What Is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It's best defined as the steps a webmaster takes to increase the visibility of his/her web pages in the search engines organic search results. OK, let's just define a couple of terms at this point, before moving on.
A "webmaster" is simply a person who is responsible for a particular website. Organic search results are those listings in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) that are there on merit because of their relevance to the search term typed in.
It’s important to differentiate between organic and paid listings. With paid listings, webmasters pay the search engines to have their pages (in the form of ads) listed at the top of the SERPs.
So the term SERPs refers to the Search Engine Results Pages, which are the pages of results you get when you carry out any search at any search engine.
Before we go on any further, I should just mention that this blog focuses on Google SEO. Google is the largest search engine on the planet. In fact, most search traffic from around the world comes directly from Google Search.
Google has become synonymous with the term "search engine". It's an expression that has even found its way into the English dictionary as a verb.
I expect you’ve heard someone describe how they "googled" something or other. Google is the most important place to rank well, and if you rank well on Google, chances are you will rank well on Yahoo and Bing too.
Why Is SEO Necessary?
To rank high in the organic search results, your page needs to be one of the best matches for the search term typed into the search engine's search box.
So what makes a page the best match? Well, that is a secret known only to Google, but a little later in this blog, we’ll look at some of the factors that Google considers when ranking web pages.
How Do We Rank Pages as High as Possible?
How We Used to Rank Pages
In the good old days (that’s up to about 2010), ranking in Google was relatively easy. You see, at that time Google’s algorithm (the complex code that determines where a webpage will rank) was heavily based on the keywords on a page, along with the links from other websites pointing back to it.
These were the main ranking factors and webmasters new it. Since both of those factors could be controlled and manipulated by the site owners, many webmasters began to organize and manipulate things so that they could rank well in the SERPs.
Here was the process for doing this:
1. Identify the keywords you want to rank for.
2. Create a page that was "optimized" for that particular keyword or Key phrase. The quality of the content was not important back then. What was important was that you included your chosen keyword or key phrase into as many places as possible (a term aptly named as keyword stuffing).
This would typically include the title of the page, the opening header, in the body of the content (maybe five times or more per 100 words), and in the ALT tags (a text alternative for an image or object on a page). Keywords were often included even in the domain name itself. The more times you could get your term in there, the better the results were.
3. Build backlinks, often by the tens of thousands, using automated back-linking tools. The anchor text for most of the backlinks used the same term(s) we wanted to rank for.
That was it basically. You could rank for literally any term using that simple formula. Webmasters were able to rank in the SERPs for anything they wanted, for whatever they wanted.
Back in the very early days, if you got into the first top 10 positions on page one of Google, you would remain there for three months, until the next update came out.
Google had lost control.
As you can imagine, the SERPs offered poor quality content to web searchers, and that made Google look bad. Obviously, Google wanted the best, most relevant results shown to its users. In many cases, spots in the top 10 were filled with trashy content; spammy sites that offered little or no value to the web surfer.
Over time, Google got to refine its algorithm, thus making it more and more difficult for webmasters to game the system. In Google’s ideal world, their prized algorithm would be based entirely on factors that webmasters could not control or manipulate.
As you will see later in the blog, Google’s Panda and Penguin updates (as well as several other major updates) were designed so that the company could start taking back control from the webmasters.
By removing the factors that webmasters could control from their algorithm, or give them less importance, Google made it increasingly difficult to manipulate a web page ranking. Bear this in mind when we look at the top ranking factors later in this blog for 2015.
Personalized Search Results
In recent years, Google has been applying more and more personalization to the search results. So what does that mean exactly? It means that what you see when you search for a phrase in Google, may not be the same as what someone in a different part of the country would see for the same search term.
In fact, it might not even be the same set of results that your neighbor sees, or your mom sitting next to you on the couch while searching on her mobile phone. It is important to realize this. Not everyone sees the same results for the exact same search query.
You see, when someone searches on Google, the search giant will apply filters to the results in an attempt to show that searcher the most relevant results, based on their own personal circumstances.
As a quick example, let's say you search Google for an antivirus program while using your iMac. The chances are that you’ll probably see a bias of anti-virus pages in the SERPs, specifically targeting Mac users.
Do the same search on a PC and you’ll get PC antivirus software. Repeat the search on an Android phone or iPhone, and you’ll get results tailored to those operating systems.
This is one simple example. Google looks at much more than just your operating system. Other factors they’ll try to use include:
1.Your location (whether that is your reported location, IP address, or GPS location as given out by mobile devices).
2.Your search history, which looks at what have you been searching for in recent days or weeks.
3.Your social networks, including your likes, your friends and your circles.
4.Whether you are searching on a mobile device, desktop or even SmartTV.
5.Your preferred language.
Personalization of the search results is meant to make our lives easier, and in many ways it does. However, as far as SEO is concerned, personalization can be a pain if we don’t know what other people are seeing in their SERPs.
Top Ranking Factors in 2018
Earlier we saw that Google wanted to build its algorithm around quality indicators, ones which were not under webmaster control. In this section, we’ll look at some of those indicators used by Google.
Think about each one in turn, and how much control a webmaster has over it. Ranking Factors can be split into two groups, namely “on page” and “off page”.
On Page SEO Factors
1. Quality Content
Google is looking for high-quality content that is relevant to the search query. They will look at the language used on a page, and for terms related to the query. I call these "theme words".
Longer pages tend to do better, and the inclusion of photos and/or video works to your advantage too. Furthermore, pics and vids also help to retain the visitor’s interest.
2. Page Load Time
Nobody likes waiting around for a page to load. If your web pages are taking five or more seconds to open fully, your visitors may decide not to hang around and hit the back button.
According to research, your average web user has an attention span of just a few seconds, less than a goldfish actually.
So it's important that your pages load quickly. If the searcher came from Google, a slow page load is a bad news for you, since Google sees both the “bounce” and "exit" rates as negatives for your page.
3. Internal Links from Other Pages on the Site
If you look at a website like Wikipedia, you’ll see a lot of internal links on the pages. Internal links are simply links that go from one page on a website to a different page on the same site. Any links we talk about on this blog that link out to other websites are called external links.
So external Links have simply linked that point at (or target) any website other than the one the link exists on (the source). Internal links are there to help the visitor navigate through your website's pages.
As someone reads a page on Wikipedia, they might come across a word or phrase they do not understand, or simply want to know more about.
By “internally” linking keywords or phrases to other pages on Wikipedia, visitors get to navigate around the site more easily and find the information they are looking for quickly.
4. Bounce Rates
We mentioned bounce rates earlier in the context of fast loading pages. A "bounce" is simply a visitor who clicks a link in the SERPs and then returns to Google. The quicker the return, the worse it is for your page as it tells Google the visitor was not satisfied.
The higher the percentage of visitors who navigate away from the site, after viewing only one page, the more your reputation suffers in the eyes of Google.
After all, if people come to your site and don't bother looking around (navigating to other pages of interest), then this tells Google that your site does little to inspire its visitors.
Let’s think how this might work
Say a visitor on Google searches for “vitamin A deficiency” and visits the first page in the SERP. Not finding what they want, they then click the browser's back button to return to Google.
They may then click on another site further down the SERP to see if that can provide what they are looking for.
What does this tell Google about your site
It tells them that the visitor did not find the information they wanted on your page/site. Google knows this because they returned to the search results and repeated (or refined) their search.
If lots of people around the world search for a certain phrase, and an unusually high percentage of them bounce back from the same webpage that is ranked #1 in Google for the search term, what do you think Google will do?
Doesn’t it make sense that they would demote that page in the SERPs - for that particular search phrase - since lots of people are not finding it relevant for their search query?
Bounce rates go hand-in-hand with relevance. If visitors find a page relevant for their search query, they’ll stay on the page for longer. If they have been impressed by what they found on the first page, then they will also more than likely take time to look around other pages of interest on the same site.
This means they’ve visited more than one page and have not bounced directly back to Google. This tells the search engine that they were pleased with what they found.
Time a Visitor Stays on Your Page / Site.
Google monitors the time that visitors stay on web pages. One of the ways they do this is through their Google Analytics platform. Google Analytics is a freemium web analytics service for site owners.
What it does is track and report on your website traffic. Because it's free, a lot of webmasters install it on their sites.
This gives Google the ability to accurately track the site's visitors. It’ll track the number of variables including things like time spent on the site, the route a visitor takes through your site, how many pages they visit, what operating system they use, the screen resolution, the device they are using, and so on.
Most of the on-page factors are within the control of the webmaster. Even bounce rates and the time the visitor stays on your site is within your control, to a certain extent.
If you provide quality content and the rich experience visitor's demand these days, then you’ll get lower bounce rates while keeping the visitor on your page/site for longer.
Off Page SEO Factors
1. Click-through Rates (CTR)
This is something we should be paying particular attention to. To a certain extent, the CTR is within our control. For anyone who's unfamiliar with CTR, then take a look at this example:
Let’s say a web page ranks in position #5 on page one of Google and the folks seem to like that listing in the SERP, with 15% of them clicking on the link. Usually, a page listed in position #5 would get around 5% of the clicks.
When Google sees more people than expected clicking that link, they will give it a boost in their rankings. After all, it’s apparently what the searchers are looking for, and so it deserves a higher slot on the first page.
On the other side of the coin, imagine a spammer (an “official” term used by Google to describe someone trying to manipulate rankings for one of their web pages) manages to bypass Google’s algorithm with a “loophole” and ranks #1 for a search term.
Remember, in position #1, a link typically gets 31% of the clicks. However, this #1 ranking page only gets 15% because searchers are not impressed with the link title or its description.
On top of that, 95% of people who do visit that link bounce right back to Google within 30 seconds or less of clicking the link. Google now has clear user signals that the web page ranking #1 is not popular with searchers.
Because of this, Google starts moving the site further down the rankings until it's finally knocked off. This means that bad content will rarely get to the top of Google, and if it does, it won’t get to stay there for long.
2. Social Signals
Social signals like Google +1s, Tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest pins, and so on, are clearly used as ranking factors in Google, though very minor ones. Any boost that social signals might offer your site will be short-lived. This is because of the transient nature of "social buzz".
For example, let's say that a new piece of content goes viral and is shared around by thousands of people via social media channels. This is typically done within a relatively short space of time.
Google will take notice of this because they realize the content is something visitors want to see, and so they give it a ranking boost. After the social interest peaks and the shares inevitably start to decline, so does the ranking boost in Google.
Social sharing is a great concept and should be encouraged on your site. Even so, don’t expect the backlinks created from social channels to give you a big or long-lasting ranking boost, because they won't.
When “webpage A” links to “webpage B” on another site, page B gets a “backlink”. Google sees this as page A (on site A) voting for page B (on site B). The general idea is that the more "external" backlinks, or “votes”, that a page gets from other sites on the web, the more important or valuable it must be.
Today, and probably for the foreseeable future, backlinks remain one of the most important rankings factors in Google’s algorithm. However, more is not always better. Let me explain.
A web page that has dozens of links from authority sites like CNN, BBC, NY Times, etc, is clearly an important web page. After all, quality, authority sites like the ones above would hardly link to trash.
A page that has thousands of backlinks from low-quality websites, on the other hand, is most probably not very important at all. Clearly, backlinks can be a powerful indicator of a page’s value, but just as clear is that not all backlinks are equal.
By having hundreds, or even thousands, of low-quality backlinks pointing to a single page, is a good indicator to Google that webmasters are trying to self-promote their own pages to manipulate the results in the SERPs.
What Google needs to do is “grade” backlinks according to their worth. Backlinks from high quality “authority” web pages will count far more than backlinks from low-quality pages/sites.
Therefore, a page that gets a lot of high-quality backlinks is likely to be able to rank well in Google. A page that has a lot of low-quality backlinks, however, will struggle to rank at all. Google may even penalize that page or site for having too many poor quality backlinks, for the reasons mentioned above.
Make pages for users, not search engines
This is probably the most important point in all of the Webmaster guidelines. If you keep this in mind at all times, then you’ll be on the right path.
In the past, many webmasters created pages to please the search engines. They gave little or no thought to providing a good visitor experience. At least this was the case with those more interested in making money online than sharing valuable information on a given topic. Well, that was then and this is now.
Whatever you do in 2015 and beyond, don’t just create content for the search engines in the hope of ranking better and building more traffic. Pleasing algorithms over people is an old hat tactic that no longer works.
Instead, you need to create the content that your audience wants to see, read and interact with. Keeping your visitors happy makes Google happy. When you get to please the search engine giant, your authority and traffic will build in a safe, natural, and more sustainable way.
Avoid tricks designed to manipulate your rankings
Google offers you a rule of thumb. If you are comfortable explaining what you are doing to a Google employee or one of your competitors (who could report you to Google), then you are probably doing things the right way. Another great test is to ask yourself whether you would do what you are doing if search engines didn't exist.
Make your website stand out in your field
No matter what niche you are in, and no matter what keywords you want to rank for, you ultimately have 10 other pages competing with you. They are the 10 web pages at the top of the Google SERPs.
That’s where you want to rank, right? Therefore, you need to ignore all the other tens of thousands of pages ranking on page two and beyond. Your focus is only on the top 10 slots of page one.
The questions you need to be ever mindful of are: How can I make my page stand out from these competitors? And, how can I make my page better, more engaging, different and valuable?
Google needs to see that your page adds to the top 10 in a unique way, and not merely blends in with the rest. In other words, you want to rise above being just another rehashed page on the same topic.
Google Tells Us to Avoid the Following
Automatically Generated Content
In an effort to build websites faster, webmasters have created a variety of tools, including some that can actually create content for you. Any content attained like this is very poor in quality and considered spam by Google.
You should avoid any tool or service that offers to auto-generate content at all costs. This will get your site penalized or even completely de-indexed (removed from Google's SERPs).
Some webmasters go as far as having all the content on all their web pages automatically generated (and updated) from stuff on other websites. For example, they can use various data feeds (databases that contain information like product listings, and articles, etc.), and RSS feeds.
This way they get to populate their web pages effortlessly, but their site has no unique or original content of its own. As these feeds update, so too do the pages on the site that has stolen the content.
The only time when using data feeds is a good idea is if you own the feed. This means its contents will be unique to your own site. An example would be an e-commerce site using a product feed.
Creating Pages with Little or No Original Content
Great content is King, and that means it has to be unique as well as well written. The term "thin page" describes content on a website that has little or no original material.
These are pages which don’t offer much value to the visitor. They include pages with very little written content (word count), or pages that might have a lot of content but it’s not original.
Being original is also more than just having a unique article that passes a Copyscape check (Copyscape is a free plagiarism tool that lets you check articles for uniqueness). Truly original content also means offering new ideas, thoughts, and insights, things not found on the other pages in the top 10.
In an effort to rank for more search terms, some webmasters make text snippets on their web pages invisible. This typically includes keyword rich text using lots of related terms the webmaster hopes to rank for.
It's not hard to make text invisible to the visitor. All you have to do is use the same color font as the page background, i.e. white text on a white background.
However, if you try to hide text from Google in this way, well, you're on a hiding to nothing to be frank. This used to work several years ago, but today it will more than likely get your site penalized.
Hidden links also come under the umbrella of hidden text. This was a tactic used in the past to spread link juice around, maybe by linking a full stop (period) to another page in an effort to make it rank better.
There are a number of other ways to hide text on a web page, but Google is on to all of them, so my advice to you is don’t do it.
This term refers to pages that are set up to rank for a single specific keyword phrase. They are highly optimized for that phrase, and their sole purpose is to rank high for the chosen search term. Traffic is then typically (though not always) funneled to another page or site from the doorway page.
Scraped content is the content copied from other websites. Spammers often do this to add more material to their own websites, quickly and with very little effort.
Scraping can involve grabbing entire articles or just parts of another webpage. Scraping tactics also include copying someone else’s content and then swapping out synonyms in an attempt to make the stolen content appear unique.
Even pages that embed podcasts or other shared media like YouTube videos, for example, can be considered scraped content unless the webmaster adds their own unique commentary or thoughts to the page that embeds the media. A webpage should offer value to a visitor, and that includes a unique experience.
Participating in Affiliate Programs Without Adding Sufficient Value
One of Google’s recent algorithm changes targeted web pages that were heavy on adverts. Google reasons that too many ads on a page make for a bad user experience. Therefore, ads should be secondary to the main content, and must not dominate the page.
Another thing you need to be aware of is how to properly run reviews sites if that's your thing. Your reviews need to be totally unique and contain original thoughts and ideas. Your reviews must also contain information that is not available on the merchant site or other affiliate sites.
If you simply go to Amazon and use their product description and user comments, then your page is not only scraped content, but it also fails to add sufficient value.
Reviews need to have original thoughts, ideas and suggestions to be of any importance. After all, why would someone want to read your reviews when they can read all the exact same information on Amazon or the manufacturer’s own site?
A good test is to strip out all of the adverts and scraped content from a page (even if you re-wrote it in your own words), and then see whether the page still offers sufficient value to the visitor.
Loading Pages with Keywords
In an effort to rank for more search terms, some webmasters stuff additional keywords into their page. Quite often, you will see a list of keywords on the page, maybe in the form of a “related terms” section, or a list of US states, as two examples.
Another way to overload a web page with keywords is when the author reuses keywords or key phrases too many times (keyword density) in the content. High keyword density is another old hat practice that no longer works.
Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword or key phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on that same page.
When the same keywords or key phrases get too much use, the sentence reads unnaturally or grammatically incorrect. This wasn't such an issue when webmasters used to write for search engines over their visitors.
Google offers this example as an explanation
“We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
As you can see, that is totally unnatural and not easy to read, yet this is exactly the sort of trash that used to dominate the SERPs of yesteryear.
Stuffing pages with keywords is clearly something that is for the benefit of the search engines. Try it and you page/site will get a slap from Google. Like so many other such tactics, this used to work once, but not anymore.
A good example of user-generated spam includes the comments posted on your site. If you accept comments, and you should do by the way, make sure you moderate them. In addition, only accept legitimate comments that add to the “conversation” you started on the page.
Never approve comments that simply attempt to stroke your ego with things like “Great blog”, or comments that ask totally irrelevant questions like, “Hey, great WordPress theme, what is it?”
Only approve comments that raise legitimate points, or ask legitimate questions about your article specifically. Trash anything that's non-specific, or mark it as SPAM if it's obvious.
Another type of user-generated content that you need to be careful of is guest posts. If you accept articles from other people and post them on your site, you must never accept any content that is below your own standards. I would also suggest you never allow others to place external links in the body of an article.
If the author wants to include a link back to their website, only allow it in the author's bio section at the end of the article. Furthermore, make sure those links are nofollow.
When I have suggested this in the past, people have complained that if they follow my guidelines, they won’t get people to write guest posts because there is nothing in it for the writer. Well, my reply is this: if they don’t follow these guidelines, then they won’t have a site to accept guest posts.
If your site reaches authority status in your niche, then writers will benefit from the exposure; something they would not have otherwise received. And anyway, having their article and name published on a well-known and well-respected website or blog is of more value to them than some link in an author's bio box.
A Summary - Quality Content & an Example
There are a number of different types of content that you can add to your website. This includes articles, product reviews, quizzes, videos, etc. However, no matter what type of content you are looking at, it has to adhere to the following three points:
1. Create for the visitor, not the search engines. That means it needs to read well and have no visible signs of keyword stuffing.
2. Add value to the top 10 SERP (if you want to rank in the top 10, your page has to be seen as adding something unique to that collection of pages).
3. Give your visitors what they want. Create the content they want to see.
To put it simply, all of the content on your site has to be the best that you can make it.
A good rule of thumb, as suggested by Google, is this: would your content look out of place published in a glossy magazine?
If you ever hire ghost-writers, be sure to proofread their content first to make sure that any facts are correct and there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
As you read through the content that you intend to publish on your website, ask yourself these questions:
·Is it content that your visitors will find really useful?
·Is their information in there that your visitors are unlikely to know, and therefore find informative?
·If it’s a review, does it sound overly hyped up? Are both sides of the argument covered, i.e. positives and negatives? Is there information in the review that is not available on the manufacturer’s website or other affiliate sites?
Does the review offer a different way of looking at things which may help the buyer make a better-informed decision prior to purchase?
OK, so we know what Google does want. Now let’s take a look at some poor content, just so that we can identify what won’t work.
Here is the first paragraph of an article I found online a few years ago. I'm sure you can guess what the author was trying to optimize the page for.
You won't find this page in Google search anymore, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why ;)
It’s not too difficult to guess the main phrase the author was targeting, is it. In fact, it reminds me of the Google “do not do” example we saw earlier about custom cigar humidors.
“Pomegranate juice benefits” sticks out like a sore thumb. In fact, in a relatively short article (just 415 words) that phrase appeared 17 times. That’s a key phrase density of 4%.
How many people think a key phrase density of 4% is OK or natural? Is repeating the same phrase so many times in one piece normal? Yet even 4% was moderate in the heyday of trash articles.
Do you want to know what a natural density is?
Natural density of a keyword phrase is whatever density occurs naturally when an expert in their field writes an article.
If you look back at that pomegranate paragraph, there is an even bigger sin.
This sentence does not make sense:
“The pomegranate fruit contains a lot of healthy nutrients and you can get a lot of good immune system boosters out of pomegranate juice benefits.”
It doesn’t make sense at all. It should finish with “…out of pomegranate juice”, but the webmasters used it as an opportunity to stuff in that main key phrase again, making the sentence read nonsense.
This is a very clear indicator that the author was stuffing that phrase into the article in an attempt to help it rank higher for that phrase.
The sad thing is that this type of article may well have ranked well before Panda and Penguin came along. Why is that sad? Because web searchers had to put up with this kind of rubbish constantly. It's not the kind of stuff they were searching for, but it was often the kind of stuff they got nonetheless.
Today, no amount of sneaky black hat techniques could get this page into the top 10, at least not for the long term. That is the difference between pre and post Panda/Penguin SEO. It’s the reason this page no longer exists in Google, or in fact online. The webmaster has closed the site down, presumably after it stopped being profitable.
If I do a Google search for pomegranate juice benefits, the top-ranked page (at the time of writing) does NOT include the exact phrase at all! How’s that for a natural density?
The number two ranked site includes it once in 2,696 words (a density of just 0.04%), and the number three ranked page does not include the term at all.
The lesson to learn from this is to throw keyword density rules out of the window.
What may be a surprise to many, is that out of the top 10 pages ranking for the term “pomegranate juice benefits”, the only ONE has that phrase in the page title. In fact, only one of the top 10 pages includes that exact phrase anywhere in the article.
Maybe you think that statistic is just a fluke, so try it for yourself. Enter any search term that isn’t a brand name or product name. You will see that, in general, the top 10 search results in Google list far fewer pages containing the actual search term. This number has decreased over the last year.
Okay, so the question is this: how is Google able to decide how to rank web pages for the term “pomegranate juice benefits”, or any other search term if they are not looking for that actual phrase in the content?
The answer lies in the words on the page, but in a less obvious, though totally natural way. Let me ask you a question.
Finding Theme Words & Phrases
You have a couple of options when it comes to finding theme words for your content.
Option 1 – Google SERPs + SEOQuake
The first option is 100% free and involves using the Google SERPs together with a browser plugin called SEOQuake (a program, which allows users to view a large number of SE parameters on the fly).
How to use:
1. Install SEO Quake in your browser. There are versions for Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome.
2. Go to Google and search for the phrase you want to rank for.
3. Visit each of the top 10 pages in turn, and click the SEOQuake button to show the menu.
4. Select Page Info from that menu.
The resulting page info screen includes lists of keyword densities. We’re not interested in the density itself. We want to know what that density tells us about the importance of the word or phrase.
Here is a density report for my health benefits of krill oil search phrase.
It should be no surprise that this top-ranked page includes the words “krill”, “oil” and “health” in the top five most used words on the page. You’ll also find 2, 3 and 4-word phrases listed lower down the report.
By going through each of the top 10 pages and checking which words and phrases appear the most times, you can then build up your list of these words and phrases to include in your own content.
Option 2 – Web Content Studio (WCS)
I wrote a tool that I personally use called Web Content Studio (WCS). As it's my own tool, I do stand to profit from any sales from it, and therefore need to be upfront and transparent about that.
Since I do not want this blog to be a sales pitch for my own products, I won’t be going into details on how to use it. Instead, I’ll just list the main benefits and offer you a URL where you can check it out for yourself. The main benefits of using Web Content Studio are as follows:
1.The speed of finding niche vocabulary. Type in the phrase you want to rank for and WCS will return lists of words and phrases on the pages that rank in the top 10.
2.WCS will tell you how many of the top 10 pages each phrase appears on. This is important because a phrase that appears 100 times in the top 10 may appear 100 times on a single page, and not once on any of the other pages.
The most important words appear on most of the top 10 pages, so these are the ones we need to target and these are the ones WCS delivers.
3.WCS has a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Ge) editor. This allows you to create your content within the program, and then run reports to check the theme and quality of your work.
For more details on the tool itself, visit: http://webcontentstudio.com
We now know the importance of having a niche vocabulary in our content, along with the ways to find it. That will go a long way to making sure the articles you write are quality.
Once you get to understand the niche vocabulary in your chosen topic, you can then use it naturally as you compose your content. There is a number of other on-page factors that you need to get right too, so let’s take a look at those now.
Why Is Writing So Tough?
One of the most difficult things for a new marketer to master is actually writing the content for the website. I think the main reason is that it requires a bit of creativity, and is not easily taught as a step by step process.
I can show you in a video how to change the font size for your site, or how to insert a picture, and you can easily reproduce the same or similar results. But each article that you write will be a unique process based on the research you do for your niche.
You could watch me write 100 stellar articles and it won’t make you a better writer!
I am not a professional writer, nor do I have any specific training. However, I did start off with some very basic writing knows that I think helped me learn at a faster pace than a lot of beginner affiliate marketers.
In this blog, I hope to teach you these basic skills in a way that you can use them as the foundation for your own writing.
Once you have these skills down and they become more ‘second nature’, you’ll be able to embellish and expand using the research and knowledge you have of your own niche. You’ll also be able to add your own flare to convey your personality through your writing.
That’s the beauty of affiliate marketing with a blog! You can just be yourself, and you will naturally brand your website using your own personal style of writing.
Writing A Well Structured Article
The core foundation for my writing was the Five Paragraph Essay I learned in high school. I went to public school in California, so I’m not sure what other schools teach around the world, but this is how I learned to structure all essays I wrote that was trying to convey a message or argument.
The essay is divided into five parts.
2.Supporting Argument #1
3.Supporting Argument #2
4.Supporting Argument #3
From there, we can further divide each paragraph into a mini-essay of five sentences following the same formula of introduction, supporting arguments, and a conclusion. When you get that granular, it can be hard to stick to the formula so strictly, but it’s nice to have a structure to follow if you get writer's block.
Let’s look at an example of how this five sentence structure works first, and then we can look at the entire article.
I want to write an article about bottle conditioning beer, which is the process of using existing yeast to produce carbonation after the brew has completed the fermentation phase. One of the supporting arguments, or points I want to make, is that sanitation is very important to this process.
A rough outline for this paragraph could look like this:
Sentence 1: Why is sanitation important?
Sentence 2: Potential side effects of poor sanitation
Sentence 3: Which equipment should be sanitized
Sentence 4: Proper sanitation procedure
Sentence 5: Rewards of good sanitation + transition into the next paragraph
Just by looking at this example above, you can see that there’s a lot of information to pack into just 5 sentences, but it can be done. Remember, this is a very basic outline.
If you are struggling to write enough content, or content that you are happy with, start with the very basics before you move onto more complicated content writing methods.
That’s a pretty hefty paragraph, and I could probably expand it into two or three paragraphs if I really wanted to…maybe even a whole blog post including a video and some images. You will often discover that by planning things out, you end up with more content than you intended, which is good.
At the very least, a five paragraph essay with 5 sentences in each paragraph will be about 400-500 words, which also just so happens to be the minimum word count we want to shoot for in our blog posts.
Writing An Outline
We already touched on the importance of writing an outline for the beginner writer, but let’s take a look at the article as a whole this time. Writing an outline using the five-paragraph essay method is not just about filling our minimum word count and getting this sucker published.
Remember, we want to make our articles easy to read and to actually convey a point to the reader. Many times, the people reading our articles will be searching for specific information. If we can’t deliver that information, they are just two clicks away from someone that can.
Having an outline also gives us the ability to have an overview of our work so we can craft the flow from the foundation, then fill in the gaps. When I write a rough outline I don’t have a set form I fill in per se, but I do have the general paragraph topics and some notes under each heading.
Your introduction and conclusion paragraphs are basically already written for you once you think of your three supporting arguments.
This is because the introduction paragraph can be used to allude to your three points, and the conclusion paragraph can be used to wrap up your three points in a conclusion. Add an introduction and transition to each paragraph, and you now have five sentences each!
See! Using this outline, then following the sentence structure from the last section, you can see how easy it is to achieve more than five hundred words on any topic of your choice. Of course, the process of outlining your articles takes longer than just writing them off the cuff!
But as a novice, sometimes we just have to take the long way in the beginning. As you develop your writing skills you can use a mental outline. It used to take me about 2 hours to write 400 words, and now I can write 1500 in about 60 minutes if it’s a topic I don’t need to research.
Before we leave the topic of outlines, I wanted to visit what a potential introduction paragraph might look like. I realize that the method of alluding to my three topics might not be obvious to some. Keeping in mind my three topic choices from above, and also considering that a potential keyword.
I’ve marked the keyword with [ ] and each sentence with the number that correlates to the outline above. Your writing, of course, should not have those markings.
For another tutorial on how to write articles for your website using this method, including a fully completed version, please see this extended training: https://my.wealthyaffiliate.com/training/how-to-write-a-500-word-article-the-easy-way
One easy way to get some writing down on a page if you don’t want to mess with the detail of creating an outline is to do a simple a ‘brain dump’ of the topic you are writing about.
This just means that you write without structure, grammar or spelling checks, or even thinking of reader comprehension. The point is to just get everything down on (virtual) paper.
Once that’s done, you can go back and edit to make it a comprehensive piece of writing. Sometimes I even find that I can divide up a single brain dump session into more than one article!
Going back after that first draft means you can cut away a lot of fluff, but it also provides an opportunity to take one idea and expand upon it. In combination with your keyword research, you can also see what keywords might fit the text, and that can give you more direction as you chop it up into multiple pieces of content.
Structuring a Blog Post
Writing a blog post is not the same as writing a novel, research report, or high school essay, and it can take some getting used to the internet world of writing. I’ve been blogging so long, that I can feel my book turning out a little like one giant blog post because that’s just what my writing style has turned into.
Blogging is much more natural in communication than other forms of writing. It’s important to keep in mind that people on the internet have a very short attention span, and most niches will benefit from having content that caters to that type of mindset. It doesn’t sound pretty when I say it that way, but them’s the breaks dude.
In previous sections, you saw me create a five sentence paragraph. Each of those sentences was quite long because I was trying to fit one complete idea into a sentence to demonstrate a point to you. Together they created quite a “chunky” paragraph.
When I write for my blogs, however, I create much shorter paragraphs, often using paragraph breaks between each small idea, sometimes even arbitrary breaks just to separate the content so it doesn’t turn into a wall of text.
Literature enthusiasts might kill me for what I’m teaching you here, but keep in mind that people probably aren’t reading your blog for ‘pleasure’. They are reading to find information that they want, and it’s important to make that information easy for them to find and interpret. Your sales depend on it!
Breaking up your post into small paragraphs makes it easy to skim and understand information. Large blocks of text can be confusing if you lose your place, and may cause some people to stop reading after a sentence or two.
Another tactic to use is h3 and h4 tags to give your paragraphs “titles” or “subtitles” to help carry the casual reader through your writing.
Yes, you have to do the heavy lifting when it comes to delivering information.
You shouldn’t make your reader guess what you mean to say! Also, remember that using the h tags (h3, h4) also have the potential to improve your optimization for your keyword.
Keep in mind that there will likely be other media on the page like images, video, and possibly ads somewhere. Keeping the text portion of your post in short pieces ensure that you will not end up with walls of text, even on smaller mobile devices.
Lots of folks will be browsing your site on a smartphone, and that number grows every day, so it’s always good to double check the look of your pages on your smartphone.
Who Cares About Content?
Branding Yourself Through Content Creation
Content is the lifeblood of your business. Without it, why should anyone visit your website? When I got started writing, I always struggled because I thought that no one would care what I had to say and it seemed like everyone else was smarter and had more experience than me.
How could I ever compete with that?
There is no easy answer to this. If your writing is bad now, you need to practice to make it better. If you don’t know very much about your niche, you need to do some research and learn more about it.
It’s hard to envision what your writing style will look like in a few years time, but if you are going to make money blogging, you need to start working on it now.
Follow the basic instructions outlined in this blog, and you will be on your way to being able to publish several posts per week to your website. Consistency in posting is one metric that definitely helps with authority and rank in the search engines.
Creating unique, interesting, insightful articles is your opportunity to find a space in any niche you choose! I don’t want to give you too big of a dose of hippie-dippie motivation, but I truly do believe that your unique voice is one of the strongest marketing points on your site.
One thing I really want you to walk away from this blog knowing is that if YOU think a certain way, there are other people out there that think the same way! Maybe you are a novice in your industry and feel confused about some of the language the experts use to explain certain things.
Don’t you think that there are probably one hundred other people out there that are just as confused? That confusion is your opportunity to help those people understand. Helping people in some way is a strong foundation of any business.
Even something as simple as presenting old information in a new way can be a powerful branding tool. What are you good at and how can you showcase that on your site? Are you good at explaining things?
Do you know how to edit video? Are you funny? Are you compassionate? Are you a stickler for detailed research?
Anyone of these qualities can go very far in branding your business in an already crowded space, so don’t be afraid to be yourself when writing articles for your website.
When I started my One More Cup of Coffee website in 2012 I was certainly not an expert in internet marketing. But I took the things I knew and did my own training tutorials showing newbies how to get started.
They were not the best videos and not the only ones on the topic. I was certainly not the first one to do a “how to make money online” website! But every day get views, shares, and sales.
The compliment I get most often is that the videos have very clear instructions and are easy to follow, and my reviews are honest. To tell you the truth, I think being simple, clear, and friendly can be a great way to brand yourself in any niche!
Getting Better at Writing
If you still hunt and peck to find the keys or just know that you are an inefficient typer, you might want to take some typing classes either online or at a local night school/university.
I was lucky to have taken a typing class in high school and though it took me more than a decade after graduating to make use of those skills, my brain was still wired to find the keys while looking at the screen. It sounds silly, but having this skill means I can knock out a few thousand words in an afternoon rather than a few hundred.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Great, now I have to learn ANOTHER thing before I even get started!”. Well, the typing thing is just a suggestion. I do a lot of writing every day, and couldn’t live without it. I think a lot of people get frustrated with how long it takes to actually pop out an article and get it published.
In combination with how long it takes to start generating traffic to a website, the task of actually making money can seem too far off in the distance to be realistic. Being able to write at a decent pace just means there’s one less obstacle on the path to getting your website profitable.
Getting better at writing is like getting better at anything else – practice practice practice. If you can’t type very well right now, don’t freak out. You’ll manage. But being able to write confidently and efficiently is just one of the skills that I feel has a concrete impact on your ability to achieve success in this business.
Why Blogging Is The Best Way To Start Your Business
One of the reasons I’m such a fan of blogging as a way to start your affiliate marketing business is that it allows for a large margin of error. It costs nothing to conduct research and write blog posts to publish on your website.
If you create a piece of poor quality content, it won’t damage your site. The worst that can happen is that it will generate no traffic and eventually just be forgotten.
Trust me when I say that I started off writing some very low-quality articles simply because I didn’t know the difference. It took me a few months to figure out what would rank and what wouldn’t, but it took me years to actually start to really care about quality and understand the relationship between me as an online business owner and the visitors to my website.
You’ll get there too, with time, and experience.
Other than the fantastic cost of $0, and room for plenty of mistakes, it also allows you to be creative in a way that most people know at least a little bit about (writing).
You hopefully chose a niche that you’re are interested in researching and writing about, so even though it might not have been obvious, you already have the required basic skill set to run your business. Most of the work involved with running a profitable blog is the research and writing stuff.
On top of that, at the very least, it’s a pretty simple process to get results. We’ve all written emails to friends or book reports in school. This type of casual, personal writing is great for communicating things to your readers.
If you can just pretend that you are writing an email to a friend teaching or telling them something, you’re ready to write your first blog post.
In contrast, imagine jumping into the world of paid advertising where you have to install tracking software, manage budgets for campaigns, calculate the cost per click and on top of all that, you have to manage the content of your sales funnel to make sure it’s converting properly. Confusing? Yeah, it can be.
That’s why blogging is a better way to get your first business rolling in my opinion. The process is quite simple:
1. Find a keyword
2. Write an article on the topic
3. Move on to the next keyword and article
In a nutshell, it’s fun, cheap, creative, and (relatively) simple to make money from a blog.
Writing Without Research
Not all writing has to be done with research, by the numbers, or trying to rank for anything at all! There are several reasons why you might want to publish something on your website without any traffic or competition research, or at least disregarding what you find. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.
1. It’s Part Of A Sales Funnel
Not everything on your site has to rank! I will talk about this more in the next blog (Funnel Strategies), but the gist is that you can leverage other posts on your site that rank to drive traffic to places that don’t rank well or you don’t intend to rank.
Ten articles that rank and get 1 visitor per day can drive 10 visitors per day to a sales page.
2. For Your Own Enjoyment
This is a business, but that doesn’t mean it has to be work! If you are interested, or maybe even passionate about your niche, then you are bound to have some ideas that simply don’t fit nicely into the “niche marketing” box.
Maybe you learned something new, or have an idea you want to discuss. Maybe you just want to create a resource because you struggled with something for a while but figured it out now.
You might see tons of competition for a particular phrase, but want to create your own original resource with unique tips that you can link to in the future. If it’s good for your visitors, then it’s good for your business.
It’s also perfectly OK to mix personal posts with your business posts because people are interested in you!
If you have a website about motorcycle maintenance and you had a frustrating day wrenching on the bike, rant about it! As you gain followers in social media, people will enjoy this ‘sneak peeks’ into the life of their online friend and mentor.
3. Building Your Brand
Sometimes, keyword posts, tutorials, product reviews, sales pages – all that can seem very stiff, especially if you are a new writer and really trying to hit your keyword targets.
Writing for search engines instead of writing for your readers is a common newbie mistake. Adding some posts that are not keyword targeted will make you seem more like a person, and less like a business.
This increases your trust factor, which can lead to more sales down the road. Sharing your knowledge just for the enjoyment of being part of a community of enthusiasts racks up major authority points for you and your brand, even though the results might not be measurable in numbers.
As people being to recognize you as a trusted brand, they will return to your site more often, pick your URL over others in search results, read posts you share on social media, and offer up their opinion more freely.
From a practical standpoint, this provides you with an opportunity to engage with your audience. Comments, likes, shares – they generate social activity and possibly new content for your website, which snowballs into more success over time.
More social reach means more shares, which leads to more exposure for your business. More comments mean more content on your website and more content ideas for you to write about.
It’s clearly not optimized for anything and isn’t even that long. But notice the comment from Dave, and the response from MMM saying, “You have inspired a whole new series of posts on this area of retirement that I’ll start writing about right away…”
Offering your opinion starts a discussion. Even if people hate you or disagree with you, that’s still views, shares, and comments that boost your rank and authority over time.
The Young Turks, a news media outlet I watch sometimes, leans hard left on the political spectrum. But in the comment section of YouTube, there are always a lot of conservatives saying not-so-nice things about what they are reporting. Conservatives watching liberal media just to get mad?
Sure, whatever works! TYT makes money on every view they get no matter if the viewer is conservative or liberal :)
Maddox, a somewhat-underground satirist regularly calls his fans “idiots” and argues with them non-stop. But people love it. They send him to hate mail trying to catch him off guard or leave voicemails for his podcast with “proof” that he’s wrong about whatever he said in last weeks broadcast.
I’m not saying that you need to be rude or hated to be popular! That’s just one angle to take, and it is probably the harder of two paths. The point I want to make is that writing personal blog posts allows you to create a unique brand within any niche, even the ones saturated with competition.
Your business might be just another yoga for a 50+ website out there, but with a bit of personal branding, you can be the funny Yoga for the 50+ website, or spiritual Yoga for the 50+ website, or something else!
Writing Product Reviews
Writing product reviews is an essential part of making money online. Product reviews are awesome because they provide you with a simple, easy to understand the method of monetizing your website. All you do is offer an opinion on a product, add an affiliate link, and you’re pretty much done.
Product review keywords are often pretty easy to rank for as well, meaning that you can double up on traffic through search engine rankings and sales funnels on your website.
However, this is also one of the harder things for me to teach because there are so many ways to do it. There’s no single “right” method that’s going to guarantee that you make sales from a review page.
I have plenty of review pages that make me $0, but I have some that make $1000’s each month. It just depends on how you want to divide up your promotional efforts and how you monetize your website.
That being said, there are a few basic rules you can follow! The hardest part of getting started is not knowing what a typical review looks like. As with other types of writing I’ve discussed so far, start with a template, then branch out with your own style as you get more comfortable.
Anatomy of an Effective Product Review
1.Picture of product and rating or feature summary
2.General introduction to the product and what it’s used for (include text, images, video)
3.Pros, or positives
4.Cons, or negatives
5.Comparison to other similar products
6.Final review and summary
In it’s most basic form, you can accomplish all of this with a simple text and image post. Add a video, and now you have an interactive, multimedia review that encourages visitor engagement.
Sometimes, simple can be very effective! As you decide to invest more money or time into your business, you can make your reviews more attractive with plugins, or even hire someone to create custom code that you can ‘fill in the blank’ for each unique review (for example, adding star ratings).
The most obvious points to add some flair to your post are going to be the beginning and end. Having an attractive way to display basic product information and rating, in the beginning, gives the “I want it now” crowd an opportunity to make an informed buying decision using your affiliate link.
Having a clear way to display product comparison and final rating towards the end of your post means that readers hungry for information will be able to make their final buying decision without much effort. The easier you make it for people to buy, the more people will actually buy.
A product comparison or related product section near the end of the post also gives an opportunity for folks ‘just browsing’ to stay on your website longer and maybe find something more suitable for them.
At the very least, you will keep them on your site longer which I believe can contribute to authority, and thus, search engine rankings in the long term (Think about it, would Google trust a site more where visitors spend 30 seconds reading or 30 minutes?).
Clicking through to those individual review pages and action taken on those subsequent pages can also increase the rank for your reviews.
Because content is such a struggle for newbies, there’s a huge market for people trying to sell “easy” ways to get content on your website. I will admit – sometimes writing gets pretty exhausting, and I understand the attraction of having someone else do the work for you.
But as you’ll see in these two main content traps, turning to automation can end up destroying your business before it ever sees a day of success.
There are a lot of products on the market right now that claim to create content for you automatically. The majority of them do one of two things.
1.Some of this software “curates” content for you, meaning they grab articles from other websites and publish it on your website. Some larger websites are able to pull this off because they supplement the curated stuff with original content, as well as the fact that they have a do heavy social media marketing to drive traffic to their website.
Google doesn’t rank curated content well simply because it’s not original. Without an existing audience, plenty of insight to augment the curated piece, or a well-thought-out social media strategy, content curation is a waste of your time.
2. Other types of automated software just plain steal content from other websites and attempt to rewrite it.
Some software will take content from foreign languages, then translate it to English (or vice versa). Others will take an original piece of writing, then “spin” it, rewriting it with synonyms to make it unique.
The result is often unreadable to humans and still shows up as only partially original to copyright infringement detection software. These types of software are a waste of money and what they are designed to do is steal the hard work of other people.
The main point I want to make is this: Attempting to game the system by copying articles from other websites is not only wasting time, but it can also damage your business and reputation. Don’t do it. If you really don’t want to do the writing part of affiliate marketing you can outsource it, which we’ll talk about in another blog.
Don’t get too excited though – it’s going to cost you, and you still need to know the difference between good writing and poor writing, so it definitely pays to have some experience in creating your own original content.
Done For You Content
Many people shy away from blogging because they feel that their content creation skills are not up to par, and they don’t want to work on them. This leads them to “done for you” content solutions.
Two popular ones are PLR content and email swipes.
PLR is “private label rights”, and it means that there is a source of content that you are allowed to copy and use as your own.
To someone that doesn’t want to write their own original content and doesn’t want to pay the big cost associated with outsourcing the work to an experienced native English speaker, a one-time-fee for a file full of pre-written articles about your niche may sound appealing. However, this type of content comes with a lot of baggage.
The most apparent issue is that it simply won’t rank as it stands. It’s already been published on the internet for quite some time, on other websites.
Putting it on your site will not drive free traffic to your business through search engines. Why would Google give you rank for something that already exists?
A less apparent issue is that this type of writing is often very general and not keyword targeted. It certainly won’t keep people on your website for very long, let alone convert to sales.
Some writers will tell you that you can always tweak the article to be original, or add your own unique stuff to it. Personally, I think that it’s just faster to write it from scratch rather than try to improve upon the amorphous mess that most PLR starts out as.
Creating a keyword targeted, helpful, and up to date article from original research requires a significant amount of work, but ultimately will produce better results than any other method of writing.
Another type of ‘done for you content’ is email swipes. These are pre-written emails you can copy into your own autoresponder email sequence for email marketing. Most of the time these are targeted towards the “make money online” crowd, but I’m sure that niche-specific email swipes exist.
While these can be a good way to get an idea of how an email sequence should be set up, or even provide a template for you to work from, copying emails directly from email swipes presents one big problem for you – what happens when you need to deliver support to your email list?
I don’t want to dig too far into email marketing, but part of creating an email list is showing that you know what you’re talking about and developing a relationship over time.
If you are so unfamiliar with the topic you are writing about that you need to copy the content directly from another person, I’m not sure how you plan to actually help the folks that respond to your emails.
Using some high converting email swipes as a starting point or template for your own is fine. But copy/ paste messages into your autoresponder is not a formula for success in my opinion.
Pitfalls For New Blog Owners
The allure of shortcuts is the pitfall for many new marketers online. Some people start out wanting (or needing) fast results, while others get frustrated with the slow speed of their progress.
It doesn’t matter what method you’re using to make money online, unless you start out with previous experience or training of some kind, making a consistent profit is going to take time, and require a lot of mistakes.
As soon as you start taking shortcuts or looking for “the easy way”, you become susceptible to scam artists who feed right into your desires.
I write about scams every day, so there’s no way I can cover them all. Thousands are created every year, all under the similar banner of learning the secrets to success so you can make money fast, with no work, guaranteed or your money back.
Though I can’t show you all the scams, I can generalize a bit and help you defend yourself against typical misleading offers, programs, and guides.
Fast Traffic Methods:
The only way to get fast traffic is to pay for it. Any other kind of traffic requires work and time. There may be some exceptions to the rule, like images and videos going viral, but there’s no way to put ‘popularity’ into a formula. Anyone that promises fast, unlimited, free, targeted traffic is lying to you.
Also, stay clear of “traffic packages”, as most of the time they are outsourced to click farms located in developing countries.
Secret Traffic Loopholes: A similar, but equally misleading method is the “amazing secret traffic source” that you can buy for just $5.95. People talk about where to get traffic all the time on forums and blogs, and the vast majority of traffic sources are already known and published somewhere on the internet.
That secret method you just bought is most likely a website you already know, with a link to your own website posted somewhere. I’ve bought products that named, Facebook pages, Reddit, Imgur, and Yahoo Answers as their ultimate secret. Not surprised or impressed? Me either.
Skyrocket Your Earnings: Very rarely does someone stumble upon something that makes a huge change in their business overnight. In my experience, income increases have come over a long period of time, with a lot of changes in between.
I have grown my income 1000%+ over the past 5 years, but there’s no single thing I did to accomplish this except to learn from my mistakes and always try to improve my business.
Make Money Fast: The vast majority of make-money-fast guides involve reselling what you just bought to friends and family. For example, the oldest trick in the book is to sell someone a product that teaches them how to make money quickly and inside the product is says to resell it to two friends!
Another example is if you have to pay to join a membership, and are then encouraged to sell this ‘business opportunity’ to people you know.
One more common quick-profit scheme is to spam affiliate links anywhere possible. A popular example is to upload videos to YouTube then put affiliate links to ebooks in the description. Can it make money?
Yeah. But conversions are extremely low if any, and most of what you are doing are annoying people instead of starting a real business.
Recently, binary options trading software has become popular. This has replaced the Forex trading scams from a decade ago. You have to deposit $250 and the software is supposed to tell you which way the stock market is going to you can make winning trades.
Personally, I think if something like that truly existed it would cost $250 million instead of $250 dollars.
Autopilot Profits: Does making money with no working sound appealing to you? Yeah, me too. Make money while you sleep, while someone else turns all the gears of the business for you. Sorry, that’s just not the way the world works.
If you want money, you have to work for it.
Can you make money in your sleep? Absolutely. I do it all the time. But remember that I work during the day, and worked on my websites for several months without profiting at all. Anyone who claims “instant profit on autopilot” is either lying to you or has a lot of experience and crafted a decent plan before launching their idea.
Making money on autopilot is possible, but someone still has to be in the driver seat and know how to work the controls. You have to learn how business works, how to pay people to run it, and how to make sure you make more money than you are paying people. There is no ‘set and forget’ system or ‘virtual ATM’.
Done For You Systems: This is another idea that appeals to lazy people who don’t want to put in the work required to start a business. The “done for you” thing is promoted in many types of online marketing.
DFY email campaigns, DFY affiliate websites, and DFY passive income. Sorry, but nobody is going to do the work on your business for free, and website visitors are not going to buy something from you without a good reason.
I get emails like this all the time: “I have no job, and need rent money in a week. I also have two kids, and no time to run a business. Can you build the website for me and get it profitable, then I’ll give you 20% of the profits. Make it snappy. Thanks”
Yes, that’s an exaggerated look at some of the emails I receive, but lots of people do actually believe that there’s some kind of done for you system out there. Let me drill this into your head again – there is no easy money out there, at all.
Every single dollar ever earned in the history of online business took some kind of work, somewhere. The sooner you get ready to put in the time, the closer you will get to actually turning a profit.
Funding Your Startup and Blog
Lots of you are starting out on a budget and feel like you don’t have enough money to start a business. Actually, it’s just $11/year for a domain and $100/year for hosting.
That means it’s about $0.30 to run an online business. If you don’t have that much money, personally, I think you need to get your finances squared away before you think about starting a business.
Once you factor in any kind of training, any kind work on your website, themes, plugins, and whatever else comes up, it’s clear that having at least a bit of disposable cash on hand to run your business is a good idea.
In my first year of business, I spent $600. That’s amazing compared to the $100k+ that most brick and mortar businesses need, but it’s not like any of us have hundreds of idle dollars just laying around. So let’s talk about funding your business with other online work.
If you truly are in need of money and at the same time are 100% committed to starting an online business, you are going to have to work extra hard. You might not even realize right now how hard you have to work – that’s how hard.
The good news is that you have at least two skills right now that you can use to make money to fund your business. It won’t be tons of money, but it’ll be extra money that you didn’t have before. I’m talking about finding work online. My favorite site is oDesk (now Upwork), but Freelancer is another one, and there are many more.
1. Be a VA (virtual assistant)
People need all kinds of mini-jobs done online. You can answer emails, manage social media campaigns, sort through photos, spell check, do photo editing, help research topics, and a host of other things.
You’ll have to browse jobs and see what skills you have that can be marketed. There’s a very good chance that you can do something, but you have to look for it because the job isn’t just going to land in your lap.
To compete with developing countries, you may have to work for $5 an hour, but the work can be done in the evenings or whenever you have time.
Some jobs that require more brain power or experience can pay $10, $20 or more per hour. Just five extra hours of work per week at $5 per hour is still $100 extra dollars per month to put towards your business.
2. Write Articles
Native English speakers are in demand, and if you sell your English writing skills at a discount, you can definitely win some job bids. Once you get a decent portfolio of satisfied customers and writing projects complete, you can start to charge more.
As I mentioned in the outsourcing section, finding good writers is hard. Be a good writer, and you’ll be in demand. Afraid of writing or working online? You have to start somewhere, and fear is not an option for those that want to turn over a new leaf in their life.
One really good article can land you $50. Write one article a week, and that’s another $200/month you have in your pocket that can be used to fund your business.
Only 24 Hours In The Day
Those that are not battling money issues are worried about time. They have kids, a wife or husband, a full-time job, and other commitments. Time constraints. I understand, but again, we all have to make choices. If you want to create change, you need to be the catalyst for that change.
There are tons of ways to be more efficient, like the Pomodoro technique, which requires you to work for 25 minutes then rest 5 minutes.
There are many different ways to get up earlier in the day and squeeze an extra hour or two of work in the morning before the family wakes up. while you think about how nice it would be to have passive income isn’t going to get you anywhere.
There’s no way I could have built my business to the size it is today continuing to work just three hours a week. But if I started out working 10+ hours a day as I do sometimes now, there’s no way I would have survived the first month!
I built a tolerance and an affinity to affiliate marketing over time, and I think the same method could work for you.
Outsourcing Getting Started Guide
For your first job, there are two very good ways to start. One way is to start with something you already know how to do, but hate doing. It should be something that is repetitive and can be learned. For example, you can hire someone to do your social media work, like having someone share an interesting article on your Facebook page every day.
Another thing you can do is outsource one-time jobs that you cannot do. For example, maybe you want a logo designed or a certain look added to your website. You can hire a coder or designer to do something for you based on your specifications. How much should you pay?
Do a Google search and see what tips come up. Also, you can just create a job and see what bids come in. You will get a wide variety of bids, so you can start to see what’s “average” and what’s above/below that.
The things I outsource most are menial tasks and writing. Earlier this year I had to remove some code from my blog, but it had to be removed from over 800 pages. I hired someone for $6/hour to do it and it only cost me $100 instead of 5 days of my personal time. I also have regular writers to some of my websites, and I’ll discuss hiring writers in this section.
Here’s a list of mistakes I’ve made over the years, that I want you to try to avoid!
Big Mistake #1: Not wanting to ‘waste time’ in the hiring process
I hired a lot of low-quality workers simply because I didn’t do my homework and take the time to talk to a few people. I wanted someone to do the job NOW because I needed it done and didn’t want to do it. But I didn’t want to waste time telling them how to do it, when I could use the same time to just do it myself.
Most of the time this resulted in me hiring low-quality contractors that didn’t fully understand the job, and a finished product I wasn’t happy with.
Some contractors are very self-sufficient and have the experience to match your requests but you have to sift through a bunch of the other kind to find these guys. Some contractors need to be babied and hand-held every step of the way.
The former charge more, the latter charge less. You have to decide which to hire based on your time and your money. Remember! Even if they do poor work, you still have to pay for them.
Big Mistake #2: Hiring the Cheapest Person
Sometimes it’s great to get a deal, and there are some really good contractors out there that will do awesome work for a sweet price. But most of the time when you accept the lowest bid, you are getting someone that will slam it out quickly.
A lot of these guys will just say, “Yes, I understand” to everything you ask, no matter what. They want to deliver the ultimate customer experience to your utmost satisfaction…until you request a re-do three times because they just don’t get it. Their response times will get slower and slower until you get fed up and end the project frustrated.
Check reviews of the people you plan to hire (most outsourcing websites have some kind of feedback system) and try to read between the lines.
Are the good reviews just being polite or are bad reviews from a project manager that set them up for failure? Look for details about what exactly made this person such an excellent/poor hire. Use your instincts.
Big Mistake #3: Trusting That Everyone Cares
Perhaps I’m just naive, but when I started hiring people I just thought that if I gave people a task they would do it 100% to the quality I expected. I found out quickly that they don’t.
I guess it makes sense – it’s not their business. They want to earn some money and move on to the next project. Very few people go above and beyond (BTW if you find one that does, keep in contact with them).
The more specific you are with what you expect, the better results you’ll see. Telling someone, “I want a cool logo for my landscaping business” doesn’t mean squat. Give specific ideas, find examples, and be clear with corrections you have so they can make changes with confidence.
Big Mistake #4: Hiring Fluff Writers
The thing I have wasted most money on in my time as an online marketer is what I call “fluff writers”.
I was so concerned about having my blog active and producing content that I just wanted a writer to ‘write anything’ on a weekly basis. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the process and wanted my blogs to basically run on autopilot.
So I had about ten websites that I hired writers for and had each writer blog two times per week. They did the research, the writing, found pictures and published the posts.
I think I paid them about $20 per five hundred word post they published (counting two hours, $10/hour), so was spending $20 per week times ten. That worked out to $200 per week or $800 per month.
I got pretty much no results from this. The content wasn’t targeted and certainly wasn’t inspired. It was just words on a page that didn’t reach out to anyone and was a huge waste of money.
Big Mistake #5: High Volume Tasks Without Checkpoints
If you are hiring someone for a big project, take the time to walk them through the process and check their work in the beginning as well as throughout the project.
It is a great feeling to have a big project done, the right way, without you needing stick your nose in every 5 days. But it’s an absolutely horrible feeling to have that same project finish with a few mistakes repeated over and over again.
It’s your fault for not paying attention, and now you either have to pay this person MORE money to do it right the second time or hire someone completely new to fix their mistakes or start from scratch.
Here’s what works for me: Create a video showing them how to do it. Ask them to do it once with you live (via Skype or chat). Check their work.
Ask them to do a few more the next day, then stop. Check their work and offer suggestions. Then have them work for a week, then stop (or report when done). Check their work. Then send them off to finish the rest and check in weekly.
This very much depends on the size of the project, but that initial phase of you being 100% sure that they know what they’re doing is very important and can affect the overall satisfaction of both you and the contractor when everything is done.
Most of you will probably be looking to outsource articles at some point in the future, if not right from the beginning. I’ll tell you right now – outsourcing good writing is one of the toughest things to do.
When you are writing for yourself, you can write a 2000 word, mediocre article that goes nowhere and it doesn’t cost you anything but time.
Not only is it free, but you get some experience and knowledge about your niche that can be used later. Outsource that same article to a native English speaker and it will cost you between $10 and $100, and the quality will vary just as much!
How To Get Good Content Written
There are two ways to get good content written for your website, and neither of them is easy. However, it is very much worth your time to find a good writer or two.
Having a writer produce content for you on a regular basis, the way you like it, and that converts to sales will help create more time for you to think about how to grow your business and make more money.
The first method is more random but worth looking into. You need to find a writer that actually knows a lot about what you are writing about.
If you can find someone with either direct experience or at least experience writing about your niche, that’s a huge step in the right direction. However, remember that specialized writers are probably going to charge more!
The other method is to train someone. It won’t work for all niches, but I have done this before, and it worked great for me. I actually paid someone to take some online classes about a subject I wanted them to write about.
They then used that knowledge to write for my website. This is a huge commitment though, and I would only try it with someone you trust.
The writer I had trained was someone that had written content for other websites I owned before and was confident that this was a trustworthy person that would actually learn the material and could use it effectively in the articles.
Some writers are very good at being chameleons. They can do proper research and write excellent articles on a variety of topics. To find one of these writers there’s no easy advice except to hire different people until you find one that meets your expectations.
Speaking of expectations, you are 1/2 of the equation! You can’t expect a freelance writer to read your mind. The more you communicate your expectations, and offer suggestions for corrections (stylistic or formatting), a good writer will learn what you are looking for and change accordingly.
Being able to talk to someone on this 1-on-1 basis is why I like to hire writers on Freelancer and Upwork instead of content farms like iWriter which produce a lot of ‘vanilla’ articles.
Tips For Hiring Writers
Hire a new writer for a short project so you can easily end the contract if they don’t turn out well.
Don’t hire non-native English speakers unless their English is stellar and you have low expectations. It shows in the writing, no matter how much you want to believe it “isn’t that bad” (there are exceptions, for example, many people from northern European countries have excellent English skills).
Have very specific requirements like keyword usage, heading usage, paragraph size, number of paragraphs, etc. The more specific you can get, the more they will be able to write like you want them to
Give examples of good articles that they can emulate the writing style of or take pointers from
Decide if you want them to write just content for you or create a whole blog post with images, links, text formatting, etc
Make sure you have a goal in mind. Are they writing just for the sake of content?
Give up some control because you can’t make someone write exactly like you
The last tip is for people like me. You might be hiring someone because you think you can’t write very well and will be happy with a professional writer’s work.
For me, I wish I had the time to write everything myself because I love the content I write (sorry, but it’s true). I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to writing style, and I have to remind myself that sometimes content can be good even if I didn’t write it.
This is a journey you will have to travel yourself to find what works for you, your website, and your style of working with people. Start with a few small projects as practice, and work your way up from there as you think of more things you can outsource.
I mentioned before that time is the main limitation you face when growing your income online. If you can outsource properly, time becomes nothing but a dollar amount that you can pay for with your profit and grow your business to infinity. Just remember to start slow and don’t blow your budget.
Summary + Tasks
Learning how to write effective content for your website is going to be vital to your success. Other forms of online marketing may rely less on the volume of content such as paid traffic and email marketing, but blogging is one where quality AND volume count. You can’t expect to build an authority website with just a few posts!
But you don’t have to start out as an expert to end up as one. You don’t even have to be an expert to actually gain traffic and followers. You just need an opinion that people can agree or disagree with, and then deliver that opinion through your articles. Practice can really help you develop your own style and voice in any industry.
A journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step. That first step is going to be your first blog post. Don’t think about the amount of work it’s going to take to build up all that content on your website.
Just imagine the awesome feeling you will have in 2 years time when you have hundreds of high-quality articles on your website drawing traffic effortlessly every day and funneling visitors into your money pages (more on this later).
Tasks For This blog
1. Write one 500 word article using the outline method
2. Write one article using the brain dump method
3. Consider the advantage of both styles and which one you prefer
4. Think about what type of writing style you want to use to convey your personality on your blog. (You might not be able to come up with anything right now, but at least give it a few minutes of thought)