Ever since weblogs became “blogs” and the day of user-generated content arrived, bloggers have been trying to figure out the secret to getting people to read their stuff. What began in principle as an online diary movement has blossomed into a huge part of the online environment, with more than 181 million blogs in existence at the end of 2011.
With so many options available to readers, what can you do to make your blog stand out from the rest, drive traffic and readership, and generate comments and (hopefully!) revenue? We compiled some insights on recurring themes for successful blog writing from some of the Internet’s top SEO thought leaders.
Content is King!
Content, content, content – like the location chant, you’ve heard it before. However, it’s never been truer that it is now, in almost every sphere of the online environment. Several of our experts highlighted the importance of creating fresh, relevant and compelling content, and posting consistently and regularly. It’s not just about what you have to say, but about how – and when – you say it, and it’s no secret that frequently updated blogs get more search engine traffic.
Picture an open-ended container of sand: as you pour more in on top, some gets squeezed out the bottom to make space for it. That’s how search engines work – for every bit of new, updated content that gets added to the queue as a result of your blog writing, something must drop off at the end. While your content is in that container, your chances of appearing in the search engine results pages (SERPs) are at their best. Once you drop out, your odds of being found diminish until the next time you post.
Take Your Time
Remember the tortoise and the hare? Rushing doesn’t work, not even in the fast-paced milieu of the worldwide web. Mark Engelsman of Digital Brand Solutions believes it takes time and effort to develop a good blog. He suggests developing an editorial calendar or plan for your blog writing, and says trying to fast track the process by publishing keyword stuffed posts is a bad idea. Not only will you lose readers when they realize the content sounds like gibberish, but your blog may be penalized by the search engines. Engelsman is also a proponent of mixed media, and recommends adding video, images, polls and infographics to your posts.
Use Keywords Sparingly
The most important “get found” tactic of the 21st century is the keyword. Keywords may be individual words, short phrases consisting of one or two keywords, or long-tailed keywords comprising five or more keywords. Ron Jones, author of Keyword Intelligence, proposes researching frequently used search terms using a keyword tool, and then composing your content around the keywords you identify.
Paul Roetzer, author of The Marketing Agency Blueprint and CEO of PR 20/20, reminds us that constant monitoring and analysis of our blog statistics will help us find out which of the keywords are generating leads or driving sales conversions.
And don’t forget that your blog writing is for your readers. Keywords are critical, no question, but the content must still be well written and should be optimized naturally for SEO. Choose one or two keywords for each blog post and work them into the copy comfortably. Don’t force it. In the words of Charlie White, senior editor of Mashable: “Try to use restraint, [with keywords]… or your SEO overkill will become obnoxious.”
Social media is your best friend. No, really! Eric Enge, co-author of The Art of SEO and Nick Stamoulis, president of Brick Marketing, both highlight the point about using social media profiles to promote every blog post. Submit each post to the social bookmarking sites, too – don’t wait for your readers to do all the “heavy lifting” to get your blog writing out there.
Social media also opens the door to getting links to your blog, especially if you have major influencers on your friend lists. If you can get them to occasionally share or tweet your content, it will give you access to their audiences and help to build the credibility of your blog.
Stamoulis recommends putting social media share buttons on every blog post, to make it as easy as possible for your readers to post your content to their profiles. “The more times a piece of content is shared the more important it becomes in the eyes of the search engines,” says Stamoulis. Wise words, and worth remembering.