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?
I direct clients to Blogspot since they are generally small, local oriented businesses. I agree if you intend to invite traffic in volume then other solutions may be better. New Blogger offers ease of use, is free and enjoys a decent network of user support.
Simone Carletti says
what about Target?
I think that you need to define goals but you need to select your target as well.
For instance, a SEM blog can be more “technical” oriented or “marketing” oriented.
IMHO you need to choose the right target according to your goals and not try to collect any kind of visitors.
What do you think?
Lee Odden says
Hi Simone, I do think Target is important and not unrelated to goals. Based on the goals for the blog, you define your target audience. Good point!
Jordan McCollum says
Since Blogger started the Custom Domains thing earlier this year, they will 301 to the URL you provide. AFAIK, they don’t check to see whether you’re actually hosting a Blogger blog on your new URL. (They haven’t with mine; I moved from Blogger to my own domain and WordPress almost a month ago and my old domain still redirects to my new one.)
I actually covered how to redirect your Blogger blog to your self-hosted WordPress blog on my personal blog, MamaBlogga. (How many times can I say blog in one sentence?)
Obviously, this doesn’t help you now…
Patrick Schaber says
Lee, great post! I had one up today also focused on initial decisions made when planning your blog. The blog address is also a concern that we have – it’s looking like we’re going with using our own subdomain and using WordPress on our servers. So many choices and so many goals!
Lee Odden says
Hi Patrick, using a sub-domain is certainly better than a third party hosting situation. But keep in mind, by using a subdomain, you are not going to gain the linking value any more than if you hosted under a completely different domain name.
ex: blog.company.com and http://www.companyblog.com are the same.
Search engines see both as unique web sites, not part of http://www.company.com.
Of course, you might have some technical reasons for the sub domain.
Patrick Schaber says
Yes, it’s the technical reasons I’m having to go with the subdomain. I’d really like to use WordPress and the server where our site resides is not set up well for the WordPress requirements (PHP, mySQL). Other blogging platforms have similar requirements so I’m not hopeful that a change in software would help.
I’m not excited about losing the benefits of the links. But, as mentioned in my post, we’re still going to realize the benefits from reaching our other goals.
reading “the metrics” i understand that google analytics is a must.
is there another analytics tool more comprehensive than this?
webee is a design blog
Lee Odden says
webee, yes there are more robust web analytics packages than Google Analytics, but for most blogs it’s more than enough.
China Law Blog says
If you want to be read in China, you must also consider that some hosters are always or nearly always blocked there. I have seen people start China blogs without realizing they are pretty much invisible to people in China. Big mistake.
I think people that does not write english that good have hard time become a popular blogger but hey for example I do it for my self and I share my thoughts but again it’s kinda sad that people just notice your grammar being bad :(. Therfore mistake no.1 if you don’t know how to write better then I do ? Dont even start blogging hahah at least not in English.
I just started a wordpress blog but wordpress is included in the website name. How do I change that? Why is wordpress better than blogspot, aren’t they the same thing?
Lee Odden says
Amy, you would have to upgrade or use the server side version of wordpress.org and your own hosting account.
what a timely advice, thanks for sharing your experience.
Julie Parker says
This was awesome. I have been a loan broker for 20+ years and am now doing blogs for the community development department at my company.
I am wondering if there is some special ettiquette when blogging? I also am wondering what are the best ways to invite viewers to your blog.
Julie Parker (Jujubebe)
Lee Odden says
Here are a few great resources on blogging I’d recommend: