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How to Optimize Your Robots.txt File

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SEO goes far and beyond keyword research and building backlinks. There is also a technical side of SEO that will largely impact your search ranking.

This is an area where your robots.txt file will become a factor.

In my experience, most people aren’t too familiar with robots.txt files and don’t know where to begin. That’s what inspired me to create this guide.

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is a robots.txt file?

When a search engine bot is crawling a website, it uses the robots.txt file to determine what parts of the site need to be indexed.

Sitemaps are hosted in your root folder and in the robots.txt file. You create a sitemap to make it easier for search engines to index your content.

Think of your robots.txt file like a guide or instruction manual for bots. It’s a guide that has rules that they need to follow. These rules will tell crawlers what they’re allowed to view (like the pages on your sitemap) and what parts of your site are restricted.

If your robots.txt file isn’t optimized properly, it can cause major SEO problems for your website.

That’s why it’s important for you to understand exactly how this works and what you need to do to ensure that this technical component of your website is helping you, as opposed to hurting you.

Find your robots.txt file

Before you do anything, the first step is verifying that you have a robots.txt file to begin with. Some of you probably never came here before.

The easiest way to see if your site already has one is by putting your website’s URL into a web browser, followed by /robots.txt.

Here’s what it looks like for Quick Sprout.

Quicksprout Robots.txt

When you do this, one of three things will happen.

  1. You’ll find a robots.txt file that looks something like the one above. (Although if you’ve never taken the time to optimize it, then it probably isn’t as in-depth).
  2. You’ll find a robots.txt file that’s completely blank, but at least set up.
  3. You’ll get a 404 error because that page doesn’t exist.

Most of you will likely fall into the top two scenarios. You shouldn’t get a 404 error because the majority of websites will have a robots.txt file setup by default when the site was created. Those default settings should still be there if you’ve never made any changes.

To create or edit this file, just navigate to the root folder of your website.

Modify your robots.txt content

For the most part, you normally don’t want to mess around with this too much. It’s not something that you’re going to be altering on a frequent basis.

The only reason why you would want to add something to your robots.txt file is if there are certain pages on your website that you don’t want bots to crawl and index.

You need to get familiar with the syntax used for commands. So open up a plain text editor to write the syntax.

I’ll cover the syntax that’s most commonly used.

First, you need to identify the crawlers. This is referred to as the User-agent.

User-agent: *

This syntax above refers to all search engine crawlers (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.)

User-agent: Googlebot

As the name implies, this value is speaking directly to Google’s crawlers.

After you identify the crawler, you can allow or disallow content on your site. Here’s an example that we saw earlier in the Quick Sprout robots.txt file.

User-agent: *

Disallow: /wp-content/

This page is used for our administrative backend for WordPress. So this command tells all crawlers (User-agent: *) not to crawl that page. There’s no reason for the bots to waste time crawling that.

So let’s say you want to tell all bots not to crawl this specific page on your website. http://www.yourwebsite.com/samplepage1/

The syntax would look like this:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /samplepage1/

Here’s another example:

Disallow: /*.gif$

This would block a specific file type (in this case .gif). You can refer to this chart from Google for more common rules and examples.

Common Robot.txt Rules and Examples

The concept is very straightforward.

If you want to disallow pages, files, or content on your site from all crawlers (or specific crawlers) then you just need to find the proper syntax command and add it to your plain text editor.

Once you’ve finished writing the commands, simply copy and paste that into your robots.txt file.

Why the robots.txt file needs to be optimized

I know what some of you are thinking. Why in the world would I want to mess around with any of this?

Here’s what you need to understand. The purpose of your robots.txt file isn’t to completely block pages or site content from a search engine.

Instead, you’re just trying to maximize the efficiency of their crawl budgets. All you’re doing is telling the bots that they don’t need to crawl pages that aren’t made for the public.

Here’s a summary of how Google’s crawl budget works.

It’s broken down into two parts:

  1. Crawl rate limit
  2. Crawl demand

The crawl rate limit represents how many connections a crawler can make to any given site. This also includes the amount of time between fetches.

Websites that respond quickly have a higher crawl rate limit, which means they can have more connections with the bot. On the other hand, sites that slow down as the result of crawling will not be crawled as frequently.

Sites are also crawled based on demand. This means that popular websites are crawled on a more frequent basis. On the flip side, sites that aren’t popular or updated frequently won’t be crawled as often, even if the crawl rate limit has not been met.

By optimizing your robots.txt file, you’re making the job of the crawlers much easier. According to Google, these are some examples of elements that affect crawl budgets:

  • Session identifiers
  • Faceted navigation
  • Error pages
  • Pages that have been hacked
  • Duplicate content
  • Infinite spaces and proxies
  • Low-quality content
  • Spam

By using the robots.txt file to disallow this type of content from crawlers, it ensures that they spend more time discovering and indexing the top content on your website.

Here’s a visual comparison of sites with and without an optimized robots.txt file.

Robots.txt Visual Comparison

A search engine crawler will spend more time, and therefore more of the crawl budget, on the left website. But the site on the right ensures that only the top content is being crawled.

Here’s a scenario where you’d want to take advantage of the robots.txt file.

As I’m sure you know, duplicate content is harmful to SEO. But there are certain times when it’s necessary to have on your website. For example, some of you might have printer-friendly versions of specific pages. That’s duplicate content. So you can tell bots not to crawl that printer-friendly page by optimizing your robots.txt syntax.

Testing your robots.txt file

Once you’ve found, modified, and optimized your robots.txt file, it’s time to test everything to make sure that it’s working properly.

In order to do this, you’ll need to sign into your Google Webmasters account. Navigate to “crawl” from your dashboard.

Webmaster Tools Crawl

This will expand the menu.

Once expanded, you’re going to look for the “robots.txt Tester” option.

Robots.txt Tester

Then simply click the “test” button in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Robots.txt Test

If there are any problems, you can just edit the syntax directly in the tester. Continue running the tests until everything is smooth.

Be aware that changes made in the tester do not get saved to your website. So you’ll need to make sure you copy and paste any changes into your actual robots.txt file.

It’s also worth noting that this tool is only for testing Google bots and crawlers. It won’t be able to predict how other search engines will read your robots.txt file.

Considering that Google controls 89.95% of the global search engine market share, I don’t think you need to run these tests using any other tools. But I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Robots.txt best practices

Your robots.txt file needs to be named “robots.txt” in order to be found. It’s case-sensitive, meaning Robots.txt or robots.TXT would not be acceptable.

The robots.txt file must always be in the root folder of your website in a top-level directory of the host.

Anyone can see your robots.txt file. All they need to do is type in the name of your website URL with /robots.txt after the root domain to view it. So don’t use this to be sneaky or deceptive, since it’s essentially public information.

For the most part, I wouldn’t recommend making specific rules for different search engine crawlers. I can’t see the benefit of having a certain set of rules for Google, and another set of rules for Bing. It’s much less confusing if your rules apply to all user-agents.

Adding a disallow syntax to your robots.txt file won’t prevent that page from being indexed. Instead, you’d have to use a noindex tag.

Search engine crawlers are extremely advanced. They essentially view your website content the same way that a real person would. So if your website uses CSS and JS to function, you should not block those folders in your robots.txt file. It will be a major SEO mistake if crawlers can’t see a functioning version of your website.

If you want your robots.txt file to be recognized immediately after it’s been updated, submit it directly to Google, rather than waiting for your website to get crawled.

Link equity cannot be passed from blocked pages to link destinations. This means that links on pages that are disallowed will be considered nofollow. So some links won’t be indexed unless they’re on other pages that are accessible by search engines.

The robots.txt file is not a substitute for blocking private user data and other sensitive information from showing up in your SERPs. As I said before, disallowed pages can still be indexed. So you’ll still need to make sure that these pages are password protected and use a noindex meta directive.

Sitemaps should be placed at the bottom of your robots.txt file.

Conclusion

That was your crash-course on everything you need to know about robots.txt files.

I know that lots of this information was a little technical, but don’t let that intimidate you. The basic concepts and applications of your robots.txt are fairly easy to understand.

Remember, this isn’t something that you’ll want to modify too frequently. It’s also extremely important that you test everything out before you save the changes. Make sure that you double and triple-check everything.

One error could cause a search engine to stop crawling your site altogether. This would be devastating to your SEO position. So only make changes that are absolutely necessary.

When optimized correctly, your website will be crawled efficiently by Google’s crawl budget. This increases the chances that your top content will be noticed, indexed, and ranked accordingly.

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How to Use Google Keyword Planner Tool For SEO

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There are so many different elements of SEO.

For the most part, all of these various aspects can be broken down into two main categories; on-page SEO, and off-page SEO.

The biggest factor of off-page SEO is backlinks. While on-page SEO is comprised of elements like content copy, title tags, meta descriptions, internal linking, and site architecture.

It’s nearly impossible (unless you get extremely lucky) to have a successful on-site SEO strategy without conducting keyword research.

There are tons of tools on the web to help you with finding keywords related to your business, but Google Keyword Planner is arguably the most powerful.

The best part about this tool is that it’s completely free for anyone to use. All you need is a Google Ads account.

It’s also worth noting that the primary purpose of the Keyword Planner is for PPC advertising.

But with that said, you don’t need to spend any money on ads to do your keyword research with this tool. The only thing you won’t be able to access is the exact monthly search volumes for specific keywords. As you’ll learn shortly, you’ll still be able to see an average range, but Google will only show exact volumes when you run an ad campaign.

I’m assuming that most of you already have a Google Ads account. If not, it’s very easy to set up. So go ahead and do that as soon as you’re ready to proceed.

Then just follow along this guide to learn how you can take full advantage of the Keyword Planner for bringing your SEO strategy to an elevated level.

Google Keyword Planner features

Before we dive too deep into the specifics, it’s important for you to understand exactly what the Keyword Planner can be used for.

As I said before, this tool is designed with PPC ads in mind. So about half of what you’ll see is going to be geared toward running a successful paid search campaign. These are some of the top benefits of Google Keyword Planner:

  • Find new keywords using words, phrases, websites, and categories.
  • Discover search volume trends and historical data of different keywords.
  • See performance forecasts for keywords based on your budget and average bid prices.
  • Narrow your results based on geographic location, language, and date ranges.
  • Filter results by average monthly searches, competition level, organic impressions, ad impressions, suggested bids, and organic average position.

It’s worth noting that some of these features are only available if you sync your Google Ads account with your Google Analytics account.

For our purposes today, we’re going to stick to the features that focus on finding keywords that you can use to improve your on-page SEO strategy.

Discover new keywords

The first thing you should use the Keyword Planner for is finding new keywords. This is very straightforward.

Once you know what keywords are related to your site, brand, niche, or a specific campaign, then you’ll be able to use those keywords to improve the content and on-page SEO of your website.

So log into your Google Ads account and navigate to the Keyword Planner.

Keyword Planner

From your Google Ads dashboard, click on the “tools” icon in the top right corner menu bar. This will expand the menu, showcasing an additional five categories.

Now select “Keyword Planner” from the planning list on the left side of the expanded menu.

Next, you’ll be presented with two options.

  1. Find new keywords.
  2. Get search volume and forecasts.

For now, just select “find new keywords.”

Find Keywords

Next, it’s as simple as entering keywords into a search bar and letting Google take care of the rest for you. Although it seems simple, this is probably the most important step of the entire process.

The Keyword Planner tool is extremely advanced, but it can’t provide you with valuable keywords unless your initial search terms lead it in the right direction.

A great benefit of this search bar is that it allows you to enter words, phrases, and a URL that’s relevant to your business. To get the most out of your searches, I recommend taking full advantage of the search options at your disposal.

Here’s a look at an example of what a search would look like if I was conducting keyword research for content here at Quick Sprout.

Example Keywords

As you can see, I used some single words like “SEO,” two-word phrases like “content marketing” or “ecommerce conversions,” and even some three-word phrases like “small business marketing.”

I also included a link to the Quick Sprout homepage to give the tool a better understanding of the content related to our site.

This is much better than just adding “marketing” to the search bar without adding anything else.

Analyze the search results

Once you begin your initial search, you’re going to get lots of information thrown at you. Do not be overwhelmed or intimidated by this. We’ll eventually narrow down the results.

Again, if you’re not planning to run any PPC campaigns, you can ignore some of this data.

First, let me show you how to read and interpret the results.

Interpret Results

There’s a couple of things I want to point out right away.

The Keyword Planner generated 4,403 keyword ideas based on my initial search. By default, the results that you’re going to see are based on the last twelve months of search data. But you can play around with that to see how the data changes if you view those keywords over a longer or shorter period of time.

Before you get new keyword ideas, the Keyword Planner shows you results for what you’ve already searched for.

The only columns you’re going to want to look at are average monthly searches and competition.

Ad impression share, top of page bids, and account status are all for pad ad campaigns.

As you can see, the average monthly search ranges are pretty broad. For example, it says that the search range for “SEO” is from 100,000 to 1 million.

There is a big difference between 150,000 searches and 950,000 searches, which both fall into that range. But the only way to get the exact data is by running an ad.

The competition data is crucial.

High competition keywords are going to be more challenging to rank for since more people are running paid ads for these words and phrases. But maybe you can try to gain an advantage over your competitors by taking steps to outrank them organically.

Some of you might have more success with low competition keywords. It all depends on your priority and the keywords in question.

By looking at the search results above, the term “social media marketing” has a high competition level, while “link building” is low. Let’s keep this information in mind as we continue.

Now it’s time to analyze the keyword ideas based on the keywords that we searched for.

Analyze Keywords

Here are the top 12 keyword ideas, sorted by keyword relevance.

I highlighted some of the suggestions to give you an idea of how you should be approaching this process.

All of the keywords on the list are useful and worth incorporating into your content. But you need to find ways to prioritize them.

Low competition keywords with high search volumes might seem like the easiest for you to rank for. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

For example, look at the data for “social media.”

It has a high search volume and low competition, so it must be a home run—right? Not necessarily.

Since that topic is so broad, it will be tough to rank for. That’s probably why people aren’t spending money on PPC campaigns to rank for that term.

On the flip side, “social media manager” at the bottom of the screenshot has a high search volume and high competition level, making it a challenging keyword to rank for.

Now let’s take a look at the keyword ideas that I boxed.

  • SEO company
  • Digital marketing agency

Both of these have high search volumes and medium competition levels. Ranking organically for these keywords won’t necessarily be easy, but it’s definitely not impossible.

Even though a term like “web marketing” has a lower search volume, it’s still in that 1,000 – 10,000 range, and has low competition. I boxed that as well because it’s related to the two other terms we’re discussing.

You could potentially use these three terms to conduct a new search that’s more specific. But we’ll get into that shortly.

Before you get into anything more complex, you should experiment with filtering the results.

Organize the keyword ideas by low competition, high competition, low search volume, and high search volume.

Narrow your search

Now that you’ve taken some time to sort your list of keywords, you’ve probably realized that 4,400+ keywords are too much. Lots of these keywords won’t be used by you.

So you’ll want to narrow the results to make sure that you’re only seeing ones that are the most relevant, and will actually benefit your SEO strategy.

The easiest way to do this right away is by changing one of the filters from “broadly related ideas” to “closely related ideas.”

Related Ideas

As you can see, this filter alone cut the search results in half.

So scroll through and get more keyword ideas using the new results. Use the keywords on this list to help you create new searches that are highly relevant.

Refer back to what I did earlier.

I took SEO company, digital marketing agency, and web marketing from that initial list of ideas. Here’s what the search results look like for those keywords combined with the Quick Sprout URL.

Location

Those new terms combined with the closely related filter yielded 296 keyword ideas.

This list is much more reasonable for you to manage.

As I mentioned earlier, you can also narrow your results by locations, language, and search networks.

For example, let’s say you have a local business that has retail locations scattered across New England. You don’t need to get data on the entire United States.

Map

Instead, you can just focus on those six states in New England.

With that said, this feature is definitely more beneficial for those of you who will ultimately run PPC campaigns. In this case, you can choose to only target users who are searching in that region.

But it’s still worth seeing how the competition and search volume changes if you adjust the location.

With each list of ideas, you can download the information as an excel spreadsheet as well.

In my opinion, this makes it easier for you to keep notes and organize the data in a way that aligns with your SEO plan and content strategy.

Download Keywords

Just look for the “download keyword ideas” button at the top right corner of each page.

View keyword forecasts

Head back to the main keyword planner page that we landed on earlier.

Only this time, we’re going to select the other option; get search volume and forecasts.

Search Volume Forecast

We previously saw the search volume when we were discovering new keywords. It showed us data from the past 12 months.

Maybe you changed around the date range and saw something different.

While the Keyword Planner tool won’t show you projected search volumes for the future, it will show you a forecast for your keywords if you decide to run a PPC campaign.

Based on those three keywords that we looked at most recently, Google projects that a PPC campaign would get 20,000 impressions and 280 clicks for $580 per month. The average search position would be #3.

This is not an ideal forecast. But it’s not awful either.

Personally, I wouldn’t proceed with it. But this decision is completely up to you.

You can use this tool to give you a better idea of how certain keywords will perform. If you can find a way to get 20,000 monthly impressions organically using these keywords, it will be better than paying for it.

But you might see forecasts that are worth pursuing based on the keywords, projections, and the budget that you’re willing to allocate for paid keywords.

Conclusion

Now that you have your list of keywords, it’s time to enhance your website’s on-page SEO.

Decide which keywords you want to prioritize, and then produce content that will help you rank for those terms. Write blog posts and guides. Create images, videos, and infographics. Produce content that’s a combination of these.

Focus on your title tags, header tags, and internal linking with exact-match keywords.

You can refer to my complete guide on SEO for more information on how to do this. There’s a section in here for on-site SEO that will help you out tremendously.

Start experimenting with Google Keyword Planner. Since it’s free to use, it can’t hurt to try.

Once you get familiar with navigating and searching, you can use this guide as a reference to help you find keywords that will be easier to rank for.

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How to Create an Expert Roundup Blog Post

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In the past, I’ve shown you how to build links and traffic from link roundups. This strategy involves creating content that will get featured in a weekly or monthly roundup post on other websites.

Now I’m going to teach you how to create an expert roundup. What’s the difference between these two?

Rather than trying to get your link featured on another site’s roundup post, you’re going to create content on your own website using expert opinions.

At the end of the day, this will have similar advantages to getting featured on a link roundup. Creating expert roundups will still help you build backlinks, boost your website traffic, and add plenty of SEO value.

Why are expert roundup posts so great?

Here’s the thing. Not all of you have a well-known name or platform, especially if you’re just starting out as a blogger. That’s OK. We’ve all been there.

I’m not saying this to sound rude or harsh, but why should someone take your advice?

You might know what you’re talking about, but nobody knows that. If you’re an up and coming blogger, getting experts featured on your blog will give people a reason to visit your site and consume your content.

Here’s an analogy.

Let’s say you’re an avid golfer and you want to start giving people golf lessons. But if nobody knows who you are, they have no reason to listen to you, even if you’re offering excellent tips and advice.

Now let’s say you can get Tiger Woods to attend one of your golf camps. People will definitely listen to him since he’s a household name and arguably the best golfer on the planet. His presence at your golf lessons will get people to come and ultimately validate your legitimacy. You’ll get even more exposure if Tiger Woods promotes your golf lessons by telling people that he’ll be there.

You can apply this same analogy to your blog posts. Only instead of one expert, you’re going to get dozens to share their opinions.

So how do find these experts and get them to participate? I’ll explain everything you need to know in this guide.

Why expert roundup posts are so effective

Let me take a minute here to reverse the roles for a second.

Hypothetically speaking, pretend a blogger reached out to you to participate in their expert roundup. They value your opinion and want to share it on their website.

When their post gets published, you’d share it—right? Absolutely.

These posts get a ton of traffic since the experts who are part of the roundup will eventually share the content as well.

Here’s an example from the Small Business Ideas Blog.

Small Business Ideas Blog

Brian Liang wrote created this post about blog promotion, which is ironically related to the topic that we’re discussing right now.

He got 40 experts to share their marketing advice. All he did was ask them one simple question.

What can bloggers and marketers do to be more effective when promoting their content?

This is a question that so many people can relate to, and will be eager to hear the advice of experts in the industry. All different types of experts answered the question.

  • SEO experts
  • Affiliate marketers
  • Internet marketers
  • Business marketers

By getting people from different niches to participate, it increases the exposure even more.

So, how did this post perform? Check out this information from the backlink checker at Ahrefs.

Backlink Profile

It has 342 backlinks from 95 referring domains.

If you look back to the first screenshot of the blog itself, you can see that it has more than 4,000 social media shares as well.

Expert roundups generate a ton of traffic.

That’s because everyone who participates will, at the very least, throw the link up on their social media platforms. As an industry expert, they most likely have large social followings. You might even get backlinks and your link shared with their email subscribers.

Since a roundup that contains insight from a wide range of experts is such a valuable piece of content, it has a greater chance of being shared by other people as well, even if they weren’t one of the contributors. It might even end up on a link roundup.

Expert roundups validate your website and build brand awareness.

The fact that all of these experts were willing to participate and be part of something on your website shows a lot about who you are. Industry leaders won’t do this for just any average Joe.

Plus, the backlinks you’ll get from major websites will boost your domain authority.

Roundup posts help you build strong bonds and relationships with influencers. This is a great networking opportunity for you.

These experts are building links with your roundup. Whenever you introduce an expert, it’s common practice to say who they are with a link to their website. So they benefit from the exposure as well. They might even ask you to write a guest post for their website or something like that in the future.

Another top benefit of a roundup post is that it adds a new perspective to your content. You get to switch it up instead of publishing the same thing over and over again.

Find industry experts

Obviously, you can’t write an expert roundup without the help of experts.

Don’t expect these people to come to you and say, “Hey! On the off chance that you create an expert roundup, I’d love to be included in it.”

That’s unrealistic. Instead, you need to get out there and find them.

The easiest way to do this is by looking for other expert roundup posts. So use Google to your advantage.

I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you want to create a roundup about blogging mistakes. Just run a search for something along the lines of “blogging mistakes expert roundup.”

Here’s one of the top results.

TheSavvyCouple

19 blogging experts talk about their mistakes in this post.

There is a table of contents that includes a list of the bloggers and the amount of money that their blog generates each month.

Table of Contents

Use this list as a resource. It’s up to you to prioritize which experts you want to contact.

You could just make a list of all of them, or go for the big ones who make $50k, $100k, or $400k per month.

Creating a spreadsheet is the best way to stay organized. The list should include:

  • Name of expert
  • Their website
  • Contact information
  • Status

In the status column, you’d put notes like, “Sent email on 5/14 — waiting for reply,” or something like that.

Don’t stop building your list of experts with just one post. Here’s another top post from that same Google search.

Self Hosted Life

This similar blog shares the opinions of 17 experts.

So between these two posts alone, you’ve got 36 potential experts to reach out to. Continue adding to the list. Eventually, you’re going to narrow it down.

Don’t just take their “expert” label at face value.

You need to check out their websites, credentials, and metrics like domain authority. Look at how frequently they publish content. View their social media pages to see if they’re willing to share content from other websites.

Make sure they’re a good writer and have a strong following.

If you see someone on your list that’s an expert, but they don’t have lots of social media followers, don’t publish content frequently, and have a site with a low domain authority, you don’t need to prioritize them. You may ultimately decide not to reach out to them or include them in your roundup.

Send your pitch

Once you have your list of experts compiled, it’s just a matter of finding their contact information, which should be pretty straightforward.

Rather than just submitting a general inquiry on a website form, it’s always better to try and get their personal email address.

For example, we’ll look at Adam Connell from Blogging Wizard as an example, since he was the first expert in the post that we were just talked about. I went to his website and navigated to the contact page.

Blogging Wizard Contact Page

This page shows an email address.

Normally, I wouldn’t like that because it’s so general. However, since this is Adam’s website, I’m confident that he’ll receive the message.

The page also states that all email inquiries need to start with “Hey Adam” to ensure it’s not a spam message. As you can see from this page, you could also reach out to him via social media.

Your outreach messages should be very concise. For this example, you could say something like:

Hey Adam!

I’m doing an expert roundup post on my website [link to website] about blogging. Could you please answer this question for me?

“What was the biggest struggle or hurdle that you had to overcome as a blogger?”

Thanks in advance for the help. I really appreciate it! I’ll include your name, brief bio, and a link to your website in the roundup as well.

After you send the message, update your spreadsheet with notes so you can keep track of managing your communication with all of these people.

Don’t go overboard and ask them for more than they’ll be willing to deliver. As you can see from the example, all I did was ask one question. So the response can be as long or as short as he’d like it to be.

If you ask an expert to send you a 2,500-word case study, don’t expect a response.

Follow-up with emails if you haven’t heard back after a week.

Hey! I know you’re busy but I just wanted to follow up with you on this question again. Do you have a rough idea for when you’ll be able to answer? No rush. I just want to plan accordingly. Thank you!

A follow-up message like this increases the chances that they’ll participate.

Top elements of an expert roundup

Now that you’ve reached out to the top experts in your niche, it’s time to go through their responses and start writing your roundup post. If you want the post to be successful, it needs to have the following elements:

A great question

The responses given by the experts will only be as good as the question you ask them. If you ask them a yes or no question, don’t expect a high-quality response. On the flip side, if you ask for their life story, it’s going to be too long and unappealing to the readers.

Instead, look for questions that will actually add value and help people who are looking for insight. Review blog comments, forums, and Google related search suggestions to get inspiration for crafting the perfect question.

Epic headline

Don’t make your expert roundup to sound like an average “how-to” post or guide. Let everyone know that this post is different.

Here’s an example of a roundup written by Ian Blair at BuildFire.

Buildfire Headline

The title is great because it’s very clear. Readers know they’re getting advice from 32 different experts. They also know exactly what the post is going to be about.

For more assistance with this, check out my guide on writing attention-grabbing headlines that convert.

Skimmable headers

Expert roundups are long. So you need to make sure the post is formatted properly so it’s easy for readers to navigate.

Let’s say your blog has 25 experts answering a question. Realistically, people aren’t going to read all 25 responses. Your headers need to be clear so that anyone can scroll through and view the answers from specific experts.

Quality images

Images are another great way to break up the content and make your blog more reader-friendly. Consider using a picture of each expert with their name and bio.

We saw this with one of our example posts earlier.

Promotion

Your work isn’t done once the roundup has been published. Now it’s time to make sure that the post performs at a high level.

For starters, you’ll want to share it on all of your distribution channels (as with all of your blog posts). But you’ll also want to make sure the experts in your post do the same thing.

Don’t expect these participants to be refreshing your website every day waiting for the post to go live. Let them know that the post has been published and send them a link. The best way to do this is with a “thank you” message.

You might also want to consider asking top experts for an exclusive interview. This type of content can be used for your YouTube channel or podcast. Plus, it strengthens your relationship with them and increases the chances that they’ll consider you for guest posting opportunities.

Conclusion

Expert roundups and link roundups are not the same things.

However, both of these strategies can help you drive traffic to your website, build backlinks, improve brand awareness, and increase your authority.

In my experience, experts are willing to participate in these roundups because they get increased exposure as well. So it’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved.

You just need to make sure that you find the right experts, ask them the right question, and promote the blog properly to ensure that it performs at the highest possible level.

So keep this guide as a reference for creating epic expert roundup blog posts on your website.

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11 Ways to Stay an Alert Copywriter and Content Marketer (If Taking a Nap Isn’t an Option)

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Well, this week was anything but sugarcoated. We got right into it. How do you stay motivated to do great…

The post 11 Ways to Stay an Alert Copywriter and Content Marketer (If Taking a Nap Isn’t an Option) appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Get the Word Out With Public Relations

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You’ve launched an amazing product or service. Now what? Now, you need to get the word out.

But you’re on a budget and can’t afford the $10K a month to hire a fancy agency and put out press releases. That’s fine. You’re better off executing you’re on strategy or hiring a really awesome consultant.

When done well, good PR can be much more effective and less expensive than advertising. For cost-conscious businesses, ROI is crucial. Every penny spent on marketing should generate revenue. PR is no different. Here are the steps you should take to form a successful strategy for your business:

1. Let go of the agency allure

The sad truth about PR is that existing process are broken. They’re outdated, costly, and inefficient.

  1. Many agencies are still buying very expensive ‘media lists’ and blasting our press releases and pitches to hundreds of journalists at a time.
  2. It’s hard for the PR industry to track and measure the value of what they do.
  3. Press release blasts entirely miss the mark on target audiences.

To succeed with PR, you need to focus less on the appeal of an agency and focus more heavily to focus on results. Prioritize what you want to achieve, not outdated ‘best practices.’ If you want to get in front of journalists, for instance, you are likely better off forming 1:1 relationships than bombarding them with irrelevant pitches.

2. Know When to Use a Press Release

A press release is worthwhile if your announcement is over-the-top catchy and newsworthy. But here’s the thing — most press releases read like giant sales pitches. If you think that journalists and publishers are going to be attracted to lukewarm content, guess again. They’re not. They don’t care. Their email inboxes fill up with 100s of spam messages again.

We hate to say it but marketers — get your head out of the clouds. The world does not revolve around your business, and journalists could care less about what you have to say.

If your goal is to get targeted placements for your brand, you will be better off cultivating a unique and thoughtful pitch in your area of specialty. A press release won’t cut it. Position your organization as a valuable, reliable, and trustworthy source of information instead.

3. Focus on Building Relationships and Making Connections

The problem with PR is ‘spray and prey’ or ‘broadcast’ mentality. If you shout at journalists with a megaphone, they’re not going to listen.

Above all, journalists care about compelling stories. They want to hear about your founders’ emotional journeys. They want to know what problem your company is solving and what motivates your team to wake up and come to work in the mornings.

Treat journalists like trusted business partners, not eyeballs. Develop a conversation. Let them ask questions.

Strategic Planning Wins the Race

Every so often, you’ll come across startups that generate insane amounts of traction on almost zero budget. You might think that it’s the outcome of luck — most likely, that isn’t the case. The more likely scenario is careful, strategic planning. WIth online media, Hollywood success stories are few and far between. Behind the scenes, marketers are hard at work — building key relationships with key stakeholders.

Karen X Cheng founded Dance in a Year, a platform that helps users learn anything in a year.

Dance in a Year

Karen learned to dance in a year and videotaped her entire journey. The outcome was an amazing video that went viral on YouTube. In just a few short months, her video has amassed millions of views. She makes the experience of learning to dance look seamlessly easy. She makes the process of making a viral video look pretty darn easy too.

That’s how you know that she put some real muscle behind the process.

Dance in a Year YouTube

  1. First, she posted her video to Facebook and Twitter, as well as social news sites like Reddit and Hacker News. She asked her friends to share the it and tweeted it to established bloggers. She also reached to bloggers who had previously written about viral dance video. Of the channels she pursued, Reddit was the top performer. The video gained attention and made its way to the top of the GetMotivated subreddit page. After day 1, she received 80K views.
  2. Day 2 was discovery day. The bloggers who had seen her video previously began telling her story on sites like Mashable, Jezebel, and the Huffington Post. These blogs were significant traffic drivers to Karen’s video. This coverage amplified her web traffic numbers to 800K views.
  3. The video’s popularity pushed Karen to the YouTube homepage. That chain of events helped take Karen to 1.8 million pageviews on the third day.

Karen also leveraged her video to connect with potential sponsors and stakeholders in her project. These included companies like Lululemon and American Apparel – two organizations that she was happy to support. Some of these companies supported Karen and shared her video on their social networks too.

She also released her video on Tuesday, guessing that on Monday, people are most likely to be catching up on emails from the weekend.

Use Public Relations Tools

The problem with PR is that the supply/demand ratio is completely imbalanced. PR seekers are constantly spamming writers, journalists, and bloggers for attention.

A service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO) can help to alleviate some of this crunch. Using this service, journalists can find sources to interview for upcoming stories. People seeking PR can monitor journalist queries and join the conversation where they’re qualified to contribute.

You can sign up for a simple e-mail digest that looks like this:

HARO Email Digest

Here is what it’s like using HARO as a journalist:

For some queries, they’ll receive 50+ responses and most of the pitches I get are totally irrelevant. They make the journalist jump through hoops to get the information they need.

The thing to know about journalists is that they’re incredibly strapped for time and working under short deadlines.

From a journalist’s perspective, here are some tips for making your HARO query stand out:

  • Answer the question specified in your pitch. Don’t assume the journalist can hop on a call. Tell they the story you want told upfront — offer to schedule a phone conversation as a follow-up. Send ready-to-quote material instead.
  • Don’t send a generic pitch. Send a unique, compelling story. Share something that stands out from a typical PR blast.

  • Stop bombarding the writer. Journalists work on a deadline but do not necessarily know when their work will be published. Don’t bombard journalists with follow-up questions. Don’t harass them on LinkedIn, and don’t aggressively talk them via multiple email addresses. If you don’t hear a response, move on to the next story. Don’t be offended. HARO writers receive a ton of emails, and it’s impossible to respond to each and every one.
  • Write a really compelling email headline. Instead of just replying to the query, take the time to craft a unique headline that summarizes your story’s value proposition. Remember that there is a human being on the other end of the computer screen. Make it really, really easy to deliver your message, and the reporter will be more likely to open your email message.
  • Set-up Google Alerts. Make sure that you have Google Alerts set-up for the keywords you’re monitoring about your brand. Especially with HARO, you may not know when a writer will feature your story. Don’t bombard the writer with questions. Run Google Alerts to help you keep your eyes peeled.

Use Tools To Save Time

Save yourself the time and hassle of combing through spreadsheets and sending hundreds of emails. Use tools that have been developed to solve your exact pain point — scale with limited resources.

One example resource is BuzzStream — a CRM (customer relationship management) platform that helps PR professionals build relationships, monitor conversations, and maintain historical records of conversations with PR and media platforms.

Features include:

  • Automated tools for researching link-building prospects
  • Resources for identifying campaign opportunities
  • Team-based tools for building and managing relationships with influencers
  • The ability to prioritize a human, relationship-based touch

BuzzStream lets you automate mundane tasks like saving information about key contacts and partners. Teams can also collaborate on initiatives and delegate outreach tasks.

Collaborate With Other Business to Boost Your PR

Content marketing means that brands are becoming publishers and building their own audience bases. Companies, like you, are looking to connect with key audiences through PR and distribution.

Team up with fellow-business blogs who are looking to reach the same audiences as your organization. There are two ways to get going — guest post on industry blogs, or invite others to create content for your blog.

Grasshopper, a virtual phone system for entrepreneurs, uses its blog as a platform for giving props to their best customers. The company has a “submit your story” program and will write about their customers who have something awesome to share. For Grasshopper, PR is an invaluable way to say “thanks” to their trusted business partners.

Grasshopper PR Story Form

Give Samples of Your Product or Service

One way to get press coverage is to give away trials or samples of your product or service. Reach out to prominent journalists and bloggers, and ask if they would be open to doing a product review. Give them a free trial or sample to try.

Engadget Phone Reviews

Always Say Thank You

When a journalist, blogger, or fellow business writes about you or your company — reach out and say thank you. Offer yourself as a resource for future stories. Position your organization as a company that wants to return the favor and help.

PR is, first and foremost, about building relationships. To the best extent that you can, maintain a personal touch. Take journalists out to dinner as a ‘thank you’ (not a bribe) for writing about you.

Show that you are grateful, and you’ll stand apart from the crowd of people who aren’t. Add value to your industry — don’t extract it. Pay it forward whenever you can. Connection karma, and you never know when something small will materialize into something much, much bigger.

Key Takeaways

  • PR is an inefficient and frustrating rat race. Cut through the noise by zeroing in on the results you want to achieve.
  • Treat PR like business development. Build key relationships with journalists.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist. Craft meaningful, compelling pitches. Don’t ‘spray and pray’ a salesy advertising message.
  • Personalize pitches to the journalists’ needs and interest.
  • Develop a powerful brand story to share.
  • Give more than you get. Say thanks. Offer to add as much value as you possibly can.

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