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Link Building in 2019: Get by With a Little Help From Your Friends

Posted by kelseyreaves

Editor’s note: This post first appeared in December of 2015, but because SEO (and Google) changes so quickly, we figured it was time for a refresh! 


The link building world is in a constant state of evolution. New tools are continually introduced to the market, with SEOs ready to discover what works best.

In 2015, I wrote an article for Moz about how our team switched over to a new email automation tool that drastically improved our overall outreach system — we increased our email reply rates by 187 percent in just one month. Which meant that our number of attainable backlinks also drastically increased.

 I wanted to see what’s changed since I last wrote this post. Because in 2019, you need a lot more than new tools to excel in link building.

But first…

Looking back, it was pretty ingenious: Our link building program had automated almost every step in the outreach process. We were emailing hundreds of people a week, guest posting on numerous websites, and raking in 20–30 links per week. If anyone has been in the game long enough, you’ll know that’s an insane amount of links.

With its success at my first company, I took the concept and applied it to several freelance link building projects I was working on. It proved to work for those sites, too. Later on, I built out a similar system for the second startup I worked for. And again, it proved to be just as successful. Every link building project I took on, my thinking was: How can I scale this thing to get me 10x the number of links? How can I email 5x the number of people? How can I automate this as much as possible so I can create a link building machine that’s completely hands off?

Well…at least for a period of time.

While I had the best of intentions, this thinking is what ultimately got me in trouble and lead to the inevitable: I was hit with a manual action for participating in link schemes.

I remember opening up Search Console and reading that message. At that moment, I felt like a kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar. My stomach was in knots. I had heard of people getting manual actions before but didn’t think it was something that would happen to me.

In hindsight, this was probably one of the most important moments of my SEO/growth career. It sobered me up and pushed me into thinking about outreach in a whole different light, and taught me the most important lesson to date: building links isn’t about using automation to create processes that scale. It’s about building relationships — and value — that scales.

What outreach looked like in 2015

I’m not surprised I got away with what I was doing for so long. From 2015 to 2017, it seemed like everyone and their Mom was guest posting. During that time, this is what I noticed:

1. It was a numbers game

Most of the SEOs I talked to from 2015 to 2017 were using a similar strategy. It was all about finding tools that could help scale your guest posting program and contact as many people as possible. Most companies had some arbitrary link quota for their outreach teams to hit every month, mine included.

2. It promoted somewhat decent content that was templatized

In our outreach program, we were pitching the same three to four topics over and over again and while the content we wrote was always original, there was nothing novel about the articles we were putting out there. They were cute, engaging — but none of it was on the cutting edge or had a solid opinion. It’s what our friend John Collins from Intercom calls Happy Meal content:

“It looks good from a distance, but you’re left feeling hungry not long after you consume it.”

3. It idolized automation and processes

At the time, most outreach programs were about leveraging tools to automate processes and scale every step of the way. We were using several tools to scrape websites and hired virtual assistants off of Upwork to find email addresses of just about anyone associated with a company, whether they were actually the ideal person to contact or not.

This process had worked in 2015. But in 2019, there’s no way it could.

What outreach looks like in 2019

Since joining the team at OG Marketing this last fall, I’ve vastly altered the way I approach outreach and link building. Our strategy now focuses on three main concepts.

1. Helping editors cite good sources

The link building relationships I’ve built this year are almost entirely centered around editors and content managers of notable sites who only want to link to high-quality, relevant content.

And luckily for us, we work with some of the best content creators in the B2B SaaS-verse. We don’t have to go out and beg for links to mediocre (at best) content: We’re building authority to pages that truly deserve it. More importantly, we’re actually fulfilling a need by providing great sources of information for other quality content.

2. Understanding backlinks are only one piece to the puzzle

Link building is only one lever and shouldn’t be your whole SEO strategy. Depending on the site you’re working on, building links may be a good use of your time — or not at all.

In our strategy, we account for the fact that sometimes links aren’t always necessary. They will definitely help, but it’s possible to excel without them.

For example, Hotjar recently published an article on 5 ways to use scroll maps. Looking at the backlink profile for the top three results for “scroll map,” CrazyEgg has more referring domains than Hotjar, but is currently in position three. Omniconvert has zero backlinks and still ranks above CrazyEgg in position two. With only three referring domains, Hotjar has earned the 1st position and a coveted featured snippet.

2015 me would’ve had a knee jerk reaction to kick off an outreach campaign as soon as we hit publish on the new article. But considering the fact that you may not even need a ton of links to rank well, you can actually spend your time more efficiently elsewhere.

3. Creating quality content that earns links naturally

There’s definitely a tipping point when it comes to generating backlinks naturally. When your article appears on page one for the query you’re targeting, your chances of having that article cited by other publications with zero effort on your part just naturally goes up.

Why? Because people looking to add credible citations to their article will turn to Google to find that content.

This prompts our team to always ensure that each piece of content we create for our clients satisfies searcher intent. To do this, we start off by researching if the intent behind the keyword we want to rank for has purchase, consideration or informational intent.

For example, the keyword “best video conferencing camera” has consideration-based intent. We can determine this by looking at the SERPs. In the screenshot below, you can see Google understands users are trying to compare different types of cameras.

By seeing this, we know that our best bet for creating content that will rank well is by writing a listicle-style post comparing the best video cameras on the market. If we had instead created an informational article targeting the same keyword about why you should invest in a video conferencing camera without a list of product comparisons, the article probably wouldn’t perform well in search.

Therefore, if we start off on the right foot by creating the right type of content from the very beginning, we make it easier for ourselves down the road. In other words, we won’t have to build a million links just to get a piece of content to rank that wasn’t the right format, to begin with.

What we’ve found with our outreach strategy

Centering our strategy around creating the right content and then determining whether or not that content needs links, has helped us prioritize what articles actually need to be a part of an outreach campaign.

Once this is determined, we then call on our friends — or our content partners — to help us drive link equity quickly, efficiently, and in a way, that enhances the source content and makes sense for end users (readers).

A few months into building out our homie program, there are several things we noticed.

1. Response rates increased

Probably because it’s not as templatized and, generally, I care more deeply about the email I’m sending and the person I’m reaching out to. On average, I get about a 65–70 percent response rate.

2. Opt-in rates increased

Once I get a response, build the relationship, then ask if they want to become a content partner (“friend”), we typically see a 75 percent opt-in rate.

3. You get the same amount of links, using half the amount of work, in half the amount of time

I’m gonna repeat that: we generate the same, if not more, backlinks month over month with less effort, time and manpower than with the process I built out in 2015.

And the more partners we add, the more links we acquire, with less effort. Visually, it looks like this:

I (somewhat) paid attention during economics class in college, and I remember a chart with this trajectory being a really good thing. So, I think we’re on to something…

How our outreach process works (and how you can create your own)

Our current link building program still leverages some of the tools mentioned in my post from 2015, but we’ve simplified the process. Essentially, it works like this:

1. Identify your friends

Do you have friends or acquaintances that work at sites which touch on topics in your space? Start there!

I got connected to the CEO of Proof, who connected me with their Content Director, Ben. We saw that there was synergy between our content and each needed sources about what the other wrote about. He was able to connect me with other writers and content managers in the space, and now we’re all best of friends.

2. Find new friends

Typically we look for similar sites in the B2B SaaS space that we want to partner with and are relevant to our client sites. Then, we use several tools like Clearbit, Hunter.io, and Viola Norbert to identify the person we want to reach out to (usually SEO Managers, Marketing Directors or Content Managers) and find their email.

This step has been crucial in our process. In the past, we left this to the virtual assistants. But since bringing this in house, we’ve been able to better identify the right person to reach out to, which has increased response rates.

3. Reach out in an authentic way

In our outreach message, we cut to the chase. If you’ve identified the right person in the previous step, then they should know exactly what you’re trying to do and why it’s important. If the person you outreached to doesn’t get the big picture and you have to explain yourself, then you’re talking to the wrong person. Plain and simple.

Compared to 2015, our lists are much smaller (we’re definitely not using the spray and pray method) and we determine on a case by case basis what the best method for outreach is. Whether that be email, Linkedin, or at times, Instagram.

Here’s an example of a simple, straightforward message I send out:

4. Share content priorities

Once someone expresses interest, I’ll find a place on their website using a site search where they can reference one of our client’s content priorities for the month. In return, I’ll ask them what content they’re trying to get more eyes on and see if it aligns with our other client sites or the other partners we work with.

If I think their content is the perfect source for another article, I’ll cite it. If not, I’ll share it with another partner to see if it could be a good resource for them.

5. See if they want to be a “friend”

Once we have that first link nailed down, I’ll explain how we can work together by using each other’s awesome content to enhance new blog articles or article contributions on other sites.

If they’re down to be content friends, I’ll share their priorities for the month with our other partners who will then share it with their wider network of websites and influencers who are contributing articles to reputable sites and are in need of content resources to cite. From there, the writers can quickly scan a list of URLs and cite articles when it makes sense to help beef up new content or improve existing content with further resources. It’s a win-win.

If the site is interested in being friends, I’ll send over a spreadsheet where we can track placements and our priorities for the month.

Here’s the link to a partner template you can download.

Unlike the guest posting programs I was doing over the last few years, with this process, we’re not leaving a digital footprint for Google to follow.

In other words, we don’t have our author bios mentioning our website plastered all over the internet, essential saying “Hey, Google! We guest posted here and inserted these links with rich anchor text to try and help our page rank. Oh, and we did the same thing here, and here, and here.”

With this process, we’re just offering a list of resources to well-known writers and other websites creating badass content. Ultimately, it’s their choice if they want to link to it or not. I’ll definitely make suggestions but in the end, it’s their call.

6. Grow the friend list

Now, if I’m looking to drive link equity to a certain page, I don’t have to build a new list, queue up a campaign, and kick off a whole automation sequence to an ungodly amount of people like I did in the past.

I just hit up one of our partners on our friend’s list and voila! — quality citation in 0.45 seconds.

And on a personal note, waking up to emails in my inbox of new citations added with zero effort on my part feels like the Link Gods have blessed me time and time again.

Results

With our friend network, the numbers speak for themselves. This last month, we were able to generate 74 links. In 2015, I was hitting similar monthly numbers, but link building was my full-time job.

Now, link building is something I do on the side (I’d estimate a few hours every week), giving me time to manage my client accounts and focus on everything else I need to do — like drive forward technical SEO improvements, conduct keyword research, optimize older pages, and use SEO as an overall means to drive a company’s entire marketing strategy forward.

Building out a friend network has also opened up the door to many other opportunities for our clients that I had never dreamed of when I viewed my link building relationships as one and done. With the help of our friends, we’ve had our clients featured on podcasts (shout out to Proof’s Scale or Die podcast!), round-ups, case studies, video content, and many, many more.

Final thoughts

As an instant-gratification junkie, it pains me to share the honest truth about building a friend network: it’s going to take time.

But think of the tradeoffs — everything I mentioned above and that in a way, you’re acting as a sort of matchmaker between high-quality content and sites who are open to referencing it.

I also believe that this type of outreach campaign makes us better marketers. Spamming people gets old. And if we can work together to find a way to promote each other’s high-quality content, then I’m all for it. Because in the end, it’s about making a better user experience for readers and promoting content that deserves to be promoted.

How has your link building program evolved over the years? Have you been able to create a network of friends for your space? Leave a comment below!

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Better Content, Better Websites, and a Little Inspiration

Better Content, Better Websites, and a Little Inspiration

On Monday, Brian Clark kicked off a new series of quick copy tips. These are short, powerful techniques that can make your copy more persuasive and get you to your goals faster.

This time, Brian taught us about the Proclamation Lead — a way to cut through the clutter and start your content with a bang. If you’re struggling to make your content stand out, or you just want a potent way to get your message across, give it a try …

On Tuesday, we welcomed our colleague Chris Garrett back to the blog. He wrote about 10 rather sad business website mistakes he recently saw over and over again while he conducted some site critiques — and solutions that will make things better.

And on Wednesday, I asked our editorial team to share their favorite quotes about writing. If you need a little dose of inspiration, there’s a lot to choose from there.

On the Copyblogger FM podcast, I talked about when to go negative with your content — and when to keep things sunny and light. Positive and negative messages both have their place in a smart content marketing strategy, if you deploy them at the right times.

That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. :)

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital


Catch up on this week’s content


quick copy tipCapture and Hold Audience Attention with a Bold Proclamation

by Brian Clark


does your current website hosting company prevent or punish your success?10 Often Overlooked Website Mistakes that May Harm Your Business

by Chris Garrett


editorial roundtable7 Classic Quotes to Inspire Your Writing

by Sonia Simone


Which Works Better: Positive or Negative Content?Which Works Better: Positive or Negative Content?

by Sonia Simone


Are You Making This Common SEO Mistake?Are You Making This Common SEO Mistake?

by Jerod Morris


Busting the Myth of the Starving Artist with Jeff Goins: Part OneBusting the Myth of the Starving Artist with Jeff Goins: Part One

by Kelton Reid


Unleash Your Intuition to Win, with Bernadette JiwaUnleash Your Intuition to Win, with Bernadette Jiwa

by Brian Clark


What Should I Do with My Archive?What Should I Do with My Archive?

by Jerod Morris & Jon Nastor


The post Better Content, Better Websites, and a Little Inspiration appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Deconstructing the App Store Rankings Formula with a Little Mad Science

Posted by AlexApptentive

After seeing Rand’s “Mad Science Experiments in SEO” presented at last year’s MozCon, I was inspired to put on the lab coat and goggles and do a few experiments of my own—not in SEO, but in SEO’s up-and-coming younger sister, ASO (app store optimization).

Working with Apptentive to guide enterprise apps and small startup apps alike to increase their discoverability in the app stores, I’ve learned a thing or two about app store optimization and what goes into an app’s ranking. It’s been my personal goal for some time now to pull back the curtains on Google and Apple. Yet, the deeper into the rabbit hole I go, the more untested assumptions I leave in my way.

Hence, I thought it was due time to put some longstanding hypotheses through the gauntlet.

As SEOs, we know how much of an impact a single ranking can mean on a SERP. One tiny rank up or down can make all the difference when it comes to your website’s traffic—and revenue.

In the world of apps, ranking is just as important when it comes to standing out in a sea of more than 1.3 million apps. Apptentive’s recent mobile consumer survey shed a little more light this claim, revealing that nearly half of all mobile app users identified browsing the app store charts and search results (the placement on either of which depends on rankings) as a preferred method for finding new apps in the app stores. Simply put, better rankings mean more downloads and easier discovery.

Like Google and Bing, the two leading app stores (the Apple App Store and Google Play) have a complex and highly guarded algorithms for determining rankings for both keyword-based app store searches and composite top charts.

Unlike SEO, however, very little research and theory has been conducted around what goes into these rankings.

Until now, that is.

Over the course of five studies analyzing various publicly available data points for a cross-section of the top 500 iOS (U.S. Apple App Store) and the top 500 Android (U.S. Google Play) apps, I’ll attempt to set the record straight with a little myth-busting around ASO. In the process, I hope to assess and quantify any perceived correlations between app store ranks, ranking volatility, and a few of the factors commonly thought of as influential to an app’s ranking.

But first, a little context

Apple App Store vs. Google Play

Image credit: Josh Tuininga, Apptentive

Both the Apple App Store and Google Play have roughly 1.3 million apps each, and both stores feature a similar breakdown by app category. Apps ranking in the two stores should, theoretically, be on a fairly level playing field in terms of search volume and competition.

Of these apps, nearly two-thirds have not received a single rating and 99% are considered unprofitable. These studies, therefore, single out the rare exceptions to the rule—the top 500 ranked apps in each store.

While neither Apple nor Google have revealed specifics about how they calculate search rankings, it is generally accepted that both app store algorithms factor in:

  • Average app store rating
  • Rating/review volume
  • Download and install counts
  • Uninstalls (what retention and churn look like for the app)
  • App usage statistics (how engaged an app’s users are and how frequently they launch the app)
  • Growth trends weighted toward recency (how daily download counts changed over time and how today’s ratings compare to last week’s)
  • Keyword density of the app’s landing page (Ian did a great job covering this factor in a previous Moz post)

I’ve simplified this formula to a function highlighting the four elements with sufficient data (or at least proxy data) for our analysis:

Ranking = fn(Rating, Rating Count, Installs, Trends)

Of course, right now, this generalized function doesn’t say much. Over the next five studies, however, we’ll revisit this function before ultimately attempting to compare the weights of each of these four variables on app store rankings.

(For the purpose of brevity, I’ll stop here with the assumptions, but I’ve gone into far greater depth into how I’ve reached these conclusions in a 55-page report on app store rankings.)

Now, for the Mad Science.

Study #1: App-les to app-les app store ranking volatility

The first, and most straight forward of the five studies involves tracking daily movement in app store rankings across iOS and Android versions of the same apps to determine any trends of differences between ranking volatility in the two stores.

I went with a small sample of five apps for this study, the only criteria for which were that:

  • They were all apps I actively use (a criterion for coming up with the five apps but not one that influences rank in the U.S. app stores)
  • They were ranked in the top 500 (but not the top 25, as I assumed app store rankings would be stickier at the top—an assumption I’ll test in study #2)
  • They had an almost identical version of the app in both Google Play and the App Store, meaning they should (theoretically) rank similarly
  • They covered a spectrum of app categories

The apps I ultimately chose were Lyft, Venmo, Duolingo, Chase Mobile, and LinkedIn. These five apps represent the travel, finance, education banking, and social networking categories.

Hypothesis

Going into this analysis, I predicted slightly more volatility in Apple App Store rankings, based on two statistics:

Both of these assumptions will be tested in later analysis.

Results

7-Day App Store Ranking Volatility in the App Store and Google Play

Among these five apps, Google Play rankings were, indeed, significantly less volatile than App Store rankings. Among the 35 data points recorded, rankings within Google Play moved by as much as 23 positions/ranks per day while App Store rankings moved up to 89 positions/ranks. The standard deviation of ranking volatility in the App Store was, furthermore, 4.45 times greater than that of Google Play.

Of course, the same apps varied fairly dramatically in their rankings in the two app stores, so I then standardized the ranking volatility in terms of percent change to control for the effect of numeric rank on volatility. When cast in this light, App Store rankings changed by as much as 72% within a 24-hour period while Google Play rankings changed by no more than 9%.

Also of note, daily rankings tended to move in the same direction across the two app stores approximately two-thirds of the time, suggesting that the two stores, and their customers, may have more in common than we think.

Study #2: App store ranking volatility across the top charts

Testing the assumption implicit in standardizing the data in study No. 1, this one was designed to see if app store ranking volatility is correlated with an app’s current rank. The sample for this study consisted of the top 500 ranked apps in both Google Play and the App Store, with special attention given to those on both ends of the spectrum (ranks 1–100 and 401–500).

Hypothesis

I anticipated rankings to be more volatile the higher an app is ranked—meaning an app ranked No. 450 should be able to move more ranks in any given day than an app ranked No. 50. This hypothesis is based on the assumption that higher ranked apps have more installs, active users, and ratings, and that it would take a large margin to produce a noticeable shift in any of these factors.

Results

App Store Ranking Volatility of Top 500 Apps

One look at the chart above shows that apps in both stores have increasingly more volatile rankings (based on how many ranks they moved in the last 24 hours) the lower on the list they’re ranked.

This is particularly true when comparing either end of the spectrum—with a seemingly straight volatility line among Google Play’s Top 100 apps and very few blips within the App Store’s Top 100. Compare this section to the lower end, ranks 401–)500, where both stores experience much more turbulence in their rankings. Across the gamut, I found a 24% correlation between rank and ranking volatility in the Play Store and 28% correlation in the App Store.

To put this into perspective, the average app in Google Play’s 401–)500 ranks moved 12.1 ranks in the last 24 hours while the average app in the Top 100 moved a mere 1.4 ranks. For the App Store, these numbers were 64.28 and 11.26, making slightly lower-ranked apps more than five times as volatile as the highest ranked apps. (I say slightly as these “lower-ranked” apps are still ranked higher than 99.96% of all apps.)

The relationship between rank and volatility is pretty consistent across the App Store charts, while rank has a much greater impact on volatility at the lower end of Google Play charts (ranks 1-100 have a 35% correlation) than it does at the upper end (ranks 401-500 have a 1% correlation).

Study #3: App store rankings across the stars

The next study looks at the relationship between rank and star ratings to determine any trends that set the top chart apps apart from the rest and explore any ties to app store ranking volatility.

Hypothesis

Ranking = fn(Rating, Rating Count, Installs, Trends)

As discussed in the introduction, this study relates directly to one of the factors commonly accepted as influential to app store rankings: average rating.

Getting started, I hypothesized that higher ranks generally correspond to higher ratings, cementing the role of star ratings in the ranking algorithm.

As far as volatility goes, I did not anticipate average rating to play a role in app store ranking volatility, as I saw no reason for higher rated apps to be less volatile than lower rated apps, or vice versa. Instead, I believed volatility to be tied to rating volume (as we’ll explore in our last study).

Results

Average App Store Ratings of Top Apps

The chart above plots the top 100 ranked apps in either store with their average rating (both historic and current, for App Store apps). If it looks a little chaotic, it’s just one indicator of the complexity of ranking algorithm in Google Play and the App Store.

If our hypothesis was correct, we’d see a downward trend in ratings. We’d expect to see the No. 1 ranked app with a significantly higher rating than the No. 100 ranked app. Yet, in neither store is this the case. Instead, we get a seemingly random plot with no obvious trends that jump off the chart.

A closer examination, in tandem with what we already know about the app stores, reveals two other interesting points:

  1. The average star rating of the top 100 apps is significantly higher than that of the average app. Across the top charts, the average rating of a top 100 Android app was 4.319 and the average top iOS app was 3.935. These ratings are 0.32 and 0.27 points, respectively, above the average rating of all rated apps in either store. The averages across apps in the 401–)500 ranks approximately split the difference between the ratings of the top ranked apps and the ratings of the average app.
  2. The rating distribution of top apps in Google Play was considerably more compact than the distribution of top iOS apps. The standard deviation of ratings in the Apple App Store top chart was over 2.5 times greater than that of the Google Play top chart, likely meaning that ratings are more heavily weighted in Google Play’s algorithm.

App Store Ranking Volatility and Average Rating

Looking next at the relationship between ratings and app store ranking volatility reveals a -15% correlation that is consistent across both app stores; meaning the higher an app is rated, the less its rank it likely to move in a 24-hour period. The exception to this rule is the Apple App Store’s calculation of an app’s current rating, for which I did not find a statistically significant correlation.

Study #4: App store rankings across versions

This next study looks at the relationship between the age of an app’s current version, its rank and its ranking volatility.

Hypothesis

Ranking = fn(Rating, Rating Count, Installs, Trends)

In alteration of the above function, I’m using the age of a current app’s version as a proxy (albeit not a very good one) for trends in app store ratings and app quality over time.

Making the assumptions that (a) apps that are updated more frequently are of higher quality and (b) each new update inspires a new wave of installs and ratings, I’m hypothesizing that the older the age of an app’s current version, the lower it will be ranked and the less volatile its rank will be.

Results

How update frequency correlates with app store rank

The first and possibly most important finding is that apps across the top charts in both Google Play and the App Store are updated remarkably often as compared to the average app.

At the time of conducting the study, the current version of the average iOS app on the top chart was only 28 days old; the current version of the average Android app was 38 days old.

As hypothesized, the age of the current version is negatively correlated with the app’s rank, with a 13% correlation in Google Play and a 10% correlation in the App Store.

How update frequency correlates with app store ranking volatility

The next part of the study maps the age of the current app version to its app store ranking volatility, finding that recently updated Android apps have less volatile rankings (correlation: 8.7%) while recently updated iOS apps have more volatile rankings (correlation: -3%).

Study #5: App store rankings across monthly active users

In the final study, I wanted to examine the role of an app’s popularity on its ranking. In an ideal world, popularity would be measured by an app’s monthly active users (MAUs), but since few mobile app developers have released this information, I’ve settled for two publicly available proxies: Rating Count and Installs.

Hypothesis

Ranking = fn(Rating, Rating Count, Installs, Trends)

For the same reasons indicated in the second study, I anticipated that more popular apps (e.g., apps with more ratings and more installs) would be higher ranked and less volatile in rank. This, again, takes into consideration that it takes more of a shift to produce a noticeable impact in average rating or any of the other commonly accepted influencers of an app’s ranking.

Results

Apps with more ratings and reviews typically rank higher

The first finding leaps straight off of the chart above: Android apps have been rated more times than iOS apps, 15.8x more, in fact.

The average app in Google Play’s Top 100 had a whopping 3.1 million ratings while the average app in the Apple App Store’s Top 100 had 196,000 ratings. In contrast, apps in the 401–)500 ranks (still tremendously successful apps in the 99.96 percentile of all apps) tended to have between one-tenth (Android) and one-fifth (iOS) of the ratings count as that of those apps in the top 100 ranks.

Considering that almost two-thirds of apps don’t have a single rating, reaching rating counts this high is a huge feat, and a very strong indicator of the influence of rating count in the app store ranking algorithms.

To even out the playing field a bit and help us visualize any correlation between ratings and rankings (and to give more credit to the still-staggering 196k ratings for the average top ranked iOS app), I’ve applied a logarithmic scale to the chart above:

The relationship between app store ratings and rankings in the top 100 apps

From this chart, we can see a correlation between ratings and rankings, such that apps with more ratings tend to rank higher. This equates to a 29% correlation in the App Store and a 40% correlation in Google Play.

Apps with more ratings typically experience less app store ranking volatility

Next up, I looked at how ratings count influenced app store ranking volatility, finding that apps with more ratings had less volatile rankings in the Apple App Store (correlation: 17%). No conclusive evidence was found within the Top 100 Google Play apps.

Apps with more installs and active users tend to rank higher in the app stores

And last but not least, I looked at install counts as an additional proxy for MAUs. (Sadly, this is a statistic only listed in Google Play. so any resulting conclusions are applicable only to Android apps.)

Among the top 100 Android apps, this last study found that installs were heavily correlated with ranks (correlation: -35.5%), meaning that apps with more installs are likely to rank higher in Google Play. Android apps with more installs also tended to have less volatile app store rankings, with a correlation of -16.5%.

Unfortunately, these numbers are slightly skewed as Google Play only provides install counts in broad ranges (e.g., 500k–)1M). For each app, I took the low end of the range, meaning we can likely expect the correlation to be a little stronger since the low end was further away from the midpoint for apps with more installs.

Summary

To make a long post ever so slightly shorter, here are the nuts and bolts unearthed in these five mad science studies in app store optimization:

  1. Across the top charts, Apple App Store rankings are 4.45x more volatile than those of Google Play
  2. Rankings become increasingly volatile the lower an app is ranked. This is particularly true across the Apple App Store’s top charts.
  3. In both stores, higher ranked apps tend to have an app store ratings count that far exceeds that of the average app.
  4. Ratings appear to matter more to the Google Play algorithm, especially as the Apple App Store top charts experience a much wider ratings distribution than that of Google Play’s top charts.
  5. The higher an app is rated, the less volatile its rankings are.
  6. The 100 highest ranked apps in either store are updated much more frequently than the average app, and apps with older current versions are correlated with lower ratings.
  7. An app’s update frequency is negatively correlated with Google Play’s ranking volatility but positively correlated with ranking volatility in the App Store. This likely due to how Apple weighs an app’s most recent ratings and reviews.
  8. The highest ranked Google Play apps receive, on average, 15.8x more ratings than the highest ranked App Store apps.
  9. In both stores, apps that fall under the 401–500 ranks receive, on average, 10–20% of the rating volume seen by apps in the top 100.
  10. Rating volume and, by extension, installs or MAUs, is perhaps the best indicator of ranks, with a 29–40% correlation between the two.

Revisiting our first (albeit oversimplified) guess at the app stores’ ranking algorithm gives us this loosely defined function:

Ranking = fn(Rating, Rating Count, Installs, Trends)

I’d now re-write the function into a formula by weighing each of these four factors, where a, b, c, & d are unknown multipliers, or weights:

Ranking = (Rating * a) + (Rating Count * b) + (Installs * c) + (Trends * d)

These five studies on ASO shed a little more light on these multipliers, showing Rating Count to have the strongest correlation with rank, followed closely by Installs, in either app store.

It’s with the other two factors—rating and trends—that the two stores show the greatest discrepancy. I’d hazard a guess to say that the App Store prioritizes growth trends over ratings, given the importance it places on an app’s current version and the wide distribution of ratings across the top charts. Google Play, on the other hand, seems to favor ratings, with an unwritten rule that apps just about have to have at least four stars to make the top 100 ranks.

Thus, we conclude our mad science with this final glimpse into what it takes to make the top charts in either store:

Weight of factors in the Apple App Store ranking algorithm

Rating Count > Installs > Trends > Rating

Weight of factors in the Google Play ranking algorithm

Rating Count > Installs > Rating > Trends


Again, we’re oversimplifying for the sake of keeping this post to a mere 3,000 words, but additional factors including keyword density and in-app engagement statistics continue to be strong indicators of ranks. They simply lie outside the scope of these studies.

I hope you found this deep-dive both helpful and interesting. Moving forward, I also hope to see ASOs conducting the same experiments that have brought SEO to the center stage, and encourage you to enhance or refute these findings with your own ASO mad science experiments.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s deconstruct the ranking formula together, one experiment at a time.

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Stop Hating on Marketing Automation, Try a Little Tenderness Instead

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There’s a preconceived notion among some in the B2B world that marketing automation is a bad idea, one that’s right up there with pop-under ads.

This misconception likely comes from the early days of social media marketing, when desperate, unscrupulous companies used automated third-party services to blast what truly amounted to spam across their social channels 24/7.

While that sort of automation is terrible, maybe even downright unforgivable, the last thing you want to do is discount automation altogether. Don’t be a hater, there’s so much about automation for a marketer to love.

Even though I cringe whenever I hear a so-called expert preach that “all marketing automation is bad,” I don’t take it personally. It’s all about education, and I’m always happy to talk to people about the future-forward technologies propelling today’s marketing automation software tools.

So, in this short article, I’m going to baby step your doubting mind to the concept of embracing automation in marketing, because the crazy paradox about automation is that, when done right, it can actually empower you to get up close and personal with your audience.

Automate the mundane and focus on the dynamic

Marketing automation platforms allow you to automate the mundane and pain-in-the-ass tasks associated with scaling your online marketing efforts.

Before the engagement purists jump all over me, I want to make it clear that you’ll still need a good human team creating that content, because you’ll never be able to replace the creativity of your writers and graphic designers with robots. But by planning marketing messages ahead of time, you can focus on active, in-the-moment marketing tasks.

Imagine freeing marketers up so that they have more time to actually market! When marketers are able to focus on being proactive in their jobs, consumers are guaranteed a better experience.

Personalize the experience precisely

Aside from automating the most routine tasks, there are things you can do with marketing automation that you can’t do manually.

Your customers don’t want to be talked at; they want to be talked with in a way that makes them feel like you’re listening to their unique needs. But having one-to-one conversations with hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of customers can get unwieldy.

With marketing automation platforms, you can create customized conversations that scale to the masses. Ironically, automation can be the driving force behind — not a killer of — truly personalized experiences for your customers and prospects.

While a prospect is on your website researching her product needs, you can use marketing automation tools to place just the right dynamic content before her in her preferred channel and at the perfect time.

The result is the singular goal of marketing: your customer perceives (and experiences) that your brand is perfectly aligned with their needs.

Scale, measure, and drive

At the end of the day marketing automation is here to scale, measure, and drive revenue.

While that doesn’t sound as sexy as social, content, and SEO, it is certainly an essential component of the overall integrated marketing strategy. It also explains why the topic of marketing ROI has been gaining so much traction across the digital marketing space.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of marketing automation is that you can use it to better measure your campaign results quickly and easily, and then make adjustments on the fly. While marketing stats were once hidden behind veils that prevented us from measuring campaign effectiveness — forcing marketers to hazard guesses about what was actually working — those veils have been lifted by sophisticated metrics tools.

We can now precisely measure the effectiveness of our social, email, and other types of marketing campaigns, as well as the true ROI they deliver.

Because the technology behind Internet marketing has gotten so darn exact, we can scale our marketing efforts like never before. Strategically applied, marketing automation allows us to prove exactly how our campaigns affect revenue.

What’s to hate about that?

See you in the comments?

About the Author: Jason Miller is the Programs Manager of Social Media and Content at Marketo by day, and a rock and roll photographer by night. Get more from Jason on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

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Link Building for the Little Guys

Posted by Matthew Barby

As part of a small business, I always find it very frustrating when I read articles about the ‘best ways to build links to your website’. The same things seem to appear each time: create an infographic, get a video to go viral, write an ebook that people can download, produce some white papers, etc. Now, I’m not saying that these methods don’t work, because they are completely legitimate ways of building links. What I get frustrated about is that if you are a business with very low influence and you create this type of new, unique content, it can be quite a struggle to get it in front of those you wish to see it. With this in mind, I thought I would share the methods that I have found to be most effective for all us ‘little guys’.

Mini Me
[image credit: www.telegraph.co.uk]

Forget Link-Building, Think Relationship-Building

After spending a lot of time trying a whole host of different techniques to build that ‘perfect link’, one thing that started to dawn on me was that even if I were to create the greatest bit of content that anyone has ever seen, if I didn’t have a way of getting it in front of people then it would be useless. On top of this, it is very rare that you will be able to continually create the greatest bit of content that anyone has ever seen. The solution? Focus on building relationships with more influential users within social networks.

As part of my day, I dedicate at least an hour to trawling through content from within the search industry, commenting on articles that I like through the likes of Google+, Twitter, etc, and following new users that share interesting content that isn’t just self-promotion. Alongside this I make sure that I keep all of my RSS feeds organised within Google Reader. This allows me to see when new articles that might interest me are published, without having to take too much time out of my schedule. This kind of basic organisation can not only save you a lot of time, but it will help to give your social following some new, interesting content on a regular basis. One of the best articles that I have read this year was from Pak Hou Cheung and it described how to leverage Google reader for guest post opportunities and blogger outreach. Give it a read and I guarantee it will improve your daily productivity two-fold.

Make the Right Relationships

The next hurdle I found was that, actually, it’s not always that easy to become best buddies with the likes of Rand Fishkin, Will Critchlow and AJ Kohn, just by sharing their blog on Google+ and telling them what you liked about it! When looking to build relationships, it is important to build them with the right people at the right time. What I mean by this is that if you are yet to really make your mark in the industry with your content, then it would be a much more effective use of your time to build relationships with those who would gain a mutual benefit from it.

Whenever I create content I always ask the question: why would anyone benefit from sharing it? If the answer is that they probably wouldn’t gain anything, then you need to re-think the content that you are producing. Start off small; build relationships with bloggers that have relatively low influence, but build much more of them. Look for blogs with less activity on them, where the bloggers are in a similar situation to you and would be really happy if you shared their content or linked back to it. I’m not saying that Rand, Will and AJ wouldn’t be really happy if I shared their content, but I don’t think they’d struggle if I didn’t.

So Why Would Anyone Benefit From Sharing My Content?

One of the most effective ways of encouraging people to share your content is by promoting their content and adding value to it. One very simple method we use at Wow Internet is to create a weekly ‘Search Engine News Roundup’. This involves taking 5 articles that we found particularly useful from within the search industry and giving them a short write up, with a link back to each of the respective blogs. We always try to make sure that we source articles from different authors every week and find articles that aren’t exclusively from hugely popular blogs. Once we have done this, I contact each of the authors through Google+, mention them in a tweet about our blog and send them an email (if I have the author’s email address, which is usually available on their blog).

Matthew Barby Google Plus Post

Another little trick that we use is placing a custom Tweet button next to the link of each article that we have featured in the ‘Search Engine News Roundup’. The custom Tweet button includes a link to the featured blog, a brief message about the article, the original author’s Twitter handle and the Wow Internet Twitter handle (so that the author knows it has been shared from our blog). Below is an example Tweet that comes from the button:

“Great blog from @justincutroni talking about the Next Generation of Google Analytics – http://cutroni.com/blog/2012/10/29/universal-analytics-the-next-generation-of-google-analytics/ via @wow_internet”

You may notice that there is no link back to our blog here. The reason for this is that the whole focus is around promoting the content of others, in order to build relationships and give the author a reason to want to subsequently share our content. This will help drive social signals to the featured article, which will give the author another answer to ‘Why it would benefit me to share their content?’

Matthew Barby Email

The key message that I am trying to get across is that you need to add value to the content that you are sharing. By doing this we are able to reach a wider audience with our content, which can increase the social signals going back to our site and could also persuade people to bookmark our blog, in order to view our future content. This is the most valuable thing for me, because it means that any content that I produce in the future will have a greater level of exposure.

Another very effective way of getting more worth out of the links built to your website is by boosting the authority of webpages that link to you. This is a tactic that I’m sure many of you use on a regular basis. If I am linking to someone else’s content it would make sense for them to think about linking back to me in order to boost the power of the link that I have given them. Through linking to others’ material it will increase the likelihood that they will then share your content in order to boost the power of the link they have received, which works brilliant for both parties involved.

A True Story

Around a couple of months ago Larry Kim posted a fantastic blog on SEOmoz, which showcased his company’s (WordStream) keyword analysis software. Within the blog, Larry offered a free one-year trial of the software to anyone that dropped him an email requesting it. Being a lover of bargains and on the lookout for new tools that can benefit our client’s SEO performance, I took Larry up on the offer. When I got a message back from Larry himself arranging for an activation key to be sent over, I suddenly had a brain-wave…

Larry’s objective for his blog is clear: he wanted to get more people from within the SEO industry signed up to use his product and generate awareness for the brand in general. The question I then asked was, how can I add value to what Larry is trying to achieve, in a way that would also benefit my own objectives?

I started using the keyword analysis suite from WordStream and really liked it. It dramatically improved the way in which we could carry out keyword analysis for our clients and gave us an extra resource to utilise. After using the software I made it a priority to share my positive experience with my followers, and what better way to do this than to blog about it? In order to get Larry’s attention I knew that I needed to add value to what he was trying to achieve, in a way that would appeal to his target audience. So I decided to write an article titled ‘Improving Your Keyword Analysis With WordStream’. In the article I discussed the features I like most and how they can be used specifically to improve the keyword analysis process of any given SEO campaign. I made sure that I linked back to Larry and added in a few particularly ‘quotable’ lines (I will explain this shortly).

My next step was to get in touch with Larry. I dropped him an email to tell him about the blog and how much I enjoyed the keyword research suite. I then asked if he would be kind enough to share the article with his social following. Then I fired it across to all of my social following, making sure to tag Larry in the posts. Shortly after I received this email back from Larry:

Hi Matt,

Thanks for writing this up.

I’ve tweeted it, submitted to inbound.org: http://inbound.org/seo/2012/09/improving-your-keyword-analysis-with-wordstream-wow-internet-blog/

and shared on my facebook and google+ page.

I’ve asked the people who do our company social stuff to share as well.

Thanks again!
Larry

Before I wrote the blog I had checked out the WordStream website to see if there would be any kind of opportunity for me to get something more solid than just the article shared by Larry. What I found was a testimonials page that was populated by only a handful of companies, including the likes of Search Engine Land. I spotted this as a potential link target for the Wow Internet website. This is where the quotable part of the blog came in handy!

I replied to Larry’s email to let him know that I would be more than happy for him to use any part of the blog as a review for his product, which could be displayed on his website. It turned out that I was in luck, because he was more than happy to do it. In fact, when you think about it this was incredibly beneficial for both of us; I get a link from a high authority page back to our domain and Larry gets a credible review of his product, from a company within the industry he is trying to target.

Not only did Larry link to our homepage, but he also linked to a couple of our inside pages with some very good anchor text indeed. Thanks again Larry! You can see it for yourself here:

http://www.wordstream.com/reviews

The moral of the story here is to understand exactly how you can bring value to the people that you reach out to. Only once you have understood how you can benefit them, should you even consider how they can benefit you.

Final Tip: Keep At It.

The last bit of advice I would give is to simply keep at it. This kind of link building can be very frustrating, as I’m sure you have realised, but hopefully these kinds of small success stories will inspire all you little guys out there to keep trying!

I hope this has been helpful to some of you out there and I would love to hear any of you feedback (both negative and positive, but please be nice!). Oh, and sharing this to your social following would be a great help ;-)

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25 Little Email Marketing Experiments That Deliver BIG Results

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We’re always on your case about all these inbound marketing best practices. We’ve published some pretty specific content about best practices for tons of stuff — landing page optimization, blog post structure, marketing analytics — but we’ve never really laid down the one definitive guide to crafting the perfect email.

Sup with that?

Well, we’ve never thrown out a definitively “perfect” email because it’s pretty much impossible to say one thing is better than another in email marketing. I mean, everyone’s audiences are so different! Not to mention the circumstances under which they opted in to your lists, and how you’ve segmented those lists since. There are just so many variables, it’d be ridiculous to assert that there’s just one perfect email out there that all marketers should replicate.

What there is, however, is email split testing to tell you what the perfect email is for your business. So while we can’t do the testing for you, we can certainly tell you the kinds of tests you could run that might give you some really impactful results. We run tests like these every time we send an email to figure out what works best for our audience — take a look at the ones you can run next time you’re gearing up for an email send!

Email Layout and Design Tests

1) Plan Text vs. HTML: You probably know it’s a best practice to always send a plain text version of your HTML emails in case there are rendering problems; but did you ever consider that a plain text email might just … perform better? We’ve tested email sends with certain segments of our list where this is actually the case — the recipients preferred seeing a plain text email, presumably because it felt less like they were being “marketed to.”

2) Image Selection: We encourage marketers to include images in their emails … but what kind? Take lead reconversion emails as an example. Do you see better conversions when you include, say, an ebook cover image? Or an image with stock photography? Or maybe even a meme? Test out different image types to see what strikes your readers’ fancy.

3) Image Placement: You can test more than just image choice. You can test the placement of those images! Should your template have a right aligned image, or left aligned? Or centered, perhaps? Heck — maybe no image at all!

4) Sender Headshot: Some email senders — particularly B2B marketers — also choose to include a headshot in their email signatures. Is this the best idea? It could make your email seem more personal, improving clickthrough rates. Or maybe it distracts recipients from your CTA. Only one way to find out ;-)

5) P.S. vs. No P.S.: If readers are drawn to your sender’s headshot, maybe they’ll be drawn to a P.S., too. It’s a common tactic — including a primary or secondary CTA as a P.S. at the end of an email. See if it works for you, or if it detracts from the clickthrough rate of your primary CTA when you include a secondary CTA.

6) Template Designs: We’ve encouraged you to either use HubSpot’s email templates (if we’re your ESP) or to even create your own email template designs if you’re so inclined. But we also encourage you to test the effectiveness of those templates, as some layouts and designs might perform better than others. Select a few variations to split test until you narrow down a basic template that performs best, then tweak minor design and layout elements from there.

Email Timing and Frequency Tests

7) Day of the Week: The day of the week when you send your emails matters. Do you know what day is best for your audience? For different segments of your list? Figure out which day delivers the best open and clickthrough rates for your email sends.

8) Time of Day: Similarly, the time of day matters. A lot. Test which day and time results in the most opens and clicks for your emails. When you combine both pieces of information, you’ll have a matrix of awesome times (and not so awesome times) to send your emails. That’s some handy dandy information right there.

Dynamic Content Email Tests

9) First Name vs. No Name in Subject Line: Through the magic of dynamic content, you can make your email marketing way more personal … even in the subject lines of your emails! Test whether including a recipient’s first name in the subject line has a positive effect on open rates, or whether they view the personalization token in a less favorable light.

10) First Name vs. No Name in Email: Similarly, you can test name personalization in the body content of your email. Again, some people might view it as a little old school, some might like it, and some might fall somewhere in between. See where your audience sits on that spectrum.

11) Company Name vs. No Company Name in Subject Line: You can have more fun in the subject line of your emails, particularly if you’re a B2B marketer. Perhaps recipients would like to see their organization’s name in the subject line of an email. You can know for sure by running a quick little test!

12) Social Media Information: If you’ve captured a lead’s social media information, you can use that to send social media specific emails to prospects — like a content just for Twitter followers, for example. This is really cool stuff! But just because it’s cool, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your email marketing contacts. Segment out a portion of your list to experiment with the results of including dynamic social media content in your email sends.

Email Call-to-Action Tests

13) Image CTA vs. Text CTA: Your email’s call-to-action is one of the most critical parts of your emails to test, because it’s what generates leads and reconversions! Start by testing whether you see better conversion rates from image CTAs, or text CTAs.

14) CTA Button Copy and Color: If you find that image CTAs are best, start testing the button copy and color. Hey, you’d test those elements for your site’s CTAs, right? Emails are no different!

15) Link Placement Within Text: If you find that text CTAs perform better than image CTAs (or you have the best conversion rates with both image and text CTAs), start to experiment with the placement of those hyperlinks within the email copy. You might find anchor text gets clicked on the most when it’s at the beginning of your email, near the end, or somewhere in between — it all depends on your recipients’ email reading/scanning habits.

16) Text CTA in Body Copy vs. P.S.: We talked a little bit about using a P.S. earlier in this post. If you find that using a P.S. works for you, you might want to test whether your text CTA gets the most conversions when it’s included in the body copy of your email, or in the P.S. And if you decide to use the P.S. real estate for a secondary CTA, test whether it aversely impacts conversions for your primary CTA.

17) Social Proof vs. No Social Proof: Social proof is the concept that consumer behavior can be impacted by the behavior of others — you might mirror other people’s behavior under the assumption that what other people are doing is “right.” So you might also find that if you include elements of social proof in your emails, your conversion rates improve. Here at HubSpot, for example, we’ve found that CTAs that include three tweets vouching for an offer tend to have the best CTRs. Those with only one tweet, however, perform even worse than CTAs with no elements of social proof.

18) Offer Type: The type of offer you’re sending might also have an impact on conversions, particularly across different list segments. You might find through testing that certain list segments — whether based on persona, lifecycle stage, or some other element — prefer, say, ebooks to webinars. Test different types of offers to see which performs best for each segment of your list.

Email Sender Tests

19) Company Name vs. Personal Name as Sender: The name that appears in the email “From” field can have a huge impact on whether your email even gets opened. Test whether it’s best to send from your company’s name, the name of an actual person at your business, or a combination of both. For example, at HubSpot we’ve found that emails sent from “Maggie Georgieva, HubSpot” perform better in terms of open and CTR than emails sent from just “HubSpot.”

20) Sales Contact as Sender: Many email marketers may choose themselves, a CEO, or some other authority figure as the name in the “From” field. But have you ever considered sending from the name of a contact’s salesperson? With dynamic content, you can do it to see whether it improves email performance. I mean, if a lead is already in the sales process, it makes sense that they’d hear from a sales contact instead of a marketer, right?

21) Personal vs. Alias Email Address: You might also consider whether the email address from which you send your email needs to change. Does your list cringe at the idea of receiving an email from an alias, like “sales@company.com?” Do they prefer seeing something like “linda@company.com?” Maybe. Maybe not. Only one way to find out.

Email Copy Tests

22) Familiar vs. Professional Tone: The copy of your email can take a lot of different tones. Nailing the right one takes a thorough understanding of your buyer personas, as well as some plain ol’ trial and error. Test different tones — familiar versus professional, for instance — to see which resonates most with your audience.

23) Including “Free” in the Content: We recently wrote a blog post about whether including the word “Free” in email content impacted deliverability and clickthrough rate. The results are a handy starting point for any email marketer, but you should conduct your own tests to see whether the words turn your list on or off.

24) Longer vs. Shorter Emails: You could also decide to wax poetic in your emails, or keep it short and sweet. Truthfully, there’s a place for both. But you can only know the right time if you test it out. See whether you need to include more detail in your email copy, or whether you should have sent readers to a web page long ago.

25) Subject Line Copy Variations: Writing amazing email subject lines is a tricky mix of art and science. Think about it — would you rather get an email with the subject line, “How to be an excellent business blogger,” or “How to stop sucking a business blogging?” Probably depends, right? That’s why email marketers have to test different elements of their email subject line copy to see what gets recipients’ attention!

What other creative email marketing tests can you think of to run?

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7 Dirty Little Book Publishing Secrets that Every Writer Needs to Know

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Paris Hilton has one. Rob Lowe has one too. Even Sharon Osbourne’s got one.

Get your mind out of the gutter people — I’m talking about books.

Even with all their money, fame and extreme overexposure, these people (or, their people) went to the effort to become published authors. Why?

These celebrities already have more money than they know what to do with and dead tree book publishing is supposed to be dead.

So why do these celebrities bother to write (or hire a ghostwriter to write) a book?

I can’t answer for Paris, but Seth Godin has stated that the reason to write a book versus a blog post, ebook, or PDF is to “make change happen.”

Yes, the Emperor of Content Marketing, Godin has published books for years.

Not just ebooks, but real dead-tree printed books with covers.

He says the reason he wrote Linchpin is because, “If you want to change people, you must create enough leverage to encourage the change to happen.”

A book gives you that kind of leverage.

Books change lives

Celebrities usually write books to “set the record straight” or explain the twisted story of their rise to stardom.

They can’t do that with a magazine article or tweet. It takes more than 140 characters to explain why Paris does what she does, after all.

Changing a reader’s opinion requires space — whether it’s transforming your attitude toward Paris Hilton or changing your thinking about how you do business.

A tweet doesn’t often change someone’s life. But books can and do — all the time.

I’ve written my books to help people. Although my books don’t sell quite as well as Seth’s or Paris Hilton’s, I have received countless emails from readers thanking me for the information.

In a small way, my books have changed people’s lives.

They’ve also changed my life.

A book is something tangible you can point to as a repository of your knowledge. Unlike a series of blog posts, a book is organized and works as a cohesive unit. People take books more seriously than almost any other form of writing.

Being a book author gives you a level of credibility like almost nothing else.

Let’s face it, saying you’re a book author has a lot more cachet than saying you’re a blogger.

Where’s your book?

If you’re reading Copyblogger, you’re undoubtedly a writer, content marketer, or some other type of wizard of words.

You’re a writer. Why haven’t you written a book?

Maybe the idea is too big and scary. I’m living proof that it’s not as hard as you might think to face those fears, move forward, and get your book out into the world.

Here are seven secrets Paris and Seth know that you may not know about getting a book written and published:

1. You don’t have to accept rejection

Many people never write their Great American Novel because they think someone might not like it.

We writers are sensitive souls and fear of rejection is real. The secret is you don’t have to accept rejection.

Have you ever heard of Mark Victor Hansen?

He’s one of the guys who wrote Chicken Soup for the Soul — a book that has made millions of dollars and spawned countless spin-off products. Yet, that book was rejected 140 times. Mark believed in his book, refused to accept the rejections, and kept going.

Another secret is that rejection often has nothing to do with the quality of your book or your ideas.

Many rejections relate to a publisher’s business decisions and have nothing to do with you or your writing at all.

2. You can learn everything you need to know

Many authors take a peek at the book-publishing business, get completely overwhelmed, and run away.

It’s a lot like when you started your own business or your blog.

There’s a learning curve.

The secret is to realize that although writing is a creative process, publishing is a business. Publishing a book is going to require work and a bit of education on your part.

For less than $ 100 worth of books about publishing before you get started, you can save an enormous amount of time, money and aggravation in the long run.

3. You have to market the book

Even if an enormous New York City publishing house publishes your book, you will have to market it.

A first-time author rarely gets help from the publisher. Accept that you will be on your own when it comes to marketing — a fact I’ve discovered first-hand, the hard way.

When you know that you — and only you — will be responsible for marketing your book, you won’t be disappointed.

The key is to think like a marketer before you write the first word of your manuscript.

4. You don’t have to sell your soul to “The Man” (unless you want to)

It used to be that you had to beg a Big Publishing Company to give your book idea the time of day.

You needed an agent and preferably a lot of money. And as noted, the Big Publishing Company could still reject your book on a whim.

Book publishing is different now.

You can publish a book yourself. In the past, self-publishing was often equated to vanity publishing. (In other words, a self-published book was often considered crap.)

But now that idea has been turned on its head. Some people argue that being published by a Big Company is more for “vanity” reasons than anything else. It’s certainly not because of all the great marketing support you’ll receive.

You get to say, “My book was published by Big Company.”

Of course, almost no one outside of New York actually cares about that.

Have you ever looked at a book to check and see which company published it? Me neither.

Your readers don’t care who published the book. They care whether or not the book is good.

In the past, I had a couple of books published by a big company. I started self-publishing my books because it made it possible to release books I wanted to write and make a lot more money.

It’s not just me. Even Seth Godin ditched his publisher and started The Domino Project so he can have more control over his books.

5. Your online presence and knowledge give you an advantage

If you’re here reading Copyblogger, I bet you have a blog.

Or if you don’t, you’re thinking about starting one. Your blog is the beginning of the “author platform” every publisher requires (even if the publisher is you).

Today most books — whether paper or pixels — are sold online.

All the online marketing techniques you use to market your blog or digital products work for a book too. You can leverage what you already know.

A blog also gives you a way to do market research.

Chris Anderson said he wrote many parts of The Long Tail based on comments from his blog.

6. You need to spend time and money on your book

As noted above, publishing is a business.

If you opt to try and get a traditional book publishing deal, it will take time to find an agent, write a proposal, and send out queries.

If you opt to publish yourself, you’ll need to pay for editorial services, ISBNs, and designers.

You need to accept that these investments are part of the business of your book.

7. You will feel resistance at many points during the publishing process

Every writer experiences some level of anxiety about putting a book “out there.”

In his book, The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield talks about the concept of “resistance.” Often authors struggle to get a book out the door.

I’ve written 12 books and worried about each one.

As a bit of an introvert, I worry about putting too much of myself out there on public display or worse, being completely ignored.

The secret is to know that resistance happens; it’s part of the process.

So what’s stopping you?

As a good content marketer, you’re probably churning out articles, blog posts, and ebooks.

So, why not publish a real print book too?

It worked out nicely for Seth and Paris, after all. There’s no reason it can’t work for you.

A book is your legacy.

Why haven’t you written it yet? If you’re stuck, what stopped you? Tell me about it in the comments.

About the Author: Susan Daffron, aka The Book Consultant owns a book and software publishing company in Idaho where she spends most of her time writing, laying out books in InDesign, or taking her four dogs out for romps in the forest. She teaches authors about book publishing, puts on the Self-Publishers Online Conference in May, runs a book author mastermind, and just launched Virtual Writing Retreats, which offer writers accountability, feedback, and the gift of time to get their writing done.

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