Networking for bloggers: why, how and where

As a blogger, you are probably doing your best to grow your audience on a daily basis. You’re optimizing for Google, Pinterest, social media and you do your best to set up and maintain a social media strategy. But, if you want to take your blog to the next level, there’ll come a point you will need the help of your fellow bloggers. In this post, I will explain why you need a network, as well as how and where to build it.

Want to expand your network? YoastCon 2019 is the perfect occasion to grow your network. Meet like-minded people and work on your blog’s SEO at the same time! Don’t worry about going alone, we even have single tables where you can get in touch with fellow bloggers, site owners and Yoast folks easily. See you on February 7 & 8 in Nijmegen! 

Why you need to network as a blogger

We all know that writing is one of the most lonely professions in the world. Although blogging may not seem as lonely at first glance – you engage with your readers on a daily basis – there’s a high chance you work alone.

As a writer, you often live inside your head. Your audience will only ever see your end result: a blog post or social media post. They won’t see the process of you thinking up your idea, killing your darlings or debating whether to write a certain article. You often take those decisions by yourself, or run them by your spouse or best friend.

While this is a valid approach, someone who is not ‘in the business’, can only help to a certain extent. While it’s often worth it to discuss certain ideas with your personal network, you’ll probably only ever touch the surface.

You might, for example, contemplate archiving your entire Instagram profile to start with a clean slate. Your best friend thinks you’re stupid, while you see bloggers around you do this and grow their following rapidly over the course of several months. And you might be left wondering if you’re cut out for this thing called ‘becoming an influencer’. If you’re at this point, you need a network of people who are like-minded.

At Yoast, I have a lot of colleagues to talk to whenever I need help. I know which person I should ask about SEO, which person knows a lot about Google Analytics and who can help me out when I broke my laptop – again. You need that kind of network for your blog as well. It’s very helpful to create a network so you can discuss certain topics: from SEO to developing websites, and from press releases to personal invitations. If you want to grow, you need a network.

How to network as a blogger

Truth be told, we’re in it for us. This means that everyone you’ll meet, is in it to gain something for themselves. This could be knowledge, reputation, information, cash, products or something else.

Knowing this, you’ll understand you can’t just go to someone you don’t know and ask them for that piece of information you want. You might not get an answer or, in the unlikely chance you do get one, it probably is an evasive one. You need to adopt an open source kind of mentality while networking. This means that you’ll share your knowledge with the world and eventually will receive information in return.

I’ll take myself as an example. Although I knew quite a few bloggers online, my network didn’t really grow until I went to a Dutch blog conference last June, to speak about SEO. I told the crowd that I was going to share my secrets with them, and told them, honestly, how weird it felt to do that, because I might very well kill my own blog this way.

Strangely, or perhaps not so strange at all, the opposite happened. My blog took off and with it, my network expanded tremendously. People knew where to find me, how to find me, and, also, that I was willing to help look into issues or questions.

I answered each question I got, because I love helping out. Did I request favors for each question I answered? No. Was I offered help in return for answering questions or solving issues? You bet! Often, I told people not to worry about it, that I loved to help and that I’d be sure to let them know if they could help me out. And I took people up on their offer, twice now. One of them even got me an invite for a press event of the Walt Disney Company – I mean, it’s Disney!

Where to network as a blogger

You might feel very willing to network with your fellow blog colleagues out there, but where to find them? If you’ve been on your own for a very long time, it can be tricky to get started. Don’t worry; there are various places where you can network as a blogger, both offline and online.

Online networking as a blogger

As your blog lives online, the easiest way to create a network is online as well. There are a lot of Facebook groups for bloggers in all sorts of niches and all kinds of languages. They’re created by bloggers like you and me. Try to find the groups where you can help other bloggers. I, myself, am in various groups, where I answer questions about the Yoast SEO plugins, SEO in general, WordPress or technical questions, as these are things I can help others with. In return, people help me when I have questions about Pinterest, Instagram or about certain press events that I’d like to attend.

Offline networking as a blogger

Offline networking is even more important than building a network online. While online it’s perhaps easier to mingle in discussions on forums, Facebook, or in Twitter conversations, the deeper and longer lasting connections will often start offline. Have you considered going to a local WordPress meetup, a WordCamp or a blog event in your city or country? These can be quite valuable – trust me, this is where the good stuff happens! If you’re unsure where to start, let me suggest YoastCon.

YoastCon for offline networking

YoastCon is a conference organized by Yoast. It focuses on SEO for all types of websites. I can guarantee you it will certainly focus on blogs as well! The conference will take place 7 and 8 February 2019 in the Netherlands. You’ll not only learn all there is to know about SEO from the very best in the field, there’s also plenty of networking opportunities.

Value your network!

Networking is not about transactions. It’s about building relationships, about finding the people you wish to work with and affiliate yourself with. It’s extremely valuable to invest in networking and maintaining relationships with your fellow bloggers. You never know when they’ll cross your path again or what you could mean for each other in the future. I would love to hear how you go about this, especially if it’s your fulltime job. And of course, let me know if I’ll see you at YoastCon! I would love to meet and talk in real life.

Read more: Caroline’s Corner: Work on your blog’s foundation »

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Interview with Karl Gilis, AGConsult – YoastCon speaker

We’re thrilled to announce that CRO expert Karl Gilis will be speaking at YoastCon on November 2! Karl Gilis from AGConsult is one of the most influential usability and conversion optimization specialists in the world, and our personal go-to-guy if we need advice on these matters for Yoast.com. We’ve asked him 5 questions, or actually 6, to warm you up for his talk on YoastCon. Read on if you want to find out which trends annoy Karl the most and what the most unexpected improvement was he ever saw on a website.

Don’t want to miss the ‘conversion comedian’ on stage? Get your ticket now for YoastCon 2017!
Tickets

AGConsult is specialized in optimizing website conversion and usability. If you could give people only one advice to improve their site’s conversion, what would it be?

That’s a very easy question to start with :-) No, it’s an incredible difficult one. On a more generic level I would say: listen to your clients and visitors.

  • What words are they using?
  • What questions do they have?
  • What do they really like about your product or service?
  • How did it help to make their life better / easier / …?

Use these insights to rewrite your copy. Because your copy is probably written from your point of view: you talk about what you think is important. Don’t do that. Focus on what your clients think and say. Use their words. Don’t sell the way you want to sell, sell the way people want to buy.

If you want a more practical hands-on tip, I would say: get rid of all the clutter. Print a typical and important page from your website, such as a product detail page or your order form. Take a red marker and draw a big red cross on all the things that you make you wonder ‘Why is that here, isn’t this a distraction from my main message’? Remove all those things.

Less clutter will result in:

  • Faster loading times, especially when you have lots of fluffy stuff or stock photos that don’t add to your message.
  • A cleaner look. And yes: the less elements you have, the clearer your message will be. 
A great example of this is the top part of the homepage of Airbnb, especially now they finally removed the sliders and the video background.
  • More room to add things that will result in more sales. Things like social proof or a sense of urgency.

Come see Karl Gilis speak at YoastCon 2017 on November 2 »banner YoastCon

Scientific evidence is what drives you. Do you have an example where your research wiped the floor with design trends and hypes?

Don’t get me started about design trends and hypes. Most of them don’t increase sales or conversions. They only help design agencies and designers make more money. When a design change is not driven by a business or user need, it’s a big gamble to change something.

3 examples:

  1. Sliders with different messages
    They’re part of almost every theme for WordPress and other platforms, because they’re fun to make and beautiful to look at. But they don’t convert.
Your website is not a piece of art. It’s a tool. A sales tool.
 When we removed the slider on the Suzuki homepage and showed 2 static images instead, this resulted in 55% more clicks in the same screen real estate.
  2. Flat design and ghost buttons
    A few years ago designers decided that buttons shouldn’t look like buttons anymore. They introduced so-called ghost buttons. Where a button is just a square line around some words. So it’s more inline with the design and it doesn’t attract attention.
 Excuse me: your call-to-action should attract attention. That’s what it’s there for!
 What we’ve seen is when a site went from a normal button to a ghost button, the number of clicks on non-clickable elements increased with 600%. Because users had no clue where to click.
  3. Video background
    They’re the new Flash and the new sliders rolled into one. So please avoid them.
 A moving background is always a distraction from your message. And visitors should focus on your message. 
We’ve done several tests where we replaced a video-background with a static background and saw an uplift. 
It’s no coincidence even AirBnB ditched their video background for -euhm- nothing. Yep, there’s nothing wrong with a white background.

As a consultant you must have seen changes on dozens of websites over the years. What was the most unexpected improvement that you’ve ever seen happen on a website?

Another difficult one. What probably surprises me the most is that I’m still often surprised. That’s the most important thing I’ve learned thanks to AB-testing. There are always exceptions to the rules and guidelines. Don’t get me wrong: there are best practices. But they do not always work on every website.

When you’re asking for a specific case, I think of the shopping cart of an online shop selling watches and sunglasses. We took away all friction, made delivery time and shipping costs extra clear and everything that is in the classical usability book. But the results were still disappointing.

Then we added the message ‘You’ve made an excellent choice’. And whoppa: sales went up by a huge margin. Why? Because we supported the user in his choice. We took away their biggest fear: will this watch or sunglass suit me? So, don’t only focus on taking away the imperfections of your site. Give compliments too!

Your specialization is conversion and usability, ours is SEO. Do you feel these two are interconnected, or would you rather see them as two separate areas?

They are interconnected. And more people need to realize that. On a generic level this is pretty obvious. When you attract lots of people to your site but they don’t do anything (buy, subscribe, …), you’ll be out of business soon. When you have a website that converts like crazy but you don’t have any visitors, you have a problem too.

But also on a deeper level SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) are very connected. When we do AB-tests the big changes almost always come from changes in words. And I’m not talking about random changes, but using the right words that tickle the human brain. As I said earlier: if you use the same words as your clients, they’ll have the feeling you understand them. When you relate to their problems, dreams and hopes, they will more likely convert than when you use corporate lingo and only talk about features. And I guess your readers know that those things are also important for SEO. Use the same word as your audience.

In all these years I’ve never had big conflicts with good SEO specialists. I only have fights with black hat SEO people or those who use the old tricks that don’t work anymore (keyword stuffing, anyone?). Never forget: you’re optimizing for people. Not only for Google. And not for the sake of usability as such either. You’re optimizing your website for your audience.

Failure is an important part of finding out how to make things work in the best possible way. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned while working for any of the big brands you’ve worked for?

Most big brands are afraid of failure. They don’t want to take risks. But that means you’ll reach a status quo. You have to take calculated risks. Based on user research and past experience you identify the weak points of site of page. And then you start making changes.

Small changes will mostly result in small results. Big, bold changes will result in big changes. Hopefully an uplift, but sometimes a drop in sales. But that’s why you test. And you learn something from those failures. What we often see is that our 2nd or 3rd test after a big failure, results in a big winner. And if you implement that winner, the gains of that will be so much bigger than that temporarily loss in sales or leads during the test. Big (and smaller) brands who understand this, will often choose to test more. And the more you test, the more you learn, and the more winners you’ll have.

Conversion optimization is not a project. Not something you do once. It’s a continuous process. And when you keep doing it, it will result in big wins. 
Just as it is with SEO. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Come see Karl Gilis speak at YoastCon 2017 on November 2 »banner YoastCon

We assume this interview has convinced people to go see your talk at YoastCon on November 2! In the unlikely case someone is still in doubt, what’s the main reason they shouldn’t miss your talk?

Who am I to answer why people need to see me? If you insist, I think there are 3 reasons:
· My talk will be full of practical hands-on tips. Little tricks you can apply yourself and will result in more sales and conversions.
· There’s also a more strategic layer that focuses on techniques and methods that you can also apply yourself.
· You will laugh a lot. People call me the conversion comedian and I do my best to put a smile on everybody’s face.

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO’ »

Announcing YoastCon 2017 – November 2, 2017

On November 2, 2017, we’re organizing the second edition of the coolest SEO conference of The Netherlands: YoastCon. Starting today, you can get your hands on an extremely limited amount of early bird tickets for just €249. YoastCon is a hands-on SEO conference where you’ll learn invaluable tactics to enhance your site to get better rankings or results. Be there!

At YoastCon, you’ll get practical with SEO. At the end of the day, you’ll be full of inspiration and ready to start improving your site. You’ll leave with a list of actionable advice that you can use immediately. Choose your favorite workshop and dive deeper into a subject. You can learn more about technical SEO, writing for the web or the deepest secrets of Yoast SEO. At YoastCon, everything is possible.

It will be an unmissable event for anyone wanting to improve the rankings of their sites. The second edition of YoastCon takes place in the beautiful concert hall De Vereeniging in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The regular price for this one-day conference will be €299, but starting March 14, we will offer a limited number (50) of early bird tickets for €249.

Tickets

de vereeniging

YoastCon will take place in concert hall De Vereeniging in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

 

YoastCon 2017 – Practical SEO

YoastCon is a must-visit conference if you want to learn SEO hands-on and want to hear renowned experts speak about the latest developments in our industry. We will announce the full speaker roster and workshop schedule in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out on our special conference page or subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date on YoastCon news.

If you want to join us on November 2, be sure to order a ticket as soon as possible. An extremely limited number of early bird tickets is available for €249 from March 14. When they are gone, the price will jump to €299. If you buy an early bird ticket, you’ll get an exclusive goodie, and you’ll be the first to choose your workshops. What are you waiting for?

Tickets

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017 conference page’ »

Know your customer

Once in a while, every company needs to take a closer look at the state of its marketing. Are you still sending the right message to your customer? Do you still target the same customers? And, in what way did these customers change? In this article, we’ll address a number of things every website owner needs to ask him or herself every now and then!

Let our SEO experts analyze and optimize your site: Get Yoast SEO Care! »

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Do as Amy says

Recently, we visited Conversion Hotel, an excellent event about (yes) conversion. One of the speakers whose story we liked best, was Amy Harrison. Amy talked about conversion copywriting and stated that when you lose customer focus, you’ll end up writing product focused copy or just using best practices from your industry. That won’t make you stand out from your competitors, and even worse: it won’t let you connect to your customers.

Amy talked about distinguishing yourself from your competitors. Don’t use terms like ‘high quality’ or ‘easy to use’. Amy calls these ‘umbrella terms’, as everyone in the industry is using these and it really doesn’t say anything about the product. You should focus on the gap between what you know, what you say and what the customer thinks that it means. Close that gap. Write about that to sell your product.

Closing the gap to your customer

If you want to know what your customer is looking for in your product, there are a number of ways to find out. They all come down to one thing: ask them.

Customer Survey

Especially when you have a larger user base, you can easily send out a survey every now and then. Literally ask the customer what could be improved, what they liked and, for instance, why a product did not meet their expectations.

One of the things we found, when asking our site review customers about expectations and ways to improve our product, is that many customers would really like regular guidance. Instead of just a one time report. After some thinking and shaping, that resulted in our new service: Yoast SEO Care. In Yoast SEO Care, we touch base with customers on a monthly or quarterly basis on what needs to be improved on their website to rank better or get more traffic.

For us, this is an ongoing process. Our products come with support, and our customers like to share their expectations and feature requests. Obviously, you could guide them in this by sending them a survey. That could be done every six months, or, for instance, six weeks after purchasing a product. It all depends on your need for input and the variety of customers you serve.

Questions on your site

Another way to get an idea of what your customers are looking for is, for instance, an exit-intent question. I deliberately say “question” (singular), as I wouldn’t bug the leaving visitor with a lengthy questionnaire. Just ask “did you find what you were looking for, and if not: what were you looking for?” or something similar. If you’re serious about UX, you know/use Hotjar. They actually have something similar baked in their product. The description says it all:

Ask your active users and customers WHAT made them choose you and WHAT made them nearly abandon your site. Discover WHO they really are and HOW to improve your site and Organization.

Note that Hotjar allows you to add a large survey, but why not limit that to one question, right? It’ll give you some nice, personal insights about what people are looking for on your website, just by asking!

Want to outrank your competitor and get more sales? Read our Shop SEO eBook! »

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Yoast: Github feature requests

Now if you are a software development agency like we are, working in an open source environment, you probably have your code on (some platform like) Github. On that platform, you collect possible bugs and patches. In addition, it provides an excellent platform to collect feature requests.

We encourage users to use Github and not just send us random tweets with feature requests :) Feature requests on Github equal surveys on your website in the way that these are all things your user wants or expects your product to do. Sometimes feature requests can be handled quickly, when a feature is already there but just not found by your customer. Sometimes they end up on a pile of user/installation specific feature requests – you can’t win ’em all. But if a feature is requested by enough users, you probably are inclined to add it as a future feature to your roadmap.

These feature requests not only show what customers want, they also teach you a lot about how they use your products. And that, in return, will tell you more about their personal motivation to use your product. Which you can use in your product descriptions and marketing. Circle closed.

Read more: ‘Creating loyal customers’ »

Joost & Marieke visit California this summer

Are you living in the San Francisco Bay Area or in Los Angeles (or surroundings)? And, are you planning to organize a WP Meetup this summer? Joost de Valk would love to come, visit and speak at your WP Meetup this summer!

Marieke and Joost of Yoast visit the US

We (Joost and Marieke) will be traveling through California this summer. We’ll take our four children (aged 10, 6, 4 and 1) along with us. It will be mostly fun, sightseeing and vacation, but we’d love to do some Meetups in California as well. So, please let us know if you’d like Joost de Valk to come to your Meetup!

Our timetable

What are the possibilities? From July 23 until July 29 we’ll stay in San Fransisco. Anything within an hour’s (or 90 minute) drive is doable!

After July 29, we’ll be off the radar, doing some serious sightseeing. We’ll be in Los Angeles (well, Carlsbad to be precise) from August 12 to August 19.

Please contact us if you would like to have Joost de Valk come to your Meetup. Hope to see you soon!

Check out this video to see Joost present at WordCamp NL!

Looking back on WordCamp Paris 2016

The upside of being at a conference in a language you only speak a tad bit is that you get to meet and talk to all kind of people that have the same ‘problem’. WordCamp Paris had about 470 visitors, and I’m guessing 440 of them are native French. Don’t get me wrong, I like speaking French with French people, but it usually takes up to two or three days before I can keep up with the speed at which they talk. It’s like WP Rocket on acid. Luckily we ran into Bénard on the evening before the congress. This English-speaking Frenchman is always laughing out loud and that basically set the mood for our days in Paris.

Wordcamp Paris

Language barriers are real

Regardless of that we all speak WordPress, language barriers are real at this conference. I was at a sponsor booth. It had a huge bowl of snacks to lure people to their stand, and I walked up and said “So, everybody is coming to your booth for the snacks, right? How’s your WordCamp been so far?” The guy frowned and shrugged, looked at his shrugging colleague and I simply decided to walk to the next booth, with our friends Val and Joško of Sucuri. Very nice meeting the two of you!

The thing is, that we foreigners try to blend in anyway. We make it easy for the inhabitants of the country we are visiting. But we do like to talk to others that speak a language we do as well. And these conversations might be even more useful. We had a great lunch with Chris, talking about (WordPress) business. We hang out with Rarst to talk about plugin development, shitty bug reports and more. We talked about WordCamp Torino with Francesca and talked to Petya about WordCamps and WordPress in general. We caught up with a lot of people, which in the end is equally valuable to listening to all the talks.

Hanging out with other travellers

Friday evening we had a nice walk and dined in a very small, family-run restaurant called Le Cévennes. Robert and Heinz from Inpsyde joined Rarst, Taco and me and we had a really nice time talking about France, about home and WordPress in Germany.

WordCamp Paris 2016: Yoast at Arc de Triomphe

We joined the rest of WordCamp Paris at the party boat where the after party was. We had a nice conversation with Caspar who works at WP Media these days, for instance. We briefly met James from Ireland. We obviously had a beer with the always friendly Kristof from Belgium, and yes, Kasia, WordCamp Poland sounds like a blast ;-) WordCamp is about the people.

Drupal meets WordPress

On Saturday, we tried our best to understand the first talk by Claire Bizingre about accessibility, as Taco and both value the subject. You never know what a talk like that will bring, even at 9 in the morning. Claire pointed us to some automatic testing tools like Opquast Desktop and aXe DevTools. Although we sometimes had a hard time keeping up with the French words, luckily most slides told her story on their own. You don’t always need to talk to understand each other.

WordCamp Paris 2016: photo during one of the talks

Later on we met the very enthusiastic Léon Cros, who just did a talk about Drupal, and we talked about Open Source and why a Drupal guy was attending WordCamp Paris. He actually just felt like attending a WordCamp, found out they were having one at a ten minutes walk from his home in Lyon, attended and got asked to talk at WordCamp Paris. We discussed similarities in the communities and how we can learn from each other.

Right before lunch, we ended up at the Jetpack booth, talking to Cécile Rainon and the others of Jetpack. It seems our plugin is the number one requested plugin for WordPress.com. It only seems logical. WordPress.com is packed with a lot of all the other good stuff website owners need, and we’re in a high demand niche. It makes sense, as we offer an all-in-one SEO solution. Nevertheless, it was very nice to hear.

Paris, je t’aime

That pretty much rounds it up. We ended WordCamp Paris by joining a lot of the people mentioned above for a nice dinner and drinks and strolled back to the hotel for a good night sleep. We had a nice breakfast with Val en Joško in our hotel Eiffel Seine the next day and took the Thalys back to the Netherlands, where I’m wrapping up this post.

Bottom line: nous parlons WordPress. We obviously don’t speak the same language all the time, but just being here, talking to loads of people, making new friends, made WordCamp Paris 2016 very valuable to me.

Jenny and Julio and the rest of the organizers, thanks a lot for having us!