There are all sorts of reasons to start a company blog. A company blog can help build your brand, establish corporate personality, provide a path for direct dialog with customers, help with search engine optimization (SEO) and a host of other cool things. Great content is, arguably, the most important component of a corporate blog — or any blog for that matter — but there’s a lot more to it than just content. Ensuring the blog has a professional look and feel is also key. If it is more inviting and easy to read, people are more likely to linger. And if the blog looks slick and professional, that says a lot about the company (even if readers only notice subconsciously). If it is messy, that says something too. Beyond that, there are a lot of other things that make a good blog great. These include:
Use of graphics, images and dynamic content
Intuitive archiving and navigation
Use of additional pages
Effective use of SEO
All this stuff requires extra time and effort, but the pay off is huge. My view is, if you are going to take the time to do it, taking the extra time and effort to do it well only makes sense. I’ve found that one of the best ways to REALLY get good at blogging is to blog about something about which you are passionate. If you are passionate about your corporate blog, consider yourself lucky. My guess is that, for most, even if they enjoy working on their company’s blog, it still feels like work on some level.
Blogging about something you love makes you a better all-around blogger
Earlier this year, I started a blog about cycling. My original intent was to use the blog to help keep my riding buddies informed about rides we had planned, share tidbits of info with some of the newer riders in the group and document our training. After only a few weeks, I noticed this blog was getting a LOT of traffic. So much so that I quickly decided to start writing it for a broader audience. Within a few months, my hobby blog had more posts — not to mention more traffic — than my corporate blog, which had been around three times as long. Then, one day, I compared the two side-by-side. I realized that my fun blog, which I did entirely on my own, looked every bit as professional as my corporate blog (which I paid a Web designer to create, customize and get running). Only then did it occur to me how much time and effort I had put in to my bike blog and how much I had learned. Unfortunately, I also realized how much I had neglected my corporate blog.
Regardless, the extra experience I gained from my hobby blog has proven invaluable to me. Ultimately, it has had a positive impact on all the various blogs with which I’m involved. If you are building a team to work on your corporate blog, I highly recommend you encourage them to blog on their own as well. A strong case can even be made for allowing them to do a bit of personal blogging on company time every now and again. And if you’ve been given responsibility for spearheading your company’s blog and will be doing most of the heavy lifting yourself, I would, likewise, encourage you to start a blog on the side just for fun. Pick something you are passionate about and I promise you’ll have a great time with it. Even better, if you end up creating something great and you build a big enough following, you might even find ways to monetize it. Just don’t forget about your work blog.
This is kind of cool. Tonight on the Daily Show, John Stewart was talking about the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama and the Naval base near Manama. In this segment, he brought up this old clip from the Muppet show:
He then told viewers to go do a Google search on Muppet Scat to see what comes up. It didn’t take long before Muppet Scatbecame the most searched for term on the Internet. Click on the screen shot below and see for yourself.
By the time the show aired here on the West Coast, the online buzz had already begun. When I performed my “Mupet Scat” search, I saw that one blogger — who used many of the same blog SEO techniques I wrote about earlier this month — had already been able to get his post on the topic to show up on first page of Google results for that term. This provides yet another example of how powerful and immediate blogs can be for search engine optimization. Very cool indeed.
View the Daily Show episode below:
By the way, my heartfelt thanks to the Navy SEAL snipers and all the men and women in the U.S. military. I’m grateful that we have so many good people serving our country who are willing to do the really hard jobs that most people don’t have the skill or stomach to do. Keep up the outstanding work.
Update: It took fewer than two hours for THIS post to make it to page one of a Google search on “Muppet Scat.” Plain and simple, SEO for blogs really works. Click on the image and check it out.
The first step in getting someone to read your corporate blog is helping them find it
If a tree falls down in the forest and no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound? Some say yes, some say no and people with better things to do couldn’t care less. But what if we replace the tree with your company’s blog and the forest with the Internet? Now you’ve got a brain teaser worth considering. Your business can have the best, most compelling blog in the world, but if nobody ever reads it you aren’t making any noise. And if this is the case, what’s the point?
Before someone can read your blog they have to find it. And the best way to make sure people find any kind of online content is to make sure it is search engine optimized. This month I had the privilege of attending Searchfest09 to hear what some of the industry’s leading SEO experts had to say about their industry (which is a LOT more interesting than you might think). SEO is part art, part science and part magic. It is something few will ever completely understand.
Fortunately, you don’t have to become an expert to add some significant SEO punch to your corporate blog. There are a lot of great tools and techniques available that are easy to understand and implement.
Getting Started with SEO for Blogs
Use WordPress — WordPress is the Microsoft (and Apple) of blog platforms. It is easy to use and there are a lot of SEO functions built right in. In addition, because WordPress is built on an open platform, there are literally thousands of people developing cool plug-ins that you can add to make your blog do all sorts of wonderful things. And there are LOTS of great SEO plug-ins available. If it is a corporate blog, consider making it a part of your company Website (like www.koifishcommunicaitons.com and www.koifishcommunications.com). This way, every time you add a new post, it helps your Website’s search ranking as well. Even if your blog is already established somewhere else, moving to the WordPress platform is probably a smart investment. Be forewarned, however, it is a very good idea to identify a few WordPress experts and resources before you embark on your journey.
Understand the basics — Do a little reading about things like title tags, description tags and keyword tags. Learn how to develop an overall keyphrase selection strategy. If your company Website is search engine optimized, learn the keyphrases used there as well and integrate them appropriately. The better you understand these these basic principles, the better your blog SEO will be.
Install good SEO plug-ins — The All In One SEO Pack is a plug-in that will allow you to customize the title, description and meta tags for each post. There are several other tools that will do the same thing as well, but this one seems to be one of the most popular. Also, investigate tools that will allow you to customize the URL of each post to include your chosen key words.
Keep SEO in mind when writing copy — When writing for the Web, you are writing for two audiences — readers and the search engines. Your readers must always be your primary focus. They must find your content compelling and valuable. That said, there are a lot of simple things that can be done including:
Use Keyphrases repeatedly (at least three times) in your post
Use titles and subheads to reinforce keyphrases and make your copy more readable
Make title tags interesting and compelling
Make sure the copy in your title tag and description tag appears in your body copy
Invite readers to comment
The topic of SEO copywriting can’t be effectively tackled in a single blog post. It is a subject worthy of ongoing study. The best book I’ve found on the subject is “Successful Search Engine Copywriting” by Heather Lloyd-Martin. She also provides a lot of good information on her blog.
Use Web analytics — WordPress has a great blog stats plug-in that provides you with a wealth of information about your blog and your readers. It includes a report on the actual search terms that were used to get to a particular post. This is a great way to see if your keyword strategy is working and to consistently fine-tune your process. In addition to the WordPress plug-in, it is fairly easy to add Google analytics to your blog as well. Google offers this same capability and it is always nice to compare and contrast multiple analytics tools, as none of these tools seem to be perfect.
SEO is a Journey
In reality, SEO for blogs is much like SEO for Websites. In fact, from a search engine perspective, it is exactly the same. The only difference is that you don’t have to be a programmer to implement the fundamental components into your posts. And a blog post written using sound SEO practices can sometimes jump straight to a #1 Google ranking for a particular keyphrase in a matter of hours.
SEO for blogs does require a significant amount of extra time and effort but the payoff is huge. While it may seem daunting at first, it really isn’t that hard once you get the swing of things. Keep in mind that complete mastery of SEO is not attainable — even by the most experienced professionals. It is a continuously moving target. SEO is a journey, not a destination.
And, of course, you can always outsource the creation, management or even writing of your corporate blog. If you choose to go in that direction, make sure that the person or agency you hire has a full understanding of the SEO aspect of blogging. If you’d like more information on this important topic, feel free to drop us a line.
Ghostwriting is ghostwriting, no matter what the medium
There has been a lot of debate about the topic of ghostwriting as it pertains to various forms of social media. This is an important debate to have since the underlying issue is credibility, which is something we must all strive to maintain. In this context, terms like full-disclosure and transparency come up early and often. And, while both of these terms are extremely valuable to this discussion it would be a mistake to consider them absolute.
Dave Fleet is one of the many industry insiders who has recently taken on the issue of ghostwriting for blogs and social media. His position is that it’s OK to ghostwrite a blog on behalf of a corporate CEO as long as you provide a disclaimer that the blog is actually written by someone else. I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that. If you make that disclaimer, by definition, it ceases to be ghostwriting.
My take is that ghostwriting is ghostwriting and it can be done effectively and ethically no matter what the medium. So long as the attributed author takes full ownership and responsibility for the material, message, language and ideas being presented, there is no foul. The way I see it, it is up to the individual to choose how they wish to represent themselves publicly. If they wish to enlist a professional writer to help them express their ideas as eloquently and coherently as possible, that is their right.
Though still controversial, Ghostwriting for individual executives on company blogs is becoming commonplace. Blogging has come a long way since “the good old days” of a few years ago when blogs served more as online journals written by a singe person expressing their own thoughts. Today, it is hard to distinguish a great blog from an online magazine, which has lead some old timers to declare that blogging has died. This is wrong. Blogs have not died, they have just evolved. Today, they provide an excellent platform for many types of companies to provide information, interact with customers and build its brand. However, expectations regarding the quality of content have risen. Frankly, I prefer reading things that are well-written and have been proofed and edited. And I’m not alone.
As with any type of communication, there are always multiple variables to consider. Blogs and social media have quite a few. We encourage most of our clients interested in blogging to go with a multi-author format. This allows us to write as ourselves as part of the client’s team when it makes sense (which is most of the time). However, there are some posts that are most appropriate coming from a member of the company’s senior management. In those cases we are always willing to edit or ghostwrite these posts.
When ghostwriting a blog post on behalf of a client, we follow some very rigid guidelines. First and foremost, we make sure that the attributed author reads, edits and approves everything before it is published. This is critical. It is equally important to make sure that the attributed author is involved with responses to all comments made to that particular post.
As you delve into various forms of social media, the waters get a little more murky. While I believe that you still could ethically ghostwrite for someone on Twitter or Facebook, I can’t think of many instances where you should. Practically speaking, if an individual client is involved with social media in a professional capacity, it is something they should do themselves.
We do maintain Twitter accounts for a number of clients. In these cases, we normally Tweet on behalf of the company as a whole. We field questions, weigh in on relevant issues, share interesting articles or promote new items on the blog. Followers rarely are concerned with the actual identity of the person of people manning the Twitter account. If asked, we gladly reveal our identity.
Typically, when agencies or companies run in to trouble is when they intentionally misrepresent their identity and motives online. And when they get caught, they deserve every bit of grief they get. It is great that the marketing community, for the most part, is vigilant about maintaining ethical standards as we plunge into this ever-changing world, but going after ghostwriting seems to me to be a mistake.
KoiFish, the world’s second best PR blog, just made the move to WordPress. Now that I’ve had a few days to settle in, I’m very happy with my new home.
My initial decision to go with GoDaddy’s blog platform was mostly fear-based. The thinking was that, if I ran in to a technical issue, there would be someone I could call. Unfortunately, I’ve since found out that GoDaddy’s customer service is next to useless (unless you complain about it on Twitter).
My decision to make the move was based on the fact that GoDaddy does not provide the ability to tag individual posts, which means search engine optimization is limited. SEO is part of the reason I blog, so I had to move on.
The first step was easy. WordPress has a function that lets you import most of the stuff from your old blog into your new one. IF your old blog posts aren’t full of legacy formatting codes you’ll be set.
Unfortunately, most of my posts were originally authored in Word and then pasted into my blog. When you do that, you end up adding a bunch of HTML gunk — including unwanted formatting code — at the same time. That code caused me trouble then and caused me more trouble when I moved. The good news is that WordPress has a function that lets you paste word copy into a special place where all that gunk is stripped out. I ended up cutting out all the copy from my old blog, pasting it into Word, then pasting it in to WordPress using this feature. It worked like a charm. Now I can make format changes in the template and they are applied to every post.
Images also moved right over. However, my images were actually housed on my old blog. When I imported my old posts, the images themselves weren’t actually moved. Instead, links to the place where the images are stored were created. No big deal except for the fact that they are stored on the old blog and that blog is going bye-bye very soon. I ended up moving each image, one at a time, to my new blog. This took a while, but at least WordPress gives you the option of changing image names, creating captions and making alt tags for each image. This is all good for SEO.
Comments didn’t transfer. I ended up cutting and pasting. This was tedious, particularly since I went in and tweaked the dates to reflect when they were originally posted on my old blog (rather than when I posted them to the new blog).
After having a few days to play around with WordPress, here’s what I’ve concluded:
There is a lot of SEO functionality built in
The dashboard is very easy to use
There are thousands of templates to choose from, so you don’t have to design your own page if you don’t want to
You can cut and paste copy authored in Word without having to deal with formatting problems. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it actually kinda is
Images are easy to manipulate and tag
There are thousands of “plugins” to choose from. These let you easily add some very slick funcitons to your blog. If you can think of it, chances are someone has already designed it. Stuff like additional SEO functions, Twitter streamig, Google, etc., etc., etc. is all there for the uploading. And uploading most of these plugins is simple
Most hardcore blogers use WordPress. If you have a question or run into a problem, there is a large community of people you can ask for advice
Because templates and plugins are created by the community, some work well and some don’t. Trial and error is required
Templates are coded in PHP instead of HTML. If you want to create your own (or tweak an existing one) you need to know PHP — or know someone who does
The template can be somewhat restrictive in how you lay out each individual post. For example, the template I use mashes the body copy of a post directly under the list of tags under the headline. I like a little more breathing room for the copy, so I need to insert a space at the beginning of each post. Inserting this space in older posts can be tricky — I can only do it when I make edits using Explorer. I have no idea why that is
Speaking of Explorer, you need to check the appearance of your blog in Explorer and Firefox. It will not look the same in both. This is really an Explorer/Firefox issue as far as I understand it, but it is still a hassle. It was less of a concern using GoDaddy software
I’m still looking for a great way to make sure links to old blog posts will be properly forwarded to their new home. Until I get that sorted out, my blog will currently reside in two places. I’m pretty sure this is a negative thing for SEO.
Many thanks to my pal, David Naylor from Truth Entertainment for all his help in customizing the template to make sure it has the same great look and feel to the KoiFish Communications Website.
Update: I guess the joke’s on me. I just put a quick note up on the GoDaddy version of the blog to tell people to come to this version instead. Damned if they didn’t just add the ability to tag each post. This was my main complaint and it has been fixed. I still like WordPress better, but find this to be more than a little humorous.