Tom Levers

Blogs – the DoDo Bird of SEO

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, Partner alliances, PUBLIC RELATIONS, SEM by Tom Levers on September 30, 2009
The DoDo Bird of SEO

The DoDo Bird of SEO

Have you started a blog only to lose interest, or stop contributing  because no one is reading it?  What should you do differently?

There’s all sorts of  blogs and yet so many have content that is never read.  In fact, there are a tremendous number of business blogs that are not realizing much of their potential. Take this blog as an example.

Why? Because it is not optimized…. so focused on content creation that even though I know what to do… I do not use my own knowledge.

This is very much the same scenario that occurred with web sites  pre-and post tech bubble. I worked with lots of computer industry partners and I mean Lots of them. But afterthe largest management consulting sites got their site up and running, the traffic didn’t come by itself. So we optimized for search engines and that was the start of my SEO experience. Blogs can generate traffic without search engines, but WITH search engines it can be even better.

With blogs, there exist as many or more optimization opportunities to optimize as with a web site. The thing about internet marketing is that there is no “one right way” to solve a single problem. So much of the advice and commentary about content optimization for search engines at conferences and on blogs is tactical. While most blog software is more search engine friendly out of the box than many web sites, the opportunities for blog optimization are readily available. There is a long list of blog optimization tactics to employ.Why optimize your blog?

  • Increase rankings of the blog on BOTH regular search engines as well as blog/RSS search engines
  • Increase traffic to the blog from multiple sources such as social search and social bookmarking sites (del.icio.us, Digg, Furl or Blogmarks)

A blog is just a website that uses a content management system, so most standard SEO tactics apply. There are also optimization tactics specific to blogs.

Consider keywords when writing your blog post titles. Some blog software allows plugins that can suggest keywords. Otherwise, you can use Google Suggest or one of these free keyword suggestion tools: Digital Point, SEO Book or Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Keywords should NOT determine your content (unless it’s an AdSense blog).
Optimize the template. Make sure post titles appear in the title tag and append the title tag (hard code) with the most important phrase for your blog.

Neanderthal SEO for Blogs

Neanderthal SEO for Blogs

Also use the blog post title as the permalink. If you’re using keywords in the blog post title, then they will occur as anchor text in the permanent post link. While you’re at it, just make the post title a permalink.

Make it easy for your blog readers to subscribe and include RSS feed subscription buttons or “chicklets” in a side bar or on a dedicated Subscription Info page. Here’s a handy RSS Feed Button creation tool.

Optimize Categories. When you create categories for your blog, be sure to consider keywords in the titles. When you post, be sure to default to a general category that is relevant no matter what the post is about. Choose multiple categories on each post when appropriate.

Social bookmarking sites can be excellent sources of traffic to your blog, so be sure to make it easy for readers to bookmark your blog posts. You can do this by adding some code to your blog template for each of the major social bookmarking sites. Here’s a tool for social bookmarking links. Submit your blog to RSS and Blog directories. Also submit the blog to regular directories such as (DMOZ, JoeAnt, GoGuides, MSN Business Central, etc) that have categories for blogs.

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 to RSS and Blog directories. Also submit to the regular directories such as  (DMOZ, JoeAnt, GoGuides, MSN Business Central)  

 

Blog Extinction

Blog Extinction

Ping the major RSS feed and Blog search engines each time you post. This can be configured with blog software such as Movable Type or WordPress to work automatically. If you’re using Blogger.com, then you can do this manually with Pingomatic or Pingoat.

Comments and Trackbacks – Be sure your blog software is configured to send a trackback ping to blogs that you cite within your posts. Pay attention to press releases distributed by PRWeb. If you cite a release, and ping the trackback link, the press release will in turn link to your blog. This is better for driving traffic than for link popularity.

Make useful comments on other blogs. Your name will be linked to the blog url that you enter. Do NOT make comments that offer no value to the blog post. Do NOT use keywords in the field for your name, use your name or blog name.

Offer RSS to Email. Almost 30% of blog traffic comes from readers that perfer to read blog posts via email. There are several free services available for this including: FeedBlitz , Squeet, Zookoda (this one is more for using blog posts as a weekly newsletter), RMail and Bloglet.

No matter how many optimization tactics you employ on a blog, there is no substitute for quality content. Blog optimization is only as effective as the quality and usefulness of the content you’re optimizing.

Here are some simple steps for managing blog content, long term:  Create a keyword glossary, much like you would for a website SEO project. Identify an editorial guide as well as post types and key topics. Assign a blog champion, someone that “owns” the success/failure of the blog. The blog champion will provide content and editorial oversight as well as recruit other contributors.

The blog champion performs another important function, feedback to the contributors. This goes beyond a simple “thank you” but may also include reporting on the number of comments on posts contributed, inbound links, increases in RSS subscribers and mentions of the blog post on other blogs. Providing individual as well as overall feedback to contributors helps them see what impact their efforts are making.

Socialize.Blogs are a big part of what makes up social media, so it’s important that bloggers are social for a successful blogging effort. A few of the ways blogs can be social include:

Wrap up For a successful business blogging effort that leverages search engine optimization, it’s important that the blog serves a functional purpose intented to help the business reach a particular goal. SEO is involved in order to extend the reach and “discoverability” of the blog.

Blog optimization is both a one time event with the templates but is also an ongoing process involving keyword glossaries that help determine post level keyword usage, internal anchor text and off site anchor text.  Running out of ideas and people to contribute to the blog can mean certain death, so be creative with content sourcing and formats. Listen to what blog readers respond to and give feedback on to guide editorial.

Blog software offers many social features. Use them! Grow a network that leverages the blog as resource and as a way to recognize contributors.  Monitor real time content opportunities as well as blog analytics so you can offer the kind of feedback that motivates continued contributions both from the C-Suite in the form of funding and from the B-Suite in the form of content and comments.

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Using Search to Predict a 2009 Message

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 22, 2008

20094 Search can measure emotions

At the turn of the new millennium, experts started using the technique of viewing Search trend data to predict demand.  As the use of the internet grew, so did the confidence of Search forecasts. Just as you can use Search results for econometrics, you can also measure trend data of basic needs, behaviors and emotions.  With the release of Google “universal search” in late 2007, videos, images, news, maps, books, and websites can be retrieved to give real time results.

As the economy of 2008 comes to a close, we are looking at a more profoundly uncertain economic environment than most individuals and companies have ever faced. Now, even Keynesian alternatives such as the Austrian Economic model show significant trend data. Uncertainty surrounds not only the downturn’s depth and duration but also the very fear of a changing global economic order.  The unknown economic condition becomes a fertile ground where the emotion “fear” grows.  

Many of the relevant economic key word trends point to “Fear” as a rapidly growing behavior.  Because of fear, the transmission of our evolutionary hierarchy has downshifted consumers adollar2nd business into survival mode. 

Think Twice Before You Cut

If there is a budgetary choice, now is the time to grab market share. Time and again we have seen companies that market their way through a poor economy and end up coming out the other side with share gains and stronger brands compared to competition. While P& L is key, “When times are tough, it is time to invest, not cut. This comes from years of research dating back to Ogilvy’s Alex Biel and Millward Brown interaction surveys. Showing that if we cut marketing during these times, the impact is damaging and it can take you longer to get back to where you were.”

Is your marketing message communicating one of these benefits?  New, More, Bigger, Faster, Better. They do not work when fear exists.

We have switched our attitudes from acquiring to defending (the aggressor to the protector), and the search engine can be used as a quantitative research indicator that can guide your marketing message.  We’ve gone from dreaming about acquiring to worrying about defending when you run key word searches.  There are many examples, like the key word “New”, dropping significantly to just over 6 billion hits on Google. We are constantly looking for more … life, money, love. We are hardwired to look for more.  As Abraham Maslow pointed out, there is a hierarchy of human needs and drives, but “Fear” will always override the need to “Acquire.” Search used correctly shows the marketer our collective needs, behaviors, hopes, and wish fulfillment.

What questions are you asking?

There is a resistance from the manifestations of fear. As a result, marketers need to adapt the message to move beyond the promotion of  “Do Not Fear”. By looking at “Confidence”, “Safety”,” Protection”,” Stability”, and “Assurance”…. these key words are trending up,  but a successful message must have more.  Consider adding a “Dream” to your “Do Not Fear” message.

Just because we have gone into “Defend” mode, doesn’t mean we stop planning, and dreaming. Fear is the effect, but hope and aspirations are the mechanism. Our imagination has been an activity that is a historical favorite. Look at the boom of the movie industry through the depths of the Great Depression as an example.  When it comes to big investments even though a consumer can’t afford to buy a new car or a vacation, they can imagine.  So identifying that “we can still pretend”, is an activity that will also show up on analytics reports, (causing conversion ratios to decrease and interactive requests to never be taken) to the point where business thinkers scratch their heads with confusion.

The challenge is to “Motivate” in your message. How can we move the prospect to act on the need to “Acquire“, under the influence of “Fear“? If you have a web site you can apply multivariate testing or the more common split run testing methods to qualify your landing visitors. By using this method you can validate your quantitative search engine message to increase the bottom line.

We’ll adapt to the new reality and we’ll survive. That’s why fear exists. It allows us to marshal our resources, heighten our vigilance, and focus. Testing the many “Fear Not” key words in your message, can be a demand path to delivering the intellectual approval your prospect needs to “Acquire“. 

 

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