Sunday, 7 October 2012

Reduce Blog Bounce Rate

If you have been blogging for a reasonable amount of time, you would be well aware about the importance of a blog’s bounce rate. It is perhaps one of the biggest, most important indicators of a blog or a website’s health and progress. Bloggers and webmasters strive to ensure that their blogs and websites have a low bounce rate.

Bounce rate refers to the percentage of single page visits, such as the visits in which the visitor left your website after browsing only one page (i.e. the page that he landed on), without browsing any other pages on your website.

For instance a 20% bounce rate means that 20 in every 100 (2 in every 10) of your visitors leave your website without going to any other page than the one they landed on. Conversely, a 90% bounce rate would mean than 9 out of 10 of your visitors ‘bounce off’ your website straight from the landing page.

A low bounce rate is therefore ideal; the lower it is the better.

Bounce rate is therefore essentially an indicator of how long people stay on your blog, and a good indicator of whether you’re putting interesting content on your blog that is relevant to your niche, and making it easy for people to access that content (by putting it a single mouse-click away, for instance).

But as any blogger would know, making people stay on your blog (and having a low bounce rate) is easier said than done! Here are a few simple things that you can do make your blog/website more user-friendly, have people stay on your website, read your posts and become regular visitors.

If you do notice an improvement in your bounce rate after following these, do let us know in the comments!

1. Design

You might be surprised to know how important your website’s design really is, especially when it comes to having people stay on your blog. Having a visually attractive, neat, clean and an appealing design is essential. How many times do you find yourself sticking around on a blog that looks fantastic? Use a good theme for your blog that looks great, goes well with the content, has easy-to-read and legible text and does a good job of catching the attention of your readers. 

2. Content

One of the biggest and best thing you can do to ensure that people actually stick around on your blog, is produce some excellent, high-quality content! Content that people actually want to read, content that I valuable to your visitors and people in your niche, and content that actually helps people with something. If you do, you’ll be able to keep your existing visitors on your blog very easily because people will actually want to stay on your blog. Write intriguing and interesting headlines/titles which help draw visitors in. Make sure that your posts are factually and grammatically-correct. Try keeping your posts error-free.

3. Navigation

One of the aspects of having a well-designed blog or website includes a website with excellent, user-friendly navigation. Having a good navigational system in place allows your visitors to easily browse your blog, and move to different parts of your blog (such as another post on your blog) from wherever they might be. Never have your visitors go through hoops or be required to click too many times in order to get to another part of your website. Divide your content into categories, and use the top navbar to display all categories, pages and parts of your website. Something like a drop-down menu works really well here. In addition, display your latest posts, most popular posts, most commented posts, most visited posts, or random posts on the sidebar of your blog.

4. Load Times

Load times are important and directly related to your blog’s bounce rate. In simple terms, the longer it takes for your blog to load up, the higher your bounce rate will be. If your blog has been overloaded with widgets and plugins, uses an unoptimized theme (such a free theme), or is hosted on a poor webhosting service, chances are that it will take a large amount of time for the pages to load up. This is guaranteed to adversely affect your bounce rate, because people will leave your blog (or any other website for that matter) if it takes more than a few second to load up. The solution: use a good premium theme framework (like Thesis, if you’re on Wordpress), choose a good webhosting service (you get what you pay for!), and keep plugins and widgets at a minimum.

5. Internal Linking

Internal linking is not only good for your blog’s PR, ranking and search engine optimization, it is also one of the best ways of keeping your bounce rate at a minimum. Include links to other parts of your blog (posts and pages) in your write-ups, a couple of links to your older posts would do the trick. However make sure that the link are relevant, and are hyperlinked behind the right keywords in the correct manner. Internal linking will also give you a good SEO boost, as it lets you keep link juice within your blog. Internal linking can be done manually, or by using a plugin such SEOSmartLinks on Wordpress which takes care of this for you.

6. External Linking

The principle here is simply: all external links should always open in a new window or a new tab in the browser. Whenever you add an external link, make sure it opens in another window. Popular blogging platforms such as Blogspot and Wordpress let you manage this easily (by showing a check-box every time you add a hyperlink). This ensures that your blog remains open so that your visitors stay on the post that they were reading.

7. Targeted Visitors

Make sure that your SEO is having you ranked for the correct keywords, so that you’re able to bring in targeted traffic to your blog – visitors who are actually interested in what you have on offer, as opposed to people who are not interested in your posts or the content of your blog. If you successfully get targeted traffic, i.e. a bunch of people on your blog who are interested in what you’re writing about, your bounce rate will automatically improve, as these are the people who will actually want to stay on your blog and read what you have to say.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Google Panda and Penguin: Implications and Effects on Your SEO

In an effort to ‘reduce the rankings of low-quality sites’, Google has made certain changes to how its search engines functions. And while quite a large number of changes have been introduced as part of this effort (you can view the Google Algorithm Change History here), the two major ones have been dubbed the Panda and Penguin.

As a result of these changes, the SEO industry has been in a bit of an uproar. A lot of websites and blogs were affected – some for totally justifiable reasons, and others for not-so-justifiable ones (at least according to the owners of these sites) – and these changes also had a profound effect on the rankings of these websites.

And while a lot has already been said on how these changes affect websites, how the unaffected websites can protect themselves and how the affected ones can recover, here are a few things you, as a blog owner or a webmaster, might need to consider:

1. Avoid buying links, at all costs! The websites that were the most severely affected by Panda and Penguin were the ones which use paid-methods of building backlinks. Google is not stupid (well, at least it isn’t any more), and have too many paid or spammy backlinks will most certainly have an adversative effect on your SERP. Instead, invest your time and resources in other, more natural ways building quality links.

2. Avoid stuffing too many links in specific parts of your posts or pages. Stuffing links in your website’s footer or sidebar, for instance, is obviously manipulative and hence risky and will most certainly have your blog penalized. Instead, when linking (externally or internally), be as natural as possible, and try adding links naturally. Add links into your content, footers, sidebars, and in images.

3. Add a variety of different links (external links) on your blog. Don’t link to the same websites (or the same URL, to be precise) in all your posts, and don’t put up the same links in many different posts (aka. overusing exact-match domains), for instance. Include all kinds of links – social links, images, links to websites and blogs and so on. For link anchor text, rotate and switch between different kinds of keywords, such as site name, the URL, anchor text in the form of a phrase, or a generic anchor text (e.g. click here).

4. Likewise, try to get a variety of different links (inbound links). And make it a priority to get links from quality sources; a single quality backlinks is better than 10 low-quality links. Try getting content links, images links, footer/sidebar links, and social media links. Never prioritize do-follow links over no-follow ones, try getting both. It should look (and be) as natural as possible.

5. Keep your content clean of blackhat SEO techniques. I’m talking stuff like keyword stuffing, cloacking, and putting up duplicated, spun or copied content deliberately. Avoid keyword stuffing (read up all about it on Google Webmaster Tools). This is quite self-explanatory. The Penguin update affected a lot of sites that were using this technique. Needless to say, stay away from stuffing particular keyword(s) in your copy. Avoid copying content or posting duplicate content off other blogs at all costs.

6. Patience is key here. If you’ve been affected by either one of Penguin or the Panda, it might take months – maybe years – for you to recover. It is unrealistic and impractical to expect results immediately. If changes are made right now, expect to see the results at least a few (maybe more than a few!) months down the road. Play it safe and do what feels natural. If it seems suspicious, it probably is. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Building an Email List

Email lists are great, and for numerous reasons. In a nutshell, they provide a great way to drive traffic to your blog, and stay in touch with your clients and customers, no matter what kind of a blog you run!

Just about everyone out there who uses the internet has an email address, which means that getting in touch with you existing, as well as potential clients is super-easy, while at the same time being super-cheap and cost-effective.

Emails are also a Google-safe way of getting traffic; in an uncertain world of Pandas and Penguins, there’s no way of knowing if or when your website will be hit. If your blog gets hit by one of Google’s updates, you’ll still be able to drive in traffic, thanks to your email list.

Besides, email lists are known to have good conversion rates as well as great clickthrough rates.

Here are some tips and tricks about how you can build a large email list, and the things you need to do in order to build one.

1. Goals and Aims of Your List – It is important to define what you aim to achieve with your email list, and the reasons why you want to build one in the first place. Is the primary reason to drive in traffic, generate sales, sell a product/service, or something else? Determining the goal at this point in time will help you tailor your list-building strategies accordingly.

2. Post Content Worth Following – Ideally, people would want to find shortcuts that would let them build a big email list using different shortcuts and tricks. The fact of the matter is that even if you do succeed in doing so, don’t expect your list to have good conversions or CTRs. You could instead do it the right way, and post content that actually encourages subscriptions and follows, and urges your readers to give you their email IDs. Ask yourself this: how can you make someone life easier through your content, why should they subscribe to you and how/what ways would they benefit by giving you their email ID?

3. The Incentive – In order to encourage people to subscribe to your mailing list, you also have to give them an incentive. Yes, your content should be enough (and good enough) for this purpose, however giving back a little extra to the people loyal to you won’t hurt, would it? Choose something that would be a big enough incentive for people in your niche – a free video tutorial, a 7-day access to the members area on your website, a rebate/discount coupon, one of your best eBooks… just about anything that you can give away and that would be valuable for your visitors.

4. Email Marketing Software – Once you have a goal(s), reasons why people would want to give you their email address, as well as what you intend of giving back to them, you will now start the process of actually building a list. There are plenty of email marketing and list-building software and services available out there. However the biggest ones are MailChimp and Aweber. Almost everyone who is serious when it comes to building lists uses either one of these. They offer a ton of features (some free, some paid for), different packages to suit your needs and your pocket, and are easy to manage and integrate with all popular blogging formats.

5. Optin Forms – Most of the aforementioned service will allow you to put up an ‘optin’ on your blog – a box that allows people to subscribe to your email list (Aweber even shows you how to make one and put it on your blog). This is usually a box that you often see on websites that asks for an email ID and has a ‘subscribe’ or a ‘sign up’ button on the bottom. You can choose from a variety of different color/themes for your optin boxes, add fields such as first and last names to them (or preferably keep them simple by only asking for an email ID), and choose to place these anywhere on your website – such as on the sidebar, in the middle of your posts or at the end of them.

6. Don’t be Annoying – Avoid using popup windows and other annoying methods of asking people for their email IDs. They’re generally a nuisance and downright annoying, and might actually discourage people from subscribing to your blog. How would you feel if you were to walk in a store and someone were to shove something in your face? Placement matters, so instead, be intelligent and (as discussed above) place your optin box in places such as the sidebar, underneath your content, etc.

7. Privacy Concerns – One of the biggest concerns people will have when giving you their email, will be privacy. Make sure that you address this issue and include a Privacy Policy statement with your optins (a link to the statement would do), as well as all your emails.  Websites such as FreePrivacyPolicy and GeneratePrivacyPolicy will allow you to easily do this.

8. Your Email List is One of Your Biggest Assets – Remember that not everyone is/will be willing to give you his or her email ID. If people have trusted you with their emails; refrain from selling email lists or misusing them in any way whatsoever. Above all, deliver on your promises – provide your readers with fresh, excellent quality content – on a regular basis – that is valuable and relevant to them. You will slowly but surely build up a list of loyal subscribers, and your list will continue to grow if you follow these list-building best practices.

If you have any questions about list-building and the like, feel free to post in the comments section below!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Dealing with Negative Comments on Your Blog

One of the ways of knowing how ‘active’ a blog really is, is by looking at the amount of comments and feedback that it gets. Comments contribute to your blogging success.

As a blogger, you should always encourage people to post comments on your blog and your posts, encourage people to have their say, chip in with their own thoughts, and chip in with their own opinions and views.

Comments promote community, interactivity, discussion and debate on your blog. They take the discussion forward, and add value to it.

But perhaps most importantly, comments are a sign of activity, and the fact that your blog is active, gets visitors and traffic and encourages people to leave feedback.

Posts with comments will tend to leave a great impression on new visitors, for instance, as opposed to a blog with no user-based activity that simply looks like a ‘ghost-town’.

Don’t however expect everyone to leave positive comments. As much as you would like for that to be true, it isn’t. The fact of the matter is that not everyone will agree with your point-of-view, and your blog will get negative comments and feedback from time to time (welcome to the internet!).

It is vital to know how to deal with such comments, as it can make or break your, you blog’s, your business’s and brand’s online reputation. Yes, it is easy to get upset or offended when someone posts a negative comment, but knowing how to deal with it when this happens can make all the difference in the world.

But some ground rules first: People will troll you, be disrespectful, insulting /and downright offensive. It is important to never get into a flame-war with any of your visitors, because ultimately, that will end up damaging your online reputation the most.

The first rule is to respond to all comments politely, calmly and in a courteous manner – and yes that includes negative comments as well. Or not responding to the comments at all. But if do, it is always important to keep your cool, and respond in a civil manner. Rule number 1 right there folks!

Another important thing: ALWAYS refrain from responding to negative comments immediately. Human beings have the tendency to say harsh things in the heat of the moment or in an emotional state of mind, and doing so could see you end up considerably damaging your standing. Give yourself some time – at the very least a few hours – before responding to such comments.

Remember that you have the choice to simply walk away and not ‘feed the troll’ at all.

Adversely, it might be not be such a good idea to simply ignore such comments, or delete them. Doing so might force unsatisfied readers into voicing their displeasure in a much stronger manner, or perhaps take it somewhere much more public.

Besides, responding to negative comments (in a civil manner) clears up any misconceptions and generally leaves a good impression on your visitors, and of course (depending on the nature of such comments) it might also clear up your name and reputation. Responding to all comments – negative or positive – is good for customer service.

Try looking at the comments from a neutral perspective. Are they really totally unfounded, baseless, and simply troll comments, or do they have a hint of truth? Does the commenter in question have a point? Is the comment constructive in any way whatsoever? Respond positively by thanking the said person for his constructive criticism, and use this criticism – no matter how harsh it might really be – to improve your blog.

As human beings, we are error-prone. Bloggers make mistakes all the time, and if you’ve done so and someone’s called you to it in the comments section, own up to it. Apologize, and acknowledge and correct the mistake, and thank the said person for bringing it to your notice.

In addition, if a comment is inaccurate (factually or otherwise), and you have proof, go ahead and prove your innocence – but with hard facts. Do it in a polite manner.

Remember that you might have misjudged the tone and the meaning of the content, since any interaction over the internet (or text-based interaction for that matter), does not include the element of body language or tone. Therefore things can easily be taken out of context or misjudged.

NEVER argue back! Goes in real life, and is equally applicable on the internet as well! An argument with someone on the internet (aka. a flame-war) will be almost always be counterproductive, and an exercise in futility.

Never respond with something like ‘it’s my blog so I’ll say what I want to’. Yes, it might be your blog, but remember that it’s a free world and it’s the internet; if you have the right to ‘say what you want to’ then so do the people on the internet.

At the end of the day, it might be okay to ‘agree to disagree’. Acknowledge his comment and thank him for taking time out to post one on your blog.

In extreme cases – such as then someone incessantly spams your blog or trolls the comments section, don’t be afraid to use the mighty ‘banhammer’! Wordpress and other popular blogging tools make it very easy to ban users and IP addresses, so if it comes to that, don’t be afraid to use it.

The general principle on the internet, when it comes to comments, is to (a) avoid any sort of confrontation that might be damaging or harmful to your repute, (b) give yourself time, in order to rationally and neutrally respond to negative comments, (c) be courteous and polite to all your visitors, (d) reassess the situation to determine if you might’ve misjudged it, and (e) never feed the trolls.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

iPhone Apps for Internet Marketers

The iPhone is a lifesaver! It is a technological marvel, a trendsetter, a leader and an innovator in the cellphone industry. It is, by far and wide, one of the most useful piece of modern technology out there!

The iPhone app library is impressive, to say the least; it now has over 700,000 apps for the iOS platform – a number that is on the rise. The good news is that there’s also a large number of great apps for internet marketers and SEO’s available out there.

In light of the recent release of the iPhone 5, we’ll look at some of the best iPhone apps for IMs:

1. Google Search: Provides one-stop access to the best search engine in the world. Very handy when you want immediate access to any of Google’s services (as it comes with link to all of Google’s other apps), and especially the search engine. Allows you to search by voice or even through your iPhone’s camera (aka. Google goggles)!

2. HootSuite: The complete – and quite possibly, the best – social media dashboard. Hoostsuite (for desktop) allows you to easily add and manage your Twitter and Facebook accounts from a single window. The iPhone app however is limited only to Twitter, but allows you to generate customized reports about your social media activity, and hence easily manage all aspects of your online portfolio and your social media KPIs from a single window.

3.  Tweetdeck: A good alternative for HootSuite (not the best though). Tweetdeck works for both Twitter and Facebook, works well out of the box and is pretty quick as well. It allows you to manage an unlimited number of Facebook and Twitter accounts through a single window, send out updates to selected profiles or all profiles, and of course, schedule updates to be sent out at a later stage as well.

4. PayPal: Yes, the name gives it away, doesn’t it! The PayPal app for iPhone lets you manage your Paypal account on the go, by letting you send and request money, check your balance, withdraw or receive funds, view your transaction history, and get easy access to a whole host of tools to manage your online account.

5. Analytics App: An all-round terrific app for accessing Google Analytics on the iPhone. Once set up with your Google Analytics, the app provides a quick overview of your website’s health, as well as detailed reports for as many as 55 different metrics – including visitor, traffic and content reports.

6. Dropbox: Dropbox is a fantastic service; it allows you to sync any and all your files across many different platforms, such as your desktop, laptop and cellphone. Dropbox for iPhone plays the same function, it allows you to (a) save and sync files that you might want to access on a different platform later on, and (b) access files (such as images, PDFs, blog posts, etc) that might be present in your Dropbox storage already.

7. Wordpress: If you’re blogging on the Wordpress platform, this little app will be a godsend and something that you absolutely must have on your iPhone. The Wordpress app is quick, and lets you manage an all of your Wordpress blogs individually, and conveniently. You can read and edit posts, pages and comments on your blog, and it all comes in pretty handy when you’re on the move.

8. SEO Pro: A great SEO app that lets you monitor various extremely important aspects of your SEO and marketing efforts, such as indexed pages, alexa rank, PR, backlinks, social media ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ (among other social media metrics), and the like. I should add that the app is pretty quick too!

9. Blogger: The Blogger app is like a Google Blogger alternative of the Wordpress app. It basically lets you do all the same things as its competitor: manage your Blogger blog in short. You can use it to view and edit your posts, publish new posts, add pictures and labels, and of course, manage multiple Blogger account easily on-the-go.

10. Reeder: An excellent RSS aggregator app on the iPhone. Instantly syncs your RSS feeds and allows you to read up on the latest posts and keep up with the happenings in the industry.

11. GoToMeeting: Attend meetings or webinars no matter where you are in the world, by simply using the iPhone’s excellent front-facing camera. All you need is the link to the meeting (via email) or the meeting ID number and you’ll be able to attend it easily, as well as access all sorts of information about the meeting.

12. Evernote: Last but most certainly not the least by any means, is Evernote. If you’re already using it, you’ll know what an excellent, gem of an app this is. If not, I suggest you get this immediately. Evernote functions in the same way as Dropbox does, by synchronizing your data ‘on-the-cloud’ so that it is accessible to your no matter where you are in the world or whatever platform you might be using to access this info. However where it differs from Dropbox is the fact that it allows you to record, store and sync so much more than just a few file formats; you can use it to record audio files, make to-do lists, as well as record and share all sorts of information.