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Sid is an internet entrepreneur, freelance writer and blogger.
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Ideal Blog Post Length: Long vs. Short

Ideal Blog Post LengthWhat’s the ideal blog post length? There are as many answers to this question as there are blogs in the blogosphere. However, is there a ballpark how long your blog posts should be? Instead of giving you a number, let me give you some guidelines which will help you determine whether your blog posts should be long or short, and how long or short.

Factors that Determine Blog Post Length

Every blog is unique. Every blogger is unique. Here are some factors that strongly influence the ideal blog post length.

  • Personal Style: Some bloggers just prefer shorter or longer blog posts. Some blogs are known for their short, crispy, to-the-point posts while others are known for their long, detailed, juicy posts. If you fall in one of these categories, you probably want to stick to it. A blog can build an identity around length of the post (remember though that length is NEVER a substitute for quality. This should be obvious by now).
  • Examples:

    Short Posts: Seth Godin’s blog. This is by far the best example I can think of. He’s an expert at what he writes and is able to deliver great value in 100 words or less.

    Long Posts: Self Made Chick is one of the blogs that is known for long, detailed posts. Regular readers expect the posts to be long – more than a 1000 words in most cases.

    Conclusion: Depending on your style, your blog posts can be long or short, especially if you want to build your reputation around the length of your posts. Either way is good.

  • Pillar Articles: A pillar article is usually some piece of content that provides a great value to the readers and attracts repeated visitors again and again to your blog. Pillar articles attract new readers to the blog who find these articles satisfying a need and stick with your blog. Every blog should have some pillar articles that establish your blog’s authority. Pillar articles usually tend to be long. If you are writing a pillar article, then you’re an expert in that area and you would want to share as much as possible with your readers about that topic in one post. It is also a good idea for pillar articles to be comprehensive and complete within themselves.
  • Example: A pillar article about pillar articles written by Yaro Starak of Entrepreneurs Journey. Notice the long, detailed post explaining most aspects of what a pillar article should be like.

    Conclusion: Pillar articles are long. I would suggest posts over 1000 words for pillar articles.

  • Idea Generation: Lots of bloggers use short blog posts to paint an initial idea and ask for reader feedback. Perhaps you want to test a new idea and see how people react to it. You don’t want it to be too long because you want your readers to think from all angles and not just in a direction that you lead them to. In those cases, keep your posts short. These can make for terribly interesting reads!
  • Example: The Atlantic wants readers views on what an entrepreneur-first platform looks like. What do they do? Write a short blurp and let the readers pitch in their ideas. The Economist does that very well too.

    Conclusion: Keep posts that explicitly ask for reader feedback short.

  • Reviews: Reviews are usually detailed posts. For readers to derive value from these reviews, it is essential that you’re an expert yourself and know what you are talking about. You need to research further, look at the pros and cons and lay them all out so that your readers can make an educated decision about the product or service you are reviewing. In most cases, the ideal blog post length of reviews is at least twice as long as your average post.
  • Example: oDesk Review at GeeksMakeMoney. This is a detailed review of oDesk that lays out the pros and cons and lets the reader decide for themselves if they want to join the site.

    Conclusion: Reviews in general should be long, over 1000 words ideally, especially if they form pillar articles for your blog.

  • News: There are many times when you want to let your readers know about an event or news. For instance, if you run a blog on SEO, you might want your readers to know about a huge upcoming change in Google’s algorithm. In that case, you might just link to the main Google blog post and keep your post short. All the information the reader needs is on the other link. However, you can add your subjective thoughts to the issue. In general though, you want to keep these posts short. This happens a lot in certain niches, like technology.
  • Example: There are plenty of blogs on HuffPo that fall into this category. If they are talking about a news released by CNN, they will just link to that news item and provide only a brief write-up leading to that.

    Conclusion: News based articles should be short and link to the source. Detailed analysis can follow in another post. Ideal blog post length of news articles is less than 250 words.

Ideal Blog Post Length for SEO

The ideal blog post length for SEO is hard to determine because Google and other search engines don’t publish this data. There are however several unofficial reports. Many SEO experts believe that blog posts should be of “ideal length” which is usually 250-1000 words. Anything shorter/longer can get penalized. However, this wisdom is old, before all the algorithm changes by Google last year. I am not sure if Google penalizes longer content but it is definitely possible. I know some SEO experts think bigger is better.

As you probably realize, for this blog, I like to write longer blog posts. What’s your average length of a blog post?

Photo Credit: DailyMail

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oDesk Alternative: Sites Like oDesk

oDesk alternativeWhat are some oDesk alternatives? I know a lot of freelancers and businesses are looking for alternative sites like oDesk. This is for a variety of reasons – oDesk has grown too big and it seems that the quality of jobs and freelancers has been on the decline. I have been on oDesk for several years now, and personally, I have seen the quality of postings deteriorate. Of course, the number of job openings might be increasing too, but that isn’t the whole story. Freelancers want better paying jobs and small businesses want quality freelancers.

Why look for oDesk alternatives?

Don’t get me wrong – oDesk is a fine marketplace, but you should know what it is about, its pros and cons. I did a thorough oDesk review and a follow up oDesk review from an employer’s perspective that outline under what circumstances you should consider joining oDesk.

However, there are many reasons to look for oDesk alternatives. Some don’t like the quality of freelancers and that is a cyclical problem – quality freelancers don’t want to go on oDesk because most assignments don’t pay very well. Good freelancers know what they are worth and don’t want to waste their time wading through a ton of crap. It is a hard problem indeed to overcome. No wonder most freelancers decide to scout for clients on their own and thus exacerbates the problem of finding them for the employers who know that quality works costs more.

Is there a solution?

That, in a nutshell is the whole problem with oDesk – lack of quality freelancers and lack of quality jobs. They are related. Some oDesk alternatives try to address this issue in their own way. Even if they don’t fully succeed, in a competitive marketplace, it is always good to have some alternatives both for the freelancers and the employers. You shouldn’t, after all, be too dependent on just one site.

Honestly, I haven’t seen this problem being addressed adequately on any other marketplace. That being said, alternatives are still good to have. In addition, if you read through the comments of the above mentioned articles, you’ll realize that not everyone is happy with oDesk but might want a site similar to it.

To really solve the problem of quality freelancers/pay is a much trickier proposition and needs a whole analysis of itself. I don’t pretend to know it myself but is a worthy question to pursue.

So if you are looking for oDesk alternatives, here are some websites to consider –

Elance

Elance is a site very similar to oDesk. However, it is older than oDesk and somehow has managed to keep its reputation. Compared to oDesk, I find that the jobs at Elance are, on an average, better paying. There are usually few to none extremely low-ball offers (you know the kind – 50 cents for a 500 word article offers). Most jobs are decent paying and a few high-end ones. Most established companies (not small businesses), when they have to turn to freelancing marketplaces to get a job done, almost always turn to Elance because of its reputation. Being older though, it might be harder to break into the top here. Also read my Elance vs oDesk post to get more information about these two sites.

Freelancer

Freelancer is another site that is similar to oDesk and Elance. I doubt its claim of being the largest freelance marketplace online, but it is true that its Alexa rank (as of today) is better than both Elance and oDesk. This means it is definitely one of the biggest freelancing marketplaces. Honestly, I haven’t played around this site a lot, but have heard a lot about it, so definitely one of the options to consider whether you are joining as a freelancer or looking to hire freelancers.

From the little that I’ve poked around on the site, the quality of jobs seems to be higher than oDesk, which makes me confident of including this on the list of legitimate oDesk alternatives. The assignments are higher paying than at oDesk. I would love to hear from my readers about their experience here.

PeoplePerHour

PeoplePerHour is a relatively new site out of UK, but I mention it here because it is indeed a legitimate alternative to oDesk. The quality of jobs posted here is definitely much better. Naturally, the freelancers are pretty good too.

Somehow, at least for now, the site has managed to keep quality postings/freelancers. It doesn’t have as many jobs as oDesk though, since it is relatively new. However, it is definitely a legitimate oDesk alternative to consider especially because it is quite different from oDesk in many ways. Read my PeoplePerHour review to learn more about this site.

One attractive feature of this site that immediately distinguishes itself from oDesk is the introduction of the ‘Hourlies’. Here, instead of employers posting jobs, employees post what they can do and for how much. This means if you specialize in a skill, you can advertise on the site through an hourlie. If someone likes and needs what you offer, they will buy this and the payment will be released to you when you complete the work. It is a nice feature for freelancers to advertise themselves and let employees contact them for work rather than the other way round. It is good for employers because they can look for very specific tasks and specialized people to fill the roles.

WitMart

WitMart is an interesting site in that it allows you to post contracts and contests. Contracts are like any regular job posting that you see on oDesk or Elance. However, contests are, well, contests – you post a content, determine an appropriate prize money and in the end, choose a winner who will get all the money.

Contracts work just like anywhere else, but contests are an interesting addition to the freelancing marketplace. For an employer, if the prize is good enough and there are enough talented freelancers working, it can work great. The site allows you to look at submissions that have been made public. The quality is reasonable, and I think it is a good way for employers to get their work done and get quality submissions. There is a risk of course, but it is better than the risk that a single freelancer you hire isn’t going to deliver. The risk with a contest is that every single submission is bad, which is usually not very likely.

The site is more specialized for graphic designing, web designing, logo designing, etc. and less for hardcore programming and even writing, although there are definitely those jobs posted as well. I think a lot of designing related jobs tend to go well with the contest format.

vWorker

vWorker was previously Rent A Coder and specialized in web programming and web designing jobs. It is a site similar to oDesk but smaller, so there are most things that you would see on oDesk.

Job Boards

Lets not forget the good old job boards. These are especially effective when you are looking in a specific niche, whether it is a job as a freelancer or a business looking to hire. These can be specialized and if you are looking at a reputable jobs board, then there is definitely good quality of freelancers and good jobs being posted. These are also a great way to make lasting industry contacts. Well known sites like FreelanceSwitch and ProBlogger have their own jobs board that can be a good source of jobs.

What are some of the oDesk alternatives that you use? Share in the comments.

Photo Credit: Victor1558

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EzineArticles any Good in 2012? A Case Study

EzineArticles any goodIs EzineArticles any good in 2012 and worth your time to publish there? For those who don’t know or have been in the online world for less than say a couple of years, EzineArticles was the best article directory out there. They have consistently maintained a higher quality of articles (than say a site like GoArticles that was popular at one point of time and almost dead now) and it was a good resource for people who wanted a quick, cursory research on a topic. The webmasters who published on EzineArticles knew that if they provide something of value, people will click on their links in the signature and they get highly targeted visitors. So is EzineArticles dead in 2012 now or does it still have life in it?

Why Publish for Free?

Historically, the primary benefits of EzineArticles was –

  • Backlinks for your site in the signature
  • Traffic to your site from highly targeted visitors

A lot of people especially in the SEO world looked primarily at the first benefit – that of link-building. Granted, EzineArticles homepage is a PR-6 (page rank 6) and it definitely helped you get a good link profile. However, the second aspect was and still is as important. Webmasters realized that it was easier to rank their EzineArticles pages than their own blogs, and they tried to funnel that traffic from the article to their websites.

This was a strategy that I had personally used and historically, I have had some really good quality traffic coming from EzineArticles to my blogs (granted, at times, I was really annoyed that my EzineArticles page ranked higher than a page about the same topic on my own blog).

Google Panda

And then Google Panda update happened. That almost killed article marketing and EzineArticles was one of the worst hit. A lot has been written and said about the death of EzineArticles and article marketing. However, I take a less dramatic approach. I’ll tell you when you should still use article marketing and when you shouldn’t.

Yes, the Google Panda update changed things. Hopefully for the better. This also means that genuinely good content might have been pushed down in the Google search engine rankings. Sites like EzineArticles weren’t deemed to provide enough quality content and the entire site suffered as a result.

Although Alexa rank isn’t the best judge of traffic, it can give a fair estimate. Before the Google Panda update, EzineArticles had a rank of under 100, which means according to Alexa, it was among the top 100 websites visited around the world. After the Panda, it ranks at 311 at the time of writing this. A rank in the 3 digits is still a highly respectable one.

Personal Experience – A Case Study

I have been using EzineArticles for several years now. My best performing article still manages to get over a 1000 visits a month in a very specific niche. However, I have definitely seen a drop in traffic to my articles and subsequently to my blog through EzineArticles.

Before the Google Panda update, I was able to rank highly and get good traffic from EzineArticles. After the Google Panda, here are the changes I noticed personally –

  • It is much harder to drive traffic from EzineArticles to my blog. This is because these articles rank lower in Google and also because overall, people visiting and searching for things within EzineArticles has probably decreased.
  • ‘Backlink juice’ is lower but still not terrible. Yes, backlinks from EzineArticles are still precious in the eyes of Google even though as much as before.

When I try to determine if EzineArticles is any good in 2012, I look at both traffic and backlinks. Both have decreased, but that still isn’t a reason to abandon this strategy completely. I would still recommend EzineArticles to new blogs to get backlinks and rank soon in Google.

The advantages of EzineArticles in 2012

  • The backlinks are still valuable! If you are a new blog and no one is linking to you, this is a great way to get some linking going.
  • Other blogs still borrow content from EzineArticles. This means if you publish an article, chances are, someone else picks it up and thus you get additional backlinks. Don’t count on the quality of these sites though.
  • You can still get decent traffic, especially for a new blog. When you are starting out, it isn’t terrible if you can get your first 10-20 visitors through a site like EzineArticles.
  • If you are a diamond member and write halfway decent articles, they should be accepted. It doesn’t take me more than 20-30 minutes to write and publish here, and it shouldn’t take you more either. For the effort that goes in, I think the results are worth it.
  • One strategy that I often follow is to publish a new post on my blog and write a related article on EzineArticles and get a link back to my blog in my signature.

Case Study

After the Panda, I tried to see how effective EzineArticles was in terms of helping me rank better in Google. Here is what I did –

Step-1: Publish a post on my blog, targeting a keyword that I want to rank high on.

Step-2: Measure its rank in Google. I used different computers just to be sure that I wasn’t affecting the results of my own blog. I saw this every day for a week, to make sure the rankings are stable for the short term at least.

At this stage, I have no backlinks to this newly created piece of content.

Step-3: Publish an article on EzineArticles with one link to my homepage and another to this newly created content. Wait for the article to be accepted and published on the site.

Step-4: Measure the rank for the particular keyword again.

Results:

  • For Keyword1, the rank went from 25 to 8. Not bad at all.
  • For Keyword2, the rank went from 15 to 6. Again, not too bad

This is why I think EzineArticles can still be good in 2012, considering the effort that is needed to publish there, versus the kinds of returns that you can expect. I wouldn’t write this off completely and is definitely still a powerful tool in your arsenal.

What has been your experience with EzineArticles before and after Google Panda?

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oDesk Review: Employer Perspective

oDesk ReviewThis oDesk review is aimed at prospective employers – entrepreneurs and small businesses that are looking for specialized skills at oDesk for short-term or long-term projects. If you are a freelancer and want to know if you want to join oDesk, read my other oDesk review which talks about the pros and cons of joining oDesk as a freelancer.

What is oDesk?

oDesk is a freelancing marketplace which brings employers and freelancers together, so that the employers can hire the freelancers for projects. A bigger and older site is Elance, but oDesk is catching up fast and is as popular as Elance today. If you want a comparison, read my comprehensive guide on Elance vs oDesk.

The advantages are quite obvious: you can hire specific skills for short term projects, thus enabling you to concentrate on growing your business. For example, if you want a professional logo designed for your business, you can hire a graphic designer only for this project instead of getting a designer on your team and increasing your costs. The appeal is immediate. But does it work in practice?

oDesk Review: Why You Should Care?

You are an entrepreneur or small business. You cannot afford to hire full-time employees for every skill that you need. You need a web-designer, a programmer, a graphic designer, a writer, an administrative assistant and want all the pieces to come together. You are concerned with the big picture. A marketplace like oDesk provides you exactly that – all the specialized skills that you need and people willing to work on your project on a short term without you having to hire them full time, pay health insurance or really any other benefits at all. You think it is perfect. Is it?

On paper, yes. The main problem is about quality. How do you know the person you are hiring is right for the job? What if he screws up the work? What if you have people you have to answer to – can you depend on the freelancers who live half way around the globe?

You should care simply because it is YOUR business. You shouldn’t hire blindly – after all it is the people who make your product what it is.

Cost Criteria: A Tricky Trade-Off

Obviously you want to keep your costs to a minimum when hiring freelancers. However, it could be one of your worst ideas ever and could end up in a costly experience.

Are you Serious?

A lot of employers I know at oDesk complain about the quality of workers. It is interesting to look at the prices that they offer. Forget about living in the North America or Europe, these prices are hardly enough to live a decent life in India or Philippines. I don’t even need to offer you screenshots or “proof” of my claim – just go to oDesk right now, browse through jobs and you will see countless examples. Well alright, you are too lazy, so here is a quick sample that I got on the first page of writing jobs:

Really? The employer wants a writer with strong skills who can write on any topic and have “perfect” knowledge of English (a versatile writer with strong writing skills) and he wants to pay 50 cents for a 500 word article. I am a writer at oDesk too, and I wouldn’t take a second look at the job if he offered me 10 times of what he is offering in this posting. 50 times and I’ll probably consider.

So were there bids on this job posting? You bet. Will the articles be any good at all? Probably not. These employers then come and complain that the quality of freelancers isn’t good and have a negative oDesk review for employers. This of course is unfair. The right input would be when you offer a decent price and you are unhappy with what you got.

If you are a serious business, you need to understand that lower prices isn’t the criteria, it is about who provides value for the money. If you want to hire professional writers at peanuts, good luck with that. If you want to hire any professional at abysmal rates, you will probably have half-baked products that don’t meet your expectations. In this case, you cannot blame the freelancer or oDesk but just yourself. In the end, always remember that you get what you pay for.

You are paying for specialized skills. These skills demand a fair price. No freelancers worthy of her trade is going to work at these rates. If you really want good quality freelancers to apply to your jobs, you got to pay better.

Misconception about Countries

This is again a tricky topic but I want to address it. A few employers seem to think that people from the ‘developing world’ are unreliable and provide poor quality work. There is a reason for this bias and it is not rooted in truth. The truth is, you have good and bad freelancers everywhere (it isn’t just my opinion, talk to anyone who has really hired a lot of freelancers around the world and who knows what he is talking about). However, it appears to be higher in the developing world simply because anyone in the US wouldn’t take a second look at a job posting like above. These kinds of postings attract people who live in countries where the cost of living is much lower and the freelancers consider such rates. Obviously the quality can be poor. This isn’t a negative oDesk review or a negative feedback for some countries but rather a reflection on how employers want to treat freelancers.

That being said, if you are deciding between two very good programmers from India and Canada, both having a good feedback rating  and proven experience in working and both quote you a similar price, I don’t see a reason why the Canadian should do a better job than the Indian. Treat freelancers fairly and you will get good quality from all over the world. The basic point of freelancing is to dissolve international boundaries, not to free-ride on cheap labor.

Use the Feedback System and Know its Limitations

I mention in my previous oDesk review as well that the feedback system at oDesk is a really great tool for employers. They can weed out people they don’t want to work with and shoddy workmen. You should use it when you post your jobs at oDesk. Many employers have a cut-off for the feedback rating. That shouldn’t be your only criterion though – also look at the number of feedback scores received by the worker. One-off feedback is more understandable than a consistently lower feedback.

While the feedback system is a great way to judge freelancers, that shouldn’t be your only measuring yardstick. This is especially the case with new freelancers who don’t have a lot of assignments to get the required feedback. If you are hiring a web programmer who has built a popular website and can show you the proof for it, that should be worth more than any feedback oDesk can provide.

The same goes with test scores. I think it is a great tool at times, but employers shouldn’t rely solely on these scores.

Fixed Price vs. Hourly: A Very Important Consideration

Many employers miss the point when it comes to fixed price vs. hourly assignments at oDesk. This is in fact a very important consideration in my oDesk review for employers because it changes the way disputes are handled. However, it also means your ability to attract top freelancers is enhanced/hindered. Let me elaborate.

oDesk has a system where for the hourly assignments they have a “guaranteed pay” for freelancers. If there is a dispute, it is usually handled in favor of the freelancer if the appears that she is working on the project. The oDesk project tracker takes random screenshots and records count of keystrokes and mouse clicks. Personally, I find it absurd judging work by these measures but that is just me and that isn’t the matter at hand here. The point is, if the worker is sincere in his effort but does a bad job, you still have to pay the full amount.

Personally, I always like fixed price assignments anyway. I think most writing tasks naturally suit this model more than the hourly model. I can be a fast writer and do quick research because I know my sources. This means I can get more work done in an hour than the average worker. Besides, how does the employer really care about how much time I spend on the project as long as he gets high quality work from me?

However, I think some other assignments, most notably in programming, fit the hourly model better. If you post these as fixed rate assignments, there is no pay-guarantee and top freelancers might shy away from bidding on the job.

It is a balance that you need to maintain. Understand the pros and cons of this important oDesk review criterion before you start posting jobs.

Inviting Freelancers to Bid

For serious employers, I would strongly recommend inviting freelancers that you find worthy to bid on the job posting that you just posted. This greatly improves the quality of the pool of candidates bidding on your job.

Many freelancers don’t scout through job postings all day long at oDesk. A lot of them are just plain inactive at oDesk and will consider an opportunity if they like it. To get the attention of these dormant freelancers, you should invite them to bid on the job and not wait for them to place the first bid.

Building Long-Term Relationships

Just because you get 20 bids in the first hour of posting your job opening doesn’t mean you are going to find the best candidates. Good freelancers aren’t as easy to find, and when you find one, keep them for a long time. You should build long term relationships with the freelancers you work for, pay them well and keep them happy. Understand their needs and concerns. Try to be flexible with their work as much as feasible. If you have liked someone’s work, give them a heads up for your next job to see if they are interested and you can save yourself the time and effort to weed out the bad quality applications.

What has been your experience with oDesk? Share in the comments!

Photo Credit: o_corgan

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Free Is Good

Free is GoodFree can be good. Somehow we seemed to have lost the essence of this. We equate cost to value. We tend to consider things that we pay for to be superior to things that are free. No wonder marketers are having a field day – they can sell you an inferior product at a higher price. It is the case all over the internet. A lot of the traditional affiliate marketing revolved around things you could find for free online (there are of course honorable exceptions) and repackaging it into something you sell.

Free vs. Paid

One argument for paid content is that it saves you time doing the research yourself. This is partly true. You buy a book because you cannot do the research that the author does. Even if you could, it is probably not worth your time. This is a legitimate reason to buy some lesser known eBooks which are in niche areas, like affiliate marketing or blogging.

That being said, reading specialized books also robs you of something which is far more superior – experience. Sometimes you need to learn things the hard way. Sometimes you need to stumble to find your way. Sometimes failure is the best teacher. You cannot expect someone to feed you all the information you need because you are not the same as that person, no matter how “guru status” the author has.

The Best Things are Free

I am not even talking about the philosophical ideas about best things in life being free. Think of what looks more credible to you – an imperfect Wikipedia article talking about how some common chemicals can be carcinogens or an advertisement from Dow chemicals claiming otherwise? Yes, people trust sources that aren’t doing it just for the money.

Wikipedia of course is the best example of how the best things are free. Linux is another great example. Half the software I use on my computer is free, from VLC Media Player to Open Office.

Information Sources: Blog Posts

Blogs can be an incredible source of information that people oftentimes underestimate. They provide honest reviews, real feedback and real experiences of real people. In many instances, you can relate much more to a human being than to an encyclopedia. This would apply in any area that you are looking at, from local news to fashion to education.

Free Education: The Next Revolution

Free education seems to be the next revolution in free. edX was recently started by a cooperation between MIT and Harvard, which of course comes after Stanford’s Coursera. This of course is a whole new paradigm in itself and needs a fully dedicated blog post of its own. The point is, free online courses can replace the highly overpriced higher education throughout the world, so that students from all over the world of all ages have access to the best of human knowledge all for free.

So stop being fooled by marketing gimmicks and know the reasons when you buy something. Don’t assume something you paid for is better than the stuff freely available just because you paid for it.

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey

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PubSlush Interview with Jesse Potash, Founder

PubSlush PressI had the opportunity to interview Jesse Potash, the founder of PubSlush Press. It is a whole new concept in publishing and although small now, has great potential in the future. PubSlush combines powerful forces of the internet to fund literary ambitions of writers who find it hard to follow the traditional publishing routes.

I find the concept promising and intriguing and had shared my thoughts on this on my PubSlush review. I hope you share my enthusiasm in learning more about the company and what they offer to writers and readers.

Brief Bio: Jesse Potash is the founder of Pubslush Press (www.pubslush.com), a social, full service publisher that lets readers decide what books get published, and for every book sold donates a book to a child in need. Jesse hails from a financial services background but has worked additionally across a wide array of industries including publishing, fashion, and advertising. Jesse also serves on the board of directors for the Pubslush Foundation, which is committed to supporting children’s literacy initiatives worldwide. He is a native New Yorker, yogi, boxer, and avid traveler.

Here’s the interview: be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section! And don’t forget to share the word – that’s the only way to support upcoming authors and for readers to find diamonds in the rough.

How did you come up with the idea of PUBSLUSH?

The idea sprung from my ongoing obsession with JK Rowling and work with intellectual human rights. Having just left a career in corporate finance, working in the publishing world shocked me even more; so much of the industry seemed dated, bureaucratic, and nonsensical. I thought reintroducing readers into the publishing equation would be a simple way to aid the existing talent discovery process, and was completely feasible because of the intense proliferation of social media in the last decade.

The charity component was inspired by me and my partner’s background in philanthropy. My partner, Hellen, in particular had worked for the past ten years helming an extremely successful nonprofit committed to education initiatives. This experience was at the forefront of our conversation in developing the concept for PUBSLUSH, and having been huge fans of TOMS Shoes, introducing a one for one business model was the genius suggestion of our community director, Erin.

Tell us more about your charity program.

For every book we sell, we donate a book to a child in need. This is the driving force behind our organization. Our charity program allows us to sustainably impact poverty with literacy and by engaging and empowering a community of readers and writers online. I mean the statistics speak for themselves. Illiteracy is one of the leading causes of poverty. Today, close to 1 billion people are illiterate. Also today, over 100 million children don’t have access to literature meaning they too will become illiterate. Fighting poverty is hopeless without books.

The program has several components beyond donating books, including supporting libraries and community reading spaces, providing supplies, utilizing digital reading technology in the developing world, and more. We are committed to improving children’s literacy initiatives by working with established giving partners around the world.

PUBSLUSH is entirely about giving: giving a voice to aspiring authors, giving the power to decide what books get published to readers, and giving books to children without access to literature.

Why should a writer choose PUBSLUSH instead of following the self-publishing route?

We encourage writers to understand all of their options before choosing a publishing route. PUBSLUSH is the right option for many because we offer a forum for any aspiring author to essentially bypass all the bureaucracy of the industry and just prove they have what it takes to be published. Indeed, our concept is of the “actions speak louder than words” camp of thinking. While we are huge fans of self publishing, navigating the publishing world entirely on your own can be a daunting task. PUBSLUSH appeals to authors who want to maintain a large amount of creative control, but who also want to receive ongoingsupport. We build a specialized team around each book that works with the author to maximize potential success.

Of course, the most obvious reason to choose PUBSLUSH over self publishing is the author never incurs ANY costs. The service is completely free for authors. And even if an author doesn’t get published with PUBSLUSH, they are still building an audience for their book.

Pubslush Interview Jesse
Do you feel self-publishing is over-rated? Where do you see the future of the publishing industry in terms of the role of the publisher?

I have mixed feelings. Self publishing is fantastic, but there is no quality control. And inherently, because of the sheer volume of content being created, the majority of it is low quality. And that’s not to say the ideas behind the content are bad, but just that they are not cultivated. In following, I believe the role of publisher in the 21st century will be to gauge quality (as determined by readers) and to provide support to help a book realize its full potential.

Are there other publishing presses like PUBSLUSH with the same idea?

Truthfully, not really. PUBSLUSH breaks down all the barriers to connect the writer directly with the reader. Also, we don’t concern ourselves with raising money for a book, as much as we do with raising awareness. The most important part of our discovery process is the number of unique supporters who commit to preorder an author’s book. It would be easy for someone to come along and say here’s $100,000 to publish this book, but that doesn’t guarantee an audience.

Are you focusing more on authors or book-lovers for now? In other words, are your efforts directed more towards getting authors to put their work on PUBSLUSH or getting readers to support books they like?

In the beginning we were focusing more on authors, but now we are a bit more reader centric. Presently we are partnering with existing online social reading communities and launching a professional and collegiate ambassador program, plus we have many exciting developments in the pipeline. We’ve also been lucky to have an amazing group of authors come on the site who have rallied their own networks to spread the word.

How would you rate the quality of the books so far at PUBSLUSH? Do you regulate which books can be put up on PUBSLUSH at all?

Honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled. As I mentioned, we have such an incredible group of authors on the site right now. It’s just a testament to how many great books are out there that haven’t been discovered yet, and even more so a testament to how many authors are eager to embrace the future of publishing.

We do regulate the books in terms of technical qualities, but not in terms of content quality. In order to maintain the integrity of our site, we require manuscripts be edited for spelling and grammar, have standard formatting, etc. Also at this time, we only accept book length text based books. We do not accept poetry or picture books.

Once a book reaches 1000 supporters, what additional support do you provide authors?

While in beta our threshold for publication is 1000 supporters, but once we leave beta (likely in September 2012), our threshold will be 2000 supporters. If an author reaches this amount, we provide all the services of a full service legacy publishing house, including editorial, design, distribution, marketing, PR, printing, legal, etc. at no cost to the author ever. The difference between PUBSLUSH and traditional publishing houses is instead of employing a full time publishing staff, we build a team around each book to make the process more personalized. Authors can learn more about the type of support we provide in our author resource center.

When do you expect to publish your first book? What are your short term goals in terms of number of books to publish?

Definitely within the next 4 months! Our short term goals are to publish 1-2 books in 2012 and 4-6 books in 2013. Our model is completely scalable because it is project based, so there is really no minimum or maximum number of books we can support. We will publish books chosen by the people as frequently or as infrequently as it happens.

Do you think you might increase/decrease the minimum number of supporters from 1000 in the future?

We certainly won’t be decreasing the number, and as I mentioned, once our site leaves beta, the number will increase to 2000. Beyond that, PUBSLUSH is completely flexible in nature and will adapt to the marketplace. We are amenable to changing the threshold and will adjust accordingly as we monitor our progress.

Are most of the authors at PUBSLUSH from New York or from all over the country/world?

We have a few New York authors but the books on the site are from all over the world. We are thrilled because we like to think of ourselves as a global book club with a cause, and that vision can only be perpetuated by an eclectic, international group of authors.

What advice do you have for authors wanting to get published through PUBSLUSH?

Read everything on the site first and come up with a plan before submitting. The authors who have come onto the site with a plan of action have performed exponentially better. We even provide advice and ideas for how to create an effective promotional plan while on our site. It’s all there in our author resource center. Also, there is no excuse for zero supporters! No one takes a book with zero supporters seriously, so don’t hesitate in harassing your mom, friends, etc.

I hope you found this useful in some sense. Here are the books that I am currently supporting: A Beautiful Mess and A Sweeter Stride.

Let me know your thoughts. Don’t forget to share, so we all know where to find the next publishing gems!

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Ethical SEO Techniques: Google Evolves

Ethical SEO techniques should be learned by every webmaster who wants to holistically grow their site and are in for the long haul, not looking for a quick buck off their website. The meaning and idea of optimizing for search engines has drastically changed in the last couple of years. Considering how frequently Google updates their algorithms and what is, in general, considered ethical, I deem it necessary to educate my readers about ethical SEO techniques that are up to date today.

Ethical SEO is all about following the Google Webmasters Guidelines, in a nutshell. You should definitely read and understand the spirit of this document.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, has been around since search engines and before Google. The definition of ethical SEO has kept evolving over time. It is important to keep up to date because when it comes to best practices with respect to SEO, these keep changing with time and if you are not well informed, can be left in the dark when it comes to promoting your site online.

Recently, Google has accelerated in its quest for weeding out questionable SEO techniques and penalizing websites using them. It started off with the (in)famous Panda Update that left Article Marketing Obsolete. There were plenty of smaller updates with the Panda. The most recent Google algorithm changes have to do with including social data in the search engines.

A lot of “grey-hat” SEO techniques are also being punished. For instance, recently, Google began deindexing paid blog networks which affected quite a few websites. It is also worth nothing that a number of internet marketing/SEO blogs had actually promoted their use and many webmasters were taken by surprise because they considered this to be complete within the realm of ethical SEO techniques. Well, guess what, it is not! It is simply a disguised form of link-spamming with thin content that hardly adds any value.

In such turbulent times, best practice dictates that you stick with core Google values and do the following –

1. Build Quality Content

2. Build Quality Links (most penalties are in this area, be ethical!)

3. Provide a great user experience, user interface and look to keep visitors hooked on your site.

4. Promote your site on Social Media, including Google Plus

These are the essential fundamentals of ethical SEO techniques.

Quality Content

At the heart of ethical SEO lies quality content. There is no denying the fact that ultimately, the purpose of search engines is to dig out the best quality content and present it on top. There should be no substitute for this. Not even Google can be perfect in this – perhaps you have written an entry that is better than Wikipedia but you will be beaten by Wikipedia every single time. That doesn’t mean quality content means nothing. Never compromise in this aspect. Good quality content spills over to all the other aspects of SEO as mentioned above as well.

Link Building

The most contentious part of ethical SEO comes with respect to link-building and most efforts to trick Google using black-hat techniques have to do with link-building. Essentially, you don’t want to spam the internet with your links, try to build links as organically as possible so it is most “natural”. Follow the dictum – if there were no Google, how would you use link-building? You would still want your links on high quality blogs and sites so their readers can discover you and you won’t bother about crappy blogs that exist solely to provide backlinks to other blogs. Do the same with Google present.

User Experience

This is hard to measure, but Google is certainly taking the overall user experience into consideration when it ranks websites. This involves a slew of metrics from the bounce rate and time spent on the site to the time taken to load the website. As a webmaster, you should be involved in this process and try to provide the best user experience to your visitors. Does Google have to tell you to do this?

Social Media

This is another new addition to the list of ethical SEO techniques from Google. The more people like and share your articles and website on social media, the better it is. Social media is also harder to game – for example, how can you ensure that a piece goes viral without it actually having the qualities of going viral? You cannot log into your friends of friends’ Facebook accounts and share your link now, can you? Don’t spend all your time on social media though, optimize your time and effort.

The bottom line is that ethical SEO techniques cover a broad range of topics and not just looking for backlinks for your website. Take a holistic view of the internet and search engines and understand why they exist and how you can align their purpose with yours. You should be able to do well in the ethical SEO realm, don’t resort to black-hat SEO and other questionable techniques. Don’t blindly follow everything you read from the “Gurus” either. Think on your own and understand what Google wants.

Photo Credit: San Diego Shooter

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