Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sralos Fantasy Art Website Launched

As promised, I am taking everything that I've learned while creating this blog and applying it to a website featuring my artwork. 

The name of the site is Sralos Fantasy Art.  The url is http://sralos.com/, or you can just click on the link if you want to check out my progress so far. 

The last few weeks have been devoted to site design and layout, getting it ready for advertising.  This is a Wordpress blog on my own website, so I've been installing plugins to make the site function the way I need it to.  I know that a lot of people are plugin crazy, but my philosophy on them is less is more.  I try to get by with as few plugins as possible, because it cuts down on performance problems, and there are fewer chances of plugins conflicting with each other. 

Once the site layout was complete, I started researching keywords using Google's Adwords Keyword tool, then added the ones I chose to my Meta Tags, and placed those everywhere on my site with the All In One SEO plugin for Wordpress.  This plugin will also allow you to customize your keywords for each post. 

I also installed a social bookmarking plugin called Share and Follow.  This one allows you to put links to many social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter on your posts and pages.  I set mine up to put the buttons on every page and post, and there is a link to my Facebook fan page on the sidebar.  Not only does this plugin make it easy for visitors to share one of my posts with their friends, but it also allows me to update my Facebook fan page as well. 

Yesterday, I added Sralos Fantasy Art to the manual Traffic Exchanges I already belong to.  I haven't added it to the auto surf exchanges yet, but I plan to do that after I've had it on the manual for awhile. 

Today, I signed up to the affiliate programs of several digital art tools and websites.  Once that was done, I went to my blog and added ads and banners for Adobe Photoshop CS5, DAZ 3D, and Poser 8.  I'm still waiting to be approved by Renderosity, but since I've been a member and a customer for years and years, I think they'll approve me. :) 

Oh, and I'm adding a backlink to Sralos Fantasy Art right here on this blog!  And not just the ones in this post, either.  I've added a permanent link on the sidebar.

Tomorrow I plan to add sralos.com into the rotations of the manual exchanges, and start surfing for credits to get it shown as many times as possible.  I also plan to start submitting the site to web directories. 

Hopefully, people will fall in love with my art and start buying it.  I'll keep you posted on what happens.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Article Marketing & Google's New Algorithm Change

For the last few weeks, I have been working with various article marketing tools in order to advertise my blog and websites.  During that time I used three different tools.  One to create the article, one to spin it, and the third to submit the article to 300 + sites.  The purpose for all of this was to get backlinks and therefore traffic to my sites. 

All of the tools performed more or less as expected, with the less going to the article creation tool.  This software was advertised as being able to generate unique articles quickly. All you had to do, according to the creator, is put your search phrase in, click on the research button, and then click a button and the tool would write a 300 word article for you from that research. 

First, there is the ethical issue.  Basically what the tool is doing is going through other people's published articles and taking a sentence or two from each of these, and then generate an entirely new article from it.  They call that plagiarism where I come from, and the very idea of it just doesn't sit well with me.  That being said, that part of the tool never worked properly anyway.  However another part of the tool, the one that creates paragraphs for a selected list of subtopics did work well.  Despite all of its ethical drawbacks, I personally found another part of the tool, the fact finder, to be very useful.  It allows you to do a lot of research from a lot of different sources very quickly, which is a time saver.  I simply pulled out the facts that I wanted to touch on, and used that as inspiration for my own, completely original article.  In addition, the tool has a synonym replacer, which is very helpful in completing the article.

The second tool, the spinner, performed exactly as expected, though not nearly as quickly as advertised.  Sure, there is an option to replace all found synonyms with either your own favorites or that of all the other users, but these are quite often out of the context of your original article, with the end result being a load of unrecognizable gibberish.  Of course, if you take the time to pick your synonyms, the results are fantastic, but this takes time.  The purpose of the spinner is to generate hundreds of unique versions of your article for submission to various article directories.

And that brings us to the final tool, an article submission program.  The object of this tool is to submit your spun articles to hundreds of article directories all over the Internet.  The tools performed again as expected.  It even created accounts for you at the various directories and also handled confirmation emails.  You could set a submission schedule, so that your article is only submitted to 30 sites a day, which appears more natural rather than hitting 300 sites at once.  Apparently, Google sees mass submissions like that as spam, and they dismiss it from their results for about six months.

A few days ago, Google tweaked its algorithm so as to reduce the importance of these so-called content farms.  Which means that it's pointless to submit an article to 300 + directories, because backlinks from these places no longer count as much as they once did.  And since that's true, it's not really necessary to generate hundreds of unique articles in order to market your site. 

So, where does that leave us?  Pretty much at square one.  To be clear, creating articles is still important for marketing your site, but now quality counts for more than quantity.  Maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tips For Surfing A Manual Traffic Exchange

Traffic Exchanges are a great way to build up traffic to your website or blog.  However, there are a few tricks you need to be aware of to help you surf them successfully.
  • NEVER begin surfing any traffic exchange without a firewall and unless your anti-virus software is up to date.  BitDefender stopped five attacks against my computer over the course of three weeks.
  • Try to surf at least 5 exchanges at once by having each running in its own tab. You get a lot more mileage out of  your surfing time that way rather than surfing one exchange at a time. 
  • If you're using auto-surf exchanges, remember to check your browser every now and then to see if any of them stalled and need to be reset.
  • For manual exchanges, arrange them in tabs based on the length of the timer.  For instance, if you prefer to work from right to left, you would put the exchange with the shortest timer in the tab to the far right, and the one with the longest on the far left.  That way, but the time you work your way through all the tabs, the longest one will be ready.
  • If you're still getting to your longest timer before it's ready, try clicking on the shortest one two or three times before moving on.  As a bonus, you'll get two to three times the credits on that traffic exchange as well!
  • Turn your sound off.  So many of the websites and blogs on a traffic exchange have audio and video clips. Five of these playing at once will drive you insane. 
  • Surfing is NOT a work-safe activity. The noise and the threat of virus attacks make traffic exchanges ill-advised on the job. 
  • Take note of websites and blogs that make you want to stop surfing for a minute and read. What caught your eye?  Apply what you learn to your own blog.
You can easily get a lot of hits with traffic exchanges.  Surfing can also be an interesting and educational experience.  Knowing what to expect from an exchange is half the battle. These tips should help you optimize your experience.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Working With Article Marketing Tools

In the upcoming weeks, I will be doing a series of reviews on article marketing tools.  Currently, I'm in the process of working with these tools, and while they're easy to use right out of the box, it takes some time to learn how to use them well.  One thing you definitely do not want to do is to spin an article without carefully choosing your synonyms. 

Some synonyms are just uncomfortable.  For instance, "I made it move" sounds okay, while "I made it articulate" just sounds a bit off.  People don't talk like that, and for anyone who knows about spinning, it's a dead give away that you are indeed spinning your article.  Then there are those synonyms that work in one context, but not in another.  Training and conditioning can be used as synonyms for each other, but the sentence "Turn on the air training," doesn't make any sense. 

It's important to keep in mind that these tools are just that, tools.  If you use them properly, they'll do a great job for you.  If you don't, well you'll get an article that sounds like gibberish.  Worse, if you submit it, then you've got an article that looks like gibberish with your name on it and linking back to your site or blog. 

There's no such thing as an article marketing tool that you can just click and publish. Even spun articles need the human touch. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Getting Backlinks With Article Marketing

The more research I do, the more I come to find out that article marketing is a key factor to the success of any online business.  Not only does article marketing give you the opportunity to sell yourself, your site, and your products, but it also is the primary source of getting backlinks. 

Here's how it works.  Include a link back to your site at the bottom of every article you write, and then submit your articles to directories all over the Internet.  Sounds simple enough, but there's a catch.  Google dismisses duplicate content.  So, if you submit your article to 100 directories, Google only counts the first one it finds.  The other 99 were pretty much a waste of your time. 

That's where article spinning comes into play.  Spinning an article means rewriting it by using different words and phrases, rearranging sentences and paragraphs, making it just different enough that Google doesn't see it as a duplicate. Imagine doing that 99 times.  I should mention that some people say it is only necessary to submit to the top ten article directories, so you'd only have to spin it 9 times. 

However, most of the sites I researched recommended submitting to at least 50 while others suggest up to 300.  That's a lot of spinning.  It's also a lot of submitting. There is software that can automate these tasks.  I'll be reviewing some of those next week, so stay tuned.

The point of all of this spinning and submitting is to get quality backlinks.  Quality backlinks, because they are attached to an article laced with your keywords, and coming from sites where they are listed under related categories amongst other related articles. There's just no getting around it.  If you want to be a success online, you have to do article marketing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Backlinks - What Are They & How To Get Them

By now you've probably heard that backlinks are one of the vital cogs that make SEO (Search Engine Optimization) work, but that still doesn't explain what they are or how you get them. What they are is rather simple. Backlinks are links placed on other sites that lead back to your website or blog. Backlinks tell Google and Yahoo that other sites think you're worth linking too, and that gets you a higher page rank, which means more visitors and more sales. How to get them is not quite so simple.

There are, of course, programs you can purchase that will post your backlinks all over the Internet, but it's a good practice to learn how to do something yourself before you decide if it's worth paying to have it done for you. If you have the pioneer spirit or just can't afford to pay for it, below is a simple guide for getting backlinks to your website or blog.

Submit Your Site To Web Directories

Web Directories are like phone directories, only they list websites instead of phone numbers. Once your site is added to the directory, you'll have a backlink. Most web directories are free, even though they do have pay options that move your site up to the top of their list. Some directories claim that if you choose the free option that it'll take three months before it is reviewed, but in actuality it takes a couple of weeks on average.

There are lots of web directories, so if one only takes paid submissions, just skip it and move on to the next. Typically, you'll want to submit your site to 20 - 30 directories per week. Most directories will eventually drop websites from their listings after 60 - 90 days. It's a good idea to resubmit your website or blog every three months. Check to see if it's still there before resubmitting.

Sign Up With Popular Related Sites

Find websites in your niche, or closely related to it, that already rank high with Google and Yahoo, then become a member. Most sites have member profiles, which you can customize and add a link to your blog. Instant backlink! Remember, links from related sites are considered more valuable to search engines. If your blog is about gardening, you'll get more mileage by putting a backlink on a site about potting soil rather than one about electronics.

Join Related Internet Forums

Forums are everywhere and they cover just about every subject imaginable. If there is a topic that more than one person is interested in, you can bet there's a forum dedicated to it. Probably more than one. Just as with websites, forums give their members a profile, where you can post an instant backlink to your website or blog. However, forums also have a feature called a signature. Much like it sounds, a signature is added to the end of every post or comment a member makes within the forum. Signatures can be customized to include a link to your site.

By using a signature on a related forum, you are creating a new backlink each time you post. Warning: most forums will not tolerate blatant advertising, so be sure to keep your posts relevant and on topic. Staying on topic will also give you a good reputation within the community, which will encourage other members to check out your website or blog.

Respond To Related Blogs

Search for blogs related to your topic and post a comment. Most blogs allow you to include a link to your website, so once again you have an instant backlink on a related site. As with forums, it's important to keep your responses relevant. Don't just type "good article" and hit submit. Read the article first. Find something in it that you can elaborate on, so you can contribute something to the conversation. Even better, ask a question. That way you can start a dialogue and establish a relationship with that blogger, who in turn might visit and comment on your blog. It's important to become part of your niche community, so people in related fields get to know who you are and possibly help promote your website or blog for you.

Submitting Articles

Writing and submitting non-fiction articles can be a moneymaking prospect in and of itself, however they're also an excellent way to get backlinks. Most article submission sites allow you to add your link to your profile, to a resource box, and to the bottom of the article itself. That's a lot of relevant backlinks. Your articles might get the attention of other writers, who then might visit your blog and comment. All of this clicking and commenting equals quality traffic in the eyes of the search engines.

Backlinks, although simple to define, are a vital part of marketing a website or blog. The more links you have leading back to your site from other related websites, the higher the search engines will rank you. Getting quality backlinks can be time consuming, but if done correctly, it can establish and maintain your reputation in your niche community. And, that's time well spent.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Building Traffic With Traffic Exchanges

As previously discussed, traffic refers to the number of people visiting your site. There are other terms used for this as well, such as hits and page views, but they all mean basically the same thing ... they measure the number of people looking at your blog or website. The more traffic you get, the more opportunities you have to sell your products. One way to build traffic to your blog is to put it on a traffic exchange.

A traffic exchange is a website where its members agree to help each other build up traffic for their various blogs and websites. Blogs and websites are placed on a rotation, and members "surf" each other's sites, viewing each for a specified amount of time before clicking through to the next one. Instead of "I'll show you mine, if you show me yours," it's "If you look at mine, I'll look at yours."

There are all kinds of different traffic exchanges. Some want you to visit a page for 30 seconds, while others can require as little as 10 seconds per view. Some allow you to surf for credits, some for cash, and some for both. Credits are basically the amount of times your blog will get run through the traffic exchange. So, if you have 50 credits, your blog will get viewed 50 times. The rate at which you earn credits or cash varies from traffic exchange to traffic exchange. While it is possible to make money from surfing a traffic exchange, it really isn't very much, so I personally only surf for credits.

There are auto-surf exchanges and manual traffic exchanges. For an auto-surf traffic exchange, you simply go to their site, click to start surfing, then minimize the window and go about your business. Auto-surf surfs automatically. All you have to do is check it from time to time to make sure it doesn't get hung up on one site. Auto-surf exchanges sound great, because you can build up a lot of traffic without a lot of effort. However, my blogspot blog was rejected by every auto-surf exchange I signed up with. I don't know if it's a blogspot issue specifically, or if it's because you have to have your own domain.

Manual traffic exchanges mean you have to click on a button in order to move on to the next site. You will not get credit for visiting a site if you click on the button before the timer runs down, or if you click on the wrong button. Since I'm confined to using only manual exchanges, I usually have about five of them running in different tabs at the same time, and I surf them all at once. By the time I've clicked through all of them, the timers on the first ones have run down, so I can begin the cycle anew.

It was recommended to me to leave my blog on traffic exchanges for three weeks, and then to take them off. As mentioned in my previous post, the search engines don't count hits from traffic exchanges as quality traffic, so there's no real point to leaving it on the rotation any longer than that. Working For Yourself has just about completed its three weeks, and I will have gotten over 3,000 hits by the time it's done. That's surfing five manual exchanges three days per week, and viewing approximately 75 sites per exchange, per day.

Below, I will give you links to my favorite manual traffic exchanges. But before you start surfing, there are some things you should be aware of. First, there is the noise. A lot of blogs and sites have audio and video recordings, and sometimes you are listening to five of these going off at once. It's enough to drive you crazy, so I recommend surfing with the speakers off.

Second, DO NOT get on a traffic exchange unless you have up to date virus protection. My anti-virus software caught and stopped three viruses while on the exchanges. If you consider the number of sites viewed, the percentage of virus incidents is pretty low, but it's best not to go in unprotected.

One last question to consider is ... Are traffic exchanges a niche market unto themselves? In other words, are other people surfing the exchange potential customers? It depends on what you're selling. For the most part, the sites and blogs I saw on the exchanges are all either selling ways to make money online, or promoting other traffic exchanges, or trying to get people into their downline (that's another topic). So, if your blog is offering the same types of opportunities, it's unlikely that one of your competitors is going to buy from you. On an auto-surf exchange, the chances of someone actually looking at your blog, much less clicking on it, are even less.

That said, I think anything different on a manual traffic exchange is at least going to get some attention. I'll be testing that theory when I put my other blog on the manual exchanges and see if I can pick up a few sales. I'll let you know how that goes.

Traffic Exchanges can perform well for you, so long as you go into it with reasonable expectations. If you're just looking to get some hits to startup a new blog or website, then they'll do the job for you. If you're trying to earn a little money by surfing, they can do that for you too, but you do a lot of clicking to get a little money. If you're looking to sell your products to other surfers, then you have to be selling something different. If you're offering the same thing that everyone else is, then a traffic exchange is probably not going to produce sales for you.

Here are my favorite Manual Traffic Exchanges:

EasyHits4U . This exchange has two surf for credit rates, and you get prizes every 25 sites you view. The prize is usually text ad impressions or banner ad impressions, and occasionally you win more credits. To me, the prizes make things a bit more fun. They also have over 300,000 registered members, so that's a lot of potential eyes on your blog, if you have a little something different to sell.

FreeTrafficWorld. You can surf for cash or credits on this exchange, and they also have a lot of members ... over 20,000.

BlogClicker. This is one of my favorite exchanges, because it features mostly blogs, and they are selling a variety of different products. Believe me, once you spend some time surfing, you will appreciate looking at something different.

Hit 2 Hit. This is one of my favorite exchanges, because it's fast. The timer is only 10 seconds long, so I usually visit 2 sites on this exchange for every 1 I surf on the others. The membership is large, over 10,000, and there are lots of games you can play, where you can win 3 credits for the right answer, which keeps things fun.