Monday, 2 June 2014

Huskamute Pup Tile

Cute Alert!

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Cute Huskamute pup

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Theme Week: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost

Blogging with purpose

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We welcome Rand Fishkin to the ProBlogger Theme Week today to talk us through all things SEO. While this week we’re exploring all the things you can do with a post after you hit “publish”, Rand is reminding is to take a second before we do and have a look at the things you can do to optimize your post before it even gets into the hands of your readers.

For days, you’ve been agonizing over this post. The hours of guilt for not starting it sooner, the toil of finding the right topic, the relentless editing and re-editing, and now, at long last, the publish button is there, tempting you to end the struggle and at last declare this tiny battle over.

(above: the blogger’s tantalizer, teaser, needler, and tormenter)

If you give in to that sweet release, it will feel good, at least for a little while. But in the months and years to come, you’ll look back at that post and, perhaps in revery, read it again, and think to yourself:

“That was a really excellent post I published. Why has it had so little success?”

It started so well. The post had some retweets on Twitter. It got shared and liked a few times on Facebook. Maybe it even got a bit of traffic from Google+ or Pinterest. But, then, the traffic stopped. Your post wasn’t “new” anymore, and the web world, it seemed, no longer cared for something more than 24 hours ago. In fact, the data backs this up – social sharing half-lives across networks are <7 hours.


There is another way.

The vast majority of content consumed on the web isn’t actually found through social media. In fact, the largest driver of traffic to web content (outside of direct navigation) is still the same source it was 3, 5, and 10 years ago, and remarkably, in spite (or perhaps in part because) of the rise of social & mobile, this source is still growing.

You’ll probably recognize it:


Search, and Google in particular (with 90% of worldwide share), still drive vastly greater quantities of traffic than all the social networks combined (some good research from DefineMG here). Given Google’s 3.5+ Billion searches performed each day, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many bloggers, thinking about search, Google, and all that “SEO stuff” has been put aside in favor of Facebook shares, likes, tweets, +1s, and the more visible feedback and applause that come from social sources.

That bias is understandable – a visit from a Google search doesn’t have a fancy embeddable counter you can show off. 30,000 visits a month from search engines doesn’t carry nearly the same social proof that 30,000 Twitter followers does.

But, it should.

The vast majority of visitors who come via social have a browsing-focused intent. They’re looking for something interesting, distracting, temporal, and, only rarely, directly or immediately applicable to an activity that will lead to them accomplishing the goals you’re hoping for on your website (a subscription to your posts, a following of your social accounts, purchasing your products, etc).

On the other hand, searchers know exactly what they want and when they want it – right now. Almost no searches are entirely serendipitous, but most every social visit is entirely so. A searcher is seeking to find information, accomplish a task, or transact in some way right this minute. That’s why they performed a query. If your blog post (and your website, more broadly) helps them achieve this goal, the value of that visit to both parties can be fantastic.

Here’s the tragedy:

When you look over those past posts, you might realize that yes, dammit! It’s time to do some SEO! No more ignoring Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. But, sadly, that ship has probably sailed. One of the harsh truths of blog-focused SEO is that a few hours after a post is published, 90%+ of the ranking ability is spent. Sure, you could go back and tweak some titles, language use, or even URLs (depending on your CMS), but those don’t have a good chance of helping the post perform moving forward.

It’s that first burst of activity – of social sharing and people emailing it around and links coming in – that set the stage for ranking success in the search engines. The words, particularly the title, of the post are how others will describe it when they share, link, tweet, and pin. Those words are strong signals to search engines of how and whether to include your page in the search results. Likeiwse, the first few hours are when you’re most likely to earn that attention and awareness of potential linkers. Links are still a huge part of how search engine algorithms rank pages, and without them, you’ll usually struggle to perform. Both of these are short-lived opportunities on which you need to execute if you’re going to have SEO success with your blog.

Thankfully, you can resolve to make this a priority in the future. It may sound like a bad infomercial, but you can substantially upgrade your blog’s SEO potential with less than 5 minutes per post. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Keyword Research
  • Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion
  • Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Step 1: Keyword Research

Earning additional search visits from the content your blog produces over a long streth means ranking for a keyword term or phrase that gets at least a few queries each month. You probably don’t want to tackle competitive phrases where you’ve got little chance to rank on page 1, but you also don’t want to to be ranking brilliantly for a search term no one ever types. In general, phrases with fewer searches are going to be less competitive (if you want to get more data-driven about analyzing the relative difficulty of ranking for a keyword, there’s a tool for that).

Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is still the best one out there to show relative volume levels. Here’s what it looks like:


I plugged in a few possible searches related to the post you’re reading now (which is, in a very meta way, about doing SEO for blog posts). The suggestions you see above are what Google’s keyword tool returned. They expanded on a few of my ideas and showed me some terms I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to put in. But, before we go further, there’s four important points to be wary of when you’re looking at the Keyword Planner:


A) These aren’t ALL the terms and phrases Google knows are related to your keyword(s). For whatever reason, they’re not comprehensive and, on any given search, may omit numerous good options. This is why it pays to refine and rerun once or twice, and to expand your brainstorm list of terms. It’s also why I’ll suggest using another methodology in combination with Keyword Planner below.

B) The numbers you see are not accurate. We’ve seen them show numbers that are 1/4 of the actual searches for a term and we’ve seen them show 4X the real figure. What is useful are the relative quantities. If Keyword Planner says term XYZ gets twice the searches that term ABC gets, you can be fairly sure that XYZ > ABC. Don’t panic about choosing a term with only 10 or 20 searches/month. These low numbers are actually where we see the least competition and the least accuracy from Google in under-reporting real volume.

C) This “competition” does not refer to how hard it might be to rank in the organic results for a given keyword. Keyword Planner is showing a competition level that’s related to AdWords bids and how many campaigns are targeting these terms. Don’t be too discouraged if it says “medium” or “high” as the organic results won’t always reflect what the paid ads do.

D) Likewise, the cost column can be mostly ignored when thinking about SEO. The one area it can be helpful is to provide a sense of how transactional in nature the search query is, and the value of that traffic to others. If you’re thinking about offering ads on your blog, for example, you might want to note how much advertisers are paying to be in front of searchers for a keyword related to your topic(s).

The other keyword research source I’d encourage you to pursue is Google’s autosuggest. It often illuminates keyword ideas that you may not have seen through AdWords Planner. In fact, some of the best terms and phrases to target are those Keyword Planner hasn’t listed, but autosuggest does (this is because many other SEO-focused content creators have likely missed them).

Start typing, but don’t hit enter!

Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion

Once you’ve found a few keywords that might work, modify your blog post’s title to include it if you can. For example, when I started drafting this post, I titled it “Publish Now And 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost.” It had a catch and it matched the tone I was aiming for with the piece, but it didn’t target any of those lovely keywords that can help it potentially earn visits for years to come. So I thought up three more:

  1. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
  2. Your Amazing Blog Post – SEO = 1000s of Lost Visits
  3. These Simple SEO Blogging Tips Will Save You 1000s of Lost Visits

Even though I don’t like #3, it’s probably the best optimized title (note that Google is pretty smart these days about interpreting modifications of words like “blog” and “blogging” that have the same meaning/intent). But, that doesn’t mean I’ll choose it. As I noted above, a lot of a post’s potential success is based on its ability to get in front of the right eyeballs. A title that’s optimized for keyword placement but doesn’t resonate with social sharers and potential linkers isn’t worth compromising for. Instead, I’d go with #1 or #2 and I happened to like #1 just a bit better.

The only other part of this step is to make sure the post itself has at least a mention or two of the target keyword phrase and is actually about that topic (nothing infuriates searchers more than discovering a page ranking in Google that’s not actually about what they wanted – and those user/usage metrics will, eventually, hurt your rankings).

Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Chances are that when writing your post, you mentioned someone, used a graphic or image from somewhere else, linked to some reference-worthy content on another site, or called out a service or organization in some way. If you believe there’s any chance that they (the referenced party) would be interested in reading what you’ve written about them, don’t be shy – let them know.

Twitter makes this incredibly easy (and Google+, too, for those of you using that service). In this post, for example, I referenced a study from, some search stats from Statcounter, and a great post from Define Media Group. Immediately upon hitting publish, I should tweet, G+, and/or email all three of them and say thanks, making sure to point them in the direction of this post. Maybe they’ll share it, maybe they won’t, but they’ll know I appreciate their work, and that goodwill might be valuable in the future, too.

Likewise, if I know there’s a few people in my network or among those that I follow/interact with on social media or the offline world who might benefit from or enjoy this post, I should drop them a line, too.

This might be 30 seconds of thinking about who to contact and another 2 minutes sending the messages, but the reward for that effort could mean the difference between a post that spreads, earns links, and ranks, and one that falls into the tragic “Flatline of Nope.”


A few last pieces of advice:

  • Don’t worry too much about targeting a keyword phrase in more than one post. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Google has no penalty for a blog that publishes 3-4 posts all chasing the same keyword. The only time I might not do this is if you’re already ranking very well for a term/phrase, in which case, I’d consider updating the old post vs. writing a completely new one.
  • Updating & re-publishing can be a super power! If you’ve got a post that did well, but didn’t quite make it to the first page of results, consider revising it, adding in the most modern information, and publishing a new post to replace the old one. You can use a 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to point search engines from the old version to the new one.
  • If you need inspiration for titles or content in niches where you think there’s just nothing exciting to write about, I can’t recommend Buzzsumo enough. Give the tool a spin with a few searches related to your potential topics and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Not every post needs to be or should be SEO-targeted. Writing for your audience, for yourself, or simply to court serendipity is a wonderful thing. But every few posts (or at least every few dozen), think about all those poor souls who are searching and finding none of your amazing work – do it for them :-)

p.s. A couple years ago, I created a presentation centered around my love for bloggers and blogging entitled: How to Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul. If you’re worried that SEO means sacrificing the beauty of your work, check it out – it may just restore your faith that the two can live in harmony.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Theme Week: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost

Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Theme Week: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost

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Status update: I just had to create two new free tools for Zazzlers

What an eventful two weeks it's been on the tools front!

Good News

First, the really great news: Zazzle's RSS feed mechanism seems to be behaving itself properly again. Yaay, happy dance!

The Rest

Since completing Ausome (ok, still have to do a slideshow tutorial specifically for the paid-for version) and the first version of MySets (collections of Zazzle products all fitting a theme) the new things I learned meant there were a few more things I could easily achieve, that have wide appeal and could be free to use, supported by donations.

The two tools discussed here are:
all links include your (or the promoter's) referrer id and tracking codes

Collections for the Zazzle Forum

For example, I really liked the idea of being able to post sets of related products on the Zazzle forum. So much better to see people's ideas of, say
  • bedroom collections
  • spring-themed wedding stationery or
Relevant observations I've made that went into making the tool include these major ones:
  • Often the forum is just a stream of product after product - albeit often in themes. 
  • I know from past research that you see entries from the Zazzle forum in search result from Google, Bing and no doubt others.
  • I also know from the forum that many storekeepers who also do a lot of promotion of others' work do go through the ShowMe forum to get products / designs to promote. I know because they've said so in the forum.
  • Some who promote others products don't like posts in the ShowMe forum to have referrer ids included in the links
  • Quite a few who post in ShowMe don't know how to post linked images properly
  • People really like the concept of a single link for people to click to see related products
So I took the fully automatic / scheduled posting tool MySets as the starting point and created a new tool from it called Zaps - Free Zazzle Forum Collection Creator (Zaps because, even though it's free, it's still part of the Zaps toolset).

The constraint of exactly four products in a collection still applies.

I removed all the scheduling aspects and made it produce BBCode instead of HTML. I liked the template aspects of MySets so included the same facility in the new tool.

Stream of product after product...

It amazes me that such a creative bunch as the artists on Zazzle are happy to see product after product in a centred single column. Some take the trouble to make the layout pretty but the vast majority don't. I must say, formatting options are sorely constrained with Zazzle's implementation of their forum.

So I've given 3 templates for different forum post layouts. They're fairly pretty but there's only so much you can do with the limited formatting options available and four products to display. Ah well.

Respect the search engines!

Because of the fact that search engines can find Zazzle forum posts, it's important that the links include both referrer id and tracking code. If the link is displayed in the search engine and someone clicks it, you will get credited with sales because your referrer id is included. You'll know where the sale came from when you see the tracking code in your Referral History Report on Zazzle.

For others who want to promote the posted collection

But it's also important that someone who wants to promote the collection should be able grab the collection, in one click preferably, but also easily make it use their referrer id and tracking code instead.

So there is a link in the generated BBCode that does exactly that. It uses the other related tool I haven't mentioned yet, that creates a collection in the same way but produces html / email body as output. The various aspects of the collection as generated for the forum are passed to the other tool so the promoter only has to put in the referrer id and tracking code, all else is copied over.

Related Products page

I added a related products page feature. By this, I mean that the generated BBCode includes a link to a page that displays products related to those in the collection.
The person setting up the collection gives a search term or phrase that will be used to pull related products from their store. A few other options for the related products page include limiting products for the related products page to a particular department.

My return stack deepens

(That's a phrase that sprang to mind from my student days, when we covered programming languages!)

Of course, during all this, one of my Zaps licensees asked a question that helped me to discover that you can pull from Zazzle's feed mechanism using dp={a department id} and that there is one for every product type variation, you know, like down to coin purse or chubby business card.

This is so useful and the answer to an often-asked feature for the full Zaps that I had to park my Collections work and make the changes to the various relevant tools in the Zaps toolset. Once announced on the Zapsters community, I managed to untangle my mind and reduce the return stack by one. Just in time! ;)

Unexpected Bonus

BBCode is a standard for certain forum applications so I shouldn't have been surprised that the code generated for the Z forum also works on other popular forums. For example, I tried it on the ZUG and it worked just fine :)

Collections for websites / email body

Before the mad dash into the Collections for the Zazzle Forum I created one (again, no scheduling, just gimme the code) for normal promoting purposes.

It's main purpose is to produce a collection (of exactly four products) using an output format that can be used on websites, on blogs or shared. So I've built it to produce:
  • HTML code for the collection
    The html uses responsive (aka fluid or liquid) design so that it looks as good as it can on whatever device is being used
  • Something that can be copied and pasted into an email body in those email systems that allow it (such as gmail)
  • Something easy to screen-grab, just to cover as many options as possible
    (that makes me think of an enhancement. For anyone going the screen-grab route, it would be good to build a link that they can copy to go with it)
Like the Forum equivalent, it has templates that produce different layouts. This one has five.

It doesn't include support for a related page feature because a) many people who use it won't want my website to display their related products page and b) I don't want to give away my website bandwidth for general purpose use like this. I don't mind with forum posts as I'm not expecting many to click through to the related products pages.

Anyway, that's pretty much it for this status update. Time to catch up on many lost hours of sleep over the last couple of weeks! (oh yes, and those household chores!)

Happy sharing / promoting everyone.

comments, likes, +1s, tweets are always welcome! :)