New Huffington Post Blogging Platform for Contributors

The Blogger’s Guide to the New Huffington Post Contributor Platform

The Huffington Post recently changed their contributor platform. Thousands of bloggers utilize HuffPo to extend the reach of their articles to new audiences, gain backlinks, and build their writing portfolio.

Now, instead of jumping onto their blogging platform and submitting a new post for review, bloggers can publish directly to the Huffington Post website.

Writers excited about dofollow backlinks

But there’s a catch…

How the New Huffington Post Content Platform Works

Now when an existing blogger submits to the Huffington Post, their article is automatically published.

Well that’s pretty sweet for bloggers, right — to have their work immediately published?

Not so fast..

Cons of the New HuffPo Blogging Platform

While posts are automatically sent live, bloggers won’t reap the same benefits.

Initially, the posts are set as “noindex, nofollow”, which means that both the article, and any links it may contain are virtually ignored by Google and other search engines.

It used to be that after a few days of waiting for review, posts would published to the Huffington Post and featured on category pages, but it seems now that they are only published on a unique URL that is not featured at all.

If your post does well, the Huffington Post may “promote” your article to be featured, but until then your post will not receive any traffic other than what you send to it yourself.

Once your post is promoted, it will also become an indexed page with do-follow links.

Blogger working for huffington post

Pros of the New HuffPo Blogging Platform

The Huffington Post, and to an extent its readers gain benefit from these new blog platform changes.

HuffPo saves a substantial amount of time because only a small handful of posts have to be reviewed and edited, compared to all articles in the past.

Hypothetically this should also raise the quality of the featured articles on the Huffington Post, because articles featured on the website are more specifically hand-picked.

Implications for Link Builders and Bloggers:

If you are looking to publish to the Huffington Post for link building purposes, you need to rethink your strategy. It is most likely that your article will never be converted to an indexed page with do-follow links unless you plan on heavily promoting your article.

There may still be value in the no-follow links if the article has substantial traffic, however the Huffington Post will no longer be driving traffic to the page until it’s promoted, so it comes down to your own promotional strategy again.

This change also negatively affects bloggers with small networks looking to use the Huffington Post to leverage a wider audience. Contributor-published articles will never reach the main HuffPo article without substantial promotion and marketing, which is a problem for bloggers who don’t have large followings.

Ultimately, the new Huffington Post platform is making bloggers work harder – for free.

 

What do you think?

Do you plan on publishing to the new Huffington Post platform?

Google Analytics Search Console Reports

All About the New Google Analytics Search Console Reports

I was perusing Google Analytics the other day and almost choked – my “Search Engine Optimization” reports were missing!

I desperately looked to Google for answers – and it seems that the SEO reports have been replaced by “Search Console” reports. While both draw data from the GA/Search Console integration, “Search Console” reports offer most of the same info plus a few COOL added bonuses.

Google Search Console Reports

While the original “Search Engine Optimization” reports included Landing Pages, Queries, and a Geographical report, the new Search Console includes Landing Pages, Countries, Devices, and Queries.

Google search console reports

Top 3 Things to Look At in Search Console Reports

Click through rate by landing page by keyword

Click Through rate by landing page and keyword

It used to be that you could look at the CTR for the landing page or query, but now you can narrow it down to the landing page by query.

To do this, go to your “Landing Pages” report, and click on the page you want to look at. You’ll then be taken to a screen showing you the queries that have brought users to this page, as well as the CTR. The majority of queries are still listed as (not set), but especially when you manage a site with a high traffic volume, the available sampling can give you awesome insight into which keywords have good CTR, and which don’t for any given page.

How to use this insight: There’s no use in data alone if you don’t act on it. This report is awesome because you can see the effectiveness of your SERP results by keyword.

Perhaps you have a page on “blogging services”, and it has a high click through rate for the term “advice on blogging” but not for the search term “services for my blog”. The page is designed to drive sales of your services, so you will find that the intent of the searchers does not necessarily match the purpose of the page.

Click Through Rate By Device

If you go to the “Devices” report, you’ll see a breakdown of the number of impressions and clicks on Google, by device. It is helpful to be able to see if there is a major difference in queries by device (example: are more people searching long-tail, natural language keywords on mobile?)

It’s also helpful to see the effectiveness of your SERP results based on device by looking at the CTR. Perhaps you’ll find that pages with shorter title tags have a higher click through on mobile than desktop.

How to use this insight: This report will help you better understand your audience. Perhaps the majority of purchases on your site come from mobile users, but your e-commerce pages have a low CTR for mobile devices. You may decide to alter your SERP (title and/or meta description) to better meet your mobile users preferences.

Average Position of Landing Pages for Specific Queries

Average Position for Search Queries by Landing Page

Search Engine Optimization reports in Google Analytics used to show you the average position of a query… but what if you have multiple landing pages ranking for the same term?

If you have a website about plumbing in Los Angeles, your “Los Angeles” page ranks #1, your homepage ranks #7, and your “Plumbing Tips” page ranks #32, all for the same search term. In the old system, all of these would be averaged out for your final “average position” number.

Now, you can see how each landing page ranks for a specific query. To do this, go to the Landing Pages report, click on one of your landing pages, and you will see a breakdown of queries and the average position for each.

How to use this insightKnowing the average position of your landing page for specific queries will help you better understand how your pages rank for specific terms. Perhaps your e-commerce pages are ranking high for terms with low commercial intent and lower for terms with high commercial intent. You can try optimizing your page to rank better for keywords with high commercial intent by altering your copy and building links.

It’s also helpful to know your CTR by position. There should be a close relationship between the average position and click through rate. If your page ranks #1 for a high traffic keyword and only has a click through rate of 3%, you might want to consider optimizing your SERP result by changing your meta description or title tag.

 

The new Google Analytics Search Console reports are very similar to the older Search Engine Optimization reports, but they allow for a bit deeper insight, allowing you to better optimize your website.

How to Use Real SEO Headers for Your Blog

Why You Need Real Headers For Your Blog (+ How to Do It!)

I see a lot of really great blogs and intelligent writers pumping out fantastic content that will never be seen by a search engine.

There are tons of reasons for this, but one mistake that I consistently see is not using headers.

Using headers is not really a make-or-break type of thing, so if you don’t use them but you have killer backlinks to your site, awesome content, and a super-fast site, I wouldn’t freak out just yet.

However in SEO, very few single tactics are make-or-break (except heavily using tactics that will get you penalized). Updating your old posts to have proper headers won’t magically place you #1 in the SERPs for all of your target keywords, but it is a great way to give your pages a little boost.

Newspaper Headers

Why Use SEO Blog Headers?

If you’ve ever read my blog posts before, you probably know that I love and use the hell out of headers

Headers are awesome for:

  • Breaking content up and making it more visually interesting
  • Making it easier to skim, so readers will still understand your main points even if they don’t read every word
  • Make it easier for search engines to understand the main points of your content

A mistake that I consistently see is bloggers using bolded text as a header.

Bolded text is not the same as headers.

While it can be eye-catching, bolded text doesn’t really tell your readers or search engines that the text is really, really important.

Real headers will be significantly larger than regular bold text, and depending on your blog settings may also feature a different font.

How to Create H2 and H3 Headers

Some blog editors have a drop down menu where you can select your header type, and others do not. That’s okay – it’s easy enough to create them in HTML (really, I have the HTML capabilities of a 6th grader, it’s not hard!)

If you are using WordPress, all you have to do is access the text editor here…

Editing HTML Blog Headers in WordPress

Then you find the text that you want to use as a header, and wrap it with header tags.

An H2 header will look like this:

<h2> This Is My H2 Header Text! </h2>

An H3 header will look like this:

<h3> This Is My H3 Header Text! </h3>

SEO Best Practices for Headers

Like any SEO tactics, headers can be done correctly or incorrectly. The main thing to keep in mind is the function of the headers to your visitors. You are using headers primarily for your visitors, and the search engine bots are just site visitors that are trying to understand the main points of your blog post.

  • Use real headers with H2 and H3 tags, not bolded text
  • Use H2 and H3 headers to draw attention to your main points
  • Use H2 and H3 headers to break up your posts visually
  • Include keywords in headers so that skim-readers and search engines know the really important topics of your post
  • Do not stuff your headers full of keywords thinking it will improve your search engine visibility (hint: it wont)
  • Use headers that match the hierarchy of important points for your post
    • A main point will be marked with H2
    • A sub-point of that main point will be marked with H3
    • You can even use H4 headers if you have that much to say, and if using the header creates better organization and visual flow

Living Below Financial Means

Why Living Below My Financial Means is the Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

I have spent the vast majority of the last five years living paycheck to paycheck. In fact, it was only just a few months ago that it became realistic for me to spend less than I make.

Unfortunately, that’s the reality for most young adults (and many adultier-adults) right now. Housing is freaking expensive. Student debt is crippling. Cell phones and home internet are expensive necessities.

However, there are also a substantial number of people who make a great deal of money and still live paycheck to paycheck. In fact, as much as 44% of millennials who make $100,000 to $149,000 per year admit to living paycheck to paycheck.

Let me tell you, I don’t make close to $100,000. But last December I picked up enough high paying work to substantially increase my income overall.

I’m not a rub-it-in-your-face kind of person, but I think that it is important to discuss salary openly, so my friends all know that I got a substantial raise.

Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments:

When are you getting a new car?

Don’t tell me you can’t afford [whatever], I know how much you make!

When are you moving somewhere nicer?

Frugal cat says how about shut the fuck up

How I got to the point where I could afford to live below my means

By the middle of last year, I was living right at my means pretty comfortably. I could afford my rent. I could afford a reasonable grocery budget of $50/week, and didn’t have to worry about skipping meals or going to the food bank.

I could afford my car insurance and to eat out once per week.

But by the time each paycheck rolled around, I had about $20 left in my checking account.

I didn’t have crippling debt, but I didn’t have any extra cash either.

Then I got a raise. And the reason I now have extra cash is because I didn’t greatly expand my budget.

Where I Save Money

Save money on expensive car payments

Rent/Housing

It’s recommended that you keep your housing expenses around 25% of your gross income. Last fall I was spending around 23% of my gross income on rent.

Since getting a higher paying job, the same apartment I’ve been living in for the last year now only costs 12% of my gross income.

Don’t get me wrong, my apartment is a little run down and I don’t live in the nicest neighborhood, but I have enough space, a friendly and fair landlord, and I never feel unsafe in my home.

My Car

Similarly, if I wanted to, I could “afford” to drive a really nice car. However, by today’s standards, “afford” means putting $500 down and taking out a $20,000 auto loan with a hefty monthly payment + interest charges.

Instead, I am perfectly happy to keep my 2000 Hyundai Accent, which will probably last me another 5 years without major mechanical expenses.

Impulse Buys

I also try to keep my impulse buys to a minimum. If I find that I need or want something I don’t immediately go buy it, even though for most things I could.

For example, right now I have a DVD player but no remote. The DVD player I have is basically garbage anyway, so I should probably just go buy a new one. But I primarily watch Netflix, not movies, so spending $50 on a new DVD player probably isn’t a very smart use of money.

Cell Phone

Nowadays most individual smartphone plans cost from $60-$90 monthly, sometimes with additional “phone payments”.

Instead of having the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, I have an Alcatel OneTouch. While many plans will offer a 2 year payment plan for fancy phones, totalling up to $1000 over time, I have chosen to have a slightly less pretty, slightly slower phone for the total cost of $120.

I also have chosen to have slightly less reliable cell service through Cricket instead of Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, so I pay $35/month instead of $80.

Travel

I take small road trips several times a year – sometimes to visit my family who live 650 miles away, and sometimes to do athletic competitions.

I took a trip to the Seattle area in April to celebrate my birthday, and I kept it affordable by:

  1. Bringing homemade sandwiches and snacks that I bought at the grocery store for the drive
  2. Renting an apartment on Airbnb instead of getting a hotel – I spent $60/night for a private apartment with 2 beds, a full bathroom, washer/dryer, and a full kitchen
  3. Eating at affordable restaurants
  4. Doing free and affordable activities – my mom and I spent most of our first day wandering the Pike Place Market, and the second day we went to the Tacoma Zoo and Aquarium

I’ll be heading to Colorado later this month, and I plan on staying with a friend instead of paying for a hotel.

Where I Splurge

I can’t say that I don’t spend any more money than I did on my former salary, but I don’t spend much more than $100 more a month.

Splurge on coffee shops

These are the few things that I have loosened my reigns on:

  • I go out for coffee 4 or 5 times per week instead of 2 or 3 (my order is only $2 anyway, so it’s not a huge spend)
  • I spend a little bit more on groceries (typically $45-$55 a month instead of $40-$50)
  • I have invested in a few larger home items: a desk, a bed, and soon I will be buying a window AC unit (I got the desk for $60 at a thrift store, and the bed for $80 at a yard sale, so they were still very inexpensive)

Everyone values different things – having a nice car may genuinely be important to you, while eating out or going out for coffee may be less important.

Why living below my means is the best choice I’ve ever made

My overall financial anxiety is substantially lower

Even now I feel like I can’t afford things. Every time I receive a paycheck I put a substantial chunk directly into savings, where I can’t access it with my debit card. By the time my next paycheck rolls around, my checking account may be feeling a little empty.

However, I don’t ever have to worry about money. Realistically I know that I can afford my rent every month. I can afford my rent even if my paycheck is a few days late, or there is an error with my deductions.

I can be spontaneous

If I wanted to, I could fly across the country this weekend and stay in a hotel in a city I’ve never been to. (In fact, if I wasn’t preparing for an athletic competition in a couple of weeks, I probably would be on my way to the East Coast as we speak.)

I can decide to go to a movie if I’m bored and restless on a Friday night, or I can treat myself to a nice meal to celebrate a small work victory.

While spontaneity may be easily confused with impulsivity, there are subtle differences. Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, describes spontaneous behavior as “natural, and in a good way”, and impulsive behavior as “impelled” or “driven”.

I can spend money to save money

Paying up front for things can often save you a little money, and when you can do it for everything it really adds up.

I can now pay for 6 months of car insurance instead of paying monthly, so I get a discount. I can afford to buy a 24-pack of toilet paper every once in a while instead of buying a 4-pack every week, so I am spending less overall.

Similarly, I can own my car outright instead of taking a loan or leasing.

I am prepared for emergencies

If my car breaks down or is wrecked, I can pay my insurance deductible, pay for repairs, or buy a new (used) car without worrying.

I can easily meet my health insurance deductible out of pocket, so even a medical emergency will not cripple my finances.

Most importantly, I can afford to take a huge pay cut if I ever lose my job and have to take a lower paying job, without compromising my current lifestyle.

 

Not being broke is awesome. Unfortunately it’s really hard to not be broke nowadays, especially in places where housing is expensive.

While it may not be possible for you not to live paycheck to paycheck right now, chances are you will eventually get a pay raise – and if you can keep your lifestyle at a similar level as today you will find that your financial troubles will become more and more manageable, until finally you’re one step ahead.

Ecommerce Insights from Amazon Reviews

3 Kickass E-Commerce Insights to Gain from Amazon Reviews

People will tell you their entire life story in the form of a series of Amazon reviews.

If you are an Amazon seller, if you sell a product that is also sold on amazon (whether you sell in a store or on your own e-commerce site), or if you know that your audience is crazy about a certain product that is sold on Amazon, there are a few different ways you can use Amazon to your advantage.

Building Personas With Amazon Reviews

I first realized the power of Amazon reviews when I was encouraged to use them as a consideration when building buyer personas.

Here are a few things you can often learn from Amazon reviews:

Location

Many Amazon reviewers will have their approximate location listed on their profile.

Approximate Age

It’s usually pretty easy to tell the approximate age range of an Amazon reviewer. Style of language is one indicator, and products purchased as well. Some people will outright mention their age (“as a 43 year old woman, I think this style is…”)

Family

Serial Amazon reviewers reveal a scary amount of information about their families. If you find someone who has reviewed a handful of items, you’ll often see them mentioning that the product they purchased was for their significant other.

Family details on Amazon reviews

You can often tell if the reviewer has children, and the approximate ages of their children as well. Look for purchases of toys and items commonly used by children, as well as mention such as “I bought this for my 3 year old daughter” “this fit my son very well”.

Disposable Income

The volume and types of purchases will give you an idea of whether or not this individual has substantial disposable income (or whether they spend as if they do, regardless of their actual financial state).

Keep in mind:

It’s likely that only a percentage of your customers shop on Amazon, and an even smaller percentage are serial reviewers. Amazon buyers are probably not your only demographic, and personas built from Amazon reviews probably do not generalize to your entire audience.

Generating Content Ideas with Amazon Reviews

There are two main sources of content ideas that I have found with Amazon reviews.

Reviews of your own products

Reviews left on your own products (or on products that you sell independently from Amazon) are incredible to help you improve your sales copy, as well as blog posts and other forms of content.

First and foremost, reviews give you real-world examples of how people describe your products – which helps you speak the same language as your customers.

This can be helpful in terms of keyword research, because they may give you insight into key phrases that are being used to identify your product’s features, as well as help you connect with customers with sales copy and blog content.

Other product types commonly purchased

Sometimes two seemingly unrelated products are often bought in tandem. For example, if you sell stationary, you may find that your customers are also fitness fanatics and purchase gym bags, athletic clothes, and workout videos.

There is likely no causation in the relationship – people do not buy fitness equipment because they write in journals, and they do not like sticky notes because they wear athletic clothes, but with your knowledge of your products and industry you may be able to hypothesize as to why there may be a relationship: workout fanatics use your stationary to record their workouts.

Using Amazon reviews to understand buying patterns

If you can truly find new insight and connections, it will open new ideas for content that you may never have otherwise thought of. With the example of stationary and fitness, you might decide to write a blog post about workout essentials, or if you list your journal’s many uses on your product page you might mention that it is perfect for recording workouts.

Link Building

Similarly to your own site’s content, learning about connections between your products and a different category of products can help inspire your link building and SEO efforts.

Guest Posting

Using Amazon reviews to find related product categories will help you find different places that you might be able to guest post.

For example, if you know that fitness fanatics also love your journals, you may think to pitch an article idea like “5 Things to Know Before Buying Your Next Workout Journal“, or “5 Products to Make Your Fitness Routine More Fun” to a fitness blog.

Backlinking Related Non-Competitors

Your super cute stationary company may not compete directly with Lululemon, but if a good chunk of your customers are die-hard Lulu fans, there are probably a few pages that link to Lululemon that might also link to you.

This is a great way to find related resource pages that you might also fit on (think: gym essentials links).

 

Using Amazon reviews can help you better understand a certain segment of your audience, and help you get your creative juices flowing when you feel like you’re in a content rut.