where you can share visuals like book covers, along with photos about you and your life.

Readers want to get to know you. You can put forth a persona if you wish, and are consistent. For instance, many people have the image that I drink Scotch all day, starting well before noon, and that I work in sweatpants and t-shirts. While this is not true, since I usually don’t start drinking until at least a little bit after noon, and most days I get dressed.

You can publicly portray whatever writing image you want, but readers want to know that image. They want to see pictures of you and your cat, and they like knowing your struggles, what you are working on next, where you are traveling, and more.

Digital wins over physical. You can use a bunch of methods to promote yourself and your work. Everything from business cards to posters, bookmarks, and even calendars and t-shirts. None of these things are a bad idea, in fact if you order them in bulk, you can save a ton of money. Not long ago, I ordered 6,000 business cards. It bears mentioning at this time of year that a number of these things are tax deductible (along with other expenses you incur as an author like book covers and writing courses and conferences).

But who are you going to give those things to, and how are you going to reach them? This is where your blog and website come in. This is where you keep them most informed. You can certainly do so through social media, but your website offers another opportunity: this is how you can inform your readers where to find (and buy) your work.

There are other methods to building your audience and getting visitors to your website which include email newsletter lists and of course, guest blogging.

Building Backlinks to Your Site

How Google Works. This is the part authors often miss. Your site ranks in Google according to how the search engine giant perceives it. It’s helpful at this point to understand how Google works: when you type in a search it does not search the web “live.” Instead, Google (and any other search engine) searches its own index of websites. That index is created by virtual “spiders” who go out and “crawl” websites. How often your site is updated in that index depends on how often your website is updated. Google is looking for updated information, as the goal if for it to provide the best, most relevant search for its users.

If the “spider” crawls your site, and it has not been updated in three days, it will come back and check three days later. If it has still not been updated, it will crawl it six days later, and so on. So if you post or make updates to your website once a month, that is how often Google will “crawl” your site.

If the “spider” comes back a month later and sees you have made four changes since it’s last visit, it will start to look at your site more frequently again. News sites like the New York Times and ABC can be crawled dozens of times a day, as they are updated as news breaks.

Backlinks. While frequent updates are important, equally important is how often (and how) other websites are linking to yours. First, if sites considered to be spam are linking to you on Google, it is possible that your site could be “de-indexed” or removed from the Google search index altogether. This is often called a penalty, or being penalized. This means that while someone searching your name might find your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, but they won’t see your website at all.

This is not only disastrous because you have taken all the time and expense to build your site, but because recent studies have shown that 64% of your web traffic comes from organic search, or someone searching for your name or the topic of your website in Google. This means that you could potentially lose 6 out of 10 of the visitors to your website.

So be careful of deals on Fiverr and other sites where individuals or agencies offer to help your website rank by selling you a block of links. Building good backlinks takes time, and if you hire someone to do it, it will probably be expensive depending on the type of links you want, another blog post for another time.

Guest Blogging. Guest blogging is one of the best ways to do this, although you do have to be careful about what sites you guest post on. Most of the time, reputable companies like Writer Marketing Services offer blog tours, and vet the blogs you are posted on.

You can set up your own blog tours, but it does involve a huge time commitment to do outreach, follow up, and research each sites guidelines. However, even if you do blog tours, you should also attempt to write for other sites as well.

This is why you see writers on Huffington Post and other sites. Often they are writing about other subjects, maybe even what they do for work. I write a lot about content marketing, GIS, sports for Last Word on Sports, and even just fun topics for sites like Elite Daily. Why? Because it creates more authority for my site, and exposes me to an entirely different audience.

Building the authority of your site does not have to be about writing, but at least a part of it should be. If you are just blogging about your interests, it is possible the readers of those articles will not even know that you write fiction.

The links you build to your site should be relevant. They should have diverse anchor text (the text that points the reader to your site) but text that doesn’t just look natural, but is. There are a number of tools you can use that will provide you with information about the backlinks pointing to your site, including Moz and SEM Rush. Both have free trial periods, and Moz has a free version that allows limited searches and some free information. (also, if you want to learn more about SEO, search in general,and marketing strategies, you should follow their blog and Rand Fishkin, their founder and an all around fun and brilliant guy)

What to Write About

One of the number one arguments I hear from writers against guest blogging and blogging regularly on their own site is simply “What do I write about?” They seem to run out of topics pretty quickly. But I call foul.

Creativity You are creative. You need to apply that same creativity to your blog writing that you do to writing short stories and novels. You have hobbies, interests, and your books are about something, someone, and somewhere.

Most of the time, writers who say they have nothing to write about on their blog are scared to write the wrong thing. There are a ton of places to find new ideas to write about, but here are a few:

  • Write what readers will be interested in. Don’t just write about writing, but about things people comment on in their reviews of your books, the places, things, and people your books are about. Readers read them for a reason. Give them a reason to learn more.
  • Write about your life. People are fascinated by the writing life, where you get your ideas, and how and where you write. Don’t write about this all the time, but it is a place to start.
  • Share your thoughts. Don’t get overly political or religious, but it is okay to let readers of your blog know what you are feeling when it comes to current events, especially if they are related, even tangentially, to the subject of your books.

Think outside the box. You have things to say, and you certainly have enough to say for one blog post a week. I have met some of you, and you have much more to say than that. Write it down,and get some benefit from it.

Assignments Many times, blog owners will tell you what they want you to write about, or offer interview opportunities, or will put a call out for specific topics. Pay attention, answer those calls, and in short give the people what they want.

You can’t go wrong with a post a blog owner has asked for, or one you have pitched to them that they like. Sometimes you will even have posts that go farther than you imagined, and unexpectedly.

As an author, you should be guest blogging on various sites. It is one way to promote your work and make your writing more profitable. A big part of the dream as an author is for your work to be read. In order for it to be read, readers must discover it and have an easy way to purchase it.

It’s a lot of work to build your audience and find guest postings on various sites. But you should be building backlinks to your sites, and you do have things to write about. It is up to you to explore the world of guest posting, but it can be a real game changer for your work and your website.

Have questions? Want to know more? Comment below or contact me at [email protected].

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Keeping Up with Your Blog

Here it is, a confession. (Yeah, that is the title of one of my books, but that is not the kind of confession I am talking about here. Still, if you want to check out the book and the rest of the Samuel Elijah Johnson Series, check it out here)

Now that that shit is out of the way, here is the confession. Over almost the last year, I have been blogging a lot on other sites and have become a regular contributor to a bunch of cool places: Fridge Magazine, Tweak Your Biz, Public Libraries Online, and most recently Huffington Post. All of them serve purposes for me, and as a result, my own site has gotten better.

I’ve gained authority and backlinks, an important thing in helping your site show up in Google searches. I have learned a lot I should have learned sooner about SEO.

I get to write about the business side of writing. Not just writing fiction, but research, articles, blogs, and the many other avenues writers have to get paid. Because believe it or not, now is a great time to be a writer. Everything you see and read on the internet was written by someone. Usually they got paid for it somehow, whether in dollars or exposure and the expansion of their brand.

At the same time, I have not been blogging on my own site enough. So even though it had gained authority and ranking, it really isn’t accomplishing what I need it to: selling my services and selling books.

It’s easy to say this is something I need to fix. It is even harder to fix it, and write more of my own stuff. There are only so many hours in a day, and I often feel I am sprinting through them as it is.

There are a few steps I can take, however, and they may help you with your own site as well.

Think of Your Site as a Publisher

Not only think of your site as a publisher, but of yourself as a brand. Because you are, and your site is your pint of contact with your customers. This is a concept tons of businesses are using, and since writing is a business, you should be no exception. Your brand is the publisher best to get your message out.

This does not mean just writing on your site, but to use your site effectively you need to fill it with content people want to share and link to.

Have an Editorial Calendar

Have some idea of what you are going to talk about when, and stick to it. Schedule time to write articles for your site and others, and treat it like any other job. To do this of course, you will need to decide what your site is about and what you are going to talk about on it. This is your editorial mission statement.

This should relate to what you actually do, and what you can offer visitors to your site. What are you good at? What do you write about? Are you an expert on something that is of interest to them? Share about it, and share regularly.

Accept Guest Posts on Your Site

I write for a ton of other sites, but who is writing for me?  If it is only me, then that is a mistake. First of all , it is good for readers to hear the voice of other people who are saying the same things I am. Second, it adds more content to my site without me having to write it.

True, you have to screen the content you get, and make sure it fits your mission statement, but there are simple ways to get your site ready to accept guest posts.

These are not the only steps, and I will be writing more about writers acting as collaborators and other topics in the coming weeks. Essentially the topics I have been sharing with others, only I will be sharing them here on my own site.

So tell me, how do you keep up with your own blog? The steps above are a good start, but what other steps should be part of the process? Let me know in the comments below.

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