Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Best Blogging Advice

I pretty regularly perform searches for things related to blogging and entrepreneurship. I do it because I usually end up learning something new, but also because it helps motivate me.

Whenever I feel like procrastinating or delaying my writing or content creation, I look for things (often blogger success stories) which help me keep my larger vision of running a blog with a large readership in mind.

I was doing that sort of motivational searching today and found a few great videos that share some great advice to bloggers about how to grow and find success. I started my search in YouTube for Yaro Starak.



Yaro Starak on Creating Pillar Content


Yaro Starak is an online entrepreneur and blogger who helped a lot of other bloggers get their start by teaching them how blogging and monetizing a blog can work through his "Blog Profits Blueprint". That Blog Profits Blueprint is a free e-book that he gives away in exchange for joining his email list.

I mostly know about Yaro because of his podcast, The Entrepreneurs-Journey Podcast, which was rebranded to The Yaro Podcast. In this podcast he interviews internet entrepreneurs, often bloggers, who have found a way to make an income on the internet. This podcast is something that often motivates me to take action on my blogging goals.

Today, I decided to search YouTube for Yaro Starak, hoping to find something inspirational. I found a clip from some conference he was speaking at where he talks about how to build what he calls "Pillar Content". Pillar content is the best, most useful stuff you've got to share on your blog, the sort of stuff that attracts readers to you. In the video he talks about what kinds of content can work as pillar content, and how to attract a following/readership.


He talks about the sorts of posts that tend to do very well in attracting readers. He mentions these types of content: How To, Definitions, Lists, and Opinions. This advice is helpful because it shows you many possibilities for ways to write content that will satisfy readers.

Another point he touches on is that people prefer content in different forms, and if you want to satisfy the greatest number of people possible, you've got to produce content in multiple formats. He calls this multimedia. He says that from a single piece of content you can produce a video, a podcast or audio, and a written blog post. Each of those sorts of multimedia will be the preference of someone, and you also increase your total content output.

His last point is my favorite. He says to publish content EVERY DAY. That is such an important thing to remember and commit to. While every day is a possibly unrealistic goal, a goal of publishing content regularly is critical. Search Engine Optimization and attracting an audience is best accomplishing by building a huge body of work.

I've read somewhere (I can't remember where now) that the way to look at each blog post you write is as a door to your blog or business. If you publish only one or a few posts, then you only have a tiny number of doorways for readers to find you. If you publish hundreds of posts, then you have lots of possible doors for people to find your content.

So, while lots of people giving out blogging advice will say that quantity isn't really important because it is all about quality, you must remember that quantity is what will ultimately bring you readers and traffic, so you've got to follow a schedule if you want to build that body of work.

So publishing content regularly, daily if possible, will help you achieve you blogging goals!


Carly the Prepster on Blogging Tips


I stumbled upon another video as a suggested video to the one I just talked about. This video was about blogging tips from someone who has made it as a full time blogger. This seems super interesting, so I was enticed to click.

The video is by someone I'd never heard of. The channel name is Carly the Prepster.


In the video she basically just talks about the things she would advise new bloggers to do or think about. She says she has been blogging for nine years, and so she's got some relevant perspective to share.

The first thing that really jumped out at me and made me want to listen to her was that she said you can, and maybe should, start with a free Blogger/blogspot blog in the beginning. She also mentioned using Squarespace or Wix as other free options.

This is in such stark contrast to most people talking about blogging and teaching people how to blog. Most people have an affiliate relationship with hosting companies, where if they can convince a reader to purchase website hosting through their link, they receive a payment. So, given that incentive, most bloggers say you should start with a paid blogging setup, and that might be good advice, but always seems a little self-interested to me.

She explains that your blog won't be likely to make any money early on, and so paying to run a blog that earns nothing might not be feasible. Starting on a free hosted platform will allow you to get started without having to pay any money or cover any costs. And getting started is just so important to gaining momentum.

Carly says that for the majority of her time blogging, she used a free Blogger blog, and that she had only a couple years ago switched over to a paid, self-hosted Wordpress blog.

Using a free blogging platform didn't hold her back from achieving success, and so it shouldn't be a sticking point for others.

She also talked about the importance of simply getting started. She jokes that it seems too simple, but that it is incredibly important to do it. Just start. Start creating content. It takes practice to get better at writing and crafting headlines and writing with SEO in mind. And you don't get practice until you start practicing.

And SEO and ranking in search engines often takes a lot of time, so the sooner you get started, the sooner you will see results.

And Carly, like Yaro, talks about the need to produce LOTS of content. She said that people often say to focus exclusively on quality, but she said to work on quantity as well. You must have a large amount of content to get a readership of any size. Publish content regularly. Have publishing consistency.


Victor Pride of Bold and Determined Talks About Strategy


I next found a blog post and video where a guy named Victor Pride, author of the Bold and Determined blog, talks about what he would do if his whole blogging business disappeared. He also restricts this thought experiment to a situation where he wasn't allowed to start another blog, so he focuses on creating videos for YouTube, but I think this strategy works just as well if being applied to a blog.


Victor is a bit abrasive in his sharing of strategy and advice, but the content of his advice is good quality.

He said that if he lost his blog and wasn't allowed to start another blog, he would start a YouTube channel. He would record and publish a video EVERY DAY.

He said that for a full year, the first year, he wouldn't worry about quality. He wouldn't worry about poor editing or bad sound or even grainy video. He said that if it was possible to avoid bad quality, he would do it, but the priority is to amass a bulk of content that viewers could find, consume, and connect with.

After producing a video per day for a year, he said he could slow down and improve the quality of the videos he publishes, because at that point people would actually be finding and following his channel.

Then he talks about monetizing the traffic you've built by writing a book to sell and becoming an affiliate marketer.

My biggest take away from this video, though, is the urgent need to constantly produce content, to build up lots of content, because that is the source of building traffic.

This video was embedded in a blog post on his site where he talks about how to build a business and make money by being yourself on the internet.

The content of that page went a little beyond what the video talked about.

His idea to make money by being yourself reminds me a lot of the Youpreneur model that was created by Chris Ducker (I encourage you to look into it if you've never heard of it).

The key of Victor's blog post was to create content (whether that be blog articles, podcasts, videos, or whatever) that essentially documents your life and your reality.

You don't have to pretend to be something you aren't, or to inflate your personality.

People will be interested in you exactly as you are. You just need to share who you are so that people can find you.

Write about what interests you, what you do, what you like.

Again, it's about creating lots of content.

He says that it might sound like a cliche to say "Consistency is Key", but that is because it is true. Creating lots of content is the only way to find the success you seek.

With the power of the internet, anyone can be a celebrity or a media company. You just need to craft a message, create content, and share it. You will make money by sharing lots of content.



I thought each of these three videos were very motivational and helped push me to continue work on my blog. I really want to share them with you so that you may pick up some great blogging advice and strategy and feel driven to take action towards your goals! And certainly follow check out the original videos so that you get the full content and don't miss anything, because I really just summarized what they talked about.



Other Articles to Read

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Geothermal Energy is the Renewable Energy Answer


Renewable Energy Choices

The world runs on energy. 

Without a steady supply of ready-to-use energy, the world would fall apart very quickly. 

The progress humanity has achieved and the abundance and standard of living we’ve become used to is possible because of available energy. When we discovered fossil fuels and the many sorts of products that could be distilled from crude oil, we had found our cheap and abundant energy source which would power invention, innovation, and industrialization. 

Fossil fuels have been abundant and cheap and therefore have been factored into the use of anything whose priorities have been widespread adoption, mobility, and cost-efficiency. Most notably, fossil fuels are heavily used in the production of electricity and in powering transportation in the form of cars and trucks.

Fossil fuels have a major downside, though. They aren’t renewable. When we’ve used all there is, there won’t be anymore coming around. If one totally ignores or sets aside the entire issue of global warming/climate change and just focuses on the ability of an energy source to be renewed and therefore infinite, we still need to think about what sort of energy to replace fossil fuels with. It would be foolish to continue on with the status quo without forming some sort of long-term plan concerning our future energy needs.

There are quite a few renewable energy options to consider. Most of them have merit, and some are maybe not the best option as a total solution but are the best when considering a specific application.


Electricity


One option is to switch everything that is powered by fossil fuels to electricity. This applies heavily to the application of cars and trucks. If instead of powering those personal transportation solutions with gasoline and diesel, they were able to be run using electric motors fed by battery, then we would greatly reduce our need of fossil fuels. 

This would be a great thing for progress but does have some major limitations. 

Firstly, battery technology is not as advanced as would be ideal. Even the highest range electric vehicles have a significantly shorter range than standard gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles. Electric cars and trucks would be great for people who have a need to travel shorter distances, somewhere under 30 miles between charges. 

There have been major advancements in battery technology (at companies like Elon Musk’s Tesla) which have increased the range of electric vehicles, but many people would drag their feet in purchasing a fully electric vehicle because of the range issue. So, if the electric car were to find widespread consumer adoption, the range and battery issues would need to be resolved.

Secondly, switching from fossil fuels to electricity doesn’t really eliminate the use of fossil fuels, it just changes where the fossil fuels are being burned. Most electricity is produced in power plants that run on coal. When you charge your electric car at home between trips, you are storing in your car’s battery electricity which was produced with fossil fuels. While concentrating the combustion of fossil fuels to fewer central locations could help by allowing greater efficiency, it is still not a total solution.


Solar


Another option is solar energy. There are two major types of solar energy production. There are photovoltaic cells and there is thermal solar.

Photovoltaic cells produce electricity when they are exposed to sunlight because the photons excite the atoms in the cells and cause electrons to flow. How awesome?! It’s like a magic sheet that just makes electricity when you shine light on it. It seems like a satisfactory total solution. 

Photovoltaic cells would be a great option in many instances, but this technology has difficulties to overcome. The PV cells are difficult and expensive to produce, making them an unsavory upfront investment. The production of PV cells requires toxic materials which are difficult to obtain and are finite, so we won’t be able to make an unlimited number of PV cells.

The other form of solar is thermal solar. Thermal solar takes advantage of the heat the sun gives off. 

Thermal solar can be engineered in many configurations, but one option is to arrange a bunch of mirrors to concentrate the power of the sunlight across a large area into a small, central spot. The focus of all the heat energy would be oil or water in a sealed tube which would heat up, expand, and spin a generator’s turbine. As the expanded fluid moved the turbine it would cool down, contract, and be moved around through the piping back to the place where the mirrors would fill it with heat again. 

One other configuration of thermal solar, which doesn’t have electricity as a product, is to cover the roof of a house with tubes filled with fluid which would absorb the heat from the sun, then circulate that heated fluid throughout the house to heat the house. This would prevent the use of electricity or natural gas in heating the home.

Both of these solar energy designs suffer from the same weakness – they only work when the sun is out. They stop working if it is nighttime or if it is cloudy. If a system were totally reliant on solar energy, then there would be regular cycles of power outages. The surplus energy created while the sun is shining may be stored in batteries for use during periods of darkness, which could realistically overcome this objection. Even still, solar energy works well as a supplemental source, a piece of the puzzle, but it won’t work as the only source.


Wind


Wind energy is another possibility. Wind energy can be harvested using large windmills which have fans that catch the wind and spin a turbine which produces electricity. These large wind turbines can create a lot of energy, and so seem like a great option. 

However, wind turbines only work where there are usually strong winds. There are places where it just isn’t ever that windy, and so the wind turbines would produce next to nothing. And even where a typically windy site is found, the wind isn’t constant, so there are times when the turbines won’t spin. 

The windmills are sometimes protested by the people who live near them because they are seen as eyesores, giant ugly sticks. They are resisted because they can make constant scraping sounds as they spin. They are large, expensive, and difficult to construct. Because of their limitation, they also won’t work as a total solution. They would work well if placed in concentration in locations where there is ample wind and then that energy is distributed to as wide a space as possible.


Hydroelectric


Hydroelectric energy, mostly harnessed using dams, is power created using the flow of water. Turbines connected to wheels covered in paddles can be placed in a river and the flow of water would engage the paddles, spinning the wheel and turbine. This could produce some electricity. 

On a massive scale, and to improve efficiency, large hydroelectric dams are built, stopping up a natural river, and ensuring that every drop of water that passes through applies energy to turning turbines. The water is routed through large tunnels or pipes and once it has turned the turbine, it is let go into the river on the other side. The essence of this, of course, is the force of gravity which is always pulling water to a lower point. This provides a massive amount of electricity and is very constant and renewable. 

The major drawbacks to hydroelectric power are its ecological effects and its location limitations. The dams built to help harness the power of flowing water interfere with the natural movements and lifecycles of fish and other wildlife. And rivers which have a sufficient volume of water to create electricity are limited in number, and most have already been tapped as energy sources. They provide a lot of electricity, but there isn’t much room for growth.


Tidal or Wave


Tidal or wave power is energy collected from the motion of waves in the ocean. The waters of the ocean ebb and flow because of the gravitational pull of the moon. As the moon travels around the Earth, it attracts the bodies of water, and then when it moves far enough away, the water returns to its original position. This constant pull and release of the massive bodies of water hold lots of potential energy. 

Underwater turbines or articulating see-saw type contraptions are used at the coasts to harness the tidal energy. The movement of the water is used, acting on the contraptions, to spin turbines which create electricity. 

The problems with this technology are similar to that of hydroelectric dams: ecological harm and location limitation. The fish and plant life are affected by the presence of these generators. And the places where tidal energy would work the best are along the coasts where land meets ocean. There is a lot of coast available, but it wouldn’t do much good for landlocked nations or communities far from the ocean.


Alcohol and Biofuels


Alcohol and biofuels have been suggested as possible replacements for fossil fuels. These two products would work in most automotive engines with few alterations. So, in terms of adoptability, they would be pretty easy. 

Alcohol is made by fermenting things that contain sugar to create a first-round alcoholic liquid, and then distilling that until you have concentrated, flammable alcohol.

Biomass is similar, but requires any plant material that contains fiber (most plans recommend wood, grass, or corn fodder because of the abundance of the material and the fiber content) and that material is either fermented into a diesel-like product that has a high octane rating and so explodes under great pressure, or the material is simply burned to produce heat.

Both alcohol and biomass can be used in automotive applications or in electricity-generating power plants. These options are great because they are able to be produced anywhere and at almost any scale because plant material and sugar occur everywhere on the planet and fermentation, distillation, and combustion can happen anywhere. 

These products are very mobile, allowing them to power moving vehicles. The products are carbon-neutral, or nearly that, because the material being burned has spent its whole life consuming and trapping carbon from the atmosphere.

There aren’t as many detractor points for alcohol and biomass as there are for some other alternative energy sources. One might be that the process for creating these products is very active, requiring constant collection of material and the never-ending processing of that material. 

While all the material used can be scrap from other processes, making use of what would have otherwise been waste, it would probably be more efficient to grow whole crops intended for these sorts of fuel production. This use of crop land might take away from food crops and might cause a shortage of food or an increase in food prices. Overall, I think this is a very viable solution for many of our energy needs.

There are likely more alternative energy possibilities available, but I don’t know much about them, and they might be so niche that they aren’t worth discussing here. My main purpose in talking about the alternatives I have is to essentially say that they aren’t going to work as a total energy solution, all building to my final alternative, which I believe will work as a total energy solution.


Geothermal


Geothermal energy is the best sort of renewable energy possible. 

The Earth is in constant motion, always rotating very fast, and the inner core, outer core, and mantle layers of the Earth move past each other causing friction. All of this friction caused by a huge amount of matter moving quickly and ceaselessly creates a tremendous amount of heat. The heat at the center of the Earth is so hot as to keep metal in a liquid state! This heat is always present, constantly being produced and renewed, and expected to be around as long as the Earth is. 

Geothermal energy is harvested by drilling a hole extremely deep into the Earth, past the Crust and into the Mantle. The hole is fitted with piping that allows fluid to be pumped down into the extremely hot layers of the Earth, where the fluid boils, expands, and is returned to the Earth’s surface, to the power plant, to run through a steam engine turbine to produce electricity. The same fluid cools and is re-pumped back into the Earth. 

There are many possible configurations and differences between setups, some requiring more or less construction, some requiring deeper holes to be drilled. I’m not intending to teach the specifics of how to build a functioning geothermal power plant, just a simple overview.

Geothermal is such an excellent choice for a source of renewable energy because it checks all the boxes. 

It is infinite and renewable, as the heat within the Earth will continue to constantly be produced. 

The power plants that harvest the energy can be build nearly anywhere on the planet. It might be easier to build them where the distance to the Mantle is shortest (so not on mountains), but the Mantle exists under all the Earth, and could even be harvested from the ocean (though that wouldn’t probably be practical). 

There is nothing toxic involved in the process and it is totally carbon-neutral because nothing is being burned. There would be much less maintenance required for this sort of power plant because of the lack of a combustion chamber, and no need to clean or filter any exhaust products. The water or fluid being used in the turbine will be constantly recycled and so won’t need to be treated or replaced. 

This energy source is extremely powerful and limitless. This would work very well to create electricity but wouldn’t directly apply to cars and trucks without switching to electric cars that run on batteries.

While a combination of all these options would probably work the best, diversifying our investments in energy and allowing experimentation in many directions, I think it isn’t necessary. I think we can narrow down to geothermal for all electricity production, electric vehicles which run on battery storage which can use the geothermally produced electricity, and for any vehicles not running on battery power, alcohol and biomass can be used.

Geothermal seems to be a perfect and total solution to our energy dependence problems as well. Each country depends to at least some degree, on trade with foreign nations to obtain all the energy they need. They work to import and export fossil fuels. But with geothermal, the power plants can be built anywhere, so each nation can have their own supply.

I don’t really see why there is any further discussion about where to invest green-energy dollars. Geothermal is the solution. It is renewable and independent. It is clean and safe. It doesn’t require any strange or rare materials. I see no downside. 

I think a real, firm step towards a real-world, literal utopia would be to invest in geothermal, and continue to do so to the degree than electricity becomes nearly free. Once humanity has its energy needs fully satisfied, it can set its sights on accomplishing bigger goals.

Please tell me what you think in the comments. Am I wrong? Am I mistaken? Do you agree?




Other Articles to Read

What Is the Purpose of a Blog Post?


Typing on a laptop

When people are new to blogging and they are trying to research what makes a good blog post or how to improve their blog’s performance measures through their content, a certain type of advice comes up almost every time.

“Write the BEST content on your article’s topic.”

“Make your article better than every other article on the web.”

“Make your post the definitive, most detailed resource available.”

“If someone finds your article, they shouldn’t need to look for any other information anywhere else because your post will be so complete that they will have learned all they need to learn about the subject.”

This is a wildly intimidating goal to set for your content, and unfortunately, while the intention of setting a lofty goal is that you will end up achieving better results for it, what most often happens is that you will develop a fear of failure and that will prevent you from even starting. Which is the worst possible outcome. Even a failure that gets finished is a learning experience that can teach you how to do better next time. 

When you never start, or never finish, any projects, then you will never learn anything or get anywhere.

So, to help promote action in others, I’d like to explain what I believe a blog post’s purpose can be. 

A post can be nothing more than your expression of opinion on a given topic. You will write a better piece if you have knowledge about what you are writing, and if you include detail along the way, but it doesn’t need to be an exhaustive encyclopedia entry. 

You can mention the information you want to speak on and exclude the bits you don’t have much to say about. When this is how you write a blog post, then you are really beginning a conversation with the readers. 

You create a thesis, then you write sentences and paragraphs in support of your thesis, and then you encourage readers to respond in the comments section or on social media.

You are adding your perspective to the eternal conversation or debate on that topic. Your readers will appreciate that perspective, because it could be novel, eye-opening, or new to them.

And just because the reader found and read your article doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t read other articles on the exact same subject. A person who reads multiple articles on a subject isn’t someone who was necessarily unsatisfied in each but the final article. They will likely gain something more from each successive article, and they might just enjoy reading about that topic.

Other than some very simple questions that require a very simple and constant answer (such as ‘How many ounces in a gallon’ or ‘What date is Christmas’), most subjects allow for nuance and opinion and the reader will benefit from additional research.

Think to some topic you consider a hobby and which you have researched online. For me the subject might be internet marketing or blogging. I have read hundreds of articles with nearly the same title and information. But I’ve enjoyed reading most of them, and I continue to seek out more because I enjoy the process of reading about what I am interested in. 

And, I would be very disappointed if nobody every wrote about those subjects again because they figured that anything of value had already been written. 

If there weren’t new and fresh content in those subject areas all the time, I would be let down. 

Is that experience similar to you and the hobby you’ve pictured yourself researching? I bet it is. And it’s like that for most people.

Writing a blog post on something that’s been written about lots before (which at this point is most any topic imaginable) doesn’t mean that your article is useless or needs to be better than the rest to add value to readers. Your article will be your version of it. Your article will contain your opinions. Your article will be valuable because of YOUR perspective and voice.

Please, if you feel even a slight urge to write about something, do it. 

Don’t be paralyzed with fear. Don’t worry about the inferiority of your article compared with others. 

As long as you aim to write a good article that you will be proud of and happy to share with others, then your article will be worth writing and worth reading. The world needs your voice and perspective. It is waiting for you, even if it doesn’t know it yet.




Other Articles to Read

Thursday, October 31, 2019

How Many Blog Posts Do You Need to Rank in Google?


The question of how many blog posts or articles a blog needs to have posted before they begin to see any real traffic or first page rankings in Google is a really common question, especially among new bloggers or people who are considering starting a blog. 

This is pretty reasonable because a person who is new to blogging has not tried all that many blogging related activities to find success, so they haven’t seen any success or results, and they are wondering if things will improve or if they have been wasting their time. 

For the person who is considering starting a blog, they might have read other articles and blogs about “How To Make Money Online Through Blogging”, but wonder if it is all false hype or if it is truly possible, and what it might take in order to achieve any real success. And even if it is possible on the whole, what sorts of blogging activities are most effective in producing measurable, useful results?

For as reasonable as this query is, and as many people as there are who wonder it, and as many people as there must be who have found blogging success (whether that be because they have earned a full-time income from their blogging, or they have attracted thousands of backlinks and social shares, or they have hundreds of thousands or even millions of pageviews per month) who could share their own experience with what it took to get to the tipping point and what really helped get them there, there seems to be very few search results answering the question, and of those that do exist, most are total speculation by people who have never actually blogged. 

I would like to share my own speculation on this topic. I haven’t yet found any blogging success (I haven’t made any money from it, I get fewer than 200 page views per month, and I haven’t generated many backlinks to my content at all), but I have done a lot of reading from those who claim to have done it and I’ve conducted a lot of research to find the common traits of blogs that have articles showing in the top spots of Google search results. 

So, this is my attempt to answer.


Common Advice to Bloggers


Whenever you read the success tips offered by bloggers who have made it work, they seem to always be: 
  • Create great and epic content that is better than anyone else’s content on that topic 
  • Be consistent in your creation of new content (whether that be daily, weekly, or even monthly posting) 
  • Get active on social media to share with and engage your audience and to find your potential audience where they already hang out
  • Work on building backlinks to your content. 
These are all good things to work on, making it good advice. It is overwhelming, though, to someone starting their blog when they have zero posts and no social media following. Unless you have a team of people working with you or you have no other time commitments in your life (like work and family), it seems impossible to do all of these things.

So, what is the most important part? What really “moves the needle”?


Social Media


I think social media is the least important part of this advice. There are so many people dedicated to the idea of sharing your content on Pinterest, or getting in conversations on Twitter, or joining Facebook groups, or doing anything else you can on social media to engage with an audience and share your content. 

This is kind of like running on a treadmill. You can do tons of work, expend lots of effort, and really get nowhere. 

There is an endless sea of content, and a nonstop rainfall of new content being produced and shared on social media every day. The likelihood of your social media posts into the void ever finding people who will engage with it and follow the links back to your blog content is extremely low. 

Social media can be really powerful if you already have a large following because you can alert your fans that there is something new for them to consume, and you will actually reach them with the news, but without a following, it seems like a waste of precious time. Most social media followings are actually built from people finding and loving content on a blog or YouTube channel and then jumping over to social media to follow the creator. 

Trying to collect a following primarily from sharing to social media is not, in most cases, the most effective way of growing a following or readership.


Building Backlinks


How about building backlinks? 

Anyone who has read even a single introductory article on the process of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and ranking content in Google knows that backlinks are an important part of getting ranked. 

What set Google apart from the search engines that came before it was the concept of measuring backlinks. The idea is that a person who writes a page of content for the internet will link to things they think are useful, interesting, and helpful to their readers. Because of this, a link from one website to another is like a vote in favor of that linked-to resource. Websites and web pages which accumulate a large number of backlinks have essentially a lot of votes for their content, and so Google would rank them highly for whatever keywords their content was about. 

On the other hand, a website who had very few or no backlinks must not be a very good resource, and so they weren’t ranked as highly. But over time people learned that they could manipulate search results to increase the ranking of their own content by building backlinks themselves, which then meant that backlinks weren’t actually acting as votes. 

Many different link building tactics have been invented, shared with others, done on a large scale, and then Google has found a way to discount those fraudulent links to ensure the quality of the search results. Google now has over 200 factors that it considers when choosing how to rank a piece of content. Backlinks are just a part of that algorithm. 

People make a lot of money from getting ranked in search engines, and so many very smart people have worked to devise any link scheme they could, and most of them have already been figured out and countered by Google. I think that any effort spend on building backlinks is a waste of time. Google will be able to tell you built the backlink and that it shouldn’t count as a vote for your content, so your effort will bring no results. 
 
Ubersuggest Tool Homepage

There are lots of tools (such as Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest) which allow you to look at the backlink profile of websites, and I have researched lots of blogs that I’ve found in the search engine rankings, and many rank with very few backlinks. That means that they are ranking for reasons other than having backlinks, and the lack of backlinks didn’t hold them back. 

I’ve tried building a few blogs before, and I spent as little time on producing content as possible, completing maybe 10 articles, and then spending all of my time on backlink building. My thinking was that I wanted to squeeze as many site visits as possible out of any content I produced, so instead of creating lots of content, I created lots of backlinks. 

This effort never brought me any results or increased traffic. It was time totally wasted and demotivated me for blogging. I felt like I was trying my hardest and getting nowhere. The blogging dream was impossible. 

It isn’t impossible, but I was never going to get there because I was focusing on the wrong things.

The only backlink building strategies I believe are at all useful (and even still are probably not the most important thing you can be doing with your time when working on your blog) are outreach to other bloggers who might give you a legitimate backlink within their content (an editorial backlink), and to be generous with your linking out to other bloggers’ content and then letting them know that you’ve linked to them. 

The second method works because of the psychological tendency of people called reciprocity. If you do something for others, they will feel obligated to help you back. They will feel like they owe you one. So, if you link to them, they might look for a way to link back to you. If nothing else, they might mention somewhere that you linked to them to provide their own readers with social proof of their own quality. 

In total, I think you should avoid spending any time on backlink building.


Creating EPIC Content


People say you should produce only super-duper excellent, best-in-the-world, epic, skyscraper content. This would be ideal, of course, but is totally unrealistic. 

Half of the planet’s population is connected to the internet, somewhere between 3 and 4 billion people, and some portion of them create content for the web. No matter how small a portion that is, it is still a huge number of people writing content. 

While there are an infinite number of topics to write about, it is difficult to find those uncommon topics which have little written about them. Most people will write a lot of their content about things which have already been written about very many times before. 

Only one article on the topic can be the best. That is the definition of the concept of best. 

But you shouldn’t worry about being the best. You should certainly strive to write content which is the best YOU can do. It should be useful to the people who will read it. But you just need to write content. You should write whatever makes sense to write about for you and your audience. Even if the topic has been covered many times before by other people, and you know you cannot write a better version of the content, you should write your version of it. 

Don’t get hung up on being the best, just focus on completing the articles on the subjects you want to write about. Encouraging people to write the BEST article on the subject prevents people from even getting started blogging because they are filled with fear of failure. And based on the criteria of needing to write the best article ever in the world, they would absolutely be failures. 

But perfection is not the goal. 

Good and finished is the goal. 

So, write to the best of your ability the things you want to write about, and then move on to the next blog post.

In addition to this being bad advice because it is nearly impossible for someone to write the BEST article on a topic, it is very difficult to determine what even is the best. Best for most pieces of content is totally subjective. There may be ways to determine what is an objectively bad piece of content, but what makes something more good than something else isn’t the same for each person. 

One person may more highly prize entertainment or humor, while another may want abundance of information and facts. Both contribute to good writing, but which in which amounts makes for the BEST article is unknown. 

So now on two counts you won’t be able to write the BEST article.


Be Consistent in Your Content Creation Schedule


The final piece of common advice is to be consistent in your production of content. 

This is also good advice, but often seen as useful for the wrong reasons. 

Some people say that Google loves fresh content, and therefore if you are always producing new content Google will rank your site more highly. I think this is a pretty small ranking factor and not really the reason that consistency is valuable. 

One way to show that this isn’t super important is to look at successful blogs that rank well and see when the last time they posted content was. Lots of those highly ranked blogs haven’t posted in a long time, sometimes even years (You can find this information using the Sitemap strategy that I elaborate on later in this article. You just open the "post" sitemap and scan the dates until you see the most recent date). 

Good content that answers people’s questions and satisfies their searches doesn’t becomes less useful just because the blogger hasn’t posted other articles lately. 

Consistency of content production isn’t useful because of freshness. It is useful because it helps you accumulate a large amount of content and a large number of blog posts. 

Success in achieving a goal doesn’t come because you worked really hard on it for a day or a week. It comes because you have put into place systems and habits which allow you to consistently move you closer to your end goals. A large body of work in a blog is only built when you write for a long time. This is the usefulness in consistency of posting.


How Many Blog Posts Do You Need?


I have read in some forums that ask this post’s primary question that some believe Google doesn’t really begin to rank your blog highly until you pass some unknown content threshold. I’ve read that the barrier might be 60 articles, it might be 100 articles, or 365 articles

I’ve even read that it’s not the number of posts, but actually a word count, maybe of 50,000 words. 

I think this general thinking is correct, while the specific numbers are not incredibly important as they might change or be different for different blogs for different reasons. The core idea is that you need to have lots of content available on your site before Google takes you seriously and starts ranking your stuff. I’ve seen this myself in researching the websites of others.


How I Research a Blog's Traffic, Backlinks, and Blog Post Count


My process for researching what works for successful blogs goes like this. 

I search Google for some keyword phrase and keep trying new long tail keywords until I find one that shows a blog in the results. 

I then go to that blog, copy the URL of the root domain or TLD (Top Level Domain) (http://www.thesite.com/) and paste it into the Ubersuggest tool. The Ubersuggest tool is a free SEO tool which was purchased and upgraded by Neil Patel. In the new Ubersuggest, you can either enter search terms and learn about the results shown in Google, or you can enter a website and see information about their keywords, rankings, traffic, and backlinks. 

When I enter the URL of the blog I found in the search results, Ubersuggest will bring up the information its web crawlers have found on the site. I look at the estimated amount of traffic the site brings in each month to give me an idea of how successful the site it. I look at how many keywords the site is ranking for for similar reasons. 

Ubersuggest Domain Search Results

Then I click into the tab which shows the backlinks pointing at the site. This section shows how many links the website has earned from other websites and also how many total domains link to the site. You can even find out how many of the links are dofollow or nofollow. 

Ubersuggest Backlinks Page

In looking at the backlinks of different blogs I’ve found in searching Google, some have tens of thousands, but there are others which have fewer than 200 backlinks and are ranking quite well for lots of keywords and have significant traffic. This seems like evidence for the case that Google will rank good content even if it doesn’t have lots of backlinks.

Something else I do when I am researching other blogs is to try and find out how many pages or blog posts the site has. Most blogs make use of some sort of sitemap builder which helps search engines crawl the site and make sure they don’t miss any pages. The most popular sitemap builder is a program called Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO does much more than just build sitemaps, but that’s all that’s important in this situation. 

On the blog, I navigate to the homepage URL (http://www.thesite.com), and then I add to the end “sitemap.xml” so that I get “http://www.thesite.com/sitemap.xml”. That usually works, but if not, you may also try “sitemap.html” or simply “sitemap”. Some sites won’t have a sitemap, and some will have a sitemap that is unstructured and so only lists each page’s URL in a huge list. 

Sitemap URL of ExpertVagabond site

The sort of sitemap that is most common, and most useful to me, is the structured sitemap created by the Yoast SEO plugin. That sitemap will have all the pages on the website organized by type. There will be a group for categories, tags, static pages, images, documents, authors, and sometimes others, but the one I’m most interested in is the one that contains the word “posts”. 

YoastSEO XML Sitemap Index File

By clicking on that link, you will be taken to a long list of all the posts available on the site, and at the very top will be a number which is the number of posts to the site. 

XML Sitemap URL Count on YoastSEO

Each grouping has a limit of approximately 1000 posts (some will be 998, some will be 1001). If the site has posted more than the 1000 posts, another link will appear that shows any posts between 1001 and 2000. Some sites have literally thousands of posts, and so have multiple pages of posts in their sitemap. 

What I’ve found from analyzing lots of blogs for this sitemap information is that sites that rank in Google almost always have at least 100 blog posts. I have seen some that had as few as 80, but never any fewer. This tells me that the most important ranking factor for Google when they are considering a site in their algorithm is number of posts or amount of content. 

It seems like backlinks are much less important than growing a significant bulk of content, a large body of work.

This is all in line with the recommendations Google makes to webmasters and site owners. Google, and Matt Cutts, who formerly headed the Webspam team there, said that they work actively and very hard to counteract any sort of attempts to game or manipulate the search results. They release major algorithm updates, such as Hummingbird, Panda, and Penguin to eliminate poor quality results from the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). 

They discount and even punish spammy backlinks, and work to remove thin content from SERPs. All webmasters and bloggers should be worrying about is making excellent content which satisfies human users. 

If a blogger works to write content that answers questions and entertains and keeps real humans coming back, then their site will do well. Otherwise, they don’t recommend any other method of improving search rankings.

A blogger, following Google’s own advice, will publish content that readers are searching for, make it the best quality they can, and then move on to the next piece of content. They won’t be distracted and busy building backlinks or using any other spammy or black-hat SEO techniques, so they’ll have the time to write more content. By keeping this up, they will simply end up with a lot of blog posts and a large word count.


Keyword Variety and Long Tail Keywords


It is also really important to use a large variety of keywords. 

Some pages might rank well for some keywords, but most posts will each only receive a bit of traffic each day. To increase your blog’s traffic as much as possible, you want to cast a wide net, to rank for lots of keyword terms. 

Whenever you are writing a blog post, you should be sure to use any relevant term which might be useful to your reader and which a reader might use to find your content. It’s unlikely that you’ll be found in search engines for words you don’t even use on your site, so you’ll want to use a lot of keywords and have variety in your vocabulary. 

And to take this even further, I think you shouldn’t focus too much on staying within the strict bounds of your site’s niche or topic. You should write about whatever you wish to write about and which you think your audience will enjoy. By following any whim in your writing, you will naturally accumulate a huge number or keywords being used in your content.

If you are new to blogging or are even just considering blogging, and really want to know what is most important for you to be doing in order to gain success, increase readership, and rank well in Google, then my advice is to write. A lot. 

Write about whatever interests you. If each article happens to have a similar topic, then cool. But if it is a wide array of topics which are only connected because you are interested in them all, then that is cool too. That is a lifestyle blog, and they are very popular and can be really successful. 

Don’t worry about backlinks. 

To a pretty major degree, disregard social media. 

Just keep writing content and you will find success. If you set for yourself a goal to reach 100 blog posts as quickly as possible (while maintaining a level of usefulness and quality in each post), you will see accomplishment. 

Don’t hold back. Don’t be paralyzed with the fear that your content won’t be the BEST. Don’t worry about the stuff the readers won’t see. Just write great content and you will be rewarded.




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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Why Dave’s Killer Bread is my Favorite Bread


When I was growing up my family only ate white bread. The cheapest kind of white bread we could find. 

I didn’t feel shorted or disappointed in this choice of bread, partly because it was all I’d ever known bread to be, and also because white bread is genuinely pretty tasty. The white bread toasts well and is great for making sandwiches. I loved my bread and I had no motivation to seek or try other types of bread.

When I started living with my wife, she taught me that white bread is not very healthy and that the bakers who make it remove basically all beneficial parts of the underlying grain when they make it. She insisted that we buy and eat only healthy bread. That would be some kind of multigrain bread. 

Most bread is made from wheat, which is ground to make the flour which is combined with other ingredients to make dough. The wheat naturally has a very starchy part and a fibrous part, and with white bread the fibrous part is filtered out, leaving only the starchy part to be ground up into flour. 

Multigrain breads leave the fiber-rich part of the wheat in when they grind it to make whole grain flour. Not only is the resulting flour better for you because it contains additional nutrients, but the fiber is helpful for your body’s digestion. So whole wheat bread is a little bit better for you than bleached white bread. 

To make a loaf of bread even healthier, bakers will add additional grains and seeds to the mix to increase the nutrients and fiber that the resulting bread will confer. Generally, the more grains and seeds, the better the bread for your health.

With this understanding and these criteria for choosing a bread, we started experimenting. Each time we went grocery shopping we would try a different bread. A brand that we’d never tried before. There are lots of brands of healthy multigrain bread, especially if you shop in health food stores. 

We really liked the taste and texture of Country Hearth’s Multigrain bread, so we bought that one quite a few times. 

But then I found Dave’s Killer Bread

Dave's Killer Bread Logo



The product is awesome. The brand is awesome. The cause is awesome. And it’s been our primary bread choice ever since.

All the bread varieties dave's killer bread offers



Dave’s Killer Bread offers several different bread and bagel varieties, but my favorites are the 21 Whole Grains and Seeds and the Good Seed. That is a ton of grains and seeds to be included in a single loaf! And each type of bread comes in the original size and in thin-sliced. I have bought both, but at times I go for the thin-sliced loaves because each slice has fewer calories and is therefore good for a calorie-conscious diet. 

Basically, the only reason I buy anything other than Dave’s Killer Bread is because the product is sold out for the day and I’m forced to choose something else.

I love Dave’s Killer Bread for another reason, too! The company has a social purpose and serves a mission to benefit the community. 

Dave is a real guy who started the company. He was in prison for 15 years. He was a felon. And when he finished serving his time in prison, he started this healthy bread company with the goal of helping to provide employment to other ex-convicts who needed jobs. This is known as the “Second Chance” policy. 

Ex-convicts have a very difficult time finding jobs. On most job applications there is a question asking if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. Even though it is not legal to base hiring decisions off of criminal records (other than in certain relevant situations), no reason needs to be given to applicants for why they aren’t called back for an interview, so they are simply excluded from the pile of applicants. In effect, the admission of a criminal record prevents ex-cons from getting jobs. 

Without a job to earn an income which is used to pay for all the normal living expenses of a person and possibly a family, the ex-con is forced to earn money through other means. If jobs won’t hire them, but they still need money, they may choose to return to a life of crime to earn the money necessary to survive. Most likely they will be caught committing these crimes and will eventually end up back in prison. 

It is a nasty cycle that occurs because good people who are willing to do the right thing are denied any reasonable chance at an opportunity to earn a living. The ex-convicts are almost condemned to a life of either poverty or recidivism. 

Dave’s Killer Bread seeks to hire ex-cons and give them a second chance. They allow them a place to work to earn a living in a legal and dignified way. That is an excellent mission and cause! And the company has also started a foundation whose goal is to spread the “Second Chance” ideology to other organizations. Hopefully this concept will become commonplace and people will get an opportunity to do better after they’ve served their prison time.

I fully support the mission Dave’s Killer Bread stands for. I am all about healthy bread and about offering second chances. That is why I choose Dave’s Killer Bread, why it is my favorite bread.




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How to Use Wikipedia Citations in Research Papers


Wikipedia Logo


Research papers are a staple project in almost every level of academics. Research papers are a great learning exercise because it is less structured than a fill-in-the-blank or multiple-choice type of homework and because it requires deep immersion and self-navigation of a topic. 

The topic of the paper may be assigned by the teacher or may be chosen by the student, but other than the topic choice and the style of reference citation, the direction of the paper is often decided by the student. 

In order to write a good paper that will achieve its purpose and earn a good grade, the student must read lots of articles and documents, many source materials, and learn a lot about the subject. Once a broad understanding of the topic is gained, an outline of the final paper may be drafted that can help direct further research into specific aspects of the broader topic. 

From that point, it is important to read even more about the subject, and to keep track of quotations and sections that may be used as reference material in the research paper and to add the source attribution information to a running list of sources or works cited. 

All of this research and decision-making related to producing a final written work requires and practices critical thinking and evaluation skills. While a person may not be writing research papers after they complete their schooling and transition into the world of work, those underlying skills of research and ethical attribution, along with writing craft, will be incredibly important to life and career success.

In the beginning of the project, when you are just getting acquainted with the topic and each of its possible sub-topics, people often look to encyclopedia entries. Those entries provide a great summary to prime you for further research. 

In today’s world, people mostly conduct their research online, and so they turn to online encyclopedias. And the world’s greatest online encyclopedia is Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. The entries there are often very detailed and well researched, and for many projects, seem to provide all the information one might need to complete their research paper. 

There is a problem with this, however. 

First of all, encyclopedia entries of any sort, whether they be online or physical bound volume, are not allowed to be cited sources in a research paper, because they are simply summaries of subjects and not primary documents. 

And in addition to that, Wikipedia is particularly prohibited as a source because it is written by anyone who wishes to write for it. Wikipedia articles can be edited by anyone at any time and can be written with bad information in an attempt to deceive readers or simply because the writer was misinformed about the topic. 

While it is true that community writing and editing is the process with Wikipedia, the system for reviewing and approving changes to articles has become much more refined over time and most edits now require some sort of approval from others before going live. In this way, checks and balances are in place to ensure the best information on all topics is what is displayed on the website for readers.

After reading the Wikipedia article on the topic of the research paper, it seems like a huge waste not to use the content of the article as source material to reference, as it is so detailed, complete, and well-written. But there is a way to utilize that Wikipedia article for your research paper and have it be completely approved by your instructor. 

The secret is to use the Wikipedia article as a guide to all of the available source material out there. 

Nearly every sentence or thought written on Wikipedia requires a source reference to back up what the author is writing, to prove that they aren’t simply writing misinformation to trick people. If you look at the end of many sentences within the article, you will see a blue, hyperlinked number in brackets, which is referring to the source of that information. 

Snippet of a Wikipedia Article showing the Reference number system



If you click that number, it will take you to the bottom of the article, in the References section, to that specific works cited entry. There you can read the standard information such as author, article title, work title, date, etc. You can usually also find a link to the source on its own website. 

Example of a Wikipedia References section



Click that link to follow it to the source of the information you found useful within the Wikipedia article. You can now read that reference article in whole, potentially learning even more about your paper’s topic, or you can skim to find the part that you need for your paper, then use that source in your research paper’s references section. 

Usually Wikipedia articles have a huge number of linked sources, so you can probably write most research papers using only the sources referenced in the Wikipedia article. This is a totally ethical method of performing research and developing sources for your paper that your teacher will be fine with. 

In this method, you are not using Wikipedia as a source (it is never referenced in your works cited page), but instead as a guide (expertly curated by a wide community) to the many acceptable references to be found in the massive online environment. When you use Wikipedia in this way, it doesn’t feel like a waste of time at all to read the article and can be a very big help in the development of your final paper.

Research papers are all about showing what you learned in your self-directed research and using the words and works of others to back up what you believe about the topic. By using citations and references to others, you are not simply writing an article about your opinions, but you are creating a firm and believable argument about your beliefs on the topic. 

The process of learning to write a research paper is very valuable and teaches many useful skills, so it will continue to be assigned by teachers into the future. Hopefully this method I’ve explained will help you to better research your topic and save you time in creating a list of sources to reference.

Do you enjoy writing research papers? Do you know of an even better way to find sources to reference in your writing? Let me know in the comments!



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