A WordPress plugin brought to you by Search Engine Journal.
Blogging has had its ups and downs as an SEO, social media, and content marketing activity. But there’s no doubt whatsoever that blogging will be crucial to all three areas in 2013. These two big-picture 2012 developments are what have elevated business blogs from optional to essential.
Why You Must Blog in 2013
1. In an uncertain SEO world, blogs are a reliable constant.
Google is clamping down hard on link acquisition gamesmanship, so much so that SEOs and publishers have a hard time figuring out the difference between a good link and a bad one.
In addition, Google Analytics no longer displays keyword information from logged-in users. This “not provided” data means that a significant chunk of a site’s keyword data (upwards of 30% on average and growing) is no longer available to help evaluate the effectiveness and future strategy of an SEO program.
Finally, search is no longer monolithic. At the user’s command, SERPs can be standard, personalized, or restricted to certain types of content such as news and video. What’s more, Google changes up SERPs based on the user’s geographic location.
Why do business blogs thrive in this environment?
- Blog posts add relevant, authoritative content to a site – something that Google always wants to see. What’s more, posts (assuming they are well written, authoritative, relevant, and useful) encourage visitors to stay on the page and click deeper into the site rather than bounce – activities that contribute to better rankings.
- By participating in the new Google Authorship program, the authoritative value of blog content (onsite and offsite) is further enhanced. And rel=”author” links are most natural when used in connection with a blog post; and for SEO, it’s all about being natural: natural links, natural language.
- By guest posting (i.e., writing posts on other blogs), a firm can obtain relevant and authoritative links – something not so easily done these days. It’s easier to develop guest posting opportunities when a firm has its own blog.
- Blog posts broaden search visibility because they tend to perform well in standard search results, personalized results, and various segmented search options. Posts also attract social shares and generate social media site traffic. Social shares are correlated to rankings.
2. In a mashed-up marketing world, all roads lead to blogs.
In many respects, SEO, social media, and content marketing are all rolled up into one big, complicated ball. It’s tough to have an SEO program without a strong content marketing component. It’s tough to have an effective social media program without a strong SEO component. And, it’s tough to have an effective content marketing grand strategy without solid SEO and social strategies supporting it. I’ve already talked a bit about how blogs relate to SEO, but blogs also play a vital role in social media marketing and content marketing as well. Here are a few important reasons why.
- A blog enables a firm to show its personal side, something customers and prospects want to see. For social media participation, content with a personal touch is a necessity to build communities and generate social shares. For content marketing purposes, a blog strongly promotes brand affinity and credibility – two things you can never have enough of.
- A blog promotes engagement in a controlled environment (i.e., on the firm’s site). Today’s customers and prospects do not want to be talked to, they want to have conversations with. And even for customers who don’t want to engage directly, the vicarious conversational dimension of blogs is highly persuasive. What I mean is: If, for instance, a blog’s topics are driven by customer FAQs rather than by its internal promotional calendar, a firm will be writing about what is on the customer’s mind, those internal conversations that keep a customer up at night.
- It may not be essential to have a blog to be successful in social media … but it sure helps. Business people who use social media are (duh!) socially oriented. They’re probably more interested in checking out a firm’s blog than its product listing, at least when they first explore a site. A firm with no blog or a perfunctory blog undercuts its social media credibility. In addition, without a blog, a company must rely completely on third-parties like Facebook and Twitter for its community hubs. If something happens to Facebook … what happens to your community, and all of the content you’ve published there and do not own?
How to Blog Smart in 2013
Quality. If you’ve been going through the motions, you’ll now be wasting 100% of your time instead of just 75% of it. I mentioned earlier that effective blog content must be well-written, relevant, authoritative, and useful. We can add to the list engaging, multi-media, and mobile-friendly. It’s a high standard, but if your posts are clumsy, irrelevant, tentative, useless, boring, and unreadable on a smartphone – good luck finding an audience, obtaining links, and building credibility.
Collaboration. 2013 bloggers should focus on three R’s: Research, Writing, and Outreach. It’s no longer good enough to worry about your company blog; you have to build relationships for guest posting and start bringing in high-caliber bloggers to write for your blog. Outreach and guest blogging are very difficult disciplines these days, because everybody is jumping on the bandwagon in a link-building frenzy. All I can say is, if you want to get results, you must learn how to stand out from the crowd and build serious relationships with the right partners. It takes a great deal of time, and you should have started already.
Integration. Bloggers can’t work in a vacuum. They need to understand how to execute the SEO keyword strategy and linking strategy. They need to understand the broader marketing goals of the organization, especially in terms of brand positioning and messaging. They must understand their products and services inside-out so they can write authoritatively. Last but not least, they must understand their customers inside-out so they can produce content that is relevant, useful, and engaging.
Elevation. Firms that are serious about marketing must be proactive. They must make sure their staff is ready, willing, and able to blog to the standards I’ve outlined here. A firm can no longer outsource SEO, social and content marketing lock, stock, and barrel. Firms have to take ownership, because whether the audience is human beings or Google, they want to hear from you, not a hired gun. Outside agents can assist, consult, share the workload, and help guide the strategy, but they can never understand the business well enough to go it alone. A company blog that looks artificial and thin does nothing but damage.
Are you ready?
This last point, elevating your game, is where the rubber will hit the road for many firms in 2013. Not many small and mid sized firms are staffed or organized for serious blogging – they lack the time, knowledge base, and in-house talent. And with an uncertain economy, who wants to expand a marketing department? But at the same time, a firm’s SEO, social and content marketing results will suffer without a powerful blog – and in an uncertain economy, who can afford to under-perform?
Photo credit: Blogging – courtesy © Stauke – Fotolia.com