Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.
Blogging is not easy.
If you are a youngster wanting to make a few bucks within this profession, you probably think that there is a yellow brick road ahead of you. Unfortunately, this cannot be farther from the truth given that there has never been such a ferocious competition on the Internet as it is today.
We are all part of a global society and as such, we are living within this enormous network connecting us all together. Imagine your life without Facebook or YouTube?
In terms of economy, internet is allowing us to get more money or to gain additional customers. It removes limitations of the local market and it has proven to be especially useful for people coming from underprivileged countries.
Because of these simple facts, many people believe that blogging is just the right thing for them.
But, what makes a good blogger? How can you get a competitive edge?
By using SEO.
As you can see, SEO or search engine optimization is in fact a state of mind. Whenever you create something, you have to consider what kind of an impact it will have on your website and Google positioning.
In other words, SEO is one of the basic forms of internet marketing.
You wouldn’t want to have a luxury merchandise store in the outskirts of the city, would you?
Same rule apply when it comes to optimization. SEO allows your company to be in the center of the city, having billboards all over the place up to the point where other companies are willing to promote you just to get a rub.
If you are an inexperienced blogger, this guide will be a life saver.
Check it out!
Consider your source of profit
If you are a newbie, you probably think that blogs make a lot of money from banners and other forms of ads?
Truth be told, 90 % of blogs will never have enough traffic to make this a worthwhile strategy.
Instead, you will have to focus on selling products yourself or offering services. This is the only sustainable strategy allowing you to remain in business until you make a breakthrough.
Now, a lot of bloggers will sell T-shirt and some other minor items just to cover their basic costs. Some of them take donations. Although these can be worthwhile methods (again, depending on your traffic), it is much better to come up with a concrete solution.
First of all, you have to take into consideration your industry and competition. Similarly to real-world economy, same rules apply in when it comes to blogging. Furthermore, you will most likely encounter all these successful companies on the Internet given that this is the best way to promote your organization and sell products.
Needless to say, your products and services need to be related to the general topic of the blog. At first you cannot expect to gain a lot of visitors from Google search engine. Simply put, you will be literally invisible to those surfing the web. However, by visiting forums, Facebook groups and building a social media base, you will be able to create an initial buzz which will result in sales.
You have to know where you want to be.
For example, if you are a gaming blogger (a really popular niche in last decade), you should consider services such as gaming tutorials, practices with professional players, organizing tournaments, getting sponsorship, etc.
Even if you are not selling a material product, there are a lot of services which you can display on your website. Finally, you can always position yourself as the go-to-guy when there is a burning question within your industry.
No matter what you decide, do not start blogging without a plan as how to make it profitable.
By doing a proper research ahead, you can analyze the industry. This will have quite an impact on your SEO effort as it will show you how hard (or easy) it is to penetrate the market. In terms of SEO, there is one general rule. It is harder to rank for more profitable industries.
Makes sense, right?
Setting up your website
Optimization starts with the website.
According to hongkiat.com, there are three basic things you have to consider:
- Server-side optimization includes
- Finding a good host
- Different assets need to be hosted separately
- Redirects need to be minimized and DNS lookups should be reduced
- Compress your content
- Assets optimization
- Proper handling of images and CSS
- Customized header expiry
- Offloading assets
- Platform optimization
- Cache your blog
- Remove unnecessary PHP tags
- Delete useless plugins
That’s quite a list!
Each one of these is crucial for your future success. In fact, website optimization sets up the basis for all your future efforts. First thing that needs to be mentioned, if you are not proficient enough with creating a website, it is much better to give this task to someone who knows his way around. It would be a really bad decision if you were to start blogging without a proper platform.
So, how do these things benefit a user?
Google search engine always tries to improve user experience. By performing all these steps of optimization, your pages will be more responsive, quicker and easier to use. It is also important to optimize your website for mobile devices as people nowadays prefer them to desktop computers.
In a way, Google rewards user-oriented websites by allowing them to rank better in their search engine.
What are ranking signals?
Google doesn’t know how good or important particular page is. So, in order to establish this, there are numerous ranking signals that can determine its relevancy among which links (off-page SEO) and content (on-page SEO) are often presented as the most important one.
This is where you make a difference and propel your website to new heights. As we mentioned, having a SEO-friendly website is just a beginning. If that was enough, all of us would be millionaires.
It is also necessary to optimize each and every article or video which you make. Have in mind that individual pages and website as a whole are not separate entities. They impact each other. So, with every optimized page, with every link you get, your website’s SEO visibility is improving.
Whether these signals are on your website or coming from other sources, they all have to work in unison showing how important your website and content is.
Image taken from xist2.com
We have already mentioned importance of having a responsive website. As you can see in the table above, it includes Architecture and HTML columns. Content relates to everything created on your website such as videos and articles. Trust refers to strength of your website as a whole, Personal mostly relates to your location while Social and Links tell us what other people think of your website.
If you wish to become really good at SEO, you should at least cover the major ranking factors and learn them by heart.
Different ranking signals have different strength. Nevertheless, if you have the option, always try to optimize each and every element of your website.
Content creation is bread and butter of every SEO professional.
What is regard as SEO content?
- All pages on your website
- Glossaries and directories
If you wish to learn more about it, check out this article.
Today, written content or articles are still the dominant way of building your SEO presence. If you Google something, you may notice that most of the results on the first page are actually in contextual form. However, as the times goes by, videos are and will become more important. Nevertheless, if you hear an SEO expert mentioning content, he is probably referring to blog posts.
Also, content is one of the crucial ranking signals.
What does that actually mean?
As you might have presumed by now, it is not enough to create a good piece of content. It has to be well optimized in order to rank in Google.
First of all, no matter what kind of content you create, it has to be unique and good. In the past, internet was suffering from excess of duplicate content as well as spammy, low quality pages. Through updates, Google managed to remedy this issue.
However, besides optimization, there is another good reason why you should create high-quality unique pieces. Because they will attract more attention, leading to more links and better response from visitors.
In a way, uniqueness and quality of your content speak volume of your website and you as the owner of that website. There is nothing worse than seeing a page that spins words, doesn’t give you concrete answers and cannot help you with your issues.
This is what a perfect page should consist:
- Short and simple URL
- Title tag should begin with your main keyword
- Use headlines
- Subtitles should include your target keyword at least once
- Keyword needs to be mentioned at least once in first 100 words
- Include both internal and external links
- Page needs to be responsive
- Use social buttons
- Use multimedia and optimize your images
- Add related keywords
- Create longer content approximately 2000 words long
Improving quality of your articles
As we previously mentioned, optimization of the content is just a part of the story.
Again, if relevancy of pages was based solely on how well you structure your piece, everybody could do it.
The thing that sets one article apart allowing it to rank well in Google is the number of links that it receives from outside sources. In a ways, links are a vote of approval from other websites. These websites are most likely within their own industry and are run by experts within the field. So, if those experts approved your article and even prepared to link it to their own resource, it speaks volumes about your content.
Links have different values. For example, it is not the same if you receive a link from BBC or some local news website. Every link passes a portion of their “link juice” improving visibility of your page and with it, website as a whole.
And the best way to get links is by creating awesome content.
First of all, in order to get noticed by the biggest names within your industry, you have to write articles which can be regarded as scientific. You have to pass valid information corroborated by most influential resources within your industry. SEO doesn’t have anything to do with sensationalism or with ways to shock the masses. You will never become successful if you sell cheap thrills.
Instead, your articles have to improve experience of visitors, whether we are talking about other bloggers or laymen.
Don’t skim on links!
If you notice resources or articles with valuable information, make sure to include them in your piece. Sooner than later, other bloggers will notice this and will be inclined to return the favor in one way or another. Even though most people see other websites as direct competition, this is not necessarily so. On top of it, by linking to other articles you will provide a better experience to your visitors as they search for additional information.
Optimal length of the article is 2000+ words.
Image taken from bufferapp.com
In fact, length of the article is one of the most crucial elements that can lead to success or failure of your content.
At the first glance, this may sound ridiculous so let’s explain it a bit further.
People who actually read articles on the Internet require relevant and fresh information, right?
So, if you are writing about something really important, readers will be intrigued to learn everything. People love step by step tutorials with wholesome and yet, simple explanations. They wish to get all the answers in one place so, making a longer article makes sense.
But, there is another important psychic effect.
Longer article lead to WOW! effect, people will perceive them as more important making them easier to share and link to.
However, when it comes to length of your paragraphs and sentences, different rules apply. Namely, ideal length of a sentence is 12 words while paragraph should 4 lines or less.
You might wonder why there is such an inconsistency. If longer blog posts are better, isn’t it also better to have long sentences and paragraphs?
Here’s the deal. People cannot keep attention for longer period of time. So, in order for a person to go through your entire piece and ultimately share it, he needs to remain focused and entertained. You will constantly be forced to ask short questions and give short answers.
Lastly, your content has to be interactive, to have some multimedia and to be properly formatted.
When it comes to multimedia, research shows that you have to have at least one picture in your article so that it is noticed. However, increasing the number of images is doesn’t increase its visibility. Here are some of the things you have to know about images.
Nowadays, you have to use all the visual aids at your disposal to make a connection with a visitor and in a way, to help him read the entire article. Most individuals have a really short attention span so you will have to find a way that will keep them engaged throughout.
Importance of links
Today’s SEO is mostly based on links.
Back in the day, it was possible to get dozens and dozens of links from various industries and boost your traffic. More often than not, people would link from websites that have nothing to do with your topic. SEO experts created PBNs (private blogging networks) which consisted of numerous blogs from which they would link out to their clients bringing them traffic.
As you can presume, this is less than fair method of doing business.
Google is always improving its algorithms. Luckily, system we have today is much more realistic than the previous one.
Links are one of the best ways for a company to improve its rankings nowadays. It completely makes sense. If other experts in the field are willing to testify about quality of your content than, you most likely deserve a better ranking in Google. Also, you need to make sure that these links come from relevant pages and websites.
Some of the biggest experts in the field claim that stats such as bounce rate and time spent on website are becoming more and more relevant as factors. These are signals which are based on user’s experience. If visitors like your website, read your content and visit your other pages in order to learn more, it can be seen as a good signal to Google that you are doing something right.
But, there is some controversy regarding this.
Google generally denies that user experience has any impact on ranking even though there is a lot of evidence telling us otherwise. Positive user experience can be connected to the quality of your article.
Images taken from moz.com
For example, you made an awesome article about quality of dog food. A lot of people initially linked to it which gave you some exposure. Do this fact, you rose in ranking. More and more people started reading it and sharing your content. At the same time, number of links pointing to your dog article increased. So, at this point, it is hard to tell whether user experience itself or increased number of links (through positive user experience) had impact on ranking. Nevertheless, these two are intertwined and regardless of what Google or other SEO experts say, you have to pay attention to both of them.
We are again returning to the fact that you have to satisfy readers in order to progress.
But, it isn’t as easy as it seems.
First of all, your links have to be highly targeted. It is best to get a link from your own niche but shoulder niches (blogs with similar but not exact topic) can also work. Otherwise, Google may perceive link as irrelevant and may even penalize your for it.
Next, it is best if you can get links from authoritative websites.
Ok, if you just started writing, you cannot expect to get links from Ford or Ferrari after publishing your first piece. But, it might be good to get a link from authoritative car news source.
You have to be led by logic when building links.
For example, if you had 100 links from low authority websites and not one from medium or high authority ones, it will send a bad signal to Google notifying them that you are doing something that is not permitted. Things like this look very unnatural. In the end, if your piece is so good that 100 smaller website link to it, why bigger ones are not prepared to do the same?
In general, it is best to have links from your own country or speaking area. If majority of your links came from countries or was published in languages which are not your own, it will be suspicious. Naturally, if you piece is good enough, even the foreign websites will use it as reference point. But, you need to be careful about proportions.
Another bad practice which was popular for a long time is link exchange.
Basic one website links to you and then you link back to him.
And lastly, do not buy links! If a website sold a link to you, god knows how many others websites bought it as well. Due to this, website selling links be crappy and it will reflect how much Google values that link.
Here is another thing to have in mind.
Sometimes, there will be websites that will create irrelevant links towards your own blog.
In that case, you will have to disavow them.
If you are really serious about your website, you will have to get some SEO tools to track your backlinks. This way, you will know precisely what is happening, if there are some bad or irrelevant sites linking to you and subsequently, you will be able to disavow them.
How to build links
We finally come to the part where you make your money.
Links are not going to build themselves. You are the one that has to initiate the process. This becomes even more important if you are an upstart blog without any internet or real-world reputation.
New blogs do not have enough exposure and here is where most people make a mistake.
If you don’t have the necessary experience, you will probably think that the best way of promoting your blog and content is through social media, by contacting people who might be interested.
This is the worst thing which you can do. It is a slow and tedious process and you will never be able to rack up the numbers necessary to make your relevant.
Instead, you will have to cooperate with other bloggers and hope that they will send some traffic your way. Here is our own example.
The first article on this blog was published on February 8th named: “77 SEO Experts Reveal the 3 Best Penguin 4.0 Ranking Factors”.
As you can see we got more than 1000 shares, which was mostly due to the fact that other bloggers were willing to participate and share it afterwards with their own readers. In fact, such types of articles where you engage other bloggers and ask them questions (so called roundups) are the best way to make an appearance and ignite the spark of curiosity.
Although all of these people participated and had at least some impact on our links and shares, there is one person I would love to mention: Susan Dolan.
This lady was the first to respond and we had a heartfelt conversation with her which built our future relationship. She shared our content on Twitter with her 450.000 followers. This is an enormous exposure for a website that just started working. In the end, it bore fruit as we got 839 shares through this platform alone.
Cooperation is necessary for any startup website. In fact, the entire Internet is based on cooperation and interpersonal experience. This is its main charm.
When it comes to popular bloggers (so called influencers) it is all about multiplication. In other words, instead of contacting 100 potential followers on social media and presenting them your website, you are presenting the content to 100 influencers who have thousands and thousands of followers ultimately leading to links.
Best way to approach them is either via email or social media.
Crating an influencer list
You cannot start the outreach if you don’t who you wish to reach out to.
Unless you have a list of all the people within your industry (which is highly unlikely) you will have to start by scraping.
How to do it?
Simple, by visiting websites one by one and extracting valuable information.
There are those who would recommend automated scraping software but I am against it. The process (although simple) needs to be performed by a person. Otherwise, you may lose a lot of time contacting wrong people or sending emails to wrong addresses just because you were lazy during the initial step.
You will use Google search bar for this action. Have in mind that the targeted bloggers need to be interested in topic. Thus, it is best if you start looking for people who wrote on a similar topic. At the same time, this helps as your links need to come from related sources. Also, if the blogger already wrote on that particular topic, he will be able to appreciate an excellent post.
All your data has to be stored in an excel sheet. It is best if you use Google Sheets as it allows you to store the data directly to cloud.
Here is the list of things that you need to scrape:
- URL – Its always best to put this data in the first column
- Name – Here, you have to find a name of the person responsible for the content (usually the editor or website owner). This person has to have the power to place a link on their website
- Target URL – URL from which you would like to get a link, needs to be similar to your own topic
- Email or contact URL – Try to avoid scraping company’s address, find personal email of the editor (you might have to visit his social media accounts to get it)
- Social media account – Have in mind that every industry has its preferred social media so, it’s best if you discover beforehand what platform is best for contacting influencers
- SEO stats – By adding SEO stats such as Domain Authority (DA), you will be able to filter different blogs putting emphasis on those that are more authoritative. MozBar is a good initial solution
Each time you write a new article, you have to create a new list.
Scrape all the articles you can. On average, you will have a couple hundred results. Within the list, you will be able to track relationship status which will allow you to avoid any mistakes and contacting the same person twice.
Make sure to create an additional list where you can place all the influencers you spoke with!
As you start writing more and more articles it may become confusing. As a result, you might offend a person who was previously friendly. And as we said, it is all about creating long-lasting relationships. Sloppiness may cost you.
How many times have you received an email which looked spammy after which you instantly deleted it?
This is an everyday thing for bloggers.
As you start reaching out to these professionals, you will have to be armed with patience. In the end, there is a reason why it is called a campaign.
Here’s where the problem lies.
Your email is just one among dozens that bloggers receive on daily basis and having that in mind, there needs to be something which will make it unique.
These are the basics of creating a successful email:
- Catchy title – it is necessary to instantly catch person’s attention differentiating you from other senders
- Keep it short – Put only relevant information
- Be direct – No need to beat around the bush. When it comes to emails, it is much better to be direct explaining what you need from other person
- Warm and friendly tone – Unless you are emailing a rocket scientist or a doctor, make sure to address the person by his first name. He needs to feel good after reading your email
- Add benefits – If possible, emphasize how the person can benefit from helping you
- Customize – You wouldn’t like to get an email from a robot, would you?
- Avoid adding email – Against popular opinion, it is much better to skip sending any type of URL. If the server has high protection and your address is unknown, email will be sent to spam folder. You can send URL in second email
- Add signature – Your personal name, company name and email are a must. They make you look professional
- Create info@ address – This type of email address is much better than any Gmail account as looks more legit
There are a lot of rules regarding emails. You can literally stumble on each one of these steps and never know what went wrong or how you can make things better. Basically, like most other things in SEO, you will have to analyze your results and tweak your strategy based on it.
Always send follow-ups!
More often than not, follow-ups can be more productive than the initial email. As we said, people are either busy or your email may end in spam folder. No matter the case, there is nothing for you to lose. Have in mind that most sales are done not from the first try, but from second, third etc.
In fact, sending a follow-up may show persistence as you are unwilling to let a person go and you are prepared to establish a contact no matter what.
That is something every entrepreneur will respect.
Finally, let’s talk about links.
As we mentioned, it is better to exclude any links at first. Instead, you can try with something else, asking a person for assistance. Better if it is a smaller help or something regarding your profession as people will not respond to something that isn’t interesting to them. If the person responded positively and seems open to suggestions, you can try by sending him the email and asking if he can link out.
Emailing campaign is not a black and white process. You will receive a lot of different responses and because of it, you will have to think on your feet and adapt to different situations. Regardless, this is where you ensure links.
No matter what, do not get disappointed if you fail and continue trying until you get results.
Social media outreach
We mentioned that every industry has its preferred social media. Economists will use LinkedIn, actors give advantage to Twitter while architects and designers will prefer Instagram
It all depends on your specific needs.
However, in certain cases, it will be hard to determine what kind of social platform is best for outreach. This knowledge usually comes with experience so you might be disappointed with your initial results.
There are pros and cons to using social platforms in comparison to sending mails.
First thing that needs to be mentioned (and this is a big one) your social media message will never end in a spam box. Furthermore, there is a much smaller margin of error given the message will always be sent to the right person. Social media are much better for creating interpersonal relationships as people are much more relaxed while using them. They do not have the same official vibe as emails nor do you have to use official language. Because of this, they are the right place to start your long-term relationship with an influencer.
With all that being said, it seems they are the dominant way of contacting bloggers.
Unlike emails where you have a predefined form and you are able to send email after email, social media take much more time. In some cases, you will have to wait for a person to add you among friends in order to send them the message. On top of that, while everybody has an email, people usually do not use one and the same social platform. Because of it, you will have to swap between them losing you additional time. Some social platforms like Twitter have limited messages so you cannot actually pitch people.
Because of this, social media should be seen as the second option, at least when it comes to building links.
Nevertheless, they are still powerful tools for building relationships.
They are much better for communicating with people who already gave you a link or who were polite. In future, they might give you more links, they might invite you to write articles for their blog or they might share your future content. Anyway, there are a lot of benefits from becoming friends with friendly bloggers.
If you choose to pitch a person in order to get a link, have in mind that same rules apply as for standard emails. Perhaps the biggest difference is that you do not have to add signature given that influencer can access your personal data from your profile.
Also, social media allows you a less formal format approach.
Even if you read this guide from top to bottom, there is still a lot more to learn about optimizing your website.
Google constantly changes its algorithms in order to improve user experience. Who know, perhaps in 6, 7 months, these tips will not apply anymore.
Currently, they are the best way of improving your page making it more visible.
If you are serious about SEO, this is the sacrifice you will have to make. Always remember, even if your initial results are lackluster, make sure to continue trying. In order to become good at it, you will need a lot of patience.
What were the biggest SEO issues you encountered? Tell us more in the comment section bellow!