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February 27, 2008

SEO & Blogging

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Things are getting testy up in here. If Tamar bumps into me one more time I may have to take her. We’ll hold a death match right on the stage. And upload it to YouTube. Huzzah!
Fine, getting back to business.

Vanessa Fox (Search Engine Land) is moderating the SEO & Blogging panel with speakers Andy Beal (Marketing Pilgrim), Michael Gray (Atlas Web Services) and Aaron Wall (SEO Book).
Up first is Aaron Wall.

Blogs let you get attention in the marketplace. You just have to be opinionated and original.

They help you in the world of infinite competition

  • Smarter algorithms and aggregators
  • Social media
  • Outsourcing
  • Better, cheaper, and faster publishing tools
  • Ad tracking increasingly precise
  • Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin – an article about how ranches are sharing farm land they keep getting less and less cow. Heh, I think I missed something in there.

Blog Growth vs Web Usage
The amount of competition for blogs is growing faster than the number of blog readers. Gain traction by focusing on a niche, have a bias, formatting, filter, social interaction, posting regularly, monetize and use push marketing.

Bias: A Truth for Every Search

It doesn’t matter what you believe. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll bias other people and bring them into your world. The more passionate you are, the better you’ll be able to communicate your ideas and the more people you’ll draw in.

Gathering points: politics, religion, human rights, education, technology, etc.
Key attributes: passion, open, original, consistent, opinionated, (dis)honesty.

Own your niche. Owning a smaller niche is an easy way to start building personal brand. The number one player gets more play in the media, more self reinforcing exposure and better ad rates.

Formatting: Use a clean appealing design, a positive reinforcing tone, highlight the best pages, have an About Us page, make it easy for the press to contact you and utilize pictures, video and sketchcasting. Write headlines like a wire service writer. Use simple words and short sentences. Take advantage of bulleted lists, headers and subheaders.

Read More, Write Less

  • iGoogle and Google Trends
  • Google News Alerts
  • Custom RSS feeds
  • Compare now to the past
  • Save drafts and refine before publishing
  • Stay on topic

When you have a socially interactive site, it makes it easier for people to join in.

Comment and link out
Create community based ideas
Ask for feedback before launching
Actively solicit feedback and reply to comments
Write for others
Network offline
Don’t be afraid of controversy
Get people to talk about you

Try and post regularly, people tend to appreciate that. Pre-write draft posts for future ideas. Offer tools or bolt on community stuff like job board and forums. Encourage contribution from others. Highlight best contributors.

Monetizing a New Blog:

Don’t put AdSense above your content. Sell branded ads or co-brand affiliate offers. Create your own products. Increase price to maintain high visitors.

Push Marketing: Avoiding attention scarcity

  • Companies pay to advertise giving away products they sold in the past year
  • Build links – Yahoo Directory + a few others
  • Buy AdWords and AdSense ads, blog ads
  • Sponsor other related sites
  • Syndicate your content and write for other trusted sites
  • Don’t monetize too early.

Next is Andy Beal. He’s going to talk about how he promotes Marketing Pilgrim.

Your blog has two audiences. There are the initial blog readers and then there are the Google users. The first group is the people who purposely visit you. Ask questions and entice them. Publish scoops. Your secondary audience is the people who find you via Google. Optimize titles to make it easier for people to find you. Change word order on old posts. Add keywords.

Optimize Page URLS: Create killer slugs. Don’t let the blog decide, optimize them yourself. Include popular keywords and anticipate Google searches. Keep it short and don’t change them once published!

How do you get the indented link in Google?

  • Focus on just one page
  • Build backlinks with anchor text
  • Create/find very similar theme page
  • Link first to second
  • Rinse and repeat

Heh, Andy mentioned that finding a similar themed page is "slightly evil" and Matt Cutts totally woke up in the back of the room. He’s trained.

Refocusing your content: Think about how you can use that page in the future and optimize page slugs accordingly. Write Top 10, Best 100, and 7 Reasons lists. Get links. Turn to the dark side. Change focus of the page. (Andy! That’s totally deceptive!)

Get people to write content for you. Find Guest Authors. Do writing contests, blog carnivals (a community writing project) and offer performance payments.

Andy talks about the SEO scholarship contest he ran where people produced a lot of great content for him absolutely free. He got 68+ articles and got content for his free e-book.

Monitor Analytics: Watch for traffic spikes. Increased page popularity. Capture the audience. Optimize existing and similar content. Look for new post ideas.

Michael Gray is up next. Hopefully he’ll speak slowly. Hey, a girl can hope, right?

Dave Winer made a bet with a NY Times reporter that blog would beat newspapers for the top 5 news stories of 2007. On 3 of top 5 listings, Wikipedia was listed first. Blogs had 4 times the amount of top 10 listings that newspapers had for news searches.

Because blogs are frequently updated, they are able to attract the attention of search engine spiders, which enables content to be crawled and indexed faster. The structure and implementation of blogs allows search engines to easily isolate content from the template.

Blogs provide a stable and structured and customizable CMS that allows you to deploy content quickly, easily and on a schedule without the need to involve IT staff. Blogs use a technology called RSS that enables you to reach customers without the hassles and uncertainty of email.

Google is gathering data from sites you read and visits from the Google toolbar, Google reader, desktop widgets, and others tools. This data is already being factored into personalized search and as it becomes more trusted, it may play a larger role in the ranking algorithm.

Google Reader Data: Google tracks what you read compared to what you scan. That may be considered a trusted signal by Google.

Blogs give you defensible traffic. By cultivating people who are subscribed directly to your feed, your Web site becomes immune to fluctuations in search engine rankings.

Blogs fit very well in the social media space. They’re a natural fit with voting sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, etc. Stories that become popular are often picked up, shared, mentioned and linked to by social media sites. By gaining repeated exposure you build links and subscribers.

Blogs are a reputation management tool. The rapid nature of blog publication enables you to react to a crisis or problem. The rapid indexing allows you to control listings and sculpt the SERP. Reporters and journalists use blog search as a research tool for information and professional commentary.

Use your blog as a sales tool. The "news" nature of blogs makes them the perfect platform for announcing and publicizing new products or services. For industry specific blogs, there exists a huge potential for affiliate or other referral based sales commissions. Disclose as is standard practice in your industry.

Who’s Blogging?

  • SouthWest
  • JetBlue
  • CocaCola>/li>
  • Donald Trump
  • General Motors

Blogs provide a quick and easy way for you to add new content to your site. They give you an easy way to get involved with social media. They’re a tremendous link building tool. Michael says they are THE best link building tool out there. Blog subscribers make you immune to ranking fluctuations. They provide you with an opportunity to interact with your customers.

Question & Answer

If you have a Web site and a blog is an addition to that, should the blog be a subfolder of the domain or on its own domain?

Michael: A lot of people like to do them on subdomains because it’s easier for the IT department. He doesn’t think that’s the best idea because it divides your link equity. You want to leverage all the trust into one domain.

Andy: I agree. There are a few times where I’d recommend a sub domain, but if you’re having a blog for branding or outreach, you should get it in one folder. Andy says people are less reluctant to link to your blog if it’s not on your domain.

Aaron: Use a sub domain if you have other contributors who will offer varying degrees of quality. This way if the garden gets a few weeds on it, it doesn’t hurt you. Nice analogy by Aaron.

[Matt Cutts is in the back of the room and offering Michael $100 to dance on the table without his shirt. Yikes. Things are getting hot in here! Ooo, now we’re talking about porn and all things naked and uncut. I’m turning red. Horrible, horrible shades of red.]

People subscribing to your RSS feed aren’t interacting with the site itself or the comments. Are you hurting yourself by having RSS?

Michael: If you want comments, piss people off or ask open ended question.

Andy: He doesn’t mind if people subscribe by RSS or drop by once a week. It’s still a reader taking in his content. He gets excited by his subscriber rate.

Aaron: Set off featured content as a page on your site and then link to it from the blog. Forces them to interact.

Full feed or partial?

Michael: Full-feed. Let people make the choice.

Aaron: You can create both and let people select the one that they want. The downside with full feed is that people will steal your content.

Andy: He does full feed because it helps his content to travel further. Gets him on TechMeme and in Google News. He doesn’t think it reduces the engagement with the site.

What should people do about having comments if you’re a corporate blog? Are there things you shouldn’t blog about? Should you let employees blog?

Michael: If you’re worried about customers saying bad things in the comments, they’re already talking bad about you somewhere else. Don’t hide from the comments.

Andy: It’s better to embrace it and bring them into the conversation. Create a comment policy as to what you will accept and what you won’t. He has one on Marketing Pilgrim. (We have on at BC, too!) The best blogs are the ones that don’t screen their posts through legal first. Set up guidelines and then make sure they follow that. Don’t monitor each post.

Aaron: Make people register to comment.

Michael: The TSA recently started a blog and people commented about bad policies and then they went and fixed them.

Andy says if you try and comment on the TSA blog they make you take your shoes off first. Hee.

Do you blog differently when you’re trying to attract links?

Michael: For clients he recommends a blended approach. You have to create something that’s link worthy at least once a week. Go with series. Michael doesn’t like that corporate blogs aren’t edgy enough.

Andy: It’s hard to reach both audiences. Cater to your main audience. Be sparing in your posts that you write solely for social media.

Do you have a preferred blogging platform?

Vanessa: WordPress
Michael: WordPress
Andy: WordPress
Aaron: WordPress. If you’re going for something really complex, he likes Drupal.

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One response to “SEO & Blogging”

  1. Joshua Mauldin writes:

    Lisa, great synopsis. I was at this session today and it was easily the most fun panel I’ve attended during the conference. I had to blog it too.



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