In the past, the most effective way to get the attention of journalists was though press releases. Nowadays, however, you can connect with them directly on social media.
While they're found on all such sites, they seem to be most accessible on Twitter. (They love Linkedin as well, but they're on there more to connect with peers and potential employers rather than the general population.) So anyone with a website should make a point of using Twitter to seek out journos in their niche -- preferably ones from their own country -- and build rapport with them.
Journalists are always on the lookout for knowledgeable and interesting people who can supply them with compelling content. And if you've gotten on their radar by tweeting and impressed them with your expertise, there's a good chance they'll ask to interview you at some stage. If you can get them to mention your website when they do so it will help you enormously, even if you don't get a backlink from it.
Speaking of backlinks: Remember also that many journos maintain blogs hosted on their employers' sites. Getting a backlink from a highly ranked, frequently indexed website like News Ltd. or Fairfax is very powerful. It's like getting a .edu link.
So keep an eye out for these blogging journos. Engage with them on Twitter and comment thoughtfully on their blogs. From time to time you can send them links to your own blog posts that they might find interesting. Sometimes they'll like your blog post enough to quote it, along with a link. But even if you haven't blogged about something yourself and merely point them to something interesting, they will often include a "hat-tip" link to you as a mark of appreciation.
I know this works from several years experience of writing political blogs. Over that time I have received many links back to various blog posts from big name bloggers such as Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair. They've helped enormously with traffic and SEO. (While both of these particular blogging journos aren't actually on Twitter, plenty more are. And it's clearly the easiest way to connect with them.)
In the past, I used to submit lots of articles to directories to build backlinks. That all changed when the Penguin Update hit. While it is still worth doing this occasionally, I'm really cutting down on this practice of article marketing -- and not just because it's less beneficial for SEO than it used to be.
I think a much better approach is to do two things with the quality content that you would normally use for articles. Firstly, use it in guest blogging campaigns. This is a form of backlink building that is still very powerful (although I suspect this will wane in time because it's so popular).
Secondly, the vast majority of your good writing should be placed on your own blog. This is because each post gives you another opportunity to snag some more "long tail keyword" traffic. Consequently your visitor numbers will rise slowly but inexorably. And with lots of great stuff on your blog, there's an increased chance you'll draw those all important natural links.
Then there's the fact that since your blog content is found nowhere else, Google definitely knows it's yours. If you use it for article marketing, however, it's more likely to get ripped off by others, and it will be harder to prove you were the person who wrote it. It can also be dispiriting when you see people using articles and not including the links back to your site as they are supposed to.
There's also a real confidence boost that comes from seeing all that content up there on your blog. It's quite amazing how much you can actually write. When you realize this, you are motivated to do even more blogging. But if you've spread a lot of that material around the web, you don't get that sense of achievement.
With article marketing, however, your content is all over the place. It can help to lift your profile and get your name more widely known, of course. But people will only see one or two articles at a time so the effect is diluted. However, if you have all that quality content on one place in a blog, it's far more impressive to people who visit it. They can tell that you really know what you're on about. So it's an excellent way of building authority in the eyes of your readers.
I've been reading a lot of blogs about blogging lately. And there seems to be a consensus that bloggers should write timeless or evergreen content rather than topical stuff.
Now, there's no denying that if you can rank fairly highly for your evergreen content then it will have the best long term effect. But remember that there will be a much greater number of bloggers competing over those keywords -- particularly if you're in an already crowded niche. In that case it could be almost impossible to rank for some generic keyword combinations, even long tail ones. That could be very disheartening.
That's why I'd recommend putting some topical stuff in occasionally amongst the evergreen stuff. It's so much eaiser to rank for. And it can still be highly relevant. So, keep an eye out for developments related to your niche being covered in the mainstream media. Look out for highly specific keywords such as the names of individuals, organizations, locations, companies and products. Put those in your blog titles and write thoughtful, opinionated or even downright provocative posts about them. Chances are you'll be seen by quite a few people, and you may score the odd backlink to that topical content as well.
And it should be remembered that some topical content can end up drawing visitors for a surprisingly long time. I've found this with a couple of my political blogs. I've kept an eye out for news makers who weren't very well known at that point. I've put their names in the post titles and written some thoughts on stories related to them. Because I got in early and received some comments on those posts, they've ended up high in the SERPs and stayed there. When these people have popped up in the news some time later, my content has continued to appear high in searches for them.
It's almost like being a talent spotter. In that game if you find someone early, before they're famous, then represent them, you can reap the rewards for many years.
So that's another thing to consider. An example might be a person in your field of interest who is slowly gaining a strong profile, or maybe a local landmark, business or organization that is becoming more widely known than before. Write about many such topical subjects and some will bring short terms surges of traffic. And a few may well end up drawing visitors over several months, even years.
Blogging is a great way to draw links. If you write interesting and unique content about your favourite subject and share it on social networks you're sure to draw some of them to specific posts. But this is usually a long, slow process.Most bloggers take this approach. Unknown to the general public, they keep chipping away writing their thoughts on the subjects they love. So there's a lot of competition between them, particularly in popular niches. Even with backlinks accumulating fairly regularly it's hard for any one blogger to rise above the pack. But there's one way to really get your blog firing in both social media and the search engines, and quickly. That's to blog about a particular subject that lots of people are interested in, and to be a primary source of information about it.A perfect example of this is Michael Smith News. This is about something not only specific but topical: the AWU scandal involving Australia's PM Julia
Gillard. This blog
was only commenced a few months ago but it has already attracted eye-boggling traffic numbers. One day recently, for example, it received 90000 hits. A basic backlink check reveals numerous links, particularly from other blogs
. Sure, the guy behind it was quite well known already, being a former broadcaster who lost his job with Fairfax as a result of his interest in the scandal. That high profile would have helped a lot ...But the main reason so many people link to his blog is because it regularly includes previously unknown documents, as well as podcasts of interviews
with protagonists such as self-confessed fraudster and bagman Ralph Blewitt. It is therefore primary source material. And Michael Smith is not just reporting on developments, but actually driving them as well. (For example it was his complaint to police that has prompted them to reopen the case, causing a lot of grief for the PM.)Needless to say, very few bloggers would have the time, commitment or contacts to keep breaking news in the way Smith has been. But the success of his blog is something for all bloggers to keep in mind, no matter what field they're in.
One thing I've noticed repeatedly is that if one of my blog post gets a decent number of comments it seems to appear higher in the SERPs. As with so many things related to search engines, it's hard to be 100% sure this is the case. There are so many factors involved, after all. But others have come to the same conclusion. So I'm pretty confident that having comments does benefit the blog post itself ranking-wise. The fact that a post is more likely to be found means that it will probably generate still more comments.
So the process continues ... Apart from this SEO benefit, there's also the "social proof" aspect of comments. When people find your post and see that some readers have commented, it makes your blog immediately more appealing to them. It's "alive", so to speak. Also, if you have one or two comments already, you're likely to get more. This phenomenon reminds me of what occurs in dance floors in nightclubs. The music starts and no one is game to get up and start dancing. But eventually one person (usually a woman!) plucks up the courage to do so. One or two others tentatively follow, then they all jump in at once. So getting that first comment is crucial. That's why it's a good idea to invite comments, or finish your blog post with a question when appropriate. Another way to "get the ball rolling" is to write some really good comments on other blogs. The owners will often show their appreciation by writing comments on yours.
One question that seems to get asked quite a lot is what's the best length for a blog post? Ultimately there's no right or wrong answer. You should just put down your observations in the most clear and direct way possible. If it goes for ages, so be it. If it's just a 200 worder, that's fine too.
However, if your main aim is for it to get search engine traffic then the length is a factor. I have found that longer blog posts -- that is, over 500 words -- tend to rank higher in the SERPs.
Obviously, they can take a while to write. So this approach can make you feel like you're not really progressing. That's why, when you're just starting a blog, it's a good idea to write lots of short posts. When your blog is young and without any backlinks you've got little chance of getting any search traffic anyway. So you should just forget about trying to draw visitors this way for the time being, and focus on cranking out many information-rich entries.
You'll get a sense of achievement out of doing this, which is valuable. You'll also cover a lot of ground subject-wise. This can give you a good idea of the overall direction you should take. And the cumulative effect will help with SEO in the long run. Google will get to know what your blog is about a bit quicker than if you hadn't done this. It might help increase the speed at which it indexes the content, too.
This approach is a bit like a sculptor throwing down bits of clay to get the basic shape established. After that, he'll start being more careful and detailed in his approach and the true and complete character of the project will gradually take shape.
One site that I've been using occasionally lately is Quora
. It's a question and answer site that has really taken off lately. It's a great place to learn stuff, and also share your knowledge. It has some social aspects to it as well, so it's good for making new connections with those who share your interests. If you supply good answers to questions this will help you build your reputation as an expert in your field. You can also use it to get ideas for web content, since there are all these very specific questions up on the site. If people are asking them on Quora, they must be typing them, and ones like them, into Google, right?And you can use it in a geo-specific way, too. You can get the ball rolling by typing in a geo-specific keyword and seeing what turns up. For instance, here's what's listed for Sydney. You can see that those results
cover numerous different subjects that are related in some way to that city. If you use a bit of free association you can use these questions to come up with others that relate to your website, no matter what niche it is in.For example, there's a question about where the best boxing clubs are in Sydney. That's given me an idea for a blog post for this blog. I could do some research and write a post about the best SEO companies in Perth, for example.And it's not just locations that can be used in this way. I'm interested in politics and have a couple of blogs about the subject. So I saw what people are asking about Australian PM Julia Gillard.
There aren't that many questions there, but there's one that I could use directly about whether she has any chance of winning the next election. There are other questions about how her visits and speeches have been perceived internationally. Also good fodder for blog posts.You could do this with the names of high profile people in any field. As long as they are based in Australia you'll come up with ideas that would be most appealing to Aussies.
You could also do the same thing with local products, services, organizations, businesses. This approach is a bit hit and miss. Not all of these posts will draw traffic. But some will for sure. And you'll still be adding relevant and interesting content that Google will index. That has to be a good thing for your site's SEO in the long term.
The more you get into blogging, the more you think about the likelihood that other bloggers will link to your posts. The kind of content that is most likely to get this reaction is called linkbait.
There are many different kinds of linkbait. But one of the most popular ones is to assemble a bunch of points (including relevant links to other sites) on a particular subject that many people will find useful.
This could be about anything of course. But the lists often relate to such things as the best ways to do something, things to avoid, etc.
Because this point by point structure is punchy, with lots of information, people do link to it quite often (as well as share it on social media -- another benefit).
While many bloggers swear by this approach, I think it has a couple of major drawbacks.
Firstly, the tight structure certainly makes a list post very easy to read. But it also means that visitors tend to scan through it very quickly, and pick out only the stuff that appeals. Then they leave.
So this content is attractive. But it's not really "sticky".
And because you are basically "rounding up" a series of points, you can't go into any great detail into any one of them. So, it's limited in that sense.
Then there's the list post's immense popularity in the blogosphere. So many blogs employ it repeatedly that they tend to end up looking much the same after a while. So if you repeat it often in your own blog you risk losing some of its uniqueness. And uniqueness is something you really want to nurture and develop. In the long run, it's always best to have a blog that stands out from the pack in look, feel and content.
For these reasons I think it's a good idea to write a few list posts from time to time as a means to get some more of those beneficial backlinks. I just wouldn't do too many of them.
Google's recent Penguin update
certainly changed the rules of SEO quite a bit
. Among other things it made building links to your own websites something you should cut down on, as well as approach with far greater caution.Perhaps the wisest approach now is to focus heavily on your onsite optimization (without overdoing it, of course!). You should make sure your pages contain the best, most relevant content possible. Aside from sharing them on Twitter and other similar sites
you really shouldn't do much more than that.Not only will all that top notch work directly result in improved rankings; in time it will also attract natural links, which are of course gold for SEO.But what if you have, say, a static ten page website, and even after making it close to perfect in this regard the higher rankings take forever to eventuate? This could be extremely frustrating. You could be caught in a real state of inertia, not wanting to tweak your pages any more for fear of losing the search engine traffic they are getting. I suspect there are quite a few webmasters -- particularly ones with small business sites -- who are in this position.This is why, if you are one of these people, you really must add a blog. Merely updating it regularly will give your website a "pulse" that is a bonus in Google's estimation of its value. And with each post you publish you have another opportunity
to jag some more long tail keyword traffic. Those posts can function as linkbait as well. Since you've already perfected the static pages, those linking to your individual blog posts are more likely to link to some of them, too.
So you'll be speeding up the process of natural link accumulation.Unless you went overboard with the blog, adding hundreds of pages in a short space of time and veering off topic quite a bit, the chances of it negatively impacting your website's SEO are very small indeed. Having all that extra associated content would be overwhelmingly positive. And apart from anything else, blogging is a proactive activity, which gives you a strong sense of empowerment. That's worthwhile in itself, I believe.
One observation that I've read countless times now is that blogs are great for SEO because Google loves fresh, unique content. It seems a bit hackneyed but it's certainly still true.
And one way the factor manifests in the SERPs is that you do seem to get a bit of a lift in your rankings for various keyword searches in the period immediately after your latest blog post has been indexed by Google.
Here's an example: I have a local blog about my home city called The Real Perth Blog. It's been going a year or so now and currently sits in the top half of the first page for searches for "Perth blog". If I haven't updated it for a while, it's usually fourth on the list. But if I add a fresh post to it, which is then indexed, it tends to go up to the third position, where it is now.
Sure, this seems like an insignificant lift. But it can have substantial traffic benefits over time. This is because the number of clicks you tend to get goes up considerably for each position your site rises when it's already near the top of page one. So, it's yet another reason to update a blog frequently if you can find the time.