3 Free Business Genesis Child Themes For 2013

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 22, 2013, under Uncategorized

The Genesis Theme Framework is an awesome wordpress theme framework. But what makes it unique from other similar frameworks is the amount of child themes available for it. Many of these child themes are paid themes and will cost you money. But did you know there were also a wide variety of other free Genesis child themes available?

To help you get started, I’ve located my favorite 3 business child themes that you can download for free. They are perfect for any business or company type site that you may be trying to create. If you would like see a more comprehensive list of free Genesis child themes, I would check out this post on SlickWP.com.

Latitude

Latitude is a nice looking theme developed by Aaron Hartland. It features support for the Genesis Slider, includes a portfolio page template, and supports 6 different page layouts. You can also add a custom header as well.

Terragon

Terragon is a unique looking theme developed by Media Cairn design studio. It utilizes an earth toned palette which why you notice a lot of browns and reds in this theme.

Nameless

Nameless is a nice looking theme that was created by Monica Guerra Leiria. You’ll get a fully widgetized homepage and can pick from 7 different color styles.

What do you think about these 3 Genesis themes? Would you actually use them on your site? Let us know in the comments what you think.

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Pointers for Choosing a Good Domain Name (and Where to Register One)

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 19, 2012, under Uncategorized

Thinking of setting up a website or a blog? Picking a domain name is one of the first things that you’ll have to do when setting one up.

Importance of Choosing a Good Domain Name

The domain name you choose will stay with you for as long as the website/blog stays alive, which essentially means that you’ll be stuck with it once it’s been registered. And while you’ll be able to change web hosting services as per your discretion, your website’s name will remain the same.

Yes, changing your domain name isn’t totally impossible, you can choose to do so if you want to. However bear in mind that going for a new domain name is like starting from scratch, especially in terms of Google Page Rank, Alexa rank, backlinks and traffic, since all these are linked with your domain name.

Change domain names, and you’ll pretty much have to work your way up from scratch.

What all this means that choosing the right domain name for your website/blog is easily one of the most important decisions in setting up an online presence for your business or your own self.

Pointers for Choosing the Best-Possible Domain Name

While there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about this, here are a few tips, tricks, and pointers (and general do’s and don’ts) to consider when choosing a domain name, which should help you in making the correct decision (in no particular order):

Tip # 1: Good Domain Names are Relevant – First and foremost, the domain name that you choose for your blog needs to be relevant to its content and subject matter. It should instantly let a potential visitor know what the blog is about. For instance SEOnext.com lets a visitor instantly know that the blog is about SEO. Similarly, Problogger.com clearly indicates that the website is about blogging and bringing professional bloggers together. A website on football stats, for example, should include these two keywords in the name.

Tip # 2: Good Domain Names Include Keywords – An important aspect of a domain name that’s relevant is that is almost always includes relevant keywords in it. Consider the SEOnext.com example once more. The inclusion of the word SEO clearly gives away the fact that the blog is related to SEO (or Search Engine Optimization), and has allowed the owner to include a keyword (SEO) that is relevant to the subject matter of the blog. Similarly, a blog on iPhone application development could be called iPhoneDevBlog.com (or something similar).

Tip # 3: Good Domain Names Use a TLD – A TLD or Top-Level Domain usually refers to domain name extensions such as .com, .org, .net, .biz and the like. Always stick with such TLDs – preferably a dotcom TLD – although it really depends on the nature of the website, for instance a business/company might want to go for a .biz or .co TLD.

Tip # 4: Good Domain Names are Easy to Remember – Stating the obvious here, but a domain name should be simple, short (more on that in a bit), easy to remember, without being too complicated. Following this simple rule allows your visitors (present visitors and potential) to easily access your website by simply typing in the domain in the browser. A simple, uncomplicated domain is also easier to spread via word-of-mouth. Too difficult a domain, and you risk losing a large chunk of your traffic (particularly direct traffic. Remember, if it’s easy to spell, it’s easy to remember and hence good to go!

Tip # 5: Good Domain Names are Short in Length – The domain name should be short, ideally less than 10 characters, and should never be too long. Use a combination of one or two words, throw your keyword(s) in there and you should be good to go. Keeping it short also makes it easier to remember. For example iPhoneDevBlog.com is a good example of a short domain, when compared with something like iPhoneApplicationDevelopmentBlog.com.

Tip # 6: Good Domain Names don’t Infringe Copyrights – It would be wise to check for any legal issues or copyright infringements before registering for a domain. For instance a domain which resembles another already-registered one (e.g. Faacebook.com, or Mocrosoft.com) might put you at risk later on. Instead think of a unique name, and make sure that your domain name wont land you in legal hot-water or put you at risk of getting sued later on.

Where to Purchase a Domain Name From

Here is a list of the 5 best places to register a domain name for yourself, courtesy the excellent Lifehacker.com.

In addition to the 5 listed in the link above, you can also check out GoDaddy.com.

Personally I’ve used GoDaddy and Name.com plenty of times. Their service is quite good, the registration process for both is quick and swift, both offer plenty of payment options, both have excellent dashboards for domain management, and perhaps most importantly, both these services come with excellent customer support.

Domain names can be registered for anywhere between a single year to up to 5 or 10 years. Payment is made on a per-year basis. You can choose to register a domain for a single year, and have it renewed (automatically or manually, your call) every year.

Choose the one which offers you the cheapest rates on TLDs. Insider tip: try looking for discount coupons and rebate certificates on the internet; if you get a hold of some, you might be able to buy a $10 domain for as low as $1-2 using these!

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How to Stay Safe from Google Penguin in 3 Simple Steps

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 18, 2012, under Uncategorized

Without a shadow of a doubt, Google is the undisputed king when it comes to the search engine industry!

It is the single largest source of organic (search) traffic out there, it generates a ton of traffic for millions of websites and blogs out there – generating almost 50% of the total traffic (organic + referral) in the world.

Understandably, everyone wants a piece of the Google pie! Organizations and companies, multinationals and conglomerates, brands and business, bloggers and internet marketers are all putting concentrated efforts into getting on top of Google’s results for terms that are related to them.

Recently however, Google has introduced a number of changes to how its search engine algorithm functions – the first of which was dubbed the ‘Panda’, while the most recent major change was called ‘Penguin’.

Both these changes were aimed at providing Google users with a more refined and improved search experience. This was achieved by decreasing the amount of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines from showing up in search results.

Unfortunately, when Google Penguin was rolled out, a large number of websites and blogs were penalized, adversely affecting their ranking and SERP. It is quite difficult to recover once your website has been penalized; it is a long, cumbersome and frustrating process which involves conducting a complete SEO-audit of your blog, ridding your website of unnatural links, putting up fresh content and altering your website’s content.

Which is why it is important (and smart!) to take preemptive measures. Here are a few things that you can do to make your website or blog Penguin-friendly:

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

Write as naturally as possible, and write with the intention of benefiting actual human beings, not with the purpose of pleasing search engines. Avoid keyword stuffing or deliberately (read: forcefully) adding keywords to your copy at all costs.

When once keeping a check on your keyword density was essential to your SEO, it is not any more – if anything, its counter-SEO and counter-productive now. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a good idea to include important keywords to your copy (important to your article, your blog as well as your SEO), however avoid unnaturally stuffing keywords or adding words or phrases a certain number of times in your copy.

Google’s crawlers, post-Penguin, are smart enough to identify blogs which use this strategy to manipulate rankings, and gain a higher position on the SERPs. In 4 words: avoid at all costs!

Write Original, Unique and Quality

Copied, spun, unoriginal, plagiarised or reproduced content is certain to land you in hot water with Google. If there’s one thing that Google HATES, it is spun content. Get caught and you’re as good as banned.

If you’re a blogger or an online publisher, I would strongly recommend writing unique, writing original when it comes to your content, and producing quality posts for your blog.

Always write original. Avoid copying content from other blogs, websites or any online resources. Stay clear of blatant plagiarisation. Google absolutely loves fresh, well-written content and tends to rank blogs that put such content up quite high on the SERP.

If you find yourself devoid of ideas, avoid copying from other blogs – instead, take an article or a write-up, and rewrite it by giving it your own spin, adding your own opinion and of course, citing the original source in the beginning, at the end, or somewhere in the post.

Be creative and fresh, because as a blogger, that is something that you will be required to do from time to time. If not, hire someone to write for you.

Building Quality Backlinks

So we’ve established that Google hates copied content. You know what else Google hates? Backlinks from spammy sources, such as link-farms, as well as other sources sell links. The purpose of these services is to give your blog inbound links and a quick PR-boost, in exchange for money of course.

Needless to say, it puts your website at a lot of risk, and you will most certainly be banned from Google search results if your website gets caught – which it will. Like I said before, Google’s crawlers and search engine bots are getting smarter, and can detect illegal or unnatural backlinks. Too many of these and you’ll probably notice a dip in your organic traffic in your analytics suite.

Stick with natural sources of getting backlinks, and stay clear of any and all black hat or illegal methods of building backlinks. Try to get natural, organic inbound links to your blog. If you consistently develop quality content for your blog, word will spread and people will link to you. Natural backlinks will be Penguin-safe as well as Google-friendly.

Additional Read: Here is (i) an excellent Google Penguin Optimization Checklist for webmasters, and a (ii) guide to protecting yourself from Google Penguin, courtesy the good people at Search Engine Journal.

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A List of the Best Ways to Make Money from a Blog

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 17, 2012, under Uncategorized

One of the best aspects of having a blog is the fact that it is pretty easy to monetize it. However making money off a blog is something that a lot of bloggers (old and new) seem to struggle with.

Some bloggers don’t prioritize making money off their blogs. However those that have successfully been able to do so are making a fair bit of money from their blogging efforts. A large chunk of those are even making a pretty decent living from their blogs!

The fact of the matter is that if you’re a blogger, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be earning a buck or two (or much more) from your blog – even if that isn’t why you got into blogging.

In fact, you’ve been able to build a blog that engages and attracts a large number of visitors, you should be monetizing it. There are a ton of revenue-generating opportunities for you out there, which allow you to easily monetize your blog. Here are a few, each with their own set of pros and cons:

1. Google AdSense

Google’s AdSense is easily one of the largest sources of online earning out there. If you’re a blog owner, and if your blog complies with AdSense Program Policies and their Terms and Conditions, you can apply for AdSense and have image and text-based ads show up on your blog.

Pros: Quite a few! For starters, it is pretty easy to apply for AdSense and set it up on your blog. And the program doesn’t come with a lot of restrictions either. But perhaps the biggest advantage of AdSense is the fact that it is backed up by a large pool of advertisers, which means that ads displayed on your blog are extremely targeted, and hence relevant to the content of your blog. Furthermore, AdSense allows you to monetize traffic from all across the world.

Cons: Hasn’t worked too well for some people. Even the slightest infringement of AdSense policies will have your account getting suspended. And lastly, ads can be a turn-off for visitors.

2. Affiliate Programs

Another popular source of income for online publishers and bloggers, affiliate marketing, in simple terms, involves merchants who let affiliates sell their products or services or bring them customers, in exchange for a commission or a reward of some sort.

So you, as a blogger/online publisher, will be given a commission for helping another business promote their website, or any of their products or services on your blog.

You, as the affiliate, will be responsible only for the promotion and marketing of the product/service. In order to do so, you will refer customers to your merchant’s website, where they will be able to complete the transaction. Once the transaction finishes, you’ll earn a percentage of it as a commission.

Amazon Associates, Commission Junction and Clickbank are three of the most popular affiliate programs out there.

In all likelihood, even your webhosting service, your domain registrar and that premium theme you’re using on your WordPress blog will have an affiliate program on offer.

Pro tip: With affiliate marketing, it is important to choose a product/service/niche that you’re really love and trust and are passionate about yourself, since you’ll be spending a fair bit of time promoting that product.

Pros: Affiliate marketing can be pretty lucrative, and a great way to make some serious money easily – all you need to do and all you’re responsible for is the marketing aspect of the sale, everything else is the responsibility of the merchant. It’s a win-win for everyone involved – the merchant knows he’ll earn less per sale, but having a group of affiliates promote his products or services increases the overall sales levels. On the other hand, bloggers (affiliate) have the opportunity to earn more money than what is possible through ad-based sources of monetization.

Cons: For your affiliate marketing efforts to really work, you need to have a high amount of traffic on your blog; more traffic equals more  But most importantly, you need to gain the trust of your readership in order to be able to successfully sell them something – which is something bloggers might struggle to do.

3. Sell a Product or a Service

A product, such as an eBook on how to get more traffic, a series of eBooks or a DVD course on learning to play the guitar, a WordPress premium theme/framework, tee-shirts and merchandise based on TV shows and movies, an iPhone or Android OS app, or a service such as a web designing service, a customer support service, a consultation blog, or a blog that provides SEO services to clients.

If you think you can develop a product or a service which people would be willing to pay for, it could be a great way to monetize your blog. Anything from simple $0.99 apps to $1000 guitar learning programs, try selling stuff on your blog.

Cafepress, for instance, allows you to design and order customized on-demand products and merchandise, which you can then sell on your blog.

Pros: You can make a lot of money this way, depending on what you intend on selling. You can have affiliates promote your product in order to maximize sales.

Cons: You will be required to spend time, money and resources on advertising and promoting your products and/or services to a fairly large amount of people. In addition, it will be your responsibility to determine an appropriate price-point for your product, choosing a medium for marketing it, and choosing payment and delivery channels as well.

4. Donations:

Alternatively, you can still give away a product or a service on your blog, and instead of charging anything for it, you can offer it for free and ask your visitors and users to donate an amount – whatever they can – by putting up a donate button on your blog.

Or instead, even if you don’t intend on selling anything, you can still ask people for donations if they find your blog and its content useful, in order to keep it alive.

Paypal is a great medium of accepting donations – it’s easy to set up and works universally. You can even design and add a Paypal Donate button to your blog.

There are plenty of websites and brands that employ this method. JustinGuitar is a good example; the blog offers more than 500 guitar lessons for free, and relies on an honor system, which is essentially asking the users to donate whatever they can afford to in order to keep the lessons free. AdBlock, the popular plugin for Google’s Chrome browser also relies on a similar system in order to keep the plugin free of cost.

Pros: The fact that you’re offering your products and/or services for free leaves a great impression on your visitors, coupled with the fact that you’re offering quality content on your blog, it might incline them to make a sizable donation.

Cons: ‘Asking for money’ might leave a bad impression on some visitors, depending on how you go about doing it.

Other ways of making money with your blog:

  • Asking other businesses to put their ads on your blog, for a fee.
  • Paid/sponsored reviews.
  • Writing paid guest posts on other blogs.
  • Selling the blog itself!
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Surefire Ways to Get More Comments on Your Posts

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 16, 2012, under Uncategorized

The number of comments, and other forms of user-generated content, is a great tangible way of gauging how successful your blogging efforts really are.

For starters, comments portray a positive impression of your blog, in terms of traffic and engagement, and promote a sense of community.

It shows that your blog is active, that it has successfully been able to attract, build and engage a large number of loyal audience. It shows that the content that you’re putting up on your blog attracts user feedback.

Comments keep the discussion going by taking it forward. Some comments may be genuinely thought-provoking, while some may add a unique perspective to the article, or even something helpful for the readers of your blog.; something that you might’ve missed out on in your blog.

Perhaps even more importantly, the comments section provides your blog with more (free!) unique and relevant content.

Comments are also important from an SEO perspective; the addition of user-generated content provides you article with unique keywords and keyphrases – which of course is indexed by Google which may help search engines rank and index your article, and of course, help your SERP.

New blogs, and even some old established ones, may struggle for comments. You might even be getting tens of hundreds of visitors on your blog, but very little feedback to show for it. Here are a few things you can attempt in order to encourage more people to comment on your blog:

  1. Encourage people to post comments. Ask for feedback at the end of the article, or finish up with a question. Ask people to leave their thoughts and feedback in the comments section, and be direct about it. Use cues throughout your copy that encourage people to post comments. Highlight parts of your write-up where you’ve asked a question, for instance. The best way to get comments is to actually ask for them!
  2. Make it extremely easy for people to leave comments. This means as less fields to fill out as possible (usually the quartet of Name, Email, Website, and Comment fields works the best). Don’t have users fill out unnecessary fields, or jumping through needless hoops. Do away with complicated captchas as well. Put a disclaimer along with the email field, which assures users that their address will be kept private.
  3. Allow people to comment using their social media profiles. This includes letting people use their Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts to post a comment. WordPress plugins such as Disqus or Social Login make this easy. Doing so allows your visitors to quickly and easily post a comment, and when they post a comment using their Facebook profile for instance, the comment also gets posted in their Facebook walls, which means more (free) exposure for you!
  4. Be a part of the comments section and the conversation yourself. Keep the conversation going by posting your own reply to it. Respond and reply to any and all comments on your posts – even the more critical ones. Address everyone’s concerns, provide assistance to people who ask for it in the comments, and reply back to those who even dropped by to say thanks. Remember that it is important to value what people say, since they took time out to leave feedback. If you respond to people’s comments yourself, you’re not only making some valuable return visitors in the process, you’re also encouraging more visitors to leave their feedback.
  5.  Give something back to those that frequently engage and interact on your blog. Devise a way to reward your top commenters, such as an award or rankings system or a loyalty program for readers and comments. WordPress plugins such as Top Contributors or PunchTab will certainly do the trick! Feature the top commenters on the sidebar (WordPress plugins for that here and here). Alternatively, you could offer a rewards system that picks one random comment on a weekly/monthly basis, and rewards the person with a free copy of your eBook or plugin, or maybe a signed shirt, a limited edition version of your iPhone app, or something like a premium membership on your website. Needless to say, rewarding loyal commenters will promote a feeling of community on your blog, and encourage visitors to comment.
  6. Thank people for their comments. In the comments section, as well as via email. It is a great little gesture on your part, and a great way to acknowledge someone’s comment. Automate this process using the Thank Me Later plugin, which as you may have guessed, automatically send out a thank you email to anyone who posts a comment on your blog, promoting engagement in the process. You can customize the message using the plugin, although in my experience, a simple ‘thanks’ usually works pretty well!

What strategies, if any, do you use to get more comments on your blog? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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How to Conduct a Technical SEO Audit: An In-depth Guide

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 15, 2012, under Uncategorized

An SEO audit refers to a complete check-up for your website, which analyses and looks at the infrastructure of your blog or website, specifically the on-page and off-page elements that are essential to search engine optimization. It therefore provides a complete picture of what you’re doing right, and what aspects of your SEO might be adversely affecting your ranking, and hence might need to be improved upon.

In short, an SEO audit is like a SWOT analysis for your website.

While there are tons of tools available out there, that would conduct a complete technical audit for you – SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer being one – here’s a guide on the different elements of your website you need to look at in order to conduct a quick SEO audit.

1. Content – Your ranking on search engines will be directly proportional to the quality of content that you create. High quality content would translate to better rankings, and of course more direct and referral traffic.

Posts, for instance, should ideally follow the following broad set of rules/criteria:

i.            Developed for humans, not search engines.

ii.            Preference to quality over quantity; no word limits, simply focus your efforts into writing well.

iii.            Include any and all important keywords in the content, as well as the URL and the meta information (more below).

iv.            Internal links, with links to other parts (posts, pages) of your website, wherever applicable. Make sure that these are do-follow (indexable) links. Avoid putting too many of these on a single page – ideally, one link every few hundred words should be safe.

v.            External links, with a few links to any other website or posts from another website, wherever applicable.

vi.            Use header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) for the important keywords in your article. In terms of SEO, H1 tags are more important than H2 ones, and so on.

2. URLs – Follow these simple tips to optimize the URLs:

i.            URLs should be short – around 200-220 characters ideally, but should reflect the content of the article succinctly.

ii.            URLs should always contain relevant keywords, particularly those which are important to your website and you want to rank for.

iii.            Avoid using sessions IDs in URLs.

iv.            Use hyphens in URLs, avoid using underscores

Example: A good example of how a URL should be structured for an article on ’How to Sell a Car on the Internet’ would be www.yourwebsite.com/sell-car-on-internet.

When you set up a WordPress blog, for instance, you can go to WordPress settings in the Dashboard, and open the option that says Permalinks. Here, you can easily choose the kind of permalinks (URLs) that you’d want for posts on your blog, or even choose a custom one.

3. Meta Description – Any information that foes into the <head> area of a post/page is referred to as meta information. It is extremely important for numerous reasons. It lets search engines know what your site, or a specific page on it – is about, helping it rank the page in a better manner. It is important to note that search engines have gotten better (more ‘intelligent’) with the passage of time, and now do not solely rely on this information for ranking.

Meta information – particularly title and description – also shows up when your website shows up in the SERP. If you’re on WordPress, use a tool like Yoast’s SEO plugin or All-in-one SEO to fill out and edit the meta information of all pages on your website.

For title tags, here are some basic ground rules to follow:

i.            Should be relevant to the article, and do a good job of telling search engines and visitors what the page is about,

ii.            should not exceed 60 characters,

iii.            should ALWAYS include keywords, with the most important ones right in the beginning,

iv.            should be unique

For the meta description:

i.            Once more, should be relevant and should reflect upon the content of the page accurately,

ii.            Should be unique,

iii.            Limit’s 160 characters for descriptions, so you have more to play with here. Use it wisely,

iv.            Should include all relevant keywords.

Pro tip: Always avoid keyword stuffing when it comes to meta information, it will most certainly have search engines flag your content for spam. Instead, structure meta information like a proper (natural) sentence.

4. Location of Pages – Distance of a page from your root directory (home page) is important. Ideally, any page on your website should be as close to your homepage as possible, and not be 3 or 4 levels far, as the farther a page is from the root directory, the lesser it will be valued by search engines.

In addition, each page on your website should be accessible from your homepage, without the need to go back and forth on your website.

Not only is it favorable from a visitor’s perspective, a webpage that is near your root directory and at a few clicks away from your homepage also makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index it.

5. Navigation – Navigation, of course, is one of the key elements of a well-structured, well-built website. What you’re aiming for is to ensure that all pages (particularly your homepage/landing page) and posts are easily accessible on your website, preferably right from the navbar placed on top of the website and accessible from any page of the website.

Divide your content into categories (without using too many subcategories, as each subcategory pushes your post farther from your root), and make sure that all categories can be accessed from the navbar. Don’t use a flash or javascript-based navigation, as these make it difficult for crawlers to crawl your website.

Set up breadcrumbs – an essential part of good navigation. They let your visitors know where they are on your website at a glance, and if you incorporate your keywords within your breadcrumbs, it will also be a beneficial from an SEO perspective. Yoast’s Breadcrumbs plugin for WP lets you set these up easily.

6. Page Size and Load Times – The file size of pages should never be too big. If you intend on putting a lot of content in a post or on a single page (such as images), split the content into multiple pages. The size of the page should not exceed more than a few hundred KB’s. Use Pingdom Tools in order to check the size of all your individual pages.

Page files size also has a detrimental effect on the overall load-time of your website, as well as the individual page load-times. Once again, use Pingdom Tools to check the time it takes for your website to load up. The report shows load times for each individual element on your website (including the different pages), as well as the size of each.

Alternatively, you can go to Google Analytics, and go to ‘Site Speed’ under ‘Content’ in the dashboard to check various speed-related metrics for your website.

Ideally, load times should never exceed a few seconds (anything less than 10 second should be good enough). Large page load times could mean that you’re losing out on traffic, and may also hinder search engine crawlers from indexing your website. What’s more, Google now takes page load times into account when ranking your website in the search results. Slower websites will not rank very high, vice versa for quick websites.

7. Broken Links – Broken links can have a very adverse effect on your SEO and ranking. Any broken links on your website (which usually lead to a 404 page) not only leave a bad impression on your visitors, they also hamper crawlers from properly indexing your website and hence rank your pages better. Moreover, broken internal links prevent crawlers from crawling certain parts of your website, which prevents link juice from being passed onto different parts of your website.

Manually checking for broken links on a website that has hundreds or thousands of posts and pages – each containing links that may go up to thousands in total – is unrealistic. Instead, use free tools such as the W3C Link Checker or Submit Express Link Checker, which scan your website in a few minutes and return you a list of broken links on your website, along with their location. Alternatively, you can use this plugin if you’re on the WordPress platform.

You might be surprised to find the amount of broken links on your website!

8. Images – There are some general rules to follow when it comes to images. Apart from the obvious, i.e. not putting too many on a single page, or not burdening a page with heavy (large-sized) images, make sure to fill out all image attributes, particularly the Alt Image attribute. On WordPress, this can be done easily, as it presents you with all the fields that need to be filled out for each image when you upload one.

Apart from the Alt Text, here are some other rules to follow when it comes to optimizing images:

i.            Filenames: should be short and descriptive, filenames should always include keywords (without stuffing). For e.g. iPhone-5-spec-sheet, instead of IMG059 or picture 1 or DSC1234.

ii.            Store all images in a single directory on your website.

iii.            Description – Use this field to describe what the image is about. Be detailed, and use as many words as you want.

iv.            Use the Alt attribute according to the rules mentioned above. Put your keywords in there as well.

Image attributes help search engines ‘see’ images, since they have no way of knowing what the images is otherwise.

9. Inbound Links – After Google’s updates to how it’s search engine functions (namely the Panda and Penguin), the quality of inbound links is essential.

You can use SEOMoz in order to check the source and kinds of inbound links that you’re getting. However it is essential to note that the quality of inbound links (i.e. inbound links from high PR sources and authority domains) is more important than the number of links.

Here are a few important factors to consider when conducting a link-audit of your website:

i.            In addition, links from unique root domains also matters. For instance it is better to have 1 inbound link for a 10 different domains (sites), as opposed to 10 links for a single domain.

ii.            The best inbound links are those which come from high PR websites, as well as TLDs such as .gov and .edu.

iii.            The anchor text of inbound links also matters. Generic anchor text such as click here might not be as beneficial as anchor text which contains relevant keywords.

iv.            Links should be naturally distributed for all your pages. Your landing page will get the most inbound links, however the more inbound links pointing towards your other pages, the better.

v.            Links from spammy sources or link farms will put your website in danger of being penalized. Ditto for paid links, although a human-readable disclosure which accompanies any paid links (e.g. ‘we will receive compensation if you click the following link’, or ‘this is an affiliate link’)

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7 Blogging Mistakes Beginner Bloggers Tend to Make

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 14, 2012, under Uncategorized

Mistake # 1: Not Opting for a Self-Hosted Solution

Free blogging platforms are pretty cool, and come with their advantages as well. Platform like Blogspot, WordPress and Tumblr are great free solutions to quickly set up a blog and get it up and running. These blogging platform also pretty much take care of many SEO aspects for you.

However the simple fact of the matter is that if you take your blogging seriously, and intend to take it to the next level, you need to have a self-hosted blog. Which essentially means purchasing a domain name and installing WordPress (or any other CMS) on it.

A self-hosted blog gives you complete control over your blog. If you go for WordPress, for instance, you’ll be able to choose from a large selection of free and premium themes, which can allow you to change the looks and functionality of your blog according to your preferences. In addition, there are many different plugins available for WordPress. You can change the blog settings, and make changes to the hosting as well. Most importantly, you can put advertisements on your blog in order to monetize it, and maybe even sell the blog down for a good amount of money down the road.

But perhaps the biggest advantage of a self-hosted blog is the fact that they tend to rank well on the SERP. You can complete control over all its optimization aspects, which is usually why well-optimized blogs achieve SERP domination pretty easily and rank pretty high on Google, as opposed to free blogs.

Mistake # 2: Lack of Internal Linking

Internal linking is one of the most important aspects of SEO. It allows search engine crawlers to index your website’s pages much more easily and quickly, and it keeps link juice within your blog, as opposed to passing it out. This allows your blog to achieve and build a high Google Page Rank (PR). Also, linking to old posts allow you to get your point across in a better way, and drive a bit of traffic to these old posts as well.

It is hence important to link to content (posts, pages, etc) on your own blog. For instance a good practice would be to add an internal link after every 200 or 300 words.

However there are a few important things to consider when it comes to internal linking: first off, the links should be relevant to the topic, and should not seem to have been forced into the content. They should seem as natural as possible, and should be used to help with the point that you’re trying to make.

Make it a point to add at least one internal link to all your posts, ensuring that it’s a relevant link. Adding irrelevant links to your copy will make it look like spam.

Mistake # 3: Choosing the Wrong Webhosting Service

Going self-hosted means choosing a host where your blog(s) will be hosted. Choosing a webhosting service is therefore one of the most critical aspects of setting up your blog, as it provides a base for your blog; how well (or not) your blog eventually goes on to do depends on the foundation.

It is almost never a good idea to choose cheap webhosts. Invest in a good webhosting service, which offers an unlimited bandwidth and unlimited domains package. This will allow you to set up multiple blogs on the same hosting package (if you intend on doing so down the road), without the need to purchase separate hosting with every blog, or worrying about bandwidth limitations.

But most importantly, choose a webhosting company which provides (a) live support, and (b) an instant anytime refund policy. Bluehost, for instance offers an anytime money back guarantee, while Host Gator and Blue Host both offer 24/7 live chat support with all their hosting packages. And as you’ll soon discover, having features such as these as well as the assurance that you have dedicated customer support around the clock can be a pretty great feature to have.

Mistake # 4: Not Putting Enough Emphasis on SEO

Optimizing your website for search engines is vital. Ideally, you want to create a blog that gets a large volume of organic and direct traffic. For a lot of blogs, organic traffic remains one of the largest forms of traffic.

SEO involves a combination of numerous on- and off-site optimization factors. For instance a big part of SEO is link-building, or the ability to get linked by authority blogs (such as big news websites). Then there are various other on-page SEO elements, such as filling out meta information for all your posts and pages.

If you don’t know how SEO works, it might be a good idea to outsource it to an organization, or a freelancer. But for starters though, I recommend using an SEO plugin such as WP SEO by Yoast on your blog. It is a very simple, user-friendly plugin to use that will allow even the most SEO-averse bloggers to quickly incorporate different optimization elements into their blogs.

Learn as much as you can about how SEO works, and ask hire an SEO professional on Elance or Odesk to set up the SEO for you. Once someone sets it up for you (which is the hard part), you’ll probably be able to take it from there.

Mistake # 5: Not Writing Compelling Headlines/Titles

Titles or headlines are essential because they tell your readers about the content of the article (and the blog in general), and what to expect. (a) it is the first thing that a visitor who lands on your blog reads, and (b) the headline is something appears in Google search results as well – all of which means whether or not someone goes on to read the whole article or not depends on this.

Keep the headlines interesting and compelling. Avoid being too dramatic, or too vague with titles. Make sure that the titles do an adequate job of describing the post, and actually entice a reader to read your post and spend time browsing on your blog. Above all, create titles for human readers, as opposed to creating titles aimed at search engines or with the purpose of ranking better. Ask yourself this, if you were looking for this information, and would come across this headline, would you be compelled to click on it?

From an SEO perspective, make sure that the headlines include relevant keywords in them – keywords which the article and your blog might want to rank for.

Mistake # 6: Producing Copied or Spun Content

I firmly believe that content – or rather quality content – is one of the most important aspects of a blog. However creating quality content on a regular and consistent basis is easier said than done! Which is why a lot of bloggers make the mistake of putting of spun, rewritten, recycled and often plagiarized content on their blogs.

Big mistake!

Most bloggers eventually run out of ideas, or worse, the writer’s block kicks in. Some bloggers might not want to put an effort into creating quality posts. That is where the temptation to copy comes in. However fact is that if you recycle information, why would readers even come to your blog, when the same content is easily available elsewhere?

Try writing less, but writing quality. Quality over quantity always wins for me. Add valuable and well-written content on your blog. Be unique, fresh, and write content which others not only link to, but your readers are also compelled to share on social mediums.

Try providing your readers with unique information. If you cover news, you’ll have little choice but to do a large amount of copying, however try adding your own perspective to it. Give it your own unique spin. Make things interesting by presenting the same information in form of infographics, or images.

If you still struggle with creating content, it might be a good idea to outsource it and have someone do it for you.

Mistake # 7: Failure to Respond to Comments

Encourage readers to post comments. Initially, you might struggle to do so with a new blog. But as you build a base of loyal readers, you’ll find more and more people posting valuable comments, and taking the discussion forward by engaging with others.

One of the single worst thing you can do is to NOT respond to the comments. Be active in the comments section, reply and respond to any and all comments (ever the more critical ones), and be prompt in doing so. Encourage people to leave their feedback by asking a question at the end of your posts, or asking people to leave their thoughts in the comments section.

Replying to each comment, even if it’s just a ‘thanks for the comment!’ reply leaves a positive impression, and encourages readers to be an active part of the community.

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What other blogging mistakes do bloggers usually make? Let us know in the comments section below, it might be helpful for other bloggers out there.

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How to Make Visitors Respond to Your Call to Action and Increase Conversions

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 13, 2012, under Uncategorized

A Call to Action, or CTA for short, refers to an action (or a set of actions) that a blogger would want any visitor that visits his blog to take when he or she visits the blog or any page on the blog.

For instance when a visitor lands on your blog, what is the one thing that you would want him or her to do – the one action that you would want them to take? For some blogs, this would be to subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed, or the mailing list, or buy an eBook, sign up for membership, or simply ‘like’ their Facebook page. For businesses, this could be anything such as selling a webhosting package or an iPhone app.

Ideally, you would want a large number of visitors to respond to your CTA – a process commonly known as conversion. As a blogger, you want as many visitors to convert into leads as possible.

You might be getting a lot of traffic on your website, however if you have a low conversion rate, you’re missing out on a large number of potential sales, and of course a big chunk of money!

Here are 5 things that you can do to considerably improve your conversion rate, and your CTA:

1. Start off with your design. Strip it down and keep it as simplistic as possible, without of course, being too dull. This especially applies to your landing page – the page where visitors land on when they arrive on your blog. Your landing page needs to be as minimalistic as possible, so that your CTA doesn’t compete with any other element on your page for attention. Ideally, a clear CTA (such as a big button that says ‘buy now’), which should be the most prominent feature of this page. Remove all unnecessary links, while completely doing away with visually-distracting elements such as the sidebar or the nav bar.

2. Your CTA should be the most prominent aspect of all your pages. Use a big button for your CTA, that draws attention to itself. Use a different color for your CTA than what you’ve used on the rest of the page. Consider the Dropbox homepage as a perfect example of a good landing page. It has a minimalistic design, with an instantly-noticeable button on the homepage which allows users to download the app. Furthermore, placement’s quite important as well; ideally, you CTA should always be above-the-fold, so that visitors are able to see it and access it without any need to scroll up or down the page. Place a ‘Buy this eBook Now’ or a ‘Download Now’ button on your sidebar as well (so that it appears on every page of your blog), or use a plugin which lets you put a pop-up box on your blog.

3. Make use of video and image based content on your pages and posts in order to communicate the benefit people will get by using your product/service. Once again, the Dropbox homepage is a good example. It uses a video (represented by a ‘play’ button) that does an excellent job of detailing any and all features of the service. This allows them to keep text-based content at a minimum. Produce your very own short video, which explains what your product/service’s features are, or use images accompanied with short bits of text.

4. Think long-term: the focus of your marketing efforts should always be on providing a valuable product or service – something that sells itself – rather than advertising. Try building a relationship with your readers, gain their trust. Provide them with something that is valuable to them, so valuable that they’re compelled to buy it. Do not indulge in blatant advertising or trying too hard to sell your product. If your product or service is good enough and valuable enough, it will sell itself. Which brings us to point no. 5.

5. Be clear about your value proposition. Communicate, as simply as possible, the benefit that a person will get when he or she ‘signs up for a membership’, or ‘applies for an invite’ on your blog. Your blog needs to make your visitors feel like they will be able to solve their problem or meet their need in the best possible way once they respond to your CTA. Above all, deliver on your promise!

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Tips for Building a Successful Blog

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 12, 2012, under Uncategorized

Starting a blog and getting it up and running is pretty simple, and probably one of the most easiest things one does.

The challenge is to start and build a blog that is, in one word, successful.

It depends on what your criteria of a successful blog might be, however the fact is that building a blog which consistently gets a large number of traffic – or in other words, an engaged viewership which grows with the passage of time – and ultimately goes on to become an authority blog in its niche.

Here are 8 tips for building a successful blog:

1. Choose a Unique Niche: It all starts here. Choosing a niche that is unique and relatively unexplored will allow you to ‘fill a void’ using your blog. However the niche should ideally have an audience that is big enough, so that it gives you a realistic chance of success. Stay clear of niches which are dominated by large companies and established blogs, such as those churning out tons of content as well as spending a lot on SEO. But perhaps most importantly, pick a niche which interests you, and one which you’re truly passionate about.

2. Research: Once you’ve decided upon your niche, observe how some of the other bigger, more successful blogs in the niche operate, and what they’re doing. DO NOT copy their content or their design. As you’ll soon find out, being unique, distinctive and inimitable is hugely beneficial. Instead, try learning what these blogs are doing well, and try incorporating some of those strategies into your own blog as well. Read up on the many available resources on the internet, such as Problogger, Copyblogger and SEP to learn about the key elements of a successful blog.

3. Search Engine Optimization: SEO remains an integral part of any successful blog. Optimizing different elements and aspects of your blog for search engines gives you the ability to get organic traffic on your blog. The aim of SEO is to get as high up the Search Engine Ranking Page (or SERP) as possible – ideally on the first page for the keywords that are the most important (and relevant) to your blog. This allows users looking for information on search engines such as Google and Bing to be able to find your blog easily. Certain on-page and off-page SEO strategies, therefore, must be implemented right from the start. Keep all SEO practices white hat, and avoid indulging in any search engine optimization techniques that are categorized as unsafe or unapproved. (White hat vs black hat SEO explained on Wikipedia)

4. Developing Excellent Content: “Content is King!” – a term which gets used pretty often (overused at times!) in the industry, just about sums everything up here. Content will, by far, be one of the most important aspects of your blog. Successfully create unique, compelling, interesting and valuable content, and you’ll see people visiting your blog in droves! Use your content to provide people with mind-blowingly good content. Use intriguing post titles. Use a combination of facts, figures, images, videos, infographics and information. Give your audience advice, help, tips and tricks, and of course, your own opinion. Churning out excellent content will allow you to build a large base of loyal visitors, turn your blog into an authority blog, have people share your content over social media, and allow you to build an authority blog. Singlehandedly producing such content on a regular basis can be tough, in which case you might want to consider hiring content developers for the blog.

5. Looks Matter: How many times have you come across a visually-appealing and well-designed blog, and stayed and spent time on such a blog, as opposed to a bland, dull-looking blog? The visual interface of your blog needs to be appealing. The color scheme and the theme of the blog should be attractive, while being easy on the eyes, and allowing visitors to easily read the content of your blog. In addition, your blog and its navigation should also be designed and structured in a manner that lets visitors browse easily, and access different parts of your blog with ease. Any good, premium WordPress theme for instance, such as those available on Themeforest, will allow you to achieve this with minimal effort on your part.

6. Be Social: Be active on social mediums, and share you content on any and all social platform that you might be a part of. As soon as a new post goes up, share it on all social networks. Moreover, allow you people to easily and freely share your content on social mediums. Add Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and other social icons on your blog pages and posts. WordPress has an impressive library of free social plugins which might be worth checking out. Encourage your viewers to like, share, retweet and spread your content on these social networks. Side note: Starting this year, your social signals play an important part in determining your Google rankings, as Google now uses social signals as a ranking factor. The more social you are, the better!

7. Be Participative: Be a part of the community – inside and outside your blog. Respond to comments on your blog, and be prompt when doing so. Respond to any emails, as well as posts on your Facebook and Twitter. Outside your blog, network and connect with other bloggers in your niche. Attend blogger conferences or any meet-ups in your vicinity/area, or virtual meet-ups. Post valuable comments on other blogs, and respond to any replies that you get. Email authority bloggers and see if they can feature your content on their blogs (and give you a valuable backlink). Give guest blogging a shot as well.

8. Subscriptions: Allow people to subscribe to your content. This can be done through multiple ways: the most popular one is email subscription (list building), and RSS. Whenever your blog is updated, your subscribers are automatically alerted via email or their RSS feed. You can also create a separate fan page (or profile) for your blog on Facebook and other social networks, where people who have ‘liked’ your page are updated whenever new content goes up. List-building is essential, as it allows you to drive targeted traffic to your blog, without being dependent on overly-reliant on organic (search engine) traffic.

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A List of Essential WordPress Plugins

Posted by strictlymikedawson in Sep 11, 2012, under Uncategorized

Here is a comprehensive list of some of the best, most essential list of plugins (both free and paid-for) that are available to you on the WordPress platform in 2012 – all aimed at enhancing the functionality and search engine optimization of your blog:

1. WordPress SEO by Yoast – Probably one of the biggest ‘must-have’ plugins on WordPress, SEO by Yoast is your all-in-one, all-inclusive search engine optimization plugin on WordPress. It allows you to optimize your posts, pages, content, and all aspects of your blog (particularly meta information, images, sitemaps, and the like) for better search engine rankings, and is very simple to use, even if you have zero SEO knowledge at all.

2. All-in-One SEO Pack – A good alternative to Yoast’s SEO plugin, the All-in-One SEO also functions in a similar manner, by allowing you to optimize your blog for search engines. It is arguable which of the two is better, and people have generally had pretty similar (a generally very positive) results using both plugins. A word of caution: it is inadvisable to use both plugins at the same time on a single blog; it’s either this or that.

3. WP Super Cache – Super Cache for WordPress gives your WordPress blog a nice speed boost, especially in terms of load times. What the plugin does is that it generates static HTML files for your blog which are served to any visitors instead of the mush-heavier/more intensive PHP files. In layman terms, it makes your WordPress blog faster, at least 10 times faster, as the plugin claims. .

4. Google Analytics for WordPress – The Google Analytics plugin allows you to integrate and add Google Analytics to your WordPress blog easily by letting you add the tracking code into the plugin, instead of having to edit the files of your WP blog or insert the code into your theme. The plugin also adds extra tracking variables to your Google Analytics suite, among other features.

5. LoginLockDown – This plugin logs any and all failed login attempts on your blog, including IP addresses and a timestamp for each attempt. Once it records a certain number of login attempts from the same IP address within a short span of time (3failed attempts in 5 minutes), it blocks all login attempts from that address for 1 hour. This greatly secures your WordPress blog, especially from hackers using brute-force password-discovery methods.

6. WP Backup to Dropbox – As the name implies, the plugin makes a complete backup of your WordPress installation – including the database, posts, pages, and media – and stores it into your Dropbox account. The initial backup could take anywhere between a few minutes to several hours, depending on the size of your blog, however subsequent backups only take a few minutes at the most (once again depending on the size). Automatic backups can also be scheduled at a regular basis.

7. Backup Buddy Premium – Not free (unlike the previous solution), but Backup Buddy is easily one of the best, most comprehensive backup solutions on the WordPress platform. It allows you to make both file and database backups, or in other words a complete backup of your installation including themes, plugins, widgets and of course the database. Instead of just the option of saving this in your Dropbox, the plugin lets you choose from multiple options – including saving to desktop. You can then seamlessly and very simply upload and restore your installation as well.

8. FD Feedburner Plugin – The WordPress FD Feedburner plugin detects all RSS feeds on your blog, and redirects them all seamlessly and transparently into a Feedburner feed. All feeds – which include all category feeds as well – then redirect to your main feed. This then requires you to manage only a single feed (your main Feedburner feed), and of course, easily track all your subscribers and all relevant data easily as well.

9. WP Optimize – This plugin optimizes your WordPress blog by getting rid of any and all useless or unneeded files that may be hogging down space and/or resources, and slowing up your blog. It does this by optimizing your blog’s database and removing multiple post revision which are saved every time you write a post and save a draft of that post. It also removes all spam and unapproved comments, instantly making your WordPress installation much lighter in size.

10. Broken Link Checker – As is pretty evident by the name, Broken Link Checker checks your posts, pages, comments and all content on your blog for broken links, and alerts you (through the Dashboard or via email) when any are found. The plugin works automatically in the background, and you can even run it manually if you want to. You can tell the plugin what sort of links it should look for, as well as which part of your blog should it scan for broken links. One of the best aspects about the plugin is that it blocks search engine crawlers from following broken links, as broken links can adversely affect your SEO.

11. Gravity Forms – Perhaps one of the best plugin for creating and adding forms to your WordPress blog, Gravity Forms is quite feature-packed. The cheapest license costs $39 (with the developer’s edition, which can be used on an unlimited number of website) for $199. However as you’ll soon discover, it’s all worth it. You get a pretty powerful form editor in the package, with the ability to create many different types of forms. The plugin integrates seamlessly with WordPress, and lets you add form just as easily as well.

12. Thank Me Later – Simply put, this plugin promotes community and encourages readers to return to your blog, as well as engage by sending an email out to all first-time visitors/commenters. You can customize the content of your email in any way you want; perhaps send out the link to your RSS feed, ask them to subscribe to your mailing list, send them a list of the most popular/interesting posts on your blog, or simply, a thank you email for visiting your blog.

13. SEO Smart Links – Internal linking, as you might or might not know, is an important aspect of SEO. Internal linking greatly enhances the indexability of your blog, and is a great on-page optimization practice. SEO Smart Links enhances internal linking by linking certain keywords in an article to other relevant articles to your blog, passing link-juice within your own blog and allowing you to build pagerank.

14. Social Toolbar – No WordPress plugins list is quite complete without the inclusion of a social plugin! Social toolbar adds a highly customizable plugin to your WordPress blog – which can be customized for color, social network icons, share & like buttons and display recent tweets. The toolbar’s location can be changed, and you can also choose to have it shown on just the homepage, every page of your blog or a single page only. The toolbar allows your readers to like, share, retweet, and +1 your posts, instantly opening up your content and your blog to millions of social media users!

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