No, I am not rebelling against blog networks that I am a part of and think very highly of. But hang with me for a bit and this may make sense.
There can be countless reasons one blogs; for authority, for money, as a hobby, to sway opinions, and you can name a few more. The most common underlying motivation behind blogging however is profits.
In most online endeavors, profits are always correlated to traffic. Although there is no exact math or science behind the correlation, suffice it to say that as your traffic grows, so will your revenues providing that your blog is monetized appropriately. I will talk about blog monetization in detail in a future post.
Based on the correlation discussed above, I’d like to conclude that the goal of most bloggers is to increase traffic to their blog and thereby revenues generated online.
To achieve higher traffic numbers and revenues, most bloggers begin by engaging in various activities such as subscribing to other blogs and frequently commenting and guest posting on them.
These activities are automatically the defaults because they are easy to engage in. Most bloggers also do not have access to reliable data analytics that shows them user activity and behavior patterns on their blog. Of those that do, many don’t know how to fully utilize the data. Instead, bloggers resort to the Alexa rank system.
No one knows exactly how Alexa works and why it does. But many of us do know what it takes to climb up the ranks with a few simple to implement steps. People like certainty, so why use a system that we are completely uncertain about? Because following the Alexa ranking and using it as a benchmark is easy, whereas accessing, dissecting and analyzing reliable data isn’t.
And don’t even get me started on Feedburner. That thing fluctuates more than the weather in Michigan. Even when the aggregate subscriber number is nearly accurate (and most times it is), my issue with the service is that the quality and integrity of the underlying data analytics is horrendous. I will leave it at that before this becomes a FB rant session. Not sure Google wants to hear that anyway.
Why is your Alexa improving? Is it improving because you are experiencing higher levels of traffic to your website? Or is it improving because the majority of your blog’s visitors also use Alexa? If you are part of blog networks like the Yakezie, this is why it is encouraged that you download Alexa and include a widget on your blog.
Why are you getting Blog comments? Is it because web surfers are able to find you when they search for your discussion topics? Or is it because other bloggers within the networks you are a part of frequent and comment on your blog?
Evaluate this one carefully. It’s great to have interaction on your blog. We all want interaction for various reasons. But are you limiting yourself to your network’s membership growth?
For example, the Yakezie is over 200 members strong (I think), and while you may have a percentage of that traffic comment on your blog, what are you doing to attract and retain other eyes? Are you limiting your readership to the Yakezie’s growth? Are you limiting yourself to the growth of the blog networks you are a part of?
With that said, I certainly don’t want to underestimate the power of word of mouth. This was and still is by far the best validation and form of marketing, no matter what business you are in. Exposure is key, so you are doing the right thing by joining blog networks and exposing your content out there. However, is it enough?
Each time you publish content on your blog, your blog blasts out a string of code and pings or notifies various blog engines and syndication avenues. When visitors comment on your blog, the comments are treated as new content to your website.
What happens many times is that each time your blog pings a syndication service in cyberspace, it counts as a visit to your website. This is because the syndication service’s spiders (robots) automatically crawl your website, specifically the post you syndicate and reads it just as a human reader would.
If you are wondering why your blog’s page views are up but your subscribers are not (or at least not as much as they should be in correlation to page views), this is likely the reason why. If you are also wondering why a blog’s Alexa tanks soon after you stop actively posting, this is also the reason why.
Because your blog is constantly pinging other platforms on the internet, this allows your feed to appear higher on various syndication lists. The more active your blog is, the more frequently your feed will appear higher on newsfeeds, blog aggregators and other similar platforms.
Are you gaining true readership by doing so? Take some time to analyze the average time spent on your blog by a visitor and those numbers should be quite revealing.
Commenting is great for establishing and honing relationships, encouraging recurring visits, social interaction and a live community. All these factors are critical to your blog’s success. No one wants to visit a dead blog. It’s just no fun. Blog networks can certainly help with this cause.
But the question still remains, what are you doing to reach the masses? Although you have a live blog and an active community, what are you doing to get a unique visitor to visit your blog to begin with?
There are two key initiatives that lead to increased organic blog traffic, and therefore readership, subscribership and revenues. These are search engine optimization (SEO) and internet marketing.
I am not suggesting you spend an eternity learning, mastering and implementing SEO like many think they need to do. SEO fundamentally hasn’t really changed much, so despite what you read or hear, learning the basic fundamentals and applying them consistently will suffice. There is no magic pill either when it comes to SEO. It’s a matter of execution and simply has to be done.
SEO involves using appropriate and relevant keywords, establishing the right URL for your blog posts (permalinks), having the right keyword density (keyword saturation), use of meta tags such as titles, keyword and descriptions, use of heading tags and strategic interlinking (how one page links to another).
There are various plug-ins available to enable you to optimize each of your blog posts such as the SEO All in One Pack. I highly recommend you implement one of these and use them consistently.
The challenge with plug-ins and the infrastructure of most blogs is that they are not coded in the best way possible for SEO purposes. Most blog back-end codes are inherently convoluted and not very conducive to sound SEO. This matter is further complicated by the plug-ins that you load. The more plug-ins, the more convoluted the blog code becomes, not to mention the slower your blog becomes.
There are some solutions that combat this issue. One that I specifically use is the Thesis wordpress blog theme. Thesis was developed specifically with SEO in mind, and is used by some of the biggest names on the blogosphere such as Google’s very own Matt Cutts.
The video tutorial on Thesis’ home page is what sold me to the theme. The video explains how and why most blog’s codes are convoluted and can hurt SEO. It then goes into how Thesis gets around this issue and gives you the best chance to succeed from an SEO standpoint.
One of the biggest benefits of sound SEO is that visitors that find you through search engine searches are specifically looking for you. Why? Because your blog showed up when they searched for a very specific topic. Leads generated through SEO are warm leads that are ready to consume what you have to offer. Can you see how this could be good for you if you are selling, recommending or promoting on your blog?
There are many ways to market your blog online. When you comment on other blogs and submit guest posts, you are already engaging in active internet marketing in that you are giving your blog exposure on the internet outside of just your own blog.
Some other internet marketing methods that have worked very well for me in addition to blog commenting and guest posting are the following: article marketing (my single biggest benefactor), link wheeling, forum marketing, YouTube/video marketing, viral or social medial marketing, social network marketing and press release marketing.
There is a very specific process involved with each one of these methods in order to succeed. I wouldn’t shoot in the dark on any of these before understanding how each works and learning how to execute each to maximize benefit from it.
What qualifies me to talk about driving gobs of traffic to your blog when my blog itself is relatively new and not as busy yet as the streets of Manhattan?
A few things. Even though I am a relatively new blogger, I have been benefiting from websites for years. Fundamentally from an SEO perspective, blogs and websites are not very different. What works for one also works for the other.
I have been able to successfully get each and every one of my websites to show up on page one of Google for the relevant key terms and phrases most relevant to my industries. I have been able to do this consistently over a period of time.
Have a look at this example. When people are wronged by airlines, they typically want to file airline complaints or sue the airline. When I put together my Sue the Airline website, I wanted to be ranked first on Google for several key terms, one of which is “sue the airline”.
This is what you will see when you search for that key phrase today:
As you can see, out of 4 Million + Plus results, my website owns links #3 and #4. I am actually surprised it’s #3 & #4 right now, but most days it is #1 & #2. Maybe by the time you read this I will be back on top!
This means that each time someone searches for this topic, my website has the maximum chance of attracting that visitor.
Did I get there overnight? No. Was it easy? Yes and No. The path is easy, and fairly straight forward. Execution of the path always takes some time, but because I have repeatedly been there and done that, I know what works and I implement the methods step by step until I get there.
This website has not been touched in well over a year, maybe 18 months and more, but it is still ranked very high. Similarly, it is ranked just as high for various other search terms that I target.
The benefit is solid, sustainable and long term traffic, specifically warm leads that are looking for this material, ready to buy my book. The process is effective, proven and “replicable” (if that’s a word).
Now take a moment and have a look at the Alexa rank for this website. Not very impressive is it? Frankly it doesn’t matter. Last year the website sold on average of 2 books per day.
There were peaks and valleys, such as post holiday travel when travelers settle back into their routines after experiencing the most distress during busy season, but the average was in the 2 copies per day ballpark.
Yet another reason why I have never been sold on the Alexa ranking concept. But because it is a benchmark used and highly regarded by many, it doesn’t hurt to use it to your advantage. One shouldn’t obsess over it however.
Not long ago I did some back-testing on my blog. I had my virtual assistant (VA) sample a random number of days and randomly picked 100 subscribers. I had her study the data to determine what post the subscriber was reading before they subscribed to my blog.
I had her list the URL and the date of subscription in an excel spreadsheet. On a separate column, I had her paste the URL of the current post I had up on my blog’s home page on the day of subscription.
The results were pleasingly revealing. Of the 100, 77 (or 77%) subscribed to my blog through a previously published post. That tells me that my posts are indexed relatively well in search engines, enough so that web surfers are finding them and as a result landing on my blog to read them and eventually subscribe.
Such ad hoc analysis is just one of the benefits of having a VA’s services at your disposal.
In conclusion, joining the “you scratch my back and I scratch yours” blog networks is great for all kinds of reasons, but it won’t get you to where you need to go single handedly.
In fact, if I had to choose between joining one, or implementing sound SEO and internet marketing strategies, I will always pick the later. That said, the best approach is obviously to leverage all available means, but you must have the capacity and the know-how to do so.
Again, I am not saying that you should focus all your time on SEO and Internet Marketing alone and ignore blog networks, but rather to find a balance between the two. The fundamentals of SEO and marketing online haven’t changed much over time, so stick to the basics and apply them consistently. The result will speak for itself.
I briefly touched on SEO and internet marketing. If this is something you’d like to hear more about in the future, please let me know by commenting below. I can dissect various components of SEO and internet marketing and discuss them in detail, but only if you want to read more about it.
Do you agree or disagree with me with blog networks? Am I in left field or somewhat near center? What has your experience been like?Previous: Is Free Checking an Expectation? Online Banks Like Ally and ING Have Always Offered This