Once again, Trent Blizzard is teaching a free business class at the Glenwood Springs Library – this month is Blogging for Business. Here is a quick download of the topics, the slides, and links to sample blogs. The slides are at the bottom of the post… so scroll down if that is what you are looking for.
The discussion about blogging begins with commitment. It’s like committing to run two days a week, every week – for five years. It’s an awesome tool for organic SEO, but it takes work over the long term to gain results. ‘Nuf said.
What is a Blog?
- Readers can comment
- Uses tags
- Organized by date
- Organized by category
- Can be “stand alone” or part of a site
- Generate search engine traffic, organically
- Start an active conversation, your sphere wants to engage
- You have something to say, hobbyist or educator
- Become a thought leader or expert on a subject
- You might have news to share
Frequency: the reason why blogs succeed or fail. You must keep updating or you lose credibility and interest. The more you put in, the more you get out.
Engagement: Are you “sharing the love”. Successful bloggers build community, referencing other blog posts and sharing link love. This practice invites others to do the same for you. Blogs with active conversations (comments) become more active in search and grow legs.
Optimization: Each post should be scrutinized for search (see technical bits).
Comments: Useful commentary on other “relevant” or topic related blog posts with a link back to your own post will help you in search and potentially bring more traffic to your discussion.
Display: Excerpts or full page listings? How many words? Pictures or no pictures? Formatting is important – make your posts easy for folks to digest – bullets, quotes, bold, headers, paragraph breaks. Scanability is key.
Featured Images: Images make blog posts shine, and they add some extra bits for google bots to munch on (alt tags, see technical bits).
Value: If you follow only one of these rules, follow this one. Always deliver some sort of value in your blog post. Your post can be three sentences if I read it and come away with a smile on my face. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes – is your post educational? Is it funny? Have you shared something special? What kind of value are your delivering, why are you blogging to begin with?
Tags/Categories: If you are creating lots of content – it’s nice to provide this additional level of organization for your readers. Categories are also part of the URL structure in many blogging platforms (tags too but they are mostly irrelevant for this use case), so they can help you with additional search exposure. Don’t overuse them! This gaming tactic will work against you if you don’t know what you are doing. TIP: Get rid of “uncategorized”, put all posts into categories if you are using them.
Sharing: Make it easy for people to share your content, it doesn’t happen very often or very naturally, but it’s easy to do so why not.
Date: As someone who searches the internet often for tutorials or to find an answer for something broken, I get so annoyed when I find an article that seems relevant but has no date. I immediately leave. I need to know how recent your article is so I’m not wasting my time. If you need to take dates off, you’re not blogging frequently enough and you don’t have your reader’s best interest in mind.
Where to Feature: If you are investing in your blog, in other words – it’s current, actively feature it on your homepage.
Authorship: Show your author names – do not choose to use “Admin”. Connecting with a real human being is always better than even just using your company name. If you are using a ghost writer, still consider attaching an actual employees name to the post.
The Technical Bits
Title and Alt Tags – Always think strategically about your titles and descriptions. You walk a fine line in creating something that is catchy for people AND for search engines. Your title should contain at least one important key word or phrase but should also catch people’s attention. There are many, many articles on creating great titles and descriptions, here’s one of my favorites.
The first sentence/your excerpt – both search engines and people read your blog pages from the top down. Your first sentence (which also becomes your excerpt if you haven’t specified otherwise) should tell people what they can expect from your post – a useful overview.
Keywords – Your most important keyphrase should show up in at least three of the following places for optimal SEO – your title, your content, your image tags, your description, your link text.
Image Alt tags – When you add an image, you always have the option to add a title tag and description – be descriptive of your image but note this is also a good place to get those keywords.
External Links – External links should be provided when they offer additional value or context for your reader. Always have them open in a new browser window so you don’t entirely lose your reader.
Internal Links – These are a must for good SEO practice. Link to your own pages and articles on your website when they are relevant to the conversation in your blog post. It’s like leaving a breadcrumb trail for search enginges to dig deeper into your site based upon topic. They love it!
SEO title and description – You already thought about your title and description above. Sometimes though it’s a good idea to modify your description for example to be more successful in the search index. You might want to write something that entices someone to click through now versus just optimizing for your keywords. Often times you can find a plugin that allows you to modify how your title and description will show up in the search index.
Post Length – People ask all the time, how long should my blog posts be? First things first, attention spans are often 3-4 paragraphs is sufficient. If you have a lot to say on a subject, consider breaking your content into a part series – turn one long post into three short ones. That said, a super long and informative post can work really well if that is the type of writer you are. However, more importantly, the discuss about value comes into play here. Your post can be three sentences if I learned something in that short bit of text. Search engines however, do like content so if that’s your game, give them something to munch on.
These are good things to know, get out there – go read some blogs and get on it!
- How to follow blogs using an aggregator or feed reader – follow competitors or read news
- How to keep visitors on your website or even turn them into customers
- How to manage spam comments
- How to get more interaction (comments)
- How to increase search results
- How to setup analytics for good data
- How to create more content and frequency
We’ve run out of time – I could go on all day about this subject, but best perhaps to create a quick best practices video. Stay tuned! Trent’s slides are included below.
Blogroll from the day:
www.talesfromtheemptynest.com is an example of a dedicated blog (not just a small part of a larger website) written because Mandy, a local marketing rockstar, is passionate about a topic.
The Glenwood Chamber Resort Association Blog is an example of a newsy blog that uses featured images and repurposes content used in newsletters and social media.
Our Town Glenwood Springs is an example of a blog written from a passionate citizen, Kathryn Trauger. Kathryn went on to run for city council and win! Good example of using a blog to establish your expertise.
Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts Blog is an example of an active blog with lots of writing happening and a real sense of purpose. We recommend more imagery/photos with the blog posts and also using bullets, bolds, quotes and white space more effectively to make it easier to scan
The Hot Springs Pool blog is an example of a more corporate blog that has professional PR people writing compelling articles. It tends to be a bit more self-promotional and professional and less informal and certainly not funky! They have turned off commenting too.
Visit Glenwood is an example of a great looking blog with professionally written copy, photos and more. Most of the blog posts are generated by a public relations professional.
Youthzone uses its blog to further its mission with stories of triumph and tips for youth (and their parents).
The Hotel Denver is a good example of a corporate blog with an informal voice. It feels very authentic. More photos would increase the fun factor.
The Colorado Kayak Supply Blog really puts it all together! Authentically written by a passionate person. Lots of pictures too.
The Glenwood Spring Police Department has an active blog. We showed how they featured their blog and brought it right into their homepage using a carousel.
A La Carte really showed of their blogginess with a photo blog. Great example of making a blog really serve the specific needs of a business.
Additional Blogs to Check Out in Glenwood
And a few blog posts ABOUT Glenwood Springs