Wasif Shafiq SMART SEO +92-312-4729067 support@smartseo.pk
How to Find and Delete Low Quality Content on Your Site

Back in 2011, Google released an algorithmic update called Panda, and in the five years since, it has become one of the backbones of Google’s web search. Panda, and many of the tertiary algorithms surrounding it – the zoo of Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, and all the rest – tend to focus on analyzing the quality of content on a site. Prior to Panda, links and keywords were the most important metrics. Yet, if you remember those old days, you would recognize how easy it was to game those metrics and get a mediocre or spammy page ranked in the top spots on Google search results.

Why do I bring this up? Well, the reason is that even if Panda has not be publicly updating as a stand-alone thing for a while, it’s still there and it still matters. What it means is that the quality of content on your site matters. If you have old, low quality content floating around, don’t ignore it. Chances are pretty good that it’s hurting your search ranking, and dealing with it could give you quite a significant boost to your search ranking.

On a large old site, though, you could have thousands, tens of thousands, or more pages all over the place. It would be a massive pain to try to manually go through them and analyze them for quality. Thankfully, you can use a few tools to make it all significantly easier.

Step 1: Crawl Your Site

The first thing you need to do is make a comprehensive list of all of the content on your site. Again, this would be a huge pain to do manually, so I’m going to recommend a tool to you. The tool is called Screaming Frog, and you can find it here.

Screaming Frog is a very comprehensive web crawling spider. It has a ton of features, from auditing content to analyzing meta data, checking links, creating a sitemap, integrating with Google Analytics, and a whole lot more. The free version is sufficient for what we’re doing today, with one caveat; it only works on sites with under 500 URLs to crawl. If you have more than that, and you probably will, you want to buy a license to the paid version. This costs about $200 (150 British Pounds) for a one year license.

I’m aware that it’s sometimes a tough sell to spend that much money on a tool without knowing how to use it, so feel free to get the free version and experiment. The wide array of features means the cost is well worth it if you learn to make use of them, but I understand if you don’t want to dive into it all right away. Still, I’m going to assume that bought the paid version and go from there.

With Screaming Frog, you will need to put in a few options to crawl your site. With the program open, click Configuration and click Spider. Under basic options, make sure every box is unchecked, then check “crawl all subdomains” to make sure you get every page on your site. If you know all of content pages are in a specific subdomain, you can crawl that subdomain and the subdomains of that subdomain, without crawling other top level subdomains. If that makes sense. With those options set, input your website URL in the “URL to Spider” box up at the top, then hit start.

Depending on how large your site is, how good your internet connection is, and how much memory your computer has, the crawl could take a while. Just take a break and let it do its work. When it finishes, you’ll be presented with a ton of data about your site, all organized based on the URL of each individual page. You can see the URL, the page titles and meta data, link information, HTTP response codes, and a lot more.

Once you have all of that data on hand, you can start to run an audit. Before you do, though, you should understand the markers of quality on the modern web.

Step 2: Understand Thin Content

What you’re looking for on your site are pages that could be holding you back as a whole, because of some lackluster element. I’m not going to cover site-wide issues here, like having poorly optimized meta data throughout your site or not using human-readable URLs. Those are good to fix, but they’re outside the scope of this article.

So, what constitutes poor quality content? You can look at it like this:

  • Content on your site that gets no organic traffic might be thin or low quality content. However, it could also just be old content, which is perfectly fine. You don’t want to delete or move old content that isn’t hurting you, because Google uses it as a sign of age and trust. Removing it makes your site look smaller or sparser, neither of which you want.
  • Content on your site that has low rankings on Google search could be considered thin content. However, you need to consider context with this; a page could rank #30 and still be great content, you just have a ton of competition for that search. On the other hand, a piece of thin content could rank in the top 10, just because it’s one of the few pieces on the web that works for that search.
  • Content that has little or no social shares could be considered thin content. Of course, this is only applicable if you were using social media at the time the content was published. If it’s old enough to have been published before social media was a big part of your marketing, the social share count isn’t a valuable metric.
  • Content of under 1,000 words is very likely to be thin content. There are occasionally reasons for content to be short, but most of them can still benefit from being expanded. I’ll discuss this more later.

Essentially, what I’m going to do is consider word count to be the number one indicator of content quality, and let you use the other metrics to help you judge what to do with that content once you have identified it.

Step 3: Identify Potential Thin Content

Going back to your data in Screaming Frog, go to the “internal” tab and sort your pages by word count. Export this data as a CSV file so you can work on it. Anything under, say, 1,500 words should be pulled aside. Everything else can be ignored; it’s probably fine.

Any piece of content under 1,500 words has to have a good reason to be that short. Here are some valid reasons:

  • The URL is a category page, 404 page, or other site page that is not actually a piece of content. These pages are generally not major factors for search ranking.
  • The URL is a link-based FAQ sending visitors to other pages for answers to questions. This is not a good strategy, however; you should ideally merge the questions and answers into one large page, like this one.
  • The URL is the answer page for a specific question on the FAQ mentioned above. Again, merge these with the main page and redirect them. You’ll get a lot more value out of it.
  • The URL is a product page and only has a couple images and a product description on it. The ideal path for this, though, is to go the Amazon route and fill the page with a ton of supplementary content to make it more valuable.

If, however, the page is short because it’s a simple blog post and you didn’t think you needed to write much about it, that’s probably thin content. Covering an issue on a superficial level is fine, but you’re always going to be outranked by anyone covering it in more depth. It’s better if you find ways to expand the content, or remove it so it isn’t holding you back.

Go ahead and filter through your potentially thin URLs to find pages that meet the criteria for potentially being thin content. Once you have that list, you can move on to the next step.

Step 4: Determine a Plan of Action

At this point, you have a list of the thin content on your site. Now you have to decide what to do with it. This is the point where you want to have some idea of those other metrics, like traffic, social shares, and incoming links. Use your analytics suite of choice to gather that data.

The way I see it, there are generally four possible options.

  1. You can leave the content as it is, unchanged. This is not generally a great idea, because if the content is holding you back, you’re just living with that anchor. You had better have a good reason to leave the content as it is.
  2. You can delete the content. This is generally going to be the ideal option if the content gets no traffic, has no links, no social shares, and no information of value. If it’s duplicated from another site, if it’s redundant to another part of your site, or if it’s spam in some way, that’s a red flag making it well worth deleting.
  3. You can merge the content with other pieces of content. For example, if you have written three short blog posts about slightly different aspects of one topic, those might be better off merged into one. This is an even better idea if you notice that traffic typically goes from one to another. The FAQ example is another case where merging is a good idea. Pick the best of the pages and make it the default page, merge the relevant information from the others into it, and redirect the other URLs to the primary URL. This will consolidate the value of the pages into one place.
  4. You can improve the content on its own. This is generally going to be your ideal course of action when the content is valuable but short. If it has traffic, links, social shares, and other forms of external value, it’s going to be a good idea to give the content a little attention. Older posts can be updated with new data, guides can be updated with more detail and images, etc. Work to improve the content in any way you can think to do so. Shoot for at least 2,000 words, if not more.

What you do specifically will depend on your own analysis and your own personal thresholds. If you’re on the edge, go ahead and err on the side of saving the content and improving it in some way.

Step 5: Taking Action

Before you go and start making changes, you want to do a few things. First, make a back up of your site. You don’t want to make changes that tank your site and have no option for recovering the lost value. Sometimes a page you think is thin is a page Google doesn’t mind, and removing it can hurt you.

Second, take snapshots of your important traffic and search ranking metrics. You want to know where your site starts so you know what effect your changes have.

Third, identify any other issues that could be having a negative effect on your SEO, particularly on those pages. Image captions, page meta data, URL structure, scripts, site speed; these are changes you can make while you’re making large changes to your site, in hopes of getting all of the improvement at once.

Once you’ve set up that groundwork, go ahead and make the content changes you want to make. You have two choices here; you can either change them gradually or you can change them all at once. Doing it all at once is likely to make your search ranking fluctuate a lot for a week or two, while Google figures out what you did. You might go up and you might go down before you settle in your new position, so don’t freak out until your metrics have stabilized.

Next, just to make sure Google understands what you’ve done, create a comprehensive site map and upload it to Google Webmaster Tools. This ensures that any lingering pages, new pages, or potentially missing old pages are indexed by the search engine.

Traffic Increase Post Deleting Content

That’s it! Once you’ve made your chances, all that’s left is to monitor your metrics and see what they did. Ideally, your site will have improved.

Whitehat vs Blackhat Guest Blogging Strategies

The Hats are a concept taking from hacking culture. White hats are the “good guys” who hack to find vulnerabilities and help companies patch them. They’re also known as security contractors, since “hiring a hacker” has negative connotations. DEFCON, the convention for hackers every year, is full of white and gray hat hackers. It’s also full of black hats, not that they’ll often admit to being black hats. Black hat hackers are the criminals, the ones who hack to sell personal information, who hack to make money, and who generally break and corrupt systems for fun, personal gain, or power. Gray hats, of course, are the middle of the road; still morally questionable, but not completely illegal.

In the world of marketing and SEO, the concepts still apply. It’s just that black hats aren’t necessarily doing anything illegal. In fact, most of them will vehemently explain that nothing they do is illegal at all. They’re right, too; the “law” they break is the policies of Google, not any actual punishable law.

Often, the difference between a white hat strategy and a black hat is a matter of implementation. There’s not a lot of difference between two people writing factual articles and one person writing one while the other spins it. There’s not much difference between building links through blogger outreach and building links through private blog networks. Black hats simply tend to automate more and work less, with the drawbacks that entail.

The Problems with Blackhat Marketing

There are two main problems I see with black hat marketing. The first is a lower level of engagement/quality/value. When you’re spinning content, the original content has just as much value and is likely published first and on a better site. Spun content, then, comes in second place all the time. The same goes for most black hat strategies; they come in second place. They work, but they aren’t the best. You can see this in particular with social black hatting, or robotic automation; spam is prevalent and ignored, and automated posting tends to get lower engagement rates than organic posting.

The second problem is the sine wave cycle. Picture a sine wave, going up and down in a pattern. That’s what the traffic and profits of a black hat marketer tend to look like. The reason is that, at the end of the day, black hats still rely on Google, because Google has 64% of the search market share. No other single entity online has that much power and influence.

Google, of course, frowns on black hat strategies. That’s literally what makes them a black hat and not white. They actively seek out and punish sites using black hat strategies, which leads to an ever-increasing arms race between black hat marketers and the big G.

From a marketer’s perspective, working with black hat strategies is a peak and valley experience. Black hat strategies – most of them, anyway – work, and they tend to work quickly and for a low amount of effort. However, in compensation, they tend to cost money and they only work for a limited time. You get a brief skyrocket in your visibility, then Google notices and shuts you down. This is the valley; a time of no profits due to your removal from the search rankings. You then recover, either by starting another site or by removing one strategy and implementing another. You get another boost, another few months of profits, and are slapped down again. To Google, it’s like playing a game of whack-a-mole with millions of possible moles.

White hat strategies, by comparison, tend to be slower but much more consistent with growth. If you’re firmly on the site of white hat, you’re not going to be slapped back down repeatedly, so your growth is able to compound month after month. You just can’t shoot up in visibility quite as quickly, because you’re taking the long route.

To put it another way, imagine that you’re working towards a mountain peak. A white hat marketer might take a longer, gentler slope to the top, which takes a week of climbing. A black hat starts three mountains away and has to climb each one, then descend into the valley below, over and over. To compensate, he has a truck, but it keeps breaking down. He’s using tools, albeit not the best tools, but he’s also taking a harder route.

Anyways, to move away from that analogy, let’s talk about guest blogging. Guest blogging has been a strategy for SEO for years, as a combination of one part link building and one part of content marketing. It can help build a brand, it can build links to your site, and it can build a reputation as an author and a content creator.

Black hats and white hats both use guest blogging, but the way they go about it is completely different. Let’s take a look at both and how they compare, shall we?

Black hats target thousands of domains.

They are the definition of untargeted mass mailing. In fact, if you own a website with any significant following, I can guarantee you that not only have you had a few of these show up in your inbox, you’ve probably had a bunch go sailing through to spam without ever seeing them. “Hey, I run site X and would like to post on your blog, all I ask is a link in return, please get back to me.” Sound familiar? Yeah, don’t do it; you never want a link to a site like that on your blog.

White hats pick and choose potent domains to reach.

By contrast, white hats are targeted with their outreach efforts. They know to be realistic, to work their way up in the industry, going from mid-tier blogs to upper crust blogs, eventually working their way as contributors on big-name sites like the Huffington Post. They tailor everything, up to the greeting and closing of their query message, to the specific people they’re contacting.

Black hats demand a followed link in their published posts.

The black hat marketer wants one thing and one thing only; a followed link. Followed links give them the link juice they need to boost their visibility, however transitory that visibility is. If you follow the link, you’ll get irate messages from them, and God helps you if you publish their guest post with the links stripped. Even if it’s your guest blogging policy to do so, they assume they’re exempt because they contacted you directly rather than through whatever means you prefer.

White hats don’t care about followed links and are satisfied with mentions.

Google is increasingly putting a value on implied links or brand mentions while minimizing the value of actual links. They can’t entirely get rid of links, they’re too critical to the value system of the internet at this point, but they can certainly work to make link exploits less impactful.

Black hats submit the same guest post to hundreds of sites.

They don’t care about copied content penalties, they just want the syndication because it pulls in dozens of links for the effort of creating one post. They also won’t tell you that they’re submitting the post to other sites. If you’re lucky, they’ll respect “original content only” in your terms of service, but that’s pretty unlikely.

White hats carefully create posts for the audience of the site they target.

Again, the comparison is one made between spending a minimum amount of time for the work and spending the time necessary to hone the craft. White hat guest bloggers take the time to learn the audience, the voice, the tone, and the editorial rules of the site they’re posting on.

Black hats don’t care too much about the quality of their content.

All they care about is that the content at least looks human-readable at first glance. Minor grammatical errors slip right by, half the time because the marketer is ESL and doesn’t realize they’re errors. Spintax inconsistencies are even worse, but at that point, the marketer doesn’t care, they just want the lowest effort possible for each post.

White hats put a lot of time into making great content.

Again as a contrast, white hat marketers put love and care into their posts. If anything, the content they submit as guest posts is higher quality and better overall than the content they post on their own sites. It should never be worse

Black hats offer payment in exchange for links in posts.

Google doesn’t like paying for guest posts, and that makes the exchange of money for a followed link verboten. Sites that pay for posts they accept tend to be stricter with their links, and well they should be. The problem is, those sites aren’t going to be accepting black hat posts.

White hats avoid trying to bribe site owners.

Because that’s what it is, that black hat monetary offer; a bribe, a payment for a link. White hats know this isn’t in their strategy, and anyways, they prefer cheap or free organic growth hacks overpaying money for transient value. Wouldn’t you, if you were offered a cheap strategy for growth that didn’t violate any terms or rules?

Black hats submit their posts to dozens of article directories.

Article directories were a big strategy about ten years ago, but with Panda’s initial rollout they died back almost entirely. Black hats, however, tend to stick in the past and try to force old strategies to work in new paradigms. Sometimes they manage to eke out a little value from a directory, but it’s not common, and it’s not always going to stay valuable.

White hats know that article directories rarely pass valuable link juice.

One of two things happens with an article directory; either all of the links on the site are automatically followed, or Google implements a filter that makes all of those links valueless or, potentially, even detrimental. Directories don’t pass the positive value in 99% of cases, so they aren’t worth the time for a white hat marketer.

Black hats spin content for “unique” guest posts.

Spinning content is a fast way to make something look unique, but here’s the thing; Google is perfectly aware of how spinning works. You may have noticed recently that when you run a search, you’ll see results that don’t actually include the specific terms you had in your query. That’s one of Google’s ways to provide more value, but it has the side effect of making spun content read identically to the search engine, meaning it’s easier to spot spun content and devalue it.

White hats avoid spinning content altogether.

Spinning content is the last recourse of people who spent too much on a spinning program and have no idea how to write for the web. Spinning content produces nothing of value and only serves to clog the internet with redundant content on sites that never see the light of day. White hats know the path to the true value is providing something unique, be it data points, analysis, or opinions.

Black hats automate their guest post submission.

Again, it’s all about spending as little effort as possible. They don’t care if they send an email to 1,000 people and only 1 picks it up; they spent 5 minutes crafting the email to send. They think they’re ahead of the game because a white hat spends hours on the same task.

White hats carefully construct queries.

White hat marketers know there’s more to guest posting than just a simple query, a simple post, and a link. Every email is a paper trail for future contact, and it can be very detrimental to be spamming it out.

Black hats don’t care about editors or other site writers.

To a black hat, a site, and a guest post is just a means to an end, a disposable tool they can abuse as long as possible but don’t care about if it falls through. This is why so many black hats end up guest posting solely on other black hat sites. The good sites won’t have them.

White hats strive to forge good relationships with site staff.

White hats value networking, connections, and high-quality sites over volume. Quality over quantity is generally their mantra. The days of a thin site with 1,000 low-quality posts are over, and they’ve taken the lesson to heart.

Black hats fill their content with keywords, to the detriment of the content.

This crops up a lot when they buy posts from cheap content mills; black hats have this idea that keywords are insanely important and that there’s a magic number for keyword density that gets them where they need to be.

White hats know that semantic search allows them to write organically.

A combination of Panda and Google’s semantic search has combined to allow the search engine plenty of leeways to recognize the topic of your content, even without the exact keywords present. This allows complete freedom to cover a topic with the language you command, without having to bend to fit in keywords.

Black hats start over when their site is hammered by Google.

The peaks are high but the valleys are low, and it’s often far more effort to recover from a penalty than it is to simply move the entire site to a new domain. Black hats leave a path of charred domains behind them, persisting in their eternal struggle for mediocrity.

White hats are rarely penalized and can recover if they are.

By contrast, sites that play nice with Google are rewarded for it, with a higher degree of trust. This trust both makes them less likely to be penalized and makes it easier for them to recover from penalties. Not to mention making those penalties lighter.

As you can see, the white hat method is generally the way to go. Sure, black hat techniques work, sort of, for a short time anyway. White hats compound and build, and it’s a much more viable long-term strategy.

 

10 Ways to Incorrectly Buy Blog Articles for Your Blog

Have you ever wondered how some of these famous entrepreneurs find time in their lives to manage three successful businesses, a satisfying personal life, multiple speaking engagements, dinners, and meetings, all while maintaining two blogs and contributing to three more? For some of us, it’s hard enough to keep up a weekly blogging schedule when it’s the only thing we have to do.

Trust me; it’s not their brilliant time management skills, it’s not their genius with writing, and it’s not a heaping amount of performance-enhancing drugs. No, it’s the little magic we call “outsourcing.”

A lot of these professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners have huge support teams ready and waiting to take the burden of lesser tasks off of them, usually in exchange for a little money. That infographic they’re promoting? They hired a graphic designer to make it. Those statistics in their blog post? Compiled by a freelancer on Fiverr. Those email responses? Personal assistant in Malaysia. Those blog posts? Ghostwritten by either an on-staff writer or a freelancer.

I say all this just so that you know there is no shame, and nothing inherently wrong with, buying blog posts for your site. I would venture to say that the majority of the content online is ghostwritten in some form or another. It might be a low majority, but between content producing robots, article spinners, and prolific freelancers, there are a ton of ways to get content without writing it yourself.

That said, there are right and wrong ways to buy blog posts. You need to avoid the obvious pitfalls and the less obvious traps in the writing world. You’re trying to spend money to save time, but you don’t want to spend too much money or end up wasting time.

So, let’s discuss ways buying blog posts can go wrong.

1. You’re buying your blog posts from low-cost sources.

There are a lot of sources out there for blog posts. You can get a 500-word blog post for $10 on Fiverr, or $7 on Textbroker, or cheaper from even worse sources. Prices scale-up, of course, for added features, from length to delivery time to black hat directory submission.

The problem with buying your blog posts from the lowest-priced sources is that the content you get is going to have flaws. Sure, you might find some legitimate writers working for the equivalent of pennies, but those writers don’t tend to last long. What you usually end up with are writers who spin articles, who steal content, or who barely know English in the first place. You get writers who pump out the blandest, most generic content possible, just to make a few bucks. After all, if a 500-word blog post is only paying them $7 or less after a site commission, they need to write 2-3 or more per hour to make even the beginnings of a living wage.

High-quality blog writing is not cheap. Different types of blog posts, for different purposes and different lengths, typically cost different amounts of money. A high-level business that is very serious about web advertising might be paying $4,000 or more for a single landing page, while a search-optimized blog post might run them between $100 and $1,000.

Web writing is very much a “you get what you pay for” world. You want deeply researched, high-quality content engineered to convert, you aren’t getting it for $10.

2. You’re buying whatever blog posts strike your fancy.

 

Blog posts that follow your interests don’t seem like a bad thing, do they? You might be wondering why, then, that this is considered one of the mistakes you can make.

The answer lies in something too few bloggers actually use; an editorial calendar. A successful blog is all about planning your content. You need to monitor what topics you’re covering, what you’re writing, and how you’re publishing your content. By following your whims in content buying, you’re probably wasting opportunities and missing others.

Issues that can come up from lacking an editorial calendar and a content overview include:

  • Trying to capitalize on trends that you discovered too late to get into. In other words, being late to the party all the time.
  • Accidentally duplicating content because you don’t have a firm grasp on what you have and have not covered.
  • Missing good content opportunities because you don’t realize you haven’t covered a topic you could have.
  • Spending time and money on content that isn’t interesting to anyone but you.

It’s generally a good idea to have a document of some kind that indicates what content you have already published, what content you have purchased and are preparing to publish, and what content you have ideas for but have not purchased or created. You can also have a document for brainstorming ideas and for monitoring trends so you can keep up to date, rather than coming in behind the pack.

3. You’re buying posts of inconsistent quality and voice.

If you read any popular blogs – and you probably should – you’ll notice that many of the top tier bloggers have very casual attitudes and betray a confidence and almost arrogance in their knowledge of their subjects. This isn’t affected; it’s a very real attitude to have when you reach a certain level. How, though, can those people buy blog posts?

The answer is, typically, to hire high-quality ghostwriters. You’re not just buying content from any old source; you’re buying content from people who know and understand the concept of voice and tone in web writing.

Your blog has a voice. It’s casual or formal, it’s down to earth or stuffy, it’s humorous or serious. It’s somewhere in the broad spectrum of the use of language as a whole. It’s an extension of you, and of what you want people to think of your business.

If you’re buying a bunch of blog posts in bulk from a dozen different writers on a content mill, the voice becomes an issue. You either have posts coming in with a wide range of tones, points of view, and perspectives, or you have to spend time writing detailed guidelines that make the best writers of the content mill turn away because the assignment is too much work.

When you don’t have the introspection or self-awareness to recognize your voice or the knowledge to write it down, you need to be hiring a writer who has the ability to dissect it for you and mimic it.

4. You’re paying too much for mediocre content.

I mentioned that there are a few good writers on the low-quality content mills and mediocre sites, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. The opposite is also true. In the broader world of freelancing, using sites like Constant Content or Upwork or even individual writer personal sites, you end up with writers who really aren’t very good, but who are marketing themselves as if they’re the cream of the crop. These people want exorbitant fees for their writing, but the words they string together are bog-standard and boring.

Always, always, look over the writing produced by any writer you want to hire before you hire them. If you have to, negotiate a trial assignment to see how they fit with your site. You don’t want to pay someone’s $900 fee for a 1,000-word post only to find that their content is essentially a rewrite of existing content. At that point, you won’t be hiring them again, but they don’t care; their business model isn’t about repeat customers, it’s about one-time scams.

The caveat to this is that you should always be prepared to pay for what content is really worth. If you go to approach a high-quality writer and ask to hire their services at half their usual rate, they’re just going to laugh at you. Well, they’ll laugh at you behind your back; they’ll send you a polite rejection in an email first.

5. You’re buying more content than you really need.

For a long time, a blog was something you made and let sit, to boost up your search ranking while you worked on other things. Then Google decided it liked fresh content more than stale content, and people started fighting to have the most up to date blogs. This has continued almost to the present day, but I have a secret to tell you.

You don’t need to blog every day.

One of the mistakes I see a lot of bloggers making is operating under the impression that they need daily blog posts to succeed. Meanwhile, if you take a look at the top tier blogs on the web, you see two very different types of sites. On one hand, you have sites like Gawker and the various news outlets that thrive on 2-10 posts per day, covering a broad range of subjects, contributed by a dozen or more writers. On the other hand, you have the high profile individuals who blog once a week or less.

It’s easy to think that, because you’re paying people to do the writing for you, you can fall into the first category. The thing people miss is that in order to do so, you need a tight grasp on content schedule, you need a lot of resources and tips for new content, and you essentially need to become a combination of trendsetter and journalist. Business blogs, for the most part, can’t live up to this ideal. So, if you’re trying to buy 7+ blog posts per week, you’re probably wasting both time and money. It’s better to dial back to 1-3 posts per week, but focus on deeper posts with more detail and better topics.

6. You’re neglecting to check sources and links in the posts you buy.

There are two philosophies when it comes to links in the content you buy. Some people decide they will put in their own links and will demand that whoever they hire does not include links whatsoever. This adds an additional step to your content publication process, though, and it means that you’ll occasionally find a writer who cited a statistic you can’t find a source for, leading to factual issues.

The other side of the coin are the people who don’t want to have to deal with links, and so tell the writers to include a few to cite their sources. This saves you time but also opens you up to abuse. I recommend it, though. Why? Because you can check the sources the writers use, and you can judge them via those sources.

  • High-quality sources indicate that the writer knows what they’re talking about. They know the industry, they know the big names, and they can cite accurate information.
  • Low-quality sources indicate that the writer doesn’t know much about the industry and are just running basic Google searches to find anything they can on the topic.
  • Spam sources indicate that the writer either doesn’t care, or that they’re getting paid to include links to other sites in the content they write, and that your content can be a vector for an unwitting blog network association.

The last one is a real problem. Including links – followed links especially – to spam sites or unrelated sites makes your content seem worse, and it gives Google a bad impression of your business.

I always figure that the writer providing a link is going to save you time, both because you can judge the writer and because you don’t have to find them yourself. You just need to audit them to make sure they’re not going to hurt your site.

7. You’re not considering the writer’s side of the transaction.

Different writers have different needs and preferences when they write content for a site. Some of them like detailed instructions. Some of them prefer some general guidelines and a topic. Some of them work best when they are left with a keyword and a completely free-form opportunity.

There is also the consideration for the type of relationship the writer wants, and what other ongoing projects they have. Some writers prefer an exclusive contract, while others are juggling dozens of clients. Some can have a same-day turnaround, others prefer weekly delivery or a fixed X-day deadline on any assignment.

Writers are not machines you can feed money into and get words from. Such machines do exist, but they don’t produce anything near the quality you would want to publish. Writers are people with lives and jobs, with needs and patterns and pets. Treat your working relationship as a relationship with a person and not a machine, and that writer will likely reward you. In this business, kindness and compassion can go a long way.

By contrast, being overly demanding, nitpicking over tiny errors you can just fix yourself, and heaping on requirements on top of tight deadlines doesn’t earn you any favors.

8. You’re ignoring continuity in your blog.

One persistent problem with buying content from a variety of freelancers or a content mill is the lack of continuity. With a content mill, you’re putting an assignment out to the wind, and whoever picks it up is the person who writes it. With an in-house or dedicated contract writer, you know who they are and you know what they have written before.

Continuity is important for maintaining the illusion that there is one person – you – writing for your blog. It’s important for being able to refer to past posts. It’s important for treating your readers like real people who are reading your posts, rather than just people who stumble on your site in a vacuum and have never read anything before.

Any time, for example, you see me link back to a previous post on this blog, or reference that “we’ve written about this topic before,” it’s continuity. Without a writer who knows who you are, knows your blog, and can either research it or has written for it before, you don’t have that natural continuity.

9. You’re buying fluff because no one reads posts anyway.

There’s a bit of a prevailing attitude that the general web user doesn’t really read a blog. If they find your posts, they skim them more than read them. Most people only read titles, maybe a few bullet points, and move on. This isn’t really true, but it ties in with another issue.

When your blog is small, it may seem and feel like you don’t have many readers. It’s really hard to have the motivation to keep writing when no one is reading. It’s a lot easier to buy posts and publish them, but that comes with another problem. Instead of disliking the effort of writing for no return, you’re disliking the expense and the editorial requirements with no return.

Don’t compromise your standards or your focus just because it seems like no one is watching. Even if no one is watching, you’re hurting yourself. If you have a high-quality blog, someone can find it and start promoting it as a diamond in the rough. If your blog is fluff you’ve been buying just because people say you need a blog, well, they won’t have that same interest. It just doesn’t work.

10. You’re not providing enough direction.

I glossed over this a bit above, but it kind of ties everything together. Direction, in terms of working with a writer and making sure they know what you want, is crucial to a well-run blog and high-quality content. Take the time to determine what you want, what you need, and how you need it presented. Take the time to find a writer or two who can provide that for you. Work with them to establish how much guidance they need, and strive to provide that, without giving too little or being overbearing. It’s a tough line to find, and it’s what makes buying content so tricky.

Everything You Need to Know About Moz Domain Authority

If you were an SEO professional five or more years ago, one of the most important metrics you wanted to track was the PageRank of your site. PR was a huge indicator of success and quality in search performance, and it was one of the core influencers of Google search ranking.

Over time, Google began to deprecate PageRank, making it less and less valuable as a whole. The factors that influenced it are still mostly important, but the number itself is much less valuable. The final straw has come slowly over the last couple years, as Google ceased updating PageRank as seen through the Google Toolbar. While the statistic is still in use internally, there’s no modern way to track it.

One of the metrics that has come up to replace it is Domain Authority, as created, pioneered and maintained by Moz.

What is Domain Authority?

Moz began life as far back as 1981, though it was a very different company at the time; a marketing company run by the mother of the Moz founder, Rand Fishkin. It wasn’t until 2004 when Rand himself created SEOMoz as a site to host SEO thoughts, discussions, and discoveries. In the eleven years since, it has grown to become one of the largest and most authoritative SEO resources on the web. It has tracked Google and the techniques, both black and white, that influence search ranking. They rebranded as Moz some time later.

Domain Authority was a ranking system Moz created as a way to rank and compare websites. It’s a complex algorithm, though not as complex as Google’s ranking itself, and it’s a fairly accurate indication of how you stand up against other sites.

The key to remember about Domain Authority is that it’s best used as a comparison. It’s a ranking on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the best – a perfect score – and 1 being a poor site with nothing going for it. It’s also a logarithmic scale. Growing from a 30 to a 40 is much, much easier than growing from a 70 to a 75. Growing from a 90 to a 91 is even harder than going from 1 to 50.

While Domain Authority can be used as a measure of SEO success, it’s a very hard metric to influence. It’s better used as a comparison of static features; that is, if you stripped away the variables that make search ranking fickle and left your site with just the based, fixed factors, Domain Authority would more accurately represent your ranking. A site with lower Domain Authority than your site can out-rank you, but you have firmer ground to stand on to surpass them.

What Makes Up Domain Authority

Moz is, understandably, unwilling to share all of what goes into Domain Authority. However, they do state a few of the factors, to give you an idea of what’s part of the system and what isn’t. Here’s what we know:

  • MozRank is calculated. MozRank is one of the unique metrics Moz tracks, which is based off the link profile of your domain. It’s calculated based on the number of links pointing at your page, measuring the quantity and quality of those links. Quality is factored heavily; a thousand low quality links won’t have nearly the beneficial effect of one high quality link. It’s measured on a scale of 0 to 10, with the Internet average residing around 3.
  • MozTrust is also calculated. MozTrust is a sort of Six Degrees of Separation game, played with quality link seeds. Moz identifies trusted websites, like Google themselves, .edu sites, and .gov sites. They then measure how many degrees away from these seeds you are, in terms of links. If a .gov site links to site A, which links to site B, which links to site C, which links to you, it’s a four-step separation. If site A linked to you instead, you would have a higher MozTrust rank.
  • The websites your page links to are calculated. It can be detrimental to link to spam sites, even if you’re following the link and using the page as a negative example.
  • Domain registration information is calculated. If you own ten websites and all of them have the same contact information, Moz will compare the quality of each site. If six of those ten sites are spam sites, the other four sites will suffer.
  • Domain age is considered. The older your domain is the better. The longer you’ve controlled it, the better.

This is just a small selection, unfortunately. Rand has stated that there are 40 or more factors that go into calculating Domain Authority, though few of them are actually public. Most data on how to influence Domain Authority comes from experimentation and monitoring.

Page Authority

There’s another Moz-tracked metric floating around, and it’s very similar. It’s called Page Authority, and it’s very similar to Domain Authority. The only difference is that Page Authority considers every page on your site individually, based on its own merits. Domain Authority is an aggregate score that considers your entire website as a whole. You might have some individual pages that have low scores, but have a high overall Domain Authority; that’s fine.

Page Authority is only useful in a few side cases, where you want to keep track of how individual pages are performing in comparison to one another. Think of it as another tool for split-testing and you’ll have the right idea.

Measuring Domain Authority

There are two primary ways to check the Domain Authority of your site. The first, and most used, is to just go to Moz’s Open Site Explorer. You can find the OSE here. It has an index of over 400 billion URLs across nearly 400 million root domains, and it indexes over 2 trillion links. That’s a lot of data, when every link is a relationship between two sites involving quality measurements.

The Open Site Explorer includes quite a bit of information in addition to Domain Authority. For example, you can see the most recently discovered links and content. You can see the top pages on your site, and the worst. You can see a listing of your linking domains, like a backlink checker. There’s an anchor text analyzer and a link metric comparison. There’s even a new spam analysis readout. The only downside is that many of the features are gated behind a paid account at Moz.

If you’re looking for a more streamlined, quick way to see your Domain Authority without having to use a site or filter through forms all the time, you can just use the Moz toolbar. The MozBar is found here, and it allows you to see rankings for any site you happen to be browsing.

How to Influence Domain Authority

Now we get to the meat of the issue; how can you influence your Domain Authority to improve it? A higher Domain Authority is an indication of a stronger foundation, a stronger presence, and more potential to rank higher with Google.

Before we begin, though, bear in mind that most of these tips will require at least some amount of work. Domain Authority is a measurement of trust, age, and quality. Some of it isn’t anything you can influence, and what you can influence is difficult to do so. That’s by design. Moz didn’t want anyone to be able to game the algorithm, so they made it difficult to sway one way or another.

So, what can you do?

Pay for your domain in advance. If your domain is getting close to expiring, it’s a slight loss of confidence in your site. No one likes visiting a site they enjoy, only to find a domain expiration notice. It’s a minor factor in Domain Authority calculations, but it/s also incredibly cheap and easy to fix. Just pay for your domain registration for 2-5 years in advance, and you’re good to go.

Build links to your site. Domain Authority is almost entirely a calculation of the quality and quantity of the links coming into your site from elsewhere. You want more links, and whenever possible, you want links from high-quality sites. Start with links from industry authorities and look for opportunities to get your links into high authority generalist sites. If you can find a relevant place to link to yourself in Wikipedia, that’s an easy authority link to get.

You can also try out some broken link building. Look for .gov and .edu sites that have something to do with your industry. Further, look for older reference pages on those sites, and look for links that lead to content that used to exist but is now gone. Identify the content you have that fits the purpose, or write custom content for the purpose. Send a message to whoever maintains the site, through their contact email or through connections you find elsewhere. Let them know that the X link on the Y page is broken and that your link is a valid replacement. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes you can get a decent link through this method.

Expand your link sources. Domain Authority likes it when you have a lot of high-quality links, but it’s better to have 50 high-quality links from 2 authority pages than 100 quality links from 1 page. A distribution means you’re more likely to be a real authority rather than making a deal with a site owner for a link.

Remove bad incoming links. In addition to being a Google factor, negative links are a Domain Authority factor. They aren’t a huge influence to Domain Authority – DA is less susceptible to Negative SEO than Google ranking – but they can still drag you down, particularly when left unchecked. Pull your backlink profile through the Open Site Explorer or another tool, and identify low-quality links. You can then use some tools or elbow grease to get them removed.

Remove bad outgoing links. Domain Authority actually places a lot of emphasis on the sites you link out to in addition to the sites that link to you. You don’t want to link out to spam sites, because that’s what other spam sites do to try to increase their overall reputation in a circular mishmash of links that ideally tries to get one site ranked to pull up the rest. If you look like that one site, you’re painting a target on your head. If you absolutely must use a spam site as an example, type out the URL but don’t link to it, or just take a screenshot.

Work on your on-site SEO. Some specific suggestions might include updating and using a sitemap file, optimizing your meta title and description fields, using an appropriate heading hierarchy throughout your posts, and using index tags on pages that don’t need to be indexed. Another more recent on-site search factor is page loading speed, so you can work to speed up your load times. This might mean getting a faster web host, or it might just mean removing a few widgets and scripts that run poorly.

Boost your social signals. Moz pays a lot more attention to social signals, specifically shares and retweets, than Google themselves do. Every link from a site like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+ is a link from an authority site. Comments and likes are almost as valuable and help your marketing in other ways.

If necessary, you might need to do an overhaul of your internal site structure. It’s typically a good idea to use a sensible tree organization for your site, with categories and posts within them. It’s also a good idea to use human-readable URLs rather than URLs made out of code or timestamps.

Use a variety of different anchor texts when linking, both internally and externally. Avoid using exact keywords as links. While you’re at it, shoot for an optimal number of links per page. Remember that your navigation links count! I recommend 2-4 links per thousand words, though that’s not a hard limit. You can go over it without issues, as long as you’re not linking every two sentences. Link when it’s necessary.

Expand your content marketing efforts. Build your brand with skillful guest posts throughout industry authority sites. You might not get a link with that post, and even if you do, it might not be valuable. The benefit comes from the owner of that site knowing and recognizing you, and linking to your site on their own later. It’s the start of a relationship, not a fire-and-forget link building solution.

You can also work on blog commenting, in a legitimate and valuable way. Become a prolific commenter in your industry, leaving insight and value wherever you pass. Sometimes you’ll even have relevant content you can leave in the comments. If possible, write a response or rebuttal posts and leave them in links in the comments as well.

As with any sort of SEO, the current best way to get ahead is to create more content. The more content you have of high quality, the more chances you have for people to link to you. It’s no coincidence that many of the highest authority sites have constant content streams that always have something new for a user to read.

Give it time. Domain Authority is very hard to budge, and the higher your ranking is, the harder it is to move. You might be making a lot of progress, but the difference between 80.01 and 80.99 is invisible as far as the ranking is concerned. Your efforts are not in vain! All of the changes you’re making are also useful for Google ranking, user experience enhancements, and conversion rates.

When Are You Done?

So what’s a good ranking to aspire to? Sites like Facebook and Google are obviously 100 out of 100, but aspiring to be the next Google is simply unrealistic. Meanwhile some old, disused and hardly useful sites are in the mid-20s or 30s. Moz itself only has a 94, for that matter.

Really, I can’t give you a good number to aspire towards. What you should do is use the Open Site Explorer to check out your immediate competition. What is their DA ranking, and what is yours? Aspire to be better than they are, and then some. Keep growing! The more time and effort you put in, the better off you’ll be.

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Outsourcing Your First Blog Article

Blogging is a lot of work. You have to create and maintain a website, making sure your design works and your platform is secure. You have to market it, anywhere you possibly can. You have to work to maintain your authority, your position, so people know you’re writing from a place of knowledge. On top of all of that, you might still have a day job, a business to run, or a family to love. Oh, and of course, you have to create loads of content. Anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words per post, ranging from daily to once or twice a week; it weighs on you.

There’s more to creating content than just sitting down and writing. You have to research your topics, to find topics that have available niches or little domination from the industry giants. You have to come up with clever and searchable titles. You have to find a fresh perspective and back it up with data. You have the writing itself, and all of the meta content. You have to find links and images appropriate for your posts. You have to schedule, edit, and post your content regularly. You should even keep an eye on your old content and come up with updates to keep it relevant whenever possible.

It’s no wonder that many of the biggest bloggers out there write very little of their own content. Instead, they hire ghostwriters to turn concepts and data into compelling posts. Writers with command over the English language, with expertise writing for the industry, with the voice and persona necessary to capture the attention of a broad audience, these people are in high demand.

Outsourcing isn’t difficult, but it’s very easy to do poorly.

If you’re going for the lowest bidder, you’re going to receive terrible content, and you’re going to waste time in getting it revised or redone completely. When you’re on a budget – and on a schedule – you can’t always afford that kind of delay. That’s why I’ve written this guide; to help you outsource posts properly, without falling for the mistakes so many novices encounter along the way.

Step 1: Decide on a Topic

Before you can begin to outsource your articles, you need a topic. One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make when trying to outsource their posts is posting an assignment that has too little information. The most talented writers want more to go on than just a keyword. As a consequence, the writers you pick up with overly generic posts are the worst writers.

Ideally, you’ll find a line between too generic and too restrictive for your assignments. Many writers on content mills worry about overly specific posts, because revision requests and rejections hurt their income and their reputations. They’re hesitant to take restrictive posts because if they can’t please you and you reject the post, it can hurt their standing on the site.

The hard part about this is determining how much is too much in context of the site you’re using to outsource. Some sites are more restrictive than others, and harsher on the writers, which makes them more reluctant. You might hit upon a writer who zeros in on your desires unerringly, or you might have to go through several writers just to get something serviceable.

Step 2: Decide on a Format

This is sort of a tertiary part of step one.

You’ll want to have some kind of format in mind. Do you want short paragraphs with subheadings? Do you want minimal subheadings, or none at all? Do you want a numbered list, and if so, do you want a specific number? Do you want a white paper? Do you want a blog post with a casual voice, or a professional voice? Do you want first person references, the royal We, or an impersonal perspective?

All of this matters, but it’s not all relevant to the writer. You don’t need to write a big list of guidelines. All you need is something simple, like “A casual-style blog post from a first person perspective dealing with X topic.” It’s when you start listing specific grammatical points to adhere to that you step over the line into too much information.

This is all a combination of personal experience and conversations with a few writers I know, by the way. Bear in mind that your experience may be a little different. Some writers may be more willing to work within detailed restrictions, and others may prefer the absolute minimum in terms of guidelines. You’ll have to experiment to see who you attract and what quality of work they produce.

Step 3: Decide on a Word Count

Word count is important because it in part determines your budget. It also determines how detailed the content you receive will be.

If your subject is too thin and your word count too high, you’re going to get a lot of fluff in return. If your topic is deep, but your word count too short, you’ll end up with superficial articles that don’t have the space to dig into the subject. Never expect a writer to go over word count; many sites that host writers allow it, but very few writers will exceed word count specifically because the excess is free. If you’re paying for 1,200 words, an the writer hands in 1,400, that’s 200 words they didn’t get paid to write. That’s not a sustainable business model.

Bear in mind as well that most of these writing sites will charge per word rates. The cheapest could be as little as a penny per word, while professional quality writing often runs 10 cents per word or higher. A 1,000-word blog post, then, could run you $100 or more, depending on the quality level you demand from the writer.

Step 4: Determine a Budget

This goes along with step three. Costs can add up very quickly if you’re looking for lengthy, meaty posts on a regular basis. Consider; 7 posts per week, 1,000 words per post, is 7,000 words of writing to pay for every week. At a moderately low rate of 5 cents per word, you’re looking at spending $350 per week. If you find that the quality you receive at that payment level is garbage, you’ll have to find higher priced and higher quality writers, and your costs will go up.

There are a number of factors that adjust prices.

  • Time. Most writing sites have a grace period for the assignment to be posted, a time limit for the writer to write it, and an auto-accept deadline for you to request revisions. This cycle, with a writer that gets you and writes high quality content, can still take several days. With a vague assignment, a low pay rate, and revisions, it can take several weeks to get content you’re satisfied with. In general, if you want a quick turnaround, you will want to offer more money.
  • Length. The longer your content, the more expensive it is, without exception.
  • Quality. Most writing sites sort writers into tiers based on their rated quality on past projects. Higher quality writing costs more. Occasionally you’ll find a good writer in a lower tier, but it’s not something you can count on.
  • Frequency. If you want seven posts per week, it’s going to cost more than wanting three posts per week, all other factors being equal. Though, some writing platforms will offer a discount for bulk orders. That’s typically on the order of hundreds of posts, though, not tens.

Figure out how much you have to spend, and see what you can get at various price points and quality levels.

Step 5: Determine Your Desired Writer Relationship

There are a few different levels of relationship you can have with a freelance writer.

  • Casual content mill relations. Content mills don’t want writers and clients contacting each other, because if they work out a relationship outside the mill, the mill loses their commissions. This means any relationship you develop with a content mill writer is necessarily filtered and distant.
  • Close freelancer work. This is a more direct contact between you and a writer, like what you get from a freelance hub like Upwork or Fiverr.
  • Marketplace relationship. Constant Content is a site that writers can post articles on, and you can buy them, without every having contacted the writer. More on this later.
  • Close individual hire. Sometimes you can contact a writer outside of the platform you’re using and hire them directly. This could be through the standard independent contractor agreement, or as an actual in-house employee, depending on your situation.

Figure out how much of a relationship you want to have with your writer or writers. Just avoid getting too close before you know them well enough to know their reliability; you don’t want to keep paying a writer who consistently fails to meet deadlines, just because you’ve become friends and don’t want to fire them.

Step 6: Find a Writer

There are a whole bunch of places online where you can find writers, and you’ll often find that writers work through many different platforms. The chances of you finding the same writer on multiple platforms is slim, though, due to the number of platforms and the number of competing writers on each. Here are some of the platforms, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Fiverr – You know this site by reputation, if not necessarily experience. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t be getting an article of any length for $5. Often, you’ll find packages with 50-100 words for $5, where you’re able to buy as many as you want to reach certain word counts for individual projects. Here, you don’t have to worry about a random writer picking up your assignment, but you do have to vet your posts carefully.
  • Upwork – This is the current name of what was once the merged conglomeration of elance and odesk. When the two sites merged, they kept their clientele and their workforce, so nothing really has changed but the name.
  • Textbroker – This is a stereotypical restrictive content mill. Post your assignment and a random writer can claim it and write it. You have the chance for revision requests. You can also submit direct orders to writers you like, though they always have the option of turning them down. If you like more than one writer, you can create a team of selected writers.
  • Constant Content – I mentioned this above; CC is a marketplace where writers post articles and clients can buy them. You can use this to quickly fill out a blog backlog and get generic posts. They also have the ability to post assignments for writers to claim, though it’s not used as much as the open marketplace.
  • Freelancer – This is a freelance hub that does much more than just writing; you can also find programming, design, and graphical work on the site, making it a good one-stop shop for everything your blog needs.
  • Craigslist – Sometimes, you can find decent success by posting work-from-home writing opportunities in major metro area CL sections. As always with Craigslist, be wary of scammers.
  • Personal Sites – Many of the best, high profile writers will have sites of their own. Be aware that they are likely to charge a significant fee compared to most of these other options, however.
  • Copywriting Agencies – There are agencies that have pools of writers on their workforce who can write content in bulk for you, possibly at low rates.

Step 7: Pitch or Post Your Assignment

Once you’ve chosen a platform and decided on how long your article will be, write up and pitch your assignment. How you do this will depend highly on the method you’re using, so I can’t give you much advice here. Most content mills will have account reps you can talk to for advice, though some require a premium membership first. Only pay for a membership if you’re sure you want to work with the platform.

Step 8: Wait For Inevitable Mistake-Filled Post

Okay, so this is a little defeatist, but my experience is that a lot of the work you’ll get back as a new client, particularly if you’re looking for cheap writing, is going to suck. It might go off the rails. It might misinterpret your keyword. It might be filled with grammatical mistakes. It might look written by a non-native English speaker. In these cases, you’ll have to send the post back for revision. Most writing sites enforce at least one revision, so writers aren’t screwed by immediate rejections. If you’re not using a content mill, you may have a more personal conversation in store for you when you have to confront the writer about not meeting your vision.

In the event that the content you get back is great, you should immediately favorite that writer and foster the relationship. Content mills especially tend to be filled with the bottom of the barrel writers who can’t cut it elsewhere, so finding a good one is a great opportunity for you both.

Step 9: Check Content for Plagiarism

Any time you receive a piece of content, the first thing you should do is check to see if it’s copied or spun from existing content online. I recommend doing a manual search with both Google and Bing, because one might pick up something the other missed or deindexed. You may also want to use a widespread plagiarism checker like Copyscape, though many of the content mills already automatically run content through the service to make sure the writers are on the up and up.

In the event that you do find a plagiarism flag, review it to make sure it’s relevant. Sometimes the content in question is a direct and cited quotation, or a common turn of phrase. Don’t immediately accuse a writer of stealing content in these cases; it will alienate you and piss them off.

Step 10: Pay for Your Content

Most writing sites and freelancer portals have an escrow service for money; you pay in advance, and can be refunded if you are dissatisfied with the service. However, if you accept content, there’s no option for withholding payment. Writers need to be paid for their services, full stop.

If you steal content from a writer, even a content mill with low quality writers, I don’t know what to tell you. Don’t do it. You can and will gain a massive negative reputation amongst writers, and the last thing you want is to be faced with the sheer bad press that angry freelancers can generate.

Step 11: Repeat as Much as Necessary

Once you find writers who produce quality content, keep buying it. These writers depend on you and clients like you for their living, and steady work is a dream for many of them. It’s also easier for you to budget; paying once each month may be easier to track, but you also want to spread out your assignments so you always have something ready to post.

With all of the time you save not writing, you can dedicate yourself to improving your business, so you can buy more content and pay better.

How to Guest Post for Large Sites like The Huffington Post

The Internet is made of websites both large and small. It’s like a froth of soap bubbles; some are much larger and crowd out more space than others. Many are tiny. As bloggers, most of us toil away on small sites, wishing one day to be part of the bigger bubbles.

Here’s the thing; most of these big sites, like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, or the New York Times all accept guest posts. You can write for them, so long as you fit what they’re looking for. It’s that set of criteria that really matter. The wall most bloggers run into is that those standards require a certain amount of reputation, a certain level of quality, and some networking on the side.

If you’re looking to get into some of these larger sites, you need to work your way up. Here’s a set of steps and methods you can use.

Start Small

Everyone has to start somewhere, right? It’s a trivial expense and a minimal amount of effort to set up a blog. Populating that blog with quality content, now, that gets a bit more complex. I’m going to gloss over most of it, though; if you’re looking to write for HuffPo, you probably already have a site of your own set up.

I recommend taking the time to guest post around your industry. Peter Sandeen compiled a pretty good list of sites in various industries that accept guest posts, all of which will have lower requirements than the top tier sites you’re aiming for. Meanwhile, Neil Patel wrote a pretty good overview of what guest posting can do for you and how to do it over at Quicksprout.

Neil’s strategy is generally to cast a wide net and post on many sites, but not too frequently. That’s primarily because he has huge name recognition in his chosen industry. That’s what you’re going for; widespread name recognition as a content producer with a generally high level of quality. You don’t need to be the most exceptional writer in your industry, but you should be in the top 20%.

Grow a Social Presence

Social media helps a ton with building a reputation as a writer. You can build a Facebook page for yourself as a professional author, rather than relying on a personal profile. You can run a Twitter account to provide insights, links to your posts, links to other good posts, and a direct line of communication. Google+ allows you to get some SEO value and sharing with a different audience, and you can use it as a supplementary blog for shorter posts you don’t want on your main site.

If on any of these sites you can get verification, do so. Being a verified user is a sign of popularity and recognition, and it helps you in networking and guest blog pitches later on down the line.

Network With Influencers

One of the biggest and best things you can do with social media is network with industry influencers. Who should you target, though? There are a few options.

  • The people who are big names in your industry. These people can help you get guest blogging positions on their sites, and the links they provide can be valuable as well.
  • The people who are influential in the sites you want to write for. If you can identify the people who are editors in positions of power, or who have decision-making ability for who they accept for guest posts, these are people you want to introduce yourself to.
  • The people who write for the sites you’re targeting, and who post about the same sort of subjects you write about. You’ll be watching these people to see what they do and where they do it, and you’ll be trying to see if you can get a slice of that pie.

Post Authoritative Content

This one is pretty self-explanatory as far as these things go. You’ll never get on HuffPo if you’re not posting content of a high quality level. Consider this; when you submit a pitch for a guest post, an editor has to look it over and decide if it’s worth publishing. If it is, they have to look you over and decide if you’re worth publishing. This is a tougher judgment, but many a writer has been turned away as if their pitch was bad, when really it’s their reputation.

It’s rare that an editor will come out and say that “your name recognition on Google is terrible and you’re associated with a bunch of bad blogs, and that’s why we’re denying your pitch.” Instead, they just send the simple form letter that “we’re sorry, but this idea is not a good fit for our site at this time.” That is, if they do anything other than ignore you.

Make sure that if someone runs a search for your name, what they find is a bunch of authoritative content.

Create a Prospect List and Rank Potential Sites

This is probably the most work you’ll have to do, but thankfully it’s mostly a one-time process. The list of guest post sites I linked above is a good place to start, but you’ll want to dig deeper into your industry. Identify all of the blogs in your industry, and all of the more high-profile sites like Entrepreneur, Inc, Huffington Post, Forbes, and the like. Any site you might like to write for, add to this list.

Once you have the list, begin to categorize them. You could rank them on a scale of 1 to 3, or one to five stars, or the E to A grading scale. Pick a method that works for you. Put the worst sites, the sites you would barely want to see your content on, on the lowest rank. Work your way up, categorizing sites in terms of quality and difficulty of acceptance.

This is your ladder. You’re starting at the bottom, getting posts published where you can. You’re working your way up, where a post on site A can be a reference to get you accepted for site B, which in turn helps you get on site C, and all the way up.

Study Your Target Site

Each time you approach a site, spend some time reading their recent content. If it’s a large site with multiple categories of content, focus your efforts on the content in the section where a post you would write would be published. You’re looking to identify the sorts of subjects they cover, the depth of detail they go into, the sites they link to, and other indicators of quality. You’ll also want to study their technical details, like word choice, line breaks, use of formatting, subtitles, and tone.

Your goal is to adapt your content somewhat to fit with the site in question. You can’t completely compromise your voice, but you should write for the platform.

Find Where Other Authors Write

This is the other side of the coin; studying the authors rather than the site. Like I said; you aren’t going to compromise your voice. Track down the authors who guest post on the sites you’re targeting, and look at their own blogs. There’s going to be some difference in their writing style, if nothing else, due to the comfort of writing in a platform they control. Check out free guest posting sites here .

Take a look at how much they have to adapt to their platform, and how much they bring with them. This will give you some idea of how much you will have to adapt.

Copy Their Style

There’s a lot to consider when you’re writing for a site, and a lot of it comes down to technical details. Sometimes you can write a perfectly acceptable, valid, even great post only to have it rejected because it doesn’t fit the style of the site. For example, if you’re writing a deep and detailed case study with a lot of charts and data, it could go great on a site geared for that kind of thing. On a more news-focused site, or on a site designed for more superficial advice and tutorials, it won’t make the cut.

Part of this comes down to formatting. It’s amazing how much more appealing you can make just about any article just by breaking up long paragraphs, adding in subheadings, and narrowing down word counts.

Study these aspects of your target site and see how your content compares. What are the average word counts per post and per paragraph for posts on the target site? How many subheads, on average? How many links? This is all data you can apply to your own writing.

Comment on Posts On Your Target Site

This is a subtle strategy, but what it does is help get your name recognized by the people in charge of the site. Essentially, what you’ll be doing is identifying posts on your target site that are relevant to the content you write, and contributing your insights to the discussion in the comments. These sites tend to love comments. If they have a way to register as yourself, so you get a headshot and link, do so.

This technique is best used for climbing the ladder, unfortunately. It’s less likely to work on a site like Huffington Post specifically, where comments are powered by Facebook and the average post can have dozens or hundreds. The more you stand out in the comments – in a good way – the more you are recognized for your contributions.

Study Submission Guidelines

The next goal is to study the submission guidelines for the site you’re looking to write for. For example, on Huffington Post, you can go to this form – their submission form – and read what they have to say. Unfortunately, that’s not much. Some sites will have much more detailed information. One thing you’ll find, though, is that the more general the site, and the larger the site, the less they have in the way of restrictions.

This is because they can get away with ignoring pitches they don’t like, and don’t have to justify it within their rules. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who pedantically argue that their garbage posts are technically within all of the rules and thus should be accepted and published immediately.

Some of these sites may not have directly published their submission guidelines, but you may be able to find other writers writing about their experiences in pitching posts for those sites. This one, for HuffPo, is pretty interesting. It also recommends contacting editors directly if you have an email address or other form of contact information. This is a good way to bypass the mash of bad posts, but some editors strongly dislike when writers work around the proper channels.

Write a Short Pitch

Your pitch should be short, and it should ideally contain a draft – that you identify as a draft – attached to the post. If your email or contact submission is longer than 200 words, you’re writing too much. Consider a basic format.

Greeting,

This first paragraph of my pitch tells you who I am and gives you just enough background to know why I’m an authority in the topic I’m pitching.

This second paragraph gives you more detail on the pitch itself, the topic of the post and why I think it’s a good fit for your site.

Thank you for your time,

Me

In your email, you should have little more than the elevator pitch for your post. The attached text document will have the actual text of the post as a draft, which you assure the editor is open to critique and changes to better fit the style of the site. You should also include all of the information the editor needs to put your post up immediately, including a headshot picture and a short biography in the same style as the bios published on the site.

Send Your Pitch Properly

Remember where I linked you to the HuffPo submission form, and then I almost immediately linked you to a site that advises you send a contact message to an email directly rather than through the form? These are the kinds of workarounds you’re looking for.

This is where all of your previous networking comes in handy. If you’re lucky, you will have networked with and established relationships with the editors on the sites you’re trying to get on. Networking is always a good idea. Just take this example from Mike Fishbein of Content Marketing Institute. He attended a blogging workshop and through the relationship that gave him, he met Arianna Huffington in person and was personally invited to write for HuffPo. If that sounds like the first and last step of a 30-step process, it’s not; it was pretty much a two-step event.

You might not be able to make such dramatic connections so easily, but you can certainly leverage some benefit from any relationship you make.

Work With Editor Comments

Sometimes, particularly for the first contribution you make to a site, the editor will be very picky. I’ve experienced this in writing for several of the sites I’ve named. The editors work as gatekeepers to see how well the writer can adapt to changes, and how well they work with the site rather than against it. They’re testing your ability to adapt, while simultaneously testing how much you’re willing to stand your ground in the face of changes. Once you’ve passed the test, the next dozen posts you submit are accepted with virtually no question.

Be ready and be prepared to work with an editor to change your post to make it more acceptable to the site. They might want you to cut down some of the content, remove specific links, or take a slightly different perspective. If they want to cut something thematically important, or if they want you to change your stance, well, those might indicate that it’s not a subject you want to pitch for that site in the future.

Provide Something Unique

At the end of the day, everything you’re doing is about getting a unique, authoritative post on a high profile site with your name attached. That means the content you produce needs to be high quality. It needs to be unique, in a way that only you can provide. It needs to be something you would be proud to have on your site, or better.

If you’re struggling to find something to write beyond the basics, you may have some thinking to do. You’ll want to examine your position in the community and industry. What makes you uniquely positioned amongst your peers? What makes you stand out? What resources and insights do you have that set you apart? How can you articulate this in a post for a major site?

Once you know what makes you unique, you know what makes you valuable. From there, it’s just a matter of leveraging that value to post where you want.

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