Shopping online is the new normal for many Americans, and your business needs to be able to provide its services to where people are. If you’ve neglected your online presence, are looking to expand your business via your website, but don’t have a lot of money to invest in advertising, you need a strategy that will help you garner organic pageviews through higher search engine rankings with search engine optimization.Continue reading Better Search Engine Rankings for Small Business
If you’re trying to take advantage of additional time that the pandemic has left you with by creating a blog to earn some extra money, you need to get more people reading your blog, subscribing to your email list, and coming to you for important information. Here are some things to consider so that you can get started and be more successful from the beginning. If you are already blogging, use these tips to improve your blog posts.Continue reading How to Improve Your Blog Posts to Get More Readers
If you have a website and run a small business, you have a lot on your plate. If all you can do is put pages on your website and leave it alone, you’re at least ahead of the game in many respects. You’ve already recognized the importance of having a website where people can find basic information about your business. Updating this information shouldn’t necessarily be dramatic, as long as it was written well the first time. You’ve invested time and money, and you probably want to be getting more from your website.
The Web Pages You Need
Your website should consist of a home page that contains some general information that makes the user want to find out more, an about page that focuses on the benefits you offer to your clients, an online store if appropriate, a blog and your contact information should be in the footer. These pages should have at least 100 words each and focus on keywords necessary to finding your website. Many small businesses are often best served by focusing on geo-related keywords, so that local people can find them. It’s okay for your web pages to be static, but your blog is another story.
Getting More from Your Website
Your blog needs to be updated regularly. Once a month is too few for your customers, and once a day is probably too much for you. Once every two weeks is okay, once a week is good and twice a week is better. A blog serves five purposes:
- It keeps your website current in the eyes of search engine algorithms and those new to your site.
- It provides value to your regular clients.
- It establishes you as an expert in your field.
- It gives you something of value to share on your social media.
- It allows you to improve your search engine rankings for keywords related to your site and business.
Finding the Right Keywords
Don’t be fooled. You are going to need high quality content on your blog to rank with the biggest search engines. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also incorporate the keywords that people are searching for on the Internet related to your business. If you write a great blog about “snow peas on the vine” but everyone searches for “vine snow peas,” you’re blog post will be harder to find than someone else’s who made use of the correct keywords.
You can find the right keywords using Google Ads keyword tool, or just by going to the search engine bar and typing in a query. It’ll give you suggestions and some more ideas about keywords. Once you know about which keywords people are searching for, you can start to make your blogging schedule around those keywords.
A Blogging Schedule
The second thing you need to do before you establish a blog is to come up with a schedule or calendar to plan your blog posts around. This plan should include important dates to you and important dates in general. If you happen to know which hashtags trend on which days, like the general #TravelTuesday, which happens almost every Tuesday, or the more specific #TalkLikeaPirateDay, which happens on Sep. 19, you can take advantage of the natural marketing that can come with these, especially if your business is somehow related to them. If you’re in the business of selling stuffed penguins, then knowing the date of #WorldPenguinDay could be a boon to your business. (It’s April 25.)
The Umbrella Content Theory
If you want your website to stand out with search engines and clients alike, you could use the umbrella content theory to build your blog. Basically, you find a large topic to build an “ultimate guide” on, and you find smaller topics based on that ultimate guide to go more into depth. When everything is written, it is all interconnected and linked to the larger subject at hand. The nice thing about building content this way is that you already have eight to 10 post built into the idea. The “ultimate guide” may take longer to compile than the smaller posts, but you can blog those smaller items and connect them to the larger one later.
Ultimate guides make you look like a leader in your field to both consumers and search engines. They provide an amazing value to the people you’re trying to attract, and you can use them as incentives to get people to sign up for your email list. Done correctly, this umbrella content can drive traffic to your website through organic search engine optimization, and it can keep your potential clients on your website to turn into paying clients.
Set It and Retread It
A blog is not something that you can do once or for a month and then forget about it. A blog is a long-term commitment to creating content that people want that will also help your website get seen by search engines. If your blog has been around long enough, you may be able to take some of your older posts and update them. As long as you’re able to change the date to the “updated” rather than the “posted” date, you’ll be fine. People won’t click away because the post looks old, and that will benefit your SEO. It will also save you some time when you need to get something “new” posted but don’t have time to complete a post.
The Write Stuff
If all of this seems like a lot of work for your website and your business, especially in context of what you’re already doing, it is. If writing isn’t your thing or your grammar skills are unintentionally lacking, hiring a writer to get the words down on the page might be one of the best things you can do. When looking for a writer, you should find one that has experience in search engine optimization. You should also find one whose writing style you like.
A good writer will be able to present you with new, exclusive copy for your blog on a topic of your choice. If he or she knows SEO techniques, the writer can even place the keywords in the right positions for you. You’ll save the time that it would have taken you to research the topic, and you can order blog posts ahead of time. That way if something goes wrong, you’ll still be able to stick to your publishing schedule. A writer can also bring a fresh perspective to your blog.
You should expect to pay about six cents a word, which is a professional rate for writers, and be allowed one revision. Generally, writers will require half the payment up front (non-refundable) and half when you’re satisfied with the work. If for some reason, you aren’t satisfied, you should express that to the writer in specific terms.
Writing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you don’t like to write or don’t have time, hiring a writer will help you improve your website and your business. Just be sure to read and edit any new copy sent to you before posting it online. You’ll be getting more from your website in almost no time.
I’ve been struggling with this idea of an email list for several reasons. It’s a lot of extra work. It’s an extra expense. I don’t really like the email lists I’ve joined, and I was hoping that people would migrate over to my Patreon where we can make beautiful words and penguins together. (You can still migrate to Patreon and get cool things for as little as a dollar a month.)
I already write at least one post a day for my blog; I surpassed 200 days of posting in a row on July 12, 2019. I plan on keeping that streak alive, but it isn’t easy to come up with something new every day. I try to write 3 posts a day for my SEO job when they have work available. I need to write posts for my Patreon – one or two a month. I edit books as a side job.
Adding one more thing to my list of things to do, which includes marketing, continued learning, reading, refilling the creative well, dishes, laundry and other housework, taxes, teaching English, searching for freelance jobs to supplement my income, keeping my social media accounts active and relevant, and spending time with my wife and family, is a little overwhelming, especially when I really have no idea what I’m doing. How can I keep an email list current and active while still finding time to write my next book?
MailChimp offers free limited use email lists. If I get more than 2,000 subscribers or I want to do something cool like set up a series of future emails, I’m going to have to pay up for that. This extra expense may end up being worth it, but right now, it’s hard to justify. Automation would be great for an introduction to Penguinate.com and its creativity, books and penguins. For now, I have to live with what there is – the opportunity to follow up with an immediate discount email, a day later intro email, and an email on the first of the month that rounds up everything I posted on my blog. Then, I’ll hope people don’t forget who I was when the next email I send is more than a month away.
Other Email Lists
Russell Nohelty and some other people do these great list building contests. For a small fee, authors join the list builder. The money is pooled to come up with a prize package that people will really want based on a fandom, like Doctor Who, Firefly, or Marvel. I’ve signed up for a couple of these and ended up on email lists that were not what I was expecting. (Who knew Buffy the Vampire Slayer was related to the reverse harem genre of books?) Aside from that, I received 20 to 40 different emails or more during a two-day period after the sign up and those emails keep coming until I unsubscribe. They aren’t just from the authors, they’re from Amazon, Kickstarter, GoodReads, and other websites the authors had people sign up at to get more entries. (I did not win the Buffy swag, by the way.)
All the emails end up being the same. Hi, I’m author, here’s what I’ve been working on, here’s a free (short story, book), here’s a contest you haven’t entered, here are some other free books… I don’t want to inundate your email inbox with emails you aren’t going to read, and I haven’t figured out how to make an email that is any different. Why would I want to make an email list where people will get the same thing (minus the freebies) that other authors are already sending out? Do you really want pictures of my cat? (If so, I’ll send them, but she doesn’t like being photographed.)
I was really hoping to build my Patreon into a juggernaut. If I could get 600 people signed up at a dollar each, my financial situation would be much more stable. It wouldn’t give me the opportunity to quite everything, but it would reduce the amount of freelance and SEO work I had to do. Unfortunately, I still haven’t got a handle on how best to get fans to sign up for the Patreon. I’ve offered discounts at any level. I’ve created offers, like join at $30 for three months and get a penguin. I’ve posted about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I haven’t figured out how to grow any of my social networks beyond a certain number and Patreon is the same right now.
Why Am I Doing It?
I am starting an email list because it’s the best way to keep you in the loop about what Jenya and I are doing creatively. YouTube changed its criteria for creators to monetize videos. Facebook changed its algorithm, so that creators had to pay to get their fans to see what’s being posted on the fan page; it has also randomly marked my penguin8.com as spam without giving me a reason or checking the posts that I sent notices about. Weebly eliminated access to its website for anyone geographically listed in Russia and other countries. These changes have made it more difficult for creators to make a living off of random and organic growth. They have also shown that these companies control my eCommerce to a degree that is not only uncomfortable and unprofitable but also dangerously close to being able to remove my presence from my largest outlets with a small change in their algorithms. I can’t count on social media and search engines to drive organic views to my websites.
In addition to this, my SEO job ebbs and flows. There have been days when there just aren’t any articles to write. I need to find a better way to make money, and every other book and website I’ve read about being a creator in the Internet age says an email is the only way to go. When a website like examiner.com or MySpace shuts down or becomes less visited, the email list is still there to sustain the creator. In theory, I’m in control of the email list, and thus in control of my destiny. And isn’t that all anyone really wants? To control his or her direction?
So, please sign up for our email list. Like share, comment on our social media posts and sign up for our Patreon. I look forward to you becoming honorary Penguinators.
Should I feed my dog mandarins? Yes or no. It’s a simple question to answer. Yet, before I can get an answer to this question on the Internet, I have to understand what a mandarin is, what a dog is, the different breeds of dogs that might eat mandarins (all of them), the nutritional value of mandarins and their rinds, how a dog’s digestive system works, why people might think it’s a good idea to give dogs a mandarin, why dogs should have mandarins, why they shouldn’t have mandarins, why they shouldn’t have the rinds, and then finally, the writer of the article deigns to give the answer: Probably not, but barring allergy, the dog won’t die from it. (In other words, I should not feed my dog mandarins.) That simple sentence could have been written at the top of the page, and it would have saved 15 minutes of scrolling and loading and given me the answer I was looking for.
The same is true for recipes on the Internet. Search for “apple pie recipes” and you’ll get plenty of recipes, but most of them will tell the story about how the person thought about making an apple pie on one harvest Sunday when the smell of cinnamon wafted through the air from the local bakery reminding him or her of a long deceased grandma who had the best apple pie recipe in the world, the one that you will soon be baking after the person gives you a complete biography of said grandma and the hardships she went through to get to the U.S. during the Great Depression. There will be a not-so-lively discussion of various apple types, how Johnny Appleseed was responsible for a majority of the apple trees in the U.S., and whether or not apple pie is actually as American as baseball and Chevrolet. Sure, the recipe, which calls for cardamom and squid, could’ve been placed at the top of the page and all of the other stuff below it, but you might’ve clicked to another web site if you found that the recipe required an ingredient you didn’t have, like 24k gold dust from a Nevadan river.
For either of these two posts, you’ll be scrolling past photos, videos and ads, all eating up bandwidth and time. Why all the scrolling, or worse, the multiple “next” page clicks? The easy answer is money. The slightly less easy answer is search engine algorithms. The least likely answer is credibility.
The more copy someone writes, the more place there is for ads. If a web page can keep you scrolling through ad after ad, it will make more money, even if you never click on any ads. Some web writers don’t have control over the placements of the ads, so using several pages rather than one long post makes it easier to make more money while you click through page after page of long-winded explanation for a simple question. Regardless of how much everyone wants content on the Internet to be free, the person or people producing the content need to make money to live. While multiple pages and multiple ads are annoying, they are necessary for many creators in the Internet (me included).
However, if no one is looking at the pages, there is no revenue to generate. Getting people to the page takes good search engine optimization practices. This includes writing enough that search engine web crawlers don’t exclude the page because it has a lack of content. “Should I feed my dogs mandarins? No” just isn’t enough words for a search engine algorithm to recognize the page as serious. Anything fewer than 100 words is suspect, even 100 words is questionable. Write enough, and the web page not only becomes more reputable according to web crawlers, but it will also hit on more keywords for search engines to latch onto.
For some pages, this is a matter of establishing credibility. (If I wanted to do that, I would tell you I’ve been working in the SEO industry for almost a decade and have studied trends in the Internet and its search engines. I would also give you a complete history of the Internet and my involvement with it, stopping just short of claiming to have invented it – I did not invent the Internet; please don’t start any rumors.) Because most Internet information is published by those who wish to remain anonymous or those you don’t personally know, it is important for the person to come up with a way to get you to trust him or her. After all, not everyone can be associated with a credible Internet source and those who aren’t need your page views even more than the biggest web sites. Of course, credibility doesn’t really matter to someone who is looking for a recipe. It should matter more to someone looking for dog care tips, but for the most part people on the Internet aren’t looking for the truth. They are looking for someone to confirm the information or biases they already have.
Aside from that, writing a lot doesn’t actually establish credibility. Anyone can write anything, and you will have little to no way of verifying the information. I used to be an astronaut and flew the first manned spaceship to Jupiter in a secret government program. That’s not true, but there’s no way you can verify it. Maybe it is true, and I’m trying to cover myself by saying it isn’t. Even if you have access to secret government records, chances are you don’t have secret access to every government’s records. However, if I wrote a whole lot about space and Jupiter and published some planetary stock photos, you might think I’m a credible authority on space travel. The same is true for someone who writes a whole lot of information they found on the Internet in their blog about feeding dogs mandarins.
Until the Internet changes the way information is sorted and paid for, there is little anyone can do to stop the overflow of useless information that doesn’t answer the question asked. Sending reports to search engines about clickbait, especially on sponsored posts, may help. Subscribing to your favorite web sites may also help. However, for the foreseeable future plan on learning the obscure history of someone’s great uncle pirate who is responsible for the introduction of gravy to the Indonesian diet while you’re looking for the answer to whether or not raccoons are native to North America. (They are.)