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Well, you can’t say nobody warned them. Not long ago, Matt Cutts clearly stated that Google was planning on penalizing large guest blogging networks, and yesterday Google followed through. It was widely assumed Google would be targeting MyBlogGuest, run by Ann Smarty, brand manager of Internet Marketing Ninjas, though Ann continuously defended her site, claiming they would be safe because MyBlogGuest didn’t sell links and wasn’t a “network.”

It turns out everyone but Ann Smarty was right, as Cutts announced on Monday that the guest blog network had been taken down, and MyBlogGuest vanished from the rankings, even for branded terms. Eventually Smarty even confirmed the penalty through Twitter.

MyBlogGuest has been running since 2009, and estimates they were averaging 256 articles posted per day at their height. But, the big problem is that MyBlogGuest had a very open policy on linking and refused numerous times to make it possible for links to be nofollowed.

Jennifer Slegg refers to MyBlogGuest’s true purpose as a “well-known secret” in the industry. Numerous agencies were using MyBlogGuest to promote their clients, while supporting writers who would sell links openly. The website community embraced both, making the more questionable actions wildly obvious to anyone paying attention.

Smarty is still defending her site. Since the take-down, she has spoken to multiple news outlets. She told Search Engine Watch “There are lots of networks that openly abuse the concept and promote paid guest blogging (I won’t list any names; I am not as bad as that!) but they choose to hit the oldest, best-known brand first – does it make sense? Instead of setting a good example, they make it obvious that no one is safe even such good guys as us.”

Notably, it seems that MyBlogGuest isn’t the only entity being punished in this action. Even sites that were only benefiting from the guest blog network’s policies are being struck with manual action penalties.

When Cutts made the announcement that Google had penalized the guest blog network, many speculated that sites who had been heavily using the network would also get cut down to size. Then, many sites began to notice manual actions appearing in their Webmaster Tools, but there was no clear confirmation the two were related. That is, until Cutts cleared up the situation somewhat by tweeting that Google is acting against sites that benefited from any spammy behavior on the site, which could range from running blogs hosting guest posts or benefiting from the bad links.

I could almost feel sorry for the owners of the associated sites being penalized for these behaviors, but Google has been warning about penalties for months without taking action. There has been plenty of time to cut away from questionable guest blogging practices and platforms, but many like Ann Smarty believed they could circumvent the rules. In the future, it is better to just follow the guidelines, rather than becoming the face of a new spammy industry’s downfall.

Synergy

Often, online marketers talk about search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing as if they are entirely separate. However, online marketing is often better perceived as a complex interconnected system which is best met with a more holistic approach. SEO and social media are especially compatible bed fellows and if you get the two working together properly you’ll see incredible improvements to both sides that couldn’t be accomplished alone.

A well joined strategy can see huge benefits in numerous areas such as outreach and promotion, content creation, brand management, and goal tracking. In the end, this all means more dollars in the bank for everyone involved. Purna Virji has some tips to help get the two running together instead of apart.

1) Use Promoted Posts to Scale Outreach and Link Building

SEO professionals spend a lot of time attempting to earn high-quality links, while the social media team normally aims to reach out and interact with their audience to build their brand. These may seem like unique tasks, but in reality they are very similar.

Well earned links often require outreach to begin with. You can’t just buy links (well, you can but Google won’t like it) so one of the best ways to earn links in the current field requires creating and sharing content. Just about every online brand has their own blogs these days, but they often expect them to pull their weight on their own. Writers post to the blog, and expect people to simply find their content. At best they share them directly to Facebook and Twitter for free and leave it at that.

Marty Weintraub from aimClear suggests taking it further and making sure your best content gets out to the public with Paid Organic Distribution. Instead of leaving the blog content to languish on its own, you can use Facebook to search out the perfect demographic that will enjoy and respond to your content. You want to look for those who are likely to share, but also seem right for your content. Then, you target them with promoted posts.

This strategy allows you to reach out to possible customers who may have not interacted with your brand before while also offering them something of value. Then, with a well-placed call to action you encourage them to share, driving more organic traffic and scaling up your link building efforts all at once. Best of all, this traffic is more likely to convert once on your site, which can help improve profits.

2) Create More Effective Content

As I previously indicated, one of the most important efforts for SEO professionals these days is creating quality content. It improves how Google perceives your site while also opening up many doors for link building and audience outreach. But what exactly is quality content?

While there are some writers who can magically intuit what their audience wants to know, most of us are secretly writing for ourselves, even if we don’t know it. Instead, using a joint brainstorming session to go over analytics and create a specific content strategy can improve the quality of your content and increase its sharability all at once.

A community manager can offer a great deal of insight into their audience to SEOs, while community managers will appreciate the opportunity to grow and expand their audience with a regular flow of great content. Virji suggests preparing for such a brainstorming session by:

  • Have the SEOs compile a list of which audiences and types of content have resulted in the best campaigns.
  • Have the community manager pull together data on what type of content receives the most shares and audience engagement.
  • Have the SEOs bring in their outreach plan for the coming three months.

This preparation allows you to understand which audiences you should be expanding to and how to better engage the highest performing demographics and cater content to them. You will better understand what gets the best responses and be able to plan ways to create more content that performs highly and less content flops. The community manager will also be able to plan audience engagement activities relevant to your content ahead of time.

3) Engage Influencers

While you can always go straight to your audience, you’ll often see great results from reaching out to those who already have a lot of influence in your field. SEOs will do well to connect with influential bloggers or website owners. Not only can they have a huge impact on your link building efforts, but one link from them can result in a high rate of qualified leads that can lead to conversions.

There are even tools for helping to identify the biggest influencers if you aren’t sure. Klout, FollowerWonk, and Traackr all create lists which will tell you who to engage.

Be careful not to just reach out with a sales pitch. You aren’t trying to gain a link, but build a real relationship between influencer and content creator. Start by sharing their content and retweeting posts, or helping out on community and audience endeavors. Create a reciprocal relationship where the influencer will be inclined to scratch your back in return.
Once you’ve built the relationship, getting them to share links to real quality content will feel natural. Those that see the links will also perceive your brand in higher terms of credibility, as you are co-signed by a trusted influencer.

Blogger Portrait

Source: Marisa Vasquez

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve likely heard how important creating content is to your SEO strategy. For larger companies, it isn’t hard to find resources for solid content creation, but smaller businesses see a much larger hurdle. Smaller businesses means smaller budgets, but these businesses still need to find a way to market themselves.

Social media and blogs have made it easier than ever to create and share content with your audience, so small businesses have many more feasible options than in the past. This content creates a relationship with your audience and cements your brand as a trusted resource, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg as long as you focus on the right types of content. Phillip Thune highlighted four of the best ways small businesses can deliver quality content without destroying their budget.

Blogs

No matter what your marketing strategy, if you have on online presence (which you should) you need to have a blog. A blog is the cornerstone of any SEO or online marketing plans, and it offers you a convenient way to share new products, industry news, and interesting facts with your consumers. Not only does a blog give your company a voice, it also improves your SEO so that more people can find you. Plus, when something gets posted, it can be easily shared to all the most popular social media platforms.

Ebooks

Ebooks are digital books or publications that people can easily receive via the internet. They can then be read on your computer or any tablet or smartphone. These publications share information and establish credibility by showing your expertise to your clients. Most businesses request information such as an email address for these ebooks, so they also generate leads. These require a bit more effort on a single concentrated piece of content, but they often gain more traction than blogs so long as you create something valuable to readers and you share it enough to be seen.

Slide Presentations

You have no doubt put together a few slide presentations throughout your career, and are familiar with their easy-to-read format. They are used for sales presentations and conferences, but they can also be used to share educational content. These slideshows are easily shared on SlideShare, YouTube, or Vimeo, and will help gain trust and reputability within your field.

Press Releases

Press releases have long been the best way to spread information and establish credibility in your market and your local community. They announce information about new products or services, while also showcasing your brand’s place as a respected part of your community. Traditionally, these are shared with journalists or newswires, but they also encourage bloggers and other publications to share your story. Sharing your press releases will help small businesses establish relationships with journalists within your community, but you can also share them online to spread directly to your customers.

There is no doubt that blogging is a powerful tool for content marketers and SEOs. However, the simple days of recording your daily activities in a sort of online diary has grown to become a much more complex endeavor, especially for those who intend to use it for marketing.

The reason blogging became the mess many companies see it to be is simply that too many put too much emphasis on blogging and tried to make it something new that can drive away beginners or website owners with its complexities.

Blogging can do wonders for your SEO and your business, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed with blogging, chances are you’ve reached that tipping point. You are also probably making some common mistakes that are rather simple to fix. Most likely, you just need to simplify.

A simple way to simplify is to just narrow your focus a little more. If you find yourself trying to cover vast themes and ideas in your blog, you are using the wrong format for your thesis. For every blog post, try to stick to a single idea. You may think you’re doing that, but consider it like this: while a country like Portugal may be “one topic” it can be broken down into so many subtopics. Pick one of those subtopics, and then see if you can break it down more. If you’re interested in the local culture, zoom in more on the music. Maybe pick a specific style of music that is most relevant or interesting and focus on that.

Similarly, even if you choose one fairly specific topic that you are knowledgeable on, you can still feel compelled to write endlessly, but you probably shouldn’t. Longer posts can get a little more attention and earn you some credibility if they are well done, but articles reaching 2,500 or more words should almost certainly be considered for another medium than a blog. By over-reaching on blog post size, you can throw off the scores of people who scan for information, and limit your own output possibilities.

Depending on the size of your business, bloggers can also end up in a chain where five or six people have to sign off on every single blog post before they can go to publish. In reality, you only want two to three people being the deciding council of what content is going to the public. Two or three people are enough to ensure there are no big thematic mistakes or smaller errors like typos or factual inaccuracies, but the more people you add to that process, the more likely you’ll have to deal with more arguments about what is fit to be published.

Speaking of editing, even one-person blogging teams can get stuck in the process of over-editing. Blogs don’t have to be perfect. You want to appear reputable and intelligent, so you don’t want to put out something chock full of mistakes, but web writing is informal. You don’t need to spend the time editing a blog that you would something in a newspaper or any other type of professional writing. Your audience isn’t looking for that.

For the most part, you can feel comfortable sticking to one, or possibly two rounds of editing at most for any post. You want to ensure there are no huge cohesion errors you didn’t notice in the throes of writing, but if you misspell one work, it won’t be the end of the world.

Of course, there are many more ways you can over complicate blogging as a process. Sujan Patel recently wrote about some ways that bloggers tend to make everything more of a mess than they should. You want to put out quality content, but most of the time keeping it simple will just make it easier to see the good work you’ve done.

Source: John Sutton

Source: John Sutton

Blogs are an important part of marketing and SEO. Publishing content on a regular basis allows you to connect with your audience in more direct ways while also helping establish your brand and it’s value. You can generate leads through your community and demonstrate your own expertise while your at it, which makes it a great multi-faceted positive marketing technique.

While it is great as a general marketing method, blogging also helps your SEO by making search engines value your site more. The more content you are putting out, the more crawling the search engines will do of your site, while Google and Bing also recognize your perceived value within your field from your community. Blogs also allow you to do natural link building without getting into questionable connections to other sites, and you’ll have content that can be easily shared through social media.

Just because blogging is inherently good for SEO, it doesn’t mean your blog is as optimized as it could be. Many companies have blogs that are hardly optimized for search, and because of this they aren’t getting the rewards out of it that they could be.

Optimizing your blog isn’t all that hard, especially if you’re using a popular CMS or publishing platform like WordPress, but you have to be willing to take the time to correct the missteps. Ken Lyons pointed out six common ways that blogs fail to optimize. If you just follow through on his suggestions, you’ll find your blog will start performing beyond your wildest dreams.

Many of the suggestions can be done through simply making some changes to your CMS like adding plugins that establish related posts. Making your content easy to find is crucial to search engines, because they crawl pages by simply following links and mapping out the page. If it takes a dozen clicks to find something, there is less chance the crawlers will ever see it. Adding related posts to the end of blog posts allows readers to more easily find content on the topic they are learning about, without having to go back to the search engine, while also improving the navigation of your site and boosting your SEO value.

Similarly, adding previous or next post links at the end of posts on your blog improves the net style navigation you want on your site while also keeping viewers immersed in content. They don’t have to go back to the list of posts unless they want to, and there are even more ways to access individual posts than before. Rather than isolated points in your site map, your posts become part of a chain or a thread creating a larger net.

You can add some things to your site that don’t affect navigability, but will start bringing in many more eyes than before. Many companies are learning how much social media can help their brands, and there are still many ways for companies to capitalize on social media. The most common way this is done is by adding sharing buttons which allow readers to bring content they find important or interesting to the attention of their friends, family, and peers. If people are sharing your content, it is more easily found, even by search engines.

Lyons had three more ways you can juice up your blogging and get the views your content deserves, but there are many more ways you can make your blog more efficient in SEO terms. Navigation is key, but you also just want to make sure your site is as easy to use as possible and find ways to make people want to stay on the page.

While we all like to believe our blogs have weight and share important information with mass of internet users out there, the truth is the majority of blogs are white noise in a field so congested that few actually rise above the static and build a reputation and brand image for themselves.

So how do those select few succeed while the others flounder? The top blogs and content based websites out there all do two things that the majority of the other content creators out there don’t do. They produce great content, and they market their content to reach out to the public.

That seems like such an easy plan. While the first part is a combination of talent and dedication, the marketing side is entirely teachable. The problem is, most don’t actually know what great content looks like, at least when it comes time to gauge their own work.

The foundation of great content is almost always writing ability. You may not be the best writer at the start, but over time you can refine your voice and motivation for writing, and before long, you will be much better. But being able to write well doesn’t mean you’re automatically creating great content. Data is what raises competent writing to the level of great content.

Bloggers can write formally, but the blogging medium is largely used for subjective sharing. People don’t look for boring press releases when they search blogs. They are looking for one person to share their experience and information on a topic in a way that hopefully cuts past the normal politics that make up other advertising formats. The problem is, subjective information isn’t very useful unless you back it up with real quantitative information. It just isn’t very believable without stats and data to prove your point.

Just throwing objective data into a blog post won’t make your mediocre content great however. You have to know how to use the data within your post and build your argument around that data. Chris Warden gives some examples of blogs that do just that, as well as explaining more about how you can improve your content with objective data, all at Search Engine Journal.

WordPress has gone from a simple blogging platform into one of the most popular tools for sharing a variety of different web content. We use it, and chances are so do many other websites and blogs you visit. Whole sites can be run with the platform, but WordPress’ heart will always be with blogging.

With the huge rise in popularity, and extensive fleshing out of WordPress, the bar has been risen in regards to what visitors demand of a blog’s look and layout. Ugly layouts diminish credibility in the eye’s of the viewer, plus no one wants to stay on a blog long enough to read even the best content if it hurts their eyes or sense of taste. If you are new to blogging, but want to get your page up to the level visitors desire, Jo Stevenson offers a few tips for how to get the jump on WordPress blogging.

One of the key moments in establishing how well your blog will look comes with choosing a template. Pretty much no one builds their blog from the ground up. There is a whole community out there dedicated to creating and sharing templates, often for free, and unless you have been coding for years, this will be almost any blogger’s first stop. The trick is finding one that suits the content and focus of your blog. News or politics blogs should look formal and authoritative, while cooking blogs might be a lively green or warm red palette with welcoming fonts.

Once you have a template, it is time to begin refining the structure of your blog. Directing the reader’s eye where you want it to go is essential in keeping their interest, and if the wrong thing dominates the screen, the reader may not be able to find the content you want them to see. Stevenson suggests video-heavy blogs would likely benefit from single column formats, while text-laden blogs would likely benefit from giving the copy room to breathe with a two or three column layout.

Most important for making a blog with a look that fits it perfectly is to learn to code, even if you just learn a little bit. Just a small amount of HTML and CSS knowledge will help you customize a template to make it your own, and eventually you may learn enough to design an entire site from scratch.

After the big shift to content focused SEO this year, a lot of the talk has been about the technical ways experts can use to try to get higher rankings behind the scenes. Everyone talks about how important is, but many are still more distracted by the ways they can mathematically manipulate that content to tailor to Google’s algorithms.

What too many are missing is that now the best way to tailor to Google is to turn your focus towards what consumers and visitors want.

The truth is, the top sites online have been doing this for years, because the most popular sites are those that provide quality content. Smaller SEO’s seem to have trouble accepting this for two reasons. The first is that it is hard to quantize how to make effective content. There isn’t necessarily a magic formula for the best blog, even for search engines.

Search engines run on algorithms, and it is an SEO’s job to adapt or even create a site to best fit those algorithm’s needs. However, trying to take advantage of those algorithms has lead to more and more using questionable practices to try to “trick” Google into higher rankings for sub-par content. This lead to Google instituting the Penguin and Panda updates, so that low-quality sites had a much harder time making their way to the top.

The other reason SEO’s often have trouble understanding that great content has ALWAYS been important is the competitive nature of website rankings and business in general. Just having excellent content alone has never been enough, and never will be, because there is a lot behind the scenes that pretty much has to be done to remain competitive for the great content to ever be noticed. The trick is finding the line between being competitive and slipping into more questionable practices.

But, there are thousands of pages worth of articles on how to tackle all of that behind the scenes SEO that you can do. When it comes to lessons on how to actually make the great quality your visitors and the search engines want to see, there’s a lot less to work with. Rebecca Garland, in an article for One Extra Pixel, gives some great pointers on how to actually improve the quality of your content, while also favoring the current search engine climate.

Yep, it’s time again for a post about content marketing! It looks like there will be plenty of these throughout the next year as content marketing stays on the tip of everyone’s tongue when talking about SEO or digital marketing.

But, pumping out quality content continuously takes a lot of time and effort, which can be difficult for a site or marketing team to maintain for a long time. This causes most to get burnt out and ideas for new content stop coming as quickly. If you’re having trouble coming up with new things to talk about and ways to present your content, Sujan Patel has some suggested formats which might help you get started at Search Engine Journal.

  • List Posts – You’ve almost certainly seen lists before unless you stay away from almost all forms of media and information. If that is the case, thanks for reading this before picking up a newspaper or looking at “the cutest 25 cats sitting on things”. Yes, lists are a super common choice for bloggers and writers of all kinds. They are easy to write, and they tend to be more shared than most blog posts.
  • Interviews – Interviews have also always been popular for media, and SEO benefits for the same reasons. When you get an interview with a subject, you will automatically gain exposure to that figure’s followers and draw traffic to your own content. Interviews are also fairly easy. Make sure you understand the technology you would be using to record the interviews, like audio recorders, cameras, etc., then all you have to do is start asking anyone you would be interested on interviewing. You’ll get a bite faster than you know.
  • Reviews – If you have writer’s block when it comes to coming up with topics, reviews are a great way to keep content coming regularly while keeping it interesting for your viewers. Try to be objective and fair with your reviews, and use specific details to keep others from thinking you are just attacking other writers and creators.
  • Link Round-ups – Similarly to reviews, this is a go-to for those who can’t figure out what to talk about. Gathering collections of links has the upsides of collecting resources you might use on your own, while also earning goodwill for other creators’ content you are sharing.

Obviously, the best way to get traffic to come to your site is to just offer quality content filled blog posts informing peers in the industry. These formats shouldn’t replace the standard blog post, but when you are at a total loss for topics, these formats are handy to have in your back pocket.

When trying to pump content out for a blog, it is easy to become focused on resharing news or tips essential to the community, especially with SEO. The problem is that SEO changes so quickly, most of these posts go out of date very quickly. This is why every blog needs a good amount of “evergreen content”.

Evergreen content is the term for any posts or articles on your blog that will always be relevant to your content. Sujan Patel from Search Engine Journal uses an example to show the distinction.

If you are running an SEO blog, an article about the latest Penguin update won’t be relevant a week or two later when the next update appears. However, a post like “What is SEO?” will always be important, especially for any new readers you gain. The definition of SEO isn’t going to change, and the overall idea of the industry stays largely consistent, though you may need to update the article every few years.

Evergreen content is always up-to-date and will always be a primary interest for your readers. For blog managers, it offers more effective content, that can be re-run later with the same impact it originally had.  For readers, it is helpful because new readers are always looking for basic information.

I like to think of it like Wikipedia information. Wikipedia articles tend to consist of factual information without touching too much on “best practices” or other time sensitive issues. When someone accesses a Wikipedia article, they want a basic explanation of what something is and why it is important. If you can convey that in an article, you have the recipe for great evergreen content.