Interview with SEO & Guest Blogging Expert Ann Smarty from Seosmarty.com
With Ann Smarty from SeoSmarty.com, I’m starting the much awaited interview series with Probloggers, SEO’s, Affiliate marketers and Entrepreneurs on Bloggers Passion. I used to read interviews of successful bloggers as I get inspiration from them and have lot to learn from their successes and failures.
With this interview series, I will be asking the questions that I had ever dreamed of and at the end of interview, Bloggers Passion readers are also invited to ask their questions from their favorite bloggers in the comments section.
Ann Smarty owns the most popular guest blogging community website MyBlogGuest.com where blog owners and guest bloggers interact with each other for mutual benefits. Ann started her career as SEO expert and currently working as a community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas.
In her 7 years of experience, she has written for big brands like Moz.com, Search Engine Journal, Mashable and Social Media Examiner etc. She also owns SEOSmarty.com, a SEO consulting blog.
I’m feeling really honored as she accepted my interview request and gave good amount of time in asking the questions that I ask her. So sharing this interview question answer session with Ann Smarty with further delay:
First of all please tell us about yourself, your online portals and how you get into the blogging and SEO world?
I am Ann Smarty, founder of My Blog Guest and Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas.
I come from Ukraine. I started in SEO about 7 years ago. It’s a funny story. I was in my final year in the university getting ready to stay in my university as a teacher, writing my diploma, all excited… and bored.
I felt like I needed a refresher, so I found a job as a customer support team member at an ecommerce shop that was targeting a US market. To me, that was a fun opportunity to talk to English-speaking customers and train my English language skills.
I quickly got excited with the whole ecommerce and SEO world. My employer started involving me into link building and content creation. I forgot about my plans to become a PhD in English linguistics and pursued the unknown career of an SEO. None of my family and friends could understood me. My mom thought I was crazy as she had loved my idea to become an English professor in the university…
Yet, what happened and I never looked back. I was building my career into digital marketing world and never had to look for a job since then.
Please share some thoughts about MyBlogGuest.com guest blogging community website that you own and how it is helping the bloggers? How you came to the idea of starting this website?
When I was an excited SEO blogger newbie, I started getting invites to guest post. In fact, one of my guest posts scored me a position of Editor in Chief at Search Engine Journal. So guest blogging worked out great for me.
I couldn’t help seeing the mutual benefits of guest blogging: an author gets recognition and free publicity while a blog owner gets free content and help in promoting and sharing it.
I was wondering why there was no place for the two parties to easily find each other. That’s how MyBlogGuest idea was born. Then my brother asked me if I had a project in mind for us two to do something together and I remembered my guest blogging project idea, so we started working on it together: I was coming up with feature ideas and marketing while he was developing. Our team has grown a lot since then.
These days lots of SEO’s and Link Builders have started using guest blogging primarily for link building purpose. According to you, how guest blogging should be used and in which direction guest blogging is moving?
I know guest blogging has been used by link builders a lot lately; I’ve never advocated using guest blogging for purely link building. The idea is, guest blogging for links is both misleading, anti-social (as it breaks the “mutual benefit” concept) and overall degrading.
Writing and placing a guest post to score one link is too time consuming and almost pointless. Instead, your aim should be to have links come on their own. Thus guest blogging should be used to build influence.
Please share some common mistakes that are made by guest bloggers and how as a guest blogger one can make sure his/her guest posts are accepted by even popular blogs of their niche. Any useful tip for newbie’s and experienced bloggers?
Referencing the above question and answer, the hugest mistake of a guest blogger is targeting quick results. I 100% agree with Leo Widrich, co-founder of BufferApp, who used guest blogging and MyBlogGuest to build his startup:
The amazing thing about guest posting really is the amount of people you will meet through it. This means either in the comments of your posts or simply the relationship with the person owning the blog.
It will allow you to hit these people up more easily with exclusive product updates in the future to feature your service. Or you get referred to other, bigger blogs where you are able to do a new write-up.
So I think it is best to see it really as trying to go out and make new friends and connections through these posts. In my case it is actually a lot of fun.
So focusing on quick gains means not getting the full advantage of your effort. Target high and long-term, focus on relationships, not links!
How is SEOSmarty.com website doing that you own and are you providing any kind of services through this website?
SEOsmarty.com is my first venture in SEO career. It built my brand and will always remain my most significant project (simply because it’s the first one). I don’t have much time for it now and I am keeping it very personal talking about all my projects. I am not providing services at the moment because Ninjas and MBG are keeping me very busy 🙂
According to you which are the best SEO tools (free or paid)?
At SEOchat we are building the most useful and varied SEO tools suit on the web. I don’t think any other resource has such a selection of absolutely free tools. Check it out!
Are you using any SEO plugin on your blog? It would be great if you could share it with the Bloggers Passion readers.
Overall WordPress is very SEO-friendly. You don’t need to do anything special except for adding high-quality original content for search engine to like you.
The only purely SEO plugin I am using is All-in-One SEO pack; I’d recommend it to everyone. It’s easy to handle even for a newbie.
How newbies should go about doing SEO for their blogs?
Like I said, WordPress SEO is not rocket science. If we speak about basic steps to take, I’d recommend:
- Setting permalinks to be your %post-name%
- Choose no more than one category per article (to decrease the number of duplicate instances of the post)
- Make sure to do some basic keyword research when coming up with each article title. I described those basic steps in this deck:
Are you using any of social media networks to promote your websites? What is the best way to get maximum benefit from social media, according to you?
My primary social media networks are:
- Twitter (it’s also the first one). The most effective tactic here: Utilizing Twitter chats. we have one for MyBlogGuest by the way.
- Google Plus. Google Plus communities are very powerful. I am moderating quite a few of them, for example Google Authorship and MyBlogGuest communities.
- Facebook. Facebook promoted ads have been working good for me especially for spreading the word about contests and giveaways.
- Slideshare (the most recent addition but I am loving it). It’s quite easy to get views from Slideshare and to get your deck on the front page is doable too! I think every content marketer should be on Slideshare.
Ann, you have been working in the SEO & Blogging industry for a long time now. What do you think where SEO industry is heading? And what kind of changes you are expecting in the next 2-3 years time on the SEO front?
In fact I’ve been in the industry long enough to understand that SEO isn’t actually changing that much while the SEO industry is luckily forced to change. While I don’t agree with Google on the way they are spreading FUD (fear uncertainty doubt), their updates have actually had some positive impact on the web (here’s one case study for example).
People come to realize that SEO isn’t about faking your search visibility. It’s about building good content and trust. It’s about working with many other departments (marketing, customer service, etc) to produce better websites, better usability, better calls-to-action and better interaction giving search engines higher-quality signals.
I am hoping this is the direction we are heading, i.e. “making it real” versus “faking it”.
What kind of SEO mistakes you are seeing lots of bloggers and website owners making these days?
Overdoing it 🙂
Seriously though, SEO is about making your websites easier to access and crawl by search bots, that’s basically it! That means making your websites faster (to save on crawler’s time), creating high-quality content (giving the crawler some text to crawl) and working on internal structure and inter-links (making sure the crawl follows the links to be able to discover your good content).
Keyword stuffing and getting fake links are extra and may rather hurt than benefit… Fake social media shares don’t do anything except for wasting your time… Fake links are obvious (and also time consuming).
Many website owners fail to understand that actually adding value to the web is both more beneficial and reliable. Actually “earning” your way to search visibility is slower but much more rewarding than simply “faking” your way there.
Please share the monetization methods that you are using to earn money from your online portals and which monetization method you found most effective?
You may be surprised but I actually miserably suck at monetizing. While I am earning my living online, if you look at my projects, you won’t find a single ad. I am working a lot and one thing of hundreds will actually start bringing some money (to my surprise). That’s basically my monetization secret 🙂
My monetization method: Freemium. I am creating partially free tools and let those who want more, upgrade. This way I feel like I give everyone a chance to benefit, even those who can’t afford to pay… I believe in Good Karma!
Which are the best link building practices (to be safe with Google Algorithms) according to you?
Highly-selective high-quality relationship-based guest blogging. That’s also the topic I was speaking at Pubcon recently, so you may want to take a look:
Which web host you like the most and any specific reason for choosing it over others?
So far I am using Hostgator and I like it. I can’t say we don’t have any issues with it but I see that they are actually going above and beyond to try and fix what they broke, so you have to recognize and appreciate that!
What is the best way to build lots of quality traffic to a website?
I’ve never been able to combine “lots” and “quality”, to be honest. Even if you look at MyBlogGuest traffic, it’s not that impressive. But because most people come to us because they already know us (read on other blogs, overheard on social media, got a recommendation from a friend, etc), we convert our traffic very well.
So I’d say, build your brand. Let people search for YOUR NAME – that’s the most valuable traffic you can get.
I am also using ViralContentBuzz a lot to put my content in front of power social media users and it works very well for me!
Which are your favorite blogs? Please share any three.
I don’t have much time to read nowadays. The few that I still manage to keep up with are:
- Threadwatch (We are trying to pick very special, less discussed but important search topics there)
- Social Media Sun (The editorial team is very picky when it comes to which content to publish so it turns out to be a good resource)
- Search Engine Journal (It used to be my home and it will always be my native place)
- Make Use Of (The highest-quality selection of tech guides and free tools)
If you have just $100 to start a blog, how you will go about it?
If I had $100, I’d pay for the hosting upfront and started building the site. Nowadays, you don’t need a cent to build a good blog (all you need to pay for is a domain and a good hosting). The rest (theme, plugins, content) can be free. So all you need is lots of enthusiasm!
How the audience at BloggersPassion.com blog can connect with you on major social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google plus? Message for Bloggers Passion readers …
Oh, it’s not hard!
I am very responsive on Twitter but I may miss messages on Facebook (for whatever reason). Google Plus is not very consistent with notifying of new private messages either, so Twitter is the best way to keep in touch!
Thanks so much for having me! I am excited to tell my story to this great community of bloggers!