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December 6, 2007

Search and Blogging Reporters Forum

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It’s time to talk search blogging with Andy Beal, Lee Odden, Michael McDonald and Rand Fishkin. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been waiting for this session for months. Let the heckling begin!

(But hey, where are the lady bloggers? Don’t be pretending you don’t know we exist! Me, Jane and Tamar are all sitting in the front row.)

Michael starts with blogs becoming a primary news source. It’s getting to be a big thing. Lee says blogs make it easy for journalists to subscribe to centers of influence to keep them up to date on their own terms instead of getting pitched to. It’s a great tool for businesses big and small.

Rand says he opened up his email this morning and saw an email from a reporter with Inc. Magazine asking him about the paid links session that happened this week. Rand was mentioned in a blog post about it and the reported wanted to follow up.

Andy says 52 percent of journalists read blogs to get story ideas. Andy says bloggers get to the news first and because we can share our opinions, we craft how the story goes.

Michael says at the same time the mainstream media will often discount blogs as a primary source for news. They listen to us but they don’t trust us. Andy says sometimes they don’t want their readership to know they’re getting their big stuff from bloggers. Lee says with over 7K journalists losing their jobs, a lot of them are a lot more progressive at leveraging technology than they used to be.

Michael says that when mainstream media talks about bloggers, they say that they make mistakes and that they never get the story right. But if you think about it, every newspaper has a corrections section that they hide in the back section of their paper. When bloggers make a mistake, they make the correct visible.

How can the audience take advantage of how blogging and traditional journalism intersect?

Lee: You want to market your site and gain thought leadership in a category. Leverage blogs as a platform to talk about what’s unique about you. Use it as a way to make their job easier to find industry experts. A lot of times you write a good blog post and a journalist will see it and ask you to write an op-ed as an extension of that. Use a blog as a place to point to. When you pitch to mainstream media, include a link to your blog.

Andy says journalists want to know what they’re getting into. They want to know how your CEO is going to look on camera. Put up a video of yourself speaking at a local conference to show the media that your boss isn’t going to be stuttering a lot and that they can handle themselves on camera.

[Andy takes a shot at Rand about why he's on TechMeme all the time and Rand's not. The audience "ooohs". ] Truthfully, the reason Andy gets on TechMeme is because he posts about news. Rand is more of a discussion site with a community. He can write about what he did last weekend and get 100 comments.

How do people become A-list bloggers?

Lee says if you’re just starting out, find a really specific niche about something you’re fantastic about. Become known for that and then expand.

Andy says an industry is never saturated. Pick something you’re passionate about and you can make it work. Lee says there’s a formula for success. Interview other people, write content, present things in a way other people aren’t. There are a lot of ways to distinguish yourself.

Rand: Use your business. If you’re selling handbags, write about what celebrities are using your bags.

Search engine optimization blogs: How much of that is really reliable in terms of being fresh? Or are people keeping the good stuff for themselves?

Andy says Rand is really secretive about what he shares about his company. Heh.

Rand says if you’re talking about white hat practices or advanced social media techniques, 90 percent of it is out there and 10 percent is behind the curtain. Not everything is out there but you’ll find that in every industry.

Lee says it depends on the purpose of the blog. Some people are more liberal than others. The point of the blog is really important. Give away enough information to show expertise but don’t give away the farm.

Personally, Andy doesn’t hold anything back. Rand doesn’t seem to believe him. Andy says he can talk about things on a generic basis.

Optimizing your blog and getting it to rank in the search engines

Rand says blog CMS’ are really search engine optimization-friendly by nature. WordPress and Movable Type are both very friendly.

Andy agrees but says it’s possible to make them SEO friendly, but they don’t come like that out of the box. You have to work for it.

Is it possible to rank well if you’re not updating every day?

Rand says it’s possible. He’s seen blogs that do well even though they only publish every week or so. Todd Malicoat is the best example of this. Greg Boser is another one.

Michael says you don’t have to update your corporate blog every day. (Really? You don’t? I’m taking next week off!)

Andy says you have to take into consideration what you’re looking to get out of it. Are you looking to establish yourself as an expert or to make money?

Question & Answer

Lee did a post on Monday about PubCon. Can you talk about how effective that way?

Lee says he’s been playing around with tapping into communities. Lee thought his Why PubCon Rocks post was valuable. He pinged people and aggregated the responses into a single post. He got a lot of positive outside emails from people. He also got feedback from people saying it was spammy and blatantly promotional.

Rand had a similar problem. They did a post about a small event that some friends of their friends threw and people commented asking if it was a for-pay post.

What are the essential WP plugins?

Rand says to go to Bill Hartzer’s blog. There’s a list there.

Lee talks about the SEO plugin that Stephan Spencer created.

Andy says you just have to be aware of the posts.

Rand says they do testing and found that with all the search engines the first link that points to a blog post is the one that counts. What he means is that if Rand writes a post that links to the same page twice, the anchor text he uses in the first instance will count, not the second. (if you nofollow the top link, it’ll count for the second link.)

An audience member says that she was told if she puts a posting into more than one category that it would be perceived as Google by duplicate content?

Rand says blogs can definitely have major duplicate content problems. The content of every blog post is on your blog page and in the archives. You have to use a nofollow so that the permalink page ranks.

When you’ve got a corporate blog and it goes popular, do you feel like you have to create a personal blog to really be yourselves?

Andy says its goes both ways. Robert Scoble can do it. For Andy, Marketing Pilgrim is his business blog and he has AndyBeal.com to do all his personal blogging. He doesn’t think you have to follow that path but, if you don’t, you have to be careful about what users will tolerate.

Lee says you should plan for your blog to wildly successful. You have to set the framework for the blog and anticipate issues. Lee says to have multiple RSS feeds for your categories. This way people can get the cat posts if they want to. [Susan, can we do that? We need a Jack Jack category!]

SEOmoz has faced this a lot. Rebecca will write a lot of inner circle-type posts and people will leave angry comments. He also mentions that time Mystery Guest wrote a personal-type post and it got a bunch of thumbs downs and negative comments. Once you create an expectation and you don’t meet it, people get upset. People are there for the information.

Some of your readers don’t realize they can skip posts.

If you look at the Technorati Top 100 blogs, there’s a ton of people telling other bloggers how to be bloggers. They’re giving away awesome tips. If you do that you’ll get a lot of links and become people.

Andy says he hates that. It’s okay for Darren Rowse, but most people don’t know what they’re talking about. But people buy into it. He’d rather focus on delivering a great experience than pandering to what’s going to make him popular quickly.

What’s your take: RSS full text or partial text?

SEOmoz does full text. Danny Sullivan says to do partial text. Full text if you want more people to be aware of you. Partial text if you want more visitors.

How do niche blogs support themselves and create interest when there isn’t a blogosphere to do that for you?

Lee says to link out to other blogs and do stuff offline to support online efforts. Rand says to reach out to the big blogging industries and make your content appeal to them.

How important is adding multimedia?

SEOmoz has Whiteboard Friday every week. They get about 1,000-1,500 views every week. But then you look at the blog readership and they get 3,000 page views per post. People aren’t consuming video the way they’re consuming text. There are limitations. However, in terms of branding, it can be one of the best things you can do.

Andy says people keep asking him when he’ll be doing more Marketing Pilgrim Live videos.

Michael says video can be really, really complicated or really, really simple. It depends what you want to put into it.

What is Google going to do with the data they get from Google Reader?

Rand says that Matt would call it potentially noisy data because it’s easy to scam.

In terms of Universal, does it matter where you upload your videos to?

Absolutely. When Rand looks for video online, all he sees are YouTube videos.

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