Imagine that you’re a realtor and you’re trying to sell a house with neon green walls. Sure, the odd house hunter who comes through might really like the colour, but for the majority of customers, seeing neon green all over the walls is going to be something they cannot look past. It can, in a lot of cases, be the deal breaker.
Sure, they might stay. They might finish looking at the house. But they also might just look at the walls and walk out. Neon green walls take work. Not only are you spending a profound amount of money on a home, but you’ll have to put considerable effort and money into repainting the entire home when you move in.
This is why when people are getting ready to sell their homes, most people will paint any bright walls a neutral colour. Neutral colours are easy on the eye. Neutral colours go with all sorts of different furniture. Neutral colours allow a house to feel as though it can be made into a home.
Now, imagine this same notion applies to blogging. If you’re blogging as a hobby and don’t care who, if anyone, ever sees your blog, it’s perfectly awesome to have ‘neon green walls’. But if you’re blogging in hopes of garnering an audience, to gain followers and reach new people, those neon green walls are going to be a deal breaker.
In laymans terms – if you want people to love your blog as much as you do, your layout needs to be neutral. Your layout needs to be one that appeals to the mass population. If people stumble upon a blog that is difficult to navigate, has broken links or empty pages, crazy colours and designs that make scrolling difficult and reading tedious, they’re not going to fall in love with your blog, regardless of how good your content is.
Your blog layout matters.
If you’re seeking blog growth, pretend you’re a realtor. Pretend you’re enticing potential buyers into paying attention to your content. If you want people to notice your blog then you need to give them reason to get beyond the layout to see the content that you share. That is considerably harder if you have the equivalent of neon walls.
Disclaimer: As with all advice that I provide on this blog, please take what you like and leave what you don’t. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to running a great blog, so if you don’t like the advice shared, don’t use it! You know what is best for your blog, these types of posts are merely to lend a helpful suggestion.
As with any marketing tips/tricks/advice provided on this blog, please take all information with a grain of salt. This information is not provided as the ‘be all to end all’ word. So, take what works for you and leave what doesn’t.
Not everyone is interested in Instagram growth. So, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t care one way or another, this advice likely isn’t for you. Which is totally fine. This information is being shared for those who might find it helpful!
Without further adieu:
Hashtags are a tool that allows Instagram users to find other Instagram users who post similar images, share similar interests or are like-minded individuals. When you post an image to Instagram, if you would like the opportunity for others on the platform to find said image, it’s imperative that you use proper and relevant hashtags that depict what’s in your image.
Put the hashtags within your caption, do not put them as the first comment. When you do not put the hashtags within the caption of the photo itself, you’re losing valuable time and real estate within the Instagram algorithm for people who could potentially be viewing your image.
You can post up to 30 hashtags per image. If you are a blogger, or running a business account, it’s recommended that you try to keep hashtag use to 9-11 hashtags per image. There are several reasons for this, most important of which being, if you limit the hashtags you’re using to 9-11 hashtags at most, you’re focusing on only the most relevant hashtags pertaining to the image. When people start reaching hashtag 15 and 16, they start just using random hashtags that don’t really pertain to the image and it can become very spam-like, overcrowding different categories on the platform. This is why you can search ‘#TheGreatOutdoors’ and see pictures of hamburgers and french fries.
When selecting hashtags, select categories that you would search for. Why? Because not all hashtags are as valuable as others. If you’re searching for something on Instagram, there’s better odds that someone else is too. More people are going to be searching ‘#TheGreatOutdoors’ than ‘#Tree’. As you type in the hashtags to Instagram, the app will actually tell you how many people have used said hashtag and similar hashtags. Example:
Include a selection of both popular and less popular hashtags within the 9-11 hashtags used per image. Using the screenshot as an exampe, #LakeLouise will have the potential for more people to find your image, and in turn, your page. But, with more people searching this item, your image will more quickly slide down the Instagram algorithm than if you use #LakeLouiseLove. For this reason, it’s recommended that you use a mixture of both popular and less popular (STILL RELEVANT) hashtags when sharing your image.
If you want to connect with others, ALWAYS use a caption. There’s nothing worse than finding an image that you truly love on Instagram and realizing the person who shared it couldn’t care less about people finding their image and connecting with their content. Use a caption – share the store of the image, or share a story that has nothing to do with the image but speaks to you and your character. If you want to connect with people, a picture won’t speak for you… no matter how pretty it might be.
If you’re specifically looking for growth, there are hashtags that are for bloggers to connect with other bloggers to help support one another. Using #BloggersUnder500 or #BloggersUnder1k, etc… are like flashing the bat symbol for bloggers to find other bloggers and help one another grow their platforms. If you’re looking for growth, use these hashtags to connect with other bloggers and help them find and connect with you.
Promote your Instagram account on other platforms. I follow at least a dozen bloggers on WordPress of which I had no idea that they had Instagram accounts until they followed me. There is no mention of their Instagram accounts ANYWHERE on their blog. Why not? If you have a blog, let people know that you have an Instagram too. It can’t hurt.
Location searches on Instagram can help you to connect with people in your area that you might not even know exist yet. This one might be especially beneficial in this time of social distancing. Want to connect with people in your area without connecting with people in your area? Search your local, nearest airport code or city abbreviation in Instagram. Make new friends. Reach out to people that way. This is actually a great way for small/local businesses to reach out and let public in their city/surrounding area know they’re there and open for business.
You DO NOT have to post every day, but much like with blogging, it helps with the growth of your page if you post somewhat regularly. People like to come to instagram to see new content. If you post once and then don’t come back for a month, then post three times in a week then disappear for two months, you’re going to have a very difficult time convincing people they should connect with you and and your content. If they can’t rely on you to connect with, why should they follow you?
Share other’s images to your Instagram Story. This one doesn’t help you at all. It’s not for growth. It’s not for any other reason than you might like an image. If you like an image that someone you follow has posted, share it to your Instagram story. It furthers their reach, gives them a form of cross promotion they haven’t yet had. Also, it allows you to share images of places you might not yet have been, or might not have seen. This is also extremely beneficial for any small businesses that you might follow. Especially if they’re still operating during COVID. A little share here and there might help their business immensely during these stressful times. So… sprinkle a little kindness in whatever you do!
Don’t just post things because you think they’re trendy. People aren’t so dense that they cannot figure out who’s being a try-hard on social media. While you might like the instant gratification of sharing something that’s been going viral day after day after week after week, the tired, tried and done a thousand times means being a trendy Instagram user gets old real quick. You won’t build connections, you won’t have the interaction you’re searching for and, you’ll lack authenticity. It’s 2020, people. Real is the new real.
Be nice. Hopefully this one doesn’t require an explanation.
You have to have 10,000 followers in order to post links. Unlike Twitter where you link every tweet, you have to reach a threshold of engagement to earn that ability with Instagram. So, if you’re looking to use Instagram to promote your blog, you’re going to have to get creative.
Don’t spam people. I don’t even want to tell you how many unread messages I have in my inbox of people trying to sell me MLM products or sign me up to work under their MLM business. If you spam people, it will annoy them. And if you are looking to grow your Instagram profile, I would recommend you not annoy people in the process.
If, and only if, you’re not worried about privacy, make sure this option is checked off under your settings tab:
If you’re worried about your privacy, or family or friends finding your page, and in turn, blog, then make sure this box isn’t selected in your settings. This could recommend your page to people in your area or people who you share mutual friends with. So, if someone you know follows your page, but not everyone you know is aware of your blog, be careful with this function.
If you are running a small business, or any business for that matter, stick to business and keep your personal opinions out of it. I recently witnessed a cafe in Vancouver lose 10,000 followers in less than 24 hours after the owner got on his Instagram Story to proclaim that the government was ruining everyone’s futures so that fewer people would die and that we should risk the deaths of those that could catch it anyway to ensure that business can keep going as normal. This cafe is one that’s been on several TV shows (Diners Drive Ins and Dives, You gotta eat here and a couple of others) and had grown a rather large following online because of that. And he threw it all away when he started sharing his personal opinions. Whether someone agrees, or vehemently disagrees with your opinions, they don’t want these opinions from a business. No one followed his cafe on Instagram to get advice on economics, government or politics. They followed his business account to find out what soup of the day he was serving for take out. What baked treats he could deliver that day. A move like that could quite literally kill a business reputation.
Lastly, for lack of better conclusion, if you made it this far, follow me on Instagram! @MillennialMe88
The following is a guest post written by Debby from the blog DebbySEO. *Please note that certain plugins may not be available to all WordPress accounts due to them only being available for certain plans.
Often I am asked what the best SEO tools and plugins are that I recommend. This comes as no surprise as search engines are a major source of traffic for most sites, and every blogger wants to increase website ranking in an effort to get more sales. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do or where to start in order to make SEO work for us.
In this article I will share the best WordPress SEO plugins and tools for you to use. I have noticed that many WordPress sites on are offering great content, but simply lack the SEO plugins required to perform well. In this article I will explain how to install the Yoast WP plugin for SEO, and lightly touch topics such as keyword analysis, off-site link building and more.
Note that when reading SEO tips found in top 10 results, or when searching for phrases like “best free WordPress SEO plugins” you will find many results and recommendations. The truth is that the top recommendations are not always the best ones. After all, everyone in the Google top 10 listings seems to be out to sell something. I have been providing affordable SEO services for years and will provide you with reliable information so you can kick-start your business and blog using whitehat SEO techniques without paying a penny.
Obsessive Compulsive Keyword Disorder
Do you suffer from obsessive compulsive keyword disorder? Yes Ma’am! Keywords are extremely important for SEO as they draw the right visitors to your website. They can make or break a website. Having a better understanding of the specific keywords your visitors are searching for allows you to offer better services and products on your blog.
On the other hand, you should be careful not to use SEO tools to over-optimize. If you use keywords too frequently the website will look spammy and you may even be penalized. The Yoast plugin is designed to help you optimize SEO by spreading out keywords in a responsible manner, taking into consideration the proper density and placement based on a real-time comparison with top ranking websites.
I think of Google Analytics & Google Webmaster as a friend
Proper use of keywords has the biggest impact on your SEO campaign, make sure to use Google to better target them. If you have not already done so, I recommend that you first sign up for a free Google Analytics and Google Webmaster account. This will enable you to measure the difference in traffic before and after installation of SEO plugins such as Yoast.
There is nothing more important than SEO titles and descriptions
And Yoast is all you need to successfully complete this task. You can quickly add SEO titles and descriptions to all blog posts and pages on your website, and you can even include open graph metadata and social media images to your postings. The best way to decide what title is appropriate, is to look in Google analytics to see what your audience is searching for, and then decide on which keywords you wish to target. The descriptions should always take some special consideration as this will be listed in search engines and as such determines your click-through rate.
And at the end of the night, they realized how important those little XML Sitemaps were, which they ignored while adoring the beauty of their sites
Yoast SEO will generate your XML sitemap with images in no-time! All you have to do is press the button and it will create a highly optimized cached page that will quickly load and be automatically updated every time you make a post. You can also easily import SEO data if you have been using another plugin. Yoast is the all-round solution for both rookies and veterans.
Let me quickly line out the features here. Yoast offers to change post’s SEO titles and meta descriptions on a per post basis, it supports meta descriptions for taxonomies (for example category and tags), it will focus on your keyword testing, configure your robot.txt file in order to add noindex, nofollow pages etc. You will additionally be able to configure an RSS footer/header, get Google search result snippet previews, clean up permalinks while still allowing for Google custom search, import data from other SEO plugins such as Platinum SEO pack and All in One SEO pack and more. Did I just dazzle you?
This might indeed all sound a bit overwhelming but it is in fact really easy and it just requires you to play around until you become comfortable with the full functionality. So far I have discussed only the free version of the plugin but there is paid version too which offers a redirect manager, focus on multiple keywords, ability to export focus keywords, internal linking suggestions, video tutorials to help you better understand how everything works and premium support to get the most out of your site’s SEO. The paid version can be obtained for less than $90, but in my opinion the free version offers plenty of functionality.
It does not do to dwell on Yoast SEO and forget to build offsite links
Yoast has been around since I just started my first SEO Company, and their plugin has worked miracles for the websites I have worked on. All the websites I have worked on increased their traffic by focusing on important keywords for their niche market, but still, if you don’t spend time on off-site link building your SEO campaign will not be very successful. Google must see links pointed to your site in order to determine that your content is relevant.
A good way to get some link juice flowing is to install a plugin that allows you to setup a resource directory where you can exchange links with content related websites. If done right, this will also add value to your blog. Another SEO technique that is often employed is to write guest postings and to obtain offsite links in topic related directories. The more links pointing to your website, the higher the relevancy. Obviously keywords used for the anchor text and surrounding content is very important for relevancy. SEO always has a high payoff in the long run, it may take time but it is definitely worth it.
Yoast drowns out all but the brightest SEO plugins
I will now mention some other SEO plugins for you to enjoy. SEMrush is said to be the most effective SEO tool but it does come at a cost. You can use it to find organic keywords and search terms that you can easily rank for. Such keywords are known as niche market keywords which are in high demand as they have little competing websites. Next up is Ahrefs, you have probably heard of the name, it is an all-in-one SEO tool for bloggers, marketers and businesses. It is an alternative to SEMRush and offers similar features and tools.
More free SEO tools are offered by AllinOneSeoPack, a popular WordPress SEO plugin offering a comprehensive set of tools to improve your ranking. You can use it to optimize SEO titles and metatags, image sitemaps, open graph meta tags and more. I have used All in One SEO Pack in the past and would rate it just below Yoast. Both offer their plugins for free so don’t wait and start optimizing. SEOPress is another free Yoast alternative that offers a premium version at lower cost. It comes with easier setup for beginners and advanced controls for more experienced users so it may be something you may wish to consider.
Remember, install only one SEO plugin at a time and frequently check for broken links on your site as these are harmful to your listings. I hope you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out the Yoast SEO installation video at: https://youtu.be/4KOc-oM7Yr8
Thank you to Debby from the blog DebbySEO for contributing the following post to #MillennialLifeCrisis.
Do not answer your phone whilst you are doing the dishes. You will, in fact, drop your phone in the sink. I don’t care how careful you think you are. Lightning does strike and phones do drown. Don’t make the same mistakes I make.
Today is off to a great start.
It’s currently sitting in a bowl of rice. Rice is good for so much. I mean… cross your fingers for me.
KEEP ON SMILING. Don’t let them know your inner penguin.
One of the most exciting things you can receive as a blogger is emails about business opportunities/partnerships. Sadly, a lot of these emails often end up being scams. But, in receiving one, you can sometimes get so excited that you’ve been sent this email you forget to look for the small details.
It’s important to be able to tell if an email is a legitimate business opportunity for your blog, or a phishing scam. Lately I’ve both received, and heard of, a lot of different scam emails being sent to bloggers. If you have a ‘Contact Me’ page on your blog, or offer your email address on your blog, you may have even gotten some of these yourself. Here are some things to look for that can help determine whether or not the request you’ve gotten is legitimate.
The email should be addressed to you, not to the name of your blog, or a generic phrase such as ‘dear customer’. If you do not provide a first name on your blog, a legitimate business request will include them introducing themselves and asking for your first name
The email should have proper spelling and grammar. (This email I’ve included as example is a hot mess) Scams will often exchange ‘o’ for ‘0’ to bypass spam filters that services like hotmail, gmail and yahoo mail have in place.
The email should include a company name, at bare minimum, in the signature. If they’re smart, they’ll include it elsewhere in the email as well. If they are self employed, they will acknowledge that.
The email should NEVER ask you to do something in direct violation of law. IE Post a paid for advertisement to your blog whilst not disclosing that it was paid for.
The email should never request for personal information such as a phone number, access to your blog, pay-pal account info, and so on and so forth. If no business relationship has been established (yet) why would they need this information immediately?
A legitimate business opportunity for your blog will never come from someone who ‘expects’ anything from you. Initial emails should be a request and nothing more.
Take a close look at the email address, not just the sender name. Often times the domain can be a dead giveaway that an email isn’t legitimate. And, while it is true that some self-employed/small business owners do use services such as GMAIL for business, they will always have their name, or their company name used in the email. In the case of the email example I have attached, the name in the email address of who the email was from did not match the name on the bottom of the email.
Do not open poorly labeled or unlabeled attachments. And, if attachments are labeled, be careful to make sure that it’s not a scam before you open.
Last, but certainly not least, does the email make your ‘spidey sense’ flare up?
This list may sound obvious when you’re reading it, but there are a lot of people in this world who fall for email scams. People get so caught up in the excitement of them that there are a lot of Nigerian Princes with a lot of money right now. And, a lot of Lawyers in Monaco that won’t be wiring that 4.2 million they promised from your dearly departed relative that you’ve never met that they set up the will for.
I would strongly encourage that, if you feel an email could be a scam, you do not respond. Even a simple ‘No thank you’ can send them after you for months on end, request after request, annoying the crap out of you in an effort to wear you down.
If you think it could be a scam just hit delete.
Have you ever received a business request/opportunity for your blog that you felt could be a scam? What did it say? How could you tell that it just wasn’t quite right?
What can your analytics teach you? What should your analytics teach you? If you have a blog, or any form of social media, you have access to analytics. Do you use them?
346 people have visited my blog today from 53 countries and territories around the world. How cool is that? People from all over the world have found my blog, my words, my little corner of the internet.
3,321 people have viewed my published tweets.
1,106 people have viewed my Instagram page.
18 people found my blog through search engine results.
6 people found my blog from Facebook. And I don’t even have a Facebook account.
I don’t say this to brag, I say this because analytics fascinate me. I love tracking visitors, hits, interactions, popularity (or lack thereof depending on the post) and reach.
I use my analytics to determine what the best time of day is to post something, as well, what the best day of the week is to post something. I also use my analytics to determine what topics will garner more hits, and what topics won’t really resonate with my community. Also, on that note, I use my analytics to understand my community.
An estimated 40% of the people who read #MillennialLifeCrisis are Gen X-ers. That’s right, the largest group of people who read this blog are not even Millennials. That tells me that these things that I’ve felt alienated me for so long now are in fact, not generational, but more so just the overall human condition.
Quite often I’m asked different variations of ‘what’s your secret? How’d you get so many followers?’ What’s my secret? I don’t keep secrets. I use analytics. I’ve been using them since I worked in corporate settings and I can say without a doubt, that if you’re looking to grow an audience for your personal blog, analytics are going to play a major factor in your success, or lack thereof.
How many people viewed your blog today? What countries did they come from? What did you do as a measure to help convince them to return to your blog? How can you use your analytics to your favour?
Here, I’ll give you an example:
Let’s pretend that you live in London, England. Now, upon reading the base analytics that WordPress provides to EVERY user (regardless of if your account is free or paid), you notice that far and above anywhere else, the majority of your audience is from the United States. If you want the most people possible to see your post, I do not recommend hitting publish at 9:00 AM Greenwhich Mean Time. Why? Because for the majority of your audience, that’s the middle of the night and they’re asleep. Instead, I recommend you schedule your post to be published at 9:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. Your post will be top of feed for all of your American audience to see, and you stand a much higher chance of having farther reach.
If you’e blogging for a hobby and you don’t care how many hits/visitors your blog gets, analytics probably won’t matter to you. But, if you want to build a community, your analytics can be one of your best assets. They will tell you what you’re doing wrong, what you’re doing right and how to improve upon all of it.
I still post what I want when I want. But, I also know that if I do something like… posting this after 7:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, it’s going to get far less hits than had I gotten by butt in gear and posted this 10 hours ago.
That is how I use, or don’t use, analytics in my favour. Whether I post it at the optimal time or not, I’m still going to track visitors, hits, interaction. Why? Because I’m a nerd who loves data. Because I believe in the value of analytics. Because this blog is my pride and joy and I really appreciate knowing all that I can about it.
So what do your analytics teach you? How can you use that information to your favour?
If you liked this post and would like to read more of my blogging tips, click here. All blogging tips/tricks/advice/suggestions are all categorized under ‘Marketing’ on my blog’s main menu.
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Disclaimer: SEO, Backlinking and DA are all extremely convoluted subjects. Different people have different opinions as to what works best and what doesn’t. Because of this, different platforms will offer different advice. This is the main reason why I’ve put off writing about this topic for such a long time. There are a lot of layers to the subject matter so please, take everything said in this post with a grain of salt. If you’ve found results using different tactics, then keep using the tactics that have given you results.
Also, there will be posts coming in the future on these topics. Because there are so many layers to Backlinking, SEO and DA, it’s not something that could ever be covered in one single post. So if you like this, I’ll try to make sure it isn’t a year before I write a part two.
Okay, onto the meat and potatoes…
If you’ve ever googled ‘SEO’ before (googling SEO… now that’s funny to me) one of the most common terms you’ll come across is ‘Backlink’.
What is a backlink?
A backlink is a link created when one url links to another. Backlinks are also called “inbound links” or “incoming links.” Backlinks are important to SEO.
Why is a backlink important?
A backlink to your site is the web’s equivalent to someone saying ‘Yeah you can trust them’. It’s vouching for a website, letting search engines know that cataloging said content will be of value to the search engine. A backlink is a reference that is comparable to a citation in printed work.
It is worth noting that not all backlinks are treated the same. Some are more valuable than others. A backlink from a more trusted site is going to be seen as a more valuable than say, one from a site that has only been up and running for a month, for example.
A SIMPLE how to for bloggers:
BACKLINK TO YOUR OWN SITE
In 2017 while in the process of rebuilding the the website for the company I was working for, the hosting company I was working with to build the site informed me that you can, in fact, backlink to your own site. While these backlinks aren’t quite as valuable as those from other sites, they do still count.
When you make a new post to your blog, each individual post is given its own link. So, if you’re writing a post on February 3, 2020 and you link a post from the past (referencing a story, for example) inserting a link to a previous post that you’ve made counts as a backlink.
A good internal linking structure plays a key role in the success of a blog because, with a good internal linking structure, you can help your audience and potential audience easily navigate through your website and increase the user experience. What does this mean? This means you should make sure that your menus are in order, that your links go to where you say they’re going to go, that there’s no ‘dead pages’ on your blog with zero content on them. Dead pages decrease the value of your site in search engine algorithms .
For WordPress users, it’s quite easy to create a navigable menu at the top or the bottom of your page. Ensuring that you’re choosing proper titles and linking people to the right places boost your link legitimacy in SEO.
Personally, I always tell people to keep menu links to a smaller amount so that your linking is more manageable. This is a personal preference so you need not listen to me when I say this, but you’re going to have a lot easier of a time managing 8 categories for your posts than you are managing 30. However many categories you choose, though, please make sure they’re all being properly linked in whatever menu structure you’re using.
WRITE GUEST POSTS
Guest blogging is an effective way for bloggers to reach new audiences and, in the process, earn backlinks. When you write a guest post for someone else’s blog or website, not only will your own content be exposed to new readers, but said readers can then use the backlink to find their way to your website.
It’s a simple way of increasing your audience, building your reputation and earning backlinks in the process.
When you reblog someone’s content, so long as they do not delete the link to your blog (the source), that counts in their favour as a backlink. Likewise, when someone reblogs your content, that counts in your favour as a backlink.
If you’ve ever noticed someone leaving a comment on your blog who shares a link to their own blog at the end of their comment this is, in itself, a backlink. You can do this when you’re leaving a comment on someone’s blog, though I’d be careful to do it in a tasteful way because it can, at times, piss some people off. This can also be done to write reviews and testimonials… of a blog, or a book, or a product of some sort. Basically, wherever you can slide your link in, there’s a means of backlinking your site and making it look more legitimate.
It is important to note that after reading this you SHOULD NOT start spamming your link out to every corner of the internet. Backlinking should be done in a strategic manner, associating your blog and your brand with sites that you feel will benefit your growth and legitimacy.
DO NOT SPAM PEOPLE.
DO NOT START TWEETING OUT YOUR BLOG LINK TO EVERYONE ON YOUR TWITTER OR INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS LIST.
I apologize for the caps lock there, but I just wanted to drill those two points home.
Be strategic about where you backlinking appears. If you’re going to use this means as a measure to grow your place on the world wide web, you want your url to be associated with the right places. EX: If you’re a family friendly blog talking about how to build the perfect school lunches for kids, it might not be the best idea to use an Adult Content Only website to banklink your content.
If you have questions about backlinking, share them in the comments section. If you have anything to add, please feel free to share that in the comments as well. I tried to keep this as simple as possible because, as mentioned at the head of this post, it’s a very convoluted subject with many layers to it. So, some of the layers may not yet have been touched on in this post.
Thanks to https://myhomefarm.co.uk/ (yes, this is a backlink) for giving me motivation to write this post and share some of my thoughts on the subject.