Google Alerts for Authors

Google Alerts for AuthorsOne of the things I struggle with in writing these articles is whether or not to talk about subjects that most of our readers already understand. I usually try to stick to topics that I think most people haven’t thought about or where I can share best practices that I don’t think are common knowledge. In this post I’m going to talk about Google Alerts, which I’m sure most of our readers are already using. I’m going to talk about it anyway because it’s so easy and so important that even if only 10% of our readers haven’t set it up, it’s worth it for them.

Google Alerts is a free service provided by Google that can send you an email whenever it finds new content on the internet including a phrase that you’ve entered an alert for. I have an alert setup for “Lizzy Ford”, “Guerrilla Wordfare” and every one of Lizzy’s book titles. Every day I get one email from Google for each alert where it discovered new content on the internet. Sometimes the alerts are from articles we’ve written on our site, sometimes they’re from sites that link to our site a lot like curiosityquills and sometimes they’re from sites I had no idea had linked to us until I saw the alert. The last situation is the reason why you set Google Alerts up. If someone mentions you, your books or your site in a blog post etc., you should check it out.

We’ve discovered blogs which wrote beautiful reviews about Lizzy’s books. Those bloggers should be thanked. Some people advocate offering free copies of other books etc., but that’s a personal decision. If nothing else, a simple ‘thank you’ works wonders!  We’ve met some great people writing about Lizzy and her books via the Google Alerts.  I wouldn’t have known many of these reviews existed if I didn’t have a Google Alert set up for Lizzy’s name and book titles.

Setting up a Google Alerts account at http://www.google.com/alerts is quick, easy, free and worth your time if you haven’t already done it. The first thing you have to decide is what text you want the alert to hit on. As I stated earlier, I have “Lizzy Ford”, “Damian’s Oracle” etc. The other significant options are where you want the alert emailed too and how often you want them emailed (I picked daily). Enter the info, click save and move on to the next Alert. The process will probably only take you a few minutes, and you’ll never have to think about it again, unless you want to add new alerts.

How to Make a Custom QR Code

Custom QR Code for Guerrilla Wordfare

Custom QR Code for Guerrilla Wordfare

Seeing Custom QR Codes has become extremely common recently, but not many people know their name. I think I’ve heard them called “3D bar-code thingy” as much as anything. Regardless of what you call them, you see them on most advertisements nowadays and for a very good reason. A survey taken in May of this year showed that 35% of American adults have a smartphone.  Those numbers are sure to increase, and custom QR codes will become more common.

The QR codes allow for someone with a smartphone to take a picture or “scan” the code. The most common use of the codes: to take the user to a specific webpage.  I’ve become totally addicted to scanning bar-codes since Amazon instituted the scan search feature into their iPhone app earlier this year. Thursday night I was at a Barnes and Nobel looking at a book on electronics. In addition to flipping through the book to get a feel for it, I scanned the bar-code into the Amazon app on my iPhone which instantly pulled up the Amazon reviews on that book. I’ve also scanned items at Best Buy to compare prices with Amazon. The toughest part then is figuring out if you can wait a few days for the item to be shipped to you or if you need it now. 🙂 If you’re doing ANY type of print advertisement then you really want to make sure you have a custom QR code somewhere in your ad.

I’ll show a short YouTube video showing how to make your own custom QR code and then talk more about uses for the QR codes.

As we talked about in the movie, there are now a ton of uses for a custom QR code. Some of the options at the site shown in the video: Make Your Own Custom QR Code

Custom QR Code Uses

You can browse to a website.
You can bookmark a website.
You can make a phone call.
You can send a short message.
You can send an e-mail.
You can create a vCard (v2.1 or v3.0) with coordinates to add a contact to your device.
You can create a meCard to add a contact to your device.
You can create a vCalendar event to add to your calendar.
You can create Google Maps URLs.
You can create Bing Maps URLs.
You can create iTunes app and review URLs for iOS devices.
You can create special youtube:// URLs for YouTube app on iOS.
You can fetch and encode the latest tweet of a Twitter user.
You can overlay a Twitter profile image over the code.
You can create a mobile URL to tweet on Twitter.
You can initiate a chat to a particular Blackberry PIN on Blackberry Messenger.

That’s a lot of uses! I’ve used several other sites to make a custom QR code in the past, but I love this site’s options for destination as well as color customization. If there is a demand, I may do a future video on making a more advanced custom QR code. This site and video should be plenty to get you started. If you have any creative ways you use these codes, I’d love to hear them!  Feel free to post them here.

YouTube Video Marketing Tips

I took a different path to the topic of YouTube video marketing than most people do. Most people start off trying to sell something and use videos to drive traffic to their site. I started off just trying to make videos to help explain concepts to our readers. I learned a couple of really basic lessons for the videos I posted on YouTube that I thought I would share here.

I’ve always been a big fan of instructional videos. There’s just something about being able to see it with your eyes while you’re listening to the demonstrator explain what they’re showing that really helps lessons stick with me. I almost like them more than real life demonstrations, because you can pause and rewind while you try to duplicate the results yourself. It’s like having a private instructor with unlimited patience 🙂

The most important thing I learned about posting videos was that the first line of your video description must start off with a link to your website. I usually like to work a link in naturally in my text or place it at the bottom, but with YouTube that isn’t an option.

YouTube Video Marketing screenshot

YouTube Video Marketing

As you can see in the screenshot above, only the first line or two of a YouTube video is visible by default when someone views your video. In order to view the rest of your description, they have to click on the “Show More” button. It is never a good idea to hide the link to your site. It needs to be front and center.

Adding a link to YouTube isn’t as intuitive as adding a link most places. Most sites make you do a full html “href” style link or will turn a www.guerrillawordfare.com into a link for you. Neither one of these things work on YouTube. In order to link to your site you need to type:

http://www.guerrillawordfare.com

So that really should be at the start or very close of your video’s description. This is by far the biggest factor in YouTube Video Marketing.

One thing I need to do a better job at is putting longer descriptions into my YouTube videos. Even if the text is below the “show more” fold and nobody ever reads it, it’s still searchable. Along the same line of thought, make sure to take a second a use good tags. I send a lot more traffic to YouTube than I get from it, but relevant links to your site are never a bad thing.

When I started to write this post I thought I would end up writing a post similar to my rss directory submission post where I gave some links to use for some easy links. However, the big video sites like videos.yahoo.com and Bing videos don’t allow for user uploaded videos. I was shocked. It became more obvious than ever why YouTube dominated this market. I ended up finding a few big sites which let me upload the video. I’m sure I can find more but these are the ones I used today.

http://www.screencast.com/t/3B3544koBo
http://www.myspace.com/video/rid/110729440
http://www.dailymotion.com

This is far from a masters course in YouTube Video Marketing but it’s what I’ve learned so far. I may end up learning some great strategies for sharing on YouTube, but I haven’t spend the time to learn yet.

Recent Google Analytics Changes

google-analytics-changes-screenshot

In this article I’m going to talk about some Google Analytics Changes and a new feature. If you don’t use Google Analytics to measure the sources and frequency of visitors to your website then feel free to skip this article. If you do use Google Analytics then there have been a few recent changes that will probably interest you.

One of the most valuable pieces of information that you can get from Analytics is to see what search terms people are using to come to your site. I check these daily for new trends and ideas. A few days ago I noticed that one of my top search terms was (not provided). I’ve you’ve been watching your numbers I’m sure you’ve noticed the same thing. The cause of this change is Google’s recent push towards security.

A few days ago, Google changed the default method of providing search results for those who are logged into Google accounts from HTTP to HTTPS. In practical terms this means anyone who is logged into Gmail or Google+ will have their searches done using HTTPS, and you won’t be able to see what terms brought them to your site. Right now around 7% of searches come from people who are logged into Google.  For now, this development is only an inconvenience, but as more and more people start to use Google plus that number will start to rise.

More Google Analytics changes : real time analytics beta

About a week ago I asked Google to give me access to the Real-time analytics beta. It….is…..AWESOME.

To be completely honest it’s more cool then useful but I still can’t wait to use it the next time we launch a promo on Twitter or Facebook. Right now our real-time screen is showing that we have 6 visitors on the site (4 from the US). I can see what pages they are viewing and that one came from Facebook and one from twitter. There is a moving timeline in the upper right hand corner which makes it feel like it’s a program from Mission Impossible.

Here is a screenshot I took this morning.

google analytics real time screen shot

One thing I’ve always wished Google Analytics had was the ability to see activity within the last 30 or 60 minutes to measure the effect that a certain action online had. This is now possible with real time analytics, and I can’t wait to test it.

In order to use real-time analytics I had utilize one of the Google Analytics changes that I had been avoiding, the new user interface. I don’t think it’s “worse” than the old interface, I just need to get used to it. The one thing I really love about the new version though is the data on social action. I can now see how many people gave me a +1 with Google, or used any of our other share buttons to share our content on Twitter, Facebook etc. This is a huge addition in my opinion and makes the switch worthwhile.

I think the trickiest part of trying to encourage our readers to share our content via social media is where to draw the line between making it easy and apparent, and making it obnoxious. I think most sites are at one end of the spectrum or another. A lot of sites ignore social media sharing all together and some sites seem to do everything but grab your screen and shake it until you tweet the article to your friends. I’m hoping these new features will give me a chance to monitor any tweaks I try to implement in that area.

There was also a recent tweak to Google’s algorithm to favor more recent data in some results, but I haven’t had a chance to study that enough yet to the point where I feel comfortable discussing it. If you have any thoughts or questions about these Google Analytics changes or any others feel free to post them here.

“ShareThis” to help your Readers Share your Content with Others

I wrote an article in September on WordPress Plugins worth using. A few days after I wrote that article I started using another plugin which I have been meaning to discuss. It’s called “ShareThis,” and it adds social media sharing buttons to all of your posts.

Google is placing more and more of an emphasis on social media in its search results. The most obvious way this is manifested is in search results where one of your friends has clicked “+1” on a page. Your website may be on page 5 of Google results for “science fiction novel” for just about everyone else in the world, but if your friend Bob has clicked +1, it will probably be displayed on the first page of results for any of his friends, along with a message saying that Bob liked this particular page. You can see what this looks like.

Google liked results

Not only do you get the boost from page 5 to page 1 (which is huge) but you get a personal recommendation from one of your friends to one of their friends. This might not happen too often for your page, but it’s one example of how social media can help you. If two articles on two different sites are similar in almost every way but one has had 20 users tweet it out and the other article has had 0 tweets, then Google will likely assume that the article with 20 tweets is the better article and will place it first in the rankings. SEO is alive and well but it’s getting more intermingled with social media daily.

Google is working through several issues with how to factor in +1 hits to search engine results. They claim only +1 hits from individuals they deem “relevant” will count towards rankings results. This is to combat people trying to inflate their rankings by buying +1 hits from eBay and fiverr.

Now that you’re thoroughly convinced you need people to share your articles with their friends, what should you do about it? Make it as easy as possible.
sharethis.com is a fantastic site which makes adding social media and bookmarking icons like the ones below automatic, easy and free.

ShareThis screenshot

sharethis WordPress screenshot

For WordPress users it’s as simple as installing the “ShareThis” plugin. For users of other blogging software or other types of sites, you can go to their website for details on how to get it up and running. It has step by step instructions for seven different blogging sites, a normal website and a newsletter. You can even pick how you want to buttons to look. Once I installed the WordPress plugin and added in our social media accounts, I never had to think about it again. Every time I add new content to the site, ShareThis puts the buttons on the bottom of the article. This makes it extremely easy for your readers to share the article they just read with their friends.

There are definitely flashier options out there for adding social media buttons to your site but ShareThis is a quick and easy way to add this functionality.

SEO Blogging Tips for Fun and Profit

SEO blogging tips pictureEven if you don’t put any effort or thought into SEO, there are a few SEO blogging tips you should keep in mind when you’re writing an article or making a landing page. You should never decrease the readability of your content in exchange to improve the SEO, but I’ve found that by having a small checklist of things that can help, I often find ways to use two or three of these methods in my pages.

For this article the term I’m trying to optimize for is “SEO blogging tips”. That is the first tip right there. Pick one term for your article or page and try to optimize for that and that alone. You can try to use a second term a few times in your article but you can really only have one as your main target. Once you’ve identified your target, here’s a list of things that can all help your on-page SEO.

Titles

Use your keyword in your page title and post title. Notice that SEO blogging tips is in both the title of this post and in the title of the page itself that you see in the tab at the top of your web browser.

URL

Use your keyword in the page’s URL. If you have control over this make sure that your post title is “seo-blogging-tips-for-fun-and-profit” instead of “post?53535” which is the WordPress default.

Meta Tags

Make sure to put your keyword in the description meta tag and keywords meta tag. Make sure to keep your description tag under 160 characters and to only use 2 or three terms in your keyword tag. Stuffing your keyword meta tag is a big red flag to search engines that you might be trying to artificially increase your pages relevancy. If you use WordPress, make sure you download the “All in One SEO Pack” plugin to make this step quick and easy. If you’re taking the time to read an article on SEO blogging tips then you want that plugin 🙂

Headings

Try to use your keywords in headings (h1, h2 & h3 tags). In the line below I’m going to wrap my targeted phrase with a “<h2>” before it and a “</h2>” after it.

SEO Blogging Tips

That’s a medium sized HTML headline tag. If I had used a h1, the font would have been bigger. If I had used h3, the font would have been smaller. By default the title of my post is an H1 so I try not to use another H1 in my post but a well placed h2 or h3 with your keyword in your post helps a little but.

Keyword Density

This is probably the trickiest one of the bunch. Some people say your keyword density should be 1%, others say 5% and many say it’s in between those numbers. While you would like your density to be at least 1% I always keep it natural above all else. I can use SEO blogging tips several times in this article and still sound ok but if I injected it into every other sentence my content would come off as spam and I wouldn’t turn readers into fans which would defeat the purpose of bringing them to your site in the first place.

Location

If you’re going to use your term a few times in your article, try to spread out it. Have one near the beginning, one towards the end and then in the middle as needed. Having them bunched into one area could make it look like you’re trying to artificially raise your keyword density.

Alt tags

One of the easiest of the SEO blogging tips to do, and it never gets in the way of your content! Make sure you use a picture in each one of your posts and make sure the alt tag contains your targeted keyword. the alt tag for the picture with this article is “SEO blogging tips picture”.

Links

You can use your targeted keyword as part of the the anchor text in a link.

Bold or Italicized

Try to make one usage of your keyword bold or italicized. I rarely do both to avoid making the page look unnatural.

The last tip is the most important tip of all. Don’t do each of these things in every post! Doing too much of any of these things can make it appear to Google like you’re trying to artificially inflate your keyword relevancy.

Even if you’re not a big believer in SEO, it’s always easy to make a keyword bold, insert a picture and make sure you use your keyword in your title. Doing a few of these in every post will help your page rank higher in Google’s search engine results and may help bring visitors to your site. If you know any good SEO blogging tips I didn’t mention here let me know!