150: Why a Book Deal is Only the Beginning of Your Writing Career: Interview with Annie Downs

Andrew Raynor

The day you get your first book deal feels much the same as getting accepted to a prestigious university, or landing a coveted internship after graduation. However, much like college and your first “real” job, you soon discover the hard work has only just begun.

150: Why a Book Deal is Only the Beginning of Your Writing Career: Interview with Annie Downs

Precious few authors are fortunate enough to quit their day jobs after landing their first book deal. Most are unable to avoid the need for side income to supplement writing revenue even after publishing multiple books.

If you’re lucky enough to get a book advance, this week’s guest on The Portfolio Life recommends treating it like an investment rather than income.

Listen in as author and speaker, Annie Downs, and I talk about why traditional vs non-traditional publishing is not a clear cut decision, and confront the stereotypical mindset of publishing a bound book versus exploring different mediums.

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, Annie and I discuss:

  • The hyperbole of reactions when people find out you’re a full-time writer
  • Growing up with a love of books
  • Who does hitting the New York Times bestsellers list really matter to
  • Bridging the gap between getting started with nothing and touring as a speaker
  • Honoring commitments and being faithful in small things and meet deadlines
  • Why being scrappy is a competitive advantage
  • The creative process as a partnership
  • Why first drafts are awesome
  • Applying for day jobs to make ends meet the week a book came out
  • Modeling her company after Lady Antebellum
  • Establishing a personal board of directors
  • Thinking of your writing career as a business
  • Feeling like quitting anytime something felt hard.

Quotes and takeaways

  • “No is not about you, it’s about clearing out the space for the right thing.” –Annie Downs
  • We see rejection and failure as an obstacle and it can also be an opportunity.
  • Take yourself out of the center of the story to understand the greater arc of what’s being told.
  • “It is not wise to treat a book deal or an advance like income. Treat it like an investment in your company.” –Annie Downs
  • “The bigger your advance, the longer it takes to ever see money again.” –Annie Downs
  • You may turn in the first draft, but it takes a lot of people to create the final version of the book.

Resources

What are you doing differently to try and get a book deal? How are you treating your writing like a business? Share in the comments

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

Andrew Raynor

What is cornerstone content?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Cornerstone content pieces are those articles on your website you’re most proud of. They reflect your business, communicate your mission and are extremely well written. These are the articles you would like to rank high in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually explainers; these articles combine insights from different blog posts.

Here, I’ll explain all about cornerstone content. I’ll tell you what cornerstone content is, why it’s important for SEO, how to write this type of content and how you should link from your posts to your cornerstone articles.

Which articles are my cornerstones?

Choose your cornerstones carefully. Think of four or five pages you would like someone to read if they first visit your website. These articles should be the cornerstones of your site. Which articles are most precious to you? Which articles are the most complete and authoritative? You should write cornerstone articles about the keywords you definitely want to rank for.

As of now, Yoast SEO will ask you to indicate whether or not an article is a cornerstone article. By marking articles as cornerstone, Yoast SEO can help you build a solid internal linking structure. Our link suggestion tool will give priority to the articles that you mark as cornerstone content.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

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If your website is enormous, you’ll have more cornerstones than if your website is small. You’ll probably write about more than one topic, so make sure to choose a cornerstone article in each category.

Why are cornerstone articles important for SEO?

Cornerstone content plays a significant role in any SEO strategy. It can be rather hard to rank for search terms that are very popular. A cornerstone approach could help you tackle those competitive search terms. If you write a lot of articles about similar blog posts, you need to tell Google which one is the most important. Otherwise, you’ll be competing with your content for a place in the search results. If you provide the proper internal linking structure between your posts, you can show Google which article is the most important.

Linking structure surrounding cornerstones

Cornerstone articles should appear very high in your site’s pyramid. Ideally, one would be able to click from your homepage to your cornerstone articles instantly. You should link all your other posts about similar topics to that particular article. Subsequently, you will write tons of new blog posts focussing on new angles of the topic of your cornerstone article. From every single one of those blog posts, you’ll link to your original cornerstone article. Such an internal linking structure will increase the chance of your cornerstone content article ranking in Google.

For instance, I write a lot of different posts about SEO copywriting. All these posts focus on a different aspect of SEO copywriting. One of my articles is my cornerstone article, in this case, the Ultimate Guide to SEO Copywriting. I will make sure to link from all of my posts about SEO copywriting to that one important cornerstone article.

Internal linking in Yoast SEO

In Yoast SEO Premium, we offer internal linking functionality. We analyze the text you are writing and use the prominent words in that text to determine which articles are of a similar topic. These are the articles you should be linking to. Cornerstone articles are treated differently in our calculation of internal linking suggestions. They are more important and will receive a higher value. To give these articles some visible weight as well, we place the cornerstone articles above the list of the internal linking suggestions. That’ll make it much easier for you to link to your critical articles.

Type of content of cornerstone pages

Cornerstone content should always be content pages. It could be a blog post, but you could also make a page out of it. The content should be updated very regularly. Cornerstone articles should be explainers, so these should definitely be informative articles. In your cornerstone article, you should aim to rank for the most competing keywords.

Cornerstone articles are usually rather long. Everything that’s important about a certain topic should be covered in your cornerstone article. That’ll ask quite a bit of your writing skills. Lengthy articles are usually hard to read, especially from a screen. Make sure to use sufficient headings. An index at the beginning of a long cornerstone article is also a great idea.

5 steps towards a pragmatic cornerstone approach

Ideally, you should do extensive keyword research. After that, you can produce really awesome, long, informative and beautifully written cornerstone articles. But what if you do not have that much time? And what if you’ve already written tons of articles? Follow these five steps to make killer cornerstone content.

Step 1: Think about your keywords

You have to determine the essential keywords you want to rank for. Your cornerstone articles should be optimized for the ‘head’ or most competitive keywords. Be sure to carry out keyword research.

Step 2: Choose the best post

Go through the posts that are optimized for keywords surrounding the most important keywords. Which post do you think is the best? That’ll be your cornerstone from now on!

Step 3: Rewrite it

Rewrite your cornerstone article. Make it awesome and SEO-friendly. Expand it and make sure it’s totally up to date. You should rewrite and expand that article regularly.

Step 4: Optimize your other posts on long tail variants

The other blog posts about similar topics as your cornerstone article should be optimized on long tail variants of the ‘head’ keyword you’re attacking in your cornerstone article.

Step 5: Linking from those tails to your head

You have to tell Google that your new cornerstone article is the most important one on your site. Don’t forget to link from all the long tail articles to your cornerstone article!

Yoast’s plans for cornerstone content

Site structure is important for SEO. Having a solid site structure means both search engines and visitors can effortlessly navigate your site to find what they want. To help you with this, we are currently working on many more features in Yoast SEO that’ll improve the structure of your website.

Read more: ‘SEO Copywriting: the complete guide’ »

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Yoast SEO 4.6: the cornerstone content update

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Cornerstone content forms the foundation of your site. If you write a couple of authoritative articles about your chosen subject and keyword, you can link all your other posts to these articles. In doing so, you greatly enhance the chance of these articles ranking in the search engines. Build your site as the ancient Egyptians built pyramids. Block by block on a solid foundation. Yoast SEO 4.6 adds another new feature to help you create your site structure.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

Cornerstone content in Yoast SEO 4.6

As you know, cornerstone content is the most important content on your site, but until now we didn’t have an option to mark these as such. In today’s release of Yoast SEO 4.6, you’ll find an option to indicate that the selected article should be treated as a cornerstone article. This way, the article receives priority over a regular article. These articles are analyzed more thoroughly to increase the chance of them popping up as must-link articles.

You can now mark your articles as cornerstone content.

We’ve also included a visual aid in determining whether an article is cornerstone content. These links will appear above the list of regular suggestions the internal linking tool in Yoast SEO Premium makes. Now, you only have to start marking your cornerstone articles as such, and they will rise to the top of the suggestion list so you can easily link to them. Working on your site structure has never been easier.

cornerstone content internal linking

The internal linking tools highlights cornerstone articles.

There’s a lot more to say about cornerstone content, so Marieke took the opportunity to dive deeper into the subject. Read her article and start working on your cornerstone content!

cornerstone post overview

It’s also possible to see your cornerstone articles in the post overview.

What else is new

Besides the new cornerstone content feature, we’ve mostly fixed some bugs. In addition to that, we’ve improved some language strings, enhanced compatibility with WooCommerce 3.0 and made some changes in the configuration wizard, so it’s easier to understand for everyone.

As always, happy updating! And if you want to see all the changes we made in this release, you can find the complete changelog over on WordPress.org.

Read on: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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“Real Artists Don’t Starve” is Coming Out (And I Need Your Help)

Andrew Raynor

Waiting for your book to come out is a lot like waiting at the hospital for your child to be born. I have two kids and four books, so I feel semi-qualified to use the analogy. That said, I still can’t believe my fifth book is almost here.

"Real Artists Don't Starve" is Coming Out (And I Need Your Help)

My newest book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, is coming out June 6th. But that’s not why I’m writing today…

Official book announcements call for a lot of pomp and circumstance and that is not what this post is about. Now, there will be a formal announcement soon enough with exclusive bonuses for those of you kind enough to preorder the book.

I’m writing to you today because I need your help.

For too long, the myth of the starving artist has dominated our culture, seeping into the mind of creative people and stifling their pursuits. The truth is that the world’s most successful artists did not starve. And you don’t have to, either.

Rather than starve, these fixtures of art history textbooks and legends of literary anthologies capitalized on their creative strength. And so can you.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, I debunk the myth of the starving artists by unveiling the ideas that created it and replace them with timeless strategies for thriving.

Becoming an artist in any craft takes time, effort, and a community to challenge and support you. That’s where you come in.

This book (or any book) can’t sell itself, I need your help getting the word out.

  • Do any of your friends have an influential social media following?
  • Are some of your buddies hosts of a podcast?
  • Do you work at a media outlet?
  • Are you connected with a community of makers, creatives, or artists?

Any suggests, introductions, or help you can offer is greatly appreciated. If you’ve enjoyed this blog, The Portfolio Life podcast, or any of my books thus far, this is your chance to get involved.

Just click here or fill out the form below to send me any ideas or recommendations. I’ll take the best ideas and try them out. And for those of you with some big ideas about how you can help with this book launch, I’ll invite to a private launch team.

I’m really excited for this book to be released this summer and to start changing the lives of creatives everywhere.

Gratefully yours,

Jeff

P.S. The “official” announcement will be coming quicker than you think. But, if you pre-order now, you will get exclusive bonus materials in the coming weeks. Click here to reserve your copy.

Andrew Raynor

Ask Yoast: Video on YouTube or on my own site?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Adding videos to your pages or posts can enrich the experience a user has on your site. In our case, for instance, when we want to explain how a certain feature of Yoast SEO works, adding a video or screencast showing you how to use it, will most likely contribute to the understanding of the use of it. So sensibly adding videos to your site – at the right spots – is something we recommend! You might wonder though, if it’s better to upload the video to your own server, or to use a platform like YouTube and embed it. Learn what’s best!

Tony Devine emailed Ask Yoast with this question:

“I’m going to add a third party video, which I have permission to use, to my website. It’s already hosted on YouTube. Should I put the files on my own server or should I leave them on YouTube instead?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

Want Google to show your videos in the search results? Optimize with video SEO plugin! »

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Video on YouTube or own site

In the video we explain what could be the advantages of both options:

Well, to be honest it doesn’t really matter, because getting the video snippet in the search results – which was quite easy in the old days – is quite hard now. So instead of allowing every site in the search results to have video snippets, Google has switched to a system with white listing sites that are allowed to have video snippets. And the chances of your site being among them are zero, to be honest.

So you’re not going to get a video snippet. The boost that you would get from that particular SEO benefit is gone. This means the biggest boost that you’ll get from adding a video, is that people will interact with your page more, if that video is on there. So it might still be a very good idea to have that video on that page. However, it doesn’t really matter at that point where you have posted it.

The only thing that I would consider – if you have permission to use and do some stuff to the video – is republishing the video somewhere. Either on YouTube or somewhere else, and optimize the metadata, because then you could be found on YouTube. And YouTube is actually the second biggest search engine in the world after Google. So maybe think of that. If you’re not allowed to do that, just include the YouTube URL and you’re fine.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Ask Yoast case study: SEO of a mom blog

Andrew Raynor

 

 

SEO can be a rather complicated and abstract thing. What exactly do we mean by increasing keyword density? How do you start with improving the structure of a site? That’s why I’m going to write a series of Ask Yoast case studies. In these case studies, I’ll take a look at a specific site (the owner knows about it of course :-)), and I’ll give some SEO advice. In this first case study: SEO of a mom blog!

Ask Yoast Case studies

Want Marieke to look at the content of your site? Send an email to ask@yoast.com!

Improve the SEO of a mom blog!

In this case study, a mom blog’s SEO is the central topic. Lindsay Butler of One Beautiful Home asked us to look at the SEO of her many blog posts.

“I’m a mom blogger,” Lindsay says,  “who has gone from a hobby blog to a business. I’ve started making real money with my site, and would love to continue its growth. I have hundreds of posts, but never paid much attention to SEO, other than selecting a keyword. So I have to go back to the beginning, and optimize all of my older posts, so they can rank properly. I have hundreds of posts. What is the best way to organize this process, so I can make sure I don’t screw it up?” 

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

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About the mom blog

One Beautiful Home is an awesome mom blog. Being a mom of 4 myself, I really enjoyed browsing through this blog. I especially enjoyed all the printables and worksheets Lindsay offers. She really made her blog into a shop. Her writing style is entertaining and the subjects she chooses are great. I think this website has great potential, and, I have to say, I’ll become a regular visitor for sure! That being said, I’d also like to give Lindsay some advice for improvement.

At the end of this blog post, I’m going to answer her question. But before I come to that, I want to give some general SEO advice to improve the SEO of Lindsay’s website. Advice more blog and website owners could benefit from!

General SEO advice

Don’t use too many adds

When looking at One beautiful Home, you cannot escape the ads. Especially the ad below the banner is huge. The banners also load very slow, which is pretty annoying. Too many ads and banners can be detrimental for both the UX and SEO of your site. You shouldn’t put too many ads on your website.

Of course, I understand that these ads generate income as well. So, removing the ads could reduce the income of your website. That’s scary. Still, removing them will probably improve your rankings and the User Experience. That’ll definitely have a positive effect on the sales of your own products.

Site speed is low

The page speed score of the homepage of One Beautiful Home is very low (17/100 on desktop in Google Page Speed Insights). A low page speed is bad news for your SEO! The images on the homepage are quite heavy and should be optimized. Overall, you could reduce their size by 3.5 MB (76% reduction), which would, most likely, substantially boost your site speed.

Read more: ‘Site speed: tools and suggestions’ »

After reading a first draft of this post, Lindsay already took some steps in improving both the speed of her site as well as the number of banners. That’s really awesome!

Optimizing for SEO after publishing

Let’s go back to Lindsay’s question. What SEO improvements should Lindsay start with, if she has hundreds of published posts she wrote without actively optimizing them? I thought of a step-by-step plan to help her get through this:

1. Do your keyword research

The first step of every SEO copywriting strategy is executing proper keyword research. To do so, you really have to get inside the heads of your audience. What words are they searching for? What terms do they use? You should use tools like Google Trends to check out which words are used most often.

After you’ve finished your keyword research, you should have a long list with competitive (head) search terms and less competitive and more specific (long tail) search terms.

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

For this mom blog, examples of search terms could be [debt free living], [pre-school education], [pre-school education printables]. Search terms as [parenting] are probably too competitive to rank for.

2. What are your cornerstones?

What are the articles you’re most proud of? From every category on your website you should choose one blog post (it could be a page as well) that really reflects your core business. Cornerstone content should be rather long and informative articles, in which you can describe all important aspects of the main topic. In these cornerstone articles, you’ll use the most competitive keywords. Our Yoast SEO plugin will help you optimize your text. Check out the bullets and start optimize your cornerstones for the most competitive keywords.

Make sure to give your cornerstone articles a prominent place on your website. You should be able to navigate to these specific articles within two clicks from the home page.

Category pages could be great long tails too. I think that would be a doable strategy for One Beautiful Home. Lindsay should write an awesome informative category page about parenting, about debt free live and about pre-school education.

Content SEO: learn how to do keyword research, how to structure your site and how to write SEO friendly content »

Content SEO$ 19 – Buy now » Info

3. Optimize those long tails

After you’ve optimized your most precious articles, you should dive into your long tail posts. These are the posts that dive into a more specific feature of a subject. Again, use our plugin to optimize for those long tail keywords. Optimizing lots of posts for slightly different long tail keywords is a great SEO tactic.

4. Link from the tail to the head

Last step of your SEO updating strategy: make sure to link from all of these long tail articles to your cornerstone article. That way, you’re telling Google: this is the most important content. In the end, that’ll be the article that will pop up in the search results.

A final question from Lindsay

After reading a draft version of this blog post, Lindsay had a final question:

“I have read so much about keywords, but there is still one question I cannot figure out. I write a lot about getting out of debt. A “main” keyword for that topic let’s say is [Debt Free Living]. I have 75 posts that relate to that keyword. How would I use that that keyword for all of those posts? I know I cannot duplicate the keyword, so how does someone do that? 

I know that I need a page that keeps all of my content about this topic in one area, but how do I keyword each of the posts, so that I can rank higher for the debt free living “ultimate” keyword? Should I put [Debt Free Living: paying off student loans], [Debt Free Living: buying a used car],  [Debt Free Living: paying off your credit cards] etc. for the individual posts, as they relate to the specific blog post?”

The answer to this question is: Yes, you should write lots of post about niche subjects [paying off student loans], [buying a used car]. I won’t use the [Debt-free Living: buying a used car] keyword, as I suspect nobody will search for that exact term. You should make a list of keywords surrounding your head keyword [debt free living]. Make sure these keywords are search terms people actually use in Google (you could use Google Trends to figure that out).

Second step is to write that cornerstone article and optimize it for your head term [debt free living]. We have written Ultimate Guide articles about key aspect of SEO. These are our cornerstone articles. Make sure that every long tail article about debt free living links to your most important article (and keep on doing that if you write new articles). That way you’ll tell Google which article about debt free living is the most important one.

Conclusion

To improve the SEO of this specific site, I would recommend removing a lot of the ads and improving the site speed. And, follow my four steps to optimize all of the text. I’m sure this website has great potential. It has found a niche within the mom blog niche. That’s great.

We understood from Lindsay that she already went ahead and started improving things like site speed and the ad display. So you might see some changes on her site already, if you go there. We’re excited to hear she took action immediately. Good luck with your website, Lindsay!

Read on: ‘How to incorporate cornerstone content on your site’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Contributing to WordPress as a designer

Andrew Raynor

 

 

A few weeks ago, I went to my first proper WordCamp, in London. I went as a designer, and I wasn’t expecting to learn very much, but spoiler warning: I was wrong. In this post, I will explain why going to a WordCamp is worthwhile as a designer, why WordPress needs more designers, and how designers reading this can start applying their skills to the WordPress design right now.

Wordcamps are not just for programmers and bloggers

You may have noticed I said ‘proper WordCamp’ in the opening, because technically my first one was WordCamp NL last year, but I’m not counting that one since I only went because Yoast had a booth there. And back in 2016, I didn’t think I had much business being at a WordCamp neither. Not because I thought I knew everything, but precisely the opposite; I hardly used WordPress. I wasn’t writing content, I just used it to upload comics I had drawn. Terms like conversion rate and cornerstone content didn’t mean much to me. It all seemed very technical. And especially the thought of contributing to the core of WordPress seemed very daunting (even writing my own theme took me ages). But WCLDN17 proved that I was wrong about all these things. 

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There has never been a better time for design to shine

Almost a year after WCNL16, I became the UX designer at Yoast. I still didn’t know all the intricacies of WordPress, but I was using it a lot more, making sure our stuff integrated well and looked good. So maybe I could get some value out of a WordCamp this time around? I wasn’t sure yet. But off I went to WCLDN17.

Looking at the schedule, there were a lot more talks about design and UX than I had expected; Crispin Read talked about the value of testing and hard data over opinions; Sarah Semark talked about how modern web design all looks the same (and why); Graham Armfield talked about how some simple design measures can make sure your site is accessible to almost everyone; and Dave Walker‘s talk was especially interesting to me, because he’s also an illustrator using WordPress. It was clear that design was coming to the forefront, and rightly so.

This was all good info for me to apply at Yoast, but that I could be of value to WordPress was an unexpected discovery during Contributor Day.

WordPress needs designers too

Contributor Day is meant to focus the attention of everyone at a Wordcamp towards improving WordPress in some way. Naturally, I sat down at the Design table, and there I met Tammie Lister. She is a UX designer at Automattic – that’s the company behind WordPress.com, Akismet, Gravatar, WooCommerce, and Simplenote (which I drafted this in!). She was easy to talk to, and very enthusiastic about design. But more importantly, she had prepared a few simple tasks for us to tackle that day. It made my entrance into the whole WordPress ecosystem pretty smooth.

My chosen task was to make a mockup for the mobile image editor; Something had gone really wrong in there, lots of overlapping panels and redundant buttons. By simply designing a fix in Photoshop, I helped move this problem closer towards being solved.

In doing so, I started to understand why Tammie kept wishing that more designers would start to look at WordPress itself. There are many design issues like this hanging around, waiting for a designer to solve them. Doing so may not seem like a big contribution, but WordPress is used by nearly 80 million sites – that’s almost 30% of the web. So whatever you end up doing, it’s guaranteed that at least a few people are going to be happy with it.

And I can understand why designers maybe don’t flock to this calling. Getting started can seem daunting – I was a prime example of this mindset. If that’s you too, then read on, I’ve outlined three simple steps to get you started.

Ways a designer can start improving WordPress

If you use WordPress and like designing interfaces, these are some quick ways to combine those two passions:

1. Go to a Contributor Day.

This may seem like a big first step, but I promise you it’s not. You’ll get set up way faster than you would at home by yourself, there are tons of people who can help, and everyone is super nice. I would have never known where to begin if it wasn’t for Tammy’s guidance. There are tons of WordCamps all around the world, so guaranteed that there is one near you and within your budget. If not, perhaps you’re lucky like me and your company works with WordPress, get them to send you out to one!

2. Join the design channel in the WordPress Slack.

I could tell you to go to make.wordpress.org/design, but to be honest that site could use a UX update itself. No, I feel like it’s better just to get in touch with the people on the frontlines of WordPress design on Slack. Slack is a chat app, and you can join the WordPress team on there by going to this page. And when you’re in, simply introduce yourself in the design channel and ask how you can help, and somebody will get you started.

3. If you’re not a designer…

…show a passionate designer some of the issues on this list. Hopefully, there’s a good chance they’ll get triggered to fix these little design problems. Sometimes even just posting feedback is enough to get the ball rolling again. Together with this article, I’m sure they can take it from there.

Bonus: Submit design tickets

If your own projects are keeping you busy enough (and I can relate), here’s a really simple way you can still help out: for every weird design issue you encounter, just make a ticket on the site I linked above. Leave the work to others, but at least let them know what they should fix. You’re helping them out, and when they fix it they’re helping you out. Everybody’s happy.

So if all this has motivated you to contribute your design expertise to WordPress: great! I hope to see you at a WordCamp or on Slack someday. Together, we can make WordPress even better, for everyone.

Photo by the talented Pradeep Singh.

Read more: ‘WordPress Core Contributions’ »

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149: How to Sell 1000 Copies of Your Self-Published Book on Day One: Interview with Paul Sohn

Andrew Raynor

The average self-published book sells 250 copies in its first year and maybe 1,000 copies in its lifetime. Most authors are ecstatic if they hit 1,000 copies in the first three months. But what if you sold 1,000 copies of your book on the first day it released?

149: How to Sell 1000 Copies of Your Book on Day One: Interview with Paul Sohn

Now, there is no such thing as an overnight success. Work that lasts and resonates with your audience requires consistent effort over an extended period of time.

Without a platform, without an email list, and without a community, you could not self-publish a book tomorrow and reasonably expect anything but dead air in response.

However, if you put in the effort, do your research, and engage with influencers and your target audience to build a loyal tribe, the sky really is the limit.

This week’s guest on The Portfolio Life, successfully self-published a book and sold over 1,000 copies on the first day it released. Within a week he was connected with seven traditional publishers, landed a book contract soon thereafter, and has just launched Quarter-Life Calling.

Listen in as Paul Sohn and I talk about how to decide whether to self-publish or pursue a book contract with a traditional publisher, realizing the emptiness of a “dream job” at a young age, and redefining what it means to achieve success.

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, Paul and I discuss:

  • Redefining what it means to achieve success
  • Writing a book for yourself
  • Unpacking the decision to self-publish
  • Living out the principles of your book before publishing it
  • Building an influential network on Twitter and Facebook
  • Developing a book launch team
  • Hacks and tricks to boost Amazon rankings
  • Connecting with 7 different traditional publishers one week after self-publishing
  • The supplemental benefits of creating a platform that goes beyond the book
  • Establishing a personal board of directors
  • Picking whichever publishing method aligns best with your goals

Quotes and takeaways

  • The essence of life is discovering your calling. Which will help you to live more purposefully.
  • “It’s one thing to write a book. It’s another thing to live a book.” –Paul Sohn
  • Discovering your calling and aligning your life around it will require uncomfortable shifts.
  • Follow the advice of experts without arguing to get the results you want.
  • “Your quarter-life could be the best time to discover your calling in life.” –Paul Sohn
  • Just because you write about something, doesn’t mean you are an expert.
  • Any measure of fame or notoriety can be accompanied by loneliness.
  • Simply writing a book doesn’t entitle you to anyone’s attention.

Resources

Are you planning to self-publish or traditionally publish? Why? How are you living out what you write about? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

Page speed as a ranking factor: what you need to know

Andrew Raynor

 

 

It’s official: Google announced that page speed will be a ranking factor in its mobile-first index. But what does that mean? There’s no beating around the bush anymore: you should work on making your site as fast and accessible as possible. Don’t wait, do it now. I mean it.

For years, we’ve been bombarded by one message: mobile is going to take over the world. We needed to adapt ourselves to this new reality where everyone does everything on their mobile devices. While we still spend loads of time in front of our desktop and laptop machines, we can’t deny mobile is crucial. Just look at the upcoming markets, where people use their mobile for all possible tasks.

We also know that if you want to compete with the big boys, get a solid ranking for your mobile site and make some money from it, you need to take care of a few things. One of the most important ones is page speed. 

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The verdict is in

Let’s look at some recent research: according to Google the average time it takes for a mobile landing page to load is now 22 seconds. Compare that with the three seconds visitors need to decide if they want to stay for your page to load and you will see a huge discrepancy. People are impatient. They want something, and they want it now. While page speed is important for your SEO, it is even more important for your UX, conversion and general customer happiness.

Yes, page speed will be a ranking factor

At the moment, page speed is more of an indicator than a ranking factor. Unless your mobile site is extremely slow, you can still get decent rankings with average page speeds. But it’s been proven time and time again that the speedier your site, the better your results will be.

Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance is a sign of a healthy site that pleases customers and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.

Also, Google has recently gone on record saying that page speed will be a ranking factor in its upcoming mobile-first index. Details on how they will evaluate page speed for mobile and calculate rankings are still unknown. But, what we do know doesn’t change much from what we at Yoast have been saying for some time: make sure your site is responsive, as fast as possible, solidly structured, and full of excellent content.

5 ways to speed up your site

Do everything in your power to increase the loading speed of your mobile site. Everyone loves a fast site: we SEOs and search engines, but most importantly, our customers. Firstly, check Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see what they advise you to do. Secondly, take a look at the size of your page, as many sites are bloated nowadays. Try to shave off as much as you can by optimizing images, compressing code and loading fewer external scripts and ads. In addition to that, here are five things you can work on:

Activate AMP on your pages

Google’s AMP project is meant to give the web a necessary speed boost. It’s not too hard to implement, and it will give your mobile site a life in the fast-lane. According to Google, AMP is not a ranking factor, but it’s not hard to predict it has a decent chance to become one. Read Google’s documentation on how to implement AMP.

Use HTTP2

That series of tubes we call the internet is at the dawn of a new age. Several new technologies will bring much-needed upgrades to the way the underlying infrastructure has been built. One of these is called HTTP2, and you can already use to speed up your site, barring it uses HTTPS. Find out more on performance optimization in an HTTP2 world.

Switch to PHP7

As we mainly use WordPress in these parts, getting everyone to use PHP7 is a big deal. To get everyone to move from unsupported and unsafe versions, like PHP5.2 and PHP5.3, we at Yoast created Project WHIP. Moving to PHP7 will give your WordPress site a speed boost, keep it secure and make it future proof.

General optimizations

You should already know these tactics. Please use a CDN to make sure that your content is delivered from a location close to the visitor. Use a caching plugin like WP Rocket to keep static parts of your site in the browser cache. Last but not least, please optimize images. That’s low-hanging fruit.

Critical rendering path

Running a PageSpeed Insights test will show you which elements block a page from rendering quickly. The critical rendering path is formed by the object – like CSS and JavaScript – that have to load before the content can show up on screen. If this content is blocked, your page will render slowly or not at all. Pay attention to this and keep the path free of obstacles. At modpagespeed.com you’ll find several open source tools to help you with these issues.

Always work on your page speed

Keep in mind that your work is never done. Your mobile site is never too fast, and your customers will never come flocking to you when you shave off just a little of your loading time. Keep working on it. Now, tomorrow and next month. If possible, try to automate your PageSpeed Insights testing, so you get regular updates. Follow the news to see if there are new ways to speed up your site.

Read more: ‘How to improve your mobile site’ »

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Internal search: why and how

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Internal search is the search option on your own website. It’s, for instance, the search widget in WordPress and the product search in WooCommerce. Make no mistake: if your website has over twenty pages, your website should most definitely have that internal search option. There are a number of best practices for that search option, and I’d like to go over these, in this post.

Internal search for informational websites

It doesn’t matter if your website is the Wikipedia of Golden Retrievers, or you simply have a blog about your three-year-old. If your website is packed with content, you’d really want to add that internal search option. When someone lands on your website from Google, for the most part, they are looking for a specific piece of information about a certain subject. If they can’t find it immediately after clicking that link in Google, there are only a few options to prevent that user from clicking back to Google immediately. You’d rather prevent such a bounce, as it tells Google that the specific subject isn’t something it has to rank your website for. OK, I’m exaggerating, but if this happens again and again, that will be the result.

If your website provides an easy way to find the desired information with just a tiny bit of extra effort, you’re immediately raising the chances of people staying on your website. An internal search option is a great way to accomplish this.

Characteristics of a good internal search option

Try to think about that search option as a user, not as a website owner or developer. What does that search option require to work for you? I think there are a few characteristics that are essential for any visitor:

  • It should be visible. If you want people to use that search option, don’t hide it in your website’s footer. Adding it to either the top of your sidebar, or in your header, would be a much better option.
  • It should be clear that it’s a search option. Very important. Just an input field without a heading, submit button or watermark explaining that it’s a search option won’t suffice.

We emphasized that internal search option even more in our 2015 redesign, by just subtly increasing the magnifier icon:

Internal search, yoast.com

That already made a huge difference. But besides that, we also lifted the internal search option from our sidebar, straight into the right side of the menu. The search option is equally important for us as our shopping cart and all main menu items.

Search result pages for informational websites

The search field is only step one of an internal search option. Step two is the search result page itself. When we do SEO consultancy projects, we check a number of characteristics of a search result page:

  • The search keyword is highlighted in the search result pages
    If you want to decide on what result to click, you’d like to scan the results and quickly click one. Your own search result pages are a means to an end, a tool, not a destination itself. Highlighting the keyword used in search (like Google does), simplifies scanning these results a lot.
  • The search result pages contain text snippets with the keyword
    It’s really hard to pick a result when only a title is shown on an internal search result page. There’s a reason why Google sometimes ignores your suggested meta description and shows a text snippet of your page with the keyword instead. It helps your visitor. That goes for internal search results as well.
  • Search results are ranked by relevancy
    To all you WordPress users out there: WordPress now orders search results by relevance (since 3.7). Make sure to update. That being said, plugins like SearchWP or services like Algolia can still help you improve your internal search function a lot, and make you manage that relevance. In the old days, WordPress results where ordered by date (newest content first), which made absolutely no sense. Serve the most fitting result first.
  • Internal search results are not indexed by Google
    Imagine being a search engine, aiming to serve your visitors the desired information as soon as possible. Google Knowledge Graph inserts the answer right into your search result pages. Do you think that search engines like linking to other search result pages? No. Of course not. In addition to that, Google considers these internal search results lower quality pages than your actual informational pages. So it would make absolutely no sense if your search result pages rank above your category pages on the same subject. Your informational content pages are the pages that matter, these are the pages that should be indexed. Therefore we say:  Noindex,follow your internal search result pages.

Valuable data for optimizing your website

Internal search keywords in Google AnalyticsThere is another major benefit of a good internal search option. It can actually help your keyword research. In Google Analytics, at Behavior › Site Search › Search Terms, you will find all keywords people have used in the internal search option on your website.

Please check your website’s pages for these keywords. Does the right page come up first? A quick check is simply comparing your internal search results to a site search in Google, like:

https://www.google.com/search?q=site:yoast.com+meta+description

That’s a match, and the right page to rank for “meta description” on our website. If another page would have come up first, we should have created a new, cornerstone-like page for that keyword. Use this to your advantage; it’s your visitors telling you what kind of content they expect on your website.

Google Custom Search

Google offers an option to use their search engine for your website as well. This is called Google Custom Search (GCS). With GCS, you can easily add an internal search option to your site. This option shows results like Google would show these for site:yoursite.com queries.

There are options to limit this search to specific parts of your website, or even a specific page. A nice option for online shops is to limit the search results using specific schema.org types like Product. If you add a certain type, all its children automatically get included.

You fill out a very simple form and simply get a JavaScript snippet you can add to your template. After creation, you can even add more details. You can include or exclude images, for example. There is also an option to add Adsense ads, but I’d recommend against using this on your online shop – that will simply redirect visitors to other websites, or even worse, make you pay for clicks on your own ads from your own website…

Internal search for online shops

This is one of two posts on internal search. As I mentioned in the introduction of this post, an internal search is obviously important for online shops as well. In the other post, I discuss the search option for online shops and add my thoughts on how to improve that internal search option.

Read more: ‘Internal search for webshops’ »

Your call

Are you leveraging your internal search option? How have you improved your internal search result pages? I’d love to hear your experiences and additional tips in the comments.

SEO New Hampshire

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