Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is an enormously powerful tool for both the guest blogger and for the blog host.  I strongly recommend that all bloggers look for opportunities to write guest posts on other people’s blogs and invite other people to write guest posts for their own blogs.

Top 3 Benefits of Being a Guest Blogger:

  1. Exposure to a new audience. Writing a guest blog for another site gives you the opportunity to showcase your writing and knowledge, potentially gaining new readers for your own site.
  2. Gain a link to your site.  As all SEO’s know, links are very important for ranking well in search engines and for gaining new traffic.
  3. Fresh motivation. Often when you write for your own blog for too long, you start to get stuck in a rut and keep going over the same topics.  Writing for someone else helps you think about things from a new perspective.

Top 3 Benefits of Hosting a Guest Blogger:

  1. Different content. A guest blogger will have a different writing style than you and will have a fresh perspective.
  2. New readers. Guest bloggers will often direct their own readers over to your site to read their guest blogging post and the readers may stick around to check out posts that you have written.
  3. Break! Blogging can become a chore and having someone else write your post for you can give you a much needed break from the pitfalls of too much monotonous writing.

Readers Win Too:

  1. Perspective change.  Instead of just reading the same point of view, readers are exposed to new writing styles, topics, and ways of thinking.
  2. New material. Your readers may end up subscribing to your guest bloggers site and continue to gain new information and ideas through them as well as you.

Guest blogging helps to tie together the online community much tighter by crossing channels of content delivery.  I encourage my clients to guest blog for other sites and to allow guest bloggers onto their own sites.  Everyone benefits!

Climbing Mt. Rainier via Camp Schurman

I left my camera with my videos & pictures at my grandparents house, so you will have to wait on those till next week when I pick them up.  All the pictures below are from Adam & Steve and a couple are public domain pics of Mount Rainier.

I climbed Mt. Rainier this weekend via the Camp Schurman route.  A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my friend Adam Roberts about my desire to climb Mt. Rainier and he invited me to join him on his trip on the 4th of July.  I leapt at the opportunity; I had been thinking about spending $1200 to go with a guide group and this would be far cheaper and more fun because I could go with my buddy.

Mount Rainier picture from an airplane
Mount Rainier picture from an airplane

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mt. Rainier or who have not done any mountaineering, below is some general information on the climb:

  • Mount Rainier is the fifth highest peak in the lower 48 states (Mt. Whitney, #1,  is about 90 feet taller, but far easier to climb and there are 3 more peaks in the Sawatch Range of Colorado)
  • Most climbs to peaks in the United States are around 3,000 feet of elevation gain.  Climbs of 4-5,000 feet are considered very arduous and anything over 6,000 feet is devastatingly difficult.  Mount Rainier via the Camp Schurman route ascends from 4,400 feet at the White River campground to 14,411 feet at the summit- a monstrous 10,000 vertical foot gain!  For comparison, this is the same elevation gain from advanced base camp to the summit of Mount Everest.  Many people actually use Mount Rainier to train for Mt. Everest since the terrain is similar.
  • Mt. Rainier is covered in thick glaciers and thick glaciers mean deep crevasses.  A crevasse is where thick glacier ice, sometimes several hundred feet thick, cracks and creates a deep split in the mountain that people can fall into.  Below is a picture of a crevasse on Mt. Rainier:
Picture of a crevasse on Mt. Rainier
Picture of a crevasse on Mt. Rainier

My Mount Rainier climb was really tough, but I was fortunate enough to have gone with experienced mountaineers who gave me lots of help.  Our climbing group was led by Steve Schoch, a powerfully built man who used to successfully compete in iron man competitions and marathons.  Adam’s father, Steve Roberts- age 60, came along and was in better mountaineering shape than I am.  The final member of our group was a fellow Mount Rainier first-timer named Chris who was a good guy with really high energy levels.  Chris works for the Forest Service and does lots of hiking and had no troubles summiting Rainier and even basically pulled me for a couple of stretches lol. All five of us were on a rope team so that if someone fell down the steeps or into a crevasse, the rest of the guys could self arrest with their ice axes and stop them before it was too late.

From left: Chris, Me, Adam & his dad Steve
From left: Chris, Me, Adam & his dad Steve. Not pictured- Steve our guide
Mount Rainier pic by Adam
Mount Rainier pic of Adam and Steve
Chris, Adam, Steve & Steve
Chris, Adam, Steve & Steve
Adam and I at pretty high elevation
Adam and I at pretty high elevation

Climbing at sunrise... I am on the right
Climbing at sunrise... I am on the right
View from Camp Schurman
View from Camp Schurman
We are taking a break-Im in the middle
We are taking a break-I'm in the middle

Climbing Mount Rainier was really physically difficult for me. At around 12,000 feet I started having a hard time breathing and basically had to hyperventilate and take baby steps the rest of the way up. Fortunately, the other guys on the climbing team were patient and helped me out. Adam and Chris both work for the Forest Service, so this kind of thing is actually their job. If we reversed situations, it’s sorta like if they read a book on SEO and then had to build a website that ranked in the top 5 on Google for “real estate investing” haha.

I reached the summit! Chris is on the right.
I reached the summit! Chris is on the right.
Crazy Adam skied down!
Crazy Adam skied down!

I had a ton of fun climbing Mount Rainier and am now thinking about climbing other mountains locally and maybe even trying to do Rainier again at a faster pace. I love challenging myself and really testing my limits like I did on this trip. If you are interested in climbing Mt. Rainier here are 5 tips:

  1. Pick an experienced, understanding guide.  I was very lucky to have Steve and the other guys to take me up the mountain.
  2. Take a lot of time to pack well.  I wish I had brought more food and had learned how to properly secure my crampons before the climb.
  3. Climb in good weather.  Mt. Rainier is notorious for having very dangerous storms that can easily kill you, so make sure the weather is good and the forecast is clear.  You will need lots of cold weather gear even if you don’t use it.
  4. Leave early in the morning.  Our group departed from Camp Schurman at around 12:30 am Sunday morning and summited by 8.  You want to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier and start back down before the snow melts too much and crossing crevasses becomes even more dangerous than it already is.
  5. Be in excellent physical shape and train at high altitudes.  I made the mistake of going up after being sick and it made my trip far more difficult than it needed to be and without good fellow climbers I may not have made it.

If you feel like really, really challenging yourself try climbing Mount Rainier!  The views are gorgeous and after you have done it your perspective on yourself and the world may change.

Winning Visitors With Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are a forlorn and all too often forgotten part of web design.  Originally developed for the first search engines to tell what the webpage was supposed to be about, meta descriptions were heavily abused by spammers and now are a much smaller factor in search engine rankings.  However, meta descriptions still do serve an important purpose: they are your advertisement in search results to tell searchers what your page is about and get them to click on your link.  The title tag gets all the love from people since it is the anchor text for the link from the search engine and also is a strong ranking signal to Google, but your meta description will give people extra information if they want it before clicking your link.  Below is where your meta description appears in search engine results:

meta-description

I circled the meta description in red in the above search result.

Your meta description will help your visitors better understand what your article is going to be about.  You have about 150 characters to explain what your page is about.  I would mention your targeted keywords in the meta description not just for SEO purposes, but so that when the searcher’s eye scans down the page it is more likely to catch on your article.  Mentioning the keyword once or twice is okay, but don’t do it more than that or you will look like a spammer.

Meta descriptions are an important part of good web design, so don’t forget them!

5 Tips To Make Your Blog Unstoppable

In my journey to the top of the blogging world, I have occasionally found myself stuck on plateaus.  If you are in a similar position follow these 5 tips and your blog will be kickstarted up the ladder of success!  (Sorry about all the climbing metaphors, I’m going to be attempting Mt. Rainier this weekend lol)

  1. Comment on other people’s blogs and link back to your own.  Spam will not work (comment no-follow is now ubiquitous), you need to write genuine comments related to other bloggers posts.  If you can contribute to their site, they will be more open to beginning a relationship with you and will be more likely to send links & traffic your way.
  2. Use WordPress software.  Wordpress is the leader in blogging software and is extremely customizeable and offers thousands of themes & plugins for easy use.
  3. Use free tools such as Google Adwords, Trends, and Insights to help you find what people are searching for and write articles based on this information.  Be sure to pick topics that you are passionate about though or your readers will easily see through you.
  4. Be more open & honest.  Not only will being more open and honest make writing more fun for you, but it will also make your writing more interesting for other people to read and link to.  If you use your personal “voice” people are far more likely to become engaged with your blog and keep coming back.
  5. Hire a professional online marketer.  There are many people who have a good understanding of how to drive traffic online and are able to help you analyze the technical details!

Writing Better Title Tags

Title tags are frequently overlooked by web designers and other people who are unfamiliar with search engine optimization.  A title tag is the text that appears at the top left of the blue bar on your browser and it is easy to ignore.  If you do a search on Google using the query “site:yoursite.com”, you will quickly see how important title tags are.  The blue link at the top of each search result is pulled directly from your title tag.  You can see how it appears for my site below:

google-joelx

The links at the top of each search listing are my title tags, so for the top result I used a title tag of “Biggest Funny DeMotivational Posters Collection”.  You will notice that each and every one of my title tags is unique- this is important because a title tag is a strong indicator to Google of what keywords the site is relevant for.

Your title tag functions as an “advertisement” in the Google search results for you to try to get people to click on your link and visit your website.  As such, it is extremely important to think like your visitor.  If you had just put in your keyword query on Google, what title tag would you be most likely to click on?  In my case, for the first result I am targeting the keywords “demotivational poster”, “funny demotivational poster”, and “funny poster”.  I wanted people who searched for those keywords to know that my site offered them what they wanted (and a lot of it), so I wrote that I had the Biggest Collection of demotivational posters.  After ranking in the 2nd spot right after the originators of demotivational posters, Despair.com, for a long time I lost interest and stopped optimizing for “demotivational posters”.  However, I am still in the 6th spot on Google and receive fairly heavy traffic to that page.

The most important factors to remember when you write your title tags are:

  • Keep your title tag under 70 characters
  • Each page should have a unique title tag
  • The first couple of words in your title tag gets more weighting at this point with Google
  • Use your keywords in your title tag, but also make it interesting for people to click on.  You can test different title tags using Google Website Optimizer.

If you have any further questions on how to optimize your title tags, please feel free to ask in the comments!

The Joy of Marketing BS

Unfortunately, the marketing industry is full of BS.  One example is this “study” undertaken by the Arnell Group for Pepsi.  Pepsi purportedly spent an enormous amount of money on this project that is eminently cheesy. Quote: “Breathtaking is a strategy based on the evolution of 5000+ years of shared ideas in design philosophy”.  Arnell goes on to compare his new design for Pepsi to Leonardo Da Vinci, the Parthenon and other historical works of art.  As I plodded through his 27 pages of absolute nonsense, I began to lose hope in the traditional marketing industry.  Performance-based marketers like myself shudder when we see old-school marketers resorting to sophistry to cheat their clients out of money and brand equity.  There is absolutely no empirical research in this study.  Nowhere does he actually test people’s reactions to his re-branding in the marketplace.

However, marketing as a field is very young and eventually the hacks and cheats like Arnell will be washed out.  Clients will go to marketers who can show proven success, metrics and data for their ideas.

Fred Wilson’s Internet Investments

I did a little bit of research today on Fred Wilson (Twitter investor) and discovered that he has invested in quite a few other businesses that I have used and really liked.  Meetup is a web application that easily enables people with a common interest to meetup.  I have been to two types of meetups so far (flag football & entrepreneurs) and plan on using Meetup.com to find other people to do things in my areas of interest.  Fred Wilson also invested in Disqus (popular third party blog commenting platform), Zynga (of Mafia Wars fame), and Boxee (browser on your television).  Zynga is enormously profitable already using microtransactions and Twitter is the hottest site on the internet among early adopters right now.  I’m amazed at his success rate and will be avidly reading his blog (AVC) and trying to find out more about his techniques and strategies.  He did mention in an interview that his “grand view” when it comes to investing is to try to find business models that the internet will disrupt.  Fred Wilson says the internet is the type of phenomenon that only happens once every several hundred years and will impact almost every type of business in major ways.

New York Times Scams Advertisers

After having ads inexplicably open many times while reading the New York Times on the iphone, I finally figured out what was going on. When u double click on the text of an article to zoom in and read it, the edge of the ads is included. So even though you can’t see any of the ad you can still click on it. This is a clever ploy by the New York Times web designers and marketers to artificially inflate their click numbers and thus their revenue. I strongly recommend anyone who buys advertising on the New York Times to question the clickthrough rates claimed. Guess their integrity in writing doesn’t extend to the rest of their business.

How to Improve Your URL Structure

URL structures are a subject that most web designers ignore.  You visit many websites that have a couple hundred characters in their web address (sorting mechanisms, session IDs and the like).  URL structures are important because humans are much more likely to click on a URL they see in the search engine that reads example.com/information than example.com/2387/592837/babcarseat2352/information?ie=UTF8&node=165796011&pf_rd_p=328655101&pf_rd_s=left-nav-1&pf_rd.  Not only that, but it is important for search engines to include your keyword in your URL.

I recommend that people use the simplest possible URL structure that they can make work with their website.  Ideally, you would only have a one-level deep URL like example.com/tree-article.  If you view my URL structures, they have a number at the end- I had to include the post number so that WordPress wouldn’t end up having two articles with the same URL.  The number at the end of the URL structure is the post number, which is guaranteed to be unique.  Other than that small concession to smooth site operation, my URLs are as simple as can be and are human readable.  For example, when someone sees my site on Google or Bing or Yahoo, they can tell what my site is about by just reading the URL: joelx.com/how-to-improve-your-url-structure/3377.

URL’s that are shorter also get a higher clickthrough rate so for articles that I expect to gain a lot of search engine traffic I try to make them one or two words added to the end, such as joelx.com/demotivational-posters.