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March 2015

The Bluejay Speaks: How to Rise above the Chatter, Grow Followers, and Deliver Rich, Powerful Content on the Web

The Bluejay Speaks: How to Rise above the Chatter, Grow Followers, and Deliver Rich, Powerful Content on the Web

There’s more to a bluejay than any other creature.  He has got more moods, and more different kinds of feelings than other creatures; and mind you, whatever a bluejay feels, he can put into language.  And no mere commonplace language, either, but rattling, out-and-out book talk — and bristling with metaphor, too — just bristling!
      Mark Twain, What Stumped the Bluejays

As a telecom professional, you need to constantly hone your web communication and marketing skills. “Marketing, you say?  But I don‘t work in marketing?”

True, not everyone has “marketing” in their job description.  But every professional has at least one brand they need to market and that’s themselves, the brand of “me”.  Face it, your career success relies, in part, on your ability to communicate your ideas and sell them to others.  And that includes your ability to communicate powerfully on job sites, social media, and any blogs you write.

Now gaining this valuable communication knowledge is not as easy as it appears.  There are dozens of issues to sort out. . .  What should I talk about?  Should I start a blog? and, How do I get the search engines to find me?

Hundreds of websites offer free web marketing advice, of course.  But which sources should you trust?  How do you separate the sites with solid, easy-to-follow advice from those that waste your time?

There’s a simple answer to this question: Trust the search engine to do the filtering for you.

And it works.  The search engines generally point you to excellent websites.  And that makes perfect sense: it’s the search engine’s business to get you to sites that give you the information you seek.

Now, why are a few websites ranked “excellent” while thousands of other web voices get a low ranking?  Well, that’s the subject of this story.

Who Wins in the Search Engine Ranking Game?

Ok.  Do a quick Google search on the keywords: “Get top Google ranking”.  What do you find?

Well, the second or third ranked site for that search is WebsiteHelpers.com, a website authored by a lone-wolf American writer by the name of Michael Bluejay, a guy who has never worked in a marketing department nor for any public relations firm — large or small.

So who is this Bluejay guy and why is he ranked so high?  Well, the secret to Michael Bluejay (and that’s his real legal name) is that he’s an expert researcher and organizer of information.  And his WebsiteHelpers site cuts through the hype around search engine optimization to deliver a concise and authoritative list of tips that’s easy to read and digest.

And Google itself thinks he did a pretty good job!

But there’s more: Michael Bluejay is not just an expert on getting a high Google ranking, he’s the author of several high-ranked websites on a wide variety of “how to” topics.  Here are some examples:

Google
Keywords
Google Rank*
of
Bluejay Site
Search Results Bluejay’s
Ranked Webpage
How to buy a house 3 1,240,000,000 The ULTIMATE Rent vs. Buy calculator
Save electricity 1 175,000,000 Saving Electricity
Vegetarian guide 7 172,000,000 Vegetarian Guide
Get top Google ranking 3 119,000,000 How to Get Good Search Engine Rankings
Get cheapest airfare 10 1,620,000 Top 10 Tips for getting the Cheapest Airfare
Socially responsible stocks 4 464,000 What is Socially Responsible Investing
* Google search conducted March 2015.  Rankings & results change often.

Now the competition to rank high in these categories is tremendous.  Take “saving electricity”.  I’ll bet millions of families in the U.S. — at one time or another — have searched for advice on saving electricity or lowering their electric bill.  So to capture a number one here means he’s won against some big name companies.  And to make people remember his site, Michael cleverly coined the “Mr.  Electricity” nickname for himself — and this effectively promotes his site as the place to get answers to dozens of questions on electricity and its use.

Now Michael has been quoted in all sorts of mainstream news outlets such as Forbes and Newsweek.  But I contacted him by email and asked if he would agree to be interviewed by a small-time blogazine serving telecom professionals.  I was thrilled that he quickly responded and said “yes”.  So here we go.

Dan Baker: Michael, congratulations on your success in winning an audience across many high profile subject categories.  Since I’m a blogger, I found most useful your “getting a top Google ranking” advice on WebsiteHelpers.com.  And it’s there where you shatter the myth that the objective of SEO is to somehow game the system or trick the search engines into getting a higher search rating.

Michael Bluejay: Thank you for the kind words.  Yes, I continue to believe that making a website compelling is the quickest way to the top of the SERPs [search engine results pages].  More importantly, if your site isn‘t compelling, it doesn’t deserve to rank well.  I got a whole slew of #1’s and top 10’s without trying.  Well, I was trying to make the best sites I could for my readers, I wasn’t trying to get high rankings.  But focusing on quality apparently paid off.

Focusing on the customer still works for retail businesses.  If you run a dog-grooming service, and you’re better than your competitors in some ways, you’ll likely earn links from happy customers.  And if your competitors are doing a better job than you are, then why should you outrank them?

Meta tags are the last thing a developer should be worried about.  I don’t use them at all.

Where do people make the most mistakes when they design and put content on their websites?

In general, it’s by putting barriers between the visitor and what they’re looking for.  That means minimizing the clicks it takes someone to get what they came for.  Examples of how to do it wrong abound.  Right now in-page interstitials are all the rage, like a box asking you to sign up for a newsletter, or asking you to take a survey.

The visitor is like, “Hello, I came here to find something, but now I have to get rid of this stupid box that’s in my way.” (And I can just hear clueless webmasters reading this and thinking, “But 1% of my visitors signed up for the newsletter so I know it’s not annoying.”) Put those requests somewhere else, like in the sidebar or the bottom of the page, don‘t forcibly block the user from doing anything until they acknowledge the box.

Here’s another one: Retail businesses think it’s perfectly reasonable to force a customer to click “Contact” to go to a contact page, rather than putting their phone number at the top and/or bottom of every page.  Why make the visitor click?

Years ago when I made my first online shop, I set it up so that when you added an item to your cart, you’d stay on the same page, with an option to go check out if that’s what you wanted.  Back in those days, any Add to Cart click would take you to the shopping cart page, so if you weren‘t done shopping (which is usually the case) you’d be forced to go back.  Nowadays many shops have figured this out and they keep you in the same page, which benefits the shopper.  There are a number of things I was doing a decade ago that are becoming commonplace now, which is a kind of validation, I guess.

Say you want to establish your leadership in a given niche.  Well, how do you select the right subjects to talk about?

Well, whom am I answering this for?  If the site is for a brick & mortar shop, then the subject area is obviously whatever products or services that shop sells.  If it’s for someone trying to make money on the web, I’m tempted to say that they’ve already got the wrong goal.

My experience is that people who chase the money tend to make less money.  You focus on your customers, or your readers, and the money will follow.  But if someone is determined to follow my model (publish information and make income from the advertising), then find one or more subjects that have these characteristics:

  1. You’re interested in them. It’s hard to be successful about things you’re not passionate about.  I love sharing info about things like saving electricity and buying a house.  I always say, Do what you love, and then it feels like a hobby that you happen to get paid for.
  2. They have either very broad appeal, or your competition is so poor that you can capture the whole market with your superior site. I’ve actually abandoned some sites because they took a lot of work but weren‘t worth the time, even with great Google rankings.
  3. No one else is covering it, or it’s covered poorly. There’s a market opportunity for you to give people what they’re looking for.  That’s been my stock in trade: finding things that haven’t been covered, or were covered badly, and then covering them better.  I didn’t do that to make money, I did that because I wanted the information to be available.  Right now I’m working on a calculator that will figure the cost of heating a home for a whole winter, comparing all the different fuel types and heaters, because (a) people want that info, and (b) there’s barely anything out there now about that, and (c) what is out there is crap.  Once I finish it, my page will be the go-to destination for people looking for that sort of thing.

Here’s one way I’ve gotten ideas: I needed to know something, so I searched for it, but found there was no one-stop-shopping site that had the info.  I had to gather various bits from several different sites, and if I wanted to know about the topic in-depth, it might take a day or more by scouring what was out there.  Once I finally gathered the info I wanted, I’d think, “Well, if I put my findings on a site, then other people who are looking for that info won‘t have to spend hours and hours researching like I did.” That’s how my Cheap Airfares site was born.

But I hope no one thinks I’m suggesting that they just copy and paste things from various other sites.  For starters, lots of stuff out there is just plain wrong, and sometimes the wrong idea is the prevailing one.  If you blindly parrot such ideas then you’ve simply grown the size of the wrong-thinking chorus, and added no value.

Michael, it’s cool that at the same time you’re delivering valuable information to people, you’re also using that as a platform to talk about causes that you care about, such as bicycle safety, and getting people to think twice before traveling on fuel-guzzling airplanes.

Yeah, it’s funny, when I realized how damaging it is to fly, I almost took down my Cheap Airfares site so I wouldn’t be seen as promoting flying, but then I thought, wait a minute, fliers are the people I want to reach with my enviro message, and what better way to reach them than with a site about cheap airfares?

So the site is a bit ironic: you go there to learn about cheap airfares, then you see my message asking you to try to avoid flying and why.  Of course you still get the goods on saving money on airfare if that’s your goal; I know I’ll talk only a tiny percentage out of flying, but that’s way more than the zero I’d talk out of flying if I took the site down.

Michael, thanks for these great insights.  I guess millions of people have profited from your ability to research and explain complex subjects well.  Keep doing what you’re doing: look forward to reading your next great information site.

I’m going to close this story with some fast observations of my own about Michael’s technique.

  • Do the research and you become the “expert” — You can‘t write about what you don’t know.  That means you either write about what you already know, or else you put in some effort to learn the topic well.  If you do your research properly, then you become a de-facto expert.  Invite feedback from your readers in case they think you’ve gotten something wrong and you’ll have the benefit of peer-review.
  • Speak plain, hard-hitting English — Make no mistake about it: Michael is an expert copywriter, the kind of guy who can write powerful advertising and direct mail copy.  So his rich information sites are very different from the kind of writing you’d find in a blog.  He also attracts readers through “top 10” and “myths vs. facts” pages and makes very effective use of text highlighting and punchy lead-in sentences.  All these tricks make it easier for the reader’s brain to absorb knowledge.
  • Don’t be afraid to state your opinion — Staying sensitive to both sides of a topic is important, but if people are coming to your site for advice, you can’t be timid about answering questions that lack “black or white” answers.  Michael voices his opinion and then backs those up with evidence and links to other resources.
  • Show people your human side — Aside from the rapid-fire delivery facts, you can find out a lot about the Michael Bluejay, the person, if you want to.  In a corner of each page you often find a link to his personal webpage that reveals quite a bit about his personal life.  There’s a strategy behind this openness — people want to be assured that the teachers they follow are real human beings, not web robots.
  • Get readers involved — Having ways for people to interact is another high point of Michael Bluejay websites.  Many of the key pages include interactive web forms.  Take a look at the well done How much house can you afford calculator on his How to Buy a House site.
  • Take readers on a treasure hunt — The sheer volume of information and hyperlinks on Michael’s sites make them fun to explore.  This treasure-hunting quality also gives readers a reason to come back to the site and discover even more interesting facts.

One final thought.  The web communication
success of a lone writer like Michael Bluejay proves that there’s a meritocracy at the root of the web search game.






And that’s a message of hope for anyone who seeks to build a
niche information website.  Of course, if you’re a Bluejay, building
niches is a natural because niche comes from the Old French word nichier, meaning “to build a nest”.

Copyright 2015 Black Swan Telecom Journal

 

About the Expert

Michael Bluejay

Michael Bluejay

Michael Bluejay is an information-organizer and author of several high ranking, one-stop-shopping information websites on a variety of subjects.  His site topics include saving electricity, buying a home, finding cheap airfares — even selecting socially-responsible stocks.  Michael lives in Austin, Texas and can be reached at MichaelBlueJay.com.

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