My Personal Guide to Business Blogging
Hey guys, so I’m Charles!
I’m the dude behind the God of SEO blog. This is an “actionable journey” style post, where I look at my blog on a business level over the past few months since launch.
5 months ago I didn’t believe in content marketing, I was a link builder. That was my job, I’d build grey/black hat “contextual” links, that was my job and I liked the money I was making from my affiliate sites and it was my first full time job. However, it was tedious… Don’t get me wrong, I still specialize in link building, but I’ve been opened to the world of creating content and boy do I like spending hours and hours writing posts that I actually enjoy writing (Who knew!).
I guess in a way I owe a lot to Moz, even though the post/campaign I did on them was misinterpreted. My blog was started on the 18th of June, 2013 and since then, I’ve been through aLOT; spent 100s of hours tweaking, creating content and promoting the hell out of it!
As of the 1st of September, I’ve had close to 12,000 visitors and 64 leads, which resulted in 11 clients. The blog is currently averaging 200 unique visits per day – which as Pris said is awesome for a 3 month old blog!
I thought I’d do this post in a Step by Step format, from me buying the domain, all the way to the “Present Day” (As hollywood loves to say).
Buying the Domain & What it “Meant” –
I started out with a completely different domain than I now have. My original domain was Rank2Bank.Com, this was actually based off a comment on a YouMoz post. However when the hosting company I was using went into administration, and I lost nearly all my blog posts on it, I felt I needed a fresh start.
I was randomly surfing the net and tweeting and emailing and I saw the “Lord of SEO” it made me laugh a little, especially when the profile picture was a angelic man floating with a very strong, bright light shining above his head. Then around a week later, I got into a bit of a debate with a certain Rand Fishkin over some posts I’d published on SERPChirp, in which someone commented “ha, you’re God” this pushed me (for some odd reason) to Namecheap where I typed in the lasting domain of “godofseo” which turned up the .Co domain that was available!
I ended up leaving the domain in my Namecheap account for about a month after this though, slowly fading away from ever using it. Then I got a little push in the right direction.
Inspiration and “The Push” I needed –
I started seeing my engagement on Moz, Inbound, Forums etc.. All doing really well and I saw some really good SEOs following or @’ing me on Twitter. Then, out of pure luck (I think) Matthew Woodward published his post on starting a blog.
It was 1am, I lay in bed unable to sleep with my laptop to the left of me (Sounds way too poetic, I know) when my phone pinged with a fresh bunch of emails for me to read, at the top was Matt’s post. I saw there was a pretty large video on the post so opened my laptop, visited the site and started watching. I then remembered I had the domain I’d previously bought sitting in my account, just waiting to be published on!
What followed was the next 3 hours setting up the blog, buying a couple of premium plugins and creating a brand new “Launch post” as well as publishing a post I’d already written up but hadn’t published earlier that month.
Setting it all up (From Scratch) –
This can be the hardest part about creating a blog; finding a theme, adding widgets, researching etc… So I have narrowed down this process as I manage a few blogs myself.
The CMS –
This can be a big one, depending on what you’re used to and what you’re all in all looking for. I personally use WordPress (along with most of the blogging community) though I’ve recently been getting involved a lot more with the likes of Drupal and Wolf CMS. It’s really up to you and “shop around” for the right CMS for you, there’s plenty of YouTube tutorials on how to use them as well.
The Design –
If you’re a custom design, great! If not.. You might want to look at some themes, I use ThemeForest to get my premium themes or you can look for free themes either on the CMS’s website (Most will have a showcase/gallery) or, as always: Google is your friend!
The UX –
Giving the user the best possible experience and making everything super easy makes all the difference. I’ve spent weeks optimizing everything from my navigation, sidebars and even my contact pages. Clarissa Peterson did a fantastic presentation on optimizing your user experience.
Branding Yourself –
This can be one of the parts where you “stand yourself” as a specific area in your industry. I decided to brand myself as a “Grey hat” within the SEO industry, I do black, white and sometimes even pink hat case studies. I’m not afraid to dive into areas some find questionable.
Deciding who you are and who you want to be will be the do or die part of your blog. This also means what kind of content you create, if you’re strictly branding yourself as white hat, you don’t want to make your audience question that “pureness” by pushing out some black hat techniques.
Content Creation –
This has been covered 1,000s of times already, your content is really key and it’s what’ll “make the blog” and add an audience to it that return to the blog over and over again. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail but these are the methods I use to come up with content (this is more Industry specific though).
I love looking at the likes of Forums, Q&As, submission/discussion (We have Inbound and Reddit though other industries may have their own sites to use) for what people are asking about, then you can build content around the real questions people have, rather than the generic garbage we tend to get repeated over and over (Such as the “Basics of SEO” that I’m sure every agency has at least 1 post about on their blog).
I actually did a post on hijacking communities to make your content go viral, it gives a more detailed look within a case study at using communities for traffic.
What I’m Interested in –
This is really important, if you aren’t interested in your own content then you lose interest in creating it and your blog will eventually drop off your priorities of making content for. If you are an SEO and you’re interested in link building, do posts on link building. Just because something isn’t all that of a “hot topic” now, won’t mean it won’t see the light of day and even if it doesn’t, it’s still a piece of content that is an asset to your blog (Even my smallest bits of content still get me visitors to my site).
Social Networks –
I love looking over social networks and seeing what people are tweeting about and sharing. It shows what the “big guys” will share and what they’re interested in. Though I don’t like reiterating things (I’m always a fan of literal unique content) sometimes, it can be a button to push as a followup post or a spark of inspiration.
Building your Audience –
I’ve already done a pretty massive post on traffic generation, though I thought I’d go some basic actionable tips to get the traffic flowing (by specifically not using Google SERPs).
Show your Face –
Make sure you’re everywhere! Commenting on other peoples content, engaging with communities, engaging with people on social networks etc… Will help build your brand and surprisingly, it’ll build a lot of traffic, as well as searches for your name. The nice thing about showing your face as well, is it’ll build blog comment links and Google starts branding your name around your industry.
Notice how my name is relevant to SEO keywords? (More specifically, UK SEO Keywords)
Build a Newsletter –
MailChimp offers a free 2,000 subscribers service and there’s a number of free plugins that integrate with the MailChimp API. It’s also super easy to manage and create good looking email templates out of. There’s a few ways you can build up your newsletter, I use a popup plugin, sidebar widget and a comment re-direct which re-directs to a thank you page with a newsletter form. It’s worked quite nicely and I’ve been averaging 15 subscribers per week (Which means I can pull in even more traffic from my audience)
Be Active in your Industry –
Post on related forums, Google groups, LinkedIn groups and pretty much wherever your target community/industry are you want to be. This can be exhausting and take a long time to pull in any traffic, but when you get a big break, it can be really worth it! I pull in around 1/3 of my monthly traffic just from being active on SEO forums alone.
Inbound, TrafficPlanet, SEOsUnite… All great forums that brought in some great traffic throughout August!
Guest Posting / Outreach –
I only like to guest post if the posts are of really good quality now, I don’t even actively look to guest post, I do however get various offers through my contact form and I’ve accepted a few, which have always paid off.
If you want to actively look for guest posting opportunities, take a look at Ann Smarty’s My Blog Guest which has a massive number of blogs, from a number of different industries, for you to submit to.
I have however got articles accepted for the likes of Search Engine Journal, Matthew Woodward and Moz! Most big blogs like this are looking for quality, one of the places where “Create Quality Content and you’ll do well” applies as the main method.
Keri pointed out that I had a few posts under my name on some questionable sources, just to clarify if you do decide to look into this, then it’s part of my Ranking for Rand case study as a diversification technique for anchor text and domains.
Reply to your Audience –
If someone does put a comment on your work, then make sure you reply to them. If someone drops you an email with a question, then email them back and that’s the beauty of both, I’ve found a few comments that have given me some good inspiration to create new posts or edit the current one.
I also highly suggest adding a Q&A or Forum to your blog, this creates more content for your site and is mostly user generated, which means you put little if no effort into creating tons of content that will get you traffic.
Don’t just “Blog” –
I’ve always enjoyed taking my posts that one step further. Adding the likes of videos, your own created memes, downloadable files, custom tools etc… Just add that extra bump to your blogs quality.
Video / Vlogging –
Using Youtube is super beneficial for a number of reasons. It hosts your videos in good quality for totally free with some great tools to add to it. It also can be used to pull traffic and brand awareness from the Youtube searches to your site:
Memes get shared around, having your logo or website URL in the bottom right of the image as a watermark can bring direct traffic back to your site when memes are shared around. It also adds a personalized approach to your blogs and Memes are always funny anyway (As long as they are actually funny)
Files / Tools –
Giving the user a free tool or file such as an excel spreadsheet template for them to use to speed up a specific task or research that you’ve already done as part of your post, makes the quality of that post so much better. You can also use social or newsletter lockers to benefit both the consumer of them getting something free and you as you’re getting social authority or a new signup to the newsletter.
Building Links –
I’ll let my colleague Matthew Barby take a bit more credit for this one, his moz post on link building for blogs will go into some really good detail and gives a massively actionable case study.
Most of my main link building came from guest posts and natural editorial features, though that doesn’t count for my majority of backlinks itself. I did 2 case studies with black hat links, one on Rand Fishkin & one for Matt Cutts, so the majority of my links are black hat, heck, it works!
Natural editorials have bought me in some great traffic as well (Rude Baguette, Matthew Woodward and ViperChill’s links to me have seen my site get 100s of visitors from referrals, which makes up 50% of my total traffic)
The Business Bit –
I have an entire hire me page on my blog, which links to my about me page so they can understand who I am. I have a form for them to get in touch with me via email and I use an oDesk widget for hourly work.
Actionable Case Studies –
I’ve found the best way to get clients is to get case studies to prove your abilities, I said earlier that I think I owe Rand specifically a thank you, that’s because 900 of my 8,000 visits have come from his name as part of my ranking for rand case study. It proved I can rank a site for a competitive term and got shared by a number of people within the SEO industry. I actually saw 2 clients come through (Not leads, clients!) from that case study.
Likewise I saw a client from my Being a Black Hat case study, these kind of posts make you seem “legit”, it shows you can do something that can benefit them or their business.
Showing you’re an Authority Figure –
By having good engagement and proving to people that people in the industry already respect you offers quite a lot, I know when I’ve asked clients why they chose me was because they’ve seen people engaging with my posts or they’ve seen my posts being shared by some pretty big people.
The benefit of this is that you can also charge more, for example: An A level celebrity can charge more for attending an event or doing an advert than a B level celebrity. I know, a horrible example but it’s still the same point.
Having a Professional Hire Page –
I’ve changed my hire me page over 10 times now, but I’ve finally landed on the perfect one. I showcase where they can hire me hourly (through oDesk) as well as a contact form for anyone to get in touch about potential freelance work. I also feature my past, example case studies of my work for them to look at and a small history of myself.
This helps them get to know me a bit better before they build up the courage to drop me an email.
Getting New Clients –
So, you’ve had an enquiry and they’re ready to start! Well, it can be a bit resource intensive to manage even just one client, I did a guest post towards the end of August for Heroic Search on handling clients as an SEO, both on a freelance and agency level. Brittan White also did a superb whiteboard friday on managing objective clients.
There is however 3 fundamentals you want to make sure you’re doing with any clients:
- Keep them in the loop, regularly update them about how their SEO is going and keep in contact with them about orders/enquiries and what their overall business is looking like.
- Make sure you’re time and work managed, don’t spend too long on specifics or you’ll end up not profiting of your labour, likewise don’t spend too little time or your client won’t end up profiting of your labour. Trello is fantastic for this as it allows you to manage all your activities from different boards.
- Have an organized diary, don’t overlap clients and try and allocate the correct time you’re aiming to spend on a client to the time you’re actually going to spend. I’m a victim of this, as I’ll spend 2 hours on something that I told myself I’d spend 15 minutes on…
A Few Tools I Recommend –
I thought I’d just go over some of the tools I use for my blog and that I highly recommend you use on your blog, some are paid and some are free.
Akismet – Stop that spam!
Approved Comment Notifier – This will notify your users (via email) that their comments have been approved)
DiggDigg – A floating social bar for your blog.
Disqus – Implement a completely different comment system and add the benefit of spam removal.
MailChimp – A really nice (and best of all free) email marketing tool suite.
Ninja Poups – Integrates with the MailChimp API or you can use Facebook likes, Contact forms etc.. All in a really nicely designed popup (Which is customizable on the CSS level)
Trello – Trello offers boards for you to easily manage any projects you have for clients, guest posting or even just managing your tasks/content creation.
Thanks for the Read!
I hope you enjoyed my post, now go get blogging!
If you have any blogging tips or other tools that other bloggers could use, drop them in the comments below.