Double Your Traffic in 30 Days

Written by Neil Patel
& Sherice Jacob

Double Your Traffic in 30 Days

Growing your web traffic can be an overwhelming task. There are hundreds of web tactics that you can follow and there are thousands of articles that explain each strategy. If you had all of the time in the world, this wouldn’t be an issue, but the reality is, you don’t.

So how do you grow your traffic? Luckily for you, we have created a step-by-step plan for you to follow over the next 30 days. For each day you are going to be given one task, as well as a homework assignment. If you follow it step by step, you should be able to drastically increase your traffic.

Before we get started, you need to first learn how to build the right foundation by choosing keywords that are going to help you versus ones that will just drive traffic that doesn’t convert.

Building the Right Foundation
with Proper Keyword Research

None of these traffic-boosting strategies will do you any good unless you have the proper keyword research foundation to grow from.

The fact is, most people go to the Google Keyword Suggestion tool, pop in a few keywords, see that they’re high competition / high search value, and decide to tough it out anyway — playing in the same league as competitors who oftentimes are more established and have more money to throw at campaigns.

Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they try to dig through mountains of competitive keywords, looking for the lucrative low-competition phrases, only to find that they simply aren’t searched enough to use as a viable business-building tool.

The Right Way to Do Keyword Research

Like diamonds under the exacting scope of an appraiser, keywords each have an intrinsic value. To properly value a keyword’s potential for your own business, first ask yourself how relevant your pages would be to the user searching for that keywords.

Generic words like “golf clubs” and “flights to Paris” are extremely competitive (read: costly) and, even if you’re selling those particular items, aren’t exactly the best choices for doubling your traffic.

Instead, search for keywords that your users would type in that would make them delighted and thankful to find your site. Examples might include “golf clubs for women” or “flights to Paris under $1,000”.

This delicate balance between generic versus specific is the sweet spot for keyword research, and one that many online businesses continue to strive for through adjusting their campaigns, targeting and other aspects.

Test Your Theory

Once you have your ideal keywords chosen, it’s time to see if your visitors feel the same way. Type in your keywords in Google and notice both the top and sidebar paid ads:

Examples of the top and sidebar ads using Rich Snippets

Now, there are plenty of sidebar and top ads here competing for real estate (and clicks), which means that this could very well be a lucrative search phrase. But only a select few of these site are truly making the most of their ads using Rich nippets (which we’ll get to in a future lesson).

If you were a visitor looking for flights to Paris under $1,000, your eye would naturally be attracted to the cheapest possible price (at least at first!) which is being offered by CheapoAir, or the highest number of user reviews, which belong to TravelZoo at 18,000+ reviews.

Lots of ads above the organic results (the three in the slightly-shaded box) tend to point to a phrase that converts well, while lots of ads in the sidebar denote that this is a keyword or phrase with a high search value as well.

But I Don’t Even Rank for the Keywords I’m Targeting!

Granted, your marketing budget might be nowhere near CheapoAir or TravelZoo, but that doesn’t mean you’re relegated to the bottom of the pile. It just means you have to play (and spend) smarter, not harder.

The next step is to test out the performance of your chosen keywords through a campaign on Google AdWords or Bing AdCenter. At this point we’re not looking to gain the top position, but to determine whether or not this keyword converts well. Set up a sample campaign and use “exact match” targeting.

Point the chosen keywords to the relevant page on your website and let the ad accumulate around 200-300 clicks. Check your analytics to determine the number of impressions (number of times your ad was displayed) and conversions (number of times visitors took an action, such as booking a flight or clicking through to your affiliate link).

Let’s assume your results showed that within 24 hours, your ad had 5,000 impressions, of which a very conservative 250 users clicked through and an even more conservative 3 users ultimately booked a flight. Assuming you made a $200 commission on the sale of each booked flight, you’d have earned $600 in one day.

Not bad, right?

That also means that each user to your site is worth approximately $2.40 using that specific keyword. Multiply that by 365 days a year, and you can see how lucrative keyword research can be — and that’s just ONE example!

Obviously, you don’t have to test out every single keyword in your collection, but it’s a good idea to try out the most promising ones, since getting your research right is just the first step. Do this, and everything else falls into place.

Keyword Research Tools

There are a few free and paid keyword tools that can help you with the research process. Each one offers varying amounts of data for the price, but they also go beyond the typical Google Keyword Suggestion tool to do some more intelligent digging in terms of tracking trends, related keywords that may refer to brand names or product names instead of the actual item itself (the article above refers to Backpack, the 37Signals product vs. backpack to help you carry your stuff).

These tools can also help you determine the dynamic, ever-changing value of specific keywords whether due to shifts in the economy or on social networks, and still others let you spy on the terms your competitors are using.

Now before we get started with first days lesson, make a list of your most promising keywords and set up a few test runs for them on your preferred PPC search engine. Point them to the best possible page on your site for that keyword search and gauge your results. Try out a keyword tool mentioned above to see what your competitors are doing, or what words and phrases are trending related to your industry.

Once you are done with that, lets get started by jumping into our first day.

Set a Regular Writing Schedule

“Oh, that’s easy enough Neil” I can hear you saying, “I’ll just write three times a week and before I know it, I’ll be rolling in targeted traffic!”

Not so fast.

Because unless you hold yourself accountable to that schedule, you’ll become the victim of either two possible downfalls: staring at a blank screen for hours, the pressure building — and coming up with something that’s nowhere near the caliber you know you can produce.

OR

Spending more time making up reasons why you can’t possibly commit to writing today — and one day turns into the next… into the next… and so on.

To help with this, some savvy WordPress programmers have created an Editorial Calendar plugin that lets you create a schedule of blog posts based on your schedule, not what the calendar says. So if you’re particularly inspired one day, and manage to crank out two or three great posts, you can simply drag and drop them into place, reorganize and edit titles and metadata, and check the status of your posts and drafts.

If you’re managing a multi-author blog, being able to schedule posts around each other becomes even more crucial, and a plugin like this becomes even more necessary.

An example of the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin

The point is not quantity, but quality — if you can only write two posts a week and that’s a schedule you can reasonably stick to — then do it. The point is to sit down and start writing. Even if you can’t think of what to write, just writing out your thoughts without concentrating on editing and fine-tuning them (yet) will help you get unstuck and make words flow much easier.

As with anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll be. The point is to get started.

But What Can I Write About?

If you’re feeling stumped for inspiration, here are a few blog post ideas that should get the creative gears turning:

  • Write a List Post

    Tried-and-true, yes, but as Buzzfeed can attest to, people never get tired of lists. Or animated cat graphics.

  • What ______Taught Me

    Life lessons are especially important. Don’t overlook the ‘obvious’ things – it may be a complete revelation to someone just starting out in your field or industry.

  • App/Link/Service/Product Roundup

    Roundups are a collection of useful products that help people in some way, whether it’s to be more productive, creative, romantic or what have you. Great roundups go viral on social media.

  • What is ______ Worth to You?

    You never know how good something is until you (or someone else) cuts corners. Retrospective or insightful posts like this remind people that your work, and theirs, is important, and how to spot the good ones from the fakes.

  • X (Topic) Blunders that Even Experts Make

    No one knows everything, and truthfully, there can be gaps that are so surprisingly common, that even newcomers to your topic will stop and say, “Wow, I never knew the pros did that too!”. Of course, it’s a good idea to teach them how to correct those mistakes too.

How Much Should I Write?

This is the million-dollar-question. For all the talk in search engine optimization circles about keyword density, content marketing and social sharing — Google still relies heavily on relevancy based on backlinks, user reviews and the quality of the information itself. A few informal case studies have been done that show content that’s around 1,010-1501 words tends to perform better than your typical 501-801 word article.

Is that number set in stone? No. And it could change tomorrow. But the key point to remember is that quick, poorly-cobbled-together content will never outperform detailed, thorough, helpful content — and Google looks at word count as just one aspect of many in identifying which article ranks on top. Why not strive to add a little more meat to your posts and make sure that top ranking article is yours?

The Blog Post Matrix

Many times, people just started or improving their site will think that all the “good” topics have been done to death, and struggle to think of a unique angle or idea that will get noticed. But you’re trying too hard.

The following “blog post matrix” from Hubspot will help you not only come up with a link and share-worthy topic, but do so for the right level that your customers need, and in the way they learn best. The idea is that once you’ve come up with a “general” topic, you can then make it your own by writing for the appropriate level of experience, as well as structure and presentation. This will give you multiple paths to reach the same result — think of it as a cheat sheet for your next blog posts.

An example of using a blog post matrix to come up with
new ideas for an “old” topic

Today’s Homework

Set a schedule you can work with. Download
and install the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin
and start writing. Come up with topics you know your audience wants based on your previous keyword research, then segment them into workable “assignments” based on Hubspot’s blog matrix above. Brainstorm ideas that build off of what others have done or tackle a challenging subject from a different angle.

When it comes time to write, let your words flow without worrying about editing until you’re satisfied that you’ve said everything you wanted to say. If you’re having trouble getting started, it’s okay to let your brain spout pure gibberish or whatever’s on your mind until you unearth the real gold underneath all the rubble.

Create a Free Giveaway Worth Wanting

Lots of people create free giveaways to build their email newsletters — but few of them take the time to truly craft a great giveaway that people want, and that somehow improves their lives or their business as a result of getting it.

Remember, people aren’t signing up to your list because they like you (unless they happen to be your parents or significant other). They’re signing up because they believe you can help them with their problem. The question most business owners then ask is:

How Can I Help Them if I Don’t Know What Their Problem Is?

And most marketers would tell you to “ask them” via a survey — which is one way, but I’ve found it’s not the best way unless they know and respect you well enough to give you a minute of their time. Rather than posing a blanket question and pigeon-holing people into specific answers, send them a quick email and ask this one simple question:

What’s the biggest thing you’re struggling with right now when it comes to (your topic)?

These days in almost any topic, people are frustrated, excited, hopeful, challenged and confused, all in one. In order to solve their problem, a personal-sounding email asking about that one pressure point can tear down any sales-y “B.S. detector” walls they might ordinarily have up and give them a chance to explain their problems, fears and concerns with you.

And you, in turn follow up accordingly. Thank them for taking the time to respond and share their problem. Let them know that you’re in the process of creating a new product and you’ll let them have it for free if you could just ask them a few more questions. You’ll then use these questions to further refine your product offering so that it has the largest impact with the most people.

You might be surprised to learn that very few people will go through the time and effort to create something truly extraordinary, such as an entire course (for free) or a tangible item that can be shipped. And while you don’t have to go to extremes, the more effort you put into the email freebie, the more your subscriber will think:

“Wow, if he’s giving this away for free — I wonder how much better his paid courses/products are?”

And sadly, most paid e-products are created by people who have neither the experience nor the expertise to truly give people that kind of top-peak invaluable information. Don’t let your free product fall into a swamp of mediocrity just because everyone else is doing it.

What If I’m Selling Someone Else’s Product?

If you’re an affiliate, this advice applies doubly to you. Oftentimes, affiliate promoters will give their prospects a free something-or-other to promote to their lists. You can essentially trash this. Everyone and their dog who is also an affiliate will be taking this “easy way out” and not putting in the extra effort to make something extraordinary.

So take the time to do what they won’t. If the affiliate product creator is giving away a free how-to article on getting started with the product, you go a step further and make a step-by-step video that shows you using the product the way a first-timer would. Better yet, all affiliate products have gaps or areas where users have questions — be the first person to come up with a comprehensive FAQ that answers those questions and issues.

Today’s Homework

Do a little research to learn what’s out there and already
available in your niche — then go the extra mile to craft something free that users will find helpful, interesting or entertaining. Ask yourself, “If I were just starting out in this topic, what would I want to know more about or see?” Failing that, ask them what their biggest challenge is with regard to your topic of expertise. Then go create that product and give it to your subscribers.

You don’t even have to take time to invest in fancy equipment or software to make this freebie. If all you can afford to do is take screenshots rather than a video capture — then do it and put them into a Word document and turn that into a PDF file. If you can’t afford Camtasia, try Camstudio (free screen recording software but with limited features), or create slides with Powerpoint (PC) or Keynote (Mac) instead.

The important thing is that you not let your desire to be perfect right out of the gate prevent you from taking action. If the information is truly as valuable and helpful as you plan on making it, they won’t care if you wrote it in the sand or printed it on gold-embossed paper.

Getting Your Giveaway into
the Hands of Eager Subscribers

Originally, I was going to make this part of Day 2's assignment, but I feel it’s so important that it really needs to be an assignment all its own.

Today’s lesson is all about getting your giveaway into the hands of your subscribers, and the truth is that no matter how much work you’ve put into it, before your subscribers receive it, that can just as easily choose NOT to opt-in. Whether it’s having second thoughts, changing their mind, or uncertainty about spam and the sharing of email addresses with other lists, there’s a very fine line that email list owners walk during that delicate phase between opt-in and delivery.

That’s why it’s vital that you come to your subscribers in a way they find convenient and comfortable. These days they’re not sitting at their desks waiting to hear from you. This is why I highly recommend choosing an email list provider that includes mobile responsive (NOT mobile friendly or mobile optimized) templates.

Wait, What’s the Difference?

Most providers have tended to take the easy (read: lazy) way out and give subscribers who view your email a mobile version or a browser-friendly version. This just adds an extra step in the process — and seeing as how nearly 45% of emails are opened on a mobile device, of which only around 11% are mobile-responsive, your email is one tap away from the trash.

From February to June 2013, mobile email opens rose 44% while desktop opens fell to
33% and webmail to an all-time low of 23% — Source

That being said, some providers and programmers are stepping up to the plate to offer responsive templates of their own. The most popular email newsletter providers that have made their templates mobile-responsive include:

I’ve Set Up My Freebie — Now What?

Sadly, this is where many people stop and wonder why their traffic isn’t increasing. You’re not finished quite yet. The next step is to introduce (through a plain text email) what your reader can expect — for example, you could link to a sample issue to show them what they’ll be receiving from you, and let them know how often they can expect it.

Why plain text when you’ve just found a mobile email template provider?

Because plain text is the easiest to display in any device, browser and operating system, and chances are, right after people subscribe, they’re going to want to know how to get started. They’re excited and ready to jump into your offer.

See below how Sprout Social does their intro email when someone is added to an account. Notice that they’ve covered all the bases here with their introductory message:

  • They show how to get more out of the service right from the start
  • They include quick bullet points that demonstrate the benefits of using the service
  • They include an email address in case the user has questions

Sprout Social’s Introductory Email

After you send this out, within 24 hours, you can send out your freshly-minted, responsive design as a follow-up:

Today’s Homework

Sign up with an email list provider that offers mobile responsive templates. If you already have an existing list, search ThemeForest for a mobile responsive design
that can be used with your current provider. Set up your mobile responsive theme using the tools your provider gives you.

Don’t forget to make your introductory giveaway email a plain text message that explains how your subscriber can get started, what they can look forward to, the benefits subscribers receive, and an email or phone number in case they have questions. Oftentimes, your email messages are the first impression a potential customer has of you and your brand — make it count!

Create Your Social Media Accounts

By now, you should have a couple of topics written and scheduled in your blog. The next step, if you haven’t already, is to create your social media accounts. Many people make the mistake of waiting until they have a huge pile of content ready to go before they start thinking about social media, but I’m advising you to do the opposite for two reasons:

  1. You will never have enough content, or the content won’t be good enough (in your mind) for social media. Get that out of your head right now, because your audience wants — and needs — to hear what you have to share.
  2. The longer you wait, the more time you’re giving your competition to woo and capture your visitors. People can only “like” or follow so many brands, especially ones dealing with the same topic. Make sure yours is first.

Make Your Profile Look “Lived In”

A big mistake many companies (both large and small) make is creating their social profiles, and then posting to them when they have time, or when business is slow — which is usually never. Take today and create or update your profiles on major social networks, including:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest

Create a custom background or profile image (or have one made for you through sites like Fiverr if you’re not graphically inclined). Next, sign up for a social media management tool like Hootsuite (web-based), Sendible (web-based) or Buzzbundle (software based) to keep all your accounts manageable.

Now, while both of these programs can help you manage multiple social media accounts, they also have other useful functions that differentiate them from each other. For example:

Hootsuite and Sendible allow you to schedule posts across various networks and let you manage various accounts in one place, for example if you have a personal social media account and a business one. Both of these tools also have measurement, monitoring and analytics built in so that you can track response and user sentiment.

Buzzbundle approaches social media management a bit differently in that it includes a rudimentary profile management system, but its biggest focus is on allowing you to contribute to conversations based on keywords or phrases you specify.

It does this via several columns of conversation:

The Buzzbundle social media management screen — Betanews

For instance, if you sell garden landscaping stone, you may want to engage customers who are looking for landscaping tips, gardening tips or both. Buzzbundle searches forums, Q&A sites, blogs, and of course, social media to help you uncover interactions and conversations you can join in on. The free version of the software hides some of the conversations, the full version is unlimited.

Tying Your Blog Posts Into Your Social Media Accounts

If you’re using WordPress, you can also automatically share your blog posts to various social networks the moment you hit Publish. There are several free services that let you do this, but my favorites are:

  • Jetpack

    No longer just for WordPress.com sites, Jetpack can be added to your self-hosted WordPress blog. Their “Publicize” feature lets your blog posts automatically connect to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, as of this writing, it’s missing the ability to connect to Google+ which I believe is a crucial feature, especially since G+ posts can pass PageRank and have a direct ripple effect on your site and traffic.

  • SNAP (Social Networks Auto Poster)

    With third party API libraries, SNAP lets you post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and even Vbulletin forum. Here are the full installation and configuration instructions. There’s more of a learning curve with this plugin, particularly in formatting your posts to work best with each network, but the results are worth it. The free version limits you to one account of each type, whereas the paid version offers unlimited accounts.

  • As a side note, the reason why so many blog auto-posting sites and services don’t work with Google+ is because Google+ has not released an API for their system. An API is like a set of programming instructions to help one service work together with another.

    Fortunately, there is one which works with Google+ as well as many other networks:

What Types of Posts Do Well on Social Networks?

This is the million-dollar-question, and my honest answer is exactly the same as when people ask me “when should I send my email?” — TEST and find out. However, based on available data, there are certain types of posts that do better on social networks than others:

  • Questions and fill-in-the-blank

    These are particularly good at getting a quick response from your audience. The idea, however, is not to sell your product directly in your post. For example, if you sold high-end gourmet dog food, you wouldn’t ask “What’s your pet’s favorite Luxury Gourmet Brand Dog Food meal — rotisserie chicken and hand-picked greens or oven-based turkey and gravy?"

    Instead, ask a question that any pet lover can relate to — “What’s your favorite autumn activity to do with your four-legged pal?” People will respond with happy memories and good times, which psychologically will tie them back into your brand and your product.

  • Photo posts

    “Caption this” style photos, or user photo competitions are a great way to build some buzz and get people involved. Invite users to contribute their own photos or create a contest for best caption.

  • Click Like/Share if You…

    Measure customer sentiment on a variety of popular topics. It’s best to choose things that most everyone can agree on, rather than ostracizing people or groups based on some particular trait or belief.

  • Public Acknowledgement

    Everyone likes to be made to feel special or recognized. Reward fans and friends alike by highlighting a hard working employee or a longtime fan. Offer special, exclusive deals to different segments of your audience, such as mommy bloggers, college students, freshly-minted entrepreneurs and more.

Today’s Homework

Set up your social media profiles, or add your own creative touch to existing ones to make them look more lived-in and alive. Use SNAP or another social media auto-posting tool to make sure all your blog posts go to the networks where they’re the best fit.

Join Quora

Quora is a Q&A site where you login to read, contribute and vote on answers. Questions range from the eclectic “What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned up until now?” to the helpful “what are the best tools for productivity” and everything in between.

Quora — a Q&A site that lets you follow and connect with others in your industry

The main reason I didn’t include Quora with the other social networks above is because in all honesty, it isn’t like them. You’re not exactly engaging with people who love your brand, but rather connectin with influencers. These are people who, when approached right, can help you take your traffic to the next level.

Notice I said approached right.

These days, too many people approach influencers and start foaming at the mouth about how their product is the greatest thing, and could I review it on my blog or do I accept guest posts or would I be willing to try it out in exchange for a mention in my newsletter, etc. etc.

Put yourself in the influencer’s shoes for a moment.

We’re pitched products all the time — ranging from things that should have never gone out of beta yet to really incredible resources and everything in between. We get more email, invitations and mentions than we can ever keep up with. If you want to make an impact on Quora, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Go beyond shallow, salesy content and truly write an inspiring, thought-provoking, helpful answer. Some posts can go viral and are easily read by millions of people. Readers can tell an intelligent post from a vapid one.
  • You can also write blogs on Quora. I’ve found that the best types of blog content on Quora are shorter snippets of things you’ve learned, stories and insights that your readers can gain from, rather than typical blog posts like tutorials, lists and other common types of posts.
  • You can get a suggestion of people to follow based on your profile and those you allow, There’s also a great list of hacks that you can perform by adding certain words to the end of the trailing slash.

Today’s Homework

Create an account on Quora, fill out your profile with your credentials, and join topics related to your niche. Look for unanswered questions and answer them. Other users can add to and vote on your responses which can in turn help to build up your credibility. Typically, you aren’t allowed to link back to your site beyond the profile unless you have a specific post that answers the user’s question in more detail.

With that in mind, Quora can be a real treasure trove of post ideas to help you determine what your audience is asking about, and, more specifically, how you can position yourself to solve their actual problems (rather than what you think their problems are).

Leverage Rich Snippets & Google Authorship

As you continue writing posts regularly for your own blog, don’t forget to claim your Google Authorship. Some WordPress themes include this feature as part of their user profile area. If yours doesn’t, you can always use the Google Author Box Reloaded plugin to add this type of functionality.

Why bother? Because according to some studies, Google Authorship photos in search results can impact your click-through rates significantly. Although you can expect this to taper off as more and more photos appear in search results, early tests have been nothing but positive.

An example of Google Authorship displaying in the search results

Even after you claim your Authorship profile, there’s still no guarantee or set date that Google will display your photo in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages), if it will display at all. Once you complete the process, you can check to see if Google can pick up the results by using its Structured Testing Tool. Even if things display correctly here, it’s still very much wait-and-see as to when or even if your photo will display in results.

While that’s going on, you can still enjoy enhanced Google listings through the use of another type of rich snippet — customer reviews:

Google Reviews showing in the SERPs

Google Webmaster Tools has detailed information on how to add reviews/ratings to your pages, but there’s also a WordPress plugin that will give you this same functionality even if you’re not particularly technically inclined.

You can create a page on your blog for customers to submit reviews and have them display through Google’s rich snippets:

Google Reviews showing in the SERPs

Today’s Homework

Link to your Google+ profile and claim your authorship for the blog posts you write. If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, install the WP Customer Reviews plugin to enable customers to write reviews on your site and have them displayed as rich snippets in Google or follow the Webmaster Tools link above to learn how to set up this feature on your site.

This is important for the next day’s assignment, because you’ll want to make sure to squeeze every last drop of Google juice from everything you write.

Interlink Your Posts

A sitemap is a good starting point to make sure Google (and other search engines) can index all of the pages on your site, however it’s a good idea to make sure people can do the same. Ask yourself — if they’re reading your posts right now, what do they do at the end of the article?

If you can’t answer, then your site is lacking “stick-ability” which keeps users involved and on the site longer, thereby improving your relevancy score in Google and rippling across to your ranking. Buzzfeed is a great example of a site with stick-ability. At the end of every article, there are more related articles to whittle away at your productivity:

An example of related posts on BuzzFeed

So how do you accomplish this same kind of stickiness? If you’re using WordPress, SEO Smart Links is a great place to start. This plugin lets you define specific keywords and phrases, where they should link to, and the frequency with which they should link. So, for example, if you have posts about business startups, that phrase can link to that post wherever it appears, but limited to just 2 links per post. There is also a Premium version with more features.

But even interlinking your posts won’t give you the same kind of intelligent links at the bottom of your articles the way BuzzFeed does. For that, you’ll want to give Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) a try. With just a little tweaking, you can change how it discovers related posts from within your blog, giving you complete freedom and control over what gets linked, and where.

YARPP doesn’t include the option for photos by your posts, however. To do this, you’ll need to make some changes to the code. There are also third party plugins, but they also include obtrusive advertising that can annoy and frustrate blog owners, particularly if you’re working hard to earn your traffic and don’t want to see it siphoned away!

Today’s Homework

Take some time to interlink your existing posts using SEO Smart Links and your best keywords. Add the Yet Another Related Posts plugin or make appropriate changes to your code to display thumbnail images with your related posts. This will help increase the length of time spent on site, which in turn will affect Google’s measurement of relevancy toward your site.

Leverage Your Expertise

Chances are, you already know who the experts are in your niche — the people who regularly give solid, actionable advice and have built an audience of raving fans. But how often do you frequent their blogs and retweet, share or comment on their posts?

“But Neil”, you may be saying, “These guys are my biggest competitors! Wouldn’t I just be funneling traffic to them by commenting on their writing?”

Not exactly. You see, these experts have several things in common, and if you’re looking to double your traffic, these “things” are things you want — like:

  • A large, established audience that wants what they’re selling
  • Good quality content that gets shared and commented on
  • A hungry, eager list that looks forward to their updates

So in a sense, these experts have already done much of the legwork for you in finding that there is indeed a group of people who has a problem they can solve. But, because these guys are sought-after and in-demand, they also have a limited amount of the same thing we all have equal amounts of…

Time.

And they’re always on the lookout for things that can either help them make the most of that time, do more in that time, or save them time. For whatever reason, their schedule may be too packed, their prices too high, or they may be otherwise unavailable to help certain customers in a way that those customers need at that moment.

Let’s face it, not every overweight person can afford consulting with Dr. Oz, just like every struggling couple can’t make an appointment to see Dr. Phil.

And their shortage of time becomes a huge pivot-point where you can position yourself to shine.

Discovering and Connecting with Experts

By sharing the expert’s tweets, Facebook posts, commenting on their blog and joining their forum (more details on these specific steps will follow in the coming days), you’ll be shifting some of their spotlight over to yourself as a viable alternative for all those people who don’t have the time/money/etc. to hire the go-to guru.

But don’t look at it as if you’re stealing their business — rather, consider them more of an associate in your overall plan to win.

If you don’t know who the experts are in your niche, or you want to uncover some up-and-coming names that would be willing to give you a minute of their time for a win-win proposal, today’s lesson will show you how to do just that, using three different methods.

Method 1: Klout Score

Klout uses social media analytics and other factors to determine how influential someone is, on a scale from 1-108. Although no one truly knows the “secret sauce” to their algorithm and how it ranks people, for our purposes, it’s a decent indicator of who is most influential in your industry.

The President ranks near the top, followed closely by Justin Bieber

Once you sign up for Klout and connect either your Twitter or Facebook account (or both), Klout will analyze your social media shares, retweets and other “moments” to determine how far they spread, to whom, and so on. You can also choose categories you’re interested in and Klout will show you who the top influencers are for that particular topic.

One downside to Klout: It’s heavily biased in favor of celebrities versus bloggers. Fortunately, there are other methods we can use to find out who’s really making a splash in the blogosphere versus who’s the flavor-of-the-month expert.

Method 2: AllTop

AllTop is a site created by Guy Kawasaki, of Art of The Start and Garage Technologies. The site considers itself to be the “magazine rack” of the World Wide Web, giving people information that’s up-to-date, informational and entertaining.

An example of AllTop blogs in technology and small business

AllTop has categories spanning from adoption to politics, religion to food, and even zoology. Its own criteria for deciding which sites get featured for a particular category depends on an amalgamation of Twitter, blog posts, social happenings, and plain old-fashioned human research and suggestions. It’s designed to not just show you a list of sites and blogs you should already be following anyway, but also related ones that you may not have known about.

In some cases, the results that appear for your chosen category may not be a blog at all, or may be run by more than one person. The New York Times and the Washington Post are here, but so are several smaller mdt-and-pop style sites that are worth taking a look at.

Browse the stories and see which ones would most closely resonate with your audience. Make a note of the contact information on the site or how to pitch a story or write a guest post, as you’ll be using this information in the coming days.

What if you want to see information about blogs that aren’t in English, or you want to view everything influential — including links, photos, videos and more? Then move on to…

Method 3: Topsy

Topsy lets you “search and analyze the social web” and get real-time results based on the timeframe, type of influential item (video, photo, etc.) and even language.

An example of a Topsy search for startups

Once your search results are delivered, you can further refine them, plus see how many searches have been done in the last 5 hours, as well as tweets over the last month. Upgrading to a paid account will give you greater insights, but for our purposes in this guide, the free search will give us plenty of information.

Use Topsy to determine who and what is gaining traction in the social sphere and forecast trends related to your blog. Ideal for blogs in a language other than English, or to get an idea of trending videos, tweets and links that have gone viral.

Today’s Homework

Make a list of the key influencers, both large and small, in your niche. Include the URLs of their blogs and their contact information and email address if any. You’ll be using this information shortly. You can also get tons of ideas for blog posts by searching what’s hot and in-demand right now using AllTop and Topsy.

Guest Blog

This is one of those methods that everyone raves about but few people actually do (or do well). It does give you backlinks, but more importantly, it helps you reach an audience that may otherwise never have known about you despite your best efforts.

Guest blogger profiles on CrazyEgg

Unfortunately, many people approach guest blogging by sending a blanket email out to anyone and everyone, then writing a half-baked article while spewing their link in as many places as possible. Not only will this sloppy approach hurt your impression with the very audience you’re trying to reach, but it will also ensure that you’re never invited back again to contribute to future posts.

Some blogs are so inundated with requests that they’ve even set up guest blogging guidelines to help weed through unqualified applicants.

The right approach to guest blogging begins with a simple step — read the actual blog that you’re interested in writing for.

Not only will this help you for today’s step, but it will also give you insights on the types of posts that do best for that particular blog, ensuring that your own post will get the maximum number of comments, tweets and social shares.

By following posts on the blog, you’ll be able to discern any gaps that their writer(s) are missing, which will put you into the perfect position to write about that very topic.

I’ve even crafted a template for you that you can use when submitting guest blogging proposals. Not only is this method much more personal and likely to receive a response, but it also shows that you’ve read the blog and you’re familiar with it.

The important thing is that you realize blog owners are busy, and that you follow up consistently. When writing your post, be sure to leverage any and all opportunities to make it spread like wildfire: share it on your own social feeds, like/tweet it, respond to comments and generally promote that post as if it were one on your own blog — because in a sense, it’s just as powerful.

A little creative self promotion
& a unique angle gives readers a glimpse of the “real you”

Once you actually write the post, hit it out of the park. Add images that are relevant, royalty-free and sized appropriately. Format your post correctly, whether it’s a Word document or a WordPress post. Make full use of the byline to include a link to your newsletter and your social profiles.

MyBlogGuest has several examples from both the guest poster and commenters on what to include in your byline. Much of it depends on your audience and the topic at hand, but all of them are sure to provide some inspiration. Here is one such example:

Beyond that, be consistent about publishing guest posts. One or two posts, no matter how great, won’t get you nearly as much traction as a consistent set of posts over several months. As you continue to guest blog, new opportunities will emerge, you’ll be building backlinks and perhaps most importantly, you’ll be forging relationships.

Today’s Homework

Inquire about guest blogging from a selection of the blogs and sites you made note of the day before. Check to see if they already have guidelines posted or if they accept guest posts. Suggest a topic you feel they haven’t covered, or covered enough. Craft a byline that includes a link to your own site plus the freebie that subscribers to your e-newsletter will get. If your guest post is successful, share it on your social networks and respond to comments promptly to encourage future posts.

Blog Commenting

To some people, blog commenting may seem like an old-fashioned strategy that no longer works to build backlinks from Google.

And they’re right, it likely won’t.

But that’s not the point.

Taking just 15 minutes a day to comment on a few respected blogs in your industry will not only get your name out there, but can also drive traffic to your site and build relationships with fellow commenters as well as the blog owner.

Don’t just write “me too” or “I learned a lot from this post, thanks”, but rather comment on specific points. Perhaps the author mentioned a few helpful resources, and you’d like to add another that they may have missed? Or maybe your clients have struggled with a similar problem, and this is how you solved it?

Thoughtful, well-thought-out blog comments can also demonstrate that you have the depth of knowledge and the expertise on the topic that make you a valuable contributor in the industry as a whole. Who knows, perhaps your blog comment can lead to a guest posting position within that blog?

Of course, you’ll ideally want to be one of the first commenters, as the more comments come pouring in, the more your well-crafted, polished response will sink to the bottom. To help with this, there’s “If This Then That” or IFTTT

IFTTT uses “recipes” to perform specific, user-specified actions. For instance “If I post a photo to Instagram, save it to my Dropbox”.

So what does this have to do with blog commenting?

As it turns out, there’s a very helpful recipe which will send you an SMS whenever there’s a new blog post on a blog you’re following.

An IFTTT recipe for blog post notification to SMS

Joining IFTTT is free and there are hundreds of recipes to automate just about anything online.

Today’s Homework

Using IFTTT, use the blog post to SMS notification to be informed of when new posts are added to blogs you follow. RSS feed updates aren’t always reliable, especially with the demise of popular programs like Feedburner, so IFTTT makes sure you never miss out.

When crafting your comments, write an intelligent, well-thought out response, even if you don’t agree with the author. Remember that you aren’t doing this for backlinks so much as to get your name out there and encourage people to visit your site after reading the comment. “Do-follow” backlinks from the search engines are just icing on the cake!

Forum Commenting

Forum commenting may seem like a tactic of yesteryear — but just like with blog commenting, the goal is not to get backlinks, but rather make yourself an integral, respected part of the community.

Nearly every forum has its own paragons: shining examples of members who contribute consistent, helpful or new information that the community finds helpful. Some of these people become moderators.

And while your status won’t grow overnight, taking just 15-20 minutes a day to browse forums and look for unanswered topics that you can answer, or posts you can add to, will do a lot to build your reputation.

The good news is that there are forums for nearly every topic, ranging from cars to cats, adoption to vegetarianism. Wikipedia maintains a list of some of the largest ones, but you can also find relevant forums by searching Google for your topic plus the word forum, bulletin board or message board (both with and without quotes).

A list of the most popular forums on Wikipedia, along with number of posts,
number of members, the software running the forum and the year it was founded.

Once you have a list, it’s important to check several points — the first being when the latest post was made to that forum. No one wants to contribute to a ghost down, and one of the most troubling issues forum owners face is getting enough traction to get people registered and keep them coming back.

An example of the latest posts on StartupNation.com,
along with how many threads are in that forum.

If the community appears fairly active and responsive, go ahead and register. Use your real name if at all possible, rather than your company name. The same goes for your avatar, or the small graphic that appears under your name. Resist the temptation to use your company logo and use a nice, professional-looking, smiling photo instead. People are psychologically more attracted to a smiling face than a bland, boring corporate logo.

An example from StartupNation
removing signatures and links

You also won’t want to start commenting on as many threads as possible right out of the gate. Not only does this sometimes trigger the forum’s built-in anti-spam measures, but it also gives the impression that you’re looking to spread your signature link in as many places as possible, rather than becoming a serious person of value to the community.

To help combat this very issue, some forums have instituted a strict no link / no signature rule — either for members that have just joined, members that have under a set number of posts, or overall.

Start off with an introductory post — let people know who you are, how long you’ve been interested in or working with this particular topic, and about your interests or life. Then you can start contributing to posts. Check the forum guidelines — particularly about links to your own site. Some forum owners and moderators are okay with linking to your blog if you’ve written a post that expands on a question that was asked — others aren’t. When in doubt — ask!

Today’s Homework

Make a list of 2-3 forums with active, engaged communities and join them. Use your real name and photo where possible. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines, ask questions and give well thought-out answers. Doing this regularly is not intended to build backlinks (if it does, that’s great — but not necessary), but rather to establish relationships and network with fellow individuals in your niche and the people you serve.

The key to leveraging forums is to post consistently. Many people start out with the greatest of intentions, but then their activity dwindles as they get caught up in other things. Just a few minutes a day can make a significant difference, and if you’re able to include a signature in your posts, doing so will reinforce your experience and expertise while encouraging people to visit your site to learn more.

Expanding on Social Profiles

It may seem as if we touched on social networking and then left it in the dust — but nothing could be farther from the truth. One common problem I see with social profiles is that people are only posting their blog content to their various accounts. While this is a great starting strategy, it won’t bring you the traffic you need.

After all, if people are already visiting your blog, why should they follow you on social networks just to get more of the same?

That’s where differentiating yourself across the different networks is key to getting people involved.

Twitter

Twitter’s short-and-sweet messages tend to attract people on mobile phones and other devices. These are people who like to stay in-the-know, in-the-moment. Types of posts that work well on Twitter include real-time updates of extremely limited-time offers (only X in stock – get yours before they’re gone!) or countdowns to build momentum.

People on Twitter also like real-time tweets from live events, so if you’re at a seminar, conference or expo — make sure you let them know what you’re seeing, who you’re meeting, and what’s going on around you.

You can also use photo-tweeting services like TwitPic or Twitter’s own short video service Vine to capture real-time events or other short snippets to share.

Facebook

Photos and quotes do extremely well here, as do contests. Invitations for user feedback and stories also generate involvement. You can also mix and match these different strategies to come up with your own style that fits within your business plan. For example, if you sell computer recovery software, you could host a contest for the “Worst PC Meltdown” story.

You can also use Facebook Insights to measure the traffic, clicks and interaction your posts are getting.

Google+

Consider Google+ an amalgamation of Facebook and Pinterest — the image usually makes the first impression, followed by the headline and then the first sentence. These things together are going to be the make-or-break point with G+ users. Charts and infographics work well. The important part to remember here is that you share your piece with the people in your circles who would benefit most from it. This is audience segmentation at its easiest. Don’t just blast it to anyone and everyone, but take the time to share information that you know people in your circles will appreciate and benefit from.

Today’s Homework

As with blog commenting and forum posting, segmenting your content to appeal to the various social networks takes small, consistent amounts of dedication spread over a longer period of time. Take the time to develop exclusive offers and content for each audience, rather than just parroting your blog posts.

Advertising on Facebook

Although we’ve covered Facebook in some detail already, one area we haven’t touched on is actually advertising there. Facebook ads can generate a terrific ROI as well as a higher click-through rate — but it’s important to distinguish between the two types plus how to reach out to prospective customers without looking like an intrusion in their newsfeed.

Ads appear on the right side of your news feed or in the timeline and can be targeted to both mobile and desktop devices. The ad only shows the first 90 characters if it’s displayed in the sidebar, but shows the first 500 characters if shown in the newsfeed.

Rather than go through every type of ad Facebook offers, I’m going to share with you which ones have driven the most consistent increases in traffic across multiple types of businesses — both large and small.

If you already have Facebook Fans

Then you’ll want to use Sponsored Stories + Promoted Posts. Sponsored Stories appear when fans take certain actions on your page, including:

  • Page Likes

    When a friend likes your page, includes a thumbnail of your page’s profile picture plus a like button.

  • Page Post Likes

    Shows when a friend likes a specific post from a page and includes that post.

  • Page Post Comments

    If a friend leaves a comment on a certain post, the ad shows and includes the comment plus a link to the post.

  • Check-ins

    Shows when a friend checks in and includes the friend’s profile picture as well as any comment they’ve made on check-in.

  • App Used/Played/Shared

    Shows when a friend does an activity through an app, played a game, or shared something through an app, as well as what the action was (Joe Smith pinned ____ to Pinterest).

  • Question Answered

    Shows when a friend answers a question in a poll, plus includes the poll results.

  • Event RSVP’ed

    Shows when a friend responds to an event, plus includes a thumbnail and link to the event they’re going to.

You have control over where your sponsored Stories are placed and can target just news feeds, just desktops or just mobile. Sponsored Stories are the most organic and natural-appearing ads and encourage the most user interaction.

Promoted Posts let you promote nearly anything including links, videos, quizzes and more, and is perfect for mobile impressions as it displays directly in the newsfeed rather than being relegated to the right side.

If You’re Starting Out Fresh on Facebook

If you don’t have a large following of fans just yet, you can use the more traditional right sidebar ads which are designed to target your specific audience and get them acquainted with your brand and your content.

These types of ads cost very little and can help you increase the number of likes and fans you have without spending a huge chunk of money. As you grow your audience, you can bring in Suggested Posts targeted to those who like your page to encourage them to go beyond Facebook and take an action on your site. You can also use Promoted Posts to expand your reach to the friends of friends who have liked your page.

It’s perfectly acceptable to use any or all three combinations of ads to boost your traffic. You can even test your ads to see which ones are bringing you the best return on investment and the greatest number of new fans and friends. It’s important that you then nurture your growing community with great content while encouraging them to take the next important step by visiting your website or claiming a special offer through your Facebook page.

Today’s Homework

Sign up for Facebook ads if you haven’t already, and start creating your first ad. Choose the appropriate ad type to either grow your following of fans or to leverage the likes you already have into taking the next step. Use Facebook Insights to determine how well your ad is performing, then make adjustments to your posts accordingly. You’ll need at least 30 likes before you can use Insights.

Marketing on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is its own unique community, just as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest have their own collective microcosms of rules, expectations and guidelines of how to act and post. Because it caters to professionals, LinkedIn demands a more polished, well-thought-out marketing plan.

However, because of its targeted audience, LinkedIn has the ability to connect you to other “fire-starters” who can help you leverage your existing platform and grow your site beyond anything you could do strictly on your own.

LinkedIn themselves have published a Best Practices guide which will help you understand the do’s and don’ts of promoting on the network. Once you’ve learned how to proceed, it’s time to tap into the full marketing power of the site.

HubSpot has an excellent “Cheat Sheet” guide to getting the most out of LinkedIn, including third-party apps and browser plugins you can download to help you import your email contacts, take advantage of the new Company Pages design section and target your updates to groups accordingly.

Third party LinkedIn Applications let you connect your WordPress blog to
LinkedIn, leverage industry-specific applications and find events near you to
help you build your network.

LinkedIn’s own advertising network lets you target your ads precisely — including to specific job titles, company size, job functions and more. You can even access group statistics on LinkedIn for groups you’re not a member of — enabling you to determine which groups will potentially bring you the best return on your investment of time and research.

An example of a LinkedIn company page by HubSpot

According to LinkedIn’s own research, posts that are made in the morning tend to get a greater response than those made at other times of the day. That’s why it’s best to use a social media management app like HootSuite or one of the many other programs available to schedule your updates accordingly.

You can also use LinkedIn Recommendation Ads to promote your products. Each time someone recommends you, it is shared with that person’s followers, which can create a ripple effect that gives you greater traffic, referrals and recommendations.

Today’s Homework

Once you’ve created your LinkedIn profile page and your company page, make sure you post updates to it regularly. Take advantage of LinkedIn advertising or recommendation ads to expand your reach. If you use WordPress or an industry-specific review service, check to see if an app exists through LinkedIn’s own apps page that you can use to boost your promotional efforts.

Marketing on Google+

Google+ might feel like a ghost town compared to all the activity on Facebook, so many marketers dismiss it as “not worth their time”. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. One reason it’s important to pay attention to the Big G? Google+ posts pass PageRank, and like LinkedIn, they also help you reach out to professionals in your industry.

If you deal with technology, social media or related industries, you may be able to make more of an impact on Google+, as these people typically use a wide range of Google tools in their daily lives, and are more likely to keep up with industry news via Google+.

Getting Started

The first step is to set up your personal profile. You may already have one if you use services like Gmail, Google Analytics, Youtube or Webmaster Tools (to name a few). You can find out if you have a personal profile by going to http://plus.google.com and logging in with your Google account information.

It’s important to keep in mind that this is your personal profile, so I would strongly advise against using a work or school email to login. Create a @gmail.com address just for yourself or your own business, so that you’ll be able to maintain control of your account at all times.

The Cover Photo

Next comes the cover photo, which is extremely large, at 2120x1192 pixels. As with Twitter and Facebook, it’s a good idea to use a custom image that’s all your own, rather than the default stock photos that Google provides.

Your Story

Your story is like the About Us section of your Google+ profile. You’ll fill in your personal tagline, motto or a short bit about what you do, give an introduction about yourself, and fill out some bragging rights such as recent awards you’ve won or accolades you’ve received.

As an added bonus, up to 77 characters from your introduction will appear in the Google+ search results when people are looking for others who have specific expertise or experience and use that particular keyword in their intro:

An example of a Google+ Search for Facebook Expert

Your tagline matters too, as it appears in regular Google search listings:

The Work Section, Education and Places

This is like a mini resume, where you’ll fill out your work experience with the most recent position appearing at the top. The education section works the same way. If you want to share places you’ve lived, you can do that from this page as well. Feel free to fill out any other pertinent information in this section such as email addresses or phone numbers you want people to contact you at.

The Links Section

An example of the links and
contributor section
of a Google+ profile.
KISSmetrics

This is one of the most important sections as it’s part of your Google Authorship profile. You want to list links to all the sites you contribute to, including guest blogging and articles you’ve written, as Google will let you claim authorship on your content, even if you’ve written it for another site.

Creating a Business Page on Google+

If you’d like to create a page for your business in addition to a personal profile through Google+, the process is nearly identical. You’ll first choose the type of page you’re creating (such as for a brand, a local company, product page, etc. and then several subcategories). You’ll get an expanded Story section for information about your company mission, founding and other details.

You can also assign Managers, who can update your Google+ page for you. They don’t have as much control as the page creator, but they can edit page information, post content, and add people to circles.

Beyond that, Google is also implementing features that will make it a more integral part of search, such as using hashtags as part of the search experience.

To reach out to influencers and engagers in your niche, be sure to plus them, as in +Neil Patel. Google will attempt to autocomplete this list for you, so choosing the right name from the dropdown is important.

Beyond these tips, you’ll also want to join and participate in relevant Google+ communities (similar to LinkiedIn and Facebook groups).

Google+ communities showing number of
members & posts, plus members who are in your circles

Using Google+ Hangouts

There are actually two different types of Google+ hangouts — one that’s a private conversation between two people or a group, and another “Hangouts On Air” which is a live, recorded session that can be viewed by the public and uploaded to YouTube.

Up to 10 people can be on a Hangout at a time, and although you can’t invite the public to participate, they can still watch the hangout. You can also broadcast it to your YouTube channel or embed it in your website for even greater marketing reach.

What Types of Topics Do Best in a Hangout?

As with webinars, Google+ Hangouts usually tend to work best when you have a plan of how they’ll integrate into your overall traffic plan. That being said, there are certain topics that are always a hit:

  • Sneak Peeks and Behind-the-Scenes

    If you’re working on launching a major event or course, you’ll want to ignite the excitement by stirring up your audience and get them talking. Sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes looks at preparations and what people might be able to expect are a great way to generate buzz.

  • Q & A Session

    Whether it’s fun trivia about your industry or course, or answers to the most commonly asked questions, hosting a Q&A with customers can help them better understand hat you have to offer, and how you’re different from your competition.

  • Expert Interviews

    Remember the homework you did earlier about connecting with key influencers in your niche? Even if you can’t get an industry celebrity to join you for an interview webinar, you may be able to connect with an up-and-coming blogger to share perspectives on upcoming news, trends and changes in your field.

Today’s Homework

Connect with others in your industry through Google+ and promote a webinar-style Q&A, interview or behind the scenes event through a broadcasted Google+ hangout. The hangout can then be posted to YouTube and embedded on your own site for extra traffic. Setting up a Hangout is as easy as clicking the green button for Google+ hangouts in your G+ account and then inviting your participants. Try it out and then share it across social media and your site for extra traffic.

Marketing on Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t just for women pinning recipes, quotes and outfits — it has ballooned into a serious force in social networking. Although its audience is still primarily females aged 25-40, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to fit your own demographic:

An example of pinboards on Pinterest

In fact, anything that’s predominantly image-oriented does well on Pinterest, including:

  • Behind-the-Scenes looks

    People love a glimpse at what’s going on behind the scenes of an event, company or other showcase.

  • Teasers

    Vertical images work best, and you don’t have to reveal everything on Pinterest. Offer a little tidbit to encourage people to click through onto your site. Infographics are particularly good for this type of promotion.

  • Inspirational Quotes

    If you’re not graphically-inclined, you can use Share As Image to create great-looking quotes in minutes.

  • Ideas and Mashups

    A mashup is a combination of items to create a whole. Pinterest’s tile-style displays work great for this type of content, and people are always looking for new ideas to try out.

  • Pin-worthy Images

    Want to encourage users to pin your images? A WordPress plugin called Social Image Hover will display a “Pin this on Pinterest” notice when the mouse moves over it. Also works with Facebook, Twitter and several other social networks.

And, although Pinterest users don’t want to be marketed to, they do want to buy — spending an average of $140-180. Even if your industry is spread across multiple products, it’s easy to make pinboards dedicated to a wide variety of areas. Lowes, for example, has “Grillin’ and Chillin” and 50 projects under $50:

Lowes is one of the most followed brands on Pinterest

Pinterest Sharing and Design Tools

  • PicMonkey

    lets you edit your photos using a wide range of popular functions including cropping and resizing, but also lets you have fun by adding effects to your images. Zombie-fy your employees for Halloween or add some holiday cheer to your office with the click of a button.

  • Pin Alerts

    How would you like a notification every time someone pins something from your site? (Pinterest already sends you one if they repin something you posted on Pinterest). Pin Alerts can help. I recommend using this service in combination with the WordPress plugin noted above so you can track how often your images are pinned.

  • Viral Tag

    Schedule pins on Pinterest with this tool — with prices starting $4.99/month for 100 pins.

Today’s Homework

Start sharing on Pinterest. Don’t pin
every product or every page — but highlight
those you feel are the most important, entertaining or informative. By the same token, make sure every board you create has a purpose, and a clear supporting “cover image” that entices people to click. As with any social network, it’s important to stay relevant and update your boards often by (re)pinning other pins and engaging with the community rather than being your own little island.

One of the simplest ways to get started with Pinterest is to find what inspires you in your business and share it. People are always looking for something new, fresh or innovative — and Pinterest users are looking for the motivation to say “Hey, that could work for me too!” Also remember, more does not necessarily equal better — focus on quality pins over quantity.

Create an Infographic

You can’t even mention Pinterest without mentioning infographics in the same breath. These visual breakdowns of statistics and information, when done right, can be a huge traffic magnet on both the popular pinning site, as well as your own website.

Doing the Research

Doing the research and gathering the statistics is going to be the most time-consuming part of the infographic creation process, but there are several sites that can make it easier:

  • Pew Internet Research

    The Granddaddy of them all. They also have their own infographics as well as research on a variety of up-to-date topics, including cell phone usage, online banking and web security.

  • Statistic Brain

    Stats and numbers on everything from food to sports and much more.

  • Pew Research Center

    Provides a detailed look at hot topics including politics, religion, global and social trends.

Crediting Your Sources

Finding and citing the most recent sources for your statistics is also crucial to creating your infographic, as many sites can post questionable stats as fact. Here’s an excellent article along with examples of what to do, and what not to do, when it comes to proper sourcing.

Lowes is one of the most followed brands on Pinterest

Creating Content that People Want

The next step step (and the one most infographics get wrong) is that the information you’re displaying has to be the kind of content that people want to read about. Not surprisingly, someone created an infographic about this very thing (see below).

Beyond these tips, however, there’s very little information on how to actually go about creating the infographic itself if you’d like to do it yourself.

Fortunately there are several tools that can help — my favorite of which is Piktochart. Piktochart uses themes as a starting point for designing your infographic, then lets you drag and drop individual elements for your stats:

An example of the many design choices for infographics at Piktochart.com

Which Topics are Best to Cover in an Infographic?

Just piling stats on for the sake of creating an infographic is never a good plan. Instead, certain types of data and topics do better in this format than others, including:

Comparisons

How does one thing compare to another? Have the changes made a significant difference? Why or why not?

Relationships/Cause-and-Effect

How are things intertwined? Has something happened to cause something else? How has it affected your business?

Time

Timelines of inventions or processes in your industry can show how practices and strategies have evolved over time.

Differences

How does one group or segment react versus another?

What Topics Should I Avoid?

At the same time, there are certain types of information that just don’t work well in infographic format. Mainly aesthetics, feelings, emotions and in many cases, humor — even if to prove a point.

If the process of explaining the process is more cumbersome than helpful, or if the infographic is more of a giant promotional poster than something useful, it won’t be well received by your audience.

Once I’ve Got My Infographic, Then What?

Once you make your infographic, the work isn’t over yet. The next task is promoting it and getting traffic to share and re-pin it. For Pinterest, you’ll want to try the Social Image Hover WordPress plugin from CodeCanyon, or simply incorporate Pinterest Widgets (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Next, you’ll want to share your new infographic across various popular infographic galleries — including:

Finally, you can make the best stats you’ve uncovered “tweetable” on Twitter. ClickToTweet lets you copy and paste a stat in a box, and then create a clickable link that auto-fills in the person’s Twitter message area with that Tweet. It’s a great way to share mind-blowing stats plus showcase your infographic to the social web.

Today’s Homework

Try out Piktochart to create your first infographic. Use an embed code generator to make it easy for people to embed the infographic on their own sites. Use a plugin like Social Image Hover or a Pinterest widget to make your infographic share-able on social networks, then submit it to high-traffic infographic galleries. Don’t forget to incorporate Click-to-Tweet featuring the most groundbreaking statistics you uncovered, as this will help redirect more traffic to your infographic, and ultimately to your site.

Look for Interview Opportunities

You don’t just have to be the interviewer. There are plenty of opportunities out there to make yourself heart on radio shows and podcasts — if you know where to look. RadioGuestList.com welcomes both interviewers and interviewees to post their expertise or information about their show.

An example of a radio show seeking guests
on RadioGuestList.com

Each show is required to post a description, audience demographics, audience size and proof to back up that claim, as well as the format of the show. You can also subscribe to their mailing list to receive updates on new radio guest opportunities available. Beyond being an incredible resource for pitching, publicity and radio interviews, the site also has a wealth of articles on how to prepare yourself for a radio interview, plus details on how to get your book / product reviewed or become a sponsor.

Today’s Homework

Sign up with RadioGuestList.com and look for
opportunities that match your expertise and the demographic you’re trying to reach. Most of these shows are small-time interviews, but it only takes one to create a ripple effect that will reach out to the bigger players in the field. I recommend setting up a separate email address just for RadioGuestList alerts.

Help A Reporter Out

HARO or Help A Reporter Out is a free email list that helps connect reporters with experts. Topics vary, and there’s currently no search function or way to filter the emails you receive, so like with RadioGuestList, it’s a good idea to set up a separate email just for HARO requests. HARO requests run the gamut from exceedingly niche requests to requests for stories and much more.

HARO publicity alerts let you connect with reporters across a variety of news and
magazine outlets

While you may not find any publications needing help at first, it’s a good idea to take a look at the alerts you do receive to determine which ones would be a good fit. As with Radio Guest List, many of the players involved in HARO are small-time news outlets and niche magazines, but it’s much easier to get a mention on these smaller players with a link to your website than some of the larger mass media companies.

The HopeFULL Company Doubles Sales

One of the many companies that has benefitted from HARO is the HopeFULL company, which sells kits to help children and cancer patients with digestive issues to create healthful popsicles with nutritious whole foods. They responded to every relevant HARO inquiry with a pitch, and were featured on many local and international outlets, including the Nate Berkus show and Daily Candy to name a few.

HopeFULL was one of the many companies who achieved extraordinary success
with HARO

As a result of one of their media appearances, their sales increased 95%! Think about this — if a company selling recipes and popsicle mold kits can make it big across a number of media outlets — what could your own product or service do?

Not every request you receive through HARO will ultimately turn into a media feature placement — but it’s free and it could be a major turning point for your business. I recommend creating a specific email address — like haro@yourdomain.com and then setting up filtering in your email program to add all the HARO requests to their own folder. This way you don’t miss any potential matches.

Today’s Homework

Sign up with HARO at HelpAReporter.com with
an email address designated just for that purpose.
You’ll receive new alerts whenever a reporter needs an expert in a particular field. Not every one will be a match, but as the main story profiled on the home page demonstrates, it’s entirely possible to get a “lucky break” and get into a major magazine with a huge and active readership base.

Don’t Neglect Local SEO

If you operate a business locally, you’re missing out on the potential for very lucrative, ready-to-act traffic in the form of local customers.

The first step is claiming your business page on Google Places. In this case, you want to make absolutely certain that you are NOT using any keywords that aren’t specific to your business name or description.

But even if you claim your >Google Places page, you’re still not getting the most out of local SEO.

Getting Citations

Your citation is the name, address and phone number of your business (also known as NAP). Having these correct and up-to-date is crucial to making sure that Google authenticates your business as a real, verifiable place. There are spammers and scammers out there that set up fake Google Places locations, and if your NAP information isn’t exactly the same everywhere, it could mean a penalty.

Exact names, addresses, phone numbers and even photos can make
a difference with your listing

Beyond your own Google Places entry, Google also looks for citations (mentions of your NAP) on other sites. If it’s not 100% exact, you won’t get a citation. Google pulls your NAP details from review sites, guest blogging links, directories and more. Even seemingly minor differences like St. in one place and Street in another can hurt your listing. You can be hit particularly hard if you’ve moved locations recently.

The more of your NAPs that match across other sites, the higher your ranking on Google Places will be. You can also add your business location to your Places on your Google+ profile.

It’s worth noting that the closer you are to the city center, the better your rankings are going to be for a listing in that area — particularly if you live near a major metropolitan area, than being located on the outskirts.

Local SEO Tools

There are a few helpful tools to see your NAPs and make sure you’re ranking for all the search phrases and variants out there, plus gain visibility across local SEO sites beyond Google Places:

WhiteSpark.ca

WhiteSpark lets you type in search phrases to see what other variations people are searching for and then shows you citation listings for the top ranking sites. This way, you can build your own citations and keep track of those you already have. They also offer services to build the citations for you.

WhiteSpark helps you uncover and manage citations

Yext

Yext lets you see where your locally-targeted site appears across a variety of search engines and specialty sites, including Yelp, Topix, Superpages, Patch and more:

An example of the many sites searched by
Yext to show you how your business appears on each one

The search/scanning service is free, but Yext also offers a PowerListings service to help local businesses secure a presence across 30+ local search sites. They also offer review monitoring and analytics services. Their dashboard allows businesses complete control through one central hub, plus gives you the opportunity to update listings across all sites rather than individually.

Today’s Homework

If you operate a locally-focused business, check out WhiteSpark and Yext to see what citations already exist
and to update and correct them so that they’re all identical. The more correct citations you get from other sites, like those featured on Yext, the higher your Google Places ranking.

Creating Animated
& Whiteboard Explainer Videos

Creating a whiteboard-style animation or “explainer video” as they’re popularly known, can be a great way to drive traffic depending on the topic you’re explaining. Many of the highest converting affiliate programs use whiteboard videos in some capacity, and it’s relatively simple to create your own:

Sparkol Videoscribe

Sparkol Videoscribe creates whiteboard videos easily

Videoscribe is a whiteboard animation software-as-a-service which lets you import graphics or use the pre-made graphics and effects to create the appearance of a hand sketching and writing on a whiteboard.

There’s a 7 day free trial and two tiers of account, with the pro version having more features than the standard. In addition, you can resell the videos you make with the pro version. The videos are also rendered as HD quality, letting you use them for more than just web output.

PowToon

PowToon creates a variety of animations via a drag-and-drop interface

PowToon lets you create animated presentations that include whiteboards as an option. It is based on templates, where different characters, props and call-outs can be used to create a seamless presentation. Styles vary from cartoon to whiteboard and everything in between.

If you’re happy with the sound of your own voice, it’s easy to record yourself narrating the explainer video by way of a software program like Audacity or Total Recorder, otherwise, you can get a short, quality voiceover (often delivered by trained radio and TV announcers) over at Fiverr.com

The Script

It’s one thing to have the resources to create an explainer video — it’s another thing entirely to be able to create one that’s compelling and interesting. Remember too, that it’s the internet, and people have limited attention spans. The shorter your video, the more likely people are to remember its content.

Introduce:

  • The Problem (20 seconds max)
  • The Solution (5 seconds max)
  • How it Works (25-50 seconds max)
  • Call to action (10 seconds max)

It’s also very tempting to pile on the features here – but again, focus on the benefits and how it’s relevant to the consumer, not to the tech-spec crowd.

The Music

Music isn’t always a part of explainer videos, but it can add to the effect of animation and a professional voice-over. Sites like AudioJungle and Tunefruit let you license music at very affordable rates.

The Hosting

Where you host your video can make a big difference on how fast it loads, the buffering and even the quality. Sites like YouTube are the most popular in terms of views, but hosting your video on sites like Vidyard or Vimeo Pro can make sure that your new explainer video is online for everyone to see along with your personal branding, customization and analytics.

Today’s Homework

Try your hand at creating an explainer video via either Sparkol or PowToon. Remember to focus on keeping it
short and to-the-point by introducing the problem, your product as the solution, how it works, and an easy call-to-action that users can take after watching the explanation.

Using Zemanta,
a “Content Discovery Network”

Zemanta bills itself as a “content discovery network” and owns a couple of “related posts” plugins on WordPress. It works by suggesting posts and other relevant content as you blog, and is most often used by bloggers who are just starting out as a way to gain backlinks and enrich their own sites with relevant content.

An example of Zemanta’s related posts on a baby blog

But what if you want to use it as a content distribution system?

Ideally, Zemanta works best when you have 100 posts or more on your blog. The key point to using Zemanta effectively as a publisher is that your content is high quality, relevant and has broad appeal to a larger audience. Zemanta carefully vets each publisher that applies to their network, and if accepted, you’ll be sharing valuable screen space with trusted advertisers including Facebook, Wikipedia, Amazon, IMDB and more.

Using a combination of natural language processing and semantic search (i.e. does Apple refer to the company or the fruit?), Zemanta’s servers analyze content to provide related links across millions of blogs and well-known networks.

According to Zemanta, the best types of content that earn the most backlinks through related posts include the kinds of topics you should already be writing about, including:

  • How To’s
  • Tips and Tricks
  • Tutorials

Zemanta also works with images — and the cleaner and more relevant your image appears, the more likely it will be to be chosen by bloggers as related to their own topic.

Today’s Homework

Although Zemanta “interviews” every potential candidate the applies to their network, this doesn’t mean you can’t start things off on the right foot by getting in touch with them at Zemanta.com (click on Publishers) and see how your site can become a part of their content network.

The Power of Retargeting

Retargeting involves targeting customers through ads on other sites long after they’ve visited your own site. Depending on the type of retargeting you do, you can often convince them to circle back to visit your site by displaying a product they may have looked at, an ad for an item they searched for, and so on.

There are three main types of retargeting:

An illustrated example of how retargeting works. MainstreetROI

Site Retargeting

This is the simplest form of retargeting, showcasing your ads on other sites that your visitors go to. The idea is that this keeps your brand in their peripheral vision and in the back of their mind. There’s a great deal of flexibility here — letting you display the actual product the customer viewed, multiple products, image ads and so forth.

Intent/Behavioral Retargeting

This type of retargeting is more complex, and results when a user follows certain behaviors that could potentially lead to a click through on your ad. They may have made purchases on similar websites, searched different keywords or have the same interests as your customer base. This type of targeting can also be segmented geographically, based on their level of interaction with your other lead generation channels (surveys, emails), or a combination of factors.

CRM Retargeting

CRM-based retargeting focuses on your email list — particularly those customers who haven’t opened your emails. CRM retargeting uses cookies to track your mailing list users online and show ads for your site on the pages they visit.

Retargeting Tools

There are several retargeting tools and services available, each with varying price levels and features:

AdRoll

One of the biggest and most popular brands in the retargeting industry. Includes pricing based on impressions + fixed-price margin. 2 week free trial.

eBay Enterprise (formerly Fetchback)

Offers site-based, intent-based and CRM-based retargeting services.

Chango

Specializes in site and intent-based retargeting but also offers video and Facebook retargeting services if you’re focusing on marketing through these sites specifically.

Retargeter

Also offers ad design services in addition to retargeting. Offers search-based, CRM, Facebook and dynamic retargeting. Priced at $1,500/month.

Today’s Homework

Test out a retargeting campaign for your most lucrative or in-demand products. Create two versions of your page and split test them during the campaign to see which brings the most conversions. It’s a marketing strategy that can easily pay for itself.

Become a Content Curator

People these days are busier than ever, and few of us have time to keep up with all the sites we want to read on a daily basis. To help deal with the overload, “content curation” was born.

Much in the same way as a museum curator selects the best art and sculpture for display, content curation involves a curator (you), hand-picking the best resources, sites and articles in your industry over a specific timeframe (usually a week).

CleanTechnica Becomes the #1 Clean
Tech Focused Site Thanks to Content Curation

An example of clean technology stories curated by CleanTechnica

CleanTechnica uses a great deal of content curation to become a single go-to source for clean technology news – ranging from solar cells to electric automobiles and everything in between. As their team continues to curate and post only the best tidbits on clean tech from around the world, they have no shortage of people signing on to help and be helped in return.

So in addition to becoming a clear leader in their niche, they’re also reaching an audience that’s hungry for their news, and eager to become a part of something larger.

Sound like something you could use?

To help you manage and display these resources all in one place, several content curation sites were born to serve as your showcase platform:

Storify

Storify lets you use rich media to tell a story on the web

Storify, now owned by Livefyre (the comment management plugin) lets you use Twitter tweets, Facebook posts, rich media and other types of posts to create a start-to-finish news story on the web. See an example of how astronauts reacted to the movie “Gravity”. Storify will soon be integrated into Livefyre’s comment system to make it easier for content publishers and collectors to keep their finger on the social and blogosphere pulse.

Curata

Curata helps you collect and share relevant
content to help solidify your position as an authority

With a focus on creating thought-leaders and lead generation for business, Curata works in much the same way as other content curation tools, except that rather than focusing on the sharing aspect, it includes a number of helpful resources that show you how to leverage content curation to its fullest.

Scoop.it

Scoop.it is one of the most popular choices for content curation

Scoop.it, one of the original destinations for content curation, lets users create “digital magazines” that can be shared by email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace. You can also add your own thoughts and feedback to the items you share.

Success with Content Curation

The key to being successful with content curation is to realize that this isn’t a quick-fix to drive traffic to your site — rather, it’s a long term social media strategy that relies on you to filter out junk content and present only the best of the best to your hungry readers. It may also seem contrary, but curate under your own name, rather than your company name. Remember, people connect with people, not logos.

Today’s Homework

If you’ve become the go-to person that people ask for resources and help in your topic area (or you want to be that person), consider content curating – not just to promote yourself, but to share the knowledge out there and give others a boost. They’ll pick up on your efforts, which can lead to guest posts, ad sponsorships and any other number of promotional ideas.

Leveraging Instagram and Contests

Hosting a photo contest on Instagram is a great way to encourage interaction with your brand and your customers, and across your topic’s community overall. Obviously, you’ll want to secure your company name on Instagram first and post photos for a few weeks to build up an audience and get people’s attention.

Wishpond has created an Instagram contest app that makes the actual contest setup easy and straightforward. You can take advantage of “fan-gating” to get people to move past the first step (such as stopping once they get a sample), and “corral” fans where you want them to go. You can also customize the form fields you collect for entry.

Wishpond’s Instagram Contest App is
used by top companies and organizations worldwide

The app is also mobile-friendly, so contest-entrants can enter on their mobile phone as well. Follow up with entrants via email and let participants vote on their favorite entry. Beyond Instagram, the app also works across Twitter, Facebook and on your website.

Martha Stewart’s #BakeTheCake Contest

Cakes and recipes are hot on Instagram, so it’s no surprise that home-and-kitchen mogul Martha Stewart took advantage of this trend to create their own contest. All the entrants had to do was take an Instagram photo of their dessert and use the hashtag #BakeTheCake. The winner received a Martha Stewart gift basket containing a cupcake tree, a cookbook, and a special Cakes and Cupcakes issue of the Martha Stewart magazine.

An example of an Instagram entry into Martha Stewart’s #BakeTheCake contest

Today’s Homework

When creating your own Instagram photo contest, you’ll want to choose a #hashtag that’s short, memorable and clearly represents your contest. You’ll also want to make sure that your participants understand the contest rules.

While Instagram itself doesn’t have contest rules, it’s a good practice to stay involved with participants while your contest is going on — offering feedback and thanking them for their interaction. Beyond this, be sure to offer a prize that makes sense for your target audience — such as a goodie bag filled with your products, or three free months of your service.

Adding Other Types of Media

So far in this course, we’ve talked about ways to drive traffic to your website through contest, curation and other third-party services. But it’s not just about how many places you can link to and from — not everyone will be reading your content from your website.

This is where other types of media come in.

You can use the Microsoft Office or Open Office suite of products to turn your content into PDFs, slides and more. Then, submit them to media-sharing sites, including:

SlideShare

An example of a Slideshare slideshow with 56,000+ views

Slideshare is a repository for slideshows. It’s free to sign up, but a pro version provides you with analytics, custom branding, lead generation and several other features. Prices start at $19/month. They also have a list of best practices to follow to make sure your slideshow is getting the maximum amount of traffic and attention.

Tips for Using Slideshare Effectively

Slideshare is easy to use, but there are a few tips you can follow to get the most out of it:

Save Your Presentation as .PDF instead of .PPT

Although it might seem counterintuitive to save a slideshow as PDF instead of a Powerpoint, you never know how a Powerpoint will look on different devices, whereas PDF is fairly universal. In addition, Slideshare only allows slides — no fancy animations, effects or narration, so it’s best to make your presentation as user-friendly as possible.

Quality Slides Matter

First impressions are important, so quality counts. Choose professional-looking slides, such as those from GraphicRiver (prices average around $12-15) or PresentationLoad, which is more expensive but also offers more templates and options for charts and diagrams.

Choose the Right Title, Description, Keywords and Tags Wisely

Writing an engaging title and description are crucial, as is choosing the right keywords. Long-tail keywords work best here, and can help your Google ranking for the direct phrases your customers are searching for.

Scribd

Scribd bills itself as “the world’s largest digital library” and content featured here can range from all genres of fiction to how-to’s, court filings, recip es, forms and catalogs.

A selection of guides available on Scribd,
from traveling Portugal to lingerie to film distribution

Anyone can publish on Scribd and their 80 million+ monthly readers can download an unlimited number of books for a set fee. For publishers looking to increase traffic, Scribd can convert your PDF to a beautiful, mobile-friendly document that works on nearly every device. Authors and publishers can choose to make their content free, or manage it via a subscription-level service.

When formatting your content for Scribd, make sure that your URL is visible in your document. Scribd doesn’t allow blatant self-promotion, but as long as you’re posting quality, relevant content often, it can certainly send traffic your way.

Issuu

Pronounced “Issue”, Issuu, combines the features of Scribd with content curation to bring you the best of both worlds. Like Scribd, Issuu documents are designed to work across all devices and tablets, plus they can be shared through social networks seamlessly.

A selection of “Stacks” (publications) on Urban Lifestyle at Issuu

Issuu also comes with detailed analytics, social and website integration and they support audio and all major document formats, so publishing can be done in just a few clicks. Plus and Premium options are also available to submit your document to the site’s own CPC targeted distribution network, at $29 and $39/month respectively. The only difference between the two plans is that the Premium version offers a customization option to help incorporate your own branding and style.

Today’s Homework

Start turning those e-newsletters, articles
and unused blog posts into something worth
sharing! Save your files as PDFs and upload them
across these three major networks. Then use the built-in social networking integration tools to spread the word and reach viewers. Here again, quality is important, so take the time to make your digital issues, slides and content stand out with a professional design and a focused plan that will cycle traffic back into your site.

Leverage User Q&A to
Create a Short Video Series with Jing

Your users have questions — and if they can’t find answers on your own site, you can bet that they’ll look elsewhere. But instead of just having a FAQ, what if you could create a short online video series answering questions directly from your users?

Much in the same way a webinar-based Q&A is conducted, screencasts can go into greater detail than plain text and pictures.

You also don’t need a huge outlay of time and money to make this happen. Using something as simple as Jing by Techsmith (the same company behind Camtasia) will let you record up to 5 minutes of your screen, which should be plenty of time to answer a user’s question.

Jing allows you to instantly record your
screen and upload the files to a central location

Once you’ve captured your video answer via Jing, you can upload it to Techsmith’s own video-storage site, Screencast.com and embed it to your own site. Although Screencast.com isn’t as fully featured as professional-level video hosting sites like Vimeo Pro or Vidyard, it does give you a simple, straightforward interface and a basic free plan to get your answers out there and connect with users beyond the FAQ. Your video can also be saved in multiple formats, including Flash, AVI (Windows), MOV (Mac) and more. For online instruction, Flash (SWF) is the most compatible choice.

Jing can be used to do much more than Q&A, however. Everyone from teachers to virtual assistants are finding unique ways to fit more into a five minute space, including training sales and marketing teams, turning the tables on education by having the students teach the teachers, providing one-on-one feedback for assignments and projects, and much more.

If you need to create longer video answers, you can use a more fully-featured software like Camtasia or the free but more limited Camstudio, but to avoid repeating yourself or simply directing visitors to your FAQ and hoping for the best, these video answers can help encourage more people to connect with you and continue to ask questions for more than just a standard “canned” answer.

Tips for an Effective Screencast

  • When recording your video, you’ll ideally want to use a USB microphone headset, with the mic positioned away from your mouth to avoid recording your breathing, or those annoying “popping” sounds.
  • Recording video is a processor-intensive job for your computer, so it may throw up a warning that certain resources aren’t performing as well as they could be. To help prevent this, close out any unneeded programs before you record.
  • Do a trial run — speak slowly and have clear, concise goals for each answer. Consider writing a simple script that will help you keep answers on track.
  • If you’re using Camtasia, it includes a built-in editor to help you clean up your recording. If you make a mistake, simply stop speaking and start again at that point after a couple of seconds. You can cut out the excess and mistakes before you produce your video.

Today’s Homework

Make a list of your user’s top 10 questions about your product or service. Download Jing (it’s free) and create your first screen recording, answering their question and enhancing your answer with either a simple screen-based tutorial or a basic slideshow that walks them through the steps you want them to take.

Once you get comfortable using Jing, you may want to upgrade to a more robust program like Camtasia for more detailed screen recordings and tutorials.

Outbrain

Much like Zemanta, Outbrain is a content discovery network that partners with premium destination sites to promote your content on these highly-trafficked third-party publishers. As the most popular platform (by market share), Outbrain works together with premium news and lifestyle sites to showcase their ads and encourage click-throughs:

An example of content being displayed on premium sites through Outbrain

Unlike Zemanta, however, Outbrain goes beyond finding related links to contextually analyze content to determine what is most relevant to each person, filtering out uninteresting or untargeted content, to seize on the coveted “profile” that so many marketers want to create of their ideal customers.

Outbrain doesn’t just analyze that a link was clicked, but also how long the person stayed on the site post-click. Did they continue to read and interact with the content? If so, it’s pretty good bet that the site was behaviorally and personally-targeted to engage that person and has higher relevancy.

What Does it Cost?

Just like with Pay-Per-Click search (like Google AdWords or Bing AdCenter), Outbrain words on a cost-per-click basis, based on the budget you set (starting at $10 a day). There’s no set number for how many times your content is displayed, but rather it is rated according to its quality and competitiveness with similar sites in the network.

Not surprisingly, the more quality content you have, the better your results will likely be through a network like this.

What Kinds of Sites Do Best?

Outbrain has won over major accounts across some of the web’s most popular sites spanning a variety of topics, including news, lifestyle, technology and more. Nearly any site that’s focused on a specific topic (rather than trying to be all things to all people) has the potential to find its niche here.

A selection of sites whose outbound ads are powered by Outbrain

Case in point — TheSelfEmployed.com wanted to test just how much of an impact Outbrain would have on their own content, so they created “The Great Outbrain Challenge” to see if the service could really be as helpful to small businesses as it is to larger, well-known brands. The results were astounding — over two million impressions in just three months — and that was all as a result of submitting about 50 hand-picked articles to the service.

Today’s Homework

For best results with a site like Outbrain, you’ll want to:

  • Choose Your Title Carefully — Outbrain’s case studies
    have shown that titles with eight words performed best, enjoying a 21% higher click-through rate. Adding a colon or hyphen to denote a subtitle increased clicks by 9%
  • Photos Matter — Ads with photos got higher clicks than ads with logos.
  • Questions, Lists and Gallery Posts — Tended to work better than typical news articles.

Outbrain also has its own analytics program (called Outbrain Manage) that you can use to measure engagement. You can also incorporate your own analytics tracking, such as from Google, via the dashboard. Start out small at first and gauge your results carefully to make sure that your content is not only getting the kind of interaction you’d expect, but also that it’s getting the conversions you want and convincing people to take that next all-important step.

Adding to an Existing Conversation

You don’t have to market yourself “from scratch” every time — there are plenty of conversations going on in the social web and the blogosphere that can make an engaging springboard for your own message. Fortunately, you don’t have to scatter your time across the web to find out what people are talking about. Two sites, MediaGazer.com and PopURLs will do that for you. You just need to participate.

MediaGazer

MediaGazer aggregates the day’s top news from a variety of media outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and more.

MediaGazer helps you keep a finger on the
pulse of the day’s news from a variety of sources

PopURLs aggregates news from alternative sites like Reddit and Digg

Most, if not all of these sites allow you to leave comments on the various blogs they’re linking to, such as this article on native advertising from AdAge which takes a closer look at the sponsored content on high-traffic entertainment sites like Gawker and Buzzfeed. Now, whether you think native advertising is ingenious or deceptive, this could be a great starting point to make your point and get your voice heard.

What’s the Difference Between Commenting
on News Sites and Commenting on Blogs?

Case in point — a couple of years ago, Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz.com fame, had just ended a failed attempt to raise funds and was reading AVC, a major blog in the venture capital world, where the author stated that “marketing was what you did when you product or service sucked.” Rand disagreed, publicly and vehemently — writing his own answer on his blog, and getting attention (and traffic, and comments) from both the original author and his followers.

This is just one example, and there are many others where news and opinions from thought leaders across various industries who were challenged, inspired or enlightened by something that branched out of their conversation. Although you obviously shouldn’t be disagreeing just for the sake of starting an argument, having valid counter-points to balance out a controversial or newsworthy topic is a strategy that can certainly gain you more fans and traffic.

Today’s Homework

Monitor sites like MediaGazer, PopURLs and other news aggregation sites to see what key influencers are reporting and sharing. Find something that strikes you and write your own rebuttal/counterpoint post, sharing your own experiences and findings.

Link out to the original article as credit for the “spark” that inspired your own post. In many cases, the original author will find and follow the pingback/trackback to see what’s being said that’s referencing their work.

Create Your Own Case Study

Writing a case study may seem like a time and labor-intensive project, but the pay off can be huge in terms of traffic and backlinks.

The truth is, few people like to do the research and the work, and yet no one has a problem linking out to that hard work. So here’s how you maximize that hard work for yourself:

Choosing the Best Candidates

Candidates for your case study should either fall into one of two groups:

  1. Customers who know, love and are huge fans of your product. They use your product or service constantly to its fullest potential and aren’t afraid to share their experiences candidly.
  2. “Unexpected” customers who didn’t think they’d ever be using your service, but were “won over” by its features, ease of use, etc. These may seem non-traditional, but some of your best customers often are — and if visitors who read your case studies can see how this unusual story might apply to them, it could encourage them to get off the fence and reach out to you for more information.

Reaching Out to Customers

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to check-in. First, email or call your customers and congratulate them on using your product. Ask if they have any questions and let them know that you’d like to interview or send them a few brief questions for a case study you’re preparing. It doesn’t have to be formal — you can simply attach a list of questions and then let the customer decide if they want to participate.

The point here is that you want to make it as easy and convenient as possible for them to give you the answers you’re looking for.

First, focus on their challenge. What were their needs when they first reached out to you? What kind of problems were they facing? Second, what kinds of goals did they have in mind when they used your product? How did your product help them achieve those goals?

If your customer was able to grow juicy beefsteak tomatoes with zero gardening experience or was able to turn their passion for education into an online course that reached thousands of underprivileged kids – get the numbers! A case study is nothing without raw data to back it up.

Finally, condense those numbers into visual aids by turning them into charts. You can use free, online-based tools like ChartGo or OnlineChartTool to create graphs and charts on-the-fly and even customize them with your own colors and gradients.

OnlineChartTool is an example of a quick, easy and professional-looking online chart/graph creator

Finally, perhaps the most important point is that you talk, in detail, about the strategy the customer used to achieve those kinds of results. It can’t be as broad and generic as “I used social media”, but rather “I used hybrid Facebook ads, specifically targeted to the Los Angeles area with a focus on motorcycle enthusiasts”.

As the customer speaks, note specific quotes they gave, and use those as pull-quotes to enhance the story and further build the impression that the customer is telling the story, rather than you reporting on it. Last, but certainly not least, be sure to ask them why they’d recommend your service to others!

Creating the Case Study

Once you’ve got the data, the content and the visuals together, it’s time to create the actual case study. Rather than just settling on a single format, why not try to reach out to as many learners as possible? Sure, some people will read a plain text case study, but others might prefer audio, or video, or even an infographic (or a combination!)

And don’t just share the result on your own site – send it out to rich-media embedding sites like Scribd and Slideshare, as well as the infographic galleries to put it into the hands of people who may not know they need your solution yet (until you show it to them!)

Today’s Homework

Interview your customers and reach out to find prospective case study candidates. Work alongside your sales or marketing team to identify some bright or up-and-coming stars that would be delighted to share their results. Interview them in whatever way they find most convenient and comfortable. Make sure to get their explanation of the results and strategy in their own words, rather than making it seem as if they’re reading from a prepared speech.

Finally, distill that information into visual displays and multiple formats to reach as wide of an audience as possible, then sit back and watch the backlinks come pouring in!

Afterword

We are now at the end of your 30 day course and hopefully your traffic has grown up and to the right. If it hasn’t, the chances are you didn’t do all of the things on the list… or even the majority of them.

We know it can be time consuming, but nothing worthwhile is easy. As long as you do the majority of the homework assignments listed above, you’ll continue to see a nice growth in your overall traffic.

If you want to learn more ways to grow your traffic, we recommend that you check out the Quick Sprout Traffic System. If you think this was great, wait till you read the Traffic System.

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