SEO 101

You Must Blog and Blog Smart in 2013

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.

blogging You Must Blog and Blog Smart in 2013

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

 You Must Blog and Blog Smart in 2013

Brad Shorr

Director of B2B Marketing at Straight North
Brad Shorr is Director of B2B Marketing for Straight North, a full service Internet marketing agency. A blogger since 2005, Brad writes frequently about content marketing, SEO and business strategy.
 You Must Blog and Blog Smart in 2013
 You Must Blog and Blog Smart in 2013

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31 thoughts on “You Must Blog and Blog Smart in 2013

  1. “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.”

    I find this to be underrated advice. I have yet to see (perhaps by my own laziness) analytics that prove this concept, but I am absolutely convinced of it. I would recommend to ANY blogger, to link your Google+ profile. If you’re able to prop up your SEO and Keywords that is. I know that I personally like seeing a “face” behind an article, and frankly the display (against raw links) is more attractive. I would bet that a blog post connected to G+ is 50% more likely to be clicked on, especially if listed on the first page of SERPs. Faces, faces, faces!

    1. Benny, From what I read, the ranking impact of G+ content is unclear, but you nailed the big value today — dressed up links. It has to encourage click-throughs.

  2. Agreed! I’m seeing almost a shift away from focus on social media and more interest on blogs and email marketing. Both require significant investment for which many are not prepared or poised. But getting people involved in YOUR web (blogs, website, email list, etc.) is essential for the future of online marketing.

    1. Heidi, Social is great for some businesses, but I really wonder about the value for many of the midsized B2Bs I work with. The big payback on social hinges on whether your customers hang out there; on the other hand, blog content can be found and acted upon by people who never use social media.

  3. I applied for Google Authorship program long time back and since then haven’t heard from them. Is this available to top authority blogs only?

  4. I have had great success with BlogMutt.- a blog content creation service that provides fresh, engaging, custom-written posts for on-the-go business owners and busy marketers! I provide the direction and the writers go to work. I select from several posts a week and chose the one that I like the best. The content is emailed to me so I can edit or finesse as necessary, and then I post to my blog. It is so easy! I highly recommend other small businesses give it a try.

    1. Abby, I wonder how many successful businesses will develop in the coming year based on the need for high quality content. There’s opportunity here!

  5. I believe the key point is your last: if you are serious do not out source your SEO. If you truly want to succeed, commit to a quality blog. Consistent care, study and passion will come through and one will easily outshine 95% those that are trying to short cut the process.

    1. Edwin, Some aspects of SEO can be outsourced, but no longer out of sight, out of mind outsourced. Firms must stay involved and take a leadership role in the strategy. In terms of content, I agree completely. It’s not easy to fake passion, and nobody will have a passion for a business like the people who live it and breathe it every day.

      1. Hi Brad. I’d just like to add that the idea of outsourcing is misunderstood by most of the people. People expect that once they outsource the outsourcing company will manage every detail by themselves and they don’t need to do any thing. But in reality you can get maximum benefit from outsourcing only if you are personally involved in the process. You correctly pointed out that firms must get involved and play a leadership role in strategy only then a company can expect to get significant benefit from outsourcing.

  6. I like to think of blogs as the hub to a digital marketing and PR strategy. You comment that “all reads lead to blogs” syncs with that nicely. Social, PR, ads, email and many other communication channels connected to conversational content on a blog provide an excellent transition from social to commercial relationships between prospects and brand. I can’t imagine content publishing platform that offers more easy to implement benefits than blogging. Great post Brad.

    1. Thanks, Lee. You put that very well. The idea of blogs bridging the gap from social to commercial is the perfect description of how a blog can work for a business, and is a great starting point for developing topics.

  7. This is good stuff. I agree with most of these points. Blogging is essential for many businesses — especially when it comes to creating fresh content. For us, integration has been a big part of the process. In the last year, it’s been more about getting a writing, keyword and follow-up strategy that we hope to expand in 2013. Sometimes, I hear comments and claims about “blogging being dead” but I think that scenario is still a long ways off.

    1. Jordan, If blogging is dead, you couldn’t tell by the guest post pitches we get day in and day out! Blogging seemed like a back burner activity the last couple years, maybe because social media was hogging the stage. I really think that’s changing now.

  8. Great post and I agree that quality is paramount. Now how to eradicate those guest authors that think that a bit of cheap spun content rammed with links will get published on a decent site!

    1. Jules, Great point. From my perspective, editors are getting much more particular about what they want to publish — a very good thing. As a matter of fact, some editors may go too far in disallowing links, perhaps because of Panda-induced paranoia. Not really sure. But we can be sure that lousy content will get even lousier results than it used to. Companies can’t afford to waste their money on that kind of thing.

      1. I agree Brad, I was having a serious disagreement last week with an agency who were trying to get their solicitors guest blog on my travel site! There was no relevancy in the equation whatsoever! At all times the content must be relevant, engaging and worthy.

  9. What I found missing, was referencing that blogs are a form of social media. They’re a vertical of funnel engagement for driving consumers to a website. If a marketer is able to segment the audience into respective silos, then blog content can be developed to meet each silo’s separate appetite. Keywords then are measured via Analytics for traffic. Thanks for the read!

    1. Darryl, Your’re right. I like the way Lee Odden describes blogs in these comments as a bridge between social media and business content. Your sketch of a content strategy for siloing content according to user interest is perfectly suited for a blog(s) — but again, it takes a big commitment from a firm. Well worth the effort, though.

  10. I started my first Blog at LocaLHomeSpot.com about a month ago. I don’t do facebook or twitter, twitter gives me a headache. It never seems to have anything interesting to say. As an Interior Designer and artist, I have been really enjoying doing my blog. I spend my evenings researching other Blogs for inspiration and content to link to. Living in a very small city (Campbell River) on the east coast of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada,, other Blogs give me a view of whats happening around the world in design. This I do on Monday through Friday for an hour or so in the evening, and then on Saturdays I read Blogs on SEO and such so that I can try and learn what the heck I’m doing. It’s amazing how much I am learning from other peoples Blogs, Far more then if I read books or magazines. I am definately sold on Blogs as “The” great communicator of 2013.

    1. Evelyn, It’s great to know that even now blogs are recruiting new enthusiasts! What you’re describing sounds a lot like my experience as a new blogger in 2005. I’ve always found the blogging community to be extremely generous, and blogging adds a dimension of fun and camaraderie to the workday that serves a real business purpose. It’s hard to beat that.

      1. I have to do an addendum to my Dec 8th post, I decided to start a facebook page, for the sole purpose of announcing each new blog post in a short teaser version. I figure that will help my SEO and, at the same time allow people to pass on the abbreviated version to others who might be interested in the topic but haven’t been to our website yet.

  11. For the past few years blogs have been an essential part of my company´s SEO. All the clients have accepted to implement a blog are reaping the benefits in many ways. With Authorrank and social signals playing an important role on organic search results, blogging is more essential than ever.

    1. Congratulations, Felipe, for steering your clients in the right direction before every starts jumping on the blog bandwagon again. I know of many companies that probably wish they had been blogging for the last few years instead of wasting money chasing shiny new marketing objects.

  12. That was really concise and salient – as were the comments.
    I tend to observe trends, and here in Oz we are fast followers, and soon-to-be-leaders, so I’m glad you articulated the worth of blogs over other social something I want to convince my clients of…
    Put another way, I just wanted to say “appreciated”

    PA
    Sydney