Lee Odden

3 Reasons Why Blogs for SEO Fail

There are many benefits to publishing a business blog and improved search engine visibility is one of the most popular.  It’s pretty common advice to hear: start a blog and the fresh content will attract links, improving your search results.  Such tactical advice can be very effective.

Unfortunately, the advice gets filtered and distorted, not unlike what happens in the game “telephone” kids play. Pretty soon one or more blogs are implemented for the sole purpose and expectation of improving search engine visibility and nothing else. At least nothing else that’s accountable.

What’s wrong with this picture?   Blogs started solely for SEO objectives will inevitably fail.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. Lack of planning and oversight – After the honeymoon of starting a blog wears off, those tasked with writing content often get distracted by their other responsibilities. Bit by bit, posts look less and less like keyword optimized web pages and sink back to the familiar writing styles common to public relations and corporate marketing. Gone are the keywords that consumers are searching on. Gone is the traffic that used to come from search engines.

If SEO efforts persist, they can get sloppy without ongoing oversight either by an outsite SEO consultant or an internal blog champion (more about that in our next post). Keyword usage in blog posts can become disparate or worse, evolve into a keyword stuffing exercise.

2. No passion for the topic – With over 100 million blogs indexed by Technorati, it’s a wonder what happened to the 90% or more than have been abandoned or that don’t post more often than every 4 months. It takes commitment, thought out ideas and a sincere interest in a topic to be able to blog about it on an ongoing basis over the long term.

Can you imagine watching a 30 minute TV show or 2 hour movie you’re not interested in? How long does that last? How about a job you’re not interested in? Do you really excel at it? Do you do the best job possible and and do you stick with it? No, no and no.

As a result, bloggers who are not personally interested in a topic will encounter blogger’s block quickly and with a shallow level of knowledge on what’s being blogged about, readers lose interest quickly and do not return, subscribe or link.

3. SEO as we’ve known it is a dying breed – The loophole based SEO tactics of yore that brought incremental ranking advantages are being efficiently dealt with by search engines. So are paid links.  SEO will always have value of course, because as long as content can be searched on it can be optimized.

However, when it comes to blogs, consumer information discovery trends are involving social networks and social media at an increasing rate. Recommendations are competing with search. When looking at the web analytics of our blog and client blogs, social media traffic is in the top 5 referring sources of traffic. Blogs are social and social media sources will become increasingly important for many business blogging efforts in the coming year.

So, what can a company do to build upon and benefit from, the compounding equity that grows with long term blogging and SEO efforts? I’ll be answering that question specifically in tomorrow’s post on 5 Tips for Successful Blog Optimization efforts.

In the meantime, have you started a blog only to lose interest or stop contributing to it? What was your reason? What would you do differently?

Additional resources on blogging and blog marketing:

25 Tips for Marketing Your Blog

5 Reasons Why Business Blogs Fail

Blog Optimization

Best Blog Analytics Software

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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. Jaan Kanellis says:

    2a. Passion. You really need to love what your doing here so you can explain it with excitement. Using analogies that makes sense to everyday folks yet at the same time not dumbing it down to much for the experts. Keeping that passion up can be really draining to some.

    4. Dont just talk SEO. Talk about other topics on your SEO blog. It is OK to do that 🙂

  2. Excellent Lee and exactly what’s been going on in my situation, and the blogs of those I’ve been providing client services to. It’s easy to suggest it’s no passion for the topic but I really think it’s the lack of planning that stagnates most blogs.

    We can load up a WordPress blog in under five minutes on a sub $10 domain so I think the tendency to shoot first and fill in the blanks later is strong.

  3. 4. ALL SEO’S (YES, ALL) covers topics which were covered ages ago and are well known, from basic stuff to tdls, etc, etc, etc

    Which everyone knows already, expect for newbies. And they claim to be seo pros, writing tuts for newbies. Ah…

  4. I think this is a reason why you must write from the heart. SEO (white hat) should always be taken into consideration, but the best kind of writing is just shooting from the hip about things you find interesting. SEO should come naturally, or not at all, so to speak.

  5. You should never, ever blog exclusively for SEO. It’s what gets a lot of people started, but at the end of the day,you should blog to be a participant in the new and growing social media universe. That means you need to tell your story and be a part of the conversation. Social Media is bigger than search in page views, but it’s still the wild west for those trying to manage it like SEM/SEO.

  6. It is not always a good idea to talk about other topics. If you have a blog on SEO then you should not talk about the weather or your cat reading the newspaper just because you cannot find something to say. Apart from diluting the content, with so many blogs out there, readers don’t have time to keep up with the posts and it wastes our time to read unimportant posts.
    In addition, if everyone write every day then eventually you will need to write more and more posts just to keep pace with everyone else.
    Blogs can prove useful to give information to your customers in reviews, news and so on but it is a question of how much time you are willing to devote to writing good content.

  7. Thank you Jaan, Mike and Vygantas for the feedback. I love the idea of extending this to a larger list than just three reasons why blogs for SEO often fail.

    Brandon, I think blogging for SEO purposes in the context of black hat is an entirely different topic. This post is geared more towards companies that want to use blogs as a long term communications tool or to serve other business building related goals. Maybe a mix of writing what’s interesting but also keeping keyword messaging in mind will help bloggers get the best of both worlds.

    Mike, I really like your comment about telling a story. That’s really what conversation marketing is all about on the social web.

  8. Lee, excellent article. As a digital native, I’m always looking on how to stay on top, stay competitive. It’s good to read about how common SEO knowledge is quickly going under and new tactics need to be utilized and updated regularly to stay on top.

  9. Douglas Karr says:

    1 and 2, absolutely. 3 – I disagree. Your definition of SEO sounds like manipulation. SEO is simply providing content in such a way that search engines will see it as relevant content and produce it in search results. Although algorithms will change and become far better than what they are now, the same rules of relevance will always apply:
    a. Recency is better
    b. Frequency builds authority and backlinks.
    c. Talking about the subject you wish to be ranked on will always work.

    Relevance starts on the page and is confirmed off the page, not vice-versa.

    Additionally, search engines don’t weigh results from social media heavily because social media can easily be gamed.

    If social media were the answer to link popularity, then we’d all be searching Digg and not Google.

  10. Nice post Lee. My own experience is that clients do not initiate the “blog for SEO” approach as much as online marketers and SEO “professionals” do.

    I think many of us (professional marketers) have a tendency to live in a time warp. We push ideas that seemed to make sense 1 or 2 or 5 years ago, but many of which have simply been rendered obsolete by the changing web landscape.

    It’s not just search engines that have changed. People have changed in their attitude to the web. They want interesting quality content from reliable, trusted and familiar sources.

    In other words they want a return to a more rational, more traditional view of the place of the web. There is nothing new about this. It’s just a return to the way “it used to be” and a legitimizing of the web as a core communication channel rather than something odd or different.

    This is a refutation of the empty anonymous web model that has dominated our thinking for the first decade and a half of the development of the web, and of which raw, manipulative SEO practices are a symptom.

  11. Jaan Kanellis says:

    Sure it is Ned. I am talking about other topics that can tie into marketing. I agree you should know your audience and write to what they want or feel like they would want to read.

  12. Well, yeah, and that’s why there is so much junk on the Internet now.

    Let me find my cane so I can thump it on the floor a few times.. back in the day, we never thought about SEO at all. We thought about content, content content. Then Adsense came along and life was good for a while (ooh, extra money!) but shortly MFA sites followed, polluting the Internet and making it less valuable.

    Thumping my cane again and doing a “harrumph” or two..

  13. Hi Lee,

    Very thoughtful article as usual. I’ve seen blogs purely used for SEO fall by the wayside and a good thing too. Often the content starts well and as you say degenerates into “just anything.”

    The power of the blog in particular is building the personality of the owner and the company in a readers eye.

  14. I TOTALLY agree that Passion is a key part of success in anything. When the speed bumps come or a person is tired, they will QUIT BLOGGING if they don’t have a passion for the subject matter.

    I also think that SEO is turning more to SMO – Social Media Optimization! It’s all about connecting with the write audience. SEO will never die, but if SEM’s aren’t aware, they’ll get left in the dark!

    Great post Lee!

  15. LEADSExplorer says:

    Blogging for SEO will not keep you blogging.

    CEO’s, VP Marketing probably under estimate the amount of work a blog demands.
    – The blog addresses not only their customers but the general public. This exposes the more secure world inside a company to the outside. The blogger (CEO or VP Marketing) all of a sudden gets confronted with people he has no power on.
    – The blog content needs to be informative, entertaining and original every post – preferably several times a week.

    The ROI of blogging is not always evident to calculate, but the persistence will work in the long run.

  16. I respect the need to blog in absolutes (“3 Reasons Why Blogs for SEO Might Fail” would cut it), but I don’t think things are quite as black and white as you make it seem.

    Yes, you need passion. And, yes, you need a focused, well-planned blog.

    But I think it’s perfectly possible to do both with SEO as a central goal. I certainly think we’ve achieved that balance here at HubSpot.

  17. eh, I meant “wouldn’t cut it”.

  18. That’s a semantics issue Rick. It doesn’t say they “will fail”.

    If you read the entire post, you’ll understand this is an introduction to a second post that talks about leveraging SEO successfully with business blogs.

    Lack of passion and community building with a blog = lack of creative and interesting content. It’s just a matter of time.

    I write this post with over 5 years blogging experience and having helped many, many companies start blogs for a variety of purposes including a SEO tactic. Early success from the SEO focused blogs is not sustainable unless you bring something to the table more significant than keywords.

  19. Hey Douglas, social networking, bookmarking and news sites drive a significant amount of traffic to blogs and that will only increase as more people use those types of sites as places to make and get recommendations.

    To rely solely on search traffic for blogs is putting too many eggs in one basket. It pays to diversify otherwise you miss opportunity.

    Putting all the marketing emphasis for a blog towards SEO ignores the long term opportunities created by building a readership that values the content being published.

    Making a blog easy to find in search is only part of what makes the blog add value to a business. Visitors that pull themselves to a blog via search need to do something once they’re there that directly or indirectly helps the business reach its goals.

  20. it’s coming full circle – when i think of seo i think of what a real human would think about the page i’ve just written / website i’ve just built or comment i’ve just made. if a real person would find it useful, then so will google.

  21. Fresh and unique content really is the only way, even this can be outsourced to a certain degree. If it’s a serious marketing project tho there’s nothing better than writing your own valuable posts every day or two and building yourself a real asset. I’m always trying to keep upto date with the latest techniques and writing about them at AndyFh.com 🙂

  22. You know, I totally agree with Rick Hendershot. As marketers, WE see the value in doing what we do, not necessarily our target markets…

  23. I think your absolutely right, and I heard other pros in the web community warn against this and a lot of people did not agree. I will be launching a brand new content blog to be installed on my website because my passion outgrew my ability to keep up with new content. Now the new software will be able to categorize all my new content and instead of messing around with making pages I simply add new content so I can better serve my clients.
    In the world of the internet I often find myself asking “Where’s the Beef?”. It just seems like there is a lot of fluff and no tangible purpose for “stuff” to be up on the web other than people wasting other people’s time. This reminds me of the telephone, we got sick and tired of people wasting our time with nonsense so we bought answering machines. I wonder what a new answering machine for all the web nonsense will be. Maybe it will be another “don’t bug me list”.

  24. Thanks Lee. Very helpful article. Many clients are interested in using blogs for SEO purposes, but you’re right after the honeymoon period wears off who will manage and continually update the blog?

  25. Although blogs may have become less effective for business, the bottom line is that they still work for business SEO….and they work well. And even though 90% (or so) of blogs die on the vine for lack of activity, search engines still covet the chatter in blogs. I’m always impressed when I blog a very targeted key word and have #1 position in the SERP’s.

  26. A blog can be cumbersome and tough to commit to on a regular basis. I often parallel a blog to going for a run 4 times a week. At times your always looking for the excuse to just stay home. Its harder on your brain often than your feet.

    It needs to be part of your business plan or goal.

  27. I think your right about the commitment. Even if you are genuinely passionate about a specific area writing even one or two posts a week can be a challenging commitment. I think relying on only yourself as a blogger may be a part of the mistake. That being said having one or more extra copywriters handy to help your write posts may help with this issue. That’s how I manage my blog.

  28. I had an SEO blog and after 6 months I sold it for $3,500. The reason is, I was running out of topic.. LOL… and that’s fall on number 2… I lost passion… This is really a good read..

  29. Great post Lee. I agree publishing a blog purely for SEO is not sustainable.

  30. I have actually had to explain to people that blogs do not = SEO and that it requires more than blogging. I’ve noticed that real estate agents were the biggest culprits of thinking blogging = automatic SEO. But, to be fair, a lot of them were told about blogs by other “SEOs”.

    There are some SEO companies that push blogs and give the impression that blogs = automatic SEO.

    I’ve always told my people that blogs are a good addition and that IF they like to blog and write, then a blog can help them. But they have to be interested in writing all the time.

    I for one don’t like to blog too much – I have reactionary commentary but not blogging. I have friends who blog and they blog frequently. A love to write is critical.

    I tell people that the truth about blogs is that they are not magic. You have to work at it. You have to write – a lot. You have to build links to the blog – no one magically comes to your blog. And I tell people that a blog is nothing more than a glorified website; it’s easier to manage, but you still gotta do the whole thing as if the website was a regular HTML site.

  31. I definitely agree about having passion about what you’re blogging about. In order to create traffic, you need to engage the targeted audience. That’s one of the main principles of marketing. It’s also like any other means of communication. If you have no interest on your part of the conversation, the transaction won’t be going very far. This is the same when communicating to an audience. When the marketer doesn’t try, neither does the consumer, and there is no followup of a purchase or whatever the goal of the SEO is.
    A good marketer must generate interest in a consumer in order to be effective in their work, and whatever they put into it, is what they receive in return.
    GIGO.

  32. Vanessa, Phantom CTO says:

    These are core reasons why blogging just for SE rankings can’t work over time. Before blogging, you should always align your passions with a commitment or plan to deliver good value(content) over time. That’s the basis of a lasting blog.

  33. Great article — I’m curious about what you mean when you say, “The loophole based SEO tactics of yore that brought incremental ranking advantages are being efficiently dealt with by search engines.” Are you referring to content or to techie, gray hat techniques?

  34. Brent, yes for the most part the types of things that search engine spam teams or quality teams are addressing. Some are not gray or black hat per se, but they are a capitalization on a search engine weakness. Advantage is often short term, so it’s important to manage risk by not emphasizing those kinds of tactics but rather on longer term, more creative and compelling marketing.

  35. Thanks — that clarifies things. What companies need to understand is that the barriers to entry that have till now stood between them and favorable SEO have been technical and sometimes expensive; now, however, even as these barriers to entry disappear, one major barrier remains: time. It takes time to develop creative and compelling written content.

  36. I have jumped onto the blogging for business bandwagon for the sole purpose of helping my clients rank higher on search terms. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. I do agree that just creating a blog to create incomings for a website will dilute the effort.

    I have a few clients that I am developing blogs to be online magazines, and not your blog. The new Revolution theme that is out there is one such platform. Ask yourself this question: how will my blog site tie into my current main website? How can it become a resource for my customers? If you have a site about custom cabinets, then have a blog site dedicated to being a how-to guide to assembling cabinets for the do it yourselfer.

  37. On the point that SEO is a dying breed, SEO needs to adapt. Lead generation should be the ultimate goal, not just rankings. Rankings are of course still important, but it should be about ROI and that means generating new business through SEO effots.

    There is a new company out their called VoiceStar, http://www.voicestar.com. These guys have developed a proprietary platform that allows SEO professionals to track their SEO efforts for their clients. It is also a means for SEO professionals to upsell their clients and get an additional revenue stream. The point is that a piece of code goes on the client’s website and a tracking number that looks like a phone number is put on the website. When a prospective customer comes to the website and calls that phone number, it gets recorded for the client. This is a great tool for SEO professionals to quantify and measure their work.

  38. No magic bullets. Even in blogging it seems most will fail because there is work involved. Thank you, very insightful….Greg

  39. Great post. This really puts SEO in long-term perspective for me.

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