A very powerful tool many members of Helium are discovering is Twitter.  But what is Twitter and how can someone use it to help them with their Helium writing and to get traffic to their articles to increase their earnings?

What Is Twitter

Twitter is difficult to describe because it’s many things to many people.  The basic idea is that it’s another social networking tool.  As a user, you are able to post short messages of up to 140 characters called “tweets.”  These tweets are then aggregated out through Twitter, search engines, and third party applications (the use of hashtags – #[hashtag] – are an example).  So in a broad sense your tweets can be seen by others via these large entities.

The real power of Twitter for a common user though is via the social part of the tool.  Twitter allows you to friend other people and for them to friend you – on twitter it’s called following.  When you look at your Twitter home page (when logged in) you see a stream of all the tweets from everyone you’re following.  So you are able to share with friends, family, and people that are interested in your shared content.

Uses For Twitter

So what can one use Twitter for?  Again, this is a question with many answers.  Some people use it to share the mundane aspects of their life (“Just had toast”), the extremely personal, to reach out to multiple friends (“Fun time at X come join us”), etc.  However the most effective way to use Twitter that I’ve seen – and the focus of this post – is marketing.

What do I mean by this?  When I used Twitter some of the people I followed were my favorite web comic creators.  People whom I thought were talented artists and creators and whose comics I enjoyed.  Many of these artists used Twitter not only to update when new comics were coming but to talk about events they were going to, to communicate with their audience, to offer special discounts (“Use this code for 20% off today in my store”), or even to link to live broadcasts of them drawing the comics in real time.  As a follower you got to see “behind the scenes” and get to know the artist – most of whom were interesting and had a lot of the traits their comic characters had (which, as a fan, I already liked).  As an artist they got a single medium in which to reach out and communicate with their audience – much more powerful than the one-on-one medias (such as IM or e-mail) or even one-to-many medias (such as bulletin boards).

Another group I followed were my peers in the web design community – people who I learn from and work towards becoming more like.  They shared many of the same things and I got to see although they might be “giants” in my industry many of them are geeky, have weird senses of humor, and problems – just like me.  In other words, it humanized my idols.  And, in the process, I achieved more respect for them and what they do for the community.

So what does this all mean to you, the Helium writer?

Effectively Using Twitter To Market You

If I was a Helium writer I would use Twitter in much the way I envision using it one day to promote my web site / open source projects one day:

  1. Announcements of released work (“New blog”, “New WordPress Theme”, etc)
    • Although people might subscribe to your RSS feed on your blog, maybe it gets lost in the shuffle.  Or maybe someone is following you and doesn’t know about your blog / delicious / open source projects / Helium articles / etc.
  2. Crowdsourcing new ideas/concepts (“Writing article on buying kitten. What are 5 things you’d expect to hear in it?”)
    • What better place to get ideas then from your audience?
    • Good way to pick up on things you might have missed or not thought about – different viewpoints.
  3. Peer communication (“Hey X your article on Y was really great.”, “Hey X cool article about Y, I have a few links on Delicious that you might want to add.”) and marketing (“Hey if you like my stuff, you should really check out X she’s brilliant.”)
    • Treat others as you want to be treated and they’re likely to return the favor.
    • Peers might be able to help you out. (“Checked out those links, some are a bit dated. You should check out THIS:…”)
  4. Meetups (“I’m going to be at X this afternoon for Y event. Hope to see you there”)
    • Maybe you’ll find a new friend.  Or get a job offer / freelance gig, etc.
  5. Getting help (“I’m looking for references for this article..”, “Anyone know a good site to find X..”)
    • Keywords here might open you up to new followers.
  6. Sharing interests (“Great new site here:…”, “Brilliant story about X here:…”)
    • Showing a bit of your personal side – while frightening – can humanize you.  Having your audience identify with you helps.

What ideas would you add to the list? (#2)

Remember that while sharing is good it takes time to build an audience.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t seem to get a lot of @replies or followers right away.  Twitter is a big place.  You’re going to have to market yourself.  Put your Twitter handle (username) on your Helium profile.  Mention it in blog / board posts.  Follow other people you find interesting or useful.  Use #hashtags appropriately.

Twitter is a tool – just like Delicious, Reddit, or StumbleUpon.  It’s unique from those in that it’s built around self promotion.  Using it for it’s purpose effectively and regularly will pay dividends.  The longer you do that, the more those dividends will return.

I hope this helps.

By the way, you can follow Helium on Twitter.

Many hours have been spent – on the boards, emails, etc – talking about earnings.  Upfront payments, empty title bonuses, and other one time payments are often focused on as a quick way to earn money.  Not enough time is really spent on revenue earnings and how valuable they can be.

The likely reason that many discount these earnings is that they are low – for some people.  But others make lots of money from revenue earnings.  What sets these people apart?  What makes one have more revenue earnings?  Simple: page views.

This is an oversimplification and not a “canonical” explanation of how revenue earnings work.  However, the basics are as follow:

  1. Each time a page is viewed on Helium some number of ads are displayed.
    1. Helium earns a certain amount of revenue for “ad impressions” – i.e. someone has seen the ad.
    2. Helium earns a much higher amount of revenue for “ad clicks” – i.e. when someone clicks on the ad.
    3. #1 and #2 are discounted somewhat by the ad servers with regards to abuse – i.e. don’t bother refreshing your articles over and over and clicking on ads to make more money.  The ad networks are smart to this, as well as Helium, and you could have your account terminated for abuse.
  2. Helium uses some algorithm to determine the value of a page – i.e. how many times it was viewed versus other pages – to determine what part of the incoming revenue should be shared with that page.  I say page and not writer because a channel page might have contributions from a dozen writers, for example.
  3. Revenue earnings are assigned to articles based upon #1 and #2.

So, using the above, it’s easy to see that in order to increase one’s earnings one must increase the number of times one’s page (i.e. article, bio, article snippet, etc) is viewed.  The more page views, the more ad impressions.  The more ad impressions, the more ad clicks.  The more of both, the more Helium’s revenue is associated with your contribution and rewarded as such.

But – doesn’t Helium control how many page views you get?  Yes and no.  SEO has two facets – internal and external.

  1. Internal SEO is the construction of site architecture that will enable easy browsing (so all content is found and indexed), associate certain site coined keywords with the content (channel names, article titles), and linking strategy (designing a browse strategy that implies internal importance of pages – i.e. article pages are more important than list or channel pages).
  2. External SEO is the collecting of links (specifically deep links – links to specific pages [article] versus general pages [home page / channel page]) pointing to the site (Helium) to assign keywords (anchor text [i.e. what text is actually contained in the link, typically blue and underlined]) and importance (the number of inbound links to a page is commonly accepted as one of the most important factors in defining it’s importance – both to keywords and in general).

Helium has designed – and continues to modify – site architecture in order to maximize the gain for internal SEO.  However, no matter how much we market – by getting partners to link to us, linking from our own blogs/sites, etc – the sheer numbers of links we can generate is dwarfed by even a token effort from the community.

What do I mean?  Say every employee of Helium (around 30-35) is a power link creator and creates 100 inbound links to Helium (setting aside what kind of links for a second).  Now take the active writers on Helium – commonly quoted as 10K but we’ll be conservative and say 5K.  Say each of them makes a token effort to get 5 inbound links to Helium.

  1. Employees: 35 x 100 = 3500 links
  2. Community: 5000 x 5 = 25000 links

Or, in other words, by even a token effort from community members to link their signatures from boards they post in, their blog sidebars, mentioning specific links in board / blog posts, or simply saving links to social networking sites (typically nofollowed, yes, however likely to still add value and keywords) the community can produce 7x what Helium could produce with a fraction of the effort.

“But Eric,  you’re always telling us to craft keyword rich articles and titles.”  Yes I am.  And it’s important.  But equally or more important is getting inbound links to your articles – the more links and, specifically, the more quality links (from trusted sites) you get, the better off you’ll do.

Let me use an example.  I believe I can be safe in assuming that most people have heard of Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is great for pop culture information – who the guy third from the left is on the Jedi Council in Episode 1 – however it’s not always the best for factual information – which is why many high schools and universities prohibit or limit it’s use as a resource for papers.  Yet if you do a search for anything on the web you stand a good chance of seeing a Wikipedia link in the top 10 search results.  Why?  Massive amounts of inbound links.

A big thing with SEO – and when I say SEO for Helium, I really mean Google as you can pretty much count out any other search engine at this time – is trust.  Google assigns rankings for keywords based upon the amount of trust it has in a page.  While some amount of trust is earned by internal SEO the vast majority of it comes from inbound links.  Which makes sense.  If a page or domain has a large number of inbound links what it basically means is that other sites see value in the content (i.e. they trust it) and use it as a resource.  In spidering sites, Google sees this and assigns trust to that domain or page.  That value is then used to assign ranking order for search results.

In other words the single most important factor to increase your page views and your earnings for an article is the number of links to it from other sources.

Many of you spend hours researching for your article.  Leapfrogging it multiple times.  Proofreading it.  Crafting your prose into a well thought out article.  How much time do you spend getting links to it?  Save it to your Delicious.  Share it on your Facebook.  Use it as a source in other articles, in blog posts, or in a board post.  I’ve done this many times where I’ll discuss something in a post or on the boards and link to something else I created so if someone doesn’t know what it means (“link juice” is one I commonly do) or wants to learn more, they can click through and find out more.

Even if the links don’t specifically pass link juice – like Facebook – they can still go viral – meaning people will pass on the links and share it.  Have you ever seen the memes – those funny links/videos people share on Facebook or their blog?  How do you think that starts?  Someone makes something interesting and shares it with their friends.  Some part of their friends find it funny/interesting and share it with their friends.  And so on, and so forth.

So I challenge you to work the SEO angle.  Set aside a part of your Helium time – that time which you use to write, leapfrog, rate, edit, etc – for marketing your articles.  Set a goal – for every article you write get 3 inbound links to it or others in your portfolio.  Be mindful of opportunities – “Interesting board post about issues with litter training your cat.  I had some luck with some methods you didn’t try.”  where “some methods you didn’t try” is a link to your article.  Etc.

If you have a portfolio of articles that’s larger than 100 you’re sitting on a potential revenue source.  Think about your 10 best earning articles – now what if you could earn 10x on just those?  Where would you be?  Not marketing your articles is akin to making amazing artwork and then sitting in front of your house selling it off a table.  Sure, some people will stumble by and you might sell a few.  But imagine if you put up signs in your neighborhood.  Or ran an ad in the paper.  Or got mentioned on tv.  Inbound links are just another form of advertising.  You’re only hurting yourself by not taking advantage of it.

I covered a lot of information and went a lot longer than I had originally planned.  I hope I helped you to better understand the opportunities that exist for you to maximize your income.  I hope you take my advice to heart and 3 months from now, I hear from you about how your revenue earnings have gone up 3x, 5x or even 10x.

Just a quick post on sites that I found interesting for learning more about SEO and it’s inner workings.  Hopefully it will help you better – both in writing your content here on Helium and on your own personal sites.

So what is SEOmoz?  It’s one of the biggest SEO blogs / sites out there.  I find that not only is most of it’s content useful, but it’s also relevant.  They also have content that’s built and accessible for readers from all levels of SEO experience – from beginner to expert.

Hope this helps.

or “Stop spamming their site 101.”

Recently there was a near panic over the potential banning of Helium from Reddit so I wanted to comment a bit on it as well as educate the community on the services and how to be productive members of them.  As I have personally seen the Helium community grow and prosper I have confidence that it’s members can expand out, join other communities, and become valid, useful and prosperous members of them.  I’m sure we already have a few that might simply not let it be known that they successful Diggers, Redditors, etc.

Note that this comes from a self-professed Magnolia addict (formerly Delicious) who regularly reads and contributes to Reddit.  I’m also a former Digg reader (I lost interest right around the “cabal” escapade and haven’t really gone back even though I love their UI), regular user of Facebook and MySpace, blogger, and feed (RSS) junkie.  So, basically, I’m pretty familiar with most of these services.

Note also that some of what I say might be considered “tough love.”  I apologize if this offends you.  However I feel it’s necessary to not “hold punches” – the community must be educated and informed sooner rather than later on these services and their proper users before the actions of a few doom the prospects of the many.

One thing to keep in mind as well as that the original story that caused the panic got 25 upvotes total.  Out of hundreds (thousands, millions?) of Redditors.  While I am not labeling the submittor or commentors that attacked Helium as trolls – I don’t know themand the bigger voices all had a fair amount of karma (the estimate of value added to Reddit / authority) – keep in mind that you will find trolls on some of these services and just have to deal with them.  And, again, I am not labeling the submittors / commentors as trolls so don’t quote me as such – just making a point.

I fear much of the problem comes from an article that talked about how someone wrote an article on Helium, posted it on Reddit, it made the front page, and they made a lot of money.  What must be realized is that although this is possible – it is the exception rather than the norm.  Also, spamming these sites in the attempt to achieve that goal will cause more harm than good – not only for yourself, but the community and Helium as well.

Think about it from the Helium perspective.  If a member joined up and started furiously writing articles which were all self-promotional and linking back to his blog would you want him/her to continue to be a member of Helium?  Probably not.  But this is exactly what some members did to Reddit – as well as I’m sure now or in the past to Digg, Delicious, and others.

So how does one become a productive member of the Helium community?  They provide quality content.  They cite quality, verified, and various references (i.e. not all from the same source).  They add to the value of the site and community rather than trying to “cash in.”

Not surprisingly, that is how one becomes a valued member of other Web 2.o / social bookmarking / social networking sites.  They read the rules.  They read the site and see examples of how others are adding value to the community.  They contribute with the interests of the community and not themselves in mind.

An example – I promote some of my stuff on Magnolia (rarely, and most is marked private so it can’t even be seen by other users).  Of my (at the moment of this writing) 2500 bookmarks (I told you I was an addict) do you know how many are mine?  Less than 50, i.e. 2% (and that’s probably a vast overestimate).

So – why does one use these services besides self-promotion?  Honestly, because they are fun and useful.  Social bookmarking like Delicious and Magnolia are amazing.  You have the ability to bookmark any interesting site you find, tag it for easy finding later on, access it from any computer anywhere in the world, and share it with your friends.  You can join groups that share similar interests (Cats, Ferrets, Ford Mustangs, Magic the Gathering, etc) and find amazing sites you would never have discovered by yourself.  And yeah, sometimes you can share something cool you did and get some benefit.  But it’s a perk and not the purpose.

What about social networking sites like Digg and Reddit?  You can find stories and sites varying from cool webcomics, to political discussion, to sports, and more.  You can join subreddits and share content on your favorite niche interest like geek, lolcats, photography, or even bacon (yes, bacon, the food).  You can comment and banter on the submissions – much like you do on the community boards here.  And yes, sometimes you can say “hey, if you like that story about the bacon shake you might like this thing I wrote about bacon soda” (if that’s your thing).  But again – perk, not purpose.

My hope now is that you’ve learned something.  That you’ll go out and expand your horizons, joining and adding to other communities like you have Helium.  Mostly, that you’ll have fun and enjoy them instead of being frustrated and confused.  And if one person gets on the front page of Reddit or Delicious – regardless of whether it’s for a Helium submission or not – then I’ve done my job.

I hope this helps.

Update: I’ve also posted something on Reddit.  But I think they’ve moved onto other threads for the discussion.

I was inspired by a recent post on the boards to craft a guideline to writing a good article.  Now, I’m not an expert writer – I’m fairly literate but I realize that sometimes my grammar, punctuation and spelling are a little off.  I am however relatively talented at crafting an article or post from an SEO perspective.  So I figured I would give some tips – sort of an outline of what I do when I’m writing.

My ferret example was apparently lacking in widespread appeal, however considering that they’re a subject I’m comfortable and knowledgeable in and that they’re a strong and valuable niche – always something to consider when it comes to SEO – I chose this title to use for my example – “What you need to know about ferrets.”

Craft an outline

The first thing I do is craft a rough outline so I have some idea of what I want to write about.  In this case, my first draft would look something like:

  • Good pet
  • Environment
  • Feeding
  • Children
  • Other ferrets
  • Curiosity

Key search terms

Next, I consider what search terms are most likely to be used and how they relate to my article.  Basically, I ask myself – “If I were searching for information about this subject, what would I likely search for?” I would consider the following to be likely candidates – litter training your ferret, ferret proofing your home, ferrets as pets, what to feed a ferret, housing a ferret, ferrets and children, ferrets and other ferrets, and ferret vaccinations.

Now I use that to expand my outline.

  • Why a ferret makes a good pet
    • Playful and social
    • Curiosity
    • Group animal – ferrets and other ferrets
  • Setting up the ferret’s environment
    • Picking the right cage
    • Ferret proofing your home
    • Litter training
  • Feeding your ferret
    • Ferret food
    • Kitten food
  • Ferrets and children
  • Taking care of your ferret
    • Picking the right vet
    • Vaccinations
    • Common illnesses
    • The cancer issue

By “the cancer issue” I mean the fact that ferrets for whatever reason are very susceptible to cancer – specifically adrenal.  I lost all 4 of my ferrets to this unfortunately.

Enforcing the terms

Now that I have a more detailed outline I would expand on the points making sure to emphasize the key terms and link to relevant pages that discuss them in more detail. Let’s pick “ferret proofing your home.”

Ferret proofing your home

One of the most important things to do before bringing home a new ferret is to ferret proof your home.  What is ferret proofing and what does this mean? Ferrets are extremely curious, fragile, and can get into very small areas.  You have to think of them like children – their curiosity can cause them harm.  So you should get down on your hands and knees and survey their play area for things like holes in the wall, uncovered electrical sockets, exposed wires, anything else they can chew or swallow (foam, chemicals, etc), spaces under appliances, and anything else.

A ferret can fit in something as small as 1″ x 1″ in some cases.  It’s best to have a room or cordoned off area for them to play in…

And so on.

Conclusion

So, basically, the following are important with regards to SEO:

  • Identify key terms
  • Empathize key terms
  • Include relevant links

One of the key things to remember is that the only thing you have real control over is your content. You can’t control who links to you, what they link as (i.e. the text they use for the link which associates those key words), or how the search engines interpret it. By writing quality and useful content, citing sources, and using terms likely to be searched for (organic SEO) you set yourself up to be in the best position possible when it comes to SEO.

I hope this helps.

My recent thoughts have gone to the overhaul I want and intend to do to my personal site.  As such, I started to think about ideas for sharing and promoting my work in order to increase my SEO and brand recognition (“brand me”).

What does this have to do with Helium and you, the community, in particular?  I’m calling in all the favors I’ve done answering questions and such and mooching inbound links :).  I kid.  Seriously, it led me to ponder a question that constantly appears on the boards and has done since I started here – how does one promote their work and, as a result, earn more money?  I thought some of the principles I was leaning towards for my own work may help – if not as direct ideas to implement than at least as guidelines to draw inspiration from.  I also encourage those who have had success marketing themselves to contribute and share their knowledge in the comments if you are so willing.

One of the first things I am planning to do myself is to form one central area in which to concentrate all the areas that I contribute to.  For example, I contribute to ma.gnolia, twitter, and have several other social networking accounts.  My first step would be to create a home page that would either a) have feeds and/or links (depending on the service) that would pull my content there or b) use FriendFeed to build a composite RSS of all my contributions.

So if, for example, you contribute to your blog, Helium, have a MySpace blog, Twitter, Associated Content account, etc then you could set up a central home page that would pull the feeds and link out to all of them.  Then on each account, you include a link to this central area.

The idea is to get this to be the definitive result in search engines for you.  So when someone searches for “your name” the first result is your “personal home page.”  Naturally, the more services you use, the more inbound links you’ll get, and the more authority the page will get for “brand you.”  Owning and controlling your brand in search engines is very important – a bad or misleading result in search engines for your name and/or brand can hurt you in trying to earn jobs, gigs, or writing assignments.

Second, I plan on contributing to open source sites.  “But”, you say, “I’m not a developer”.  That’s not to say you can’t contribute.  You could open a Reddit account and contribute interesting stories you find and vote up others.  As you gain credibility, you could start to link to a few of your pieces on Helium or blog posts.  This doesn’t mean you start spamming Reddit.  This does mean that if you see a lot of front page posts about a topic and you happened to have written something on that subject that you think may interest them you submit it.  Perhaps you’re a big politics nut, a big pop culture fan, or a Mac addict (all popular topics on the site) – you can then use that to your advantage.

Conversely, many social bookmarking sites like ma.gnolia have groups.  Say you are an avid ferret fan.  You could become a member of a ferret group (or start one) and share the ferret bookmarks you’ve found.  Perhaps you’ve written an article on the best way to clip a ferret’s nails because you couldn’t find any information on that when you got your ferret and learned through trial and error – and don’t want other new owners to have to do that.  You could contribute that.

Now, many of these social networking sites are nofollow links – meaning you’ll get little or no link juice.  However, you’ll still get exposure and traffic – and if your work is good enough, others will bookmark and share it.

Finally, I plan on using the central area as my brand.  So when someone asks to see my work, I would give them the link to that page which would show all my social networking, my blog(s), my portfolio, etc.  Same for you – you could use that in your e-mail and board signatures, on your business card, as your site on all your profiles (Facebook, MySpace, etc) so that it becomes your “brand” and people know that when they want to find out about you, they go there.

I hope this helps.  I am by no means an expert on the subject, but perhaps my contributions – specifically if expanded by others – will help you to get some ideas and insights on how to better promote yourself.

I also apologize for the length of this post.  However, we at Helium have Thursday and Friday off.  Typically I try and do 2 posts a week – Tuesday and Thursday.  Because of the short week I will only be doing 1.  I wish everyone in the Helium community, their families, and anyone else that happens to wander across this a very happy and healthy holiday – whatever you celebrate.  Take care.

A common SEO (Search Engine Optimization) term that is used nowadays is “link juice.” So what is link juice?

Link juice basically refers the passing of authority by other sites to the destination site.

Huh?

Let’s back up for a second. When we talk SEO most people really are talking about ranking in Google. Google has a patented method for its ranking engine called PageRank. Google has stated it uses that plus various other methods and offsets to rank its index but PageRank is the most well known.

So how does PageRank basically work? Basically, each site starts out with a PageRank of 1.0. Google then takes every site it links to and divides it’s PageRank up and passes that on. So, if that site with PageRank 1.0 (we’ll refer to it as site A) linked to 4 sites (B-E) it would pass on 0.25 of PageRank to each.

Now each of those sites has a PageRank of 1.25 (1.0 original + 0.25 from A). They then link out to a certain amount of sites and Google divides their PageRank of 1.25 by the number of outbound links they have and passes that on. And so on and so forth through many iterations.

So what do you end up with? Some sites end up with many, many inbound links that add to their PageRank. These sites are the ones you typically find at the top of search results for almost any search terms.

So, again, what is link juice? Link juice is the passing of PageRank. So when a site links to another, it is said to be passing on it’s link juice to it – basically, it’s passing on a portion of it’s PageRank. That’s it.

Now, this is a very basic and general example – keywords, niche and many other factors can come into play. But that’s a separate post.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of the current buzzwords on the web. So what is SEO? SEO is the development of websites and content in such a way that spiders can easily read and index your content. It is also the tradecraft of crafting content and developing websites in such a way that your site and/or pages will win (be at the top of rankings) over other sites/pages for the keywords you select.

SEOmoz has a beginner’s guide to SEO. Who is SEOmoz? SEOmoz is considered one of the strongest sources of SEO information, strategy and insight on the web. A search for most SEO keywords will find their information in the top ten results. Run by Rand Fishkin, one of the biggest names in the SEO field.

Another interesting article on the subject is 4 factors they think that control 90% of the ranking equation.