Beyond The Paid 2014 Reader Poll

Well, it’s December. Time for holiday cheer and ecommerce madness; time for 2015 predictions and 2014 year-in-review posts.

I’m not going to do any of those. Instead, I want to hear from all of you. What do you want me to blog about? What topics are on your mind? What were your favorite posts this year?

I set up last year’s poll as an experiment, and the responses were eye-opening. You all inspired me to write about things I hadn’t really thought of.

So let’s do it again! Here is the second annual Beyond The Paid reader poll. It’s 2 questions, so please answer both! I can’t wait to hear from you!

 

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Google Guest Blogging Smackdown: Lessons Learned

This week, the SEO world was rocked when Google slapped a penalty on MyBlogGuest, a guest blogging network. The news shocked many who felt that MyBlogGuest was running a reputable content marketing and sharing service. I’ve been acquainted with Ann Smarty, the owner of MyBlogGuest, for years, and have followed her in social media. Everything she was doing seemed above-board – until the penalty brought that into question. (I still think she did nothing wrong, but Google begs to differ.)

Then yesterday, Google put the beatdown on Portent, a SEM firm based in Seattle. This news was even more surprising – I’ve been acquainted with Portent’s work for some time, and I count their PPC director, Elizabeth Marsten, as a friend. Their company does much more than SEO, and yet they were penalized. Mind-boggling.

I’m confident that both of these organizations will emerge from the fray stronger than before. Still, it’s a lesson we should all take to heart:

Don’t put all your eggs in the Google basket.

I’ve talked to several business owners over the years who were getting 90% or more of their business from Google, often from organic listings. Then suddenly, a Google update hits, and their business vanishes. Or they were using Adwords and doing fine, and then their sales tanked. While I never enjoy hearing these stories, I always wonder about the soundness of counting on one entity for most of your business leads.

In investing, the rule of thumb is to diversify your portfolio. Smart investment advisors will tell you that it’s never a good idea to invest all your savings in one place (Enron, anyone?).

PPC and SEM are no different. At a minimum, I recommend using both Google and Bing for PPC. Performance often varies widely, and Bing is frequently cheaper than Google. So if your Google results tank, hopefully Bing can keep you going until you figure out what’s wrong.

And that’s why businesses should use an integrated approach to marketing. Advertising in multiple channels, investing in landing page optimization, and measuring success are crucial components to long-term success in online marketing.

What do you think about the recent Google penalties? Too harsh, too soft, just right? What baskets do you put your online marketing dollars in? Share in the comments!

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My Top 5 WordPress Plugins

Long-time readers of this blog will remember that in September, I moved my blog from Blogspot, where it had lived since 2006, and over to WordPress. It’s been a great move, and I’ve never looked back!

Now that I’ve been using WordPress for a while, I thought I’d share my top 5 WordPress plugins. I’m by no means a WP guru – for that, go find my friend Netmeg – but if you’re thinking about starting your own blog, or you already have one running on WP, I hope you find this helpful.

JetPack

I can’t take credit for finding this one – again, that credit goes to Netmeg – but Jetpack is a do-it-all plugin that I absolutely love. It works on self-hosted blogs to provide features normally only available to people hosting on wordpress.com – things like simple site analytics, Akismet configuration (more on them in a second), notifications, social sharing icons, subscriptions, spellcheck, Gravatar, shortlinks – the list goes on. If you’re thinking about hosting your blog on your own domain (and you should), this is the one plugin that you can’t live without.

Akismet

Akismet is a well-known blog comment spam filter. It’s pretty commonplace, but it’s saved me hours of reading through inane spam comments like this one:

“There is visibly a lot to know about this. I believe you made various good points in features also.”

Yeah. Thanks, Aksimet!

A note about comments: Even with Akismet, some spam comments do get through, so I moderate comments from first-time posters. Once you’ve posted and been nice, you’ll be automatically approved in the future; but the losers will be denied for good. It’s just easier that way.

Efficient Related Posts

When I’m reading a post on a blog I’ve never visited before, I like to see what they’re all about. A great way to do that is by checking out related posts. Unfortunately, Blogger didn’t have a good way of automating this, and I wasn’t going to do it manually – this blog is a hobby, after all!

Enter Efficient Related Posts. They use post tags to find related posts, so if you use relevant tags, you’re all set. I’ve definitely noticed that my readers explore multiple posts now, whereas before they’d just read my latest one and leave.

Yoast’s WP SEO Plugin

I’m a PPC pro, not an SEO – but I’d still like to attempt to get my blog posts ranked in the SERPs. That’s why I chose Yoast’s WP SEO plugin. The plugin makes it easy to perform basic SEO on your blog posts, simply by selecting 1-2 focus keywords. It lets you know whether you’ve included that keyword in your title tag, meta description, and post copy. Pretty handy stuff.

WordPress Backup to Dropbox

I have a confession to make – I never backed up my Blogger blog. I didn’t know how, and there wasn’t a tool I could find to do it for me. I got very lucky – in the 6 years I hosted my blog there, I never lost anything.

When I moved to WordPress, I decided I’d invested too much time and effort to lose my work. There are several backup plugins available, but the one I like is WordPress Backup to Dropbox. This plugin backs up your blog to your Dropbox cloud, on whatever schedule you choose. I selected weekly, since I only publish weekly; if you publish more often than that, you’ll want to back up more frequently. It only takes a few minutes to back things up, and it’s a big relief to know that those files are there.

This plugin requires a Dropbox account, of course. If you don’t have one, why not? Dropbox is great not only for blog backups, but for storing files and accessing them from multiple devices. I use it on all my computers, phones, and iPads. You get 2.75 GB of storage space for free, so check them out!

Bonus: Blogger Importer

After creating my WordPress blog on my domain, I was hoping to be able to bring over all of my Blogger posts. But the thought of doing that manually gave me a stomachache. Enter Blogger Importer. Blogger Importer seamlessly imports posts from Blogger. In no more than 5 minutes, all 6 years of Blogger posts appeared on my new WordPress blog. Amazing! Of course, this is a one-time use, but it sure relieved my stress.

Do you host a WordPress blog or site? What are your favorite plugins? Share in the comments!

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Better Blogging in Less Time


If you’re friends with me on Facebook, or if you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably aware that I saw Van Halen in concert in Detroit on Monday – in the front row! I’ve been a fan of theirs since the early days, and this was my first front row experience. It was amazing. My husband took this picture, along with about 100 other awesome photos, at the show.

The big deal about this tour is that it’s following the band’s first album with David Lee Roth in over 28 years. As part of their new foray into social media, the previously closed-mouthed band has published several video tidbits that are really cool and fun for the fans.

Some of my favorite tidbits are the interviews with the 3 founding band members. In one, the guys discuss how the process of making an album has changed over the years.

(What does this have to do with blogging? I’m getting there – stay with me!)

One thing that’s different now is that instead of cutting the vocal track by singing the entire song all the way through, the vocalist will sing one phrase at a time, over and over. Then the producer chooses the best take from the 20 or so takes of that phrase.

In the video clip, the guys make the observation that the first 3 takes are almost always the best. David Lee Roth says these takes are the most spontaneous, “before you think yourself past genius.”

That quote spoke to me. It’s the same with blogging. I’ve had a lot of people over the years say to me, “I don’t have time to blog. I can’t think of anything to write, and then it takes too long to write it.”

I tell them to sit down at their computer, think of a topic (any topic), set a timer for 15 minutes, and write. If you can’t get at least a draft of a post in that time, it’s not blog-worthy. Beyond 15 minutes, you’ve thought yourself past genius.

This goes for anything creative: blogging, photography, music, speaking at conferences, ad copy writing…. The list goes on. The first take is probably going to be your best one. So if you’ve always wanted to blog but thought you didn’t have time, start writing now – before you think yourself past genius.

And if you’re interested, here’s the whole VH interview clip; the genius quote is almost at the end, around 12:00.

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