Sunday, April 13, 2008

 

SEO Sundays: Referral Traffic from StumbleUpon

I knew about the social networking site StumbleUpon, but I didn’t know about the tremendous traffic it could bring. In the past two days, we’ve seen a huge number of referrals—close to 8,000 MORE Unique Visitors than normal. Well, that definitely caught my attention!

You may be wondering, how did you do that?

Actually, I didn’t have anything to do with it, but it sure did make me want to find out what people were looking at. From what I gather, one of the members of StumbleUpon added a page from our website to their favorites, and their friends checked it out, and so on. And while that’s fantastic and all, if I didn’t take the time to figure out why this was happening, it wouldn’t teach me anything.

Are you in the same boat? Have you noticed traffic to your website/blog from StumbleUpon and didn’t know where in the heck it was coming from?

I don’t know about your stats, but I use awstats, an open source standard, and the only thing I could see from the referring address was: http://www.stumbleupon.com/refer.php. If you follow that, it ends up going to a page that pushes for advertising sales.

Here is the screenshot:



















But, if you really want to find out more, I discovered this link:
http://reviews.stumbleupon.com/

Follow that link (above) and enter the specific URL that is getting the highest traffic and referrals from StumbleUpon. Then you can track who recommended that page, why, and see all their friends, their profile, and whom you are going to need to connect with if you want to keep getting that kind of crazy-awesome traffic.

How StumbleUpon works:

When you discover (or stumble) websites that you like, you vote for them or give them a review. Other users who have similar interests connect to your votes and/or pages and follow those links. You either “discover” pages—meaning you visit websites directly (on your own) and rate them—or you “stumble” on pages—by hitting a button that randomly takes you surfing to a website and you get to choose whether you like it or not. It’s that easy!

STEP 1: Join StumbleUpon

- Go to the StumbleUpon homepage
- Click the Join StumbleUpon Link
- Enter your email address, birth date, and choose a username
- Verify and click on the Join and Download Now button
- Install and restart
- Go to your email and click the verification link
- You’ll see the toolbar and you’re ready to start stumbling

The Toolbars look like this:





STEP 2: Customize Your Interests

- Click on the Home tab
- Click the Preferences link in the sidebar
- Click My Interests underneath the Preferences Header
- Select subjects that interest you and hit save (for instance: writing would be under the “Media” category tab on the left-hand sidebar)
- Click Save My Interests

STEP 3: Drive Traffic to your Website/Blog

Make sure you fill out your profile and add your website/blog URL. This will be displayed above your main image (your icon, picture of yourself, logo, etc.) and identify you as the owner of that website/blog. This will also help identify you to others when you are recommending them. Get it? Be nice. Get reciprocation.

When you visit a website that hasn’t been voted for before, then you “discover” that website. You hit the “thumbs-up” icon in your toolbar, and a box will pop up asking you to fill out a review for that site. Your review then appears on your profile.

TIP: don’t vote up your own sites—as much as you’d like to, that’s pretty obvious! So, vote on other sites where you really, truly like the content and the good karma will come flowing back to you. Trust me! By choosing great content, you are driving people to your profile because they know you have good taste.

You can also find websites by clicking the StumbleUpon icon. You then find sites according to your interest categories and can vote on them, or write a review. Of course, you don’t have to give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, you can simply hit the StumbleUpon icon again and keep cruising. But the more sites you vote on, the stronger your profile will become, and the more reliable you will become when you vote on sites that are relevant and popular with others.

Pretty soon you’ll have a network of sites that you recommend, or don’t, and have a preference list that matches your choices and your target audience. From there, you can enter groups of like-minded individuals—writing groups, blogging groups, etc.—and connect with people who share your interests.

Why is StumbleUpon different from other social networking sites?

Unlike myspace.com or other networking sites, you don’t have to ask for friend approval. You simply add friends if you like their content. You can also import friends from your email address book and ask them to join. You will find out all the options after signing up with their site.

Now, this isn’t a comprehensive guide by any means—it’s simply just my findings through research of a new phenomenon that has been gracing our website in the past couple of days. So, I’m going to share with you some great links to explore further information: (Bits & Pieces of this post have been gleaned from these wonderful sites, or some of them are just sites that have great information I haven't covered!) Be sure to check them out if you're interested.

Mahalo
Search Engine Land
MikeBogo
Wired
Social Media Trader
Pro Blogger

One thing I’ve discovered about StumbleUpon is that it’s an incredibly fun site! By tapping one button, you move from one site to the next and get to share your opinion with others. It’s inspirational and a unique venue for exploring content on the web. Even if you aren’t interested in traffic to your website/blog, I urge you all to take it for a spin and see what you find! And if you like one of our articles or blog posts here on The Muffin, or on WOW! Women On Writing, hit that little link at the bottom of the post to submit it to StumbleUpon. I bet you’ll have the favor returned.

Happy writing, blogging, and social network-swarming!

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

 

SEO Sundays: WORK IT! with Viral Marketing

For over a year I advertised on search engines using Google Adwords and Yahoo! Search Marketing. Admittedly, I didn’t spend much on each campaign—maybe around $5-$8 a day for a keyword campaign—which is way below what either of them recommend. Still, it adds up. Pretty soon I was tallying what I spent in the past year, and it was well over $6,000. Yikes! That’s a lot of dough, without a lot of return.

Fortunately, there’s a smarter way to get the word out about your website or blog. We’ve already talked about optimizing your website, using keywords, and Alexa in past SEO Sundays, so today we’re going to talk about taking it one step further. That’s where viral marketing comes in. It may take a little extra work, but the good part is you won’t have to shell out a bunch of money on advertising to get a decent return.

What is viral marketing?

It’s when your existing website visitors, customers, or subscribers refer you to others.

It’s also when other webmasters, or sister sites send traffic your way.

So, let’s Work it!

Here are some examples:

** Submitting Articles: (easy)

Let’s say you’re starting an editing or freelance writing business. What’s the quickest and easiest way to get FREE publicity and links back to your website? Write several keyword articles related to what your website offers.

If you’re starting an editing business, write about some tips you use for editing—include examples or testimonials from satisfied clients. But try not to make it sound too “salesy”—give the readers solid information and content, but also remember to market your product, or yourself. This is a win-win situation. In other words, don’t give away the farm. Instead, give away enough information to peak the readers interest and leave them wanting more, which means visiting your website and buying your product.

The thing to remember is that you’re syndicating your article by doing this, which means you’re relinquishing your rights. And as writers, we all know how important rights are. So, make sure you give them only enough to send them to your site.

Websites that syndicate your articles: (There are lots of them!)

http://www.articlesbase.com/
http://www.articlecircle.com/
http://www.articlebiz.com/
http://www.articlecity.com/
http://www.amazines.com/
http://www.isnare.com/
http://www.freearticles.com/
http://www.ezinearticles.com/

Important Note: Be sure to read all their terms & conditions. Remember you’re giving away your articles for free. In doing this you’ve just quashed your ability to sell that article.

** Offer a Free E-Mail Service: (advanced)

If you have a large server, you can offer free email to your customers/subscribers. Why? How do you think Yahoo! and Hotmail got so big? I’ll tell you why: they run an ad at the bottom of every email that you send. That’s why the service is “free.”

Think about it: your subscriber sends an email with your ad at the bottom of it. That person refers ten people. Those ten people refer another ten, and so on. Pretty soon you have a viral marketing campaign of advertising that you didn’t have to pay for.

If you have a VPS (virtual private server), or a dedicated server, you have the ability to set up unlimited email accounts. Same thing if you have a social networking site etc. It does take a lot of bandwidth and server-juice, but if you really want to conquer the Internet universe, it’s an excellent option.

** E-books: (moderate)

It’s not that hard to create an e-book, or e-document these days. The beauty is that you fill your book with links to your website, your affiliates’ websites, and products.

You can offer your e-book or e-document for free to garner traffic and sell products, or you can sell an e-book with resale rights. The people that purchase your e-book can in turn re-brand and sell the original e-book, thus creating a viral marketing machine.

Tip: Want to know a down-and-dirty way of creating an e-book or e-document in seconds?

All you need is MS Word and something you’ve written:

  • Open up the .doc
  • Go to “File” then “Print”
  • When you get the pop-up box, choose the option, “Save as PDF”

You’re done.

Important Note: I don’t recommend this for e-books that you’re considering selling. It’s better to create a professional encrypted e-book by using Adobe Acrobat. That way you have control of setting rights and permissions. So, if you’re serious about making money off of e-books, then do it the right way, and keep your rights.

Are you going to work it?

There are many ways to create a viral marketing effect. It’s all about getting creative, getting the word out, and creating a chain-like reaction. Yeah, the word, “virus” sounds negative, but that’s what it does...it spreads. You can use this to promote your book, your website, your products, or practically anything.


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Think of the possibilities...

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

 

SEO Sundays: How to Write Key Words

Keywords for Webmasters AND Freelance Writers

I admit I’ve been a little lax on “SEO Sundays,” but I’m back in the saddle again thanks to a little prodding. Ouch!

Today I’m going to talk about keywords, both in your meta tags, and in the articles you write. So, don’t skip out yet! This is something freelance writers should know about, not only webmasters.

As a freelancer I’m sure you’ve seen job postings that read something like, “We need a freelance writer to produce 5-10 keyword articles per week.”

In fact, if you’re a freelancer writing for an online publication, this has become the industry norm. So let’s start at the beginning.

The Gist

Not too long ago, there was a high demand for SEO copywriters. These wizards optimized your web pages by miraculously picking out a few keywords that boosted your ranking on search engines.

I’ve even had a team of these wizards approach me about WOW! saying that they’d optimize my website by creating a custom tailored set of 20 key words per year...for the small sum of a couple grand. Oh gee, thanks...but no thanks. Even when I was green that just didn’t make sense to me. I told them, “I doubt you’ll know my site better than me.” That was less than a year ago, and things have already changed.

Meta Tags aren’t all what they used to be

Search engines are no longer treating keywords as significant in your metadata. They tend to ignore the meta tag’s keywords and look to the actual page content. This is why it’s important to plan out your content before you write it and develop a set of keywords.

It used to be that you could plop 20 keywords, or 1,000 characters into your metatags and that was it. But when you think about it, this really doesn’t make much sense. If it were that easy, don’t you think people would just write anything on the page, not really caring what they wrote, and then put the real thought into their tags and not the content? Well, that’s what happened, and search engines had to be smarter. Granted, I still faithfully make a set of metatags for each and every new page/article on our website... just in case. So, let’s go over a few pointers—I wouldn’t want you to dismiss them all together because that wouldn’t be good advice. Things such as the “title” section of your metatags have more weight than any other part, so indeed, they’re necessary.

Tips for Building your Metatags

These are some basic guidelines when building metatags for your static website. Meaning, if you have a blog, you don’t really need this part, you’ll most likely have to concentrate on your content, and that’s coming up.

What metatags look like:







They all fall within the beginning head tag and head enclosure.

Note: There’s also a “robots” description that I didn’t add because for the most part, robots will follow the index automatically unless you tell it not to. It was created in 1996 and is meant to provide users who cannot upload or control the robots.txt file at their websites for the purpose of keeping a website’s content out of search engines.

STEP 1: The Title Tag

You’ll see some websites that have the same title tag throughout their whole website. I was guilty of this when I first started out. I’d put the same thing into each page of our website: WOW! Women On Writing is an Ezine that promotes the communication between women writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers and readers.

Yikes! For one thing, I quickly discovered that was way too long (too many words), and not descriptive enough for each page.

Length:

Standard practice says that the title tag of a page should describe the article in no longer than 65 characters, or 6-8 words.

Keyword or Phrase:

Put the keyword of the article or phrase into your title tag. Use your keyword once.

Examine your article:

Think of it this way: if you were doing a search on Google for a specific subject, such as, “how to get a literary agent,” wouldn’t you just type that in and see what comes up? It’s common sense.

Take a look at your article or the content of the page.

• Who are you trying to reach?
• What phrase might they type in?
• What subject is your article trying to relay?
• Get to the meat of it.

Whatever you do, make sure that phrase or keyword is actually in the article.

Tips:

Remember that the title is the most important part of the metatag. This is what you see when you do a search. It’s the part that’s underlined and highlighted in bold (if that’s the term you searched for). All search engines bold your keywords.















Now remember, if you did a search on what I mentioned up above, “how to get a literary agent,” you’ll see that the article we just published by Del Sandeen a little over a week ago, which appears on page 3. That’s because it’s so new. Give it another month or so and it may appear on the first page. Static websites take much longer than blogs. But remember it’s also the content you’re searching for. The more common the phrase the higher likelihood that your page will be pushed back in ranking because of timeframe and relevance.

Yet, sometimes content can be so relevant on a static website that it shows up immediately. When I typed in: “Interview with Shai Coggins” (Note: From this month’s inspiration column) you can see we took the top two spots. Even before Shai’s website or b5media’s website.













(Note: see where it says in the upper right hand bar: Results 1-10 of about 16,000)

STEP 2: The Description

After you see the title on a search engine, right beneath it comes the description. It’s the blurb of what the article is about and how you’ll most likely decide whether or not to read that article.

Be honest:

That’s what I’ve found to work. Give a blurb of what’s included in the article (only the key points, or keywords) and describe it in no more than two sentences. You’re all writers, get to the meat of it!

STEP 3: The Keywords

Like I mentioned before, these tags aren’t cruised much by search engines anymore because they’ve been diluted. Most of the time search engines will crawl content before keywords – but there still is a necessary place for them.

Length:

Limit your keywords to no longer than 1,000 characters. Some meta tag generators use 20 key words or so, but it depends on your keywords and phrases.

Commas?

There has been some debate about whether to use commas in between your keywords. I prefer to use them, but others do not. This is because eliminating commas may increase your odds of search engines extracting different phrases from your keywords.

For instance, if your tag is "literary agents nonfiction book proposal" you might get ranked for "literary book proposal" but if the tag reads "literary agents, nonfiction book proposal," you'd have less of a chance to get ranked for "literary book proposal" because the comma separates the words.

That’s up to you. I prefer to use commas and phrases for my keywords.

Angela’s Secret Tip:

Here’s a personal tip I use for extracting keywords—and this can be used in your freelance writing for internet publications:

• Open MS Word
• Read your article and examine the key point you’re trying to get across
• Go to the “Edit” menu at the top and click on “Find”
• In the box that says “Find what” type in your keyword
• Check the box that says “Highlight all items found in” (and the dropdown box only has one choice: “Main Document”)
• Click the “Find All” button

This will immediately show you how many times that keyword is used in your article. It not only highlights the word in your article, it gives you a count right there in the box!

Take out a notepad and write that word down with the number of times it was used.

For instance: if I used the “find” tool right now to search the word “keyword” it comes out to: 34

That’s quite a hefty sum for one article!

So, examine your words and phrases, pick out the most relevant, do an MS Word Find, and tally your content. I know this is time consuming, but if you’re going to be getting paid top-dollar for your freelance writing (or if you want to), or own your own website, then these are important things to consider. Attention to detail will only help you in the long run.

Freelancers: Content is Queen

If you just scanned and cruised in because of the bold captions, do yourself a favor and read the tip up above. That applies to you!

Not a Copywriter? So what!

Truth is, keyword articles pay well. Why not learn how to roll with the times and get paid for your writing. By incorporating a few extra steps, you can make a lot more as a freelance writer.

You’ve all seen the job boards and listings for “keyword articles” – well, it’s not much different than writing a regular article. You just have to inform yourself, and soon you can be an expert.

If you’re a fiction writer:

Throw out what you know about fiction for your freelancing gigs. Throw out what you’ve learned about the dreaded “echoes” in your work, and make those echoes count. They are an important part of what will bring you the green.

As fiction writers we know it’s not good to repeat words, phrases, or even hint at the same words. Those echoes always meant that we were sloppy writers and didn’t have the capability to be descriptive. The opposite applies when you’re writing for the web. The more you can incorporate your keyword in a unique fashion so that the reader doesn’t realize it’s happening, the better.

As a fiction writer myself, I know this is one of the toughest things to do! But, think of it this way: you’re allowed to break the rules, so take advantage.

Keep your audience in mind:

When writing keyword articles, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the articles must be interesting to the target reader. Your articles should be filled with relevant content so that the reader won’t quickly move onto the next website. Give them valuable information, just like you always would.

As well as Search Engines & your Client:

Determine what your employer is trying to relate, then think of copy that will help enhance their traffic. Put yourself in their position. If you were someone searching for her particular product, or looking for some information on a specific subject, what would you search for? What keywords would you type into a search engine?

Writing it Out!

Remember not to overload your article with too many keywords. When writing your article, choose one main and two secondary keywords.

Here are a few tips to follow:

• As I mentioned earlier, make sure you include your primary keywords and phrases in your title.

• Repeat your main keyword in the first sentence of your article.

• Include your keyword as much as you can in the first 150 words of your article, as long as it’s readable and not ridiculous!

• Spread your secondary keywords throughout the rest of your copy.

• If you are writing a long article, make sure that you include your main keyword or phrase every 150 words or so at least twice.

• Include your keyword or phrase in your conclusion paragraph.

Remember your good writing ethics:

Write what sounds good and be creative when incorporating those words. Think of it as a challenge. Test yourself to see how creative you can be within a limited structure. By viewing it this way, it can be fun!

Summing it up:

Writing a keyword article is just like writing any other article. The only difference is that you’re challenging yourself to include certain words. Think of it like a prompt-based contest. You’re given a certain topic to write about and you must incorporate those words and ideas into your story. And I know all you ladies have the capability to do that, so why not try your hand at keyword articles. You may develop a unique ability to become an expert at something you’ve never thought of. Add that to your bio! And some green to your pocket.

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Find out more “tips & tricks” when you subscribe to Premium-Green Markets: The Women’s Freelance Guide to Writing and Markets. First issue coming up this week!

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