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End-of-year housekeeping questionnaire

handshakeHello there! I’m doing some end-of-year housekeeping, I’d love to know what people think of the on-going Libro blog. I’ve got 1,000,000 hits and counting this year, so I know people are reading, but it’s always good to check that I’m providing what you need!

Please share your answers in a comment below if you have a moment …

What are your favourite posts on the Libro blog (social media tips, Word tips, business info, editing tips, small business chats?)

Do you read the Saturday Small Business Chats? Would you read them more regularly if they were published on a different day? Do you find them interesting and useful? Do you like the update element of them? What would make you comment on them more?

Do you take part in the Small Business Chats? Do you find taking part useful or a chore? Do you read other people’s? What would make you comment on them more?

Thank you and Happy New Year to those of you on the same calendar as me!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Blogging

 

How do I get back to the full dashboard on WordPress.com?

 

I’ve been asked this question a few times recently, as WordPress has sought to make it easier for users to post a quick blog post or create a page. People who are familiar with the old, more detailed dashboard want to find it again. So here’s how.

How do I find the old dashboard on WordPress?

When you log on to WordPress, you will find a button marked My Sites. Click on that and you’ll get the new, simplified dashboard:

WordPress new admin page

Now click on WP Admin, circled on the above image.

This will take you to the old familiar interface:

Old WordPress dashboard

If this doesn’t work there is another tip, which is to add /wp-admin to the end of your page’s URL.

Note: this works for WordPress.com, the free version – self-hosted WordPress.org is a little different. If you’ve found this post useful, please do share it using the sharing buttons below.

Other useful posts on this site

Is it worth having a website for my business?

WordPress 1 – the basics – joining and setting up a blog (links to all the other WordPress tutorials)

Resource guide – blogging and social media

 
36 Comments

Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Blogging, Business, SEO, Social media, WordPress

 

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Six things that you can do to increase your website or blog’s SEO (search engine optimisation)

Graphic showing an increasing numberSEO or Search Engine Optimisation is one of those mysterious areas of knowledge – like setting up a website – that people like to keep to themselves. If you’ve been involved at all with a website or blog, you will know that people tend to almost prey on newbies, offering to increase their SEO if they work with this or that company.

The impetus for this post came from offering some help to a community organisation I’m helping out with. They don’t have the money to spend on expensive consultancy, so I’ve put together this guide for them – and you – to help clarify the myths and provide you with some advice to help you build good SEO.

What is SEO / search engine optimisation?

SEO means making sure that search engines like Google and Bing find your content and present it to people who are searching near the top of the results (just below the adverts).

Although they obviously work for a profit and want to make people advertise with them, the search engines do want to get reliable, decent and useful information to their users – otherwise those users will go elsewhere. They go to a lot of trouble to weed out spammy and dodgy sites that will put users off and don’t provide useful and relevant information (if every search you did on Google only gave you results on how to improve your SEO, when you wanted to know about Halloween outfits for dogs, you’d soon get bored and use a different search engine).

Therefore, we need to make sure our blogs and websites have the right information and content that will prove to Google that we’re legitimate sites full of useful content that it’s good to show their users.

There are various technical and writing related ways to do this and I’m going to cover the simple ones that you can do with, for example, a free WordPress.com website or blog and no coding skills.

I’ll note here that there are more detailed and technical things that you can do, to do with the coding of the actual site – this will however give you some simple tools that I’ve used to get good viewing figures and good SEO.

My blog post referrersWhy do I need SEO?

You want people to read your stuff, right? Well, although many people will find your content, services, products, etc. through social media, recommendations, blog readers, etc., the majority will find you through search engines.

Have a look at the statistics pictured. This was on a day when I published an article that was shared quite a lot on social media. Where did I get all my hits from? Search engines. So it’s really important to make sure that when people search for keywords to do with my blogs in the search engines, they find my blogs and find their way to me, so they can buy my services / be helped by my informative posts / buy my books.

How do I improve and maintain my SEO?

1. Publish useful, relevant, original and “natural” content

This is my number one top tip. The search engines are always looking for ways to stop people gaming the system and this is a clear example – we’ve all found websites which just have lists of keywords, etc.

I’ve got good results from the fact that the text on this site is useful, it’s relevant, as in it fits in to various categories and has information on those categories (Word, business, social media, etc.), it’s original (all written by me) and it’s written in natural language that looks like it’s been written by a human, not a robot or machine translator or spammer. This will always outweigh everything else.

2. Publish content regularly

Search engines like material that’s updated regularly, as it’s indicative that the site is still live and up to date. Try to post at least once, if not twice a week – it doesn’t have to be massive long articles, but something twice a week is better than five posts in one week then none for a month.

3. Use keywords wisely

There are some “rules” about the keywords that you want to use to attract readers. Here are the ones that have worked well for me, as far as I can tell:

  • Place the keyword / phrase in the title of the piece – so, here I have used “Increase your blog or website’s SEO” in the title.This automatically adds is to the “metadata”, in this case the URL of the piece. There is more you can do with metadata which is outside the range of this article.
  • Place it in an H1 or H2 level heading – here, I’ve used it in top-level headings.
  • Use it in the description of an image – the image above has the words “increase SEO” in the description field.
  • Use it early on in the text and in the final paragraph.
  • Scatter it throughout the text – but NATURALLY. A good aim is to have the keyword / phrase represent no more or less than 5% of the whole of the text (so if your text is 100 words long, you need the keyword to appear around five times.

4. Use questions in the title and headings

Many people search using questions these days – have a look at your statistics if you can and see how many question phrases appear.

So, use questions in your title (this one doesn’t have a question, but many of my blog posts do), and in your headings. These may well echo the exact phrases that people use to search, boosting you higher in the results.

5. Use categories and tags or whatever your blogging platform offers

Categories, tags, whatever your blogging platform calls them, will be searched by search engines, increase the validity of your site and improve your SEO. Use them wisely, using general (reading, writing) and specific (WordPress, copyediting) ones to help your visibility and to help your readers navigate around your site and stay on the site for a longer time.

6. Make judicious and careful use of backlinks

Search engines like to know that a site is reputable and well-respected by peers. Therefore, they put a high premium on the sites that link into your website or blog (i.e. they include your URL / website address on their own site). Of course, a good way to build these is to reference other well-known and well-respected blogs and websites on yours.

However, this is a tricky area that is used very heavily by spammers, too. So here are some dos and don’ts:

Do:

  • Place guest posts on other people’s blogs that are relevant and useful to both your audiences. You should be given the opportunity to include a link back to your website.
  • Offer people in your industry guest posts on your blog (or run interviews with them, etc.) and ask them to link back to the piece on their social media and website.
  • Get yourself in well-renowned and useful / appropriate listings – for example I’m in a Find a Proofreader listing and one for a professional discussion list I belong to.
  • Carefully comment on relevant articles and blog posts, with a relevant and useful comment. As an example of another blog, I comment on book bloggers’ review posts if I’ve read the book or have something to say about the book they’ve read, and include the URL of my own book review blog in the URL field. That way, a network of links builds up.
  • Use whatever reblogging facility you have on your platform (WordPress has a reblog button) to share interesting and relevant content on your blog (I don’t do this myself, but I’ve been reblogged a lot). This will publish a snippet of your blog and a link on the reblogger’s own page and direct readers to you and reassure the search engines that your content is useful.
  • Publicise your blog posts on social media (you can do this automatically) to increase the number of places your web address will appear.

Don’t:

  • Randomly ask to place guest posts on unconnected blogs – you might well get accepted but it’s not going to do you much good long-term.
  • Accept random and unconnected pieces to place on your blog, even if they say they’ll pay you – it’s not worth it long-term, as your readership will suspect it and anyone visiting your website for Dallas real estate and finding the rest of your articles are about crocheting will not stick around.
  • Put random comments full of your own links on people’s blogs that are not in any way connected with yours. Again, some might let these through (I delete any comments like this on my blogs) but it’s not going to look great, as many people will spot what you’re doing and it’s artificial, not natural, so may well harm you in the future.
  • Copy other people’s blog posts wholesale and paste them onto your site – search engines take a dim view of exactly duplicated content and will tend to push both examples right down the results screen. If you want to share something, share a snippet and a link to the rest of the content on the site where it was originally posted
  • Sign up with a company that offers to increase your SEO without checking very carefully whether they do this kind of thing – many of the rogue random comments and links I get on here obviously come from third parties unscrupulously throwing their customer’s URL all over the Internet

These dos and don’ts are to do with being decent, honourable and ethical. I’ve done it this way, and my blog is pretty successful. I will probably write about this in greater depth, but this should help as a handy guide.

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OK, that’s six things that you can do with your next blog post to help improve your website or blog’s SEO or search engine optimisation. This article itself has been optimised following my rules, and I hope you can pick out what I’ve done now. Do let me know if you have questions or comments using the comments option below, and please share using the share buttons if you’ve found this post useful.

Other useful posts on this site

Reciprocity and Social Media – how to negotiate social media kindly and politely

10 reasons to start a blog – why you should do it now!

Is it worth having a website for my business?

WordPress 1 – the basics – joining and setting up a blog (links to all the other WordPress tutorials)

Resource guide – blogging and social media

 
5 Comments

Posted by on October 29, 2015 in Blogging, Business, SEO, Social media, WordPress

 

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How do I add a link to a blog post?

This is a re-post of an older post that was attracting lots of spam comments, reposting it to see if it helps. But it is a useful post, still, so do read, enjoy and share!

Why would I add a link to a blog post?

Adding a link means that you’re putting a hyperlink to either another website or another of your blog posts in the one that you’re writing. There are many reasons for doing this: these are some of the reasons why I do it …

And did you notice that all of those bullet points were links to examples of what I was talking about?

A note about SEO and links (back-links)

One major advantage of links is in helping your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). I’m not going to go deeply into that here, but basically, Google and the other search engines like to see your pages linked to on other people’s pages, as it shows you’re trustworthy and respected within your community enough for people to link back to you. Yes, people do try to abuse this (we’ve all had blog “comments” from spammers trying to get their URL on your list of comments and now we know why) but when used properly, reciprocal linking to content that does actually interest you and is relevant for your readers does help your fellow bloggers and will hopefully lead to them linking to you, too.

How do I add a link to my blog post?

Of course, all of the blogging platforms (WordPress, LiveJournal, Blogger and others) do it slightly differently. But the difference usually comes down to the icon that they use and how much you can do once you’ve clicked on that icon.

I’m going to use WordPress as the main example, showing all the steps to create a link, but then I’ll show you what the link button looks like in Blogger and LiveJournal and, in fact, Gmail, too. And at the end I’ll share those link images so you know what to look out for.

How do I add a link to a WordPress blog post?

The first thing you need to do is have some text on which you want to base the link. Here I’ve typed in a few words. You can see that in the case of WordPress, there’s a little greyed-out icon that’s not clickable if you haven’t highlighted any text:

Wordpress 1

As soon as I highlight the text that I want to use as the basis of my link, the two greyed-out icons appear in all their clickable glory:

Wordpress 2

Keeping the text highlighted, click on the left-hand icon that looks a bit like a staple. Or in fact, as has been pointed out in the comments on this post, a link in a chain. This will bring up a dialogue box for inserting your link:

Wordpress 3

WordPress allows you to do two things here; you can either link to a URL for a page outside your own blog (circled in red) or you can choose one of your own previous blog posts to link to (circled in blue) – very handy.

We’re going to concentrate on linking to a URL. Type in the URL you want to link to – including http:// at the beginning:

Wordpress 4

Note here that I’m read to hit Add Link and I have NOT ticked Open link in a new window/tab. This is because I used to do that and an experienced website manager I know got into a bit of a frenzy and told me that it’s not good practice and I should NOT do that. So I don’t now.

Note: if you want to open a link in a new window or tab when you’re reading a blog or web page, right-click on that link and you should get a list of options including those.

Having pressed Add Link, my text is underlined:

Wordpress 5

… and it will be a link just like the ones in the first section, above.

If you want to edit the link, highlight the underlined text and click on the same Link button – you can now change it as you wish.

If you want to delete the link, highlight the underlines text and click on the icon to the right, which is supposed to look like a link being broken (or a staple being removed).

How do I add a link to a Blogger blog post?

Thanks to my friend Linda for the screenshots for this one! (And that’s a link to the website she’s set up with background information to a book she’s just published.)

Blogger works in a similar way to WordPress, but the icon you need to use is the word Link:

Blogger 1

and the dialogue box doesn’t give you the option to choose a previous blog post to link to, but has the familiar URL entry field:

Blogger 2

How do I add a link to a LiveJournal blog post?

LiveJournal uses another common icon that you’ll find for a link – this is apparently a globe with a link of a chain attached …

Livejournal 1

and you’ll get a similar dialogue box when you click that icon.

How do I add a link to a Weebly blog post?

Thanks to Louise Harnby for the screenshot for this one. We encounter the link  / staple icon again for Weebly, this time in white on a black background:

weebly 1

How do I add a link to a Gmail email?

And just because it demonstrates one of the other icons that is commonly used, if you want to add a link to a Gmail email, for example to point a friend to this blog post, the icon is another chain link / staple, but a horizontal one similar to Weebly’s:

Gmail 1

Icons that represent adding a link

Here are those common icons again. If you find another one, do contact me and send me a screenshot and I’ll add it to this post!

If you want to add a link to any kind of text and you’re looking for the appropriate icon on a button, it is likely to be one of these or similar:

icon 2 stapleicon 3 wordicon 1 worldicon 2.5 another staple

I hope you found this useful. If so, please take a moment to like, share or comment, and spread the word! And feel free to use the Search function on the right hand sidebar to look for more posts about blogging …

 
9 Comments

Posted by on September 17, 2015 in Blogging, Writing

 

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2 top tips on dealing with the endless pitches for guest posts or reviews

handshakeLast week, I wrote down the 10 top tips for pitching guest posts and asking bloggers to review your product (you can read the article here). I wrote that from the point of view of somebody who receives requests to host guest posts and review stuff All The Time.

It can be time-consuming replying to these emails and messages, but if you’re anything like me, you welcome genuine and relevant content (and interesting book review requests) and don’t like to be rude, unless something’s obviously spammy (in which case, I’m only rude enough to ignore the message!). So, in this article I’m sharing the two methods I use to allow me to respond to pitches quickly, easily and politely, which also have the effect of weeding out the time-wasters.

1. Have a policy for guest posts and reviews

I’ve got a guest post and review policy on both this website (visit it here) and my book review blog (visit it here).

It’s standard practice to have a policy – it sets things out and allows you to filter out approaches you don’t want. Of course, I don’t know how many people this filters out before they contact me, but it must get rid of a few.

This is also hugely useful for when you respond to pitches. When I send my automated email (see point 2 below), I include a link to my policy in my email. This means …

a) The pitcher has to go and look at a web page before they respond (filtering out people who were blanket-bombing blogs and probably won’t be relevant to you)

b) I can change my policy once, on this page, without having to remember to update my standard pitch response email.

c) If a pitcher replies to my email and clearly hasn’t looked at the guidelines, that’s a clear indication that it’s time to terminate the conversation.

2. Create a standard automated pitch response email

Most email providers allow you to create standard replies which you can select and send out without having to type out a new email every time. In Gmail, you can set up something called Canned Responses (and you can find my instructions on how to set them up here).

This saves you loads of time responding individually to pitches for guest posts or product reviews. I tend to get more of the first category for this blog, and this is what my email says:

Thank you for your enquiry about posting your content on my blog.

Before we go any further, please read my Terms and Conditions on Guest Blog Posts and Sponsored Posts, make sure that you can answer the questions posed there, and then get back to me with your suggestions. Best wishes,

Liz

This really does cover most eventualities (and for the few that it doesn’t cover, I can easily add a bit to the email). It takes about three clicks of the mouse button to reply and send, and, to be honest, it usually puts people off! But then, that’s the idea …

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Using both of these methods has speeded up my response time to pitches and allowed me to sift out the wheat from the chaff, the genuine opportunities for cooperation from the spammers trying to insert their link onto every website and blog going.

I hope you’ve found this article enjoyable and useful. If you have, please take a moment to share it using the sharing buttons below, and I always appreciate relevant comments!

Relevant posts on this blog

Guest blogging 1: how to be the host with the most

Guest blogging 2: how to be the perfect guest

10 top tips for pitching your guest post or asking a blogger to review your product

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Blogging, Business, Marketing, Writing

 

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Small business chat summer break …

The summer’s always a quiet time for my small business chats, which you usually see on a Saturday morning, as people go on holiday, business people with children take time off to look after them during the school holidays, etc. (but if I’m waiting for your update, please send it in so I can give your business a boost!).

So if you’re used to reading a small business chat at this time of the week, here’s some alternative reading that lets you know a bit more about the person behind Libro – you might like to pop over and see what I read in my spare time, when I’m not editing other people’s books, for example. More business chat will come soon!

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2015 in Blogging

 

10 Top Tips for Pitching a Guest Post or Getting a Blogger to Review your Product

handshakeI get lots and lots of requests every day, via my contact form or email, to accept a guest blog post from somebody. I also get requests to accept books for review on my personal book review blog. Although I’ve written in more depth about being a good guest blogger, I think it’s worth putting down a few points here to help people get the most out of their pitch to get a genuine and useful guest post or review on a blogger’s website.

Because … I reject about 98% of requests for a guest post after the first email.

So, here are my Top 10 tips for pitching a guest post or getting a blogger to review your product

1. Before you even start, think about the relevance of the website you’re contacting.

I get so many queries that have nothing to do with my website in the slightest. Things like, “I love your [editing] website, would you accept an article on real estate in Texas?”

Now, on rejecting one of these a while ago, I had a back-and-forth with the pitcher. She was determined that I would benefit from having her totally non-relevant content, full of dodgy links, on my website. I ended up saying to her “No reputable website would take this as a guest post”. Her reply, “You’d be surprised, LOL”.

The thing is, Google is adjusting its search algorithms all the time. It already specifically works against backlinks (a link to your content on someone reputable’s website which ups your credibility in the “eyes” of the search engines) which are in lists of random links and content which is full of keywords but no useful content. In time, your link to your bead firm on a blog about wind farms will impress the search engines less and less.

You’ll get far more hits as a genuine person seeking to place guest posts on a website if you target appropriate and relevant hosts.

2. Give detail.

If I get a generic, one-line email asking for a guest post or review that doesn’t give me any other info, that’s going straight in the reject pile. You might get my standard email response if you’re lucky.

If’s fine to keep it short, but make sure there is some information in there.

3. Show you’re familiar with the target blog / review site

I am looking for you to  have actually read my blog and know a little bit about what I do. Just a mention of the URL isn’t enough: you can cut and paste that. I want to  know that you know what I do, who my readers are, what topics I cover.

4. Watch out for mail merges / cut and paste carefully.

I’m putting this here because without fail, emails requesting guest posts start with “I have been reading URL INSERTED for some time and love your content”. This doesn’t work so well as a hook if you re-use an email and include the incorrect blog title or URL!

5. State what you want to do.

The target will want to know what you want to do – send in a blog post, pitch some ideas, post them a sample. Put this clearly early on.

6. State what you want out of it.

If you want a book review, say so. If you want your website address included in a guest post you’ve written, say so. If you want to include links that you’ve promised your customer to get onto several reputable websites, also say so – because your target is likely to notice this further down the line and get a bit cross with you.

7. State what the target will get out of it.

State clearly the benefit for the target. Yes, they might be desperate for content – if you see they haven’t posted for a while, this is OK to mention. Will you be helping their readers, bringing a new but related audience to their blog? Tell them. One useful offer is to do a reciprocal guest post – i.e. you will host a post from your target on your website on a similar or related matter.

8. Show you know who your target’s audience is.

I want to know that you’ve thought about who this will reach. An example when pitching to me might be, “I would guess given your writing on dissertations that your audience includes students. This product helps students to bind their dissertations so might be useful to that part of your readership”.

9. Give links and reviews.

If you’ve got examples of your work or product on other websites or you can showcase your own writing on your own website, include links. If your product, book, etc. has been reviewed on other websites, include links.

10. Keep it simple, keep it correct.

If you’re pitching a guest post, make sure to write clearly and grammatically – a reputable blogger will not want to either edit your text for hours or hosts something of lower quality than the content they usually post up. If you’re pitching a product, make sure you are clear and knowledgeable and point to a well-designed and informative website. Will your target want to embarrass themselves pointing their readers to a terrible website?

A good example

This post was triggered  by two things – one, another request but with another company’s URL in the message – d’oh! The other was an excellent pitch from an author asking me to review her book. I’m going to go into specifics another day, but she included …

  • A greeting using my name and a farewell using hers
  • A note confirming that she had read my blog, mentioning something I’d talked about on it recently
  • Details of her book title and the fact she was asking me to review it
  • A few sentences about the book
  • A link to its sales page and a review by a reputable reviewer
  • A polite request to consider taking a review copy

And do you know what? I’ve got a review copy of that book sitting in my To Be Read pile right now.

In summary

If you’re serious about pitching your content or product to reputable websites where their presence can do you some good, make sure that you give your target blogger information about both what your pitching and your own credibility. I’m not saying that you will succeed every time, but your target blogger is more likely to read your email and consider your pitch if you do.

I hope you’ve found this article enjoyable and useful. If you have, please take a moment to share it using the sharing buttons below, and I always appreciate relevant comments!

Relevant posts on this blog

Guest blogging 1: how to be the host with the most

Guest blogging 2: how to be the perfect guest

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 29, 2015 in Blogging, Business, Marketing, Writing

 

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