Writing Great Blog Posts Consistently is Nearly Impossible

great blog postsLately I've been trying to come up with ways to write great blog posts consistently for all my websites.  Everyone wants to write the best articles that their audience will really engage with.  I sort of had the sad realization that writing engaging posts consistently is something that lots of bloggers and content marketers struggle with.  Honestly, you can't always predict what people will like or hate until you've written it and it's gone up.  It sucks.

I've experienced this sad truth firsthand many times.  One of the most frustrating blog posts I've written was “Most Expensive and Cheapest Gas Prices around the World.”  I spent a lot of time researching and playing with numbers to make sure this was an accurate piece.   (That's saying a lot for someone who compared math teachers to nazis.)  Not only that but I choose the keywords and title for this article carefully.  It was well researched, SEO optimized, and had all the right ingredients to come out to be a masterpiece the internet would love.  Except… it failed miserably.

How does a blogger know when great blog posts have failed?  Usually it's when you've put a ton of effort into an article and nobody comments on it, nobody shares it on social media networks, and basically nobody likes it since Google Analytics is not showing anyone landing on it.  This is exactly what happened with my gas prices article.  Even though I did a lot of research and put a lot of time into writing it, people for some were not attracted to it.

To this day I still don't really understand why.  Usually in author's mind the post they wrote was “Epic” or “Awesome” or choose another word to insert here.  This is basically what I thought but I was wrong.  Hard to admit but it's true.

Let me tell you something, it doesn't matter how much money you have to analyze data.  It's damn near impossible  to predict what articles Google will rank you for, people will share, connect with and comment on.  Talk to professional bloggers and they will tell you the same thing.  “I spent hours writing what I thought was a great post, but nobody commented on it.  Then I just posted a picture with a few words and everyone commented on it.” was something I heard at Affiliate Summit recently.  Several other successful bloggers complained about the same thing.

This is really not an uncommon discussion to have with bloggers across the spectrum and different niches.  Sometimes it's just hard to know even if you've put in the time, research, and effort.  Those great blog posts that everyone loves seem harder to come by then a white truffle sometimes.

This is why I encourage blog coaching clients I work with to focus on Quantity over Quality in the beginning.  Sure, it's hard to know what other people will think is a great blog post but if you don't have enough posts up to see what people are landing on, it is even harder to know what you should be writing about.  The more content you have the easier it will be to know and figure it out.   Still, you will be pulling your hair out like other bloggers because it can drive you mad.

Maybe you can read my gas prices article and tell me why it sucks and nobody liked it?  Have you experienced the struggle to find those elusive epic and great blog posts?  I'd love to hear your frustrations and blog bombs too.

Paid Links, one of Blogging’s Dirty Secrets

paid links

A few weeks ago I was reading a few successful and highly trafficked blogs.  I was quickly looking through what I thought was a well written article when all of a sudden the article flow came to a halt and I noticed something interesting but not unusual… paid links in the article.

Was I surprised?  No, not really since paid links are one of the dirty little secrets in blogging and the SEO (search engine optimization) industry that nobody really likes to talk about.  However, I will since I am not afraid of touching on taboo internet marketing topics I will.

What are Paid Links?

Paid Links are pretty self-explanatory and sound exactly like what you think they are.  It's when a site owner or blogger agrees to place a link on their website in exchange for cash.  The link is mostly always a DoFollow link which passes pagerank onto the other site.  Sometimes the SEO company gives you the article content and other times they'd rather a blogger work the link into an article so it makes sense.

The amount of money a company has to pay is usually determined by a site's pagerank, age of the domain, authority of the site, amount of traffic, and the authority of the blogger.  I've seen some people charge as much as $1,500+ per year for a link.  Sounds like a lot but when you hear what some SEO agencies charge, some bloggers should be asking for more.

In case of of the big time blogger I was reading she probably charged a lot for the link since it was for freezing women's eggs (embryos).  More importantly her demographic seems to be women 22-40 years old.  The medical company was aiming for wealthy women 20-30 years old probably.  (Although the article and blog is not entirely aimed at women.)  Most people know that health (and fitness) is a very profitable internet vertical.  If you are in fertility and cord blood and can manage to get paid for a link for it, that's some serious money.

What does Google think of Paid Links?

Google frowns upon companies and people paying for links and it is against their Webmaster guidelines.  (It would be good to read them if you haven't by the way.)  However, few people that engage in paid link schemes get caught.

Since Google is not on the side of bloggers making any real money honestly… fuck them.  They are many ways to monetize a blog but few that pay well enough so you can make a living.  Paid links are one of the best and most profitable solutions if you are someone with an authority blog.  (Of course creating an authority blog nowadays is no easy task.)

The blogger in question will probably never get caught and will not face any Google penalties.  I don't like she was using paid links and misleading her readers, but quite honestly it's not like I don't understand why she was doing it and haven't seen it before.

Keep in mind Google employs engineers that can't read for shit.  Just look at search results for competitive topics like domain names, web hosting, medicine, etc.  Low quality spammy sites still rank 1st or 2nd in a lot of cases.

How Did You Know the article had Paid Links?

It wasn't like the blogger explicitly said, “Hey these are paid links.” but I knew immediately since;

  1. The article lost it's flow at that point.
  2. They were medical related sites for freezing women's eggs.  Which in turn made me say, “WTF is this?”
  3. The keywords used were highly competitive.
  4. It was deep linked URL.

When you add it all up it was clear this blogger's article on, “6 Things to do in your 20s to make your 30s good” had paid links placed in it.  At least that is my “expert” opinion.

Paid Links Conclusion

Next time you are reading one of the millions of blogs out on the internet I encourage my readers to be aware of paid links.  It's good to be aware of how other bloggers monetization and content strategies.  This is why I try to read a wide variety of authors and bloggers.  You get an idea of how they target their content and who they is reading them, especially when you notice paid links.

On this blog I've had plenty of link requests but since it is a personal blog, I do not accept any of them.  I haven't been offered money for this blog yet but if a person or company did, I wouldn't accept it.

What do you think of paid links?  Is it ok for a blogger to use them to cover the costs and time they need to put into a blog?  Should they be upfront with readers?  Have you been offered money for a link on your site?

Does site Downtime hurt Search Engine Rankings?

search engine rankings

Does site downtime hurt Search Engine rankings? ”

This is a question that is hotly debated by webmasters, search engine optimization specialists, bloggers, hosting companies, etc.  A lot of people say that a little bit of downtime, say 20 minutes, in a day, can hurt SERPS (search engine results page) for your website.  Others say that you can have a little bit of downtime here and there and it will not matter much.

Well this question was touched on in one of a Google Webmaster Help videos with Matt Cutts recently. Check it out and the question that was asked.

I got a “Googlebot can't access your site” message in Webmaster Tools from my host being down for a day. Does it affect my rankings when this happens?
Sally

Matt Cutts initial response to this question was,

“Well if it is just for a 1 day you should be in pretty good shape. If your host is down for 2 weeks then there is a better indicator that the website is down and we don't want to send users to a website that is actually down but we do try to compensate for websites that are transiently or sporadically down.  We make a few allowances and we try to comeback 24 hours later… So it is just a short period of downtime I wouldn't really worry about that.”

While I mostly agree with what he said in the video, and after explaining that the Googlebot was having trouble crawling sites a few weeks ago, Matt Cutts commented, “If it is just 24 hours I really wouldn't stress about that very much.”

Well… a friend of mine recently had his websites on a JustHost dedicated server and it went down for 1 day.  He told me hasn't been able to get back his SERP rankings since the downtime.  Despite what was said you should realize downtime can hurt your search engine rankings in Google.  I've heard this from a number of experienced webmasters.

However, I want people to think about how the Googlebot spider works when indexing pages.  I will not go into everything as it would take too long to explain but just do a quick overview.

When you do a Google search you are not actually searching the web instantly, like a lot of people assume, but you are actually searching Google's stored version of the web.  For instance when this article was first posted it DID NOT immediately get indexed by Google and was searchable. Why?  While this blog gets ok traffic my current pagerank is 3, which is decent but not too high.  Sites that post content more frequently and that have a higher pagerank are going to get crawled before mine.  Websites like FoxNews and NY Times will get crawled first since they have a higher pagerank, more content, and are in Google News.

So if my website was down for say 1 hour it is actually pretty possible that Google will not even see my website is down since the Googlebot may not crawl it.  While Google is really good about crawling new webpages very fast these days they can't get to every new piece of content posted simultaneously.  If you were running FoxNews and had downtime 24 hours that would be a much bigger deal since they get millions of visitors a day and the Googlebot expects there to be content frequently.

So my answers to the question “Does site downtime hurt Search Engine rankings?” would generally be the same as Cutts.  I caution anyone asking this question to consider the type of website you are running, how much traffic you get, and your user's expectations which will influence Google's.  Choosing a reliable web hosting company is very important if you want good uptime and don't want to have to worry about websites going down.  I prefer Site5 and you can read my Site5 review to get a better idea about their web hosting services.

So that is my professional opinion on this topic of site downtime and search engine rankings.  By the way if you want to monitor website downtime and uptime I highly recommend a service called Uptime Robot.  It will ping your website every 5 minutes to see if it is up and if it isn't you can get a text message, email, or RSS feed notification.  Best part about Uptime Robot is that it is completely free website monitoring service.

Has website downtime ever hurt or affected your search engine rankings?  Have you ever had your website hosted with a hosting company that had frequent downtime?  Share your experiences below as I am sure a lot of people have something to say about this.

Top 6 Misconceptions about Blogging

I read a lot of different articles about blogging all around the internet and it always surprises me that the same misconceptions about blogging are getting passed around.  While I think some information you read about blogging out there might kind of be accurate, it is not telling you the whole truth about the difficulties and realities of what it takes to be a successful online nowadays.  So, I am going to break the myths and misconceptions.

misconceptions about blogging

1. You can make a lot of money Blogging

While there are definitely a lot of bloggers who make a full time living from their blogs or writing, the vast majority don't.  You need to understand that the act of writing doesn't make any money.  To monetize your blog and visitor traffic you will have to display ads, use affiliate links, or possible encourage people to pay for a monthly subscription to your blog.  (This is possible to do but your content better be really good and niche specific.)  If your writing is top notch you might even be able to snag a book deal, but those sorts of deals are not likely to happen to an average blogger unless you are putting in a lot of time and effort.

2. Lots of Traffic is Always a Good Thing

Even if you have a lot of traffic it may not always be the best thing.  If your users are not clicking on ads or converting sales via your affiliate links than all that traffic is likely to be costing your money.  I know a lot of webmasters and bloggers that have high traffic sites but are spending more money keeping up a VPS (virtual private server) or dedicated server than what they are making blogging.  If you ever get to this point your blog should probably serve as sales funnels for some product or service you want to sell, such as your book or web consulting services.

3. Content is King

Having great content that people like is important if you want repeat visitors, but that doesn't mean content is everything.  I see lots of terrible writing and content still ranking well on Google while great content is not getting ranked and has ZERO traffic.  It is honestly your ability to have good SEO (search engine optimization) and how you distribute your articles and content around the web that make the difference.  Google honestly can't tell between bad and good writing.  Keep in mind it is a computer (an extremely advanced one) that does the ranking and not a human.

4. Social Media is more Important than SEO

I imagine a dumbass “social media guru” started this one.  While social media should be part of your blogging strategy, it is important to use strong keywords and write your articles and posts so they that search engine can find your content easily.  SEO is cyclical with social media actually.  If Google sees a lot of people are Tweeting your articles, it is likely you will retain higher ranks for certain keywords and therefore get more visitors via search.  You will make it easier though if you use keywords people are searching for in the first place and serving up what people want to see.

5. Blogging in a Specific Niche will make you Successful

This really depends on the niche.  For instance I love writing about cars and I like Japanese automakers.  I can start a blog about cars that focus only on Japanese automakers, their models, and news.  This way I have a niche that is specific but open enough I can find new content for the blog on a daily basis.  I see a lot of people choose niches that are too specific and they don't have enough to write about to keep the blog updated.  You need to ask yourself, “Can I blog about this topic and find lots of subjects to write about?”  If the answers is, “No.” you should consider looking at another niche unless your goal is to build mini-websites.  If you really want to be successful niche blogging you should find an area that is what I like to call “Wide Fucking Open” (WFO).

6. Everyone Should Start a Blog

No, not everyone should start a blog.  It really depends on your skills and what you want to accomplish.  Not everyone is a good writer and I don't think everyone can blog.  Do you prefer listening to the radio?  Are you more a visual person?  Maybe a weekly podcast and video show in your area of interest would be better than starting a blog.  Have you considered starting a forum?  Sometimes forums can work better since you are not solely responsible for coming up with interesting content and can engage in great conversations with people and let them share their thoughts openly.

If you have any other misconceptions about blogging that you want to add or that I missed, please leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear bloggers thoughts and anyone who is considering starting a blog to comment about what I wrote about above.

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada … if you can!