Internal linking: the makingof

Andrew Raynor

 

 

A few weeks ago, we added Yoast internal linking to Yoast SEO Premium for English. We released the same feature for German earlier this week. In this post, I’ll explain how the earlier released Insights laid the groundwork for this feature, how we compose the list of linking suggestions, and why Yoast internal linking is currently only available for a limited set of languages.

So what does the internal linking tool do? While working on your post, our internal linking tool will give you suggestions on which posts you could consider linking to because they are about related topics. Linking to these posts will help you create a better site structure.

Insights

To know which posts we should show in the Yoast internal linking meta box, we first need to find out what all your posts are about. For this, we use the data we’ve already gathered for the Insights box, that you’ll find beneath the content analysis:

insights in yoast seo premium

But how do we get to this list of five words and word combinations? Let’s take a look at the steps we take when we analyze a post for its most prominent words.

Step 1: Getting all relevant single words

First, we want to know which relevant 100 single words are most frequently used in the post. We therefore start by making a list with all words from the text. Next, we remove words like ‘the’, ‘you’ and ‘to’ from this list. Articles, pronouns, prepositions and other function words are simply too widely used to be truly relevant to a text. If we wouldn’t filter out words like these, all posts would end up with roughly the same prominent words. Once we’ve removed all function words, we save the 100 most frequent single words and move on to the word combinations.

Step 2: Getting all relevant word combinations

Combinations of two or more words are often more relevant and information-rich than single words, because they are more specific. That is why we also look for the most relevant two to five-word combinations. We filter these combinations as well, because combinations like ‘headlines to be’ and ‘to rank and your’ are useless. We only want to keep meaningful combinations like ‘optimize your site structure’ and ‘writing clickbait titles’.

Step 3: Filtering on word density

Once we’ve retrieved and filtered all one to five-word combinations, we filter out everything with a word density of over 0.03. This means we remove all combinations from the list that comprise over 3% of the entire text. The rationale behind this is that words that are too frequent are seldom genuinely relevant, because they tend to be non-specific. This also serves as an extra safety net to catch all function words that we might have forgotten to remove during the previous steps.

Step 4: Calculating relevance scores

The final step is calculating which words and word combinations are most relevant to the post. Based on trial and error, we came up with a formula that uses the frequency, length and percentage of relevant words of the word combinations that does just this.

Length bonus

We start with determining the length bonus. As shown in the table below, the longer a combination is, the higher is the length bonus it receives. This means longer, more specific word combinations will eventually get a higher relevance score than shorter, less specific combinations.

Word combination length Length bonus
Single word 0
Two-word combination 3
Three-word combination 7
Four-word combination 12
Five-word combination 15

Relevant word proportion

We also calculate which proportion of each word combination is on the list of the 100 most frequent words. This is the list we drew up during Step 1. For example, if one word of a four-word combination is also in the top 100 frequent words, the calculated proportion would be 0.25. The idea behind this is that the more relevant words a combination contains, the more relevant the combination probably is.

Multiplier

Next, we calculate the so-called multiplier using the following formula: 1 + relevant word proportion * length bonus. For a four-word combination with a relevant word proportion of 0.25, this would result in a multiplier of  1 + 0.25 * 12 = 4.

Relevance score

Finally, we calculate the actual relevance score by multiplying the number of occurrences of each word combination by its multiplier. If the four-word combination of the above example would have a frequency of 3, its relevance score would be 3 * 4 = 12. Once we’ve calculated all relevance scores, we sort the words and word combinations from the highest to the lowest relevance. To keep the Insights box clear of clutter, we only show the top 5. However, we save a maximum of 100 words and word combinations for further use. 

Yoast internal linking

Once we have collected the most prominent words for all your posts, it’s time to compare them. To do this we take the top 20 prominent words of each post. However, for the sake of simplicity, I will illustrate the process with only five prominent words per blog.

Imagine you’re writing a post about Twitter Analytics. You’ve also written posts about Twitter Cards, homepage SEO and Instagram Analytics. You can find the top 5 prominent words from these blogs in the table below.

Twitter Analytics Twitter cards homepage SEO Instagram Analytics
Twitter Analytics Twitter cards homepage SEO Instagram Analytics
Twitter Twitter business name or brand Instagram
analytics Twitter account homepage followers
Twitter analytics dashboard account optimize your homepage analytics
Twitter cards data site name engagement rate

The more overlapping prominent words a post has with the current post, the higher its position will be in the list. Because the post about Instagram Analytics shares the prominent word ‘analytics’ with your post about Twitter Analytics, that post will show up in the linking suggestions. However, the blogs about Twitter Analytics and Twitter Cards have two overlapping prominent words: ‘Twitter Cards’ and ‘Twitter’. As a result, the post about Twitter Cards will end up higher in the list. Lastly, the post about homepage SEO doesn’t have any prominent words in common with the post about Twitter Analytics. For that reason we won’t suggest it to you.

We’ve decided to limit the number of suggested posts to twenty, because we don’t want to overwhelm you. Only the twenty posts that share the most prominent words with your post will be shown in the meta box. Check out what the result looks like in this video!

Language support

Now that we’ve built the above framework, we stand before the time-consuming task of making the linking suggestions available for languages other than English and German. Not only do we have to compose lists of function words for each individual language, but we also need to adjust the filtering for each of them. This has to do with word order differences. In English, for example, one describes an action with a verb followed by an object: eating cookies. However, in German, the object comes before the verb: Kekse essen (literally: cookies eat). As a result, we want to filter out English word combinations ending with a verb (he eats), but German combinations beginning with a verb (isst Kekse, literally: eats cookies).

The future of link suggestions

We’re happy to announce that we’ve released internal linking for German. But, maybe more importantly, we’d also like to let you know that you can help to make Yoast internal linking available for your own language! Please contact us if you’d like to help.

Read more: ‘Why you should use Yoast internal linking’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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SEO misinformation or reality?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

SEO has a somewhat questionable reputation. Why is that? At Yoast, we advise you to make an awesome website. Our SEO advice always comes down to: make sure to outrank the competition by being the best result. We actually collaborate with Google in the development of our plugin. So, why does SEO have a questionable reputation? And what about all those ‘supposed’ SEO tricks that’ll get you instant rankings? In this post, I’ll take a look at what’s an SEO fact and what’s SEO fiction!

The origin of this reputation

A lifetime ago, when Google’s algorithm wasn’t that good, you could trick your way into the search results. Putting down keywords in white (so nobody would see, but Google would crawl it) was an effective strategy back then. As was buying bulks of links from questionable sites. As Google evolved, these kinds of dirty SEO tricks started to backfire. If you’re wondering whether certain tactics of old school or blackhat SEO still pay off, just think about the following questions: does it give the user a better experience on your site? Does your website become a better result? If you can answer these questions with yes, then it’s probably a good SEO strategy. Anything that feels like a trick though, probably won’t be a good SEO strategy in the long run. So, let’s look at some SEO statements and find out if they’re fact or fiction!

SEO: fact or fiction?

Fact or fiction 1: Content is King

Content is a very important aspect of any SEO strategy. After all, Google crawls texts and determines the ranking of your site on the quality of your texts. High-quality content also leads to lower bounce rates and more social media attention.

SEO fact: Content is King

Fact or fiction 2: Get as many links as possible

While backlinks are definitely important for your SEO strategy, you should be rather selective in which kinds of backlinks you’d want to attract to your website. You shouldn’t buy large amounts of links. You shouldn’t exchange links. You shouldn’t use any automated programs to get links. You shouldn’t do guest blogging with very thin and off-topic content. You shouldn’t have links that are unrelated to the topic of your website. You shouldn’t have links from sites that have no real content. You shouldn’t have links from spammy sites whose only purpose is to advertise for gambling, viagra and porn (unless your website is about gambling, viagra and porn). You should never pay for links. If you choose to go overboard on link building, you’ll risk a penguin penalty and loose your rankings in Google.

SEO fiction: Get as many links as possible

Fact or fiction 3: Keyword density should be sky high

Some people try to put as many keywords in their texts as possible. They hope that Google will notice the amount of keywords they’re using and therefore will rank the text highest in the search results. However, their text will become unreadable. So they shouldn’t do that! It’ll definitely backfire. Never write content that’s created for the search engines. Always write content with a real audience in mind. Invest in high-quality content, that’ll generate long term stable traffic to your website.

SEO fiction: keyword density should be sky high

Fact or fiction 4: You don’t need high-end technical skills to do SEO

Technical SEO definitely is an important element of an SEO strategy. And it doesn’t hurt to learn a bit of code (it could even be great fun). However, if you’re using WordPress and our Yoast SEO plugin, your technical SEO is pretty much covered. Our plugin is designed to take care of all the technical aspects of your SEO strategy.

SEO fact: You don’t need high-end technical skills to do SEO

Fact or fiction 5: SEO is all tricks

At Yoast, we propose an SEO strategy we refer to as holistic SEO. You should develop a long-term SEO strategy focusing on all aspects of website optimization in order to be the best result. You should write awesome content, do great PR and social, make sure your website is properly secured and create a superb User Experience. And of course your website should have technical excellence and an awesome site structure. That’s no trick. That’s just a whole lot of hard work.

SEO fiction: SEO is all tricks

Conclusion

The final SEO fiction actually says it all. SEO is not all tricks. Not at all. SEO, in our view, is a longterm strategy, focusing on getting and keeping those high rankings in the search engines. It is a lot of work, but it will definitely pay off in the long run!

Read more: ‘Holistic SEO’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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138: Just How To Understand the Junction of Entrepreneurship and Artwork: Meeting with Halligan

Andrew Raynor

Many people believe that if they were to make a living from their creative work, the art itself would suffer. That getting paid somehow cheapens their craft, when in reality, they have finally received validation.

138: How to Navigate the Intersection of Art and Entrepreneurship: Interview with Steph Halligan

Instead thinking of art and entrepreneurship as opposing forces, consider, perhaps, that they are two sides of the same coin. Rather than competing with one another, your creativity and career are intertwined.

Sometimes, as in the case of this week’s guest on The Portfolio Life, you might pursue a shadow career and rediscover a lost creative passion that breathes new life into your vocation, or reveals a new path entirely.

Listen in as motivational cartoonist and writer, Steph Halligan, and I talk about losing and finding your artistic self, hidden benefits of daily creative habits, and how to reconcile the tension between art and entrepreneurship.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, Stephanie and I discuss:

  • How drawing a student loan debt monster led to new opportunities
  • The progression of quitting your day job
  • Why self-confidence and creative frequency are interrelated
  • What it feels like to be an artist and an entrepreneur
  • Letting your fans celebrate and support you
  • Packaging your creative work into products people care about
  • The importance of environment and changing elements that influence the creative process to get unstuck

Quotes and takeaways

  • “The beauty of doing something every day is you build up a portfolio of work.” —Steph Halligan
  • “If you give, you are allowed to receive.” —Steph Halligan
  • Create products people want. Start a dialog with your audience.
  • If you help enough people there will be people lined up to give you money.
  • When money becomes the chief concern, it doesn’t always lead to the best art.

Resources

Do you think getting paid compromises your craft? How do you navigate the tension between art and entrepreneurship? Share in the comments

Click here to download a free PDF of the complete interview transcript or scroll down to read it below.

EPISODE 138

“SH: As I started adding the cartoons, it started building this confidence inside me that I had something of value to offer to the world that was beyond whatever job I had.”

[INTERVIEW]

[0:00:41.2] JG: Well Stephanie, welcome to the show.

[0:00:44.3] SH: Thanks for having me.

[0:00:46.7] JG: You call yourself a motivational cartoonist?

[0:00:49.5] SH: That’s right.

[0:00:50.5] JG: What does that mean?

[0:00:52.6] SH: I’m a cartoonist, and an author, and a writer, and so those are all titles I use too, but I landed on motivational cartoonist. One, because I had a motivational speaker actually tell me that’s what I do. He said, “You’re like, a motivational cartoonist.” I was like, “Yeah. That’s actually a perfect way to describe what I do.”

Why I love the phrase so much is because I’ve taken my medium of choice, my craft, which is drawing and writing, and I use it to inspire and infuse a little positivity in the world, and help people make people feel better about where they are in life. That’s where the phrase motivational cartoonist comes from.

[0:01:35.8] JG: Have you always been an artist? Have you always been drawing, or is this something you came to later in life?

[0:01:42.4] SH: Yeah, I would say that I was born to draw, and then I lost it for like 20 years, and then I came back to it. Yeah. If you would ask friends and family, and anyone who was around me as a kid, I was meant to be a cartoonist. It was something I did as a little child. I was illustrating and writing books even before I could properly write. and then I would just write scribbly words. and I wanted to grow up to be like a Looney Tunes animator or a Disney animator.

Then there was that kind of period of in between time when I was probably starting in high school, and then definitely in college, when my mind shifted over to, “Okay, what do I practically, really want to do in life and make money from?” Art just really fell by the wayside, so there was a period in my life where I maybe, I would say a year or two years in college, when I wasn’t actively drawing or creating any sort of artwork, just because I was trying to figure things out, what my career ladder was and my major. I picked up cartooning regularly, maybe about two years ago.

[0:02:52.5] JG: Really?

[0:02:53.5] SH: Yeah. It was a large piece of me that was missing for a while, and I’m really happy I got it back, that’s for sure.

[0:03:00.9] JG: I want to talk about this project, arttoself.com, but before we talk about that, this is a new thing, you know? Being this motivational cartoonist. What did life and work look like before two years ago?

[0:03:15.5] SH: Yeah, I had graduated from college. I had graduated with a lot of student debt, which is not very uncommon nowadays. I ended up going into this field of financial literacy. I was working in a nonprofit, and I was helping teach college students and low income families about ways to save money, and especially for college. My career path really looked, it was involved in this kind of personal finance field.

It was a topic I cared about a lot, because I felt very personally affected by student loans, and I even started a blog around personal finance and my own kind of student loan payoff journey. My professional life was starting to make sense after college, I was putting pieces together, and realized I was building this kind of unique skill set in putting my career ladder up against the wall of financial literacy, and personal finance, and a topic I sincerely cared about,

And as I was blogging, too, about my student loan journey and personal finance journey. I could tell maybe four years after graduating, maybe even three, that something was kind of missing, it felt really good to be able to share my story with the world, and I loved writing blog posts and being able to put them out there, know that even just friends and family were reading my point of view.

Then I had that kind of hunger for something else, and I couldn’t even name it. I think at the time I couldn’t even tell you, “It’s cartoons,” or “it’s drawing,” but it just felt like that creative piece of me didn’t have a place to go. The writing was helping, the blogging. There was something else that was not quite syncing up with what I was doing, and it was when I was still in a nine to five job that I took my personal finance blog and I actually started drawing cartoons on it, because there was something there that I thought would be interesting if I maybe drew about my student loan journey, and I started drawing this student loan debt monster.

I drew myself as a super hero that was trying to pay off student loans, and that was the first little experiment of mine to find out, “Okay, what is my creative outlet that I really want? Drawing comes naturally. What if I did the crazy thing of adding this to my personal finance website and see where it goes?”

That was the moment where that moment of experimenting kind of clicked into place, where I remembered that cartooning was that thing in my blood, and finding a place for it, and putting it out into the world, even if it was about student debt or something like that. It started exercising that muscle again when — something in me kind of came back to life that had been almost ignored and kind of atrophied for the better part of a decade and a half.

[0:06:12.1] JG: Isn’t it interesting that you didn’t realize this was the thing that you were supposed to do until you did it, and then you’re like yeah, this has been here all along.

[0:06:22.3] SH: Yeah.

[0:06:22.5] JG: I love that, that’s really interesting.

[0:06:24.5] SH: It was so funny. I remember telling my mom, I was like, “Hey mom, I’m going to start adding cartoons to my personal finance site,” and she was like, “Of course.” Excuse me? She’s like, “Yeah, that’s what you’re meant to do in life.” I was like god, I should have just asked my mom, maybe a couple of years ago, and this search would have been so much easier.

[0:06:44.6] JG: Yeah, that’s hilarious. Writing was that way for me, I wouldn’t have said, “Yeah, I was meant to be a writer” when I was 16 or 21 or whatever. In fact, I wanted to be a rock star. At whatever it was, 27, 28 when I started writing, I was like, yeah. I guess it’s like that Steve Jobs speech that everybody quotes about connecting the dots.

You look back and you go, yeah, totally makes sense. It’s fascinating. Personal finance blog. You and I ran into each other, I think we’ve seen each other twice now at FinCon, which is a financial blogging conference, and like just like the craziest party I’ve ever seen. It’s just wild.

[0:07:24.4] SH: For people, yeah.

[0:07:25.6] JG: It is. You’ve got like people that are like arguing about which credit cards give you the best cash back bonus, sort of…

[0:07:34.2] SH: That’s right, yeah.

[0:07:36.0] JG: Then there’s like a dance party, and all things in between. When you were doing this financial blogging thing, what was life like at that point? Were you a full-time blogger? Was this something that you were doing on the side while doing the nonprofit thing? Help me better understand that.

[0:07:50.8] SH: Yeah, I had my blog for about two years, and once I started adding cartoons to it, a funny thing started happening. At the time I added cartoons to my personal finance blog, which is about two years ago, I was working at a startup that was focused on financial literacy, and as I started adding the cartoons, it started building this confidence inside me that I had something of value to offer to offer to the world that was beyond whatever job I had.

I could just really — I could map out the trajectory, which is like the frequency in which Steph draws cartoons, like, the higher her self-confidence is. At that point, I started shifting mentally to really thinking about venturing out on my own. Not just from the cartoon perspective, but I had built this unique skillset around financial literacy curriculum development, and I was drawing cartoons about financial literacy and personal finance.

I took that kind of that combination of confidence and the unique kind of skillset, and I started shopping around to see what life might be like if I decided to quit my job. I asked an old employer of mine, I asked some potential freelance clients, and just to see, if I ended up stepping out on my own, what would be the appetite for some of the work that I do, and I got some responses from the nonprofit world.

They were like, “Yeah, come work on a project about personal finance with us,” and I got responses from other people who were like, “We want you to be a freelance writer, we’d love to add cartoons to our site.” It was a — the transition away from my nine to five job wasn’t jumping directly to I am a full-blown motivational cartoonist, and cartoons are what I do, and that’s everything.

It was the kind of next iteration of that, which is, “I’m now going to work for myself, but it’s still going to be around this financial literacy skillset, and at the same time, now that I have this space and time to draw more, and think about what I want to do in life, I’m going to explore my art a little bit more.”

[0:10:05.5] JG: Yeah. That’s cool. Tell me about this project arttoself.com. These are daily motivational drawings?

[0:10:15.2] SH: Yeah. Art to Self, it’s one of the best things that I’ve done with my life, which is commit to drawing cartoons every day and sharing them with the world. One side of the coin, it’s a very selfish project that holds me accountable to doing art, and then at the same time, it has just been amazing to see how people have connected with my cartoons.

Because these “cartoon notes” as I call them, they’re motivational in the sense that there is a funny doodle with a quote, something that’s inspirational, or something to help you deal with the low days, especially if you’re trying to start your own business, and something to keep you going on the high moments.

It’s also a place for me to share really vulnerably about the moments that I’m experiencing, both as an entrepreneur and as a creative person, because that self-doubt and that self-criticism comes up very frequently, and I don’t think it ever goes away. So being able to share that with the world, and do it in kind of a lighthearted way with cartoons, has been so important to me personally, but it’s also just been fantastic to see the number of people who responded, who really resonate with the same things that I’m going through, and really appreciate that I’ve turned it into something lighthearted like a cartoon.

[0:11:38.6] JG: Yeah. It’s great. I’m looking at one right now and it’s cool, there’s these little drawings, and then you’ve got these little notes associated with these drawings that are just about your process. People say, “I don’t have enough time,” you’ve got this little doodle that says you make time. Then there’s this little sort of note from yourself to yourself.

[0:11:58.9] SH: Exactly.

[0:11:59.8] JG: I love that. There’s just something powerful, it seems to me, about not being a guru. At least in this day and age, with social media, and the internet, and I saw somebody Facebook this tongue in cheek thing and it was like, “You know what Snapchat needs more of is people giving life and career advice.”

[0:12:18.9] SH: Yeah.

[0:12:19.7] JG: I was like yeah, I just wish somebody would tell me to hustle more.

[0:12:22.8] SH: Right, yeah.

[0:12:24.4] JG: I think it’s really refreshing when you’re just like sharing your own journey, and saying, “here’s where I’m at, here’s what I need right now,” and it’s just a little bit less arrogant, I think.

[0:12:34.9] SH: Yeah. That’s the reason I started Art to Self, which was it came off, it was a spin off the phrase, you know, note to self. I needed sticky notes in my room that were like, note to self, stop beating yourself up. Note to self, you’re doing okay, you’ll get there, and so yeah. It really is the messages that I need to hear, and it’s not the Instagram sunset with a person doing yoga on the beach that’s like, “keep going,” because for me, what was the two parts that are so important is, one, a cartoon and a visual lighthearted reminder that kind of makes you laugh at yourself for the situation a bit.

The second is me writing the notes, and they’re shorter notes, they’re like 150 words, but to say yeah, keep going, but here’s what I’m going through, because I hit a wall and I didn’t feel like drawing today. Here’s the kind of reality and vulnerability behind it, because like you were just saying, I don’t want to contribute to any sort of false guru-dom that’s out there, and kind of show myself as someone who has it all together.

Because every day I’m learning and growing, and there are many days when I have imposter syndrome, and don’t feel like I have it all together. I think that can be almost more valuable to people who are dealing with those kind of struggles or moments, just to be able to relate and connect on that.

[0:13:58.9] JG: Yeah, do you ever look at your own notes and go yeah, I need to remember that.

[0:14:03.8] SH: Yes, my gosh. Funny story was, a couple of months ago, last December, I came out with my first book, because the beauty of doing something every single day is halfway through the year last year, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I have so many cartoons and notes. I’m going to make this a book,” and everyone was asking for a book.

Even though the book content was done, putting together a book and putting it out on the world is still a scary process, and it was a learning process, because there’s a lot of formatting technical stuff, especially if you’re trying to self-publish. I’d be sitting in my book, editing it and working on a cartoon, the two cartoons that just kept coming up all the time to me was “love the process,” and I’d be sitting there editing the note called “love the process.”

I’m like, okay, fine, I’ll love the process. Or I have a note that — it says, “what if it’s already perfect?” and it’s a bunch of scribbles and erase marks and stuff. I would just be editing it, and my gosh, what if this note is already perfect? Okay, Art to Self, I get it. What if it’s already perfect? My notes definitely come back around to me, and I’m not alone, I’m sure, in having to like relearn the same lesson in life over and over again. I definitely revisit the old ones.

[0:15:21.1] JG: Yeah, the reason I ask that question is I was looking at your website, looking at the book, you go to arttoself.com/book, there is a picture of Steph reading her own book, looking quite amused, and I was like, “I would probably do that. I’d go back and go, yeah.” It’s interesting as a writer, I mean, I think people take for granted that you remember this stuff that you put in books, and people are always — like, not always, but occasionally saying, “Hey, I liked it when you said this thing.” I’m like what? I said that?

[0:15:50.0] SH: There we go.

[0:15:51.0] JG: That’s pretty good.

[0:15:52.8] SH: Yeah, that was pretty smart of me, yeah. The other thing, too, that’s so funny is I’ve had people read the book and tell me how much like, you know, I love the cartoon that you wrote about taking the leap to a new adventure, and I was like, “I have not written a cartoon about that. I am so happy you got the message you needed out of my book, but you’ve made something up,” and I’m glad. I love when people take the book and make it their own, and I also just have to laugh when someone tells me about a cartoon they loved that I actually haven’t drawn. They apparently got the message they needed somehow, the work that I was doing.

[0:16:28.5] JG: It’s like a subconscious thing. It’s a very Meta thing if you think about it. You’re doing these art notes to yourself, and then somebody reads it, and then they subconsciously get the message, and then they do a note to themselves, without realizing that you didn’t write that.

[0:16:43.3] SH: Exactly. Yeah, it can get like a very — it’s a very meta process sometimes, especially Art to Self. There’s so many layers.

Click here to download a free PDF of the complete interview transcript or scroll down to continue reading it below.

[0:16:50.5] JG: Yeah, I love it. I love the four sections of this book: You are Here, You’re Enough, Embrace the Messiness, and Live Bolder. Let’s fast forward to present, and we’re talking about starting these different projects, and in most recently Art to Self, and you know, talking with a real live cartoonist, I was thinking motivational cartoonist. I don’t know if you’ve ever done a cartoon about that, but I just envisioned Chris Farley, motivational speaker, living at a van down by the river.

[0:17:19.1] SH: That’s right. Yeah, how do you get your life back on the right track? Yeah, exactly.

[0:17:24.0] JG: If you haven’t done that yet, you should probably do that. Picture of a van in a river.

[0:17:27.9] SH: I love that, I love it.

[0:17:29.5] JG: Anyway, I’ll own the copyright to that, but you’re welcome. I’ll license it to you. Let’s talk about business? Let’s talk about money, and marketing, and these things that you know, a lot of artists are uncomfortable with. I recall a conversation that we were having back in Portland during World Domination Summit almost a year ago, and we were talking about this, we were talking about the tension between having an entrepreneurial mind, or awareness of the fact that if you want to work for yourself, you’ve got to pay bills and manage financial things, which I’ve never loved.

But I realize it’s kind of an important thing to being a human being. Yet, art in some ways just kind of feels like a gift. It feels like Art to Self is a gift. Every day you get up and you draw something, and you share it with people for free, it is a gift, and in fact, you could just go look at all the cartoons. Somebody doesn’t have to buy the book, and yet, I bet that many people who have read your blog and signed up for your newsletter, out of appreciation for your work, said, “I want to do this. I want to support this.”

So it’s an interesting dichotomy, and I’m just curious, where do you sit on that spectrum? Are you comfortable with the business stuff? You did the financial blogging thing. What does it feel like to be an artist and also to be an entrepreneur?

[0:18:55.5] SH: Yeah, I would say, the spectrum is starting to shift, especially in the last couple of months, and it’s this pendulum swing for sure, but for me, I think there were two specific mindsets that I needed to be okay with. It’s a very recent, let’s say in the last six months, mindset for me. One is, the idea that if you give, you are allowed to receive, and it seems so obvious but like you said, Art to Self is a very giving brand.

I’m saying, “Hey, free cartoons and motivation in your inbox every day, all you have to do is sign up, and I’m going to just give.” The first year I did it, it was really hard to monetize that or to add any sort of request with my audience on top of it, because it felt altruistic. It felt like asking for money would be out of integrity.

It was a slow process to shift over to asking for things. Like for example, I ask for donations and I say, Art to Self is an act of love, and if it resonates with you, I would love support to keep this newsletter running. A number of people who have donated, either the quantity of people has been amazing, or the monetary amount has been amazing.

People have done monthly subscriptions or one-time donations that have just blown me away, and so offering that outlet was a big step for me, and then now shifting to product mode, and now I’m creating — I have Art to Self: the Book, I just came out with a children’s book last week, and I’m going to be creating a coloring book and a cartoon mindfulness guide. I’m realizing that because I have this brand that’s giving, and I’m sharing my work all the time, people want that tangible thing they can hold onto, and whenever I release a product now, it’s like everyone’s celebrating with me, and it’s just a wonderful feeling.

That giving/receiving mindset is what I think was the first piece, and the second big mindset that I had to take on was being okay with making money in a different capacity while I built up Art to Self.

I still have a couple of financial literacy clients. I do some cartoon and animation work for them, but there is a part of me that is still 100% pure money-making business over here, while Art to Self can take the time it needs to develop products and continue to grow my audience, so we can grow into an income stream that I’m not forcing to be the end all, be all money maker at the moment.

Actually, it was very helpful to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, in which she describes, “I would go home and write, and then I would waitress. Those two lives were separate, until it didn’t have to be,” and so not putting that pressure on my brand. As impatient as I was to get Art to Self to the place where this is my full-time money maker, I don’t want to put in any sort of undue pressure on the brand while I’m still working to build it, and offer products that people love, and continue to make money.

This is the year of Art to Self, in which I’m going to do that, where it becomes that full-time thing and at the same time it’s just my job to exercise patience and make sure that I’ve got some money coming in from other things in the meantime so that I can support this growth.

[0:22:26.3] JG: Do you subscribe to the idea that if you make money off of a passion it can kill the passion? What do you think about that?

[0:22:36.7] SH: I used to think that. I think that was the first struggle I had, again, about that giving and receiving. I do remember moments of impatience and frustration. About nine months into Art to Self, I had this amazing audience that I’d built, and it had been that giving and giving brand, and I just got so angry like, “Art to Self, why are you not making money? Where is the money and why isn’t this happening?” and so for a couple of weeks, I tested out some really weird monetization strategies.

Like selling prints, and maybe t-shirts, and how about mugs, and just trying to squeeze dollars out of it is what it felt like, and I realized that I had hit a line that was my integrity line that I crossed, but also it wasn’t going to work. I knew not only did I not feel good selling that way, but it was not going to work, and it actually hadn’t made me the money I needed. So I realized that one, I needed to commit to drawing the cartoons that I need to hear and I need to read. If I can stay fast on that line, I know that the message will always resonate with people.

Then on the side, create products that people want, and always creating this dialogue between myself and my audience and saying, “Okay, this is what I am working on next, what do you guys think?” Or for example, this children’s book I came out with, it was a long story of an illustrated story I had on my blog, and I asked people what they thought. Should I make it book?

It was a resounding yes, so the integrity of my work is important, because it’s what people resonate with, so I just have to make sure that I’m not creating a cartoon because it’s going to look good on Facebook or something, and I am creating the message that I need to hear, and then separately, looking at how I can package this into products that people care about and that people are willing to buy.

[0:24:36.1] JG: Interesting. So the creative process for you isn’t commercial? Like you are creating the thing that you think people need, or that you need for yourself, and you hope other people share that need, but then once it’s made, you go into business mode. Am I hearing you right?

[0:24:51.8] SH: Yeah, that’s a great way of putting it, which is almost like the packaging and the presentation, that’s what’s the business side of things. But the cartoons themselves are the free creative outlet for me, and so I can come up with Art to Self: the Book comes out of this collection of a hundred of my best cartoons last year. So I know the cartoons have hit home, and I was creatively in line when I drew them and created them, and it took the editing formatting, business-y marketing side of me to make that book real. So yeah, it’s definitely a two-step process for me.

[0:25:30.0] JG: Yeah, it does seem like when money becomes a chief concern, how you’re going to maximize your profit, that doesn’t necessarily always lead to the best art. When you’re writing something, or drawing something, or creating something, I don’t care if it makes money. The irony is that stuff can really resonate with people, and sometimes makes the money.

[0:25:50.8] SH: Yeah, absolutely, and I am a big advocate of keeping those hats separate, so that I could put on a hat at a different time and be like, “All right CEO marketing hat needs to be on right now, but first thing in the morning, it’s like doodle hat.” It’s drawing, it’s writing, it’s creating the thing, because that is the fuel and the fire that needs to keep burning, and it’s the thing that has built this lovely audience that I care about so much.

And then separately, carving out time, like for me working on my mindfulness guide this afternoon. It was creative time, and writing and drawing, and then deciding how to package it was a separate activity.

[0:26:30.9] JG: I really hope you have a doodle hat. Like a fedora.

[0:26:33.3] SH: Oh my gosh, now I think I need one. One that’s physical.

[0:26:36.8] JG: I think that would be cool. I don’t know what’s your creative rhythms are like, but moving around and changing locations for me when I feel stuck can be really important, and I love the idea that literally you put on a doodle hat in the morning.

[0:26:51.0] SH: That’s too funny. I should have to make a cartoon out of that one too. See? The ideas keep coming, this is what’s so great about being a human and learning lessons and stuff. So yeah, I love that idea.

[0:27:02.9] JG: So if you were talking to an artist, and I don’t know if you have these conversations like I do, I live in Nashville around a lot of musicians, there’s also a lot of writers and just creatives in general, and I hear this, what I believe is a limiting belief, which is you can’t make money as a writer, or as an artist, or as a whatever, and I really appreciate, Steph, you being transparent about the diverse revenue streams, about doing client work, but also doing creative work, and then even figuring out the discipline of how do I monetize this in a way that doesn’t undermine my own values, and voice, and making peace with all of that, which I love.

That’s the idea of this show, The Portfolio Life is the life of a creative professional, and really of anybody these days. You’re going to have multiple things, lots of different gigs and stuff, whether or not you’re a freelancer or not. I mean, that’s just the way we live our lives, and I actually have been talking about this idea for a couple of years now, and basically lying about it in my heart, because what I thought I really wanted to do was just write all the time.

And just recently while working on this book, I realized, you don’t want to do that. That would be hell. You would drive yourself crazy. You like the business stuff. You like the marketing stuff, and you also like the creative stuff. It’s just that when one overtakes the other thing, it starts to feel fake and flimsy to me. Anyway, I appreciate you sharing that. I also made peace with that as of this week.

[0:28:40.1] SH: Ha, good. I’m glad I am not the only one, because I totally feel the same way with this am I being invigorated by my work, and part of that is that’s the question I just always have to ask myself, and if part of that means my revenue equation is consulting work, which I actually enjoy, and it’s using a different part of my brain, it keeps things fresh and it makes me feel appreciative for the moments I do get to sit down and write and draw.

I just have to be in charge of lighting the fire under my butt to make sure that Art to Self grows into what I want it to be, so that I am not resting on income coming in from a different source. So that, I think, is the challenge for me, at least at the moment, which is okay, even though I am feeling supported by other revenue streams, I still need to give Art to Self the love and care, and like what you were saying, if I did Art to Self full-time at this moment, I think I would go crazy.

I think the cartoons would suffer, and I think I wouldn’t be as intellectually stimulated and fulfilled. My curiosity wouldn’t be as fulfilled, I think, if I was just doing it full-time. So I am really happy that I am not the only one who feels that, and I think it is a myth of you have to do this all a 100% this way, and you should live and breathe your medium of choice. That could be exhausting, so yeah I am all for that kind of balance.

[0:30:07.1] JG: Yeah, and I think maybe it works for some people, but for a lot of us, heading towards this idealistic voice of an artist that says like, “you should be suffering and you should be doing your work 12 hours a day,” like I read this biography of Van Gogh one time, and it talked about how when Van Gogh lived in the South of France, he would get up early in the morning, he would take his easels out into a field, and he would just paint in the heat of summer until he has like a heat stroke.

And then he painted tons of paintings. He did multiple paintings in a day sometimes, and then he’d carry them home at sunset, and if you are not doing that, you’re not a real artist, and yeah, I think that what we’re seeing these days is a different kind of artist emerge, and it is exciting for me to hear folks like you give yourself permission, because if anything, it validates my own journey. I am curious. Say somebody comes to you and says, “Well, you can’t make money doing this,” or “I want to make a living as an artist,” what kind of advice would you give them?

[0:31:12.6] SH: So I would go back to two years ago when I started doing personal finance cartoons, and I got a chance to speak with an entrepreneur friend of mine, Noah Kagan. I was down in Austin, and he’s a very successful online entrepreneur, and we were talking and he asked me what my ideal day would be like. I would be like, “Oh, creating cartoons in the morning,” and I outlined all the creative stuff I would want to do. He’s like, “So it’s not writing about personal finance, and it’s not making an e-guide about how to get out of student loan debt?”

I’m like, “No, it’s not” he’s like, “It’s cartoons” I’m like, “Yes it is,” and he said, “In the next 72 hours, before you leave Austin, you have to sell a cartoon.” I stopped and said, “What?” and he was like, “You need to put up a PayPal link, email your list of personal finance like readers” who weren’t on my list, because they liked the cartoons, but they weren’t there as an artist, or like a creative who wanted to be inspired. They were there for personal finance advice.

But he challenged me to put up a “buy here” button and say, “I have three cartoon prints for sale, first come, first serve.” Now, I didn’t even have the prints printed, and I didn’t even know what I was going to do when somebody bought one. He really pushed me to test can I sell my cartoons for money, and it was the first time ever that I put that equation together. That my cartoons could equal money, and it was the first time the rubber hit the road and I actually sent a PayPal link out to my list, and people bought.

I had two prints sell, and for me, it was the first moment that I made money off of my art to a group of people that thinks of social media, even if you don’t have an email list, being able to put it out on Facebook and just say, “I have this one print or a couple of things I’m selling. First come first serve. Here’s the link.” And it worked. And from that moment on, I knew that my only job was to test the things that worked, and to create art that I cared about.

But then consistently put it out into the world in ways that it’s for sale, because if it’s not, no one is going to — well, I have a few people ask me to create things, and buy things, and offer to do that but usually, you have to just create the opportunity for somebody to actually purchase and buy your work. So doing that for the first time is the most important step, and you would just be surprised what kind of doors it will unlock for you mentally, and it was a really significant moment for me.

[0:34:02.8] JG: Yeah, so be honest about what your ideal day and schedule looks like, and if you are not doing anything associated with that that’s going to get you there, maybe change something, and then make sure you can actually sell something.

[0:34:17.5] SH: Yeah, exactly, and I think it was Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking that I read, where she said, “At least 10% of the population is looking for a way to contribute to and pay for art,” and she said that, and I was like, “Oh interesting”. People just want a way to do that, because her musical campaign is — she had one of the biggest Kickstarters ever. All of her fans really rallied around the idea of supporting her work, and she’s like, “You just need to give them the opportunity to actually give you the money.”

And that was also a big ah-ha for me, which is like okay, I just need to create those ways in which people can pay for what really resonates with them.

[0:34:58.2] JG: Yeah, I think it was Amanda Palmer, I am paraphrasing here, but I like on her TED Talk where she says something to the effect of “you don’t have to ask people to pay you, you have to let them.”

[0:35:08.8] SH: Yes.

[0:35:09.9] JG: And that is so true. If you’ve done what you’ve done, Steph, which is be generous, give more than you take, build a community, and it’s not everybody, right? But it’s enough people. If you help enough people, literally there will be people lining up, ready to give you money. It’s amazing.

[0:35:24.5] SH: Yeah, and it is, I think, that giving mentality, and then saying what’s available. Here is a book, a children’s book, a coloring book, you know, guides, things like that. It feels really authentic, and like you said, the amount of people who are either one lining up to buy and they can’t wait to buy my next thing, or people emailing me going, “I love the book, what’s next? I want to buy it,” and giving me ideas of what to sell next.

I’m like, “Well, this is a great feeling.” It feels very much like I’m going to let you buy the things that you want. There’s no pressure, but I know that if you care about the art that I do, you’ll love and you’ll be so willing to buy the things that I create.

[0:36:06.8] JG: Yeah, I love that. I totally agree, and I remember when I started my blog, and people are telling me — and I don’t know if you went through this or not — but people are telling me, “You could monetize the blog,” and I was logging into my Word Press dashboard looking for the switch. Where do I click monetize, where money starts to — yeah, and I realize oh, I have to find out what people want and then actually let them buy it. But literally, after that first year of blogging every day, and I love that you’ve done that too, people started emailing me saying, “Can I buy something? Can I support you in some way?”

It’s a really beautiful exchange when you do it right, and like you said, I think you have to be careful that you don’t get too greedy. That it doesn’t become just about “how do I make stuff so that I can make money,” but I love that your story encourages folks who have a creative gift to share with the world that you can do it in a way where you can actually make a living.

That feels generous, and at the same time you can continue to give. I love what Chris Guillebeau says. I think he does this every time he releases some sort of product. People go, “Oh, I don’t have the hundreds of dollars to spend on this course,” or even a book or whatever, and he goes, “Well, you know the blog is always free.” We forget that. Like, “Oh yeah,” like if you are paying to host something and design it, you’re spending time, that is a generous act, and it is just a fun time to be alive, where artists can be generous, but they can also make a living, and it doesn’t have to be either or.

I don’t know about you, but that’s always my fear is I’m going to come across greedy, or I am not — because it’s actually not fun. What’s fun is to make stuff, and it’s great to get paid so I can make more stuff. It’s not fun to go, “I’m going to make this thing, and I hope it makes me rich.” That’s not as fun as going, “I’m going to make this thing, and I hope it’s amazing and really cool and people like it.”

[0:38:02.9] SH: Yeah exactly, and for me, I know that by nature I swing towards the other side, where I am worried that I’ll come across greedy. Like, “Oh, I just want to create art for art’s sake and I want to give and give and give.” So I know by nature that I’m not going to be pushing that, even if it feels like I’m marketing too much. It’s probably just right, or even not enough, and so I think as an artist just being conscientious of — I had a blogger friend tell me this once.

I was worried that I felt like I was spamming people about my book. I was like, “My book’s coming out.” I was talking to her, and she was like, “You think about your book 24/7 on your end. Nobody else, people think about it maybe 30 seconds when they open their inbox.” She was like, “You’re really like, blowing up how much you think you’re bothering people by it, because by nature, you’re giving and your whole brand is giving.” For me, that is a nice reminder that even when I feel a little squishy about a marketing stuff, that by nature I’m a giving artist, and so I am usually going to be pretty safe in doing that.

[0:39:08.7] JG: And to be honest, I think that’s what has made you so successful is the giving side of it, and I have benefited from that gift. I know lots of people listening to this as well. I hope everybody listening to it goes to arttoself.com/book and picks up a copy of your book. It’s a funny, inspiring, beautiful book, and I am grateful for your time, Steph. Thanks for being here.

[0:39:31.6] SH: Great, thanks for having me.

SH: It started exercising that muscle again when something in me came back to life that had been almost ignored

[END]

Click here to download a free PDF of the complete interview transcript.

Andrew Raynor

Yoast: readability and Cellular thoughts

Andrew Raynor

 

 

As you might know, we’ve added quite a few new features to Yoast SEO over the last few months. Today marks the release of Yoast SEO 4.1, the first of many releases to come in the new year. Besides fixing some bugs, this version comes with two major new features: a mobile snippet preview and full support for the German language in the readability and content analysis.

Mobile snippet preview

Since mobile traffic has eclipsed desktop traffic, it’s imperative that you optimize your site in any way you can for mobile. One of these improvements is to make your text snippets better for mobile use. For years, Yoast SEO offered a way of seeing what the text snippet would look like in search engines. However, it was not possible to check mobile snippets yet. Luckily, that’s about to change.

Yoast SEO 4.1 adds a mobile snippet preview, so you can now directly check what your snippet looks like on mobile. The default view is the desktop, but you can easily switch between the views, so you can get a good idea of how your post will be presented in the search results depending on which view you choose. This way you can write a perfect snippet text that works well on mobile and desktop. This first release is fairly modest in execution and will be fine-tuned further down the road.

yoast seo mobile snippet

German readability and content analysis

Yoast SEO doesn’t just improve the technical side of your WordPress site, but also provides invaluable tools that help you to write quality content. The innovative Content Analysis tool analyzes the blog post you are writing in real-time and suggests improvements for SEO and readability. In the past, these readability suggestions were only available in English, but the Yoast Content Analysis now fully supports German as well. More languages are on the way.

Not only does full language support for German allows Yoast SEO 4.1 to analyze the readability of a German text, but it also enables Yoast SEO Premium to provide internal linking suggestions in German. This means that, when writing a post in German, you will get suggestions for related articles on your site, that could you consider linking to. Building a perfect site structure has never been easier.

Fun fact: To fully understand the post and to give valuable suggestions, we have to filter out unnecessary words or other words that get in the way of discerning the meaning of a post. For the English language, we use a long list of words that we’ll automatically filter out. For German, it seems we needed an even longer list because of the grammatical cases. Check this example: In English it’s “a”, “an” and “the”, while the German language has “das”, “dem”, “den”, “der”, “des”, “die”, “ein”, “eine”, “einem”, “einen”, “einer”, “eines”. See what we mean? We can’t wait to see what the Spanish language has to offer.

Vielen Dank, dass sie sich für Yoast SEO entschieden haben!

Read more: ‘WordPress SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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XML sitemaps’ feeling and rubbish

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Fact: if your website is set up the right way, you shouldn’t need an XML sitemap at all. You shouldn’t need to think about your category’s XML sitemaps or about including images in your post’s XML sitemap. But why do we keep talking about them like it’s the most important thing ever for SEO? It’s an almost daily subject in our support. That might be, because it’s a convenient list of all the pages on your website. It makes sense that Google is able to crawl all pages of your website if you list them on a page, right?

Google is almost human

Over the last years, we have been talking a lot about Google becoming more ‘human’, so to say. Google is quite good at mimicking the user’s behavior on a website and uses this knowledge in their ranking methods. If your website is user-friendly and gives users the answers they were looking for in Google, chances are your website will do well in the search result pages.

Structure is a sitemap within your website

In the process of setting up your website, you should look at the keywords you’d like to address and translate that to a proper site structure. Using, for instance, the internal linking tool in our Yoast SEO plugin, you are able to create structured links to all the pages of your website. That simply means that Google is able to follow all links and find all pages. That means you have set up a great infrastructure within your website for search engines.

But why should I use XML sitemaps in that case?

Sitemaps, both HTML and XML, come in handy when your site structure and internal linking structure really aren’t that good, to be honest. When you’re dealing with a huge, messy inheritance of the previous owner, years of writing (more or less unstructured) content, or if you simply haven’t thought about internal links that much, your XML sitemap is probably a life saver.

In addition to pointing Google to all your content, XML sitemaps can also optimize crawling of your website by a search engine bot. XML sitemaps should include the last modified date. This date will immediately tell a search engine which pages should be crawled and which haven’t changed since the last crawl and can be excluded from this crawl. This is a huge benefit of using XML sitemaps.

There is a reason Google included an XML sitemap section in Google Search Console. Google likes to know every page of your website. They want to see everything, to see if it contains interesting information to answer their user’s search queries. Your XML sitemap is like a roadmap to all the different POI’s on your site, to all the tourist attractions. And yes, some are more interesting than others. Last year, the XML sitemaps served by our plugin contained a priority percentage. Heavy users of our plugin sometimes requested an option to alter that percentage and we never got to that. We decided to remove the percentage altogether as it just did not work as intended – on Google’s side. That emphasizes even more, that it’s just a list of pages. A convenient list, nevertheless.

Should every website have an XML sitemap?

Perhaps I have already answered this question. Yes, I think every website should have an XML sitemap. Or multiple XML sitemaps to provide a lot of links in a better format. It’s a way to make sure search engines find every page on your website, no matter how much of a mess you make of your website. But you should really put your best effort in making that XML sitemap an extra and not a necessity.

If the crawlability of your website depends on your XML sitemap, you have a much larger problem on your hands. I really do think so. Hopefully, you can still go back to the drawing board, invest a bit in a good keyword research training. Restructure the site. Use our internal linking tool when going over your most visited pages again and insert the right links. And then, when most of your pages can be reached via your website itself, rely on that nice, comforting XML sitemap to serve Google any forgotten leftovers and help you to further optimize the crawling of your website.

Read more: ‘WordPress SEO tutorial: definite guide to higher ranking’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Request Yoast: protection procedures site that is new

Andrew Raynor

 

 

There are several reasons to move your website to a new domain. Maybe you’ve gained access to a much stronger domain. Perhaps you’re changing direction or you’re rebranding. Or you’d like to start over with a new name and a new site. Assuming you have a good reason for moving your site to a new domain – other then “this name just sounds catchier” – there are some things to consider concerning security and SEO when moving your website to a new domain.

In this Ask Yoast, we’ll answer a question from Anbu Devilhunter:

“If I move to a new domain are there any security measures I should take?

Check out the video or read the answer below!

Security measures new domain

Read this transcript to learn more about SEO and security measures when you’re moving your site to a new domain:

“Well, yes. You should make sure that you have your old domain and keep it forever, so that you can keep the redirects from that old domain to your new domain. Because otherwise, at some point, someone else is going to use that old domain and you’ll lose your redirects. So you’ll lose a lot of links pointing to your site.

Any other security measures? Well, yes, everything that you need to do to a good domain. But I’d suggest talking to our friends at Sucuri, and see what they can do for you. We run their web application firewall in front of everything we do and I would suggest you do too.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers! Need help with SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘WordPress Security’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Every Author Wants A Contact Listing

Andrew Raynor

Every writer needs an email list. It’s just that simple. If you aspire to publish a book and actually sell copies some day, you need people paying attention to your work. And the best way to do that is with an email list.

Why Every Writer Needs an Email List

So many writers don’t get the attention they deserve, and this frustrates me. Their messages fade into oblivion before they even have the chance to be heard.

Why is this? Because many writers neglect the single-most important tool to their success:

The email list.

Email is king. It is, hands down, the best way to build an engaged audience, sell a product, or create excitement around your next big project. Without one, you will struggle to get the traction your message deserves and leave your fate up to chance.

The biggest “social network” in the world

Why is email so powerful?

  • Because email is personal. It’s a friendlier medium than blogging or even social media. When people see your email in their inbox along with all their other friends, this builds trust.
  • Because you own your email list. With Twitter and Facebook and other channels, you have to go through the “middleman” to access your audience. But with email, your message is delivered straight to your readers. You don’t need anyone’s permission.
  • Because email is private. When you start a conversation in someone’s inbox, they feel like they can be themselves and share whatever they may be struggling with, what they want, or questions they have. I love the rapport this builds with readers.

Nearly every person in the world has an email address. With nearly 3.9 billion accounts in the world (according to Radicati), three-quarters of which are consumer accounts, email is by far the biggest marketing channel in the world. That number is projected to reach 4.9 billion in 2017.

That means email outnumbers all the users on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and every other social media channel combined. That makes it the world’s largest social network. If you haven’t tapped into the power of email marketing, then you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity to engage with the people who want to hear from you.

Email is not dead

But wait a second. Isn’t email dead? Maybe you’ve heard this, that people don’t read email anymore or that it’s better to use Facebook or Snapchat these days. But if you’ve believed these claims, then I have bad news for you: you’ve been duped.

If email is dead, then why does every social network ask for an email address before you can create an account? Why do most people still check email first thing in the morning? Because email is still the most popular way for people to communicate online.

Every day, people check their inboxes (often multiple times per day). They sit in front of a screen, glued to Outlook or Gmail, refreshing until they get that gratification of knowing someone else in the world cares about them.

Certainly, the way people communicate online is changing and some may not be reading or using email as much as they did a decade ago. But email is not dead — it is very much alive and well. And being almost as old as the Internet itself, it’s not going away anytime soon.

In spite of these false claims of its death, email continues to stick around, outlasting many of the marketing fads that have come and gone. Email still plays a critical role in a most people’s lives. As Barry Gill from the Harvard Business Review says:

Email is not dead, it’s just evolving. It’s becoming a searchable archive, a manager’s accountability source, a document courier. And for all the love social media get, e-mail is still workers’ most effective collaboration tool.

According to a recent study, email is still an important part of many people’s work lives, with the average person spending up to 50% of their time in the inbox. Here are some other interesting facts about email:

  • The average worker receives 11,680 emails per year with an average of 32 per day.
  • 42% of all email in a person’s inbox is considered essential or critical.
  • Email is still considered by most to be the best collaboration tool for teams and individuals.
  • People use email for more than sending messages: 76% use it to exchange documents and 50% to archive important messages.

If you’ve been avoiding building your email list because it seems like an outdated technology, it’s time to face the facts. Email isn’t going anywhere. And if you’re a writer, you need one.

Why every writer needs an email list

I was talking to my publisher the other day about marketing strategies for my next book, and do you know the first question they asked was? It was: How big is your email list?” 

They didn’t ask, “How many RSS subscribers do you have?” or “How many ‘hits’ does your blog get?” They asked about my email list: the most important asset an author has in their toolbox.

My friend Tim Grahl, the book launch expert, tested this in his book marketing agency and found that email was nearly 100 times more effective than social media in selling an author’s book.

I’ve personally seen this myself with a recent book launch where the book sold 15,500 copies in the first two weeks of the launch. Do you know how many of those were sold via social media? About 500. And the other 15,00? Well, that was all thanks to email.

As a writer, I get more “mileage” out of my newsletter than any other platform, including my blog. When I send an email to my list, I often get hundreds of replies, far more engagement than a blog post gets. If I send a link to my email list, people click it. If I ask a question, people answer. If I talk about my new book, people buy it.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to writers. Musicians use email to get word out about their next tour. Retailers use it to share special deals and drive sales. And of course, authors use it to announce news of their next book.

It’s all about the list. And if you don’t have one, you’re in trouble.

How to quickly build and grow an email list

So, you need an email list. I hope that’s clear by now. But how do you get started? 6Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Get a good email marketing service. This means more than just Outlook or Apple Mail. You need a way to send one message to lots of people all at once. For this, I recommend ConvertKit. It’s affordable and easy to get started.
  2. Create a signup form on your website. It needs to be obvious and not hideously ugly. If your website doesn’t have a clear opt-in form, then you’re missing out on a lot. If you don’t have a self-hosted blog yet, watch this 8-minute tutorial on how to get started.
  3. Offer something for free. This can be an eBook or a free article series or whatever your readers find valuable. It’s a way to reward subscribers with something other than just your regular content.
  4. Start emailing your list something new once a week. Don’t overcommit to a frequency like once a day or even a few times a week. Start small and be consistent. A weekly newsletter is plenty. What should you send? Whatever you want. For many, just a short message or article is a great way to begin. Your main goal is to add value and be helpful, so that people continue to read and pay attention. If you make it about them, they’ll make it about you.
  5. Ask readers to share. If you do a good job of adding value, people will want to share your stuff. But it doesn’t hurt to ask them once in a while to tell their friends. For this I like using clicktotweet.com and have readers send their friends and followers to my newsletter signup form.

Don’t forget: Always be generous

And then, what? Once you have the right tools and start building your list, where do you go from there?

Hopefully, forward. Instead of seeing your email list as “yours,” what if it was theirssomething you shared with your community — something you stewarded instead of hoarded?

When people give you permission to talk to them, you have a great opportunity and an important responsibility. You can choose to invite or interrupt. To exchange ideas or blast out information. To give or take. As marketing expert Seth Godin says:

If your email promotion is a taking, not a giving, I think you should rethink it. If you still want to take the time and attention and trust of your 4,000 closest friends, think hard about what that means for the connections you’ve built over the years. There are few promotional emergencies that are worth trading your reputation for.

It all comes down to trust. If you build it, they will, indeed, come.

But maybe this all sounds confusing and you aren’t quite sure where to start. I totally get that. It was for me, too. This stuff can be complicated, and sometimes you need someone to hold you by the hand and walk you through what it takes to build an email list and use this tool to grow your readership.

That’s why I’m partnering with the folks at ConvertKit this week to offer a free webinar on how to start using email marketing to grow your following, sell your books, and turn pro. You’ll learn how to set up an email and use simple automation tools that will help you focus on your writing and let the email list do the hard work.

Click here to register for free.

Do you have an email list? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

Organized data the best information

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Last update: 13 January, 2017

Schema.org takes care of all the structured data needs on your website. You can use it to markup products, reviews, events and menu items so search engines like Google can pick up this data and present it in an enhanced way. If you want rich snippets, mobile rich cards or a listing in the knowledge graph, you need to mark up your pages with Schema.org. This ultimate guide gives you an overview of this expansive topic.

What is structured data?

Structured data is the data you add to your website to make it easier to understand for search engines. You need a vocabulary to make it work and the one big search engines use, is called Schema.org. Schema.org provides a series of tags and properties to mark up your products, reviews, local business listings, etc in detail. The major search engines, Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo, collectively developed this vocabulary to reach a shared language in a quest to get a better understanding of websites.

If implemented correctly, search engines can use the applied structured data to understand the contents of your page better. As a result, you might get a better presentation in the search results, for instance, in the form of rich snippets or rich cards. However, there are no guarantees you’ll get rich listings; it’s all up to the search engines.

Why do you need Schema.org data?

Marking up your products, reviews, events, and more with structured data in the form of Schema.org makes your site instantly comprehensible by search engines. What this means, is that you can tell exactly what every part of your site is about. Search engines no longer have to guess that a product listing is a product listing, you can now say it is.

Is Schema.org important for your SEO?

To cut a long story short: yes, structured data in the form of Schema.org is important for your SEO. Correctly implementing data might not give you better rankings, but it will indirectly make your site a better search result.

Enhanced listings give searchers an easier way to pick a result from the list of links. If your listing is rich, and your page does what your listing promises, you are a valid result for the customer and that will lead to a lower bounce rate. A lower bounce rate tells Google that your site is a well-regarded result that promises and delivers.

In addition to that, since structured data is just picking up steam, you have a viable chance to get a head start on your competitors. Just think about it, if you have a barber shop and you markup your 300 five-star reviews, you are way ahead of your competitor who doesn’t mark up his reviews. Google picks up this data and shows it directly in the search results. If you are looking for a barber shop in Google, who would you pick? The one with no reviews or the one with 300 good ones?

Structured data leads to rich results

By making your site understandable for search engines, you give them the opportunity to do interesting things with your content. Schema.org and its support is in a constant flow, so changes will happen. Structured data forms the basis for a lot of new developments in the SEO world, so there’s bound to be more in the near future. Below are the kinds of rich search results that are in use at this moment.

Rich Snippets

Different rich snippets

Rich snippets are the extra pieces of information shown in a search result. In addition to the regular black lines of meta description text, a search result can be enhanced with product information like prices or reviews, or extra navigational tools like breadcrumbs or site search.

Read more: ‘Rich snippets everywhere’ »

Rich Cards

rich-cards-recipes-movies

A Rich Card appears on mobile and is a new kind of rich search result developed by Google. Search results for certain types of items, like local restaurants, recipes, movies and courses, can get a special treatment in the mobile results. These are presented in a touch-friendly, swipeable way.

Keep reading: ‘How to get mobile Rich Cards in Google’ »

Knowledge Graph

Yoast Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph is the big block of information on the right-hand side in Google. This block details different kinds of information about a particular search result. If you have a validated company or if you are an authority on a certain subject, you might see your name, logo and social media profiles appear.

Featured snippets

Featured snippets

This might be a sneaky addition because featured snippets are rich search results, but they do not get their content from structured data. A featured snippet answers a search question directly in the search results, but uses regular content from the viable web page to do so.

Does it work on mobile?

Yes, it works everywhere. Mobile implementation of Schema.org data is in its infancy, though. As of today, there are not many specific mobile-centric applications of Schema.org. However, Google has been pushing mobile rich search results for a while now.

If a page meets the criteria set by Google, you can now book movie tickets or reserve a table at a restaurant directly from the search results. If you implement structured data correctly, you can also be eligible for a new sort of presentation in the form of mobile Rich Cards, as explained above.

Different kinds of Schema.org

If you look at the Schema.org website, you’ll notice that there are a lot of possibilities to add structured data to your site. Not everything is relevant, though. Before you start implementing Schema.org, you must know what you need to markup. Do you have a product in an online store? Do you own a restaurant? Or do you have a local business providing services to the community? Whatever it is, you need to know what you want to do and explore the possibilities.

Don’t go for the most obscure ones; pick the ones that are relatively easy to implement. Some Schema.orgs appear on less than a thousand sites, but others appear on millions. It’s possible to put the major Schema.orgs into two groups: Creative Works and Commerce. Within these groups, you will find the most common items to markup with Schema.org. These are the most important ones:

Creative works

The first major group is Creative Work and it encompasses the most generic group of creative works. In this group, you’ll find items that have been produced by someone or something. You’ll find the most common ones below, but the list is much longer. In addition to these, you’ll find properties for sculptures, games, conversations, software applications, visual artworks and much more. However, most of these properties don’t have a rich presentation attached to it in search engines, so they are less valuable. But, as mentioned before, if your site has items in the categories below, make sure to mark them up with Schema.org.

Articles

An article could be a new item or part of an investigative report. You can make a distinction between a news article, a tech article or even a blog post.

Books

A book is a book, be it in a paper form or in digital form as an eBook. You can markup every type of property, from the author how wrote it to the awards it has won.

Courses

In the future, anyone offering a type of course can use the new Schema.org. At the moment, Google is holding small-scale tests with selected participants to see how this Schema.org performs.

Music

Music can also receive the structured data treatment. There are a couple of Schema.org of interest for music, like MusicRecording, MusicAlbum, MusicEvent and MusicGroup.

Recipes

By adding Recipe data to the recipes on your cooking website, you can get your recipes featured directly in search results. What’s more, with the advent of Rich Cards, recipes might even be presented in a stunning new way on mobile.

TV & Movies

Movies and TV shows get their own piece of structured data as well. Searching for a movie in search engines will yield a rich result with reviews, poster art, cast information and even the ability to directly order tickets for a showing.

Videos

It’s possible to do all kinds of interesting things with video. Google, in particular, is working on new ways to get videos in the search results, with AMP for instance. Google can use your videos in AMP carousels and Top Stories listings.

Commerce

The second major group is Commerce. In this group, you’ll find several important types to mark up with Schema.org. Many site owners will find the subjects below very interesting and these should be a top priority for many of them.

Events

Marking up your event listings with the correct Event Schema.org, might lead search engines showing your events directly in the search results. This is a must have if you own a nightclub, a venue or any type of business that regularly puts on events.

Businesses and organizations

If you make money with your website chances are you own a business. If you’re a site owner or just work on a company site, you’ll find the business and organization Schema.org’s interesting. Almost every site can benefit from the correct business Schema.org. If you do it well, you could get a nice Knowledge Graph or another type of rich listing in the search engines.

Read on: ‘Local business listings with Schema.org and JSON-LD’ »

Products

Almost as important as the Schema.org mentioned in the previous paragraph, is the one for products. Using Product Schema.org you can give your products the extra data search engines need to give you rich snippets, for instance. Think about all the search results you see with added information, like pricing, reviews, availability, etc. This should be a substantial part of your structured data strategy, if you have products of course.

Read more: ‘Rich snippets for product listings with Schema.org’ »

Reviews

Reviews and ratings play an important role in today’s search process. Businesses, service providers and online stores all use reviews to attract more customers and show how trustworthy their offerings are. Getting those five stars in search engines might be the missing link to creating a real successful business.

Keep reading: ‘Grow your business with ratings and reviews’ »

The technical details

To get started with making up your pages, you need to know about how Schema.org actually works. If you look closely at the full specs on Schema.org, you’ll see that there is a strict hierarchy in the vocabulary. Everything is connected, just like everything is connected on your pages. Scroll through the list to see all the options at a glance and note down the ones you think you need.

Let’s look at the hierarchy. A Schema.org implementation starts with a Thing, this is the most generic type of item. A Thing could be a more specific type of item, for instance, a Creative Work, an Event, Organisation, Person, Place or Product.

For example, a movie is a “Thing” and a “Creative Work”, which falls under the category “Movie”. You can add a lot of properties to this, like a “Description”, a “Director”, an “Actor”, a poster “Image”, “Duration” or “Genre”. There are loads of properties to add, so you can get as specific as you want. However, don’t go overboard, since not every property is used by search engines – not yet anyway. What you should do, is look at the specifications in Google’s documentation, for instance, to see which properties are required and which are recommended.

A sample Schema.org hierarchy

If we put what we know now in a hierarchy, this is what you will end up with:

  •  Thing

    • Creative Work

      • Movie

        • Description (type: text)
        • Director (type: person)
        • Actor (type: person)
        • Image (type: ImageObject or URL)
        • etc.

If it would be a local business, you could use something like this:

  • Thing

    • Organisation (or Place)

      • LocalBusiness

        • Dentist

          • Name
          • Address
          • Email
          • Logo
          • Review
          • etc.

For local businesses, you could pick a more specific type of business. This makes it easier for search engines to determine what kind of business you own. There are hundreds of types of local business, but your business might not fit one of the descriptions. Using the Product Types Ontology you can get more specific information if your listing is too broad.

Sticking to the local business example, you’ll see that Google lists several required properties, like the NAP details of your business. In addition to that, there are loads of recommended properties, like a URL, geo-coordinates, opening hours, etc. Try to fill out as much of these as you can, only then search engines can give you the full preferred presentation. If you need help with your local business markup, you’ll find our Local SEO plugin very helpful.

What do you need to mark up?

When looking at Schema.org for the first time, it might feel a bit daunting. The list is enormous and the possibilities are endless, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To overcome this sensation, you need to go back to basics. Find out what your site, business or product is about and write down the specifications and properties you deem important. Work your way up from there.

Having said that, there are a couple of sections you should prioritize in your plan to add structured data to your site. If you start off with these three, you’ll have the basics covered and gives you the opportunity build on that. You should absolutely start with structured data for your business details, products, and reviews. These will have the biggest effect in the short run.

How to implement structured data with Schema.org

Don’t be frightened, but here comes the technical part of the story. However, there’s nothing scary about adding the data to your pages, not any more thanks to JSON-LD. This JavaScript-based data format makes it a lot easier to add structured data since it forms a block of code and is no longer embedded in the HTML of your page. This makes it easier to write and maintain, plus it’s better to understand by both humans and machines.

Schema.org with JSON-LD

JSON-LD is the preferred method of adding Schema.org to your site. However, not all search engines are quick to adopt it; Bing is the odd man out. Let’s hope Microsoft will soon come about and add support for this rather efficient method.

Below you see a sample product listing of our flagship SEO plugin: Yoast SEO. This is just a small product listing with only the basics; you’ll see a type, name, image, description, and brand. At the end of the code, you’ll also find an offer to buy the plugin, which has a price of $69.

If you want to learn more about working with all of this on your site, you should read Michiel’s article on how to use JSON-LD to add Schema.org data to your website.

The old ways: RFDa and Microdata

The classic way of writing structured data for inclusion on your pages, involved direct embedment in your HTML. This made a really inefficient and error-prone process. It is part of the reasons why the uptake of Schema.org hasn’t been particularly fast. Writing and maintaining it via RFDa or Microdata is a pain. Believe us, try to do as much as you can in JSON-LD.

Here’s a Microdata example for marking up a movie. Because the code needs itemprops to function, everything has to been inline coded. You can instantly see how that makes it hard to read, write and edit.

Structured data and Google AMP

The open source AMP project (Accelerated Mobile Pages) has been causing quite a stir these last few months. The project’s goal is to get pages to load lightning fast on mobile. To do that, the project uses a special kind of HTML. Google is pushing AMP pretty hard and also mentions its reliance on structured data. If you want to use AMP and completely give your pages the once over, you need to add structured data. Google uses several Schema.org items to take care of the more interactive parts of AMP elements. You can use Yoast SEO in conjunction with our AMP Glue plugin to take care of most AMP needs.

Schema.org is not too hard to work with, but if adding code by hand seems scary, you could try some of the tools out there. If you are still not sure how to go about this, ask your web developer for help, he’ll probably fix this for you in a couple of minutes.

  • Generators
  • Validators and test tools
  • WordPress Plugins

External links

Most search engines have their own developer center where you can find more information on the inner workings of the structured data implementations. Read these to see what works and what doesn’t. In addition to that, you should adhere to their rules, because a bad Schema.org implementation could lead to a penalty. Always check your code in the structured data test tool to see if it’s correct. Fix errors and regularly maintain the code on your site to see if it is still up to scratch.

In the end

You can’t run away from structured data anymore. If your site means anything to you, you should look into it and figure out the best way to make use of Schema.org. Implemented correctly, it can do great things for your site, now and in the future. Search engines are constantly developing new ways to present search results and more often than not do they use Schema.org data to do so.

SEO New Hampshire

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Find a Key Well of Limitless Suggestions that are Publishing

Andrew Raynor

Note: This is a guest post from Todd Brison. He is an author who has been featured on CNBC, Apple News, and Inc. Magazine. You can find Todd and get some exclusive resources on his blog.

Discover a Secret Well of Endless Writing Ideas

Nobody has to tell you what to write on week one of your new blog.

On week one, you are fueled by ideas and adrenaline and coffee grinds. Surely you are The Chosen One. The Muse came down from her holy mountain and selected you to be her vessel. You write with passion to the mere mortals among you.

On week one, you are unstoppable.

Then week two comes, and life isn’t quite as zippidy-doo-da.

Week three brings a heavy dose of writer’s block, self-doubt and (wait for it) reality.

If you hang in there until week six, you are a shriveling mess. What made you think you could write long-term? How could you be so foolish?

It would be nice if you could get your hands on an infinite source of ideas. What if there was a place where potential readers fall in line to ask relevant questions on any topic you want to write about?

Welcome, my friends, to Quora.

What is Quora?

Quora is a writer’s best friend. The thing is, almost nobody is using it well. Best of all, it’s free. The only thing you’ll be spending on Quora is a lot of time. But the return on that time is definitely worth the cost.

As a writer, you must have a process for coming up with ideas. I have a daily offline practice for this, but Quora is my 2nd favorite.

Quora is a place where people get tailored answers to specific questions on almost any topic. Anyone can ask a question on Quora, and anyone can answer. Much like other social media sites, the best work rises to the top via an upvote system.

Here’s the link to the site. You can jump right in if you want, but I recommend sticking around. I’ve been obsessed with Quora for over a year. I’ve written 110 posts there (most of them in the last few months), and I want to give you a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

In this post, I’ll walk through how to use this site to find ideas for your audience, and also get your work found by some of the world’s biggest publications.

I’ve used Quora to:

  • Test ideas that, with a little tweaking, have become staples of my work
  • Get over a million views from a very targeted audience
  • Be published in Inc. Magazine and Apple News
  • Put a big footprint on another social platform (which is helping me look like I’m everywhere at once)

All those benefits pale in comparison to this one: when you know how to use Quora correctly, you will never wonder what to write about again.

If that sounds good to you, let’s get started:

Step 1 — Register on the right foot

The first (hopefully obvious) step is to sign up for Quora and follow the subjects you write about.

Let’s pretend you run a film blog. You talk about everything from the opinionated — greatest movies of all time —  to the technical — how to get the perfect shot for your scene. Quora makes you select 10 topics you are interested in, so knock that out first.

After you get past this part, Quora will ask you what topics you know about so they can give you the best questions to answer.

First, select the topics with the largest amount of followers (“Movies,” in this example). You should also take a look at more targeted topics with a medium amount of followers.

The reason for this is simple — you want to be a part of the big conversations AND the smaller ones. The large communities give you the opportunity for more visibility. The smaller ones allow for deeper connections.

In this scenario, you would definitely want your voice heard in the biggest category — “Movies.” After a further search, you might also find section like “Independent Film.” With 70,000 followers you access a sizable but very focused audience.

Quora is full of small, tight communities around specialized knowledge. The more you know about an obscure topic, the better your chance of making real impact in that area.

Once you choose whether to add your Facebook friends (or not), Quora will create your personalized feed.

Pro tip: Okay, only picking the topics to write about in the onboarding is the laziest way to do it.

As you move into step 2 and start to get familiar with Quora, make sure to keep an eye on the topics listed above all questions. These will show you what else you might be able to write about.

Always be looking for more topics to follow and write about.The deeper you get, the greater your opportunity.

Step 2 — Lurk like a pro

I’d recommend taking a while to read the questions and answers. Quora is still pretty fresh, which means the community is still very wary of people who are coming to sell them things. Pitch too aggressively, and you will get eaten alive.

Study everything, especially the most popular answers. Usually they have:

  • A well thought out point (300–750 words or so)
  • A picture
  • Some kind of humor (especially sarcasm)
  • A list of some kind or another

The key to success in Quora is to become one of them. Read the top answers and get comfortable.

As you scroll, also recognize how answers appear in the feed. Just because you’re here to source ideas doesn’t mean you shouldn’t avoid making waves on Quora itself.

Take a look at the picture below:

Both these pieces of are laid out pretty similarly. There’s profile of the writer, the question, a picture, and then the start of an answer.

But in this case, the cropping of the picture made 10,000 upvotes worth of difference! Who would want to click on a black square combined with a forehead?

In order to master Quora, it helps to think like a user.

Pro tip: As you browse, take a look at how the best answers are formatted.

Quora is unique because it only offers three types of formatting: bold, italics, and quote type. Robbed of the usual size and font changes you can use on your blog, you’ll have to get creative to keep your answers from looking like a grey wall of text.

Using the tilda (~), the less than (>), or the caps lock button (HELLO) are all acceptable methods of formatting.

For optimal formatting in action, check out this answer.

Step 3 — Answer questions to make your mark

Don’t waste your time with the newest questions (at least not yet), go find the most popular ones.

What you’re looking here is the amount of followers a question has. This is where we run into Quora’s unique mechanic:

People follow questions, not answers or people. That means your writing has just as much a chance of reaching people as someone with thousands of followers.

The best part? Even if a question been answered hundreds of times, everyone following the question will get an email when a new answer is posted (unless they’ve opted out).

So by simply answering a question, you send a direct email to a stranger with your content. What other social platform offers that kind of power?

Put answers on the popular questions first and watch the views roll in. Once you’ve got down the culture and the atmosphere of Quora, move along to the newer questions and try to be the first one in on a potentially hot question.

Pro tip: Okay, I thought this might be a little-known tactic, but I didn’t know HOW scarce until I researched this post.

Every topic on Quora has a topics page. If you take a look at that topics page, there’s a very small button under the header that says “Topics FAQ.”

These are the questions topic moderators have considered to be most representative of the topic. They are always pinned to the page and always going to be seen if a person comes to that part of the topic.

But look at this — almost nobody is answering them!

If I were writing on a specialized topic like movies, I would definitely try to write comprehensive, long, helpful answers on every single one of these FAQs. In my mind, it’s a no-brainer.

Step 4 — Take your answers to write posts on your site

Fair warning: Quora alone typically doesn’t lead to Internet fame.

I have to confess, when I first started answering questions on Quora in late 2015, I stopped almost immediately.

I wasn’t getting any traffic back to my website even though I had plenty of links to do so. I wrote it off and moved along.

Thank goodness I got a chance to overcome this shortsightedness.

Quora acts like a walled garden in most cases. Once you’re in, you don’t normally click things to go somewhere else. It does, however, give you a clue about what is resonating with your audience.

If you don’t have that many followers yet, it doesn’t matter how many upvotes you’re getting. What you’re looking for here is percentage of upvotes. If you see a few early upvotes (even if only 15 people have seen your answer) that’s a good indication the idea is resonating.

Here’s a prime example of how that could work.

I stumbled across this question one day:

I can’t find the right career, which upsets me. I’m a 25- year-old introvert with too many interests yet too much ambition. What do I do?

I knocked out an answer pretty quickly on my phone. Although the answer was pretty well thought out, I didn’t edit or format it very much. Look at the stats on the bottom of this question.

Only 9 upvotes. This post is a flop! Right?

Let’s look again.

Right at 1,000 views. Honestly, that’s not many. Half of this views and all of those 9 upvotes came in the first 24 hours. This tells me the idea itself is not flawed. It just hasn’t had enough eyeballs on it.

I re-wrote the first couple sentences, expanded on a few more of the thoughts, and published to Medium, where it launched over the 500 recommends mark (a big milestone).

I have a much larger following on Medium than Quora, so that accounts for a bit of the boost, but still — since you can give your work a fresh boost through another channel for no extra effort, why wouldn’t you?

And if it’s really working on Quora, it will likely work elsewhere too. I wrote an answer on my phone riding to a hotel which did quite well on Quora, and then EXPLODED on Medium. To this day, it is my most popular post.

Take a look at the side-by-side comparison here. Notice I didn’t just copy and paste each post, but have put thought into the introduction of each one.

You can see the all the changes I’ve made (which aren’t many) right here:

Pro tip: Okay, I almost feel guilty for admitting this one. Immediately after my guilt, though, I feel hesitation. This trick is SO easy, I almost want to keep it for myself.

But I love you too much to do that.

When you are trying to grab the attention of a world scrolling through their feeds at a million miles per hour, writing a good headline is 95% of your job. No kidding, If I spend an hour writing a post, it often takes me 20 to 30 minutes to pick the right headline.

Sourcing ideas from Quora removes that problem. How? When you find a question on Quora that’s worth answering, and it’s followed by a lot of people, your headline writes itself.

Scroll back up and look at the two stories I transferred from Quora to Medium. The headlines are very similar to the questions themselves.

It’s almost like cheating.

Step 5 — Bring your existing work into Quora

In addition to using Quora to source content to pull out, you can also bring in work you’ve done on another medium.

Like I mentioned earlier, make sure you tweak what you’ve said a little bit to answer the question asked directly. This is a great way to increase the impact of work you are already proud of.If you are afraid to recycle old content (like I was), ask yourself this question:

“Has every single person who could learn something from this post gotten a chance to see it yet?”

For me, the answer was a resounding NO. I finally got over the hump, and posted an answer to a question from a blog post I had written over a year ago.

The result?

Nearly half a million views, thousands of upvotes, over 100 comments. Oh, and one request from a Quora editor to republish the work on Inc. Magazine’s website.

Not half bad for work I had completely forgotten about.

A final thought

Hopefully by now, I don’t have to convince you Quora is an excellent way to further your impact, source ideas, and grow deeper roots into your niche.

Still, I can’t help but leave you with one last thing. The other day, I was scrolling through my feed looking for questions when I saw this post:

“That’s odd,” I thought. “This post is dated November 2012. Wonder why I’m seeing it in my feed in 2016…”

Sometimes, I am not very smart. A few days later, though, I was offered a chance to understand what was going on with this post:

Again, a post from 2012.

This time, I got it.

I’m seeing this post because Quora’s algorithm gives readers the best content possible, no matter when it was written. (For the record, Medium is starting to do the same thing).

When you publish a post on your personal blog, it’s gone in an instant. On Quora, new readers can discover your best work by chance, even if it’s months or years old.

So, we’ve got a platform which offers you:

  • Infinite ideas
  • A chance to connect with targeted readers
  • Direct emails to those readers with your writing
  • Free recycling of your old work to new people

Knowing all those things, I only have one question left:

What are you waiting for?

Never run out of ideas

To tell you the truth, even if Quora disappeared off the face of the planet today, I would not run out of things to write about.
Why? Because coming up with infinite ideas is a mindset, not a tactic.

For a deeper look into this mindset, sign up for my email list and get a copy of my free eBook — The Ultimate Guide to Infinite Ideas.

Where do you get your creative ideas? What inspires your writing? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

How to begin your keyword investigation: an incident review

Andrew Raynor

 

 

If you start a new site, either a blog or an online shop, you won’t rank immediately. So, what’s the first step you need to take to boost your rankings? In our view, you should always start with keyword research. Take some time to think about the words you want to be found for: which words are your audience searching for? But how do you find that out? What tools are useful? And, when you’ve found those keywords, how do you determine which ones you should focus on first? The most competitive (head), or the less competitive (long tail) keywords? In this post we’ll illustrate with a case study how to start your keyword research.

Focus on head or tail? Google it!

My cousin Sanne recently started her own online shop: Made by Mae. She’s a graphic designer and designs really cute posters, postcards and milestone cards. She asked me about SEO: where should she start? “Did you do your keyword research?” I asked. She did. She wanted to rank for the Dutch translation of [personalized poster]. And she already figured that aiming for those high-end search terms like [postcard] en [poster] would be pretty useless.

schermafbeelding-2017-01-10-om-11-39-55

But how do you know for sure? You should check the competition! Google the keywords that are the most competitive and analyze the results. Are these major companies? Companies with large marketing budgets? Then you’ll probably have a hard time ranking for these head terms. Ask yourself what the probability is that you’d be able to rank for such a term. Then, try a term that is slightly less competitive, and see what comes up. Did the probability change much?

If you do this, starting from very competitive head terms to slightly longer and less used search terms, you’ll get a pretty good idea of where your website should be able to fit in and rank. For Made by Mae, focusing on (the Dutch translation of) [postcards] and [posters] would be a bit too difficult to go after just now. [Trendy postcards] or [trendy posters] results in less competition. I would choose even less competitive search terms like [personalized trendy postcards].

Make a long list!

You should never focus on just one keyword. You should make a long, a very long list. My cousin should make a list of at least a hundred keywords. These could be variations of different keywords. As the menu of Made by Mae states she sells posters, personalized posters, postcards, milestone cards and printables. So my cousin should try to come up with keywords around these terms. For example: [cute milestone cards], [personalized milestone cards], [trendy milestone cards], [black-and-white milestone cards] and so on. Make sure to rate the competitiveness of each of your keywords.

Start writing content

Blogging is a great way of creating content. My cousin could write really awesome blog post related to her products. She recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and she should have lots of inspiration. However, a keyword is not a subject of a blog post just yet. You’ll need a specific angle or topic for the keyword you would like to rank for.

Read more: ‘5 tips to find inspiration for your blog’ »

Use Google trends!

If you have to choose between certain keywords you’d like to rank for, but you don’t know which one to choose, you should use Google trends. Google trends will allow you to compare the search volume of a few terms. If you want to know whether it makes sense to write about trendy postcards or about personalized postcards, Google Trends will give you your answer:

schermafbeelding-2017-01-10-om-20-16-38

Think about chances to convert

While doing your keyword research, you should already think about the chance to convert for people searching for a specific keyword. For instance: if people are specifically searching for [black-and-white milestone cards], they will be more prone to buying a set of cards than if people are searching for [milestone cards]. People searching for [black-and-white milestone cards] already know what they want, they know what they’re searching for. Once they’ll find the milestone cards on Made by Mae, they will be more eager to buy them.

People searching for long tail, specific keywords generally have a higher chance to buy something when they end up on your website. So, perhaps, you’ll generate less traffic with a post optimized for [black-and-white milestone cards], than with a post optimized for [milestone cards], but you’ll end up with more sales nevertheless.

Conclusion

Keyword research is a very important first step in SEO. And after that, you’ll have to start writing. A lot. Writing will not instantly result in higher rankings. It’ll take time. It’s a longterm SEO strategy. But it will pay off eventually!

Keep reading: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

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