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On the subject of Blogging

Martina Martina

September 14th, 2010.

About me…

Hi!

I’m new to the field of SEO and I came across it after graduating university with a degree in law. I enjoyed studying law but as far as the practise of it in the workplace, I felt as though it was a field that didn’t really leave room for me to utilise my creative abilities and imagination.

After getting some worthwhile careers advice, I decided that marketing was a field that I wanted to explore. I did some research on the different types of marketing and what these entail. I brainstormed, combining what I enjoyed doing, with the transferable skills that I already had, and figured that since I’m technology and Internet savvy (I like to think) and have an interest in how companies market themselves (perhaps sparked by my many years of experience in sales and retail as a student), I wanted to work somewhere that combined these skills and interests.

This led me to Datadial where I am currently an SEO Intern. So far, I have enjoyed coming up with ideas that really make a difference to the success of our clients.

In my spare time I love to write music, and I love to read. I also really enjoy going out & socialising with friends…and I like to cook. :)

Rob

June 14th, 2010.

Presentation on building a successful search engine friendly website

Many thanks to the Biblical Suppliers Association for listening to my talk on:

How to build a Successful Search Engine Friendly Website.

You can download the presentation here.

Seminar-powerpoint – 20 minute version -Biblical

I have also added some extra slides on attitudes to Social Media at boardroom level.

Also there is a slide of Resources slide for links to keyword tools, Datadial’s Reputation Management tool and a few other links worth looking at.

Thanks

Rob

Rob

March 26th, 2010.

Write a blog to help your business

It is a difficult thing running an online business.

The number and variety of companies offering comparable products and services can make it difficult to stand out in a crowd.  Your site has to look the part and match the expectations of your target audience. 

Your offering has to be priced on a par with your competitors, or the premium justified by quality, environmental friendliness, scarcity, or some other characteristic that matters to your customer.

And then on top of all that, the customer has got to trust you enough to hand over their hard earned cash.

How is a blog going to help?

Within most B2B and B2C websites, there are only so many opportunities to talk about your organisation. You have the product/services pages, the FAQs, press releases and so on, but there comes a point where it looks like you are creating pages just for the sake of it

Blogs have become mainstream due to their personal feel, and writing without a corporate angle means that the content will not appear awkward or contrived.

Yes they require effort and time to maintain. Agreed – you have to think of interesting things to say. OK maybe your competitors don’t blog and they seem to do all right without it.

Here’s why we blog

  • it adds extra unique pages to the website
  • our blog posts allow us to explore topics at length that don’t necessarily “fit”   within the core pages
  • well written content attracts links to the site which improves rankings in search results

Still not convinced?  Try searching in Google for Twitter small business guide , or emailing cold contacts.

Getting started

There are a number of choices out there when it comes to blogging, and your web developer may even have their own bespoke software.

We use WordPress  for our blog – the software is free (a perfectly sound reason in itself), it can be configured to behave exactly as you want, and WordPress posts get picked up very very quickly by search engines.

Plan your first posts

List some topics that you are knowledgeable about and feel confident enough to write on.  You may even find that some areas need a separate piece in their own right.

Don’t force a style

After you have written a couple of pieces, the articles develop a rhythm of their own. The content will influence the tone and certain topics will lend themselves to humour, sarcasm and so on.

Set a schedule you are comfortable with

You don’t need to publish a new post with clockwork like regularity, and inevitably there will be other things during the working week that require your attention. The more frequently you post the better of course, but keep an eye of the quality of the article.  Ask yourself “Is this interesting / useful / important information that my customers should know?”

Have a point of view

You are not the only operator in your market, but your (well presented) opinion is valid. Stay on top of goings on within the industry and have an eye on events at the periphery. In doing so you’ll start to garner the trust and respect of your audience, and they will have confidence in what you say.

Your blog is not a direct sales tool

It is all to easy to list your latest product, special offer and so on in the blog. Don’t. Your blog is an indirect marketing channel and you are writing content that is supposed to get them interested in you, and your ideas. Keep it interesting, resist the  urge to sell directly, and your audience will engage with you over time.

If you use the above ideas as a springboard you’ll have the beginnings of a great blog.

Now isn’t there something you want to say to your potential customers?

Matt

November 5th, 2008.

SMX London – 25 Killer Tips, Tools And Strategies

Having just got back from SMX London I thought that rather than be one of 50 recap blog posts I thought I would try to do something a little different.

Sitting though about 15 hours of presentations and Q&A over the past couple of days was no mean feat. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for people with a short attention span!

Taking this sentiment on board I have put together a list of the best hints, tips, tools and strategies from the past couple of days, not just from the speakers themselves, but also picked up from around the conference halls and bars.

  1. Download the Microsoft AdCenter Excel plugin for keyword research. It’s incredibly versatile, users can easily manipulate long keyword lists and data. It even goes as far as adding extra data sets into the mix by offering historical data and demographic breakdowns. Unfortunately, since the is currently still in beta UK specific data hasn’t yet been made available.
  2. In ushering in a new era of transparency MSN is giving users an unprecedented amount of access to actionable data though the impressive AdCenter labs, some of the best tools include,
    - Detecting commercial intention based on a URL or keyword phrase.
    - Keyword group detection tool for detecting related keywords.
    - Search funnels, for visualising search sequences and search funnels.
    - Ad text writer, for the lazy PPC marketer! Enter a page URL and it will spit out a list of ad text.
  3. MSNs webmaster centre is now displaying lists of pages your pages that are penalised, contain malware or link to pages that contain malware.
  4. “More than 60% of companies are planning to increase their PPC or SEO budgets in 2009″ Linus Gregoriadis. Recession? What recession?
  5. Keyword phrase composition – consider all of the elements that may make up your users potential keyword phrases.
    For example – Use (For school) + Action (Buy) + Price (Cheap) + Attribute (Black) + Brand (Sony) + Location (UK) + Quality (New) + Your Keyword.
    Consider the alternatives for each of these and build your keyword lists accordingly.
  6. There is a real lack of awareness of new UK laws (enforced by Trading Standards and The Office Of Fair Trading) that now make it illegal to offer fake editorial content, without first making this fact clear to the reader. This will also affect fake internet reviews, promotional blog posts and comments that don’t offer disclosure of payment. – Judith Lewis
  7. Although there is/was some obvious disagreement, the consensus is that owning the local TLD is by far the easiest way of of ensuring rankings in the correct local search engines. Other factors include local hosting, links, translation and address data in both the WhoIs and on the pages themselves.
  8. The Redfly Google Global Firefox extension is perfect for searching local versions of Google quickly.
  9. Linkbait – It is now vital to keep it on topic/niche. Wandering off topic may make things easier, but it’s probably tempting fate. Jane @ SEOMoz
  10. Facebook fan pages are live, indexed and the links are non-nofollow.
  11. The Forrester Groundwell tool is great for understanding the likely social media engagement level of your target market demographic.
  12. Social media campaigns must should be carefully planned – be sure that you know who your audience are, which social media channels they’re likely to use, the creative message that you want to get across and your delivery strategy – Ciaran Norris
  13. Vanessa Fox – Duplicate content across local TLD properties “should” be properly dealt with by Google, the correct verion “should” be delivered in the equivalent local version of Google. – Notice emphasis ;) Again, I would say to be sure to have key content rewritten.
  14. Use psychological hooks in your linkbait. Take your core niche and add in a social media angle – environment, politcal, geeky etc. Be aware of the linking demographic, they’re typically male, intelligent and tech savvy. Linkbait isn’t linkbait if it doesn’t elicit links! – Lyndon Antcliff, Cornwall SEO
  15. Use search operators to find expired pages such as keyword+”this page is no longer available” either, contact the page owners for them to add a link to content on your site, or, contact the sites linking to the expired page asking them to link to your content instead. Tom @ Distilled
  16. Keep an eye on competitor business closures or bankruptcy, this gives an opportunity to either buy they domain, or contact sites linking to them to link to your site instead. Wiep Knoll
  17. Use forums and similar Web 1.0 communities for user generated linkbait
  18. Always try to use your keywords in the article title of linkbait pieces – it really helps getting your keyword phrases in links.
  19. Try launching linkbait on forums before onto social sites. In this way you can test it’s effectiveness, get feedback, and frequently pickup better quality content.
  20. Avoid foreign links from foreign sites, in large quantities these can be an obvious flag for closer inspection. Jay @ LinkFish Media
  21. Some “killer” tools worth taking a look at – Linkscape, Majestic SEO, TubeMogul, Optilink
  22. Buying websites for SEO can provide a competitive advantage in terms of links, or 301 redirecting the site to pass domain trust/authority and the backlink profile. Use these tactics sparingly though, too many sites being redirected can lead to a search engine penalty. Concentrate on buying traffic and relevance over PR and backlinks.
  23. Web 2.0 linkbuilding! We’re moving away from Web 1.0 methods like exchanges, link pages, paid links and comment spam, and moving towards internal link optimisation, online PR syndication, targeted PR submissions, guest writing, linkbaiting and social media.
  24. When buying domains change ownership indicators slowly, things like Whois data, hosting, design and content should be left as long as possible and changes staggered, Google will zero any link and age benefits if there is an obvious change in ownership. DaveN
  25. Finding domains for sale – Google searches, forums, DMOZ listings etc Richard Kershaw

Thanks also to Rob, Bruno, Chris, Rob, Rishil and many other people who I had a lot of fun discussing all of this with!

Matt

October 30th, 2008.

Blogging Goes Mainstream

One of the main obstacles to overcome when trying to convince a client of the merits of corporate blogging is the view that it’s a niche medium and it’s really read by visitors.

Recent figures released by ComScore indicate otherwise. A huge 41% of the total internet audience visited at least one blog in August 2008.

“Blogs have become part of the essential fabric of the Internet today,” said Herve Le Jouan, Managing Director, comScore Europe. “They live and breathe in real-time, helping quench media consumers’ thirst for the most up-to-date breaking news, information, and analysis. It should not, therefore, be particularly surprising that they’re increasingly displacing traditional media usage and carving out an ever-increasing slice of the online advertising pie.”

It’s no surprise that the most visited properties were technology and entertainment based with Engadget and UnrealityTV being the most popular.

Matt

October 20th, 2008.

Your Content Development Strategy

Websites have come a long way, not just in terms of design and technology, but also in their intention. A few short years ago your website was just an extension of your offline promotional material. You had a bit of an introduction, a few pages about your services and contact page, and you were ready to go. That would do for a few years, after all, your services don’t change that often right?

These days you really can’t get away with that kind of static approach to web publishing. Websites aren’t brochures anymore. They are resources, communities and communications channels that are updated on a regular basis.

Why is content important?

Website content is important for several reasons.

It drives visitors – Search engines love text content, the more good, unique and relevant content that you have on your site, generally the more visitors you can expect search engines to be sending you.

It encourages links – Great content encourages people to link to it. Try to develop your site as a ‘resource’ offer free information, stats and tables, guides and tutorials. The more useful content that you have the more sites that you will find will be happy to link to you – it is these links that send traffic and will also increase search engine rankings.

It ensures return – Better quality content encourages return visitors, the more people return to your site, the more likely they are to buy from you.

It strengthens branding – Great content will help to strengthen your brand and brand recognition. Not just through search engine rankings, but also through word of mouth and referrals. People are not only going to be talking about how great your products and services are, but also how useful your site is and how their friends and colleagues must go and take a look at it.

It creates trust – Writing on your area of expertise is a great way to demonstrate how much you know your topic. You’re more likely to buy from someone that is knowledgeable and generous with their expertise right?

How can I develop content on my own site?

Okay, now we’ve established that content is important and vital for commercial sites, but how do we go about creating a content development strategy of our own?

Below we have put together a list of tips on how to go about developing a content strategy for your own commercial website.

  1. Leverage your people. The more people you have helping to create website content, the more ideas, variation and knowledge that you have. It’s also far less of a workload to have 8 members of staff generating one article each per month, rather than one person having to write a couple of pieces every few days. Set out a timetable that people are encouraged and rewarded for adhering to.
  2. Consider your platform. It’s imperative that your have an easy publishing platform that your staff members can use and you don’t have to wait for developers or designers to get involved. Using a blog platform like WordPress will mean even your less tech-savvy staff will be able to publish their own content in a matter of minutes.
  3. Pitch it right. Make sure your content isn’t overtly promotional. Sales pitches don’t generally interest people, neither does it tend to encourage people to link to it. However nobody expects you not to link to or mention your commercial activities. Finding a happy medium that works for your site can sometimes take a little time.
  4. Brainstorm – Involve others in coming up with article titles and ideas. A monthly meeting should be sufficient for coming up with a few weeks of article titles and content ideas. You’ll find that some of the more wacky and off the wall ideas work the best.
  5. Get involved. Make sure you get involved with your industries online community. Don’t be scared to link out to other industry sites. Comment on their blogs, offer to write for industry journals, invite industry figures to write for you. All of these activities will help to develop your online brand and increase the number of websites that are linking to your own.
  6. Keep abreast of industry news. I recommend subscribing to as many industry newsfeeds as possible using an RSS reader. Not only does this easily keep me up-to-date with what’s happening in my industry, but also it gives me lots of topical subject ideas for relevant industry comment.
  7. Look at sites within your own industry. What kind of content do they provide. Do they do anything that you’re not doing? Can what they’re doing be improved upon?
  8. Look at sites in other industries. Are other sites doing anything that may be reworked to crossover into your industry? Can you apply things like video, community, social media, images or widgets to stay one step ahead of your competitors?
  9. Demonstrate your knowledge. Consider adding content that displays your knowledge of your topic. Ideas like FAQs, guides, how-tos, client Q&As and critiques are great ways of demonstrating the experts at your company.
  10. Be keyword conscious. Know which keywords people use when searching for products and services in your industry. Bear these in mind when developing your content writing timetable and article text.
  11. Content isn’t just writing. Although you’ll find the bulk of your website content will be text based, don’t ignore the benefits of image and video content. Some of the best corporate linkbait is image based.

Some examples of corporate content ideas in action

Best Western – The On The Go With Amy travel blog.

Dell – A good example of FAQ pages

HSBC – The HSBC business network connecting businessmen using blogs and forums.

Nike – The Loop’d community connects extreme sports fans.

Office Furniture Express – The 6 coolest offices.

OfficeMax – Elf Yourself

Phillips – Shave Everywhere

Shock Absorber – The Shock Absorber sports bra. A product aimed at women with linkbait aimed at men!

Adam Adam

October 13th, 2008.

Optimising Your Company’s WordPress Blog For Search Engine Optimisation

The benefits of a blog on your company’s website can be phenomenal. If you haven’t already got a blog on your company site, Matt’s post on corporate blogging is a vital read.  If you do have a WordPress blog set up, great!
Not only is a WordPress blog great for engaging with visitors and sharing information, it’s also a great traffic stream to your company website. However, there are a few tweaks that can be made to ensure you get the most out of your blog in terms of search engine optimisation.

Out of the box, WordPress is pretty search engine friendly- it has an excellent internal linking structure through its use of categories, archives and tags, along with its ability for easy content creation, which are a couple of reasons why search engines like them so much. But to maximise the efficiency of your WordPress blog from a search engine optimisation perspective, there are a few additional steps we recommend taking to ensure your blog is as efficiently optimised as possible.

Permalinks

By default, WordPress uses URLs which aren’t so efficient in terms of SEO. Permalinks allow more efficient URLs to be used making links more efficient, improving the structure of posts and not to mention the ability to include keywords in the posts URL.
Permalinks can be activated under ‘Settings>Permalinks’. We recommend using the ‘Day and name’ option- the URL shows the age of the post through the date as well as the post name (and if you’re using post names correctly you’ll have important keywords in the post name, thereby including them in the post URL if using this method).

optimising wordpress permalinks

Post Titles

Post titles represent the title tag for the posts page- one of the most important aspects of on-page search engine optimisation- their importance has already been covered in the Top Five Tips For Optimising Your Business’ Meta Tags post. By default, WordPress uses the format “Blog title » Blog Archive » Post Title” which ideally should be “Post Title » Blog Title”. Search engines pay more attention to keywords at the beginning of the title tag; therefore placing the post title (which should contain those important keywords) at the beginning of the title is more efficient. This also helps the readability of the pages result in the search engine results, therefore increasing the click through rate (CTR) in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
To change the post title structure, additional plugins are required. There are a few good WordPress plugins available, we recommend using the All in One SEO Pack plugin and changing the post and page titles found under ‘Settings>All in One SEO’.

To optimise the titles, click the ‘Rewrite Titles’ checkbox and change the title formats for each option. We recommend:

‘%post_title% | %blog_title%’ for post titles
‘%page_title% | %blog_title%’ for page titles
‘%category_title% | %blog_title%’ for category titles
‘%date% | %blog_title%’ for archive titles
‘%tag% | %blog_title%’ for tage titles
‘%description%’ for description format
‘Nothing found for %request_words%’ for the 404 title
‘- Part %page%’ for page format.
It is also wise to check the ‘Use noindex for Categories’ and ‘Use noindex for Archives’ checkboxes to disable indexing of these pages.

wordpress optimisation page titles

Optimising Posts and Pages

Now that the basic general optimisation for the blog has been set up, you can optimise your posts, starting with the post title.

Post Titles

Remember to keep the title relevant to the post topic and to include your important keywords in the post title. Also remember the post title will show up in search results, so make the title interesting and have a call to action in  the title where needed.

Tags

Tags are incredibly useful for internal linking- if a visitor is on your site and likes the content for a specific topic, they may click on one of the tags. You should therefore add tags to all posts and pages, making sure the tags are relevant to the post. Tags are comma separated, just click the ‘Add’ button after you’ve entered the tags and the post will be recognised under these tags once the post is saved or published.
wordpress optimisation tags

Categories

As with tags, categories are also efficient in terms of internal linking. Categories can also improve the time a visitor is on your site- if they can see you have more relevant information on a topic under a category, they will probably want to see what other posts are in that category if they enjoyed the content  of your post.
wordpress optimisation categories

Make sure categories are well structured and specific. Check the boxes which your post is most relevant to.

All in One SEO Pack Tag Optimisation

If you’re using the All in One SEO Pack recommended earlier, you will also have an All in One SEO Pack tab when writing/modifying a post or page. Here you can override the defaults already configured. To do this, enter a title tag, description tag and keywords tag to override the default settings already entered.

wordpress optimisation- all in one seo pack

There is also a ‘Disable on this page/post’ checkbox- this will disable all SEO modifications and revert back to the WordPress defaults (which is unlikely you would want to do so) so do not check this box unless there is a specific reason.

Once each post/page has been optimised, save the changes. This covers the basics for WordPress Search Engine Optimisation- there are more advanced changes which can be made but by implementing these recommended changes you will notice an improvement in your search rankings, your listing in the search engine results and an improvement in the indexing of your blog.

Matt

October 6th, 2008.

UK Companies Failing To Engage The Blogosphere

Following on from my previous post about the benefits of corporate blogging I decided to take a look at how companies both in the UK and overseas were choosing to engage their online audiences, and to what extent they were utilising the blogosphere in order to fulfil those needs.

Using the Times Top 100 Companies To Work For list in order to gain a useful cross section of company types, sizes and industries. It soon emerged that corporate blogging seems to be somewhat of a alien concept to the majority of UK business. In fact, of the 100 companies that were surveyed only two (kudos to Rackspace and Pannone) had an official active blog that was available from their corporate website.

So with a rather pathetic 2% of UK companies actively blogging can this be viewed as a failure of their online communications strategies? Possibly not. A saving grace was the number of companies (76%) that did make available a mixture of company and industry news, articles, opinion, comment, press releases and whitepapers. UK companies obviously understand the importance of making useful information available, however making the leap from static news pages to and to a more interactive blog is currently too much of a challenge.

A number of factors could be responsible, perhaps there is a lack of understanding of the benefits and opportunity – a failure of their media agencies to make these clear. Often companies don’t feel they can commit the resources to keeping the site updated or are worried about company perception in what is usually an open and conversational media. Added to all of this there is the intrinsic fear of having people being able to comment and voice opinion on their blog posts on their corporate website.

Matt

September 17th, 2008.

Corporate Blogging – What’s The Point?

Corporate blogs have become far more commonplace over the past few years as companies begin to realise their importance in the marketing mix and how valuable they can be as a communications channel. Some of my favourite business efforts include,

Kodak – I love this effort as it doesn’t focus on cameras, but what it’s target audience is interested in, the photography.

Innocent Drinks – Kind of wacky and crazy, just the kind of thing you would expect from the company really! It does a good job of keeping things interesting and engaging the audience.

Southwest Airlines – A really nice showcase for the company, great design, interesting content and does a good job of passing company news while keeping things light-hearted.

ASOS – A good example of what can be done with an ecommerce site. It does a good job of focusing on products, but also scatters in industry news.

BBC – Obviously the huge manpower at their disposal and being able to tap some the finest journalistic minds gives the BBC an unfair advantage, but their blog network is among one of the best online.

Marriott – A self-confessed technophobe Bill Marriott proves that it’s never too late to start blogging. Not only that but the resulting blog is an extremely useful communications channel.

Waitrose – A great example of what can be achieved when a not so traditional web company takes blogging seriously.

I deliberately left out examples of tech and web based companies to prove that it can be done well for traditionally non-web based companies.

Okay, so what is the point?

Audience engagement – Blogs are a great way of engaging your audience with topics that you wouldn’t normally cover on the main section of your site. You can keep company news and conversation clearly defined from the ‘corporate’ sections of the site while at the same time offering your audience more in-depth information should it be required.

Information gathering – Blogs can be used to gather opinions, get product feedback, collect email addresses and collect RSS feed subscribers. Over time a growing audience is a valuable commodity in itself.

Communications channel – Corporate blogs have been used as an instant communications channel between retailer and customer. Product information, manuals, corrections, notifications and recalls can be made available instantly.

Content creation – An increased number of pages of your site will generally increase the amount of content leads to an increase in the number of search engine visitors. With clearly defined calls to action this should lead to an increase in sales.

Social media – Blog are a great way of opening up the marketing power of social media sites. Visitors can easily submit posts to sites like Digg and Stumbleupon, this directly leads to an increased number of visitors, links and the visibility of your site as a whole. Active blogs generally encourage more incoming links from other sites, so can be a great way of supplementing a link building strategy.

Things to remember….

  • Get started using a simple blogging script like WordPress. It’s pretty much the industry standard, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s free.
  • Keep the blog on your commercial domain. You’ll get little benefit from using a hosted blog or a seperate domain altogether. The idea is to get additional visitors to your commercial site. blog.company.com or company.com/blog is ideal.
  • Define a writing policy. Be clear who your audience is and what will interest them. Also be clear on exactly how much information you’re going to make public.
  • The writing style is important. Traditionally visitors expect a less corporate and more conversational writing style. The use of humour can work well. Ideally your posts should be short and punchy.
  • Avoid over promotion. It’s fine to link to your products and services from within your posts, but visitors won’t come just to read a rehashed product catalogue.
  • Keep things fresh. Your blog should be regularly updated, sharing writing amongst your staff is the ideal solution, outsourcing the writing is another, though is no substitute for your staff knowledge and expertise, staff participation should be encouraged.
  • What do I write? Traditional topic areas are company news, staff news, product news, industry discussion and thoughts, how to’s and resource lists. Ideally the more diverse the topic areas, the easier you’ll find things to write about and the bigger the potential audience.

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