Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Guest Posting Roundup: How to Write and Submit Guest Posts

Writing a guest posts and submitting them on high-PR blogs can be an extremely beneficial exercise for a multiple number of reasons: it is a great link-building method (think of all the traffic that you’ll be able to generate off a single backlink, especially if it’s a high-PR blog that gets a lot of traffic!), it is great for exposure and it is an excellent way to build some authority and make your mark in your niche.

However the process of submitting guest posts can be tricky, to say the least! Authority blogs usually get a ton of guest-post requests each day, and only a small percentage of those posts are actually up to the mark and hence actually end up getting approved.

Do your research

Make sure that you do your research before sending in your proposal – knowing what range of topics are covered by the blog you’re planning to write for, what their visitors would like to read, and knowing what exactly it is that you would write on. A popular topic that gets a lot of views and shares for instance would be a great idea for starters.

Start on the right foot

It is essential to start correctly from the top when submitting guest posts. This gives you a much bigger chance of getting approved.

Doing so involves getting in touch with the blog owner in a proper manner, and sending in a formal request where you express your interest in writing a guest post for the blog. Be polite when doing this.

I recommend drafting a proposal of sorts, and keeping it brief: should include a proper headline, a few sentences introducing yourself and what you do, your desire to write a guest post on the blog, listing down the reasons you think why this would be a mutually-beneficial exercise for all parties that are involved (for both the writer and the blog owner), what topic(s) you can write on, and finally pitch your post idea – what the post will be about and how you’re qualified to write on this topics.

Guidelines to follow

Once your proposal has been approved, ask the blog owner if there are any specific guidelines that you’re required to follow.

Most authority blogs, particularly in certain niches, are very particular and strict about this, and will have you follow a stringent set of rules when writing a post. Other blogs might not be so stringent, apart from maybe a word-limit and a linking policy (such as the number of times you can include a backlink to your own blog).

Make sure that you’re well-aware of these rules before proceeding any further.

Write for the readers

Always write with the reader in mind. Give the readers something that they would actually want to read. And write it the way they would want to read – short paragraphs that can be skimmed over easily, language that is easy-to-understand, and attractive headings/titles.

Write on popular topics, or topics such as trending topics (which are relevant to the blog). Popular topics usually generate a lot of interest and buzz, with minimal marketing effort.

Write the article like a blog – you’re not writing for Wikipedia or any other encyclopedia, blog posts should be ‘bloggy’ – which means they need to be fun, humorous and appealing to the readers.

Make sure your article makes a point. Use plenty of examples, wherever required. Important points should be in bold. Accredit and cite any and all sources where the information has been taken – either at the end of the post, or by hyperlinking to the source. And most importantly, proof-read your piece before sending it in, if an article with errors gets published, it would be very embarrassing, to say the least!

Above all, make sure you add hyperlinks to your own blog as well!

Always send the final version

This one’s important: ALWAYS send the blog-owner a complete/final draft of the article, instead of sending in a rough draft and asking for advice, critique or tips.

Many guest bloggers think it is a waste of time to send in the full article if it won’t be approved and hence would want to run by a semi-finished version of the article. Not a good idea. Write the full-post and always send the final version of the article to the owner. Also send in a request along with your article, stating that you would like for him or her to acknowledge the receipt of the article and whether it will accepted for publication on the blog or not; if not, make sure that you reserve the right to have it submitted on another blog. Here’s how you can deal with guest post rejection.

In short: never send in a semi-finished or low-quality version of the article in the fear of getting rejected; you won’t be doing yourself any favors. As a blog owner, I would reject such an article as soon as reading it.

Include a bio

Include a short bio about yourself – a simple ‘About Me’ that includes your name, what you do for a living (or where you work), a few words about your interests, and a backlink to your own blog or website (if the blog allows this).

Blogs using Wordpress usually use plugins for displaying author information (such as this one), and these blogs will also let you edit your personal information, add the link to your blog, give an email address, and links to your social media profiles via the Users page in the Wordpress Dashboard.

Respond to Comments

Once your guest post goes up, make sure that you check back in regularly to approve and respond to any and all comments. Responding to any and all comments is essential, and depending on the amount of traffic the blog gets, you could get anywhere between a few comments, to hundreds of them.

For instance if the blog (a) gets a lot of visitors, (b) has been able to successfully engage a large number of its readers, and (c) if your post is interesting and appeals to a lot of its visitors, you might end up getting hundreds of comments. Acknowledging this feedback is essential. And be prompt about it. Check back at least once-a-day for a week after the post gets published, and reply to and acknowledge comments, even if it’s a simple ‘thank you for your feedback’.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

How to Have a Great Blog and Be a Successful Blogger

When it comes to blogs, quality matters! Every blogger out there is well-aware of this fact, however different people define quality differently. Here are a few important things which every blogger should definitely take into consideration in order to be successful blogger, and have a ‘quality’ blog that gets tons of visits, traffic and social shares.

Do Your Research

In order to have a great blog that kicks some serious ass as far as getting visitors and traffic goes, research will be essential. This includes a multiple number of things, such as doing research on what people in your niche and your potential visitors would want to read, keyword research, jargon/buzzwords research, knowing what kind of posts are popular in your niche, knowing how to craft posts, knowing what style of posts are popular in your niche, and of course, research on your competition – such as how many other people are writing on such topics, and what kind of competition you face from them for the same topic.

Research is essential because it sets up a solid base and a strong foundation for your blog post (and your blog, in general), and allows you to go on to write a good blog post. First and foremost, it provides you with ammunition in the form of a specific topic to write on, or a specific problem to tackle. You can then go on and write an excellent, well-written blog post that people would actually want to read!

Write for Your Readers

A big part of being a successful blogger is having the ability to write for your readers. No one wants to read incessant ramblings about, say, the problems you’re having with your life; it’s not your personal diary. It’s a blog, and it is a place where you should be writing about stuff that people actually want to read.

Try writing useful stuff, provide people with tips, a resource list, advice, assistance/help, how-to’s and other information that will be useful to them. Content that will make them want to bookmark your website, browse it and spending time on it, and of course, share it over Facebook and Twitter.

Offer Something Unique

Original content is the best kind of content out there. Being original and unique will set you apart from others, and give you a competitive advantage. If you can write on something that makes you think ‘I cannot believe no one’s written about this before!’, you probably have winner on your hands!

Always have something inimitable and distinctive in your blogging arsenal; it could be anything, from the topics that you cover, or your writing style, or a sub-niche that is relatively unexplored by other bloggers which you can look to fill, a product that takes a successful idea and makes it better, a service that forces people to question their loyalty to another brand, and so on and so forth.

This is something that is commonly referred to as having a USP, or a Unique Selling Proposition.

Produce Quality Content

A great blog does a great job of consistently churning out quality posts; posts which are thought-provoking, makes its readers think and maybe even change behaviors or the way they do certain things; posts which provide an insight into a specific topic; posts which do a good job of giving their readers up-to-date information, insight and analysis on a wide range of areas; and content which provides solutions to problems, or useful advice.

A classic example would be the excellent website Lifehacker, a website which provides ‘life hacks’ or solutions to everyday problems related to a wide range of topics that almost everyone faces from every field of life.

Furthermore, quality content is relevant, and consists of posts that are grammatically and factually-correct, easy-to-read or skim-through, have memorable titles and content, concise and well-structured sentences, and are informative as well.

Social Media Integration

Social media integration and social networking websites is essential, and a great blog need to be well-integrated with social networking websites such as Facebook, Digg, Stumble Upon, Twitter, Google+ and the like. Having a simple toolbar that has ‘like’, ‘share’, ‘retweet’ or ‘+1’ buttons will encourage readers to share your content on their social profiles, and this is a great way of getting more exposure, and free marketing for your content and your blog.

There are plenty of plugins and tools that allow you to add social icons to your blog, such as ShareThis, which works with a multiple number of platforms as well, including Wordpress, Blogger, Drupal, Joomla, to name a few.

Visually Attractive

A great blog looks great, it’s as simple as that. It should have a good balance between visuals and text, and should use images and other forms of multimedia in a balanced and effective manner (without over-doing it).

A well-designed blog, for instance uses a good theme, has easily-readable text and a legible font, uses multimedia within posts wherever required – especially  where a boring wall of text, data or information can be converted into attractive visuals (such as through infographics), has a well-designed navigation bar and sidebar, etc.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Webhosting 101

Webhosting is, and will be detrimental to the success of your business and everything else that is related to it. Personally, I think it is one of the most important decisions that you’ll need to make before you do anything else.

It is hence crucial to choose a good webhost, and avoid falling for gimmicks or promotions that might urge you to go for cheap webhosting, and be stuck with shoddy hosting and aftersales for a long period of time, putting your business and your online presence as well as your reputation at risk. And for what, a few hundred bucks?

Here are some of the things you should consider when choosing a webhosting service for your website or blog(s), and especially when deciding between an expensive webhosting package vs. a cheap one:


By far, the most important factor when it comes to webhosts: reliability. This is something that can make or break a webhosting service. Every single webhost that you come across will claim to be ‘the most reliable out there’, or guarantee 99.9% uptime, but in reality, it’s mostly a load of BS, especially when it comes to cheap webhosting packages. Remember, you get what you pay for, and with cheap webhosts, expect plenty of downtimes, outages and generally unreliable service. Webhosts such as HostGator, BlueHost or DreamHost might not be cheap, but they’re the most popular ones for a reason!


Another important element is security. They skimp on using important/essential security measures for their service, and hence don’t provide these to their customers as well, in order to bring the costs down. As a result, websites hosted on these are much more prone to getting hacked and vulnerable from a security point-of-view. Make sure the webhosting company you choose provides at least some sort of security as a standard with your package (and the option to purchase other forms of website protection such as SiteLock).


Cheap webhosting services will almost always skimp out on the set of features that they provide. For instance these services will rarely provide unlimited bandwidth, the ability to host more than a few websites (unlimited domains), and other features that the more expensive web-hosting services usually offer as a standard with all their packages. Additional features like a good control panel (cPanel),  site-building tools, a security suite (such as sitelock, for instance) and anti-spam and anti-virus measures, any-time money-back guarantee, free chopping-cart tools (handy, if you intend on running an ecommerce website), unlimited email IDs, and marketing tools are offered by almost all good webhosts. But beware, as a lot of webhosts will provide you with a plethora of ‘extra’ or additional benefits, while skimping out on providing the essentials in order to attract and lure unwitting customers.

Customer Service

For a lot of the people out there, customer/after-sales service is easily one of the most important aspects of a webhosting service. Like I said before, you get what you pay for when it comes to webhosts. With a good webhost and their reliable service, you won’t need to ring up customer support very often but on the rare occasion that you do, you’ll know that (a) you will be able to speak to a qualified professional who will make sure that any issues are resolved at the earliest, (b) the service will be prompt, and (c) the webhost provides multiple ways of getting in touch with them (phone, email, webchat, etc). Quite obviously, your business will suffer if your website goes down for some reason and the webhost takes too long to get back to you, or too long to identify the issue and rectify the problems!

Search Engine Optimization

The hosting that you choose will have a direct impact on your website’s usability as well as its search engine ranking. For starters, a slow webhosting service will mean that your website is too slow to load up. This means that it probably won’t rank very well either, given that Google counts site speed as a ranking factor, giving quick-loading websites a higher ranking than ones that are too slow to load up. Furthermore, if the webhost make regular backups of your website and reverts to an earlier backup in case of an outage, will that have an effect on your website, like dead links, 404 errors or a loss of on-site changes – all things that could adversely affect your SERPs.

Cost vs Benefit

At the end of the day, it is essential to have a variety of options, and be able to do a cost-benefit analysis for the webhost that you intend to choose. The amount of money that you save on by choosing a cheap webhosting service will probably be lost when you start running into problems, downtimes and/or outages. And if your business or your livelihood depends on your website, or if you depend on your website as the sole source of your income, you probably cannot afford for your website to go down (or give your problems) for even a few minutes, let alone a few hours or days.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Video Blogging and Vlogging Basics

With the advent of Web 2.0 and in particular the rise of free video-hosting and video streaming websites, video blogging, or ‘vlogging’ as it is commonly referred to, has really taken off.

Rich media content, in particular video-based content, tends to get a lot of visitors, exposure, and gives you a chance to be seen and heard by thousands of people easily. It is one of the best ways to get the word out. And for me, one of the biggest advantages of video blogging is that it also gives you the chance to ‘go viral’.

For all vloggers out there, Youtube will easily be one of the biggest weapons in your video blogging arsenal. Not only will your video content be seen by your visitors on your blog, it will also allow you to rack up subscribers on your Youtube channel, and be able to drive more traffic to your blog using Youtube. The latter, in particular, could be extremely beneficial since Youtube gets millions of pageviews and visitors every day, and is the second largest search engine (after Google of course)!

If your videos are good, and you spend as much time and resources on delivering valuable content through your videos as you would do writing great content, your vlog is sure to get tons of views, allow you to get a large number of subscribers, drive in traffic, and of course the potential to ‘go viral’.

Here’s  10 points on how you can do all that (plus a few important considerations if you’re serious about video-blogging):

1. Hardware: If you’re really serious about vlogging, you might need to think about getting professional-grade hardware, or at the very least, reasonably good hardware (as your webcam or laptop-equipped camera simply won’t cut it). I’m talking things such as a good video camera (or a camcorder) with a tripod/stand, and an external microphone (nowadays, even the cheapest cameras have a port for an audio line). The video and audio quality of your video will be extremely important; grainy or unclear video, or inaudible or low-quality audio will simply ruin your efforts.

2. Environment: As far as shooting and making the videos goes, try doing so in a separate space in your house, or somewhere else – try creating a studio of sorts, if at all possible. This should ideally be a big open space, with a white background, that has enough light, and most importantly, is away from noise and distractions. Lighting is pretty important.

(Additional read: I highly recommend reading up here, if you want to learn more about hardware, audio, video, lightning, etc).

3. Screen Capture: The good thing about video blogging is that you don’t even need a camera. For instance for tutorial-based videos, you could simply capture your computer screen using a software like CamStudio, Camtasia, or any other alternatives to do so. You can then use an video editing software to integrate audio (such as a narrative) with it, in order to turn it into a proper tutorial.

4. Identify Audience: This is marketing 101, simple as that. In order to produce content – any sort of content, you need to know who you’re making it for, and who are you potential ‘customers’. Once you’ve identified your potential target audience, you will be able to produce content that is specifically tailored for them, and come up with an idea and develop a product that appeals to them.

5. Channel: If you’re video blogging, it is essential to have a channel on all major video-hosting/video-streaming websites for your videos. This includes Youtube most certainly, but apart from Youtube, make an account on websites such as Metacafe, Vimeo, and DailyMotion as well. The best part is that you have to shoot/make the video only once, and you can then upload it to all these sites, allowing you to generate traffic from multiple sources and maximizing your exposure with minimal effort!

6. Helpful: Make sure that your videos are helpful, and that you put across content that genuinely helps your target audience in one way or the other. For instance, you could try your hand at doing video-reviews (and I recommend every affiliate marketer to give this a go!), a walkthrough for a game or how to set up an application, a inside-and-outside review of the new Honda, or any other ‘how to’ video for instance, depending on your niche. Make sure that you video is actually helpful, and that it gives each one of its viewers a reason to watch it, and share it with others.

7. Current: Vloggers need to be current, and up-to-date with the times. In order for your videos to get views and social shares, they need to be current, such as on a popular trend, a fad or a new product release. Something that people in your niche can easily relate to. For instance the most popular trend right now is Gangnam Style; and I really do mean that it is the rage right now! We have Gangnam Style-videos and memes popping up on the TV, on the internet and left, right and center! A lot of humor-based video bloggers have found ways to relate this to their videos and incorporate the infamous dance into their videos. There have also been plenty of spoof advertisements based on this video, which have had tons of views!

8. Originality: Try being as original and unique as possible. There are probably hundreds of other video bloggers in your niche that are essentially doing what you are. What makes you different? What makes you stand out? What gives you the edge over them? Try being original, try using humor, hell you could even try being controversial and see where that gets you!

9. SEO: As an SEO, I would strongly suggest that you optimize your videos for search engines. If, for instance, your video ends up on the top of the SERP for popular keywords, you’ll be able to get a lot of traffic from Google. For this purpose, choose the right keywords (not more than a 1 or 2), that are relevant to your video and are popular as well (use a Keyword Research Tool for this purpose), and use them in your video wherever possible. If you’re reviewing an iPhone app, for instance, your primary keywords will be the ‘app name’ and ‘iPhone’. Also use these keywords in your video title, descriptions, annotations, a video transcript (if you submit them, which you should since it will allow Youtube and other search engines to ‘see’ your video), as well as all inbound to the video. More information here.

10. Marketing: You’ll still need to market your video like you would market your text-based (or any other) content. Social media, guest posts, on your own blog, advertisements (online and offline), merchandise promoting your channel… And speaking of your channel, make sure that it is easy for people to subscribe to it, and that you add a subscribe button to your blog, your social media profiles, in the email signature as well as all your products. Leverage the ‘video response’ feature of Youtube by leaving the link to your video as a video response to other relevant videos.