Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Blogging to Increase Website Traffic

The holy grail of inbound links is an in-content text link where the link text contains one of your strong keywords.  This can be a bit challenging to get set up, because that usually means that someone else has to set it up on their site.  That means that someone else has to like something on your site so much that they take up valuable space on their site or blog talking about you, and linking to you.

This happens, and it’s great when it does.  Really, the only thing you can do to make it happen, however, is by having something really incredible at your website, and then hoping people find it, like it, and link to it.  It’s not practical to say, “Today I’m gonna go get someone to link to me!”

There is, however, a great way to establish these kinds of links and increase website traffic.  To do it, you have to approach other sites, particularly blogs, with the idea that you’re going to give them something they need:  Good content.  You’re going to offer them a “Guest Post.”  In other words, you’ll write a blog post for them to post on their blog.  In the process of doing that, you can establish a link to your website. 

This isn’t anything sneaky.  This is an accepted part of the exchange.  If I’m a blogger, and you provide good content for me, I’m going to allow you to establish a link and increase website traffic to your site as a return of the favor.

Here are some examples of some of my guest posts, designed to promote my Dutch oven cooking blog,  This one, about Dutch oven cooking in the cold, actually contains many internal links.

This one isn’t really about Dutch ovens, but it is about food, so it fit.  I also used it to promote my Utah religious pop culture blog

Guesting on Other People’s Blogs

How do you do it?

First of all, read a lot of blogs in your niche.  Find out who are the best, most respected, most trafficed, and most famous bloggers.  Any other relevant blog will do, but the best ones will get you the most traffic. 

As you find these blogs, read a lot of their posts, with the comments, so you get an idea of their point of view and how their audience responds.  Think of a topic that would be good for their blog and good for their audience.  Then, write up a short 3-4 sentence teaser or outline of your topic idea. 

Then you’ll want to contact the blogger and propose your article.  Usually, there will be some kind of email link on the blog, but you might just have to use the comment space of one of their postings.  If you do that, try to pick one that’s about a similar topic.  Tell the hosting blogger that you have an article about such and such a topic, and give them the teaser.  Would they like it as a guest post?  Make sure to leave an email address for them to contact you back, and make sure the comment link (if you’re doing it that way) points back to your blog or site.

Sometimes, the bloggers themselves will put out calls for guest posts.  If you see those, make a note of it, and submit an article or an idea more directly.

If they respond favorably, then write the article, proof it, making sure that it contains good keywords and links.  DO NOT put any affiliate links in the article.  Let the hosting blogger do that if he or she wants to.

Finally, email it to the hosting blogger.  If they like it, they’ll post it, and you’ll both get the benefit.  You’ve helped them with good content, they’ve helped you with a quality link that will be in front of lots of their viewers.

Getting Guests on Your Own Blog

A great way to get started with this of increasing website trafficis to seek out some guest posts for your own blog.  If you’re nervous about contacting established bloggers and feeling like a beggar at their doorstep asking for handouts, then ask them to write a guest post for your blog first.

The contact will still be the same.  The only difference is that you’ll be asking for content instead of pitching it.  If you have an idea for a topic, suggest it, but allow them to come up with their own posts as well.

The Illogical Extreme

As I got to thinking about this, it occurred to me that you could create a blog, write a few posts of pillar content, and then recruit other writers to guest post.  The entire blog could be nothing but guest posts about a relevant topic! 



Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company.

Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What to write about

As I’m teaching people how to do an ecommerce blog, one of the biggest challenges for most is: “What do I write about?”  It’s bad enough that most folks I work with are already intimidated by writing in the first place.  It’s especially daunting for those that are blogging as a tool to promote an ecommerce website.  Think of it.  Just how much can you say about children’s bedding, or diamond tennis bracelets?

Once you get past the fact that a decent ecommerce blog should be more than just product reviews that are really not much more than thinly veiled ads, what is there to write about?  Here are some thoughts:

In an ecommerce blog, don’t write about your products, write about experiences

First, take a step back from your products.  Ask yourself, “What experience do these products provide?”  If your website is selling tents, sleeping bags, and camp stoves, then the experience behind them is enjoying the outdoors.  If you’re selling nutritional supplements, barbells, and yoga mats, then your experience is getting healthy.

When you get past the products and onto the experience, you’ll find there are lots of things to write about.

Get ideas for your ecommerce blog from the world around you.

As you go about your daily life, your mind is constantly going.  You think of things and you get ideas, many of which relate to your website’s niche topic.  At the end of the day, you look back and you might get the idea that you didn’t think of anything at all that day that relates, but in reality, you probably did, and you probably encountered a lot of things that relate to your topic.

The problem was that you weren’t in a position to jot it down, and so you forgot it a few minutes later.  Or, you shut yourself down by telling yourself it was a bad idea.  Maybe both.

The first problem is easy to fix.  Carry a notepad to jot down your ideas when you get them, or use a notepad function of your cell phone.  Use something you’ll always have with you. Then, when it’s time to blog, you can look through your ideas, pick the best one, and start writing.

The second problem is pretty easy to fix as well.  Simply jot down EVERYTHING.  Sort out the good ideas later.

Do the thing you’re promoting

I once worked with a lady who had decided, because of her extensive research, that paintball guns would be a great thing to sell.  She built her site and input her products, and then when she got to me and I told her it was time to start creating content she went into a tizzy.

Why?  She had never even held a paintball gun, never shot one, and had definitely never been in a game.  She had absolutely NO idea what to write about, or what to say in her ecommerce blog.

Go and do.  Then come back and write.

Don’t be an Expert

This leads me to a final point.  When writing, don’t worry about being an expert.  When I first started my Dutch oven cooking blog, I hardly even knew how to cook.  Now, I’ve got a four-book deal with a publisher to write cookbooks for the Dutch oven.  The key is that I never CLAIMED to be an expert.  My approach was simple:  I’m learning how to do this, and I’m going to share what I learn.  You can come a long for the ride, and we can learn together.  Before long, readers will naturally trust your opinions and they’ll treat you like an expert.

You have plenty to say in your ecommerce blog, and you can share it with people who want to read it.  These will be the same people who will eventually buy it from you.  It all comes down to credibility and comfort.  Be real, be human, share your life as it relates to your topic.  Get personal!  You’ll have plenty to say!


Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company.

Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Amazon v California - sales tax on internet sales

A Staring Match for the Future of Affiliate and Internet Marketing

For many years, now, people have been talking about sales tax on Internet sales.  I’ve heard and read about it in various forms.  Scare tactic viral emails have crowded my inbox telling me to write my congressman about bills that haven’t existed yet.  Politicians have debated the need to tax internet sales.  Bla, bla, bla.

For a long time, Internet sales have handled taxes the same way that old-school mail order catalogs did.  That was that there were no sales taxes charged, unless the order originated from within the same home state as the business.  If I’m a business in Utah, and someone else in Utah orders from me, I was required to collect and pay sales tax on internet sales based on that sale to that customer.  On the other hand, if someone from New York bought from me, I didn’t have to collect New York state sales tax.

That has caused a lot of problems over the years, especially as internet business has grown.

See, sales tax is a state thing.  The money is collected by the states, and managed and spent by the states.  Each state decides how much sales tax they’re going to charge, and on what kinds of products.  Some states don’t charge any sales tax.  So, if someone from New York buys from someone in Utah, then, technically, that’s New York’s problem, not Utah’s.

A lot of states have come up with some interesting ways of taking care of this.  In theory, everyone in New York should keep track of all of their internet, mail-order, and out of state purchases, itemize that list on their state income taxes, and pay their New York state sales tax..  Most people, obviously, don’t do this.  Here in Utah, for example, the state has an option for you to just pay an estimated out-of-state sales tax, added into your state income tax form.  It’s easier and quicker than tracking all of your purchases, and it’s not exorbitant, so  most people just pay it.

However, as the internet has grown a bigger and bigger presence in the commercial world, it’s becoming a force to be dealt with.  States are seeing online sales take a bite out of their retail sales tax revenues, and want to bite back.  Several states have passed laws dealing specifically with sales tax on internet sales.

The problem for internet retailers becomes bigger and bigger with each new state law.  They have to update their shopping cart softwares and their accounting procedures to handle each new state’s tax rules and rates uniquely.  It’s becoming very problematic.

The crux of many of these new laws is that the retailer has to have a presence in the state in order for the state to force them to pay sales tax on internet sales.  The way the states are getting around this in the new laws is by declaring that affiliates, who advertise for the big sites and get commission payouts, constitute that presence.  Amazon disagrees, and rather than sink all that money into revamping their online checkout procedures and accounting processes to adapt to each state, they’ve simply pulled out of the states that are passing these laws.  Affiliates in many states, like California, Connecticut, Texas, South Carolina, and others, are finding accounts closed.

What does all this mean for internet entrepreneurs?

On an immediate level, you’ll need to pay closer attention to your state’s laws.  If you’re in a state where certain kinds and sites of affiliates are limited, you’ll need to be aware of that and choose affiliate programs that are still available, and willing to conform to your state’s sales tax on internet sales laws.

Ultimately, it’s going to force the hand of the federal government, and they’ll have to step in and set some uniform and hopefully reasonable sales tax for internet sales.  They’ll have to work out who gets the money from those taxes, however, and that battle will be hard fought.  Will it go to the home state of the buyer, the seller, the manufacturer, or the shipper of the product?  Or even  remain with the feds?

In the long run, you’ll need to pay close attention to bills being proposed in your state legislatures, about sales tax on internet sales, and make your own voice heard. Haunt your state legislature’s website.  Be aware.  Contact your representatives (state and federal) and find out what’s being debated.  Let them know how you want them to vote, and remind them that you also vote.

The next few years will be very interesting.  Be a part of it in your state.


Mark is currently coaching internet entrepreneurs.

Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Panda Eats Up Lame Content and Spits it Out!

Some more thoughts on the value of valuable content:

For a long time, one of the biggest promotional strategies of the ‘net has been to establish lots of “content-based” links by writing an article and submitting it to hundreds of article directories, each one with a link to your website.

There were several problems with this.  One was that often these “articles” were thinly-veiled sales letters.  For example, if a website was all about baby strollers, the marketer might pick a few featured items, grind out 500 words about the features of those particular strollers, title it something like, “How to shop for a baby stroller”, and off it goes to the directories.  Or, it might have a brief overview of what, in general, makes up a baby stroller, with a few keywords.  

There was little in these, or most other articles that was truly informative or inspiring. If you check the table in my last post about internet content, these articles would go in the “lame” box in the lower right.

These are web pages that end up as what some people call “flotsam and netsam”.  These are pages that are mere clutter that clog up the ‘net and make it that much harder for people to find the real information that they’re wanting.

So, last spring, Google revised their ranking algorithm in an update referred to as “Panda”.  A lot of those marketers that had relied on their copied and spun articles with linkbacks found their rankings plummeting.  Those that relied on automatically generated content pulled with searches of keywords and scraped and copied text found that their sites had disappeared from top slots in Google’s search engine results pages.

Here are just a couple of good, informative updates on the subject:

What this all boils down to is that Google is, once again, establishing content as king.  Good, useful, informative content, that is.  One by one, the quick, easy ways to magical Internet ranking and wealth are disappearing (if they ever existed in the first place), and steady, real, honest writing is winning the day.

Here are some ways to get good ranking and good traffic:
  • Write (or pay good writers to write) good content for your websites.  This is true both of blogs and of ecommerce, products-based websites.
  • Write good content for external sites, like reputable articles directories and content sites (,,
  • Make good sensible comments on other people’s good content (in blogs or other discussion sites.  Even if the links are no-follow, it will help establish your credibility and attract directly clicking traffic.
  • Submit good content to other people’s blogs as guest posts.
  • Make a good, useful blog yourself.
  • Use social networks like twitter and facebook wisely, to draw viewers and generate real buzz.
  • In affiliate marketing, give people more content than ads, rather than the other way around.
  • Make all of your writing and content rich in good keywords that are not already flooded in the marketplace.

These are the ways to make your site the most attractive and useful to visitors, and to make it more respected and ranked by the search engines.


Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company.

Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Are You a Good Content Writer?

Are you a web content writer? We all have heard many times that “Content is King”.  The problem with this thought is that many people don’t get it.  These content writers flood the ‘net with garbage articles, blog posts, and comments that amount to just more flotsam and netsam.  The online equivalent of white noise.  They forget that what really reigns is GOOD content.

So, what defines content that’s good?  Is it length?  Is it the use of keywords?  Is it relevance?  All of these are factors, it’s true, but for my money, I think it really comes down to two elements:  Is it enlightening?  Is it practical?

For an article or post to be enlightening, it has to make me think about something in a new way.  It can point out something that I hadn’t considered before, or inform me of some facts or events that I’d been previously unaware.  It has to show me or teach me or inform me.

If it’s practical, then it has given me something that I can apply to my daily life in a very direct way.  It has taught me steps to help me achieve my goals, or it has shown me new tricks to make something easier.

So, I’ve graphed this out in a quadrant scale:  Along one side we can see if an article is enlightening.  Along the bottom, we can see if it’s practical.  Each space helps to score the overall quality of the content.

  • Square 1: In the lower left, we have content that is neither enlightening nor practical.  This is 90% of the sludge out there on the internet now.  It’s sales letters, and ad campaigns.  It’s vapid blogging.  It’s everywhere.  And it’s lame.
  • Square 2:  This is writing that is enlightening, but not practical.  These are philosophical musings, opinion blogs, well-thought essays.  This can be really well done, and enjoyable to read.
  • Square 3:  Here we’ll find content that is practical, but not necessarily inspiring.  How-to articles are frequently here in this section.  This kind of content frequently draws inbound links, because people like content that solves problems.
  • Square 4:  Content like this is often difficult to write.  It requires knowing your audience’s needs, and knowing how your information can best help them, both in a personal and a practical way.  It’s powerful stuff, and it draws lots of links and attention. If it’s placed right, it can go viral and draw lots of qualified traffic.  Even though you might not hit this everytime, always strive for this, the best of the best.

Compare what you write to the graph and see what you get.  In time, it'll improve your efforts as a web content writer!


Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.