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Tag: Wordpress

 

I haven’t written about blogging for a while. Since I follow quite a few blogs every day, not to mention, monitor the activity of my own blogs, it’s interesting to see what works and what doesn’t work – sometimes it’s just plain obvious, other times I had to learn certain lessons the hard way. Here are six suggestions that may be useful to anyone who’s blogging.

 

  1. Avoid ads (at first, at least): when you just start a blog and even when it’s quite a bit more established, it’s best to avoid putting ads. First, you’re not going to make any serious amount of money: if you place AdSense code, you may get the occasional click which would probably amount to ~10 cents. However, you will cause – and this is particularly important at the beginning – your potential audience to reconsider visiting your blog.

     
    Here is a personal example: I have a niche site which provies book and movie reviews. When it first launched I got quite a few people very involved because it’s dealing with a specific topic that apparently many people find interesting. About a month after I launched it I added ads: this drove my two most loyal readers away – they never came back! I even wrote one emails and she never responded. After two months during which I made a whopping $4 I took the ads off. I think these people’s response was extreme but some people are turned off by ads or anything that can be viewed as trying to make money (if you’ve been on Twitter for a while, you know that people on Twitter – tweeps – are very hostile to ads). Note that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with placing ads – you spend time and effort, get a domain, a hosting account – why not get compensated, at least a bit, for your efforts?

     
    Another consideration is that a blog is a personal thing and ads take away from that intimacy. I think when you have an established audience, most (if not all) will understand it if you put ads, but at first it will turn people off.

     
    If and when you do place ads, it’s a good idea to put them in a place that doesn’t ruin the “visitor experience”. Some blogs are so crammed with ads it’s just a turn off even for me.

     

  2. Give your posts proper titles – the search engine perspective: Try to incorporate phrases that people search for in your titles. It’s not really hard to do, a quick visit to the Google keyword tool will show that. For example: Six Blogging Tips and Tricks (the title of this post).

     

  3. Give your posts proper titles – aim to go viral. If you can come up with a good catchy title it will certainly draw attention. And if it’s a good post, people will want to share it, retweet it and send it to their friends. My recent blog post “Gaining A Million Followers In Less Than 30 Days” – got the fastest numbers of visitors from the moment I tweeted a link to it from all of my other blog posts.

     

  4. Use video properly: using video is a great idea which is highly recommended. Search engines love it and people respond better to videos than to text – after all, it’s easier to listen than to read. However, videos can’t replace your blog post completely.

     
    There are blogs that only rely on a video to convey their message. No description of the content nor a meaningful title. Not only this is bad from an SEO perspective since there is no way for the search engines to figure what the post is all about, and so, index it properly, but this is also true for people too. Often I can’t turn on my speakers from various reasons and consequently, can’t listen to the video – so there are some blog posts I literally have no clue what they are about as much as I’d like to know.

     

  5. Use a correct permalink structure: meaning, the path to the post should not use Wordpress’ default structure (which looks something like this: www.domain.com/?p=1234. Instead, use /%category%/%postname%. This is good for three reasons.

     
    First, it helps with search engine optimization, as the path has a definite impact on SEO.

     
    Second, it helps humans know what the post is about if they just see the link. For example, even without reading this blog post, by looking at the link (which is: http://www.industryreview.org/search-engines/six-blogging-tips-and-tricks), people can get a pretty good idea what the post is about.

     
    Finally, it helps you when you check for rankings. One of my oldest sites – coincidentally, the one I mentioned in #1 – has multiple pages that rank well in Google (and Bing and Yahoo) for various phrases. However, I made the mistake of using the default permalink structure – so unless I manually check, I have no idea which pages rank! All I see is a www.domain.com/?p=1237.

     

  6. Beware of spammer comments: Although I’ve written a post about this before, some comments are really quite devious in the sense you may be tricked into approving them.

     
    Not only they may have hidden links – and this has happened to me – a space between two words had a link to some nasty site, and I couldn’t see it until I actually viewed the code. But additionally, even if they are harmless, and you approve them, they make your site look amateurish to anyone who has seen these comments a million times before.

     
    In other words: avoid any comment that sounds generic – like they could fit any post – particularly if they sound flattering, i.e. “Thank you for the great post”, “Can I use parts of your post in my own blog?”, “Darn, I left a comment but it didn’t work.. do you see it?”, “Your design is fantastic – can I ask where you got that theme from?” and that sort of thing. All these are similar to comments I get every single day.

 
That’s it for now. I hope this has been useful.

 

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SEO Traffic in 2000

I haven’t blogged in a while. Some people have asked me whether I decided to quit blogging. “Of course not” I responded “I’m just too busy”. Which is true (as I briefly elaborated in my last post).

 
The frustrating thing is that, as mentioned before, I already have three posts just waiting to be finalized and published. One of them I’m not going to do anymore. It describes my experiences at Affiliate Summit West (ASW10) and it would feel quite silly to publish it almost two months after the fact. So I won’t. I’ll just say: ASW was great!

 
Earlier today I was lying in bed and suddenly realized it’s been exactly ten years since I began my first job in the US (had others elsewhere. Curious? Check my LinkedIn profile).

 
In my first job I worked as a software developer for a dotcom called iAnalyst. This was before the dotcom bubble burst, so we were all reaching for the stars, ready to work crazy hours, and mentally preparing to become millionaires. The sad fact is, we kind of knew we won’t become millionaires, many of the crazy hours were spent starting at the PC and chatting – it was more of a “morale” thing, we all stay at work regardless of whether it’s actually necessary. So there were whole weekends I spent at the office doing nothing. With that being said, I don’t regret even a single second – it was a fantastic experience even when the company went down.

 
I had three projects in iAnalyst, with the most important one being the creation of the company’s production system. Basically, it allowed our producers to enter content, which would miraculously be transformed and transferred to our website. Sounds familiar? I bet it does: Wordpress does just that. More than that, Wordpress does it 1,000 times better than my creation did. Then again, we’re talking a full decade ago – that’s centuries from a technological perspective. Literally the stone age.

 
Why am I mentioning all this? I was lying in my bed and thinking why the company failed. It failed because we didn’t get almost any paid clients. This despite the fact the company got a massive amount of media attention: we were featured in many articles as “a hot new startup”, and our CEO was even interviewed on CNN – NOT the website – the television channel. Yes, we were on our way to greatness.

 
Prior to the CNN interview, we had a company bet: how many new people would register immediately afterwards. There was even a reward promised to the person who will be the closest. I remember increasing my bet to more than what I thought it would really be, for company morale. One of my colleagues was a financial analyst: he came up with a complicated calculation that derived a number. This was the lowest estimate, by far, of everyone. What happened was that he was the closest – the real figure was roughly half of what he projected. There was such a gloomy atmosphere after this he never got his reward. We just didn’t talk about this anymore.

 
So why did we not succeed? Basically, we just waited for people to register to our services, counting on the media attention and word of mouth. Considering I was a prominent member of the technical team (which consisted of only several people), I don’t remember a single conversation about advertising online, making ourselves available for people who search for certain terms. We didn’t even consider this. Yes, these were prehistoric times in terms of internet advertising and SEO, but it still existed back then in its primordial form.

 
We just sat and waited for the traffic to arrive, and it never did. Then we ran out of money. And then we shut down.

 
What we should’ve done is used paid advertising. As far as I know, PPC didn’t exist back then, but there were ways to pay per impression (I’ve heard many stories about the “good old times”, how easy it was back then to profit from advertising because there were no accurate measures or pay per click). I don’t know exactly how Google ranked sites back then (yes, even then Google was #1), but considering I was involved in generating the site, I don’t remember a single conversation about how we should optimize it to appear higher in search rankings. The whole concept never occurred to any of us.

 
I’m wondering what would’ve happened had we been able to optimize our online presence using all the knowledge we now have, even with the tools that existed in 2000. I’m sure we could’ve increased our traffic a hundredfold if not a thousandfold. We did have money. Whether this would’ve saved the company? Probably not, but I guess we’ll never know. There were talks of eTrade buying us (they didn’t) – it certainly could’ve made the difference in that case.

 
It doesn’t feel that long ago, yet in so many levels, it’s light years away.

 
Note that exactly one year later (2001) I was working as a lead developer/team lead for a small firm. That is when I was first introduced to SEO. We had a guy do a bunch of what I thought was pretty comical: he hid a lot of keywords in white text on our site’s main page so they would be invisible to everyone but the search engines, also put tons of links in tiny fonts. Of course, these are very rudimentary SEO tactics and now search engines will punish you if you use such tricks, but in 2001 this still worked.

 

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Too busy

I know I haven’t been here for a while. Things were incredibly busy for me, and I kept postponing updating my blog. However, when the third person asked me whether I’ve abandoned it, I realized it is time to post something.

 
Unlike other posts, I’ll just write what I’ve been up to. I have several posts I intend to publish soon, but they’ll have to wait a bit.

 
In the past few weeks I’ve:

  1. Finally turned my company, U Labs, into a legal entity. This meant (finally) forming an LLC, getting it a bank account, a credit card, commissioning a logo, commissioning a professional looking website (not that the one I created using Wordpress is bad, but well, it did take me around 30 minutes to make – I want to make a better impression than that). This is still not complete.

     

  2. Had to comply with the new FTC regulations regarding affiliates. This meant going one by one to every single site I have and adding certain disclaimers and making changes where this makes sense. Since I have no sponsored posts in this blog, I actually didn’t add any here. I did receive several offers in the past to do so, but I always thought they would stick out and felt I had to reject them. Of course, I’ll be honest, if the price was more, uhm, tempting, I might’ve made a different decision, but for now every single post I have written was initiated by myself – I’ve sponsored nothing here for money.

     

  3. Started participating in a weekly series of webinar events as a panelist. In the past few months I’ve joined a fantastic mastermind group that consists of seasoned internet marketers who share their wisdom in weekly calls. This series of webinars is but one of our joint projects. Last week we had our first (and test) session: despite some technical hiccups, it went extremely well. Our goal is to share our expertise on various subjects. In this session I discussed basic aspects of SEO and intend to do this a lot more in the coming weeks. More information soon. I’ll just say this was phenomenally fun – I had a blast!

     

  4. Started a massive hunt of ad networks. From various reasons, I’m looking for good ad networks, particularly those that provide decent traffic volume, easy to configure campaigns (without requiring to go through an account manager) and (ideally) international traffic as well. Fortunately, ad:tech occurred pretty recently and was a good source of those, so I started going one by one and testing every network I found. In addition, I posted some questions in forums and tried these sources as well. This takes time. Unfortunately, money too – but no pain no gain. Any suggestions would be welcome, by the way!

     

  5. Had my mother as a guest for 10 days. ’nuff said, no? :)

 
I expect to have more time soon and then I’ll return to blogging more consistently.

 

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Rewarding people who visit your blog

A quick recap of the previous post, Enticing People to Visit Your Blog: Part 1 of 2: new blogs and websites often suffer from a malady – no matter how hard the creator may work, and how talented he may be, no one visits his site. In the previous post I suggested ways of overcoming this using common sense and attitude. In this post I will cover technical methods of drawing people to your blog.

 
In general, these methods can be loosely categorized in two ways: one by allowing your blog to be more noticeable, the other is by giving your visitors a reward.

 
Although allowing your blog to be better noticed is clearly a way to attract visitors, what are the things your blog can potentially give its visitors? I can think of two major things: Link Juice (or more formally phrased: “Inbound Links”) and Publicity. So how does one enable his or her blog to do that?

 
Ok, let’s begin:

  1. DoFollow links: as I mentioned in an earlier post about DoFollow links, many users feel that commenting in a blog is an action worthy of a reward. Now, I don’t mean for this to sound like a criticism, it just that we, the users, don’t have to leave comments, so if we do make the effort and leave a comment, should we not get at least a reward (in the form of an inbound link)? I’m deliberately speaking from the users’ perspective since I am one as well (I visit other blogs). Unfortunately, Wordpress settings automatically define all comments as NoFollow links and this discourages many people from commenting at all.

     
    My recommendation: install the NoFollow Free plugin: it’ll allow you to set your commentators’ links to be DoFollow and have a lot of control in the process of doing so. This way, users are more likely to visit your blog. Yes, some will only come for the link, but it will get them to look at the blog as well, and they may like what they see. Besides, if they leave a good comment, it’s not a problem – and if they don’t, well, then just remove it – it is your blog after all.

     
    Note that in my previous post, Stephan (@ThatSwissIMGuy), raised a good question: what do we gain by getting comments? After all, they helps ‘bleed’ link juice from the site (so effectively weaken its Page Rank). Although that is true, Google really favors blogs with plenty of comments, and if you write a post that becomes popular, you’ll notice that it really helps that post’s rankings. Of course, Google hates fake comments, and I would not be surprised if it knows how to detect those (and I’m sure it knows how to detect spam comments). Interestingly, I recently read an article about a guy whose site was banned (deindexed) for using a fake comment generator. So I would strongly advise not even attempting to go down that route!

     

  2. Controlling anchor text: one problem with leaving comments on blogs is that they are associated with the name of the person who left them. Go to a typical blog, and see that every name that has a hyperlink points to a website. Although the link is useful, it would be far more effective in terms of search engine optimization if it used a good anchor text, since anchor text is hugely important when doing SEO. For example: in most blogs, if I leave a comment, the link to my site will be associated with my name, Udi Schlessinger. Although this will help me better rank for “Udi Schlessinger” when doing a Bing or a Google search, it would be so much better if I could control this anchor text, let’s say, have it be “Best Computer Games” for my computer game website (which is a site I have).

     
    KeywordLuv is a fantastic plugin that enables users to do just that – determine their anchor text. Furthermore, by searching for the text “Enter YourName@YourKeywords in the Name field to take advantage” with a keyword, users are able to find blogs/websites that use this plugin and are associated with their chosen keyword. Again, this may get your blog visited only to get a link, but if they like what they see, they’ll keep on coming – which is the goal, no?

     

  3. Advertising your blog: another very useful plugin is CommentLuv. Blogs that have this plugin installed show the name of the last post the poster has created and a link to it next to the actual comment that he left. Therefore, if you have a catchy title and leave interesting comments on other blogs, they are very likely to draw attention and consequently, visitors.

     
    Similarly to KeywordLuv, there is a search string that users can use to locate this plugin (it is not always active, but if active, it is “CommentLuv Enabled”). See below.

     

  4. Top Commentators: this is slightly more subtle but very much powerful. Some sites have a ‘Top Commentators’ bar (look to the right, this one does). Although there are several such plugins, my favorite is the ‘Top Commentators’ plugin. I used to think this is only for show, to ‘award’ individuals who leave the most comments per week/month/year with sort of a title. My opinion immediately changed when I found out one day I’m getting about 70 inbound links from a site because I was a top commentator, and my name/link appeared in every one of the blog’s pages. At first I couldn’t understand how this could be the case, but then I realized: since the ‘Top Commentators’ widget appears on every page, I got as many links as there were pages! Although some blogs disable the linking function, many do not. And even if you don’t get any link juice, the publicity alone is worth it.

     
    It is possible to find such blogs by simply searching for “Top Commentators” and your keyword of choice.

     

  5. Social media: sharing your posts in various social media sites is a sure way of getting them noticed. Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter – you can share your posts in all of them. The good thing is that there are plugins that make this a very easy task. Better yet, your visitors can do that as well if they like your post. Again, there are many plugins that do that, but my favorite is the Add to Any: Share/Bookmark/Email Button plugin.

 
The next three suggestions are also technically based, but are not plugins:

  1. Signature: many forums allow you to place a link in your profile or in a signature that appears on every post you make. Regardless of the potential for link juice this may get you, if you are an active member of the forum other users are bound to notice this and visit your website at some point. This is, obviously, true for email as well: if every email you write ends with your site’s address, then quite often you’ll notice in your site’s logs that visitors have arrived through that link.

     

  2. Videos: one sure way of getting attention is making interesting videos that advertise your site, either by actually showing its usage (through capturing the screen while you use it), by actually talking to the camera about it, or by simply including a link at the end the video. Either is a good way to advertise your blog.

     
    In addition, if you upload a video to YouTube (or other video sites) some users will look at your profile (a statistic I read said that 0.5% of the visitors do so) which can include a link to your website. Although 0.5% is not a lot, if your video becomes very popular, this becomes significant. In fact, some people offer to buy or rent popular videos for this very reason (there’s a whole online course dedicated to this method).

     

  3. Incentives: this is something I have not personally done, and most affiliate networks/individual publishers do not allow that. However, some publishers and networks are fine with it. If you give an incentive (i.e. free iPod to the 100th commentator on a specific post) and just mention it on a public forum or use Digg, you will very quickly get traffic. Of course, you’ll also need to shell out an iPod for the winner, so hopefully the post will pay for itself (using an appropriate affiliate offer that allows incentives).

 
Ok, that’s it for now. Although I can think of a few more methods, I think I’ll stop, as it is becoming a long post. Hope you find this information useful! Please let me know if you do.

 
Quick edit: I knew that installing KeywordLuv and CommentLuv would draw attention from people just looking for links. However, it seems posting this article made my site 5 times more visible. I am going to include comments as long as they contribute to the discussion, and will reject all others. I advise readers to do the same.

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Ducks tend to use DoFollow

Ducks tend to use DoFollow


 
Continuing the title of this post, I don’t think this is really a question (maybe a rhetorical one). To me, the answer is clear: DoFollow. I just picked the title because I thought it’s amusing ;)

 
Yesterday I got a call from my good friend Miki Rapoport. He said “Dude, why are you using NoFollow links in your comments? How do you expect anyone to comment?” and I said “ehhm.. but I’m not!”. And then I remembered, Wordpress’ default setting is NoFollow. This was purposely set up to discourage spammers (who won’t gain link benefits though they will get potential traffic). I’ve learned this a long, long time ago but well, haven’t really thought about it since then.

 
This was pretty annoying to find out and I’m glad Miki mentioned it to me. I’ve created dozens of websites, but this has always slipped my mind. And even though I often check the follow status of other websites, that’s not something I’ve ever done for my own sites!

 
Irritatingly, Wordpress doesn’t offer a way to turn it off. However, multiple plugins exist for this very purpose. I repeatedly kept trying 3 Plugins (they all failed) until I found out that the theme I use hard-codes the nofollow links. Once I realized that’s the case it was a trivial thing to correct.

 
That being said, I tried one of the other plugins, the one that was my favorite, in another of my sites, and it worked like a charm.

 
The one I recommend is NoFollow Free, in particular because it is very configurable: you can set it so a number of comments a person makes are nofollow and after a threshold is reached it becomes dofollow. You can also set it so that certain words immediately trigger a nofollow. Pretty useful.

 
I also tested the other two, and they probably work as well (I don’t know because of my theme).

 
Highly recommended for people who want to give some ‘link juice’ to people who leave comments on their websites. The only concern is spammers, but that’s a different story (Akismet, how do I love thee? let me count the ways)

 
Now that my blog is setup for DoFollow, go ahead, leave a comment. I dare ya! ;)

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