Lee Odden

What Not To Do With Your Business Blog

This morning, and I mean really early morning, I went about my weekly perusal of about 50 or so SEO and SEM blogs. For the most part this is a very informative and satisfying experience. However, there are a few barriers to blog reader experience that I feel especially obligated to point out. These observations are relevant for any business blog:

  • Don’t make readers register or login to make a comment. What, you’re too lazy to manage all the comment spam? Or install a better spam filter? You’re lucky to get people to your blog in the first place. Why make it inconvenient to interact?
  • Please don’t publish content in PDF of MS Word format that would be just as fine as a web page. I hear you saying, what? Yes, there are a few blogs out there that post using a blog content management system, but publish longer articles, white papers, etc in other formats. At least warn readers before they click on the link.
  • Why oh why must so many blogs make it difficult to subscribe? Get an RSS button up above the fold. Add your RSS url to an auto discovery tag in the head template. If you really want to capture extra readers, add an RSS to email option like the one offered at Feedblitz.
  • Putting a lot of contextual ads (especially un-customized ads) on top or within the posts is just plain ugly and inconvenient for the reader. Seeing those ads instantly drops credibility for the blog and makes it look desperate.
  • If you are gracious enough to allow readers to make comments, perhaps responding to a few might be a thought? For those blogs that get a lot of comments, this can be difficult. Especially if you’re busy doing your regular job and don’t have a lot of time to spend on the blog all day. However, getting comments is one of the best signals of how well your content is resonating with readers. Most blog software will ping you an email when comments are made, so there’s no excuse not to make an appearance.
  • Who the hell are you? I can see if someone’s posting about their sexual exploits or trials and tribulations of pschosis being anonymous, but why does a SEO blog need to be written by Mr or Ms “X”? OK, in-house SEOs for monster corporations and some black hats have somewhat of an excuse. But at least present a persona. Otherwise, there’s no context for where the content is coming from. It might be getting scraped for all your readers know.
  • Not publishing the date or the name of the author of the blog post is one of my pet peeves. I like to know the post is current and I always like to know who (real or persona) has written the post. Otherwise, it looks like a trick to make the blog seem updated when it’s not.
  • You have such great content, why is it so difficult to find? Biggest offenses in this area are: No archives, no categories, no tags and no site search. C’mon people, this is easy stuff to implement and if you’re making it difficult for users to find your previous posts, chances are search engines aren’t having an easy time of it either. Just because it’s a blog doesn’t mean people are reading you every day and don’t need to see past posts. Show archives chronologically and by category. Offer related posts and recent posts. Give users multiple ways to find past content and you’ll increase repeat visitors as well as new visitors via search.
  • Along with being an anonymous personality, an anonymous and bland looking blog is about as memorable as a paper bag. Copycat minimalism and tempaltes may have worked in the early days of blogging, but with over 92 million blogs tracked by Technorati, it helps to stand out. You can do that easiest with the name, header and tagline of the blog. Clever blog names are great, but be literal in your tagline. Also the URL. This one, I am very guilty of because our url is toprankblog.com, yet we call it “Online Marketing Blog”. Early on this discrepancy caused a lot of confusion for readers and potential linkers to the blog.
  • I started with a goal of 5 pissy, whiny tips and here I am at number ten. This one’s for you. What are your pet peeves with blogs? What can Online Marketing Blog do to make your reading, revisiting and interacting experience better?

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    Lee Odden About Lee Odden

    @LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

    Comments

    1. These are good points to bring up with other bloggers. I really hate the blogs that just take/steal other peoples content and place it on their blog like they wrote it. I really noticed it when you linked to me Lee. I picked up quite a few more links from other bloggers scraping the Top Rank Blog post.

      I know when I catch this, I just shake my head. I’m sure their are a lot of surfers out there that don’t know this is happening and when they visit one of these stealing blogs they think that the content is actually coming from them, which is a shame.

      This might have gotten off topic but I wanted to vent too.

    2. My pet peeve is active blogs with just a few posts in their feed. You read something interesting and want to find it again a week later and it’s expired from the feed and then you have to spend a whole bunch of time with their inefficient site search or with Google to try to find the post.

    3. deltatango5 says:

      Excellent points!

    4. Sorry to send the scrapers your way Drew!

      Jay, that’s exactly my issue with most blogs’ navigation and method of archiving. I say the more the merrier when it comes to offering ways to find historical content.

    5. Ha – good stuff Lee…

    6. Good list Lee! one of the things that bothers me is what some bloggers put in their tags. when going through these blogs in my RSS reader I feel like I am getting spammed by all these keywords until you actually see the title of the post at the end.

      Also, the date of the post you mentioned in #7 is one that bothers me the most.

    7. People still do some of that stuff? Those are definately big turn offs…and one of my personal pet peeves is when a blog publishes inaccurate information in order to gain popularity and recognition!

    8. Carrie Hill says:

      Yeay! I just sent this to our internal Marketing guy and our CEO. I’ve been trying to get our blog spiced up for a long time now and the more evidence I collect, the better.

      Thanks Lee
      ~Carrie

    9. These are great suggestions for anyone looking to create or improve their business blog. In my own experience, a big turnoff to any business blog is a time-consuming login process or registering system when all you want to do is make a comment. It is an immediate turn-off. Organization (observation 8) is huge as well! A well-organized, easy to navigate blog is the key to a successful one.

    10. Hey Carrie, glad to help! Be sure to check out the 25 blog marketing tips and blog optimization tips as well. 🙂

    11. Whew, I’m just grateful I didn’t fail any of those tests. I was worried for a minute there. I really don’t come across most of those problems with the blogs I read, but #6 is one I struggle with. I’d love to know a little more about some of the people I come across.

    12. Dang … I have a post in my “drafts” called “10 Things I Hate About SEO Blogs,” and now you go stealing all my thunder. 🙂 Guess I’ll have to hold on to it for a couple months until people forget about this one. Ha!

      Anyway, Lee, I have no choice but to do #1 on my blog, and it doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting the amount of comments. I’ll spare you the long explanation why, but anyone who wants to know can search for “comment policy” on my blog and it’ll come up right away.

    13. Guilty on making commenters register but until I can get something like CAPTCHA installed for Movable Type (can anyone help me here), Iid rather have the registration. I just don’t have time to sift through thousands of junk comments each day to potentially avoid having good ones thrown out.

    14. Ed Kohler says:

      Great points, Lee. I think the ad placement one is particularly interesting. That really comes down to how the blog fits into the business. Is it to generate credibility, which generates leads, which generates business offline? If so, advertising could be costing the business money in the bigger picture.

    15. David and Matt, I am sorry say that it is highly likely that I have not commented on your most excellent content because of registration. The reality is, I’m the one that’s lazy. Or just too busy with so many blogs. Also, I’m not so sure mine is average blog reading behavior.

      Ed, you are spot on. Our blog for example has no ads, except the media sponsorships on the right. The whole blog is an ad in an indirect way.

      On the other hand, there are blogs like Technology Evangelist, Marketing Pilgrim and Search Engine Land whose purpose is to drive ad revenue and they do a fine job of ad placement.

    16. Good points Lee, registration issues are one of my biggest obstacles to commenting too.

      I expect to be able to comment in a heartbeat, I don’t like having to jump through hoops, life really is too short 😉

    17. My biggest complaint is sites that do not allow me to leave comments unless I register. I mean, I am willing to invest 3-5 minutes to write a comment on your site, but register, I think they are asking for way too much.

      Sorry Matt, every time I try to leave comments on your blog the registration stops me….it is too much to ask!

    18. Khalid – You will spend 3-5 minutes to comment but not 30 seconds (or less) to either register or log in to previous registration (i.e. TypePad, WordPress, etc.)?

    19. Carrie Hill says:

      Although I will login and comment if I have something important to say, 9 times out of 10 i cant remember the dang login.
      ~Carrie

    20. Number one is definitely the big one. SEOs almost all require registration, and frankly, I don’t want any email from a blog where I made a comment.

    21. fantomaster says:

      How about dropping the NOFOLLOW tag in your blog comments? What are you implying by keeping it – that you don’t trust your visitors?

    22. good points specially regarding comments!

    23. Was partially guilty on # 8 – no site search. This due to fact I had not yet adapted my site design to search template. Finally stopped being lazy and now have site search implemented.

      Why didn’t I do that a long time ago?

    24. Never enough “pissy, whiny tips”, Lee. Keep them coming!

      I’m guilty of a few myself but it stems from a “blog, not website” mentality. If I thought of my blog as a web site, it would probably have never gotten online since I am a perfectionist when it comes to web sites.

    25. Great tips. I heartily agree – especially with the comments thing. Why turn comments off on a blog? Then it just becomes a static site that gets regularly updated.

      I could do better with a few points though, like the search, and linking to some older posts. But mine’s only 15 days old, so that’s my excuse for now 😉

      Paul Hancox

      [Note from Lee:  Paul, you’re already getting a link – no reason to post your domain in the Name field. Please see comment policy.]

    26. Ralph, regarding NOFOLLOW, I suspect that’s default with this WordPress installation. That’s something Thomas does for me. Without registrations, and with spam filters, we still get quite a few spam comments daily. I don’t want to give any more incentives to increase that number.

    27. rich page says:

      Good points Lee. Some useful advice for you (and any other blogger) – its very hard to read your blog when its all just a big block of text, even with your bullet point systems. You need to make use of bold text, and come up with bullet point headlines, and put spacing between your bullet point entries. For example:

      1: Don’t make readers register or login to make a comment. What, you’re too lazy to manage all the comment spam? Or install a better spam filter? You’re lucky to get people to your blog in the first place. Why make it inconvenient to interact?

      Makes it way easier to scan. As we all know, people online don’t really read like the offline world. They scan, then read what they want to read. Hope that helped…

      Rich Page

    28. fantomaster says:

      Lee – while I can understand your not wanting to give comment spammers more incentive, all this clueless link hoarding really sucks magnificently. Because you might just as well argue that people aren’t too happy about commenting on your business blog when you treat them in this manner.

      And yes, WordPress (and all other major blogging platforms) does this by default, but there’s plenty of free DOFOLLOW type plugins around these days.

    29. Rich, I’m actually usually pretty good about bolding my bulleted lists, (see here and here) but this post was written at 5am after having been up for 2 hours. SI was just too tired to make it nice a pretty.

      However, you make an excellent point, so I think I’ll go back in and do some bolding. 🙂

    30. Ralph, I suspect that outside of the SEO/SEM industry, most blog readers and commenters have no idea what NOFOLLOW is.

      I see it this way:
      1. I could make people register to comment and disable nofollow.
      2. I can leave comments open and have nofollow turned on.

      I opt for the latter to encourage comments while discouraging savvy comment spammers.

    31. Mario Bonilla says:

      Folks, what a wonderful example of communicating is being had right now. It may be called social media, word of mouth marketing, blogging, “wasting time” by some old-schoolers, venting, sharing or even thought leadership. I believe it allows learning, success and civility to happen. Bravo to you Lee for bring us together.

    32. Brilliant points, Lee. I especially have difficulty understanding why some bloggers require registration before you can comment. Akismet does a pretty good job, and Defensio is a new tool that will be coming out to compete with Akismet. If spam is an issue, there are solutions.

    33. fantomaster says:

      Lee: You may be right about the general blog clientele not being aware of NOFOLLOW but being a bit of a black hat industry insider I can assure you that deploying it does absolutely no good by way of discouraging spammers.

      Serious blog spam is 100% automated and spammers don’t give a fig about that tag because it doesn’t cut the mustard anyway and never did.

      Ok, so I’m admittedly biased – for me, a “business blog” is usually about SEO/SEM, but of course that’s merely a minute fraction of the overall business blog market space.

    34. “I opt for the latter to encourage comments while discouraging savvy comment spammers.”

      I respect that, Lee, and if it works for you, you shouldn’t change. I opt for the former because it rewards people who do register and comment with a followed link. I would tend to agree with fantomaster that NOFOLLOW is not a spam deterrent, too.

      “I especially have difficulty understanding why some bloggers require registration before you can comment.”

      Tamar, because every blogger is different. 🙂 I blog at night. I don’t even look at my blog during the day because I’m too busy working, sometimes spending full 8-hour days at a client’s location. It’s not realistic for me to have open commenting and take the chance that someone’s gonna spam the daylights out of my blog and have it go untouched for 8-10 hours. Today. I checked my blog first thing in the morning, and then just checked again now — 11 hours later.

      (Lee, to answer the question you posted on Sphinn — no, because of the above.)

      My comment policy works for me. If anyone else isn’t able to babysit their blog all day, maybe it’ll work for you, too. Here’s the link, in all it’s no-followed glory. 🙂

      http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/2007/07/16/comment-policy-on-sbs-how-why-etc/

    35. Oh wow! It looks like a good lesson for all of us here!

    36. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read anything of value in a SEO blog. In fact, since I stopped reading blogs, I’ve discovered far more unique and creative ways to get links and have been trailblazing away since.

      Meanwhile, too many supposed SEO’s are trying to look good in front of other SEO’s. I’d rather spend that energy looking good in front of either my clients or my business bank manager.

      2c. 🙂

    37. Some call this a SEO blog Brian, what are you doing here? I agree you should stick working with clients and not this silly old boring blog.

    38. As usual, this is a solid post Lee. I wonder if someone can give or sell Brian a clue. Maybe he’s just having a bad day but it’s a shame he chose to share it with us.

    39. “Some call this a SEO blog Brian, what are you doing here? ”

      Timeout. 🙂

    40. “Don’t make readers register or login to make a comment.” Well said…. This is a big pet peeve of mine.

    41. Great points! As I read your list, I was making a mental tally of all of things that I am doing well and all of the things that I need to improve on my blog.

      As a relatively new blogger, I enjoy hearing what makes blogs valuable – and your article certainly helped. Thanks.

    42. RSS to email option offered at Feedblitz was a real discovery as far as I am concerned. The article is short, but informative, tnx.

    43. James Omdahl says:

      Having to login to post a comment ticks me off every time. I think that might be my biggest pet peeve with Search Engine Land.

      Poorly formatted ads that are stuck in the middle of the content hurt my brain as well.

      One I’d add is a poorly formatted blog. For some reason I can’t stand the header area of AndyBeard.eu – it’s great information but annoying design.

    44. Kevin Norman says:

      I’m glad that I passed the test for most of those too. Thanks for the article.

    45. All good points. I think I’ll point to this. Lots of people ask me about good blogging tips. 🙂

    46. Lee, you’ve got some great points here. I am trying to figure out how to turn on author name and date publication within WordPress right now. I’m a relatively new blogger, but have been doing SEO for over a decade. My blog is relatively new, would you mind putting me in the hot seat http://www.totus.us/seo-sem-talk/ and tell me what else I could improve on? …Great Read! Thumbs up 🙂

    47. OK Lee’s blog is one of the only blogs I truly LOVE in large part because of its predictability. And because he’s my husband 🙂

      I guess I’m sort of obligated!

      What tires me about many blogs are rambling diaries.

      I want to go to a blog that has predictable content – in terms of its subject matter – and yet challenges me to think in a different way!

      I don’t want to see a daughter blowing bubbles (no matter how cute) on a blog about search. Unless of course the blogger is sharing strategies for how to move “dog pet toy bubble maker machine” results above “bubble bra manufacturer” results in Google.

      I guess what I’m getting at is FOCUS bloggers! FOCUS!

    48. Camilet, you’ve made a great point. In fact I started inadvertently posting off topic items to my blog which is supposed to be of SEO focus only… I’m beginning to regret it. Long days and nights and birthdays turned my mind to wonder and get off topic. However, wanting to be focused, its hard for me to talk about SEO and SEM or at least write about it everyday! I mean heck I’m not superman, yet I want to keep a constant flow of material going… any suggestions? FOCUS, PASSION, …not wanting to BURN OUT 😉

    49. PS. Lee, you’re a lucky man! I wish my wife had half the interest in reading my blog, especially making comments.

      Cheers to Camilet!

    50. You hit the nail on the head, especially about the importance of login-free comments. This kicks the barn doors of a blog completely open. Business usually serves well to cater to the convenience of customers/clients, so why would users be any different? They’re customers/clients too, ultimately.

      A business who is so afraid of blog spam and doesn’t want to moderate, is not embracing this ‘not-so-new-anymore’ model correctly. A business who is semi-walling themselves from negative comments with logins, is at least partly disconnected from their whole customer/client base. I know I’ve opted to keep my questions or opinions to myself because I didn’t want another password to remember. That particular blog lost a chance to engage me and earn my attention or interest.

      The thing that makes this generation of web business and service IS the social interaction, which is much more than it ever used to be. But with all the now global competition, this social interaction, for better or for worse, is becoming a major key to survival.

    51. Failed point 1 until someone email me saying why do I have to register which you couldn’t at the time LOL..

      hehehehe..

    52. Kent Schnepp says:

      Good stuff Lee. Very valid points. I agree with all 10!

    53. Hi Lee,

      Well spoken and my two cents to this list.

      1. Register or login
      I hate that too, especially if they send an email that contains a randomly generated password or activation link. It takes time, usually the time it would take to write the comment itself, if not longer. Makes you think sometimes, if you “have to” comment or better take off without going through all that. The account management got easier for me since I use RoboForm.

      2. Publish content in PDF of MS Word format
      Sorry, never encountered that yet.

      3. difficult to subscribe
      Yep, in some cases are you lucky, if they kept the tiny standard link to the RSS in the footer (WordPress), but I had cases, where there was no link anywhere on the page and no auto-discovery tag either. I had to guess the feed URL (e.g. /atom.xml, /rss.xml, /index.rdf, /feed/ etc.)

      4. Contextual ads
      Agreed, even worse, if the content surrounds the ad

      5. Being gracious, respond to comments
      The people, who do not respond, even if the person who comments directly addresses them, are arrogant assholes who do not want to communicate and engage in a discussion. They use a blog for their ego trip.

      6. Who the hell are you?
      Hehe, it also helps to address the person who wrote the post “Hey Blogger Dude (Gal?!), I think….” 🙂

      7. Date or the name of the author
      Name, see 6), Date, I see your point, but in some cases is the blog used as just a publishing platform and the content published are actually well crafted articles that might not be that time-specific and somewhat timeless. However, I also prefer to see a date, even if it is not a “news” post.

      8. Archive architecture
      You are right, but it does sometimes require a bit more technical knowledge than some folks possess. The default settings of some blogging platforms are IMO insufficient and provide poor usability

      9. Bland looking blog
      Tells me that the person is not serious about it, because it takes either time or money = something of value. Not providing/investing this value tells me how much you value your own blog. ($0 <= Value <= $1)

      10. What can OMG do?
      Just continue to write what you have on your mind rather than thinking about what you should write about and what readers want to hear, unless you want to get around 5) and write stuff that provides no reason why anybody should comment.

      Cheers
      Carsten

    54. Hey Carsten, those are some great suggestions, thanks!

    55. A nice checklist, thanks for that…!

    56. This is a great list. Some of it is common sense, but it’s really unbelievable that people would still make the mistakes. I think it’s all about leaving our webmaster Internet marketing shells and putting ourselves in users’ shoes.

    57. Jason Bartholme says:

      I’m occasionally guilty of number five. Although I approve all the comments that come in, I sometimes drop the ball on replying. Not out of laziness, but I just get distracted.

    58. This article is a great proof that good content will attract traffic forever. It was published 8 months ago and brought me here today.
      I have just started blogging last year and already have pages on my blog that attract daily traffic from search engines.
      I liked this article a lot.

    59. I can’t disagree with one thing,
      some time ago Matt Cutts posted some holiday images on his blog..who cares..keep to the point..

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