Blogs have been touted as effective tools for companies to publish content and demonstrate the conversational side of their corporate personality. Blogs have also long been promoted as a SEO tool. Despite plenty of optimism about blogging, there’s still a lot of mis-information, mis-perceptions and lack of awareness about effective, productive blogging for business.
Take This Blog SEO Survey: If you or your company publishes a blog, please take this quick poll looking into the perceived SEO benefits of blogging. Results will be published on Online Marketing Blog in the next week. Like a fine pint of Abbot, this survey is smooth, to the point and might just put a smile on your face.
While researching questions for the above poll, I ran an informal #blogseo poll on Twitter yesterday which had 190+ responses within 45 minutes. Here’s a list of everyone that participated. There was an overwhelming interest in direct or indirect SEO benefits from blogging.
And why not? Search engines thrive on and reward web sites that publish content. Blogs are content management systems that make it easy for companies (or anyone) to publish that content. Publishing blog posts creates new web pages that can be linked to and therefore, discovered and ranked by search engines. The more blog posts and links from other sites, the greater the presence in the search results.
Whether blogs were started specifically for SEO or some other purpose, our #blogseo poll showed significant interest in SEO benefits. Poll participants rated the importance of blogs as part of a SEO strategy between 1=low & 5=high. The average rating was a 4, but some rated blogs as SEO assets as low as 1.5. Here are a few (not all) of the comments Tweeted:
- @seowolf – It really depends on the campaign, the content availability etc. But, as a generalization, I’d say 3.
- @sjachille – 3 to 5 depends on the quality of content
- @SEOAware – it offers much more than seo benefits, so 4-5
- @mjdigital 3 – blogs are good because they are easy and quick to setup and use – but are only as good as their content
- @nathaneide – Depends upon your baseline. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s a 1.5. if you have your ducks in a row, it’s higher.
- @janetdmiller – if you can get one up and running AND keep it current. If not, don’t go down the blog path just for SEO. #blogseo
So it seems that blogs as SEO assets are only as good as their content and if you know what you’re doing. Personally, I agree with that and think that those that do not rate them higher in value for SEO may not be as familiar with the benefits they bring.
That leads to the next question: What SEO functions do blog(s) serve? Some of the most common blog SEO benefits include: Content creation, External and cross links, RSS syndication, Social bookmarking, Community building and Promotion. Here ‘s what our poll respondents had to say about how blogs help search engine rankings:
- @dericloh – community insights (content topics), content research / testing, conversation monitoring (voice of customer keywords)
- @Psychobel – relationship building from which SEO benefits accrue
- @seowolf – support for offline campaigns
- @mhillaert – drive people back to site with information sharing
- @janetdmiller – Crosslinking, new content for SEO, Twitter fodder, increase bot visits
- @mjdigital – quick turnover of content, community, auto sitemap/pings etc, quick indexing into Google Blogsearch
Obviously, the tactics used with a blog marketing effort should be based on some kind of goal. Some blogs are established to communicate with customers, some for prospective customers, some for the media and industry analysts and some for new hire candidates. No matter what the objective for a public, commercial blog, there’s almost always a need to “get the word out”.
Here are some of the blog SEO tactics and tips that were shared:
- @jachille – use custom fields to create custom META TAGS for optimal remote blogging with desktop apps http://bit.ly/8LwTW8
- @mjdigital – make your titles catchy so they stand out on SM sites, Twitter and bookmark lists
- @LexiConn_Inc – Using 301 redirects for SEO and Ecommerce http://bit.ly/SnG4L
- @goodseo – Urls should reflect the post’s title
- @seowolf – Keep in mind that your blogs are meant to be read by actual people, not the Search Engines, first and foremost
- @silvioporcellan – write periodically about other sites/tools in your industry and let the authors know about it
- @adamsherk – don’t let category and tag pages and the duplication that can come with them get out of control
- @SEOAware – (for beginner) crossmarket services pages with blog posts, optimizing for service location and location service
- @beebow – don’t shoot yourself in the foot by writing a kick ass post with a clever but totally irrelevant title
- @dericloh – Define goal > Insights > Learn > Test > Measure > Repeat
- @janetdmiller – Use SEO plugins in WordPress. They help streamline content editing for SEO, ex: title tag, metas, etc
- @lisabuyer – Frequency and be first to report
- @aimclear – MAKE A BIG ASS LIST~!
Despite clear goals, there are often objectives to adding blogs as part of a digital marketing or PR strategy. Time and resources are the most common issues described by our #blogseo poll respondents. In fact, of all the questions asked, this was the most popular and received the most responses. Here are a few of the obstacles to implementing blogs:
- @mhillaert – Taking the time to write an article, not knowing how to write good content, not knowing what to write about.
- @mjdigital – effort required to maintain valuable content + time and cost of creating custom themes – need to be different
- @TheKenJones – Setting the “right tone” to give promotional marketing benefits (my side) without coming across as bigheaded (theirs)
- @adamsherk – large publishers are sometimes concerned with using various helpful WP plugins for fear of security, reliablility
- @dericloh – Legal issues, regulation, commitment, spam filter / moderation, ownership
- @PRBristolblog – Time & resource are a big barrier to implementing blogs. Need to show the benefits regarding online PR / customer service etc.
- @ericfransen – Client doesn’t have time to provide proper content. I can write all day… but I want client to give me a good start
- @mikemyatt – clients seem to struggle most with content development. Everyone wants a blog – nobody wants to own content creation
- @matt_mcgowan – editorial control
- @beebow – when a client’s industry is either way too niche or way too broad to consistently publish relevant blog posts
- @jfernandez – Fear that blogs are not “professional” and “appropriate for business”
- @seowolf – Waste of time and effort, “we’re a serious company, not some bloggers”, “our customers don’t read blogs”
As an experienced blogger of 6+ years, time management is an issue for everyone, so I don’t think it’s a unique problem to blogging. It’s more a matter of value and expertise. Without a focus and plan, it’s easy for “writer’s block”, a lack of confidence or impatience to kill a blog. On the flip side, developing a process for content creation, feedback to motivate contributors, editorial guidelines, promotion off the blog and measurement can make a blog become and stay successful with a very reasonable amount of effort.
Like any other organized marketing effort, once you identify objectives and develop a content strategy, the task of measuring success keeps the investment in time and resources accountable. A blog started as part of an online public relations effort might focus on how many citations of the blog there are by other blogs and mainstream media web sites. A blog for customers might emphasize comment counts, RSS subscribers and product inquiries. Measurement should tied to goals and you can’t “score” a goal if you don’t know how or what to measure.
Here are some of the most important blog metrics cited in the #blogseo poll:
- @seowolf – The metrics really depend on the campaign. Generally, awareness indicators, the main site’s TrustRank.
- @silvioporcellan – on-site blog: position of articles for good keywords / off-site: links counted in WMT
- @dericloh – It depends on the business goal & objective for utilizing the blog (i.e. reduce customer support cost, voc, etc)
- @beebow – conversions, unique views, rank in SERPs #blogseo
- @mhillaert – number and quality of comments, statistics, ranking as leader in industry, retweets #blogseo
- @matt_mcgowan – conversions/engagement (time on site, subscriptions, comments, purchases, repeat visits), referrals, new visitors
- @ty_walker – When what you tell people to do actually works for them. Readers won’t be readers long if your material isn’t practical.
- @adamsherk – search referral traffic, inbound links, comments, engagement, social media sharing, RSS subscriptions
- @Mel66 – Subscribers, visits, comments, rankings, engagement (quality of comments)
- @ericfransen – Conversions, Engagements, Becoming your Industries Authoritative website #blogseo
- @mjdigital – community – subscriptions, comments, uptake, retweets etc A blog is nothing if no-one reads it + shares/acts on it
- @admrebak – obviously traffic to web page, bottom line, awareness, community growth, company image #blogseo
Companies that have started a blog often fall into comfortable schedules, since that’s the easiest way to manage tasks. Make checklists and processes and get people into predictable routines. However, staying competitive means staying current.
One way to stay current with blog SEO and blogging is to check out TopRank’s BIGLIST of search marketing blogs. What you read on other blogs should certainly be confirmed through your own testing and observations of social and web analytics.
That said, the bloggers from or poll shared a few of their favorite methods of staying current with blog SEO best practices:
- @mjdigital – reading seo blogs, following key SEO’s, analysing Google Analytics, seomoz
- @seowolf – RSS reader, using StumbleUpon topically, newsletters, Twitter and, occasionally, Facebook.
- @matt_mcgowan – events and keeping up on my reading #blogseo
- @michelleberdeal – Constantly listening to webinars & podcasts on this topic, reading blogs, researching, testing, measuring results
- @SEOAware – TONS of reading daily, research, experimenting, monitoring results, watching google, constant education
- @lisabuyer – Constant online reading and conferences
- @JDEbberly – I stay current with SEO practices by reading your (Online Marketing Blog) authoritative blog 🙂
- @beebow – read www.toprankblog.com 😉 attend conferences, regularly read posts by respected SEO/SEM/SMO bloggers. #sblogseo
- @aimclear – we do rigorous Daily Reading & Training to keep current, big 🙂 http://bit.ly/6EOWmI
- @mhillaert – authoritative blogs, networking, etc. Mostly blogs. #blogseo
- @janetdmiller – 1) Read blogs, 2) Attend conferences, 3) Discuss with others (twitter, etc.), 4) Test
Thank you to all the Tweet Poll #blogseo participants who you can easily find and follow on the #BlogSEO chat Twitter list.