It’s a Blog Eat Blog World

In the competitive world of blogging, writing strategies have to adapt to make sure that they’re up to par with the current state of SEO. If you’ve been writing the same way for years while ignoring the state of search marketing and blogging best practices, it’s time to STOP!

An important aspect of content creation that has drastically improved is linking and keyword density. Instead of focusing on hitting a certain keyword ration or word limit, an emphasis is placed on the quality of the content you create. Whereas these types of blogs used to bring in the link juice that your site needed, the power of guest blogging and article spinning has decreased over the years.

The argument is that those types of links can be easily bought or manipulated. While quality sites practicing white hat techniques should be rewarded for working harder to earn those good links. Quality over quantity is the mantra to aim for.

Another aspect of blogging that has changed for the better is integration with social media. Nowadays, you can’t just write a post, expect it to stay dormant on your domain and bring in the linking power. Sharing posts on social media sites is an important part of bringing in more readers and showing search engines that your blog is relevant through social shares.

Lastly, content freshness through blogging has become a convenient and easy to way to keep your website active. On-site blogs that accumulate social shares will bring a wider audience to your website. This will help establish your voice as an authority in an industry and also get search engines to consistently crawl your site for new content.

Off-site blogs have also become a useful tool for businesses to use for branding, reputation and relevant co-citations. Although these don’t necessarily need to be tied directly to your website, it’s a great alternative to building authority.

Start a Business Blog with Purpose

You know the feeling of excitement when starting to write on a fresh pad of paper or notebook? Business blogging can be the same way. It’s never too late to start thinking of consistently blogging about your business, no matter what size it is!

Before You Even Start
First off, it’s important to determine what type of blog is most suited for your business. Read our blog post on: The Pros and Cons of On-Site and Off-Site Blogs to find out which would work best for you. Again, you want to think of SEO benefits as well as branding.

Who are You and Who are You Writing for?
Next, think of the tone, style and voice you would like to convey to your audience. Although blogs are most interesting when readers can relate to the writer, having a ghost blogger, guest writers or taking on the voice of the company as a whole is also acceptable. Which leads to the next important ingredient – passion and purpose.

Blogging Goals
Starting a blog solely for ad space or affiliate clicks isn’t what blogging is about. You’ll come across blogs that don’t actually have content and repost news articles that exist solely for this purpose. And guess what? In the eyes of search engines and readers, they won’t survive in the long run.

The objective of your blog should be aligned with your business goals. It can be as formal or informal if you want and updated as frequently as you like. The key is to be consistent with your choices. Not convinced? A popular study showed that there are 2 main factors that are essential to sales success: 1) to be perceived as an expert in your field 2) to be likeable. Guess what, blogging for your business can help you in both these areas!

Time for Inspiration
Check out some of these business blogs for inspiration. Also, feel free to share your blogging tips with us on Facebook:
Cure Thrift Shop
Nuts About Southwest
Blackberry
Whole Foods
Ice Cream Journal

Boosting B2B Blogging

If you’re having problems consistently blogging, you’re not alone. 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, a study by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, shows that producing enough content is a big challenge that B2B marketers face.

Here are a few tips that can help you stay on track and continue to create content:

Don’t stop! After all, inactivity is the worst for your business blog. It’s still surprising when I come across companies that advertise blogging services have blogs that haven’t been updated for months or even a year.¬†It happens but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed by a few posts every now and then.

Get outside help. In the study above, about 44% of companies outsourced their content creation. While this is leaning more towards in-house, hiring outside web copywriters or ghostwriters can help tremendously. Although effective blogs usually have a personable voice that readers can identify with, there’s nothing wrong with getting a ghostwriter. For example, they can help with creating e-books, whitepapers and other downloadables that customers can share.

Don’t get stuck on writing. Did you ever think about blogging without actually writing? Instead, think about posting videos, pictures and slideshows via Slideshare, which is especially popular and effective on B2B blogs. (If you’re more into creating different content, see Rand Fishkin’s videos for SEOmoz’s Whiteboard Friday and Matt Cutts’ Q&A videos for Google Webmasters.)

It’s easy to get tired of writing and sticking to strict rules like 1000+ words and 2% keyword density can quickly suck out all the fun of blogging. Don’t forget to turn to your peers for inspiration and motivation. Check out these helpful articles: 3 B2B Blogging Strategies You Need to See, 10 B2B Companies That Create Exceptional Content, Blog Awards: The 13 best marketing industry blogs (according to you)

The Pros and Cons of On-Site and Off-Site Blogs

Should I have an on-site or off-site blog?

This age old question has been revisited, dissected and criticized! Let’s take a look and the positive benefits and potentially negative effects of having an on-site versus an off-site blog:

ON-SITE BLOGS
+ Update new, relevant content. On-site blogs are an efficient way of adding fresh content to an otherwise static site. Google will crawl your site more often because blogs are crawled more frequently than regular web pages. (Google Freshness update, anyone?)
+ Benefit from social media signals. If you have Facebook, Twitter or even Share functions on your blog, your site will get to benefit as a whole every time a reader interacts.
+ Attract relevant traffic and bring clicks to your site. More traffic and time spent on site means more clicks and that will hopefully translate into more conversions. The argument here is why would you want to take that away by diverting that traffic off-site?
+ Talk about your business. Hopefully, you’ll talk about more than just yourself on your on-site business blog but this is the perfect platform to link to your content, social media profiles, awards, new videos/commercials and anything else that’s relevant to your company. If this is your plan on an off-site blog, it could be perceived as suspicious to visitors, as well as search engines. If you’re blogging about something relevant to your site, why is it hosted on another site and not the same one?
- More content to manage. Depending on how often you update, your website could grow at an alarming rate. Remember that quality matters over quantity and old or over-optimized linking practices on an on-site blog can come back to haunt you.
- Writer’s block. Writing for your on-site blog might be hard if you run out of relevant things to write about. It can be difficult to maintain a professional tone if you start posting about off-topic subjects. Of course this depends on your your industry but if you want to post about personal topics, an on-site blog might not be the place for it.

OFF-SITE BLOGS
+ Leaves from for off-topic posts. An off-site blog means that you’re not expected to talk about just one certain topic or business all the time. You have more creative freedom and can use it to leverage the content on your main site.
+ Diversify search results. Since search engines are more interested in providing a variety of results, an off-site blog can help you target the same keywords/phrases while not coming from the same domain.
+/- Linking opportunities to your main site. Remember, this is a benefit but it can quickly diminish. Incoming links from off-site blogs can look suspicious or spammy if your posts are over optimized and always link to the same exact match anchor text. This is also the case if your off-site blogs are the only place that your main site is getting back links.
- Divert traffics from main site. Like we mentioned above, blogs are a great way to attract attention but it’s no good if that traffic isn’t harnessed to your main page.
- Reputation management. Even though off-site blogs aren’t directly affiliated with your main site, it’s important to be in control and aware of how your professional image is portrayed. This isn’t the place to go way astray and post pictures of hot girls in bikinis just because you want to.

Either way you choose to do things, blogging is a great strategy for a small business. There’s great potential to grow your brand while increasing SEO visibility. Let us know your take on on-site vs off-site blogs.

Dreading Google Updates? 4 Memes You Might Relate To

If you’ve noticed that your website traffic and/or search rankings were significantly down this week, you might have been affected by Google’s EMD and Panda 20. How convenient of Google to release these updates right before the weekend and so close to each other that site owners will have a hard time figuring out what went wrong. Like the Panda and Penguin algorithm, the exact match domain updates will also be reoccurring in the future.

During this tumultuous time, many webmasters are becoming increasingly frustrated with keeping up with acceptable SEO best practices. Here are 4 memes that may properly convey the emotions that you can’t quite put into words:


1) Derp guy best represents owners who are clueless about their website and Google’s quality guidelines. Many businesses have websites that are built, optimized and forgotten. Even though it might not seem like that long ago, the SEO world is always evolving. Recently, it’s constantly changing at an even faster pace than most SEOs can keep up with. Some search marketing companies provide clients with quarterly or semi-annual reports. Don’t wait! In the midst of all these algorithm updates, if you haven’t heard about the state of your website recently, it’s time to ask and get informed. No more herp-derping allowed.


2) Rage guy knows exactly how you feel. Your site was a well-ranking exact match domain that virtually disappeared from SERPs overnight. All because an exact or partially matched domain that was purchased years ago? Why, Google… why? It’s too early to tell exactly what the factors are but sites from all different industries have been affected. Dr. Pete’s early analysis of 1000 sites showed that even credible, established sites like the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) can take a hit, all because of the “exact match” domain – charterschools.org. While your rage is warranted, it’s best channeled into productive activities. This means not trolling search marketing sites and leaving negative comments about Matt Cutts or Danny Sullivan, but rather researching them for your plan of action.


3) Challenge accepted guy can relate to rage guy, but differs in that he’ll do something constructive about it. Sometimes, you just need to ask for help or have a different set of eyes look at your website, back link profile, quality of content etc. Who says that you have to go through this alone? Many companies are available for consultation, you can get training and learn from webinars/seminars. And there are also helpful forums (like Google Product Forums) for free feedback. Challenge accepted guy isn’t going to let Google discourage him from regaining his rankings, especially before the busy season of the holidays. Let’s do this thing!


4) Forever alone guy is feeling alone. He just can’t take it anymore! After Penguin’s massive hit in April, his site traffic has virtually dried up. No clicks, no calls and no emails. Visitors that make it to his site aren’t even sticking around and his bounce rate is high as ever. Social networking? Forget about it… this guy has no interest in social signals. But then again, what loner does? Don’t feel too bad for him though, he might just try his luck on loneliness with Bing or Yahoo. At least then, he won’t feel so alone…

Was your site affected by the recent algorithm updates? Feel free to share the meme that best describes your feelings.

SEO Keywords: Are You Branching Out?

Nowadays, exact match domains and anchor text can be a huge no-no. The focus on being search engine friendly is to include more natural and user-friendly terms that actual humans would search.

Why Variation is Important
In the post Penguin-era, it’s important for an SEO campaign to include different keyword variations, synonyms and long tail terms to catch everything that could fall in between the cracks. In some industries, such as the health or legal field, it can be difficult for clients to give the okay on including more broad or all encompassing terms. The key here is to have content with the correct jargon but to be open to the idea of focusing on queries that customers are likely to search, even if it’s not “technically” correct. There are ways to make this point clear with the content you add and educate your visitors.

Search Traffic Matters
It may be difficult to explain to clients why it’s important to focus on terms that they aren’t necessarily interested in. For example, if they are only interested in very specific phrases with low to no search traffic, aggressively pursuing these keywords might not bring a worthy ROI. On the other hand, focusing on related terms that are searched more often will help bring relevant visitors you need to your site. Once you establish favorable rankings focusing on these keywords, you can zero in on more niche and specific keywords. Having a strong foundation to tie it all back to is important in maintaining your rankings.

Are You Convinced?
Branching out of your most desired keywords list also means including branded terms and even throw away terms. Of course, you’ll still have a main list that you’re actively optimizing for, but it doesn’t hurt to diversify.

Check out these helpful articles on keywords, anchor text and more:

SEO Analytics, Middle Earth-Style
Google Penguin Update: Impact of Anchor Text Diversity & Link Relevancy
Anchor Text Variation in your Link Profile: Do It

7 Signs That Your Company Blog Sucks

Judging by analytics, social engagement and other metrics, there are plenty of ways to tell if your blog sucks. If you’re indifferent or oblivious, it’s time for a wake up call! Take a look at some ways that your blog content strategy isn’t up to par:

1) You never link to others – ME, ME, ME… is this all you ever talk about? This is definitely not a good sign. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to link to your direct competitors but spread your links out to give readers credible resources or recent news stories that are interesting and relevant. Not only are you being helpful but it shows that you’re keeping up with reliable sites in order to provide them with the best information.

2) Write solely for search engines – If your blog topics seem to be repeating themselves it might be a sign that you should start writing for people instead of robots. Thin content is not a way to win readers. Another tell-tale sign is always using exact match anchor text, scheduling several posts at once and not updating consistently.

3) Your topics are not focused - If your blog is bouncing from topic to topic without a relevant connection, it’s time to stop. There’s a place for that… your personal blog, Tumblr or social media accounts. For niche industries, it’s easier to stay on track but for others, it can be easy to stray away from your main industry if you’re suffering from writer’s fatigue. The cure? Rest, read and write more!

4) You don’t deliver on what you promise – Nowadays, there are many ways to come up with well-written headlines that are destined for link bait fame. But make sure not to skimp out on the content. If you’re going to promise readers something grandiose (like effective li

5) You’re lacking in the spelling and grammar department – Skipping spell check isn’t a good idea and there’s always a chance that a competitor or client will catch it and question your qualifications. Remember, the grammar police do exist! I’ve seen one message recently from a site visitor (pointing out a slight misspelling) with a note that it “takes away from the professional feel of the site.” Yikes.

6) You’re dishonest – Examples include rating a product that you’ve received for free or for compensation without disclosing it. Another example might be a marketing company writing about top marketing campaigns and including one of their clients, also without disclosing it. Also, spewing out facts and statements without proper citations. Trust me, readers aren’t stupid and all it takes is one sentence disclosing your association so that it doesn’t look like your company has something to hide.

7) There’s no clear call to action – Your blog posts must have a point for existing. Are you providing free information, entertainment, resources or offering to help solve a problem? Don’t forget to encourage some action either in the beginning or at the end of your posts.

Do you have any other pet peeves that you’ve seen company blogs succumb to? Comment and let us know or join us on Facebook to continue the conversation!

What Highlander Can Teach You About Online Marketing

By some inexplicable feat, Highlander has become a cult classic. The 1986 has been deemed a “confusing movie that makes no sense” by some and “a top 10 fantasy film” by others. Regardless of your opinion, there are important things this film can teach you about online organic marketing. Let’s take a look:

“There can only be one” – This catch phrase is repeated throughout the movie, especially when one “immortal” is about to be killed. This memorable quote has stuck by the movie for over 25 years. Now, that’s branding! Take this into account with your own brand message or mission statement. It’s important that this message accurately represents your business and is something that you can relate to for years to come. And remember, some of the most famous taglines are the most simple.

Attract attention in the right ways – What makes sense about having a Frenchman (Christopher Lambert) playing a Scottish warrior? Or having a Scottish man (Sean Connery) play a Spaniard? These bizarre casting choices brought Highlander attention, which has earned its place in cinematic history. If the internet and memes existed back then, you bet that bloggers would be all over this film! Attracting attention is important and sometimes, it doesn’t entirely make sense. Viral videos, anyone? The point is, these precise choices were made to raise awareness and interest in the film.

Re-work and re-write for remakes – Audiences love remakes and reboots, so it only makes sense that Highlander is slated to be restarted with Ryan Reynolds. What better way to get the public interested in an old franchise than with a handsome, young star? If you apply this strategy to your content, it only makes sense. It can be difficult to decide whether to trash a page that doesn’t rank well or to try and fix it by re-working it. As we know the value of older domains, it’s helpful to keep strong, SEO-friendly URLs whenever possible. Instead of starting over completely, you can use the page/topic as a starting point to come up with something newer and more relevant to your customers.

Sometimes, we can find inspiration in the strangest places. Let us know what you think about Highlander and all things internet marketing!

Search Marketing Odds & Ends

For your Friday: here are some helpful tips that we all hope you can benefit from.

Don’t focus on just one factor: When it comes to metrics and analytics, it’s difficult but sometimes, you just have to pull through! Focusing solely on one measurement whether it is Page Rank, bounce rate, or clickthrough rate can cause you to lose focus of other measures as a whole and lose sight on the big picture. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear about a client who complains of being outranked by a competitor for 1 particular term… even if they are outranking that particular competitor for 10 different terms! In other words, pick your obstacles and choose wisely.

LinkedIn Answers and Avvo: These are both reputable Q&A sites for business professionals. Being active can help increase your credibility in the community. Bonus: as you become more active, your search engine visibility may also increase as these trustworthy sites are favored in search algorithm.

Don’t be intimidated by updates: Google Panda updates or algorithm changes can seem like a scary thing. The important thing is to stay in tune with what’s going on. As we’ve always said before, if you haven’t dabbled in black/grey hat linkbuilding methods, you should be in the clear. Many times, these announcements drum up anxiety and panic causing people to go out and make sporadic changes to their site. In the mean time, they may very well be doing unnecessary damage to their own site and blaming the drop in SERPs to the updates.

Put the most important things first: This goes with content, Facebook updates and Tweets and anything else you want to link. In a more specific example: we are conditioned to think of Twitter updates in 140 short characters. Think again – how about 45 characters, instead of 140. Many people have found that while whole Tweets are indexed, the messages are truncated in results at about the 45 character mark. While it’s tempting to please the search engines, remember to put real human readers first.

Don’t believe the SEO is dead hype: While the tactics of search marketing from 5+ years ago are “dead”, SEO is far from dead. An increasing number of these articles are showing up for many different reasons: link bait, shifting the focus on alternative search marketing strategies (local and social) or even just because SEOs who want to be disassociated with the myth that all search engine optimization is spam. Make sure to check out this article to see why SEO will never really die.

Stay tuned for more odds & ends and have a great weekend!

Knowing When to Quit Blogging

quit bloggingAll good things must come to an end – or so they say. Is it time to quit your business blog? If you’ve had this feeling for quite some time, or feel that your blog isn’t a useful asset to your company, it’s time to take a comprehensive look at what you can do to go through with it or to change your outlook completely.

Whether browsing client-specific industry blogs or getting ideas from other online marketing blogs, I find it interesting to see a growing amount of un-updated and un-interesting blogs. I can’t help but ask myself, why are these blogs still here? Sure, it might take some time to come up with a blog topic but seeing posts from 2009… really?

Blogging takes commitment, perseverance and time management. If you don’t have any of these qualities or aren’t willing to hire anyone who does, it might be time to shut your blog down all together. Some people argue that they would rather see no blog, than to see a blog that hasn’t been updated for months or even years. Here are some other signs that you should quit blogging:

– No new visitors to your blog
– Your blog isn’t bringing traffic to your main site
– You don’t want dedicate yourself to blogging
– You feel burnt out and lack inspiration
– You’d rather invest your time and resources to other forms of online organic marketing

These are all valid reasons to quit blogging. And this doesn’t have to be a permanent move. You can also hide your blog from main view on your site until you’re ready to pick it up again or start anew later. Because really, if there’s a blog button front and center on your home page – people are going to expect recent and interesting news!

If you still have some inkling of hope that your blog can make it, chances are that it can! If your blog has some hefty content from the the past, it might be worth it to suck it up and continue blogging every so often. As PageRank improves over time, these pages will become a valuable and some-what permanent asset to your business. You’ll be surprised at the different ways customers can find you online – it doesn’t have to be just through your main site.

For more information or help on maintaining your business blog, contact us today!

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