How Evernote Has Made Me a More Productive Blogger

Evernote blogging
 
I remember I really struggled to get to grips with Twitter at first, I signed up for my first account in 2007 and after messing about with it on and off for almost a year I finally got it… now you can’t get me off the damned thing!

A few months ago I began using Evernote as my main productivity tool. Basically, Evernote is a multi-platform program that allows you to keep accessible notes. You can do this by creating notebooks and notes.

Within the past few weeks I’ve noticed a few people I follow on Twitter asking questions about the best ways to use Evernote and I have to admit it’s one of those tools where you finally have a Eureka moment after persisting with it, much like I did with Twitter. There are an infinite number of ways you can use Evernote to make you more productive, more creative or more awesome-r, however what I want to cover in this post is the ways I use Evernote as a productive blogging tool.

Create Common Templates

If you have a series of blog posts or articles which follow a set format then you might want to consider setting up a template with all the relevant HTML elements laid out which you can store in a reference notebook which can save you time when publishing these types of post.

Capturing Inspiration

At any moment inspiration can strike… It holds no bars – whether you’re walking the dog or watching an episode of Breaking Bad a juicy idea can spring forward from your subconscious to help you with a project you are working on.  It might be for a client or you’ve come up with the topic for your next blog post but inspiration can strike at any time.

Before I used Evernote I might have made a mental note or scribbled something on the nearest piece of paper. The problem was that when I finally got around to taking action I couldn’t recall it or the notes I had made on that napkin just looked like a mad man’s scrawl on his cell wall… I’m sure you can relate.

Thankfully, I have my Evernote app with me on my cell phone (how trans-atlantic is that?) or tablet where I can jot down some ideas,  so I don’t forget them before I can get to my computer and work on it further.

Call me old school, but I still love to use Google Reader to subscribe to RSS feeds. If I find an awesome post and that gives me some inspiration then I will star it. I have an IFTTT recipe (automation FTW!) set up to forward my Google Reader starred items to a notebook in Evernote.

 

 

If I happen to find a useful quote or some amazing data to enhance my blog post then I will normally capture it within my draft post; you can do this with the Evernote web clipper just highlight what you want to save and “clip it”. It will show up inside your Evernote, fully formatted, and complete with the URL it originated from.

I also have an IFTTT recipe to save my Twitter favourites to Evernote too using this RSS hack.

Search your Notes with Google

If you use the Evernote web clipper you can find notes related to your web search you may have already saved down.

As you can see in the image below on the left are the normal Google search results and on the right are some clippings you have already saved down.

 
 

This is an awesome tip I recently discovered on the Verge and it really has improved my research for blog posts and articles. It’s amazing how much you read and save down in Evernote that you might have forgotten about so this really helps me to re-discover some hidden gems.

 

Write Anywhere and Everywhere

Now that you’ve made a note of all your awesome ideas it’s time to start padding them out further.

As Evernote can be used as a mobile app, desktop app or on the website you can write pretty much write anywhere and everywhere. I usually like to pad out my initial ideas with a handful of bullet points or sub headings when I am in the moment.

I normally write the first draft of my blog post in Evernote. When I am writing I don’t worry about formatting. I just try to get the post out; I try to resist the urge to edit my work as I write.

I also keep a record in Evernote of my published blog posts (and guest posts) for two reasons:

  1. I’m quite paranoid about losing my work (even though I regularly back everything up)
  2. It makes it easier to link to my older posts if I want to reference them

I like having everything curated for my articles with in one place, so I will usually find some stock images or creative commons pictures from Flickr to add to my post.

Another awesome feature of Evernote is the ability to email notes into your Evernote account, using your secret email address. If you want to use this feature then you need to append the subject line with the @ symbol followed by the name of an existing notebook and if you want to add a tag, include “#” followed by an existing tag.

Once you have written your draft checked it and re-checked it, it’s very easy to copy and paste the note in to WordPress, check the formatting and then schedule for later.

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to get more out of Evernote as a blogger and if you have any more tips or questions please leave them in the comments below.

Setting Up a Write for Us page for Fun and Profit

guest-blog-funAs some of the more observant amongst you may have noticed I have a page inviting guest posters for my site. I have to admit I am very picky about who I do allow to post on my site and to be honest I never accept posts from people I don’t already know from Twitter or Inbound.org for example.

Every day I must receive at least five guest blog requests from dubious guest blogging providers with pitches such as:

“…We may be able to offer you some free of charge content for your website, in return for a link back to our site. We have a dedicated team of professional writers. We can have them (at our expense) research and write some content specifically for you to publish on your web site…”

I don’t need to tell you how bad that pitch is; it screams I’m only here to get the link mate, and we all know that guest blogging is about the relationships not the links – right? ;)

It’s quite interesting to see how many of these people actually include a link to their client’s site within the first email. It doesn’t take a genius to realise if you are pitching an SEO blog for a guest post it’s probably not a great idea to include your clients site in the first one?

Just to show you how prevalent this practise is if I look through the last 20 guest blog requests I received 14 (70%) of them include some kind of a footprint, whether that’s the name of the company they are writing on the behalf of, the url or a link to their last couple of guest posts.

So, I wonder how many people actually check the back link profiles from the guest blog requests they receive to find possible blogs to approach for their own activities. At the end of the day running advanced search queries to find blogs who are open to guest post pitches can be a monotonous affair, so why not let the prospects come to you?

Before you get your frilly little knickers in a twist, I’m not saying that you should chase after these guest posting opportunities entirely, it’s quite easy to see that many of them are just glorified article directories, but there are often a few hidden treasures.

But, with a little time and research you could easily determine whether the blog is a worthwhile candidate or not, and you already know that these sites are pretty open to responding to sloppy guest blog pitches.

Qualifying your Guest Blog Opportunities

Last year I invited a few smart link builders to share their thoughts on blogger outreach and prospecting links. The main elements that they looked for in prospecting for quality partnerships which came up again, and again, were:

  • Look and feel – is the content of a high quality? Is the design of the site fresh? Is the site cluttered with advertisements and affiliate offers?
  • How many RSS subscribers do they have? If this isn’t displayed in a prominent position then have a quick look in Google Reader to get a flavour of the number of subscribers.
  • Do they have an active following on social media? Use Followerwonk to quickly assess their number of Twitter followers and influence metrics or look at Facebook to see how often they engage with their community and how many likes and comments they receive.
  • How many social shares do their posts receive? You can quickly run their last few posts through Social Crawlytics to determine the blog’s social reach i.e. numbers of Stumbles, Pins, Tweets and Likes.

Once you have found your diamond in the rough you have a choice to make – depending on how dark a hat you’re wearing that day:

1)      Engage with the blogger on social media and eventually pitch them an awesome post they will love

2)      Fire off a cold guest blog request, after all the guest blog spammer probably did the same, what have you got to lose?

3)      Email the blogger telling them that they’ve allowed some dirty spammer to post on their site and that they are linking out to a “bad community” – offer to write a new article to replace the spam on their blog

I’d never recommend the last option but I’ll leave it to your own moral compass guide you.  However, I’d expect a very high response rate from these types of sites.

How to Setup your Guest Post Spam Capture Page

So you’ve made it this far, I must have managed to sell you on this shady idea!

This is probably one of the easiest SEO tutorials you’ll read all week.

  1. Create a Write for Us page in your WordPress site – make sure that you include the keywords that relate to your blog as a list of topics that the guest blogger might want to submit. For example I have “Link Building”, “Social Media” and “SEO” on my page.
  2. Create a contact form or email address to go to a different inbox – you don’t want to be inundated with rubbish in your main inbox, we all know that’s used by Google+ for your SEO community invites
  3. Index the page so it appears in the SERPs – we want to make it easy for our guest post spammers to scrape Google and find you. If you don’t want to the page to be in your main navigation use your SEO super powers to make it happen.
  4. Sit back and wait for the emails to arrive, it might take a few days, it might take a few hours it all depends on how high your Toolbar PageRank is as these guys don’t care about anything else.

Caution Penalty ahead!

I’m not in any way condoning these practises and I would never use this as part of a client’s link building campaign. Mr. Cutts has already warned us that low quality guest blogs are under the microscope so be prepared that these types of sites (links) could be devalued in the future.

Until then happy guest posting!

Jon Cooper Interview: Learning, Link Building & Successful Blogging

It’s quite hard to believe that Jon Cooper has only been blogging for the past 2 years! Some of his posts gathered a lot of traction in 2012 and are often cited by other SEO bloggers and speakers – most notably his link building strategies and his most creative link building post ever.

The one thing that I’ve discovered about Jon is he always very accessible and willing to chat with his readers and often goes out of his way for them. So, I recently sat down with him over email and we got to chat about his blog, his course and a few things in between.

1. How did Point Blank SEO get started? What made you think a blog solely about link building would be successful?

Point Blank SEO got started because, after reading through a ton of internet marketing/SEO related content, I thought there was a lot of expertise that was lacking. I didn’t think I was going to fill that gap, but I thought I’d at least try, as well as learn about what a blogger has to deal with on a daily basis so I could better understand that demographic.

I thought a blog on just link building would be successful because, more than anything, that’s the kind of blog I want to read. Link building seemed to be the only thing separating the good from the great, and like anyone, I wanted to be great, so I wanted to see what I could contribute in that area.

2. What are the key things you’ve done to help to build your blog?

As you can see with my latest update, presentation is key to help setting me apart from the noise. I don’t want people coming to my site, thinking it’s just another SEO blog, and not giving the content a chance unless it was something seriously outstanding beyond all measure (which my content seldom, if anytime, is). I wanted people walking into my site thinking that this might be worth listening to, then I’d let my content do the rest.

I also think that would helped me build my blog in the beginning was that I was willing to engage with anyone wanting to engage with me. It’s tough seeing your blog get under 50 visitors a day for 6-12 months, thinking this is how it’s always going to be.

Lastly, content expectations has been huge, and I really haven’t even come close to mastering it. When I relaunched at the beginning of last year, I put in a ton of time into my first few posts, because I wanted people to associate the quality of each individual post with the quality of the blog. When they expected to see something great each time, and as long as they did actually see something great, they were almost programmed to share it, which is how I grew from 100 visitors a day to 1000 in less than a month.

3. What have you learned over the past 2 years of blogging? 

If you’re not different, don’t bother trying.

If you’re going into blogging with the goal of making money, 999/1000 you’re going to fail. The only reason I had success was because I had no expectations for the blog. The success came out of my passion for what I was doing, mostly because I didn’t need some reward of 10000 visitors at the end of the day, just the satisfaction of creating something great that I know I would appreciate.

I also took it seriously as a business when it started doing well. I set goals, I held myself to standards, and I had to turn it from a hobby into a real thing. If I didn’t, I’d still be another casual mid-level blogger, because when you take it seriously, you don’t stop until you succeed.

What’s worked for me, to my own dislike, is long content. Even when I think a shorter post is much, much better, the content I wrote that was the longest was way more shared & linked to. I think this is because of the sharer’s mentality; they want to seem as if they’re sharing great stuff, and if it’s detailed & long, they think they look better.

What didn’t work for me is turning off comments. I did that once on a controversial post, to try and get others to write posts in response and link to mine, but that didn’t work. I just lost a great discussion. I think it can work, but you have to commit and hold to it, even through all the criticism.

4. Why did you decide to create your link building course? What motivated you?
The main reason was because I wanted to train someone, but there was no resource out there to do it with. If I could train someone efficiently, I could increase the workload I could take on for client work, thus making me a lot more money.

The secondary reason was that I didn’t want to do any ads or obtrusive affiliate ads/reviews, so a training course like this could not only help me provide more value for my audience, but monetize my blog in a friendly way that no one would object to.

5. What have you learned from promoting your link building course? Would you do things differently?
I learned that, just like free content, if it’s a good product, people will want to tell others about it, even if it costs money. I know,  I could’ve done a much better job with the course even with the praise I’ve gotten, and I wish I did, because if people thought they were getting $300 or more in value for a $67 course, sign-ups would grow exponentially, outweighing the cost of charging more.

6. Do you think the fact it did so well was down to your personality & professional network or your unique product offering?
I think it had to with both. I’ve prided myself on the relationships I’ve built with influencers, readers, and email subscribers, so when the time came that I needed them, no matter what it really was, they were very willing to help out (especially since the majority really liked it). But I also think the unique product offering helped because there was really nothing out there in terms of a complete resource to learn link building, not even a book, so that really helped as well.

7. You plan to blog more & possibly launch a new info product in 2013, where do you find the time? What’s going to be prioritised to make this happen?
I made time by taking the semester off. If it’s really important, no matter what it is, you’ll make time. I truly believe that. And it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as taking the semester off if you’re in school.

But it’s going to be a ride as I try to juggle even more in less time, so we’ll have to wait and see how this goes :)

8. What’s on your recommended reading list for link builders ?
If you haven’t read the Psychology of Persuasion, read it. Everything in link building was brought to this niche because someone applied knowledge learned elsewhere to link building. There’s even some things in this book that hasn’t really been talked about, such as using the rejection-then-retreat technique, in which you ask for something bigger than a link, then when they say no, say “well, then can you at least give me a link?”. Just an example.

I also recommend the Personal MBA to really anyone in business, because process & work flow are becoming two very essential parts of link building as it’s becoming more & more like sales.

9. What are the types of links should SEO ‘s be focusing on building to their client sites this year?
Ones that webmasters aren’t normally asked to give. I think we’ve gotten to a point where seasoned webmasters are deathly sick of us link builders, so it’s going to be the ones who do something truly different and truly think outside of the box to get them to do what you want.

10. What’s your #1 link building tip?

Do everything in your power to not come across as a link builder to webmasters that you email. Once they see you as a genuine, real, and caring person, you’ve got a shot. Word choice does the rest.

Thanks, Jon for taking the time to answer my questions. If you are interested in learning more about link building you can still sign up to Jon’s Link Building Course for just $67, and be sure to follow him on Twitter.

If you enjoyed this post you can sign up to my RSS feed and learn more about SEO, link building and social media.

Please Stop Eating the Shit Sandwich

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2012 was the year that it became clearer than ever that a lot of SEO blogs were just serving up Shit sandwiches:

  • Speculation – SEO’s making predictions on what factors were in the Matt Cutts “over optimisation penalty” and then giving crap advice about the steps to recovery from the big bad Penguin with out any proof or evidence.
  • FUD – Blog Networks Deindexed, Anchor Text devalued, I’m sure SEO was killed off at least 47 times last year. Can’t anyone properly dispatch of this lame horse?
  • Unlikely Pairings  – What your Mom taught me about Reach arounds Outreach – Michael Kovis did a great job of analysing this trend so I’ll let you read his blog.

I’ve been annoyed by this trend of crappy posts for a while now and do you know what I  call this stuff “idearrhoea“. The worst cases of idearrhoea usually occur when you’re struggling to meet your ludicrous posting schedule and will toss up another 500 word post in the hope that you’ll appease the Google gods.

How do you know you’ve got idearrhoea? It’s just like farting, if you have to try too hard it’s probably shit…

Time to Change

So a couple of months ago after a few rum and cokes I took myself over to Twitter to vent my frustrations. I’m not sure which post it was that made me snap but it was probably a day ending in y, as clearly someone had tossed another crap post into the echo chamber. The SEO sea lions had clapped their flippers and barked their false platitudes…

“Great Content… arf arf!”

Less than 24 hours later someone had bought the domain and put the project into development, I need to keep my great ideas to myself in the future because clearly I do have them!

Shitbound’s tagline is “the home for shite that SEOs write” that’s absolute genius. It’s been coming for a while and it’s time for us as a community to call the crap out, and in the words of Jonathon Colman “we can do better than this“.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that every article we write has to be an award winning piece but if you really don’t have something to write about please don’t push out a post just to achieve your twice a week blogging ritual schedule.

Writing takes time, and editing even longer, a lot of people don’t give themselves enough time to write their posts and often very few will spend time editing them. So why not ask your peers to review your posts before they go live.

It’s dead easy, just install this WordPress plugin and ask your friends to submit their feedback. If they are true fans they’ll tell you if your post is a big steaming pile and persuade you not to hit publish.

Make a Pledge

But this isn’t a post offering you a free lesson in writing betterer, this is a request for all my followers (hi mum!) and my fellow professional SEO’s to:

  1. Stop upvoting crap content on Inbound.org
  2. Stop auto-tweeting every time SEOmoz, SEJ, SEL or SEW hit publish
  3. Stop blindly re-tweeting everything that the “influencers” plug (aka the SEO Beliebers)
  4. Sign up to Shitbound.org once it’s open for business
  5. Call out the crap
  6. Don’t be afraid to give feedback in the comments or via email

Until then make a new years resolution to cut down on the Shit Sandwiches they’re doing you no good and are making your breath smell a bit.

 

 

Traffic Tips to Kickstart your Crowdfunding Campaign

You’ve had that next billion dollar idea and you’re going to raise your first $25k via Kickstarter, Indiegogo or another crowd funding site to make it a reality.

Simply put, crowdfunding is the process of asking the general public for donations that provide startup capital for new ventures. Using the technique, entrepreneurs and small business owners can bypass venture capitalists and angel investors entirely and instead pitch ideas straight to everyday Internet users, who provide financial backing.

Competition for crowdfunding dollars is already high, and destined to become even more competitive as time passes. Launching a project on a crowd funding site is far from a guaranteed success – less than half of the Kickstarter projects reach their funding goal, and around 12% don’t receive a single pledge, therefore no matter how great your product is you’re going to need to get web traffic to your funding page or you are going to struggle to raise the necessary capital to get your project off the ground.

Phase 1: Build your audience

The most successful entrepreneurs know the power of leveraging other people’s money to get to where they want to be. Well the best marketers know how to leverage other people’s audiences to do that too. You want to start this phase at least 3-4 months before you plan to launch your funding campaign.

It’s important to write down who your ideal customer is and who your ideal funder will be. I like to create personas based on real data about customer demographics and online behaviour, along with educated guesses about their personal histories, motivations, and potential concerns.

Try to answer the following questions while you write out your personas:

  • What are the biggest problems they are trying to solve?
  • What do they need most?
  • What information are they typically searching for?
  • What trends are influencing their business or personal success?

Next, develop a profile of each persona’s typical online activities. You know who they are and what their needs are, now think about all the ways they research a potential purchase on your site or on others.

  • What do they do online? Do they read blogs? Are they active on social media?
  • What kind of search terms do they use? Are they on email lists or RSS subscribers?
  • What kind of information do they tend to consume online? Infographics? Videos? Podcasts?

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