10 Free Tips to Grow Your Blog

10 action steps for growing your blog right away

Great folks in the outdoor industry contact me regularly usually to say hello and sometimes to discuss blogging and business strategy. Some of these folks – being the savvy business folks they are – usually like to find some simple things they’re simply overlooking.

Most folks that inquire about information ask for pricing on the Hunting Business Marketing Services. I share the prices for the various services up front and then give a few tips on the subject specifically referred to in the inquiry. Most folks like the free tip and advice and it hopefully helps them with their current strategies.

For folks interesting in something more detailed and specific to their needs, we move onto specific strategies and planning with the paid services offered such as Marketing Consulting, SEO, and Copywriting.

In terms of blogging, I usually share some basic things as advice up front with folks. These can often be the most helpful for those in the beginning stages of blogging.

Since I repeat these tips often I thought it would make sense to share them in a post (head slap moment).

Here are 10 Free Tips to Grow Your Blog…

1| Guest Post

Guest posting is the number one way for bloggers to grow their audience and increase traffic (after writing your own great content of course). Writing guest posts puts you in front of audiences that are already established readers of the blogs. By offering to write guest posts on popular blogs you’re providing the blog editors with quality content and in return you get exposure and increase traffic for your site or blog.

Start seeking out blogs in your niche and outside of your niche and offer to write guest posts. Make sure the people that visit your blog can subscribe to your posts so you capture them as readers.

2| Determine Goals

When starting a blog as a stand-alone entity or when adding a blog to your existing site, it’s important to determine the goals up front. While there is always going to be a point where you have to just let go and go for it, you want to make sure that the focus of the blog aligns with the goals of the business.

For example, are you starting a blog with the goal of gaining attention of major publications for a potential job?

Are you starting a blog as a way to drive traffic and interest for your e-commerce store?

Determine the goals for your blog and create content with that goal as the focus.

3| Read Other Blogs

Reading other blogs is a great way to gain inspiration for your own writing. It’s also important for finding great content to build on and to link to with your own posts. Reading other blogs will allow you to determine the type of content that you enjoy and the content your readers enjoy. Also, read the comments to see how people react to certain kinds of posts. Try to copy successful patterns for your own posts.

4| Comment and Post

When you are reading blog posts and forum posts, be sure to leave your insight by commenting and posting. As a blog owner, you’ll realize that receiving a comment is a great reward. Comments validate the content a writer is writing and lets them know they’re connecting with readers.

Commenting and sharing your thoughts off your site is another way to build your audience through exposure just like guest posting.

5| Write Catchy Headlines

Headlines are the first thing potential readers see regarding the content on your site. Write your headlines after your write your content and make sure you address the interests and desires of the people you’re targeting.

You can come up with ideas for posts (which can be seen as a headline), but be sure to adjust the headline accordingly once you’ve written the post.

A great way to come up with ideas for headlines is The Cosmo Guide to Writing Effective Headlines.

6| Post Regularly

Writing your posts regularly is good for two reasons:

1) Your readers crave consistency just like they crave the news every night.

2) Search engines crave consistency as well. They will crawl your site more and increase your authority the more often you post quality content.

7| Structure Your Blog Posts

Your readers (and search engines) will love your content more if you make your posts easy to read and easy to scan.

Use headings, lists, bolding, and other structure methods when writing your posts so the content is easily digestible for readers and search engines.

8| Link to Other Sites

A way that gains attention from other bloggers in a positive way is to use your site and blog to link to the quality posts of others. Just as receiving comments on a site is rewarding for blog writers, receiving links and mentions on other blogs is validation for their hard work.

Don’t expect it in return, but most times when you link to other blogs you’ll find the other folks visiting your site to check you out and in wonderful cases even sharing your content and linking to you when appropriate.

9| Link to Your Own Content

When writing posts (and I forget this discipline sometimes) remember to link to your own content using relevant anchor text. Search engines use your internal links to determine your important content and your readers follow the links as they look to digest more of your insight.

Ex: Hunting Pictures, Hunting Resources, and Web Conversion Tips

10| Ad Revenue is Tough

When starting blogs folks will often look at ad revenue and affiliate revenue for ways to make money to support their work. This is a tough road to take since it requires a lot of traffic to generate enough revenue to make the effort worthwhile.

Something I often suggest for outdoor bloggers is to focus on writing quality material while making connections in the hunting industry that can lead to writing jobs with major publications.

Show that you’re an expert in your field and others will take notice and seek out your insight. Some will be willing to pay you for content.

With the focus on your content, you can also take advantages of other opportunities for revenue that may come about besides ads and affiliates.

Summary

These 10 tips are the ones I share the most often with folks asking about blogging. They’re very basic, but I think most find them useful nonetheless.

I hope they will help you.

What other tips can you add to the list?

Please share your thoughts in the comments (See Tip #4).

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Finding Successful Patterns

Have you ever wondered what analysis successful folks do to reach the heights they do?

Lots of hard work, some talent, and usually a successful formula are involved in the process.

For example, Will Smith made the comment that he and his manager sat down in the early nineties and compiled the most financially successful movies of all time. The two then pulled out the similarities each of the top ten movies had…

From the AALBC Will Smith Interview

I’m a student of the patterns of the universe. If I can figure out how something is seemingly risky, but I have the numbers on my side, I get really comfortable taking a leap. When I first came to Hollywood, I said to my manager, James Lassiter, I want to be the biggest movie star in the world! He said, Okay, we should probably figure out what they do, and plot a course. So, he went and got the top ten movies of all time. We watched them to try to figure out what were the patterns. And ten out of ten of them were special effects movies. Nine out of ten were special effects movies with creatures. And eight out of ten were special effects movies with creatures and a love story. So, Independence Day was not really a hard call to make when you look at the numbers. Therefore, I Am Legend, in concept, is not a hard call to make.

You can pull these patterns out of just about any situation. Here are two examples:

1) Headlines and Lists (#5)

2) Viral Videos

It’s smart for anyone to pull patterns and successful formulas out of situations as a way to decipher what makes others successful. Now, it’s important to remember that Will Smith is not successful simply because he figured out the pattern for Hollywood blockbusters. Will Smith is successful because he works hard at his chosen craft and he puts his stamp on a successful formula for big, money making movies.

You can emulate Will Smith’s smart strategy to find your own success in the hunting industry. Let’s take a look at some examples that hopefully will paint a better picture of finding successful patterns

The Top Hunting Blog Posts

Last spring I worked on a series of posts where I dug into a few reasons why some of the top posts written by hunting bloggers were successful: Reviews of Remarkable Blog Posts.

A few things that stood out about the successful posts included:

  • Unique, but seemingly familiar topics
  • Short(ish) titles
  • Useful (don’t discount this) tips
  • Genuine and consistent voice
  • Personal stories
  • Detail (can decrease comments and interaction)
  • Knowledge seeking questions (can increase comments and interaction)

Most of the hunting bloggers that contributed to the series used some of their most trafficked posts. It was interesting to dissect each one while trying to figure out the patterns that made each successful.

While there is certainly more than one way to write a hunting blog post, there are a few patterns to follow to ensure that the online hunting community takes interest.

The Top Hunting Companies

Taking a quick look at a few of the top hunting companies, it’s useful to pull out a few patterns. I’ve picked a few companies that are my favorites so there is subjectivity in the list, but the success appears to be there at least for the present time.

Consumer Hunting Businesses

There are tons of others that qualify, but let’s look at these for now. Please share your thoughts in the comments on others.

Patterns

  • Trust (not built overnight)
  • Operationally efficient
  • Industry leading innovation
  • Respect for tradition
  • Update existing products

Obviously there is more to operating a successful company that this short list, but each of the successful companies mentioned above have been around for many years and have been leaders in their respective niches in the hunting industry. A couple have gone through rough patches (Gander Mountain), but the brands are trusted and well-respected by customers and competitors.

One interesting thing is that each of these companies is profitable in large part because of their operations and efficiency. For new players to take over, the new guys will have to find other aspects of the business model to be better at because it’ll be near impossible to beat these companies on operations.

The Top Selling Hunting Products

Companies will put the most emphasis on the products that have sold the best in the past or that they expect to sell the best in the future. Knowing this we can look at a few of the products that have been around for some time and are still finding their way to the front of the marketing initiatives.

Top Hunting Products

  • Remington 870 (over 10 million sold)
  • Stormy Kromer Hat
  • Tink’s® #69 Doe-In-Rut® Buck Lure
  • Winchester® USA Centerfire 44 Rem Mag Handgun Ammunition
  • Gander Mountain Basic 15′ Ladder Treestand

Patterns

  • Simple design
  • Practical solution to common problem
  • Brand authority

The products above are simple in design, but practical in use. They were innovative when initially introduced and they still serve the customer the best for the problem each solves. Until something comes along to replace them customers are satisfied with purchasing the products they trust to get the job done.

Country Songs

Here’s a fun one for the country music fans (and I know there are a few reading the blog).

I initially thought of gathering some number one songs from the charts in the past 50 years or so, but then I thought it would make more sense to find the songs that may or may not have reached the pinnacle of the charts, but most importantly still get played on the radio regularly.

Top Country Songs

  • Queen of My Double Wide Trailer Singer: Sammy Kershaw Writer: Dennis Linde Chart Peak: #7
  • Life’s a Dance Singer: John Michael Montgomery Writers: Allen Shamblin, Steve Seskin Chart Peak: #4
  • Amarillo By Morning Singer: George Strait Writers: Paul Fraser, Terry Stafford Chart Peak: #4
  • Every Once and a While Band: Blackhawk Writers: Mark Bright, Tim DuBois, John Hurley Chart Peak: #2
  • Maybe It Was Memphis Singer: Pam Tillis Writers: Paul Worley, Ed Seay Chart Peak: #3

For the man who has over 50 number one hits, it’s quite the interesting bit of trivia that one of George Strait’s most lasting songs is a song that peaked at #4.

And for a band like Blackhawk, a multi-platinum selling band in the ’90s, to have never had a number one hit is quite amazing. They have so many memorable songs it was hard to pick only one. (They did have Canadian Country Music numbers ones).

And Pam Tills, one of my all time favorite artists let alone female artists. The first song of hers I can remember was Maybe It Was Memphis and it’s still the one I hear today on the radio the most. Just a great tune with passion in the vocals.

Patterns

  • Catchy, Sing-along melodies and hooks
  • Unique vocals, memorable voices
  • Familiar, but seemingly not cliched lyrics
  • Emotional, sincere vocal styling

The patterns for successful songwriter and singing seem obvious once you dissect the endearing songs, but it’s still difficult to sit down and pour out the emotion it takes to write a quality song.

When I say that the vocal styling is emotional and sincere it doesn’t mean that it has to be sad. Emotion takes lots of forms and the best songs seem to be the most sincere. When the artists can put themselves into a place emotionally, mentally that connects with the song and with the listener – that’s when the magic happens.

Emotion can come from a fun place as well. Dennis Linde had to be cracking up when he wrote most of his songs (Bubba Shot the Jukebox, It Sure Is Monday, John Deere Green, Queen of My Double Wide Trailer) and that fun emotion connected with fans.

Your Spin on Things

Before closing this post I think it’s important to emphasize that no matter what patterns you pick up on in your profession, it’s important to remember that hard work and effort are still necessary for success. It’s difficult to copy exactly what others are doing. Success reaches this way will be difficult to sustain. By taking patterns from the success of others and putting unique style and voice to the process you’ll create your own little niche in the industry.

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The Best Hunting Picture Galleries

Hunters view thousands of hunting pictures on the Web…every day

The competition for the attention of hunters is heating up online and some folks are using quality hunting picture galleries to attract attention away from the competition.

My personal favorites tend to be the galleries that are easy on the eyes, easy to navigate and the ones that have the best photos of trophy game. My favorite type of hunting is bowhunting for whitetails so I always love seeing great photos related to this hunting niche.

Here are the best hunting picture galleries…

Field & Stream

Site: Field & Stream

Gallery: Field & Stream Photos

Overview

The Field & Stream Photo Gallery is one of the most popular galleries on the Web. F&S has the best selection of lists and collections of hunting pictures on the Web. People love lists and that includes hunters. The F&S ‘Best of’ collections make for great photo viewing. To increase involvement with their target audience, the team at F&S also encourage users to submit their best photos. F&S then takes the time to highlight the user photos in ways that make the users the stars. This is a great way to highlight the success of others and give them a vested interest in the gallery. I also like the mix of professional photos as well.

For more see Critique of the Field and Stream Photo Gallery

Petersen’s Hunting

Site: Petersen’s Hunting

Gallery: Petersen’s Hunting Trophy Room

Overview

The Petersen’s Hunting gallery is entirely user-submitted. On the photo gallery home page visitors have the option to view the highlighted photos, the most recent photos, the most popular photos, and users can view photos by collection and category. Giving visitors options when it comes to viewing segments of your photo gallery is important. Some visitors will want to search for specific types of photos. To satisfy these visitors you’ll want to offer a way to search the photos. Other visitors will want to discover new photos that meet their interests. This is where the categories are helpful (ex: I like whitetails. I can click on the whitetail section).

Duck’s Unlimited

Site: Duck’s Unlimited

Gallery: Duck’s Unlimited Photo Gallery

Widget: Duck’s Unlimited Member Photo of the Day Widget

Overview

Ducks Unlimited is a gallery I’ve only recently discovered and I’m glad I did. The user photos in this gallery are spectacular. DU members are allowed to submit photos and it’s apparent that some of the members are professional photographers. And that makes for some inspirational and breath-taking photographs of wildlife (ducks and waterfowl).

Something that sets the DU gallery apart from some of the others is their embeddable widget. Check it out and if you want to see the daily photos on your Website or blog you can. Widgets are great for increasing your audience and search engines love the links they create back to the site.

Bowhunting.com

Site: Bowhunting.com

Gallery: Bowhunting.com Photos

Overview

It’s no secret that Bowhunting.com is one of my favorite hunting sites. I’ve written about them and included them in collections before (5 Hidden Treasures on the Web, The Top 50 Blog Posts of 2009, 25 Tips from 25 Hunting Industry Leaders). The team at Bowhunting.com are experts at hunting and sharing their insight and knowledge through their videos, photos, and blog posts. There is a great mix of trail cam photos, harvest trophies, and general photography for hunting product reviews and more. The photo gallery is easy to navigate and the photos are of high quality.

Bowhunting.com is one of the galleries that offers visitors the opportunity to comment on individual photos. Something Field & Stream doesn’t have yet (you can comment on the entire collection or gallery only). Some also offer visitors the chance to rate photos like Ducks Unlimited and others.

Buckmasters

Site: Buckmasters

Gallery: Buckmasters Trophy Gallery

Overview

The Buckmasters Trophy Gallery is not the best of the bunch, but they have a ton of great user photographs due to the company’s popularity. I’m not sure if it was just me, but this gallery took awhile to load and the auto-play music was a bit annoying (not the music, but the fact that it was playing automatically. See more Video on Your Website). It’s a cumbersome gallery, but it has good photos and it’s a well known brand.

Lone Wolf

Site: Lone Wolf Portable Treestands

Gallery: Lone Wolf Trophy Gallery

Overview

Lone Wolf is a bit of a sleeper in this collection. I’m a huge fan of the design of the Lone Wolf site so it’s no surprise that I’d like their photo gallery. I also think it’s important to show that hunting product manufacturers can have successful photo galleries (as well as any hunting industry company). Users submit photos and while some aren’t the best the scrolling is easy and the thumbnail setup is simple.

CamoSpace

Site: CamoSpace

Gallery: CamoSpace Gallery

Overview

CamoSpace seems to be one of the few social networking hunting sites that has actually had some success. They have partnered with some big companies and some big folks that are famous for more than just hunting (Luke Bryan – great music). It’s a formula that has worked for growing the membership on the site. The photo gallery is 100% user-submitted. That format can lead to some noise (see the trucks), but there are still a ton of photos in the gallery and many of them are great…even if they are a little difficult to find.

ESPN Outdoors Hunting

Site: ESPN Outdoors Hunting

Gallery: Hunting Photo Galleries

Overview

It isn’t the prettiest and it isn’t the easiest to use, but ESPN makes the list because the brand is huge and the hunting shows on the channel are popular. Plus I loved the shows on ESPN Outdoors on Saturday morning when I was growing up.

Big Grass Outfitters

Site: Big Grass Outfitters

Gallery: Big Grass Outfitters Trophy Gallery

Overview

It’s important for outfitters to have galleries as part of their informational sites. Potential customers want visual proof of success. And past customers can be the best referral service when they push their friends to go on the site and view their photos.

Heartland Lodge

Site: Heartland Lodge

Gallery: Heartland Lodge Photo Gallery

Overview

One of the best looking sites in the hunting industry, Heartland Lodge makes great use of a photo gallery to show their potential customers the wonders they have to offer. I love that they use existing technology in Picasa to power their photo gallery. Remember that you don’t always have to work hard to develop your own style of gallery. Use galleries that already exist.

The categories in the gallery are great, but the titles of each photo are another story…

Gander Mountain

Site: Gander Mountain

Gallery: Gander Mountain Braggin’ Board

Overview

I grew up near a Gander Mountain (no Cabela’s nearby and I didn’t use the Web at the time) and I loved checking out the physical cork braggin’ board in store. Customers were always putting their trophies on the board and I loved looking at them all. Those Polaroids were great. With this gallery, Gander Mountain has brought that experience to the Web.

Greenwood Springs Plantation

Site: Greenwood Springs Plantation

Gallery: Greenwood Springs Plantation Photos

Overview

I came across this site toward the end of this post but I just had to include it. It’s a beautiful design and I love that they use Flickr for their photo gallery. The photos could be titled, tagged and included in Creative Commons on Flickr, but it’s a great use of a great photo gallery tool.

Elements of a Quality Gallery

As I browsed the Web in search of the best hunting galleries, I noted a few elements that should be standard on all folks considering a photo gallery for their site:

1) Multi-size Options

With image size, there is a battle between load time of the page and the quality and size of the image you want to load for your viewer’s viewing pleasure. Most sites offer an initial smaller version of images for scrolling and initial viewing, but offer visitors the option to zoom in or enlarge the photo, usually in some kind of pop-up. I think it’s a good compromise. Allow visitors the pleasure of a fast loading page with smaller images and if they have the capacity, they can zoom in or enlarge the photo.

2) Thumbnail Options

Something I’m in favor of when it comes to galleries are thumbnail viewing options. Popular photo gallery sites like Flickr (Flickr Hunting) offer thumbnail viewing so users can see multiple photos at once while being able to choose the ones they want to view in more detail.

3) Easy Scrolling

An important feature of galleries is the ability to scroll from photo to photo. Once a user has chosen a particular gallery to view they want to be able to scroll from photo to photo quickly and easily.

4) Proper Tagging and Titling

Giving the proper title and the appropriate tag to each photo in your gallery is important for your visitors so they understand what they’re viewing. Tagging and titling photos and galleries properly is also important for optimizing your gallery for search engines.

5) Sharing Abilities

Giving visitors the ability to share and bookmark the photos in a gallery is extremely important for the growth of your site’s traffic and audience. Build in the word of mouth aspects of a gallery and make sure the photos are worth talking about people will spread the word.

Bonus Element

Calls to action are important for any site that is aimed at selling something to visitors. With a bit of programming and planning, sites could take advantage of internal linking to sell relevant products to customers that are viewing the photos in galleries. For example, a company could ask users to submit the equipment used to harvest a trophy. List and link the equipment on the photo to the product pages and you have potential sales. A site like Gander Mountain could do this.

Your Favorite Hunting Picture Galleries

Did I miss your favorite gallery? Please share in the comments.

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You Are Defined By Your Success (despite your failures)

People reflect on your success and the failure you overcome

A hang-up with entrepreneurs and other adventurous individuals is often the fear of failure. Some strategies, tests, and new ideas are often thrown to the wayside due to what the perception would be if there were to be a failure in the attempt to improve a product, service, or process.

However, successful businesses and individuals are often defined and remembered for their successes, not for their failures.

By focusing on the fact that people will perceive you in the light of your success rather than failure, you can take down a common artificial barrier and focus on your next great success.

Selective Memory for Success

Family Success

I was thinking the other day about a few examples of people I believe to be successful business leaders. My uncle is one of those folks. He started a screen printing business over 35 years ago and the business is still going strong.

I’ve always enjoyed my uncle’s stories over the years. He’s willingly shared his life’s lessons over a campfire at his farm were family and close friends would gather to deer hunt each fall.

Occasionally he would bring up a few of his business blunders. In fact, he seemed to treat them as a nuisance to his business history. There was the adventure into cattle farming at the same hunting farm and a few other examples.

These business blunders, however, don’t spoil the successful career of a great businessman. Any failure he has had over his life is overshadowed by his success, those close to him see him for his success, and failures are simply taken with a laugh or brushed off as unimportant or simple speed bumps in his road to success.

Something I realize about my uncle is that the failures he’s had over his career seem to only bother him and I’m sure that some bother him more than others, but to hear him tell stories it seems like he is more focused on the successes he’s had.

And the people closest to him only focus on the success he’s had.

Success and Failure in Big Business

Most folks are familiar with the LL Bean story. The retail and catalog giant built a successful brand around the initial failure of the business (90 of the first 100 pairs of Maine Hunting Boots were returned due to defect). The founder promptly fixed the issue and returned quality boots back to the customers. This customer service and guarantee is what drives the loyalty at Bean today.

Most companies would falter under such failure, but LL Bean didn’t let it get to him and he continued on with his vision for success. Today people remember the initial failure, but they remember the failure in the light of the success it lead to – one of the largest and most successful companies in American history.

Aim for Success

The oldest cliché for career advice is to shoot for the highest level of success because even if you don’t reach your ultimate goal you’ll end up somewhere that is highly successful.

The worn-out clichés often reach the saturation point because they hold a level of truth and this one seems to fit that description.

The most successful people I know seem to understand that they will be defined by their success. The often don’t reach the level of success they set as goals for themselves because they set their sights so high, but their failures along the way aren’t seen as failures by others and their success in the eyes of others is the focus.

It seems that people often lose sight of the success they could have even if they often have failures in the beginning of their business careers.

A difficult, but artificial barrier people often face comes from family and friends. Early on in most ventures, people will ask you questions about how your business is going. People will phrase their questions like, “How are sales? Strong?” or perhaps, “Making any money yet?” It can be difficult to field those questions, but remember that you’ll ultimately be recognized for your ultimate success and while lots of folks will disregard you early on in your career they’ll be there to give you praise when you become successful over time.

Summary

Fear of losing respect and being judged by failure is a common artificial barrier that most people put up for themselves when contemplating a new business launch.

After reflecting on the success of business leaders around me I realized that they only focus on their failures as learning (and sometimes expensive) tools for future success. Sometimes poor investments in business are made and sometimes they’re costly. It’s a chance for people to correct their approach and focus on the things they really excel at.

Ultimately it seems that people reflect on the lives of others in a generally positive light. Success is often remembered no matter how much a person has in their lives. Failure is not often a focus when people discuss their lives.

This understanding is a chance for folks to take down the artificial barrier of self-doubt and fear of failure and focus on the impact they’ll have over the long term.

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Critique of the Field and Stream Photo Gallery

Photo galleries are hugely popular with hunters

The Field & Stream Photo Gallery appears to be a huge success with their readers. Their site has been gaining traffic and readers over the past year at great rates. It’s wonderful to see a quality publication have such success with their online initiatives.

I’ve been a reader of Field & Stream for quite some time. I’ve learned much from their annual articles about whitetail deer hunting and still look forward to their expert reviews on the latest in hunting gear.

One of the reasons for the success of the Field & Stream Website I have to believe is their photo gallery. I subscribe to the Field & Stream Newsletter and it seems they are always including remarkable photographs from the outdoors. These photos are often reader-submitted, which is great.

Field & Stream is involving their readers in their publication and it bodes well for their future growth. I’m excited to see how they continue to evolve as a business with online focus while continuing to offer the best in outdoor-related content.

There are however a few critiques I have about their Website and some suggestions for ways they could expand even more…

Technical SEO

Taking a quick glance through the extensive Field & Stream Photo Gallery I can find a few things they could adjust with relatively little effort that will yield some positive results.

A quick rank check for the general term ‘hunting photos’ reveals that Field & Stream ranks about #25 on Google. This is not acceptable since F&S has one of (if not the) best hunting photo galleries on the Web. And to top off those results, F&S is ranking for with their Hunting page rather than their Hunting Photos page.

The first thing F&S can do is to utilize a strong URL for their hunting photos. Something like http://fieldandstream.com/hunting-photos would be perfect rather than the current http://www.fieldandstream.com/photos/editorial/1 . I would then redirect the current Hunting Photos page to the new one to keep any incoming links.

Click for sharper image

Next I would utilize proper title tags for the Hunting Photos page. I would use something like ‘Hunting Photos and User Submitted Hunting Photos Galleries’ or something similar that best fits F&S’s goals for their photo galleries.

F&S does utilize title tags on their hunting pageHunting: Hunting Blogs, Hunting Photos, Hunting Tips, and Hunting Articles from Field & Stream’. That is a lot of great content. To avoid cannibalism I would remove ‘Hunting Photos’ from this title tag so the hunting photos page is optimized and the search engines aren’t confused.

Click for sharper image

There are a few other things Field & Stream can do technically, but these are good changes to start.

Click for sharper image

Photo Gallery Design

It appears Field & Stream has had great success with their Slide Show Style photo gallery design.

Field & Stream organizes their photos (professional and user-submitted) into individual galleries that are setup like slide shows. For example, Field & Stream’s 50 Best Reader Bucks of 2009. Each time you click ‘next’ above the photos you’ll be taken to a new page. That’s a new page view for each photo, which means big traffic numbers for F&S.

The gallery as it’s currently setup is great for building page views and each page/photo has a new description to the right, which is great for the readers as they will want to learn about each new photo.

It would be a change for my own personal preference, but I would change the slide show format to a design that more resembles a blog post with photos and descriptions taking up fewer pages. This design would lead to potential issues with page load time and decreased page views, but the advantages would include the ability to see more than one photo at once.

It’s mostly a personal preference, but there are also technical advantages. Currently, each page in a photo gallery has the same title tag, which diminishes the value of the tag.

Field & Stream has certainly had success with their photo gallery in slide show format so there is no need to make drastic changes. The traffic and page views are there and users can certainly link to individual posts which will lead to link juice.

There are a few things that could be cleaned up though as I’ve mentioned to make the user experience more enjoyable while taking advantage of some SEO.

‘Best of’ Lists

My absolute favorite part about Field & Stream’s photo gallery is their use of ‘Best of’ lists.

Example: 25 Best Big Game Reader Photos of 2009

Web users love lists and they love looking through lists of remarkable photos. F&S takes the interaction up a notch by including reader photos in their showcases. It’s a great way to get readers more involved in the site.

F&S steps up the interaction by including leader boards for top users, ranked photos and ranked comments, and related photos.

I would continue doing posts like these while also listing the Most Viewed galleries along with Trending or Favorite galleries on the main photos page.

Build on the success of the ‘Best of’ lists and create even more lists that Web visitors love.

Photo Gallery Commenting

Getting back to the issue of the slide show style design for the photo galleries – the commenting on the slide shows is awkward.

Users can comment on the galleries as a whole, but it appears they cannot comment on individual photos. Users will highlight photos in their comments (Ex: What is up with photo #3?) because they don’t have the ability or can’t figure out how to comment on the particular photo they finding noteworthy.

It would be beneficial to user experience and SEO to allow users to comment on individual posts.

One Last Word: Duplicate Content

I just noticed that there is an Additional Info section on most galleries – right side of the page when you view galleries.

It looks like the information in this area does not change from page to page when clicking ‘next’ to view each photo.

This is a search engine no-no as search engines are always struggling with duplicate content. They want to know the page that the content is meant for and sites can be deducted ranking as a result of too much duplicate content.

Example: Moose in Canoe and Elk Hunt 2009 both have the same content in the Additional Info section.

Summary

Field & Stream has one of, if not the, best outdoor and hunting-related photo gallery on the Web today.

The increase in traffic in the past year is proof that the great folks at the outdoor publication are doing great things with their Website. They’re writing content that people love to read and they’re adding photos that people love to view and comment on.

With a few adjustments to the structure of the photo gallery I think Field & Stream could see increased results. They can improve their user experience with a few technical changes, which will lead to more incoming links while also adjusting a few things that will increase search engine traffic.

I look forward to see the Field & Stream Photo Gallery evolve and grow as outdoor enthusiasts continue interacting with the site.

PS – It looks like image title and tagging could be improved too. The exciting part is that there is huge potential for Field & Stream to improve their immense collection of photos.

What to read next on Hunting Business Marketing

50 Best Hunting Website Designs

10 Ways to Create Stunning Hunting Blog Posts

50 Photos to Strike Emotion in Your Audience

What to read next on the Web

Best Practices for Title Tags

19 Ways to Get More Traffic to Your Site Using Google Images

5 Tips for Optimizing Images for Search Engines

Image courtesy of vauvau

Winners of Two Month Membership Announced!

Congratulations to the winners!

Image courtesy of AMagill

The lucky ten have been chosen for the Win Membership to Hunting Business Marketing contest.

The winners are below:

1) Mark of Wired to Hunt

2) Duane of Upland Hunts

3) Michelle of The Sportsman Channel

4) Greg of Bear Mountain Boar Hunting

5) Kevin of Arkansas Outdoors Online

6) Kimberly of Doeville

7) Peter of Whitetail Solutions

8) Chip of Double Tough Outdoors and Trophy Score

9) Robert of Bowhunting.net

10) Jody of The Hunters Wife

Congratulations to all the winners. I look forward to the next two months of great marketing and business discussion in the forum. I hope you each find the Member-Only content on HBM valuable.

Thanks to all that signed up for the HBM Newsletter over the past few weeks to enter the contest. I hope you’re finding the Newsletter valuable and I look forward to sharing more content and articles with you.

The Story of the Giant Moose

Sometimes unexpected keywords result in big traffic

Today I decided to draft an interesting case study that may prove valuable for you and hopefully for your blog and business.

What makes it valuable?

SEO and keyword research are important for bloggers to understand. Recognizing search traffic trends in your site’s statistics can help you hone in your writing to attract more visitors and potentially customers to your site.

Let’s take a look…

Ben G. Outdoors

I approached Ben Gustafson (@BenGOutdoors) early in 2010 to discuss working on a few marketing strategies for growing his blog and site: Ben G. Outdoors.

For Ben G. Outdoors, Ben writes about his experiences in the outdoors doing various activities including hunting. He puts a great personal spin on his writing (he and his wife recently welcomed a new baby boy to the family). Ben also writes reviews for hunting products and does interviews with leaders in the hunting industry.

Ben was excited about the opportunity to take a deeper look at his marketing strategy. We discussed a few things to focus on in the initial research and one of the objectives we wanted to focus on was keyword trends and opportunities.

Unique Keyword Strategy

After digging into some of the keywords that were bringing traffic to Ben G. Outdoors, I noticed something interesting.

Ben’s post, Giant Moose, was ranking #1 in Google for the term ‘Giant Moose’.

Now, this high ranking didn’t surprise me. Ben had used the keyword in the title and the post was, while not long in content, had numerous comments and seemed to be a popular one for Ben’s readers.

At first I thought this was just an example of a blog ranking well for a long-tail keyword phrase, but after doing some deeper research I realized that the term ‘Giant Moose’ receives about 4,400 broad searches each month and 1,900 exact searches each month (Google Keyword Tool).

Please click on the images to see enlarged…

Ben G. Outdoors is receiving some good traffic each month from a post that generated some quality discussion and interaction with his readers. Potential readers that first visit Ben’s site via a search for ‘Giant Moose’ have good reason to be impressed with the discussion and if they’re interested in hunting and the outdoors it’s likely they’ll visit again or look through the archives for further relevant reading.

Opportunity for Future Posts

Ben, being the smart guy he is, realized the potential to write more posts using ‘Giant Moose’ as inspiration.

Recently, a post on a Huge Black Bear story hit the front page of Ben G. Outdoors.

This post had more content and insight from Ben in the body of the post. Comments soon flowed in just as they had with ‘Giant Moose’. Ben’s readers seem to love discussing the strange and unique stories from the hunting world.

Along with the great conversation, the great thing about ‘Huge Black Bear’ is the fact that it’s already ranking on page 1 of Google. Depending on your personalized search, Ben may rank anywhere from 3-10 or so for the term.

The term ‘Huge Black Bear’ gets about 400 broad searches each month on Google, which isn’t substantial, but it is likely the post will generate some relevant traffic to Ben’s site over the long-term.

Summary

By working together, Ben and I were able to find some great insight into what is already proving to be a valuable source of traffic for his site.

I’m sure Ben will continue to craft posts using the ‘Giant Moose’ formula and I think he’ll have great success as he has already had with ‘Huge Black Bear’.

Ben also plans to continue to write interviews, reviews and other types of posts for his blog since those are popular with readers as well.

Your Input on Keywords

What about you?

Have you had keyword success with your blog?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

SEO Reading

And for more great reading on SEO Strategy, please read: Optimize a Single Post On Your Blog for SEO

What to read next on Hunting Business Marketing

Dry Creek Goose Camp | Business Strategy

Trophy Score | Business Review

Hunting Outfitters and Guides: Get Valuable Traffic to Your Website

What to read next on the Web

A Case Study in Building Buzz in the Blogosphere: Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company

Companies That Blog More Have More Consistent Sales

Google Giving Small Businesses a Cheap Advertising Option

Image courtesy of junmon603

65+ Essential Hunting Resources

Essential Hunting Websites…

The following is a list of essential online destinations hunters need to visit for the best insight, community, interaction, and experience.

Sites are represented based on the value they offer visitors, which may include things such as site quality content (updated blogs are important), user experience, uniqueness, among other factors.

Listings are open for discussion so please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Some sites may fit into more than one category, but I’ve placed them in the category I think fits best.

In the spirit of sharing, please send this article to all your hunting friends.

Let’s make this post well-known in hunting circles so these sites and resources can be known to all hunters.

Hunting Communities

HuntingNet

Mossy Oak

CamoSpace

Jesse’s Hunting

Big Game Hunt

Texas Hunting Forum

TexasHuntFish

Hunting Pennsylvania

North American Hunter

Ted Nugent

Deer Hunting Chat

Outdoors International

Hunting Articles and Stories

Outdoor Life

Field and Stream

Peterson’s Hunting

Bowhunting.net

Michael Waddell

ESPN Outdoors – Hunting

Grow the Hunt

The Hog Blog

Hunting Press Releases and News

AmmoLand

Hunting Life

How-to Hunt

Deer and Deer Hunting

Buckmasters

Hunting Video

My Outdoor TV

The Outdoor Channel

The Sportsman Channel

The Crush

The American Outdoorsman

Whitetail Tube

Hunting Retailer

Cabela’s

Gander Mountain

Bass Pro Shops

The Sportsman’s Guide

Orvis

LL Bean

Bowhunting.com

Midway USA

3 Rivers Archery

Hunting Manufacturers

Mathews Inc.

New Archery Products

Realtree

Bear Archery

Lone Wolf Stands

Danner Boots

Remington Firearms

Under Armour – Athletes Hunt

Easton Archery

Hoyt USA

Martin Archery

PSE Archery

Bowtech Archery

Browning Archery

Primos

Robinson Outdoors

Tinks

Stormy Kromer

Muzzy Products

Carbon Express

Sure-Loc

Hunting Foundations

National Shooting Sports Foundation

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Boone and Crockett

Ducks Unlimited

Wild Sheep Foundation

Related articles on Hunting Business Marketing

Essential Hunting Industry Stats

50 Best Hunting Websites

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Image courtesy of Zach Dischner

Lessons From Crazy Heart

It’s funny I’ve fallin’/Feels like flyin’/for a little while

Note: This post contains some spoiler content…

A few weeks before I went to the theater to see Crazy Heart I saw the trailer. I instantly became interested in the story of the movie. The setting of country music instantly attracted me. I was also intrigued by the soundtrack – it had a ’70s outlaw country music vibe. I’ve always been a fan of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle and others.

After seeing the movie I have to say that it is everything and more than I built it up to be.

It’s a great story for viewers to connect with. Music fans can connect with the outlaw country music. The themes of the songs on the soundtracks cross musical boundaries (I think it was Willie Nelson who said, “There are only two kinds of music: Good and Bad.”). The story of a hardened outlaw singer and songwriter connects well with young and old alike.

The best part of the movie and the biggest lesson I was able to pull out was how the story related to entrepreneurship and life in general. The setting and circumstances may vary in detail, but the ups and downs and unexpected turns are what connects us all as humans.

Let’s take a closer look at the Lessons from Crazy Heart

The Ups and Downs of Life and Business

Crazy Heart opens up with the sight of Bad Blake traveling the American Southwest in his ’78 Chevy Suburban. He’s getting by day-to-day living on the cash he makes playing at small bars and even bowling alleys. His devoted fans remember his hits from 30 or so years ago and come to see him stumble through drunken performances to get a taste of nostalgia.

Bad’s his own business. He sells what his fans are still willing to buy and he puts on the best show he knows how.  He is able to get by in life by drinking and treating his body like a dumpster. He has the perception that his fans want a hard-drinking, fun-loving outlaw and that’s exactly what he gives them. It pays enough to just get by, but the business model doesn’t pay nearly as good as it once did.

Just as Bad found in the movie, most businesses find  that the typical model has a lifespan. Businesses reach a peak of profitability and then ride out the lifespan as long as they can. If the concept doesn’t change much profits will slowly diminish. New models will come along and slowly the demand for products wears off.

The successful businesses are those that adapt to change and have a progressive nature.

Bad knows that his old business model of touring is what pays his bills. He just doesn’t know how to reignite the excitement in himself and his music to get more people to come to his shows. He also doesn’t know how to broaden his audience and expand his fan base.

There are two interesting points in the movie where Bad discusses songwriting.

The first has Bad talking with his agent about new albums and new songs. The agent wants Bad to write some new material (update his business model) while Bad wants to remix his old hits and repackage them for fans to purchase (old business model).

Bad and his agent both have the feeling that Bad’s career is going nowhere. They both work hard to make a few of the remaining bucks Bad is worth. They keep fighting and hoping for some inspiration to strike and one day it does.

Bad’s agent is able to work with rising star and former Bad disciple, Tommy Sweet. Tommy learned how to play, sing and entertain from Bad and now is seeing his own success. Tommy gets Bad to open up for him at one of his shows. Just before the show the two have a chat about business and Bad is eager to get together to record duets on his old songs. Tommy says he loves working with Bad, but that such an album is not in high demand.

Tommy offers Bad the opportunity to write songs for his upcoming solo release. Bad brushes off the idea and the two go about their way.

Eventually Bad is able to find inspiration (love interest) and writes a great song. This song reignites his star and he finds a new business that he can sell. Over the next 18 months or so Tommy takes the song to the tops of the charts and Bad is bad in demand as an entertainer. His old music is finding new ears and new folks are coming to his shows as a result of the new song.

All businesses that expect to continually succeed need to be progressive in nature. Business leaders can work a successful formula to death, but to expect to have it ride a peak forever is signing a death certificate for the business.

People involved with kick and scream at the suggestion of change, but for the sake of continual growth and prosperity it’s necessary to find new models and new products that consumers demand.

The Impact of a Soundtrack

Lead actor Jeff Bridges credits Ryan Bingham with saving Crazy Heart. The importance of soundtrack in movies is understood by all involved. For this movie, Ryan Bingham was able to take the script and capture the mood in the song The Weary Kind.

The song became the theme during production. The mood of the song is perfect for setting viewers up to understand the life of the lead character.

The songs in the movie parallel the life and business model Bad Blake follows. The songs he wrote that made him an outlaw country music star take him through ups and downs and as we first see him the songs are finding their last bit of interest with Bad playing them in broken down venues.

Then Bad finds inspiration and pens The Weary Kind and interest is renewed in the entertainer.

The soundtrack of Crazy Heart sets the tone for the movie. As a viewer, I was captured by the authentic sound of the “classic” Bad Blake songs. I was also swallowed up by The Weary Kind as the song connected me with the story of Bad Blake.

Credit goes to T. Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham, and Stephen Bruton for putting together the Crazy Heart soundtrack.

Summary

Crazy Heart, the story of Bad Blake, parallels the life of a business.

Business models go through their life cycles and it’s important for business leaders to be progressive focused. People involved with the business will want things to remain the same, but without change there cannot be growth.

Successful leaders push through the resistance and change their models to give consumers something they demand.

What to read next on Hunting Business Marketing

10 Inspiring Country Music Videos

Are You Sure Google Done it This Way?

5 Hidden Treasures on the Web

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Jeff Bridges and Friends Bring Crazy Heart to Life

I’ve Never Seen Anything Like Eric Church’s Show

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How Influence Shapes Your Marketing Strategy

The people that influence you affect the way you perform marketing

Think of the folks in your life that most influence your decisions.

Who comes to mind?

Parents?

Older siblings?

A star athlete?

Your boss or mentor?

There are lots of people that influence the way we are, the way we lives our lives, and the decisions we make – professionally and personally. The people we look up to as role models are typically the same people who inspire us to succeed and do good in the world.

Let’s take a closer look at the impact of influencers in our marketing lives…

The Origin of Influence

While I was growing up the people that influenced my life the most were typically older brothers of friends, professional athletes, and men in my family (not my Dad in my younger years since immature kids typically don’t look to their Dad for influence).

As I grew up, the people I looked to for guidance changed to more meaningful influencers. These were people such as my Dad, business leaders I both knew and didn’t know, and a few actors and musical artists.

Looking to my Dad for personal advice and insight seems to make sense since he was very successful at being a father.

Looking to business leaders for insight into business success makes sense for me since my long-term goal is to become successful in all aspects of entrepreneurship.

The Sociology of Influence

It’s logical for people to take inspiration from those that are successful in the fields we want to be successful in ourselves.

Those that are driven to succeed in their professional lives in various fields will seek out the insight of successful people in the same industry. It’s common for influence to come from the leaders we work with at our daily jobs. These folks are successful and are usually willing to comment on their own path of success. Seek out the most articulate leaders you work with directly and ask for their continuing stories of what it takes to become successful in your chosen field. It’s likely these folks will still be driven to a higher level of success and they may even discredit the amount of success they have had up to the current point in their professional lives.

In today’s world of information, there is a easier access to the success stories and blueprints with the Web.

Business leaders often have their stories published online. Some leaders maintain their own blog where they share their insight on a regular basis.

It’s easy to find interviews with influential business leaders with a simple search. Favorites quotes from interviews and articles can often provide the inspiration to take our own success to the next level.

There are sites dedicated to finding the best of Inspirational and Motivational Quotes and using images to share their meaning: Slice Quotes.

In a connected world, influence is infinitely available.

The trick is filtering out the noise while paying attention to the people and insight that can have the most impact.

How Influence Shapes Marketing Strategy

Something I struggle with almost daily is the balance of Influence and Marketing Strategy.

I read hundreds of blogs and articles each week. I like reading about marketing strategy as it relates to direct marketing.

I work both in the direct to consumer marketing industry as well as in the business to business industry. It’s even difficult to understand the various needs and wants of each type of customers (consumers and businesses).

The insights I read from business leaders that blog do shape my marketing strategies and decisions. I look for case studies and examples of success in various industries and try to relate the stories to strategies I can utilize for my own growth as a business professional.

I think the most important thing to note about influence is that all actions should revolve around focused strategies.

I’ve done things in the past where I’ve read something insightful in a blog post from a marketing industry leader and have jumped right into implementing the strategy. Sometimes it’s worked and other times it hasn’t.

There is nothing wrong with experimenting and I think it can actually be positive. But to save time and effort, I’ve found much better and more effective (and efficient) success by always asking the question: How does this influential insight relate to the overall marketing strategy?

Having the focus on the defined marketing strategy has allowed for more growth and impact on the businesses I’m involved with.

Influence has been great for me and I continue to seek out the advice and insight of the leaders in the world. Having a focused strategy and vision has allowed me to better utilize the influences in my life.

Suggestions for Influence

Here are a few suggestions for seeking influence and using it to further your strategies and visions:

  • Seek influence from family and friends
  • Seek influence from industry leaders
  • Recognize influence from unexpected sources
  • Form strategies
  • Apply relevant insight to your business strategy

Influential People in My Life

  • Parents
  • Uncles
  • Business associates
  • Co-workers
  • Marketing leaders (typically those that blog)
  • Successful CEOs and business owners
  • Experiment

Who are the influential people in your life?

Have the people with the most influence on your life changed over time?

What to read next on Hunting Business Marketing

Successful People Guide to Success Series

The Secret Marketing Tactic of Successful Companies

The Tin Cup Success Theory

What to read next on the Web

Thoughts on the Influencer Audience

How to Influence People

What is Your Internet Strategy?

Images courtesy of Filtran and OakleyOriginals