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Apple News, Google News, Google Newsstand: What marketers need to know

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Apple News, Google News, Google Newsstand: What marketers need to know


Apple News, Google News and its subsection, Google Newsstand, can drive significant traffic for publishers and content creators. Each platform has its advantages and shortcomings. Getting familiar with how these services work can help you maximize your opportunity for visibility.  

What are Apple News and Google News?

They are syndication platforms with a strong emphasis on mobile. They allow users to search for articles based on topics or publishers, and they give publishers ways to monetize via ads and tools to measure performance. Both platforms can drive more traffic to your content (via search or their “top stories” sections) and generate ad-based revenue for your brand.

Google News is available on Android, iOS and the web. Users can access content within the “for you” and “headlines” sections, as well as by following or searching a particular topic or publisher.    

Google Newsstand is a tab within the Google News app, not a separate platform (a revamped Google News app replaced Google Play Newsstand in 2018). It displays an edition of your content for mobile and tablet from your RSS and media feeds, YouTube channel, social stream, and other sources.

Apple News is only available on Mac and iOS. Users can access content in the “today” section or by navigating to the channels and topics that they follow. Unlike Google News, search results are presented as channels or topics, meaning that, even if a user searches an exact article title, the results won’t lead them directly to that article.

redbull_apple_news_search_results

Apple has also launched a paid subscription service called News+, a service that offers digital subscriptions to participating magazines and newspapers for $10 a month. We will dig into News+ further as the service matures. It’s not a syndication service and publishers can’t currently register for it.

The biggest differences between Google News and Apple News for publishers

An important distinction for marketers to be aware of is that Google News is intended for news publications and content — not general content marketing. Having a website is a prerequisite, and outlets that want to be included on Google News must undergo an approval process.  

Having a website is not a requirement to be included on Apple News, making it a more viable option for brands and content creators that don’t have a strong news slant.

Bodybuilding.com presence on Apple News (left) and Google News (right).

Google News auto-plays video previews, while Apple’s videos play on click.

An Apple News or Google Newsstand account can be a more appropriate option for content marketers who aren’t publishing news and for publishers want more control over their branding and monetization options.

Tripadvisor’s Google Newsstand edition.

Getting started

Apple News. Go to the News Publisher app. Sign in using the Apple ID associated with your business or publication. From there, you can customize your branding with a logo and cover image, assign user roles and link to your CMS.

The final step to getting your channel in front of users is submitting at least three articles to show the Apple News team the kind of content you publish. You can draft articles directly in the interface, upload them from your computer or import them from your CMS. Once approved, you’ll be able to push your content to Apple News via RSS or using Apple News Format (ANF).

Google News. Go to the Google News Publisher Center to verify site ownership and request inclusion by entering your website details (such as news section URLs). It can take up to three weeks for the Google News team to review an inclusion request.

Google doesn’t provide specific feedback regarding inclusion but offers information for applicants on the Google News Help Community. Rejected sites are eligible to re-apply after 60 days.

Google Newsstand. By signing up through the Google News Producer Tool, publishers can create an “edition”. This is similar to Apple News “channels”. Creating an edition gives you more control over branding, the ability to serve ads and even paywall options. It is not necessary to create a Newsstand edition to register for inclusion on Google News. Editions appear in the Newsstand section of the Google News app. There are templates available, and you can add slideshows, videos, maps and other types of content.

How to publish content

Apple News. When you create your channel, you’ll be asked whether you want to publish using RSS or ANF. If you’re already publishing on your website, then using RSS is the simplest option to deliver your content to Apple News. This can get your articles to users faster, but it does mean that you’ll miss out on some nifty customizations and options.

ANF allows you to access richer analytics and take advantage of Apple’s CDN for faster loading. It also facilitates a more immersive experience by enabling publishers to incorporate effects, animations, galleries, pull quotes and dynamic text sizing for accessibility.

Once you’ve selected between the two, you can author content directly from the News Publisher app, via the Apple News API, or through your CMS with the help of a plugin. Plugins are available for WordPress, Drupal, Craft, and Squarespace. 

Google News. Google News surfaces content from publisher feeds primarily, but also by crawling the web. You can facilitate the discovery process by creating a Google News sitemap with news-specific tags and submitting it in Google Search Console

Google News now automatically renders the AMP versions of your articles when available and can be rendered. However, you should also provide an RSS/ATOM feed of your content as well. That will ensure readers can access your content if they are offline or using older software versions. It is possible to opt out of AMP rendering within Google News Producer, if you choose.

Google Newsstand. Newsstand publishers can opt to send content via RSS or AMP.

amp-play-newsstand

AMP articles allow for greater control over your content’s visual elements and allows traffic to be tracked within your AMP analytics.

Feed-based and AMP traffic will appear in Google analytics as news.google.com and news.url.google.com referrers. You can set up tracking in Google News Producer to get more details and track content that is rendered natively within the Google News Android and iOS apps.

How to optimize for Google News, Apple News

First and foremost, adhering to proper ethical and journalistic standards is the basis for creating quality content, regardless of where you choose to publish or syndicate. Take these standards into account to maximize your chances of getting featured. They include (but are not limited to):

  • Ensuring that your content is original.
  • Writing accurate headlines.
  • Using credible sources and fact-checking.
  • Respecting privacy rights.
  • Applying correct publishing dates and other metadata.
  • Publishing with regular frequency.

Apple News. Users are prompted to select a few publications to follow the first time they use Apple News, so optimizing for discovery starts with uploading a logo and cover image. 

Apple News discover section: Make sure that your cover image is 600x600px and your logo is legible.

Within their respective channels, publishers can divide content into different sections. Many publishers make the first section their “all” or “top” stories section. You can also “promote” articles that will appear in the “more from” section after someone reads one of your articles.

You can add a canonical URL linking back to the website version of your article. When the link is shared with non-iOS or Mac users, this will direct them to the website version. If you don’t add a canonical URL, those users will be asked to view the article using the Apple News app.

Within your channel,  you can group your articles into sections, but Apple News only pulls content from the first section when it generates a user’s “for you” feed. Make sure you’re publishing your most relevant content to that first, default section of your channel.

Apple’s top stories are curated by real people — the Apple News Team. That means you’ll need to publish well-written, informative content and establish a positive reputation to increase your chances of being included in their curated stories.

Google Newsstand. Since Google Newsstand editions use RSS feeds to pull in content, it’s important to ensure you’re properly configured. Enter your Google Analytics credentials to track how your content is performing within the app.

You can nominate your edition to appear in the featured content of Newsstand. Before doing so, ensure that all your content is up to date, nothing is duplicated, and that all videos and images are optimized. The Featured tab is available in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, and India at this point.

google_newsstand_featured_section

If you’ve met the criteria above, you can email news-promotions@google.com to be considered for promotion. Google’s own support section states, “We’re happy to consider promoting your sections for major events in your applicable country (e.g. major elections, award shows, sports championships, etc.).” It may be worthwhile to seek opportunities where your brand’s content overlaps with such events.

Google News. Much like its search engine, algorithms are largely responsible for what populates a user’s Google News feed. These algorithms take into account the following factors when ranking content:

  • Freshness of content.
  • Originality of content.
  • Rich textual content.
  • Diversity of content.
  • User preferences for topics and publishers.

The algorithms also personalize users’ “for you” and “favorites” sections based on their past Google activity and preferences.  

The Google News Curation Team can add temporary topics to help users follow popular news stories around high-interest topics such as major events or the latest development in a personal interest. It will create a structure, such as sub-topics and related items, for these cases, but the stories featured still get pulled in algorithmically.

As is the case with Newsstand, being the first to cover breaking news or a trending topic may increase your odds of getting featured in these topics.

Advertising options in Apple News, Google Newsstand

Both platforms offer ways to monetize your content via display ads and both are compatible with Google Ad Manager (although some features aren’t supported on Apple News), enabling you to designate a target audience as well as track campaign performance.

Apple News. Publishers who sell their own ads get to keep 100% of the revenue from them. If Apple backfills your ad inventory, it takes a 30% cut of the revenue.

Google Newsstand. By default, Google-managed ads will display within your content. You can elect to turn off ads, manage them yourself, or display a mixture of your own ads as well as Google’s. Ad placement, however, is optimized by Google.

As mentioned above, the right choice for your brand depends on the content you’re creating and your goals. For example, if your brand maintains an industry news blog, getting included in Google News might be the best way to increase your traffic. If you’re a content marketer looking to entertain audiences and increase exposure for your content, Apple News and Google Newsstand can be effective ways to get your content in front of readers on-the-go.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.



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101 Quick & Easy Tips to Skyrocket Your Blog Content

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Ron Lieback


I’m a firm believer in creating remarkable content that will serve a company’s long-term needs and garnering natural links through an authentic amplification process.

This process involves sharing the content across social channels, owned and other’s newsletters, and by reaching out to authors/journalists that can benefit by linking to those articles, to name a few.

The ultimate way to develop ongoing shareable content is through a blog.

A blogging campaign done correctly takes much effort, patience, discipline, and money.

Quality blogs are key for strong SEO – the more content, the more search engines, and users will understand that you’re an authoritative voice within your industry – if not the only authoritative voice.

Blogging is long-term thinking to build long-term success.

Be warned – this is not for what Simon Sinek calls the “finite” business thinker; rather it’s for the “infinite” business thinker who understands that quality takes time.

Remarkable blogging is not simple. The effort needed for quality – not quantity – content is tremendous.

The process involves an overall SEO and content strategy, along with disciplined writers who are skilled in both traditional and online writing techniques with subject expertise.

The following 101 tips were created to skyrocket your blogging efforts. These tips focus on SEO, craft, style, UX, amplification and productivity elements.

These were designed for quick digestion, and since I’m targeting an audience who understands SEO – or even just the basics of SEO – I’ll keep the deeper thinking to the internal links throughout.

SEO Blog Writing Tips

1. Blog Life Begins with Keyword Research

Unless you have an audience like Seth Godin, or already have a stupidly large and engaged audience, you can’t forget about keyword research.

Blogging allows you to target loads of keywords.

Learn keyword research, and use it for every blog. And target one or two main keywords for each article.

Protest against lack of keyword research!

2. Target Long-Tail Keywords

Blogs can gather their most energy through long-tail, low-volume keywords.

If your website sells aftermarket Ducati parts, the short-tail, high-volume keywords can be the focus of your main category pages.

But the long-tail can allow you to truly target long-tail keywords, such as “ducati 1198 s marchesini wheels.”

3. Remember Related Keywords

Don’t forget about “related” keywords. Over the past three years, my team has had the most success with SEMrush for easily finding related keywords.

Use the ones that pertain to the content of the article – and use them naturally.

Back to Ducati 1198 as a keyword; a list of related keywords that would benefit the article are “ducati 1198 hp” (hp means horsepower); “ducati 1198 evo,” and “ducati 1198 for sale.”

4. Use Target Keyword in Title

Use the main target keyword in the heading, as close to the beginning as possible.

Keep the headline 50-60 characters because search engines truncate after 60.

5. Create Awesome Titles

Put as much time into crafting your titles as you do the articles.

The best headlines:

  • Create curiosity.
  • Ask funny questions.
  • Use numbers.
  • Create a sense of urgency.
  • Show “How To” do something.

6. Strong Meta Description

If you don’t create a meta description, the search engines will auto-fill one. This is a loss of valuable real estate.

You can create a strong message here to support your awesome headline and enhance click-throughs to your story over the competitors.

Protest auto-generated meta descriptions – and keep the character count to 150-160 characters max!

7. Use Target Keyword in Meta Description

Use the same targeted keyword in your title in the meta description.

Again, try to get that targeted keyword as close to the beginning as possible.

Remember that though there is no ranking value for keywords in meta descriptions if someone queries your target keyword – or others that are in your meta description – that keyword will display bold, increasing the risk of a click.

Only use the target keyword once.

8. Use Keywords in Image Alt Text

It’s amazing how many clients I see that have zero alt text descriptions.

If they do they typically lack keywords.

Make sure to use keywords within your alt text – especially the target keyword of the blog.

9. Strong Header Tags

Forget the SEO benefits of header tags (also known as headline or H tags) when blogging, and just think of them as sub-topics that preview the upcoming with an exciting title.

Try writing them like individual taglines to each section.

Note that some header tags for articles like this will be used for bullet-point type items that do not need as much crafting.

This is also an ideal place to insert stronger related keywords.

kill jargon in blogging

10. Don’t Force Keywords – Use Them Naturally

Use the target keyword and related keywords naturally throughout the text.

Don’t mind things like antiquated talk of keyword density; use keywords naturally.

If you were overusing a keyword, the issue will quickly surface during editing – especially a speak-out-loud edit.

11. Internal Linking

Use internal links within your blog naturally and with the correct anchor text.

Internally link to deeper content like other blogs or white papers, and avoid linking to the homepage or contact us page.

Best practices for how many?

Again, insert them naturally.

For a 1,500-plus word blog, you can easily fit 15 or so. Just insert them naturally.

12. External Linking

Make sure to attribute any used sources within your blogs by externally linking to the respective web page.

Use strong anchor text, and use do-follow links.

Also, make sure the link opens in a new tab or window.

13. Use Bold & Italics to Send Strong Signals

Bold and italics not only attract the attention of the users, but it also sends signals to search engines that you are placing a priority on the word or phrases.

Use them when necessary – and naturally.

14. Use Bullet Points Whenever Possible

This opens the space between text, and is easier for readers to digest.

Plus, like bold and italic text, bullet points also send signals of prioritized sections to search engines.

15. Long Over Short

Based on statistics, longer blog posts are much better than shorter ones for SEO purposes.

Backlinko says the average word count of a Google Page 1 result is 1,890 words. But blogs of 500 words also rank high on Google.

First, consider the target audience.

Writing 2,500 words about the craft of blogging warrants more words, whereas a blog comparing three sets of guitar strings may take about 1,000, and a blog about a new dog food may take 500.

Don’t go crazy over length.

Write until you say what you want to say – and again, naturally.

Once writers get focused on word count the fluff begins.

Protest the puff!

16. Mobile-Friendly

Yes, this blog is about blogging tips. But I also need to address some of the basics of the website itself, the first being make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

A quick look at the list of 10 of my client’s analytics and mobile is on average 65% of their traffic.

If your blog isn’t optimized for mobile, you’ll miss out on some serious readership.

17. Strong Technical Platform

Second in addressing the platform is strong overall technical SEO.

Mobile-friendless would be part of this, but for blogging, mobile needed to stand alone.

Make sure technical bits are optimized, such as CCS, JavaScript, redirect chains and load speeds.

18. Optimize WordPress Categories/Tags

One more note if you’re using WordPress.

Make sure your categories aren’t sloppy or overlapping and don’t use crazy amounts of them.

The same should be said of tags.

And my team noindex most tags unless a few that are important and benefit search engine results.

19. If on WordPress, Use Yoast

Yoast is a must-have tool for WordPress users.

The free version allows you to customize your meta description and title tag, and also creates XML sitemaps and provides a score about the target keyword usage.

The paid version only gets better.

Craft/Style Blog Writing Tips

20. Research First

When many think about how long a blog takes to complete, they only think about the act of writing.

But an equal amount of energy – or more contingent on subject matter – should be placed into research.

Yes – reading and browsing valuable websites is part of the writing process.

Make it vital!

21. Competitive Research

Have awareness about what the competitors are doing, but don’t study them.

The more you study competitors, the more you’ll sound like them.

When it comes to keywords, though, competitive research is an absolute must.

It’s simple reverse engineering – find what keywords a blog is ranking well for, and create better content.

22. Don’t Plagiarize

Somehow, plagiarism continues. I’ve witnessed it happen with freelancers and in-house blog writers.

I work with dozens of freelancers and use Copyscape for the few pieces. I did encounter some copy/paste incidents in the past – one new writer literally cut up a few blogs and rearranged them.

This was for one of my clients – the copy all came from my client’s direct competitors, which would have caused some major harm.

Be smart. Use Copyscape or the paid version of Grammarly.

Protest plagiarism!

23. Create List of Optimized Titles

Once your keyword research is complete, brainstorm and create a list of proposed titles.

Walk away for a day and return to that list, weeding out anything that doesn’t add value, though most times the process involves some risk.

24. Create a ‘Loose’ Content Calendar

Create a content calendar. My team typically creates quarterly “loose” content calendars so there is some wiggle room for news items, new products or services, or the inevitable last-minute ideas that show up.

blog with the end in mind

25. Write with Ending in Mind

Though this may change, have a rough focus of what you want to see happen.

Literally imagine the action you want a reader to take, whether it’s a newsletter signup, buy a product, find out more about a service, or start a riot.

Literally imagine the ending – and keep it in mind as you’re writing.

26. Outline Blog

This organizes and speeds the process. My outline is simple:

  • Title
  • Intro
  • Sub-topics (header tags) organized
  • Concluding Thoughts

I then fill in each point with some stream of consciousness style (yeah, Kerouac was an idol in my 20s) notes.

If blogs are planned in advance (as they should), I continually add notes over a two-day period and revisit them with a fresh mind on the third day.

It’s amazing how smooth and effortless the process works.

27. Write Whatever Works First

Once the outline discussed above is complete, write whatever section you want first.

There should be no hierarchy or priority in draft mode; if you have the energy for an intro, write it.

Subtopics? Write them.

Concluding thoughts? Write them.

Whatever works.

All will come together smoothly and in a more organized fashion during the equally – sometimes more important – editing stage.

28. Page Setup

I learned this during an online workshop with Charles Euchner, author of another must-read for writers, “The Elements of Writing”.

Always set your document up in portrait mode.

This stretches out the work, and provides more space and longer lines. This all psychologically strengthens your energy for writing.

29. Line-by-Line First Drafts

I also learned this from Euchner, and it has become one of my favorite techniques for writing.

When in draft mode, write everything line-by-line.

Again this spaces the words and ideas, allowing you to think clearer.

Combine the paragraphs during a later draft.

30. Attention-Grabbing Intro

Just as important as the blog’s title and meta description is the intro – or what us traditionally trained journalist used to call a “lede”.

Entertain. Piss off. Create curiosity.

Do whatever it takes to engage the reader.

31. Stuck with Flow? Think About a Press Release Style

I’ve received and written press releases for businesses and clients for over two decades.

I use a simple format borrowed from the best-selling author and former COO at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Cameron Harold.

I rely on this format when I’m stuck creating a blog lacks flow or begs for restructuring:

  • Catchy headline.
  • Catchy lead paragraph.
  • Expose a problem.
  • Show how your product/service can solve that problem.
  • Provide hard data or facts.
  • Quote someone high within the company (CEO, CMO, Founder).
  • Quote a Customer or Influencer.
  • Provide a Call-to-Action.

Try it. The simple format works.

32. Establish Rhythm with Long & Short Sentences

When writing, mix long and short sentences to establish a rhythm.

Think of mixing the short and snappy active style of Hemingway with the long and sometimes passive style of Faulkner.

Blogs need rhythm. This shows that the author cares about not just pumping out content but also feeding the entertainment side of reading.

33. Let Punctuation Also Control Pace

Besides long and short sentences, punctuation also controls pace. And rather quickly.

Think about it; there are loads of ways to speed up or slow down a sentence. One way, without a doubt, is experimenting with various punctuation.

34. Short Paragraphs

Although a mix of long and short sentences can help with the rhythm, when blogging short paragraphs will always trump long ones.

This provides more “air” between the paragraphs and doesn’t put a strain on the reader’s eyes.

This “air” makes things easier to digest. And that’s how you can truly implant your ideas into the reader’s mind.

35. Use Simple Language

Unless you’re writing for a specific audience that uses highly technical jargon, keep it out of your blogging efforts.

For example, with Search Engine Journal’s audience, we can get heavy into SEO talk. But on my business’s blog, we are targeting those who basically know zilch about SEO or content strategies, so the jargon is minimum.

Same for some of my guest postings on Forbes or other non-endemic publications. I write for those who know nada about what we do as professionals.

Use layman terms, if you may.

use action verbs when blogging

36. Active Verbs

Harry punched Sally. The man walked the dog. The blogger wrote the blog.

Verbs should show action. Keep a majority of them active.

Use passive verbs for rhythm and to alter flow for rhythm.

37. Use Proper Grammar

Read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White.

Use Grammarly – the paid version is worth its editing weight in gold.

38. Watch Your ‘-ings’

Use them effectively. They weaken verbs and actions. But sometimes they are needed for slowing the flow or making a point.

39. Kill the Adjectives & Adverbs

Only use adjectives and adverbs when necessary. They add fluff and slow action.

40. Use Dialogue to Show Action

If you have a direct quote from someone or a publication/book, use dialogue to show action. The gnarlier the quote, the more it’ll move the reader excitedly through the story.

Bret Easton Ellis masters this. Read “Lunar Park” and you’ll understand. And quickly.

41. Consistent Voice

Every author has his or her unique voice. And if they don’t, with patience, discipline and a steady flow of daily writing, that voice will arrive.

Make sure that voice is the same across every blog.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve ghostwritten hundreds of articles for CEOs and entrepreneurs and developed a unique voice for each one.

Since departing ways with some, a few have used a few different ghostwriters, which is evident in the lack of consistent voice.

Work hard to develop your voice. And work harder to keep that voice consistent across every blog.

42. Consistent Themes

Themes reinforce the storytelling behind the blog. They provide entertainment for readers, allowing them to look forward to something more – even if on a subconscious level.

I love inserting themes within my work – even if subtle (protest something! Is part of this piece).

I also had fun with sexual desire and motorcycles while writing about a Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro I tested in Tuscany last year. Those references were not subtle.

43. Consistent Style

If you write mostly short and choppy sentences, continue that style.

If you write mostly long and chunky, continue that style.

You get the point.

44. Consistent Person & Tense

Keep the proper person (first, second or third) throughout the blog. And please remain coherent with your tense.

Protest inconsistency!

45. Journalism 5Ws, 1H

When writing a blog think like a journalist and always ask the five Ws and One H:

Make sure to answer each of these in every blog. Your readers will thank you for filling in all the gaps.

46. Inverted Pyramid Style

This is another tool from the world of journalism. When you write, layer the blog like an inverted pyramid with the most important information first, and all supporting details below. Not all blogs need this, but the majority should.

Basically, start with a catchy intro and immediately provide the reader what the article is about. And when used with proper keywords, you’ll be able to snatch up some featured snippets much easier.

47. Be Remarkable

Read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.

The text can be read in under two hours and will teach you everything about being remarkable.

Stand out. Be original. Don’t blog like your competitors.

48. Initial Edit: Cut Anything Useless

During your first edit, cut out anything that is useless. Adjectives, adverbs, crappy passages or stuff that appears out of place.

For my Search Engine Journal posts, I usually cut upwards of 1,000 words. If it isn’t needed, cut it.

Protest anything useless!

49. Second Edit: Read Passages Backwards

This is for grammar. Read the entire piece backward, starting from the last paragraph to the top.

You’ll quickly find errors because your mind won’t be in flow or organizational mode.

50. Speak Out Loud – Edit & Rewrite

The most important part of writing strong blog content is editing. Here you start from top to bottom and strengthen anything that feels or sounds weak.

When you read out loud, awkward passages will jump out. This is when you rearrange things and read for flow.

Also, a peer review or another editor is a must here. And if your submitting to other publications remember that you’re only as strong as your editor.

51. Walk Away & Edit Again

The final edit. Walk away from it all, and your subconscious will go to work. Complete a final edit on the next day. Remember here though that you can’t chase absolute perfection.

Perfectionism is just another form of procrastination. Get your blog out and let the readers decide its merit. And if they find mistakes live up to them; we’re human and fallible. Everyone makes mistakes.

UX Blog Writing Tips

52. Know the Audience

Never start writing until you know the intended audience. Niche publications like Search Engine Journal make this easy.

But when blogging for businesses with multiple products or services, make sure you have the exact audience in mind for the purpose of each blog.

53. Answer Questions

Once you know who your audience is, find out what questions they are asking. Then answer those questions. One of my favorite text on this is They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan. Read it.

Learn to listen to your audience’s questions. Then answer them through consistent and frequent blogging. Check social media, Quora, Reddit or simply ask your readers.

And don’t forget the “People also ask” at the bottom of Google search results. Let the algorithms do the work for you.

54. Think 80/20

Blog with an 80/20 mindset. Find the 20 percent of blogs that deliver 80 percent of outcome (typically the call to action or brand building). Don’t waste time and quickly pivot if the roles reverse.

Sometimes the simplest blogs that take 20-percent effort provide 80-percent of the outcome wanted – such as a direct sale or newsletter signup.

make sure your blog uses storytelling

55. Be a Storyteller

Always tell a story. Humans thrive on storytelling – we have for millions of years. Make sure each and every blog has a story and also supports your brand’s overall story.

56. Appeal to All Five Senses

Don’t just write for visual appeal. Write to appeal to all senses. Show what wine or success tastes like; show how loud a noise is; show how something feels; show how terrible something smells.

57. Focus on One CTA

You may have multiple CTAs for your blog’s purpose, but only include one type in each blog. If you have a newsletter signup, don’t also offer a 50-percent discount. And vice versa.

58. Attribute True Leaders within the Industry

If you’re blogging about Ducati, quote the CEO or one of the top designers. Doing a piece on Frederick Chopin? Quote his early biographer Frederick Niecks.

59. Consistent Posting

Post the same time on the same day. Loyal fans and search engines love this.

60. Appeal with Images

This goes without saying. And if you can create original images or photos, do so; it’ll enhance your blog tremendously.

61. Appeal with Videos

This also goes without saying. Remember, though, videos are expensive. Spend your money wisely (follow the 80/20 rule!).

62. Appeal with Infographics

Use them wherever possible – especially if you’re providing tips or instructions on something. Hubspot said people following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations. That’s serious engagement for adding an infographic. These also help with viral appeal in articles.

63. Appeal with Stand-Out Quotes

WordPress makes this easy. If the CMS doesn’t have this function, place a stand-out quote – one that builds on the strength of the article from a reputable source – place the quote alone in bold to make it stand out.

64. A/B Test Titles

Test a few different headlines. Sometimes just a variation on word placement can increase the openings. SEJ does this well.

65. Allow Comments

I’m a fan of Facebook comments. It’s more authentic because there are no aliases. Regardless, allowing comments presents a sense of community.

66. Engage with Comments Daily

Don’t forget to answer the comments on your blog weekly. Again – this will strengthen the community.

Amplify Blogs for Natural Link Building

67. Own Domain

First, make sure you own the content. Remember, if you create content on Medium or LinkedIn you don’t own it.

Make sure you own it. Not on wordpress.com (mysite.wordpress.com), but mysite.com found at WordPress.org. WordPress websites are cheap. It’s worth it.

68. Newsletter

Make sure the blogs are exposed in the business – or personal – newsletter.

Many bloggers miss out on mass appeal because they don’t exploit their blogs enough through something as simple as a newsletter.

An owned newsletter list is an interested audience; continually feed them so you stay, as John Hall would say, “Top of Mind.”

69. Guest Blogging

Guest blogging has many underlying benefits to your blog platform.

Most publications won’t allow you to simply discuss or link to an exact personal blog, but a link to your blog or website’s homepage in your bio is typical. Only guest post for valuable blogs.

Time is limited (remember that 80/20 mindset!).

70. Facebook

Don’t just share the blog link; write a little message or pull a strong quote from the blog.

For my agency’s clients, I recommend using the meta description since the work was already completed.

Add proper hashtags, and tag any professional or business mentioned in the blog.

use social media to exploit your blog

71. Twitter

This goes without saying. Create something snappy that drives curiosity in those 280 characters.

And just like Facebook, make sure you use proper hashtags and tag any respective professionals or companies mentioned within your blogs – this will help with shares.

72. Instagram

Though Instagram is photo-centric, you can still get some traction for your blog by building your branding via Insta.

The quickest way for bloggers is to post a pic from the blog, and link to it from your bio page. And as always, tag anyone mentioned, and also use proper hashtags.

73. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great platform to share blogs – just like you would on Facebook, make sure to tag those involved and use proper hashtags. You can also write original content for your LinkedIn pages.

I’d rather own the content on my own blog, so I stray from this. But I do curate many blogs on LinkedIn channels. Just write a unique summary, provide a strong quote from the article, and then add the respective link.

74. Medium

For serious SEOs, simply copy/pasting a blog on Medium is a no-no. There are some ways, such as making sure your blog’s URL is published before sharing the same blog on Medium.

But if you’re into brand-building over SEO (think of personal blogs over a business blog), sharing can help achieve more eyes, and thus more shares.

Or create original content for Medium and link back to one of your blogs as a reference.

75. Reddit

Find a subreddit based around your industry or subject, and engage with the community.

Don’t just force links to your blogs – wait to build some respect from the other readers, then start sharing your work.

76. Quora

Same deal with Reddit. Become respected, then share your valuable blog work.

77. PR Efforts

Find reputable publications and writers. Reach out to them in an authentic manner to offer any assistance they need for resources.

Do your research and don’t spam. Know the names and direct emails, and if you have created a relationship with an acquaintance of that person, let them know.

78. HARO

No – not the bicycles. HARO stands for “Help A Reporter Out”.

I’ve used this for the past decade, first as a publication representative asking others for help with an article, then as a source for other reporters needing valuable information.

79. Ask for Links in other Articles

Find an article that can benefit from your tip? Pitch the publication, writer, editor or web developer.

Keep it short and simple, and point them to the link you want to use. Let them decide.

Don’t follow up and be annoying. Be authentic.

80. Ask Friends/Family/Employees to Share Via Social

Sometimes the simplest engagement methods go by the proverbial wayside. Ask your friends, family, business associates and employees to share your blogs.

Productivity & Energy Blog Writing Tips

81. Write Daily and Consistently

The prolific writer Malcolm Gladwell explains his 10,000-Hour Rule in Outliers that argues becoming truly proficient takes 10,000 hours of doing something – which equates to about 20 hours a week for 10 years.

Writing every day for a consistent amount of time will naturally allow you to become a more proficient blogger.

82. Attempt to Master

When I teach writing, I tell everyone to continually attempt to master writing. I believe mastery in blog writing – or any type of writing – is impossible.

And if you get close, that means you’re becoming complacent and need to push yourself more. Complacency is the ultimate killer for any type of creative work – especially writing.

83. Don’t Wait for Inspiration

This is just another form of procrastination. Get blogging on a schedule during your most creative moments with your most creative spend that I wrote about here.

Yes – the work is hard. But the tougher the work, the better the final product.

84. Write Out of Comfort Zone

The more you challenge yourself, the more your brain will grow.

I take on unique ghostwriting assignments constantly, and a few times a month I’ll kick in on the blogging efforts for some of my agency’s clients that sometimes I know zero about and need to do loads of research.

Others do this by writing fiction. Take warning – if you’re taking on something to challenge your brain with your client or someone else’s client work, make sure to have a great editor on hand.

85. Kill Notifications

While blog writing, turn off all notifications on your phone and computer. I keep my Apple Mail Client shut down because I don’t like seeing the number of emails there.

This keeps you, as Chris Bailey would say, “hyperfocused,” and you’ll produce much more quality work in less time.

86. Enforce Downtime

As part of my productivity training (my agent is shopping my initial book about that very subject now!), I have a strict regime of mandatory downtime. This means truly getting away from anything work-related, from daily periods to a weekly night period to a full day.

This action keeps the mind fresh, particularly for blog writers. Find your threshold of creativity daily, and get away from it all when words become hard to write or sloppy.

I typically hike, ride a motorcycle, or read a fiction book – these all work for me because it keeps me off the screen. Sometimes these breaks are 15 minutes, other times two hours; it all depends on what I’m writing.

What also works for me to keep the mind fresh for writing all week is getting away from it all every Wednesday evening – typically from 5 p.m. until I complete my “Miracle Morning” (thanks Hal Elrod!) in the a.m.

I don’t open emails or think about writing. And one day on the weekend for an entire day I do the same.

87. Notebook or App for Ideas

Always have the means to write down ideas for blog subjects or anything else you need to remember for your blog.

I personally keep a Moleskin with me at all times (the cheap 3-pack ones). I have thousands of notes in them, from blog titles to blog strategies to complete hand-written outlines of blogs – including a rough outline of this very blog.

Others use apps as I do when I don’t have tablets on hand. Ideas arrive at weird times, especially during downtime.

How many awesome ideas did you get when in the shower, working out, or walking the dog? Have the means to write those ideas down.

88. Find Most Creative Periods

Everyone’s most creative periods throughout the day arrive at drastically different times. This can be attributed to our circadian rhythm and overall lifestyle, but I won’t get too scientific here.

This is one reason I’m against 9-5 working hours. Some people don’t kick into full creative modes when serious work happens at most places, which is typically after 10 or noon.

And it seems that many of the best bloggers I know work mid-afternoons or evenings.

Find what works for you, and do your most creative blogging within that period… at the same time every day.

writing to various music can get the words flowing

89. Choose Music for Writing

I write with music about 90% of the time. And the genres or bands vary depending on what I’m writing.

If I’m outlining a Forbes blog, it may be Chopin.

If I’m writing a blog for my business, it’s typically John Coltrane or Wes Montgomery.

Motorcycle articles – Black Sabbath or Dimmu Borgir.

As I’m writing this very sentence Hand of Doom is on by Black Sabbath. The outline was created with Tool in the background, and the first draft Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland.

Edits were completed with Lycia and Howard Shore’s Two Concerti masterpiece.

90. Continued Education

Read books on writing. Take seminars. Take online SEO classes.

Do whatever it takes and NEVER stop learning.

Again, as I stated in point 82 above, complacency is the ultimate killer of creativity. It also will crush your mind from growing.

Protest any form of becoming stale in new learning!

91. You are What You Read

Reading not only skills you about a subject matter, but also for future writing.

When you read you always take a bit of that author with you into your next writing, whether a minute sentence structure or poetic voice.

You are what you read – so choose your books wisely.

Bonus point: if you truly love a piece of writing or an author, read passages aloud and notice the rhythm or use of language.

With enough time that writer’s style will reflect on your writing.

92. Rewrite Your Favorite Chapters

Growing up with a focus on music, writing and the sub-status quo lifestyle, I obviously read some writers that went against the status quo such as Jack Kerouac and Brett East Ellis. But one that truly helped with my writing career was Hunter S. Thompson.

Not so much for his “Gonzo” lifestyle (though it was fun in my 20s), but his clean journalistic style. Anyone can read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in one sitting.

And it’s not so much the non-stop funny content, but rather the short paragraphs and genius use of dialogue to show action (revisit point 40 above).

HST taught me more, though. When he was learning to write he emulated F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway (who didn’t!), and just as Tony Robbins tells people to emulate the best to shortcut their performance, so did Hunter with his word training.

He rewrote The Great Gatsby and Farewell to Arms word-for-word to strengthen his skill.

And it worked; I argue he’d be just as popular as a writer without the Gonzo lifestyle. And it was all due to his style – a style he developed by literally emulating other greats by typing out their exact words.

93. Read William Zinsser’s ‘On Writing Well’

This is by far the best book on writing. The most important takeaways are the need for constant edits and decluttering your writing from all nonsense and jargon.

In a world where online readers have the smallest attention spans ever, Zinsser’s text is needed more than ever.

Be warned (or smile if you’re getting away from it all!) – the word SEO is not mentioned anywhere.

94. Read ‘On Writing Well’ Again

Do it yearly. Make notes. Make new notes. Leave it in the bathroom. Read it at least once a year. You’re blogging audience will thank you.

95. Embrace All Elements of the Industry

Whatever industry you blog about, learn and participate as much as possible within everything involved in that industry.

If you write about motorcycles, ride every type. Learn the history of each brand. Understand the main bloggers. Get into the business and creative side of it.

The more you embrace your industry, the better your blogging efforts.

96. Ask for Criticism

Find someone you trust – friend, wife, associate, etc. – and ask them for honest criticism. Sometimes if people are too close they’ll outright lie.

Ask them to be honest, and ask for as much trusted criticism as possible. And learn from it.

97. Kill the Ego

Keep any type of ego out of your blogging efforts. A blog thick with ego kills the message. Yes, people do care if you sold the best-selling book on SEO or investing or whatever.

Mention it subtly to create credibility, but don’t highlight it. And never, ever repeat such ego-satisfying words.

Protest the ego-centric blogger!

98. Workout

This should go without saying in the 21st Century. The healthier the body, the healthier the mind – and vice versa.

Get as much exercise as possible – even walking 1000 steps a day over 500 can make a drastic difference, as is diet and calmness around booze (coming from a man who LOVES wine).

use a stand-up desk as a writing hack for energy

99. Standing Desk

Before a standing desk came into my life, I blamed my shoulder and backaches on the non-stop motorcycle riding on road-racing circuits, off-road tracks, and twisty roads from around the world.

But in 2016, wifey bought me one of those portable thingies for my laptop. Soon I found myself using it daily at the desk, and I felt healthier due to a better posture that erased many aches.

The portable was a PITA, so I invested in a stand-up desk about a year ago.

Best. Investment. Ever.

My “hyperfocus” periods have grown tremendously. Plus, Hemingway wrote while standing. If it’s good enough for Papa, it’s obviously good enough for us bloggers.

100. Grounding

Shortly after I discovered the standing desk, I discovered grounding.

First I was experimenting with it to battle jet lag after landing in Europe to test motorcycles. The first thing I’d do is get to the hotel and walk around barefoot.

The results were unbelievable for energy, so I tried a grounding mat under my desk. The energy levels grew, as did my focus.

I have worked barefoot on a grounding mat since. Everyday. All working hours.

101. Biohacking

Since launching ContentMender in early 2017, I’ve obsessed over discovery any hack that helped me produce more energy and focus.

Besides my agency, I also was running the day-to-day operations of a successful motorcycle website (writing and SEO) and also outlining and creating the proposal for my first book, “365 to Vision: Time Management Inverted”, and dealing with the norms of everyday life, including a toddler.

Biohacking became essential, and part of my ongoing studies.

The above grounding mat and standing desk are just a few elements of my biohacking, along with about 45 supplements daily, ice-cold showers, Bulletproof Coffee, infrared saunas, and Circadian Optics lighting, among other things.

Biohacking has helped me produce a consistent flow of content across various industries. And some days I write for 10-12 hours without a headache or anger as my mind remains completely focused.

I blame this partially on biohacking, which can help strengthen the energy for any type of blogger.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image of author Ron Lieback shot by Kevin Wing at Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 Circuit



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18 Popular Link Building Tactics You Should Actually Avoid

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Roger Montti


Google has been whittling away the value of links since the beginning of the search engine.

The reason Google chooses to ignore certain kinds of links is that those links do not represent a true recommendation.

As far back as 2005, I was told by a Googler at a conference Q&A that Google depreciated links from pages that are irrelevant, like from a footer “powered by” link.

That’s an example of Google removing irrelevant links from what they count as a link signal for ranking purposes.

A true link signal is when a publisher links to a webpage because it is relevant to the topic and therefore useful. What all of the following tactics have in common is that they do not result in a true link signal.

1. Historical Data Link Trap

This is from a patent about historical data that covers inbound links, outbound links, how fast links are acquired, how often content is updated and so on.

One of the factors that are relevant to link building has to do with adding links to a page without the page actually being updated.

Google is on record stating that just because something is in a patent or a research paper doesn’t mean it’s in use.

Additionally, the older the patent the higher the possibility that another algorithm was developed that made it obsolete.

That said, we don’t know whether something like this is in use. It’s something to take note of.

This patent is called, Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data.

Google has snapshots of the web, including snapshots of the state of the linking patterns.

The most common and easily detectable mistake is adding a link to an existing webpage.

This patent dates from 2003. Matt Cutts, then head of Google’s spam fighting department, is listed in the patent as one of the authors. That’s a good sign that this patent has a strong anti-spam component.

The Algorithm That Tracks Link Additions & Removals

Among the various things this patent covered, one of them was tracking changes of links on a webpage:

  • How many links are added.
  • How often links are added.
  • How often links are removed.

This patent covers a wide variety of changes to links on a page and links to a webpage.

Here’s a sample of the things this patent covers.

The section below discusses identifying how new links that are associated with a document are and assigning scores (weights) relative to the newness of those links and then using those scores to rank a webpage.

26. …assigning weights to the links based on the determined measure of freshness, and scoring the document based, at least in part, on the weights assigned to the links associated with the document.

27. The method of claim 26, wherein the measure of freshness of a link associated with the document is based on at least one of a date of appearance of the link, a date of a change to the link, a date of appearance of anchor text associated with the link, a date of a change to anchor text associated with the link, a date of appearance of a linking document containing the link, or a date of a change to a linking document containing the link.

Now, this section of the same patent discusses issuing penalties.

First, it discusses determining time based link information (claim 54) and in claims 55 and 56, it discusses penalizing rankings based on time related link patterns.

54. A method comprising:

…determining longevity of the linkage data;

deriving an indication of content update for at least one …or more linking documents providing the linkage data; and
adjusting the ranking of the linked document based on the longevity of the linkage data and the indication of content update for the linking document.

The next section (claims 55 & 56) are sub-sections to claim 54 above. The following part describes how Google can alter ranking scores with time based link information:

55. The method of claim 54, wherein the adjusting the ranking includes penalizing the ranking if the longevity indicates a short life for the linkage data and boosting the ranking if the longevity indicates a long life for the linkage data.

56. The method of claim 55, wherein …adjusting the ranking further includes penalizing the ranking if at least a portion of content from the linking document is considered stale over a period of time and boosting the ranking if the portion of content from the linking document is considered updated over the period of time.

What that section appears to cover is obtaining links from content that hasn’t been otherwise updated.

Link selling was a multi-million dollar business in those years. Prior to Penguin, around 2007-2009, Google was able to identify which links were paid and began devaluing them.

I know this because an executive from a link selling business told me that many of the links they sold were increasingly no longer working.

There were multiple theories of how Google was catching links added to pages that weren’t otherwise updated. In retrospect, something like the Historical Data Patent could be used to easily spot paid links in addition to other paid link signals.

The importance of the patent I cited is that Google monitoring historical link information is possible. There is a solid basis for the possibility.

The patent shows that it’s possible that Google could detect paid links by monitoring the inbound/outbound link changes within a domain over time.

Webpages change all the time. But there are some rates of changes that don’t happen on normal sites. So a site that’s selling links from within existing webpages could have the power of those links penalized.

Adding links to previously published articles in an attempt to influence Google may backfire. A person reported to me in early 2019 that he purchased links from an existing page and his page lost rankings within two weeks.

Was it the fact that the page was an old existing page that was not updated? Or was it something else?

It’s hard to say. I’m just putting this information out there for your consideration.

2. EDU Discount Link Building

The offer a discount link building technique can result in a penalty. Don’t do it.

This is an example of a sketchy link building tactic. Offering something in return for a link is a paid link. Overstock.com was reported to be penalized by Google in 2011 for offering discounts to university students in exchange for links.

EDU Discount Link Building

Overstock.com apparently was offering university discounts in exchange for links to their product pages. A university published a PDF document with discounts that were intended for students.

Unfortunately for Overstock.com, the document apparently contained the text of the outreach with instructions for how to link to the Overstock.com product pages. The PDF doesn’t exist anymore but Archive.org has a snapshot of it here.

Beware, some SEOs are still recommending discount link building. As you can see from the link above, this tactic violates Google’s guidelines and if that matters to you then don’t do it.

3. Free Products Link Building

This is another variation of a paid link. The interesting thing about this tactic is that it can actually be illegal because it may violate FTC rules against publishing reviews that have been paid for with products, samples or other compensation.

The official guidelines are here: FTC – Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

An easy to read FAQ about endorsements is here: FTC – Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking

4. Content Marketing Links

This is not about guest posting. This is about a different form of content marketing.

Content marketing is a lot of things. A valid version focuses on publishing articles on one’s own site to establish the site as a thought leader and create a useful resource that generates goodwill and links.

Another version of content marketing is hiring a writer to publish an article on a third party website, with a link to the client from within the article.

These kinds of article links do not typically contain a disclosure that a payment was made to the writer for the article and the link. This is advertising.

When money or other consideration is exchanged for a link, that is considered an advertisement done for promotional purposes.

This may violate the FTC Guidelines cited above. A relevant section is here:

“Your spokesperson should disclose her connection when promoting your products outside of traditional advertising media (in other words, on programming that consumers won’t recognize as paid advertising). The same guidance also would apply to comments by the expert in her blog or on her website.”

The following FTC guideline states that if the advertisement cannot be disclosed (as in a hidden arrangement), then that advertisement should not exist.

“If a disclosure is necessary to prevent an advertisement from being deceptive, unfair, or otherwise violative of a Commission rule, and it is not possible to make the disclosure clearly and conspicuously, then that ad should not be disseminated. This means that if a particular platform does not provide an opportunity to make clear and conspicuous disclosures, then that platform should not be used to disseminate advertisements that require disclosures”

5. Viral Link Campaigns

How Viral Link Campaigns Can Be Useful

Viral link campaigns can be useful. A viral link campaign can be useful if it is highly targeted to the demographic of people who would become purchasers and results in links from relevant webpages.

In my opinion, some of the value in viral link campaigns lie less in link creation and can be in awareness building. Building awareness for a company has value.

How Viral Link Campaigns Fail

The more off-topic a viral link campaign is, the less likely it will result in relevant links. In that scenario, there is no value for ranking or awareness building.

A viral link campaign is useless if the reason people are linking has nothing to do with your core business model or your keyword phrases.

Viral contests and other forms of viral stunts for links tend to result in irrelevant inbound links. Google discounts irrelevant links.

The page and/or the immediate context of the link must have a meaningful relevance to the site being linked to. If the relevance of the link is for the topic of the viral campaign, then those links may help rank that site for that topic.

A friend shared with me the anecdote of a company that ran a campaign for their real estate company. The campaign was a contest to about the world’s worst real estate agent portrait photograph. For years afterward, the real estate site failed to rank for meaningful phrases but it did receive a lot of traffic for phrases like world’s worst real estate agent.

Now imagine bloggers and news organizations linking to a toy retailer website because the toy retailer created the world’s biggest teddy bear. All the links have the context of the World’s Biggest Teddy Bear. The landing page they’re linking to is the viral link page about the world’s biggest teddy bear.

That site may rank for the world’s biggest teddy bear. But those thousands of links will not help that site rank for their important search queries because none of those links come from the context of a specific toy nor do they link to a specific toy.

So how can that site rank for yo-yos when all their links are about the world’s biggest teddy bear?

It won’t. They never do.

I gave a presentation at an Internet marketing conference several years ago and one of the audience members was confused at why his wildly successful viral link campaign failed to increase rankings and sales. The above description is why irrelevant viral link campaigns fail in terms of creating a lift in rankings and sales.

Don’t overlook the value of building awareness with a viral link campaign. Viral linking as a strategy can be useful. Just don’t expect an off-topic viral campaign to result in a change in rankings.

Redirect Viral Links Page to Another Page

While we’re on the topic of viral links, this is a strategy that no longer works. This strategy dates back to the days when Digg was popular. The scheme was to build a ton of viral (irrelevant) links to a viral link page. Then months later take the page down and do a permanent 301 redirect to the home page or to a product page.

This no longer works and hasn’t worked for many years. Google will not assign PageRank or relevancy signals through a redirect (or canonical) if there isn’t a one to one relevance between the two pages.

6. Sponsor Links

In my opinion, it is very unlikely that a philanthropic event will generate links from a meaningful context. This is similar to a viral link campaign. The best links are from a context that’s related to your topic to a page on your site that is about that topic.

This kind of link is convenient and expedient. That’s why some SEOs recommend them. They’re easier to acquire, which is good for the link builder and not so good for the client.

It’s not really the kind of link that will move your rankings. I say this from personal experience. I and others experimented with these around 14 years ago. This is nothing new. They simply do not move the dial on rankings.

And if that’s not good enough for you, here’s what Google’s John Mueller said about charity sponsorship links in a Webmaster Hangout:

“…if with your website you’re sponsoring… different clubs and sites where it looks like the primary intent is to get a link there, then that’s something the web spam team might take action on.

…So I’d try to take a look at the bigger picture there and think uwhether or not this is really something that you’re doing systematically; like going out and sponsoring other sites or products with the intent of getting a link or if this is something that’s essentially just a natural part of the web.”

7. Scholarship Links

PageRank and link ranking algorithms look at how the web interconnects.

Google builds a map of the Internet then likely creates what’s called a Reduced Link Graph, consisting of mostly non-spam links and pages.

Then as part of the ranking analysis, it organizes the web into neighborhoods by topic.

Scholarship links are great if your goal is to rank for [keyword phrase] + scholarship. The problem with these kinds of links is that they have an irrelevant context.

Most sites that do scholarship link building aren’t about scholarships. They’re about things like personal injury lawyers.

Scholarship Links

There is no relevance between a link from a school to a personal injury lawyer for the purpose of ranking for personal injury lawyer search phrases.

The link is relevant for things like “personal injury attorneys scholarship.” Google will rank these kinds of pages for those scholarship search phrases and that is the extent of the value.

This is useless for business owners because the links aren’t about their business, they’re about scholarships.

If a personal injury lawyer attained links that are relevant for the search phrase, pizza restaurants, they will rank for personal injury pizza restaurant.

But a pizza restaurant link is not desirable for a personal injury lawyer website. The same kind of relevance problem applies to scholarship links.

An SEO may say that a link from a .edu will help increase the domain authority of a page, that it will increase “trust” and that Dot Edu links are special.

That’s wrong in three different ways.

I think we’re done with scholarship links.

Now let’s move on to an even more useless link building trick.

8. Badges for Links Trick

One of the oldest and out of date link building tricks around is the Badges link building strategy. The Badges for links strategy is a variation of the Awards strategy as well as the Widgets strategy.

The idea is to create a fake award then award to websites that will display your image badge that proclaims them a winner. The trick is to give them the badge and the code which contains a sneaky link back to your website.

Run as fast as you can from any SEO who tells you the Badges trick is a useful link building tactic. This link building strategy is so stale that if you breathe on it it’ll crumble and blow away.

The badges link building technique is similar to the widgets technique, which Google explicitly called out in 2016.

It’s similar because in both cases the link builder is giving something of value (an award, a visitor counter) and forcing the link back to the original website.

The tactic relies on people linking to your site for reasons other than your content. Those kinds of links have been devalued since at least 2004 when Google stopped passing PageRank from pages that are irrelevant to the page they’re linking to.

The idea is to create an awards page and have the badge link to that awards page. The idea is that the link will pass PageRank since the context of the link is similar to the context of the webpage.

One of the failures of the badge for links strategy is that unless your site is about awards, the link is useless. All it’s going to do is help your page rank for “Keywords + Awards). How does that help you? It doesn’t.

9. Blog Comments

Blog commenting is such a bad link building tactic that the search engines created a link attribute called “nofollow” in 2005. Should anyone really consider a tactic that was already burned in 2005?

Even though the “nofollow” attribute is now a hint, that’s no excuse to start comment spamming like it’s 2004.

Does anyone believe Google would make the nofollow into a hint without being able to handle a 2004 link building tactic?

10. Buying Websites

Buying a website is an edgy tactic. Redirecting the domain in order to parasite the link signals doesn’t work anymore. The reason is that Google will not pass link signals from one page to another unless the pages are a close match.

Creating a separate website only doubles your work because now you’re link building and content writing for two websites.

11. Charity Link Building

This is a variation of the sponsorship link building tactic. The problem with this tactic is that the links are irrelevant.

An SEO will try to convince you that domain authority, trust, and Dot EDU magic will help a site rank better. But those excuses have already been documented as untrue.

12. Content Syndication

This is a variation of guest posting, only worse. Content syndication is creating content and letting others publish it in exchange for a link.

Former Google engineer Matt Cutts warned the SEO community in his famous post about guest blogging called, The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO.

13. Contests for Links

This is a variation of viral link building. It creates a situation where other websites are linking to a site for reasons that have nothing to do with the relevant topic. Off-topic links are never good.

14. Widget Links

Widget links are one of the oldest forms of scaled link building.

Many years ago in the early 2000s, the top ranked site for Mesothelioma was a lawyer site that distributed visitor counters for universities to use at the bottom of their webpage.

Placing the page counter code resulted in a link to the lawyer site. It worked for years and then it stopped working.

When WordPress gained popularity many people started using other forms of useful widgets for people to add to their sites.

Plugins for things like a weather display, news, RSS feeds and other useful functions were created so that they resulted in a link back to someone’s site.

Google formally published a blog post to warn against this technique.

15. Press Release Link Building

Press releases are useful for announcing important news about a business. The value is in a news organization publishing a news story based on the press release.

The value is not in the links embedded in the press release. Sites that syndicate press releases tend to be of low quality.

Google may also choose to ignore the links in duplicate content because it’s painfully obvious that links in duplicate content do not represent the quality of being a true link signal.

Google’s John Mueller is on record as stating that press release links are something Google tries to ignore.

So if common sense and logic aren’t enough to convince you that is a low-quality tactic, then perhaps a Googler’s statement will.

16. Profile Link Building

As the moderator of the Link Building Forum at WebmasterWorld and being friends with many forum owners, I can tell you right now that online community administrators know about link builders who sign up to a forum in order to drop a link from their profile.

Just don’t. It’s a low-quality link with zero context and zero relevance. It’s not a true link.

A forum profile link is about as useless and spammy as a link can get. There is ZERO context for a ranking signal to a webpage. It’s silly to consider such a link as a link building tactic.

In my opinion, anyone who recommends this tactic has a credibility problem.

17. Forum Spamming

Forum administrators and moderators are on the lookout for link builders who post a couple useless “me too!” posts and then answer a question with a link to another site saying, “And there’s more information at this site!”

Sorry, but most forum admins and mods consider that spam. The mods will trip over each other to delete those kinds of posts.

If you want to publicize your business in a way that puts it in a bad light and generates buckets of ill will, have at it.

18. WordPress Theme Link Building

“Powered by” links in the footer stopped working over fifteen years ago. Just stop.

Takeaway

Being fashionable is about going along with current trends. Like fashion, link building tactics have many trends, sometimes driven by how easy they are.

When it comes to link building, it’s good to understand the history behind certain tactics. It’s also useful to understand how search engines use links.

Knowledge will help keep you from making avoidable mistakes.

Don’t let anyone tell you that knowing about patents or research is useless. Knowledge is useful. Understanding how search engines treat links can save you from needlessly tanking a website’s rankings.

There are so many ways that a link building strategy can go wrong. These are, in my opinion, a few of the link building strategies that are a waste of time and money.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
Screenshots taken by author, November 2019



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6 Awesome Tools You Need for Your Content Curation Strategy

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Marcus Ho


About a decade ago, the concept of content marketing was considered to be a novelty in the marketing community.

However, almost every marketer has now woken up to the fact that there’s no winning without it.

96% of the most successful content marketers have realized that providing valuable information to their audience makes their organization gain credibility as a trusted resource.

Having a well-thought-out content marketing strategy is the need of the hour for every business.

But it isn’t easy to keep churning out fresh, relevant, and informative content on a regular basis.

This is where content curation comes in.

It’s a great way to fill the void and keep your audience engaged while you focus on creating and promoting original content. Here are six awesome tools to help you with content curation.

Pinterest is a visual content discovery and social media platform.

Users can use it to search and find content related to a variety of niches such as marketing, lifestyle, health, fashion, food, travel, and many more.

Once found, users pin such content to their boards (collections of content related to a particular theme) which can be private, public, or shared.

Pinterest

As a part of your content curation strategy, you can create a free Pinterest account and start pinning relevant content (that your target audience is likely to be interested in) to your own boards.

You can then share such content to attract and engage your audience.

Pinterest also allows you to follow other boards that can help you with ideas and inspiration from businesses that have similar target audiences as yours.

Scoop.it helps you discover the most relevant content based on topics you specify and share them directly on your social networks.

It also recommends complementary topics and other relevant users to follow for ideas.

6 Awesome Tools You Need for Your Content Curation Strategy

With its free version, you can create one topic page with 50 scoops per page.

Their paid plans start at $14.99 per month and allow you to:

  • Create more topic pages with more scoops.
  • Share scoops and direct links to social media.
  • Embed topic pages on your WordPress website.
  • Send them as email newsletters.

Feedly is a great content curation tool that allows you to access and read through your favorite websites, blogs, news sites, YouTube channels, RSS feeds, save the content for later, or share them on your social networks.

All you need to do is search for sites you want to follow and add them to your personal Feedly.

You can then browse these feeds from a single platform.

6 Awesome Tools You Need for Your Content Curation Strategy

With its free version, you can create three feeds, three boards, and have 100 sources.

Its paid versions allow you to use more advanced features such as:

  • Collating content from an unlimited number of sources.
  • Using and sharing boards.
  • Integrating with social media management tools like Buffer and Hootsuite.

Curata’s intelligent software scours the web and uses your keywords, shared content, bookmarked content, authors, or news sources to collate highly relevant content for you from various blogs, websites, and social media platforms.

It uses machine learning to refine its results over time based on the content you share.

Curata

You can use its browser plugin to add content to your curated lists while browsing the web.

It also allows you to customize your messages and imagery when you share curated content across your social networks.

If you’re just getting started with content curation, Pocket is a handy little tool to have in your arsenal. It comes with a plugin that you need to install.

Whenever you come across an interesting piece of content on the web, all you need to do is to hit that button and save that content for later.

You can use tags to group your content under specific topics and you can even access this content offline.

Pocket

You can use its basic features for free.

You can also upgrade to its premium version for $4.99 per month which gives you access to features such as advanced search and a permanent backup of everything you’ve saved.

Listly is yet another super useful content curation tool you need to know of.

This easy-to-use tool is available both as a web application as well as an iOS app.

It allows you to build well-organized and curated lists keeping your target audience in mind.

Listly

What’s unique about this Listly is that it allows you to involve your audience in the process of content curation.

Your audience can vote up or down on individual items in your lists, share them, and even suggest items to be added to your lists.

This is a great way to make sure that your content is tailored to suit your audience’s interests as well as to help you continually curate content.

Final Thoughts

While content curation can be a wonderful add-on to your content marketing strategy, it’s important to not take it lightly.

Make sure to curate content that’s timely, newsworthy, and relevant for your target audience.

Also, ensure that the sources you use are credible and reputable. This will help your content perform better and help you gain credibility.

Use your own personal insights to help your audience understand why the content you’re sharing might be valuable for them.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, October 2019



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