Ann Smarty is known as a famous blogger. She’s the founder of MyBlogGuest and MyBlogU and a co-founder of Viral Content Buzz. She’s also a community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Today we are talking to her about guest blogging, how it helped her to brand her name, about her projects and her life as a ninja.
Q: Could you tell how you entered the world of internet marketing?
Ann: It’s a pretty interesting story. The internet in Ukraine was still in an embryonic stage, so we could use it only in internet cafes. It was my fifth year of studying in the university. One day I got bored and decided to look for job, and found a vacancy in a shop that sold posters to the USA using Ebay. They needed an account manager with English language skills. I was not interested in their business, but I got this job, because I wanted to improve my English. I adapted very quickly, so they started involving me in promoting their website. This way, step by step, I gave up my career as an account manager and decided to stay in internet marketing. It was a long time ago, I can hardly remember the exact date – it was about 10 years ago.
Q: You are famous as a guest blogger. How much time and how many effort do you put into guest blogging? How many guest posts have you published so far?
Ann: I never counted them, so I don’t even know. Over 500. I write about one article per day – some of them go for guest posts, some of them I use for my projects. Unfortunately, I don’t manage to write more than one article per day, because it’s not my primary business. I have other ways to make my living, while guest blogging is more for branding. I can even say that it’s a hobby. Anyway, I have never earned anything from guest blogging – I don’t monetize this process. My websites are also not monetized, I do it all for myself.
Q: What are some of the blogs that you write for consistently?
Ann: I keep writing on SmallBizTrends – it’s a website for owners of small business. I write a column about SMM. I also try to write for Entrepreneur.com once a month – it’s all about startups and small business. I regularly write on Search Engine Journal – I was an editor there once. Then I left it to do my own projects. Not so long ago I started writing for HubSpot. Business.com is also a very good website. Though I haven’t posted anything there lately, I’m trying to be a regular contributor. Usually, I write columns about SEO or SMM on all websites.
Q: What do you think is the main feature of guest blogging. If you were asked why you do this, how would you answer?
Ann: I do it for branding. In general, my biggest achievement is my personal branding. Many people recognise my name, and I always have a place to promote any of my projects – thanks to guest blogging. I started on SEOmoz (now it’s simply MOZ) and Search Engine Journal. I developed all my skills from guest posts I write. People read them, they like them, click on links, follow me on social media and keep communicating with me. This is how my name gains strength.
Q: Was it hard for you to get your first post published on SEOmoz?
Ann: I wasn’t in rush to post there. At first, I didn’t even think that it was possible. I came to SEOmoz to study. I was reading, leaving comments and taking an active part in discussions. Soon, the editors noticed a couple of very interesting ideas in one of my comments and asked me to write a guest post. If I knew that it was possible to guest post there – I would have tried to submit a post much earlier.
Q: Now let’s talk about your projects – MyBlogGuest, MyBlogU, Viral Content Buzz. How did you get the idea to create them? Which one do you think is the most successful at the moment? Which one has the greatest potential in the future?
Ann: I think that the most successful one is my first project – MyBlogGuest. The idea came about because I was writing guest posts and understood the benefits to both the author and the platform owner, because it stands for free content and free promotion by an author. For an author it’s always more traffic and more recognition. I saw that there were no platforms on the market to make this process easier and created MyBlogGuest which started as a forum. Within a year we made a pro plan and made our investment back in two years. With help of a very fresh and popular idea, the early growth was crazy. We didn’t have any competitors. As a matter of fact, we don’t have them now as well. The project still lives and promotes itself.
The idea of Viral Content Buzz came to my partner, not to me. I was more engaged in content marketing, while he was engaged in SMM. The idea is that people can come here, share content on social media and bring traffic and new followers to each other. Everyone benefits. It’s very hard to support the project technically – it’s connected with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. If something goes wrong there, then something goes wrong on VCB. We were trying to figure out how to make sharing easier and faster for a long time, because VCB is so strongly connected with third-party websites. We are still constantly improving, fixing or speeding up something.
But my best hopes are in MyBlogU, because it’s much more flexible than the previous platforms. They are less flexible, while MBU can be used in any direction. And the idea of content crowdsourcing is also very fresh. It reminds me of how we started with MyBlogGuest – many people didn’t even suspect that there were such opportunities. Just like me, when I didn’t suspect that it was possible to submit a guest post on SEOmoz. MBU discovers news horizons for people. They get inspired by the idea that they can give an interview for some blog. It’s a fairly new project, I’m a bit tired of my old projects. I want to do something new, that’s why I pay most attention to MyBlogU.
Q: I know that you are working at Internet Marketing Ninjas. How do you manage your work with customers there?
Ann: The work is very well organised. We develop a roadmap for the next 3, 6 or 12 months for all new customers. During conversation we set dates and decide what customers can do by themselves, and what goes to us. All these things must be agreed and accurately dated, because they are deeply connected to each other. For example, if a customer wants to write content by oneself, then we can’t work on promotion.
Everything starts with a contract. Usually, at the beginning it’s just for on-page SEO. Moreover, we specialise in getting quality links on .gov and .edu websites. Now we also work on mobile optimisation and evergreen content creation, which we can easily promote on .gov websites – guides, white papers… But, generally, things are always individual. We don’t have some kind of universal program for all customers.
Q: Concerning SEO and internet marketing, what do you think are the differences between the West and in the East?
Ann: I’m not familiar with this market in Russia and Ukraine, just because I have neither customers nor projects there. I think that the East doesn’t catch up, because even Google starts all its terrifying algorithms and penalties in the USA. First they scare everyone here, and only then do they move there. This is why the fear of, let’s say buying links, grows slower in the East. When I learned that it’s a taboo here, link schemes were still extremely popular in Russia, simply because Google didn’t bite anyone yet.
Moreover, you have Yandex. Here we only have one search engine that everyone prays to. It’s good when two search engines are competing with each other. Unfortunately, nothing like this happens in the USA. Google can do anything, and we have no choice but to follow their suggestions.
Q: It may be your luck that you don’t know our market. People here are still buying links, trying to manipulate search engines. They do everything except work on websites, making them better.
Ann: In the USA it also didn’t happen out of the blue. Penguin was changing, there were manual penalties, but people were still continuing to do so. Speaking frankly, they are continuing to do so even now, but it’s so risky, that most people have gotten smarter and link schemes can be seen rarely.
Still, all these things exist, but nowadays they are done deeper and more accurate. People don’t just buy links. They look at websites that want to place a link at, see at what other websites they link to and so on – it’s a very comprehensive approach. I know a couple of very good companies that are still doing that, but they are now at the level where even these links are not so bad.
Q: Your prediction: how will the SEO market change in the near future?
Ann: Nowadays SEO is strongly integrated with design and content. In some way it was before, but there was less need for quality content. People could just stuff some keywords into an article and it worked. But now Google is getting smarter and smarter – it analyses copy, sees how many facts there are on a page, analyses them and identifies how deeply a page develops a topic.
Of course, sometimes it all goes wrong, but Google now focuses on Knowledge Graph and on analysing the depth of knowledge on a page, and how this page answers a user’s question. Many people have already noticed that even if a website can’t get into the top 10 in SERPs, then one can write facts so great, that Google may use them in OneBox Answer or Knowledge Graph. Content became very important. I’m talking not about keyword stuffed content like it was in the past, but about articles and content which is deeply developed and has lots of facts in it.
The same goes to design. Before, nobody invested in it. But now, for example, mobile optimisation and page speed are ranking factors. SEO is becoming more expensive as it starts covering more and more aspects of websites promotion.
For example, social signals – they are not ranking factors, but they help in getting natural links. If content spreads well on social media, then it can be mentioned on BuzzFeed or Mashable – such things happen all the time. Social promotion is a kind of indirect way of getting links.
Nowadays SEO is not just a set of best steps like “write a title, do some keyword research”. It’s a more integrated, broader concept that covers a great many other aspects. This is the path we are following now.
And not only do we understand it, but our customers do as well. I remember people were coming to Internet Marketing Ninjas and saying: “No thanks, we don’t need anything. Just links, links, links”. Nowadays business owners have a far deeper understanding of these processes. They are asking for a complete roadmap, strategy and so on.
Q: What kind of advice can you give to experts that are struggling with getting traffic from organic SERPs?
Ann: It depends on the website. For example, at this moment it’s pretty easy to get to the top of local search results. It’s a good opportunity for many websites. Here, if I search for something, then I don’t use anything other than either Google Maps or local SERPs.
Looking at content based websites, again, there is a good chance to get in the Google Answer Box. It’s not so hard to reach this above all position. People should also understand that even if they are in the top 10, then it may last not so long. It’s necessary to keep working on creating new content, because new content stands for new keyword opportunities, which means keywords you haven’t known about before. Regular creation of new content is very important for search engines. Firstly, fresh content always ranks well. Secondly, it’s a constant work on discovering new keywords. Nowadays it’s much more difficult, because Google hid data about keywords that bring visitors to your website. For example, Google Analytics used to be enough for me to do keyword research, before it happened. I was tracking users’ queries there and thinking about what can be improved, shortened, expanded, and that was all I needed. Now it’s impossible.
Generally, that’s all. You have to write content. You can hardly survive without it. Commercial queries won’t give any results, while non-commercial queries can be used only in content.
Q: What parting advice can you give to your marketers from all over the world?
Ann: Never give up. Many people abandon everything because they were penalised here or failed there. But most of us give up right before the results come. Don’t give up. Move forward!