As part of a blog optimization panel I participated in during a recent conference in Australia, I decided to forgo the bulleted list of blog plugins and recommendations that you typically see on such sessions in favor of something more personal.
The presentation focused on 3 of the biggest mistakes we’ve made with Online Marketing Blog in the past 3 years, why we made them (and why others do too), what we learned, what you can do to avoid them and the expected outcomes.
This format was well received, so I thought I’d share them here.
Mistake Number One: Goals.
When we started the first version of Online Marketing Blog in December of 2003, there was no specific business goal other than to aggregate industry news, links and stories along with commentary. Not setting business goals for a blog does has some advantages, like no accountability. But it also has some cons such as a huge waste of productive time and an audience that is largely disparate and transient.
With the explosion of SEO news blogs in 2004 and 2005, we started to move towards more original content through resource articles, blogging conferences and doing interviews. What has helped the most in that time was to better define the specific business goals we’re trying to reach through this blog, better understand the target audience and to create an internal editorial guide that supports both.
Make no mistake, any blog is a work in progress and despite the huge impact Online Marketing Blog has had on our business goals (build thought leadership, contribute to search community, lead generation), we’re still fine tuning to make it a better resource. By setting specific goals for the blog, we have benchmarks and accountability measures in place to make it a productive use of time and resource for readers.
Mistake Number Two. Control.
Since blogging for us started as an experiment, we didn’t take it too seriously. As a result, we used a third party blog hosting platform with a sub domain url at blogspot.com.
Why would we do that? It was easy. It was free. There was a base of functionality that met our needs at the time.
Why shouldn’t you host your blog using a third party domain name? You have no control. If you want to change blogging platforms, there is no reasonable way to redirect traffic from the old blog to the new address.
When we moved from toprank.blogspot.com to using WordPress as our blog software, Google’s Blogger service did not (and still does not) support any kind of redirection for users or for search engine robots.
Porting all of the old blog posts to the new hosting and blogging platform also created the issue of duplicate content. With no way to redirect pages, deleting the old blog would present users with ugly and alienating “404 Not Found” error pages.
Any link equity built up with the old blog was not transferable to the new blog. We had to start from scratch.
Other cons of using some third party hosted blogging services include a lack of functionality compared to WordPress and Movable Type, which are installed on the server. Third party subdomains are also often perceived as less credible than a dedicated domain name or a blog address that is part of the company domain name.
Preferred url syntax for a SEO friendly blog is: www.mydomainname.com/blog
The next best choice would be: blog.mydomainname.com
With current hindsight, the last choice would be: www.blogdomainname.com.
The last choice is what we ended up with for our blog and it’s not a bad choice, but it’s not as productive as having your blog as part of your main company domain. It takes more effort to promote and you do not receive direct link benefit.
All is not lost though. You can certainly start from scratch as we did 2 years ago and make significant progress in even less time with proper goal setting, the right platform, content and promotion.
Mistake Number Three. Metrics.
Hand in hand with goals are metrics. We ran our blog for a full year before implementing any kind of web analytics software. Ouch! Another issue can be a focus on the wrong metrics. Many bloggers get obsessed with who’s linking in, who’s mentioning their name and what their Technorati ranking is. Oops, I guess we’ve fallen into that category even recently.
The important thing is not to obsess over metrics that do not support the purpose of the blog.
In the end, if the metrics that support your business goals for the blog are not in place, you’re blogging in the dark. Like web sites, different kinds of blogs need attention on different metrics. For example, Online Marketing Blog is currently focused on building thought leadership and generating interest in TopRank’s services. We do not take on any advertising. If we did, we would need to change the kinds of metrics focused on.
Some of the common metrics according to type of blog include:
- Advertising revenue blogs – Unique visitors, page views and subscribers.
- Lead generation blogs – Inquires, time on site, repeat visitors
- Blogs for SEO purposes – Keyword rankings, links, referring traffic
- Thought leadership blogs – Media pickups, links from prominent bloggers, subscribers, inclusion in “lists”
Obviously there are metrics important for any kind of blog such as RSS subscribers, unique visitors and page views, but focusing on measurement according to the goals of the blog can make a significant difference in the effectiveness in content creation and promotion.
You may be the kind of person that learns best from making your own mistakes, but if you’re not, I hope you can learn from ours. What blogging mistakes have you made and learned from?