10 – Troubleshooting, Resources and Frequently Asked Questions
You will encounter a few problems along the way, and here at How to Start a Blog we want to help you with those problems. Many other so-called “comprehensive guides” stop as soon as your site is launched. It’s not all plain sailing from there. But we don’t want you to get dishearten or confused, we don’t want you to give-up. So, if your blog is up and running and you run into a problem, checkout this extensive Troubleshooting FAQ.
As with every other section of this guide, we’re always expanding on this section. So, if you have a question or comment that is not addressed here, feel free to get in touch. Not only can we help you, but we can pose the same question and answer here to ensure that other bloggers get the same help when they need it.
What to do if You’re Blacklisted by Google
It is a common misconception that Google indexes all of the sites on the internet. That’s just not true. In fact, every day it blacklists about 10,000 websites, all of which break their terms and conditions in one way or another. And if they make it onto the blacklist, then they no longer appear in search results.
This may sound like an extraordinary number, but it’s merely a fraction of the 140,000+ websites that are added to this vast virtual world every single day.
You can get blacklisted for a number of reasons and we’ve already discussed some of these things in Blog Writing SEO TIPS. It may be that you paid someone who wronged you; it may be that a competitor or rival wronged you; it may even be that Google made a mistake. Most of the time, it’s because of a hack, which is a very difficult thing to have to deal with as a webmaster. Whatever the reason, this will be incredibly costly for your blog, all but ruining your chances of ever making it big.
To check to see if your site has been blacklisted, you can use this app from Sucuri. A blacklist will likely eradicate more than 90% of your visitors overnight, giving you a sense that something is wrong when you check your analytics.
So, if you find yourself on the blacklist, then what are your options? Well, you can fix things, but it’s not going to be easy. If you have just launched your blog, then you may be much better off just writing it off, learning from your mistakes and then starting over again. Especially if you were at fault and you employed questionable SEO techniques. If you have already invested a lot of time and money into it, then follow the steps below:
Monitor Your Site: Check out this link to discover whether Google is flagging your site as suspicious, in which case you can determine what the issues are and then fix them. It will give you an idea of exactly what the problem is.
Security: If your site was hacked or loaded with malware, then you need to make it secure to ensure it doesn’t happen again and to make sure the hackers are not still accessing it. Change passwords, secure your database, update WordPress, and make sure they can’t get back in.
Fetch: Use Google Webmaster Tools to “Fetch” and simulate a crawl. This will highlight the issues on your account. You should also receive notification of the blacklist through your account.
Remove the Issue: Whatever the issue is, you need to fix it. If it’s malware, which is common, then you can look to remove it from the code. If you can’t do this yourself, then pay a developer to do it. This is a common issue and it won’t be difficult to find a developer who knows how to do this and has done it many times before.
Check: You can use programs like cURL and Gerp to safely enter your site (important if it is infected) and to scan the code for lingering issues.
Reconsider: Using Webmaster Tools you then need to ask Google to reconsider your site. This may take some time, but if you resolved the issues then it will be removed from the blacklist eventually.
You can get some assistance from the following links, all of which are part of Google’s extensive help guides.
Success isn’t always guaranteed. However, if your blog or website is failing, then there is probably a reason.
A Niche: In most cases, your niche isn’t that important as you can always succeed if you tick plenty of other boxes. But that’s not always the case. As an example, a friend of How to Start a Blog invested time and money in a host of websites and blogs a couple of years ago. Many of these succeeded and are still popular to this day, but two of them flopped. One was a sports site, with content previewing and reviewing sports events, and the other was a gaming site, covering classic games. In both cases, he didn’t focus on keywords and just zeroed in on good content. But in doing so, he was merely adding to what was an incredibly saturated marked. When you have a subject that is so popular it is covered by millions of bloggers, Facebook users and Twitter users, as well as everyone else and their dog, you need to hit a niche. For instance, everyone may be talking about the latest sports games, but not everyone is offering betting tips on them; everyone may be discussing classic video games, but not everyone is offering previews of forthcoming titles. So, as a rule of thumb, try to find a subject that not everyone is writing about, and if you can’t, then find a niche within a popular subject.
Steady Content: The more content you create, the bigger your site will become and the sooner those visitors will start to roll in. It’s important to create a steady schedule of content, whether it be publishing once every day or once every two days. You want to show Google and your readers that this is an active site, one that has not faded into the abyss and one that still has value. The newer your site is, the more regularly you should be posting content. Many sites fail because webmasters only post once every couple of weeks, or because they often go days or weeks at a time without posting.
Good SEO: It’s not that essential to tick all of the boxes when it comes to SEO. You don’t have to get that Yoast green light every single time for every single article. However, it’s important to have some degree of quality SEO, whether it comes from well written content, good titles with well researched keywords, or even just articles that hit the right word count. In most cases, you’ll hit the right marks just by focusing on well written content. But if your content is poorly written and researched, if it provides no value to the reader and it doesn’t have any keywords or tags, then it’s not going to work. Of course, the main thing you should focus on is 100% original content.
Bad SEO: Many first-time webmasters and bloggers get frustrated with the lack of instant success, and they resort to paying for cheap backlinks, directory inclusions and other low-quality SEO. Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is hire a cheap “PR Expert” to improve your rankings, because while they may only cost a few dollars an hour, they don’t really care about your success. They will do what it take to get an instant rise in your rankings, knowing that once they have been paid and you have lost contact, those rankings will drop and Google will punish you. Good SEO takes a lot of time and/or money. If it requires neither of these things, then there’s a good chance that it’ll do more harm than good.
Bought Website: If you purchased an established website for a ready-made blog, your problems could be someone else’s doing. This can be a great way to turn a quick profit and to avoid all of the time-consuming work that comes with starting a blog or website. But it’s not recommended unless you know what you’re doing. In many cases, you aren’t privy to essential information, such as any previous blacklists, problems with Google or compatibility issues. A good indicator is if no one else is bidding on it and it seems like a steal. In many cases, the reason it seems like a steal is because you’re not seeing what all of the other, more experienced bidders, are seeing.
Self-Promotion: Although a self-promotion isn’t essential, it won’t hurt. And if you want to create an active community of readers, a community that will engage with you and your site, then it becomes essential. If you do this, the numbers will increase, you will generate higher profits and your articles will get more comments and shares. If not, your site won’t grow very quickly and depending on the niche, it may fail to grow at all.
Patience: So you’ve followed the steps in this guide bit by bit. You’ve created those base articles and you’ve made sure that those articles are followed by regular content. You’ve done the promotion, you’ve avoided bad SEO, haven’t employed any dirty tricks and have even acquired a few backlinks. But it still isn’t working. Why? Well, in most cases, all cases actually, it just takes time. Google need time to discover your site, they need time to index it, and they need time before they start trusting it. The older a site is, the more it is trusted, especially if it is still pushing out content. It usually only takes a few months, but it can take up to a year before things really get going. As an example, if you have an old blog that you have since given up on, check back with your analytics and take a look at your Domain Authority. You might be surprised to discover that some of your old posts are ranked quite highly and are attracting more visitors than when you first launched it, and that your DA is higher than it was back then. Now, just imagine how many visitors it would have attracted if you hadn’t given up on it.
if your blog or website is failing, then there is probably a reason.
We have communicated with many bloggers who think they have done everything right and, for whatever reason, just can’t make a success of things. But as soon as we dig a little deeper and ask some questions, they usually admit to failing in one of those areas. Most of the time they believe that one oversight or one mistake isn’t going to hurt them, but it can, and it does.
Blogging is like life in that there are two ways you can make a name for yourself, two ways that you can succeed. On the one hand, you can put in the hours. You can work incredibly hard, make necessary sacrifices and never give up. If you do that, then eventually, you will succeed. But on the other hand, you can throw some money around and enjoy more success sooner.
So, with that in mind…
Can I Buy a Successful Website?
Obviously, the easiest way to buy your way to success is just to purchase an established website. That way you will get the content, you will get the business and you can build from there. But this is not recommended. Firstly, you will pay way over the odds for that content and for the traffic that it drives. Secondly, unless you plan on creating the exact same website, in which case you won’t need to make any changes, then that content could drop off and you will have a lot of work to do to convince Google to keep trusting you when you change over.
It is a good idea, however, to purchase the domain of a successful website. If a name is a relevant keyword, and if that domain ranks highly, then that’s all you need. The content doesn’t matter. The website doesn’t mater. It’s all about the domain. In fact, that’s exactly what happened with How to Start a Blog. This is a premium domain, because How to Start a Blog is a premium keyword. It’s existed for years, just like many other big keyword domains, and we’re not the only owners. In fact, How to Start a Blog has probably had dozens of owners over the last couple of decades. It worked for them, and it’s working for us.
In many cases, premium domains will be sold based entirely on their SEO value, with the owner paying no heed to the website that is attached to it. If you want to buy your way to success, then this is what you should focus on.
Some domains won’t be attached to websites at all. In fact, many high quality domains that are listed for sale simply point to domain auction pages. You will pay a lot of money for these, but they will be worth it. Your URL will play a huge role in your Google rankings, so by purchasing a big domain that has your keyword, you’re getting off to a great start.
the easiest way to buy your way to success is just to purchase an established website.
There are also other ways that your money can help you:
Endless Content*: Good content, and plenty of it, is what most successful sites are built upon. Most bloggers work alone, and because they’re not professional writers, they produce very little content. As a result, the majority of blogs will publish 1 post per day at best, and may struggle with 1 per week. If money is no object, you can afford to hire several writers, paying each of them to produce good-quality SEO articles everyday. If you hire several writers and they all work to this level, then your site could publish half a dozen quality articles a day. Not only that, but many writers who make it to the highest level will already have a strong fan-base and a strong internet presence. So, if you give them all a bio (making sure your site pops up when someone Googles them) and an incentive to promote their pieces through social media, you can benefit from additional direct traffic.
Social Media: Facebook is brilliant if you have a little money. You can setup something known as a Facebook Pixel, which combines elements of targeted advertising with analytics. You can then create campaigns to drive likes to your Facebook page, campaigns to drive readers to individual articles, and campaigns to drive traffic to your website. The pixel will monitor all of this and will help you to keep an eye on that traffic, to send repeat adverts their way and, eventually, to convert them into leads, whether in the form of paying customers for your product or service, or long-term website visitors who bookmark your site. There is also a paid ad option on Twitter which works in a similar way, but is a little less effective in terms of spend vs results.
Guest Posts: Let’s be honest, it takes a lot of time and effort to get guest posts, and if the only thing you have to offer the sites is free content, then you can pretty much rule out the biggest sites. However, if you have a little money to throw around, your site can receive instant “dofollow” links on the internet’s biggest URLs, from Forbes to the Huff Post. You can use middlemen to do this, or you can save a few bucks by going direct to the contributors. Of course, for this to work, you have to limit yourself to blogs and to sites that allow “dofollow” contributions (which rules out Buzzfeed), but there are many big sites that fit the bill.
PR Campaigns: So, what if you want to get on sites that don’t allow contributions? Well, there is a way. If you signup with a PR Firm, they will be able to make the connections. They will create a story (whether it’s a truthful press release or a fabricated PR stunt) and they will pitch it to the biggest newspapers, tabloids and news sites. You would be surprised at how many newspaper stories are PR, the result of someone throwing money around and getting exactly what they paid for. These stories are great for hard-to-acquire backlinks, but they can also generate huge exposure. As an example, a close friend of How to Start a Blog recently got a story onto a major online tabloid. The story was a seasonally relevant article that mentioned his website and secured him a backlink. But 150 million people visit that website every month, and over 1 million read that article and saw his site/blog. He paid good money for it, but he got a return that helped his blog in terms of SEO, exposure and visitors, not to mention the knock-out effects from aggregate sites republishing that story and from bloggers blogging about it.
Prominent Listings: How many times have you seen a list of “The Best Blogs” on a certain topic and thought to yourself, ‘What was their criteria for choosing those blogs?’ Well, in some cases, it has nothing to do with quality or popularity and everything to do with how much money they have. That’s not always the case, but there is usually some financial incentive hiding behind even the most innocent of lists. And then you have the big ad campaigns that feature on news sites. Take Buzzfeed, for instance. They work with many big companies and create a wealth of content for each campaign. If you have ever seen the Buzzfeed posts that end with an ad or are based around a certain product, then you have seen these yourself. These provide great exposure for blogs and websites, but you’ll also pay a lot for it. We tried to contact Buzzfeed to enquire about this and they told us that a customer needed a budget of at least $100,000 before they could look at creating a campaign.
*It’s worth noting that there are ways to get endless content even if you don’t have a budget. For instance, you can use Media-Wiki as a base for your site. To begin with, you can put a lock on all content and make sure that only you and your writers can create and edit. But as your website grows, you can open it up to anyone who has some free time, effectively creating your own Wikipedia. Forums work in much the same way, as do community sites that ask members to provide opinion pieces, fan-fiction and other content. But in all cases, you need a popular site, so it’s a catch-22.
I Have a High Bounce Rate
Google has changed a lot over the years, learning to focus on quality content and to send the spammers further down the pecking order. One of the biggest improvements was its focus on sites with a low Bounce Rate. Simply put, this is the average time that a user spends on a website, and the higher this is, the better that website is likely to be.
If a website is filled full of ads and focuses only on SEO and not on good content, then it may attract visitors through Google, but they won’t stay for long. As a result, it will slip down the rankings and eventually disappear altogether. And rightly so, because that leaves more room for sites with good content.
Of course, a high bounce rate isn’t always down to poorly written content. You also need to make sure that you have something visual to attract the eye. If readers see a wall of text then they’ll get bored very quickly and might even click-off before reading any of it.
So, make sure you include images and videos in your article, and if it’s a long article, include several of them, preferably one for every major header. You can also use headers, footers and sidebars–anything to break up the page and keep the readers interested. Don’t overdo it though. Modern internet users don’t have patience because everything loads quickly. So if your site hasn’t fully loaded within a few seconds, they’ll give-up.
Shorter paragraphs also work, as do extra headers and sentences that make a user want to keep reading. So, in the first paragraph, entice them with a promise, a secret or a reveal. Try to leave your readers on a cliffhanger at the end of a section and use one sentence paragraphs that keep them on tenter hooks. So, if you’re writing a guide with many secrets and tips, you can break up long paragraphs and sections with “And what’s the secret? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out” and “Want to know what it takes? We’re about to tell you”.
It may sound odd, and it doesn’t always make for great writing, but 99% of readers who are preparing to close down your website will continue reading at that point. As a result, just one or two sentences like that could add several extra seconds onto your bounce rate average.
Google has changed a lot over the years, learning to focus on quality content and to send the spammers further down the pecking order
There are a great number of tools, websites and tips out there that can help you with your blog. This is one of the biggest online guides on the subject of How to Start Your a Blog, but this is an ever-growing subject and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. So, in this chapter we’re going to dig a little deeper and provide a little more assistance with everything from getting ideas for your articles to staying up to date with the latest Google algorithm.
We have already discussed how you can use Google Keyword planner to come up with some keywords to use in your article. A lot of this process relies on a little creativity on your part, but what if you’re drawing a blank? Even if it’s not happening right now, it might happen as you progress. After all, you may feel like you have a glut of ideas when you’re just starting out. But once you’ve written a few hundred of those articles, it’s natural for those ideas to dry up.
There are a few things you can do to keep the ideas coming and to ensure you don’t get stuck in a rut:
Idea Generator: It may sound a little odd, but there are programs out there that can generate blog ideas for you. In many ways they work like an extension of Google Keyword Planner, only they are a little more specific. Hubspotis Blog Topic generator is a good example of this. You just need to input a few simple words based on your intended audience and your subject matter, and then let the algorithm do the rest. You’re probably not going to get the perfect blog title from this. But you can use it to form the basis of an idea, before expanding upon that idea with a Keyword Planner tool.
Competitors: Your competitors are a good source of keywords and ideas. Take a look through their site and see what they are posting. Just make sure that you don’t blatantly rip off their titles or any of their content. You can also use some SEO tools to get an idea of what keywords your competitors are using. SEMRush also lets you see the top keywords that a particular site is using, and if you narrow it down to that site’s article page, you get get an idea of the specific keywords that are working for them.
Trending: Whether your site is topical are not, you can’t beat a trending article to give your site a boost. This is especially true if you have signed up to several social media accounts. Just click onto Facebook or Twitter and look at what’s trending. You’ll find a mixture of topics that have been trending for a matter minutes or hours, and ones that have been trending for a day. You need to move quick in either case, writing an article based on those topics and then posting it on social media with the relevant trending hashtags. This is easy if your blog posts general content. It’s a little more difficult if you’re focusing on niche content, but there is always a way of spinning it. You just have to use you imagination. For instance, if you run a financial blog and want to post about a trending celebrity, focus on their business ventures, their previous failings (bankruptcies, etc,) or their estimated worth. If it’s about a sports team, you can discuss their wage bill; if it’s about an event, you can discuss how much that event is likely to earn for the organizers and/or how much of an impact it will have on the local economy. There is always an angle, always a way to use those trending topics to write a quick article and get a big social media boost.
Google: All major search engines have a predictive search string built into their searches. This is the thing that pops up when you begin to type a query. It can provide an amusing insight into the human condition (try Googling “is” followed by a random celebrity to get an idea of how bizarre the general public is) but it can also give you some article ideas, and ones that have some big SEO potential. For instance, if you run an entertainment site you might decide to run a few articles on Netflix. And as soon as you type “Is Netflix” or “Why Netflix” you’ll instantly get a number of great potential article titles. Generally, anything phrased as a question that contains a keyword relevant to your niche will work. Whether you’re typing, “Are Manchester United?” for a sports site or “Are Credit Reports?” for a finance site.
Quora: Question and answer sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers can also be a great source of ideas. Whether you’re writing about the absurd questions and answers that people give, or whether you’re using them to pick-out potentially strong keyword articles, there is a lot to be gained from these sites. They are so often overlooked as a source of article titles, but I can think of many successful articles have written that were formed after spending some time researching these sites. It’s best that you are acquainted with them before you begin, but once you know your way around, you can use the search bar to search for a keyword and then see what comes up. For instance, if you punch the keyword “Credit Reports” you’ll find people asking everything from “Why Are Credit Reports so Essential?” to “Can Credit Reports be Faked?” both of which would make for great article titles.
Question and answer sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers can also be a great source of ideas.
Where to Find Writers, Guest Posts and Backlinks
We have discussed ways that you can hire writers, designers and more already. But we have yet to break the top of the iceberg on this subject. Below you will find a number of links to platforms and classifieds that you can use to find writers, designers, coders, backlinks, guest posters, and even PR companies:
Upwork: This is the biggest freelancing portal out there and it should be your first stop when you’re looking for quality writers and other freelancers. You can also use it to find guest posters. Just create a job seeking backlinks and then sort through the quotes that you get.
Guru: A somewhat stripped down version of Upwork, Guru is a little more user-friendly to begin with, but it’s also smaller and there are fewer contractors and freelancers. This is especially good for designers, but not for writers.
Freelancer: This can be a nuisance to navigate and there are a lot of pitfalls. However, it’s a decent platform if you are a client seeking designers or coders. Just don’t work here if you’re a freelancer yourself.
Fiverr: Get anything done for a fiver. Simple but genius concept. Just remember that good writing and good SEO costs money and avoid any backlinks, guest posts or anything along those lines, as it’s all cheap and nasty. Instead, use this site to get a little exposure, to get a logo, to get some quick editing or to find a virtual assistant.
PeoplePerHour: This site is like Fiverr, except there is no ceiling on the price. This opens it up to higher quality freelancers, which makes this a great place to find quality guest posts and backlinks.
Carters News Agency: This is a PR company that can help to spread your message in the UK. They work with many big tabloids, helping you to sell a story of your creation (with some links back to your blog) or to create one for you. The beauty of UK PR companies like this is that they are often cheaper than ones in the US. However, the sites they target are just as big, and if those sites publish your story, then there’s a good chance it will be picked up by many US-based ones as well.
Craigslist: This classifieds site is a hub of horror stories, because there is no shortage of “quirky” individuals. But the same can be said for any large community that lets people post their requests. It does have its uses though and although good freelancers are hard to find on here, they tend to be cheaper.
Don’t forget, you also want writers to volunteer to write for your site, whether because they want a guest post or because they want the writing credits. You can use some of the above sites to sell guest posts if you have an established site, but it’s easier just to wait for them to come to you. Create a page called “Write For Us” and use this as your keyword for the page. Make sure you get it in there a few times and that you create a few hundred words of content. Include a contact form, publish the page and link to it on your homepage.
Most freelance writers use the term “Write For Us” to find work, and even if your site is not yet popular, you will still attract potential contributors to this page because many writers search by results from “Last 24 Hours”, “Last Week” and “Last Month” so they can get new opportunities as soon as they arise.
Scholarship Amount: $2500 USD
Blogging is a great way for students to dive deep into a passion of theirs while gaining marketable skills such as professional writing, web development, and more.
Scholarship Awarded: The Start of Every Financial Quarter (2017-2022)
Deadline: Applications are accepted year-round
Who Qualifies?: High-school Seniors attending school in America
To apply: Students should follow the free guides available here on HowToStartABlog.com to create a blog about a passion of theirs and on that blog, post a video explaining how they think blogging will impact the future of the digital age and working in America.