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Blogging for SEO: How to Speak to your Target Audience

As we spend the week discussing blogging and the power of demonstrating your brand’s voice, it’s important to give yourself a starting point. The real magic of creating a blog that is impactful is not starting with what you would like to share, but rather speaking to what your target market is looking for…

What I mean by this statement is that many blogs fail to speak to their audience because they do not answer the interests of their visitors/target market. While the blog posts may be very insightful, it fails to establish the credibility of the brand because nobody is “searching” for this information. How do you fix this problem? Simple keyword research will get your blog content going and allow your posts to speak to what your target audience is literally searching for. The easiest way to get this information is the Google Keyword Tool.

Google Keyword Tool

Google’s free keyword tool is a great place to start your research and find what people are looking for in your field of expertise. For the sake of our post, let’s use “blogging” as our focus. Here are some of the searches being run on Google per the keyword tool for the term blogging:

Google Keywords Tool(Click to enlarge)

In reviewing the results above, I can then populate the content or subject matter that I would like to tackle for my blog. These items would be:

  • Blogging Tips
  • How to Start A Blog
  • Business / Corporate Blog Set-Ups

Now that you have this list, you can start to build out your blog posts that focus on these areas. The importance of multiple posts per search query is that it will assist you in getting lift on these terms organically if done often enough. Think of Google’s algorithm as the human metabolism: the more blogs you feed it and update, the more often it gets hungry and comes back for more.

5 topics you should consider before starting a company blog

Seems like everyone and their ‘teacup’ pigs have blogs these days. If you’re not familiar with the term (likely noone reading this post!), a blog is basically a running (web) log of journal like entries – like the one you’re reading now. From personal blogs chronicling daily life to corporate blogs aimed at informing customers and building a brand, online journals or “blogs” can be an integral part of a business. But before you jump on the band wagon and start your own blog for the sake of being able to check “create a blog” off the ol’ list of to-dos, consider the following:

What are your goals and what are your reasons for starting a blog?

There are millions of websites and blogs on the world wide web as it is and we humans only have a limited amount of time to browse through content. Translation: you better have something compelling to say if you want people to read your content. Of course, your goal may not necessarily be to create a following. Perhaps your big goal is to effect natural search rankings by increasing your amount of content. Before you create your blog, deliberate on what types of goals you would like to accomplish. If your goals include some of the following, then perhaps blogging should indeed be in your future.

  • Obtain/improve natural search precense
  • Open up the doors to two way communication with your customers/interested parties
  • Build a community for like-minded people
  • Become a recognized thought leader in your community
  • Increase return visits to your site

Do you have time to maintain and post fresh content?

Successful blogs tend to be updated on a very frequent basis. One of the interesting things about a blog is the fact that many blogging platforms display the date and time that you publish your content meaning that it is easy to tell how fresh content is. I don’t know about you, but I generally have a bias toward fresh content (the search engines do too!). Based on my experience, I would recommend shooting for at least a weekly update but depending on your goals from above, you may want to shoot for more like once a day if you can swing it.

  • Do you have enough topics for creating at least one new post per week
  • Do you have enough time for creating at least one new post per week
  • How do you plan on monitoring comments and discussions
  • Do you have time for responding to comments
  • Will you write everything or do you have writers
  • How good are your writing skills
  • Can you keep to a consistent schedule

Who is your audience?

And are they online. One of your goals may be to form a community centered around your business and your offerings or expertise but if your audience does not want to interact, simply having a blog will not be enough. Knowing your audience and targeting your content to them will help, however.

  • Who are you targeting with your blog content
  • How will you perk the interest of your target audience

How will you promote your content?

Just because you built it doesn’t actually mean they’ll come. You’ll need to promote your content in ways that attract the right kind of audience. This exposure can of course come from a lot of places. Below are some places to start:

  • Display a link or snippets of your content in a prominent region of your main site (assuming you don’t have just a blog)
  • Participate in related blogs, forums, and Q&A sites
  • Participate in blog promotion and blog community sites
  • Create a link to your blog in outgoing email
  • Participate in social networking sites

Are you willing to do a whole bunch of work before you see a return?

It may be a little lonely on the blog in the beginning but nobody said this was going to be a quick and simple process. Depending on how well you promote your content and how big your potential audience is and how much traffic makes it over to your site, it may take a considerable amount of time before you start accomplishing any of your goals. Know that traffic won’t just appear out of nowhere and that you have to earn it. Slow and steady wins the race.

Writing and interacting in a blog can be a rewarding endeavor. But it can also be a huge time investment that doesn’t result in satisfaction. Help yourself out by setting solid goals, deciding on how you’re going to go about accomplishing those goals, be willing to pour in the time and effort, and you just may create success. If you’re not quite ready to move forward with a blog at this moment, there are plenty of other places to spend your time and effort to improve your site.

Long-term investment:Instant gratification :: SEO:___

 

There is no sugar coating this – realizing results from search engine optimization takes time.  Researching and choosing keywords that will drive quality traffic to your site takes time.  Optimizing your content for not only the search engines but also for your potential customers takes time.  Reinforcing what your site is relevant for through quality link building takes time…not to mention luck in many cases.  Obtaining rankings that will drive traffic to your site takes time.  And time is money.

We want results and we want results now!

Paid search can not only be extremely effective but it can be extremely effective extremely quickly.  And we have the paid search department with the data to prove it.  So why should a company invest in a business endeavor that won’t show a return in the first month and possibly won’t show a return in the first six months?

Chances are you’re like the roughly 70% of search engine users who neglect the paid search results in favor of focusing their attention on the natural, or organic, search results.  This is one of the main factors that makes investing in natural search real estate so cost effective in the long term. Obtaining an above the fold natural search position will result in more traffic to your site than bidding to the top position in paid search results.  Not only that, but investing in natural search is an investment that has long term payoff while bidding in paid search is a short term investment that is only effective if you continue advertising.  The greatest benefit of natural search optimization is its potential for longevity.

When I obtain visibility on the first page of natural search listings, can I stop paying per click for my keywords?

You certainly can, however, we generally do not recommend it as there are some great benefits related to showing in both natural and paid search listings.

  • You would be giving up the opportunity to take up more real estate by appearing in both paid and organic search results
  • People who click on paid search ads are, in some cases, more ready to buy
  • There is a certain degree of inherent trustworthiness built when appearing in both paid & organic results

Ultimately, choosing whether to continue to pay per click for a keyword that you rank well for in natural search will come down to the effectiveness of your paid ad.

SEO – Web Page Titles

One of the first steps in optimizing a site for SEO is writing relevant page titles. The page title is put into an HTML tag in your page’s source code.

<title></title>

Go ahead and send this post to your webmaster if we’ve lost you already. If you’re still with us, read on!

Every page should have a unique page title that accurately describes what the content refers to. The best way to begin choosing a page title is to decipher which keywords correctly describe what the page is about.

Since these will be the keywords that users search for to navigate to your site, you want to be sure you’ve attached the best keyword choices to the most appropriate pages. When writing a page title, remember, it’s not just a place to stuff keywords. Make the title like a newspaper headline, catching and interesting, something that sums up the entire page in a glance. The first 62-68 characters of your title is the first thing people see in Google when you show up in a Search Engine Result Page (SERP). You can write a longer title with related keywords, but make sure the first 60 or so have sales text — text that convinces the person searching that you are the solution to their query. If you have too many characters, Google will put a “…” at the end. Even if they use an ellipsis, (…) the words that aren’t displayed will still be valued in the rankings.

Using Google Trends to improve sales

Google Trends is a tool many people don’t know about and those who do don’t understand how powerful it is.  Google Trends will show you the traffic on search terms.  It allows you to show the data by month or by years or by multiple years.  It also shows you traffic by country and states.

The first thing that I do when I go to Google Trends is type in a term and select the last year.  This shows me a complete year from Jan to Dec.  Next I look at the last 12 months to see how things are going right now.  Both times I look down at the bottom and see where people are typing in my terms.

The next thing you can do is start comparing terms.  You can use a comma between terms to compare terms together.    Here is a search for “hunting, fishing, skiing, sailing” for 2008.  This shows you the comparison of the different types of outdoor sports.

Tips for ranking higher in natural search

If you’ve recently launched a web site and have been trying to force it to the top of the search engine results pages, there are a few things you should know before you try to mash that square peg into a round hole.

First, search engines have a way of ranking web pages by trusting older, more established web sites, thus ranking them higher than your 6-month-old toddler of a web site. Naturally, older web sites will have more time to build links and a solid foundation on the most competitive keywords. What this means is you’ll have to try some alternative tactics in order to cut in line to be one of the top results.

One technique to sneak past those high ranking, more established web sites, is to focus on less competitive keywords. Ranking high on less competitive keywords, also known as long tail keywords, will give you more quality visitors compared to ranking low for super competitive keywords. Whereas you’ll get very few visitors from ranking low for short tail keywords, long tail keywords will give your web site the exposure and visibility you need to start building brand awareness and importance. Long tail keywords are also searched for by people who have more knowledge and need to do the search, which oftentimes means the traffic that comes in from these long tail searches is highly qualified. By targeting long-tail keywords at the start, you can and you should see a spike in traffic at a much earlier point than if you only targeted highly competitive, general terms.

Another strategy is to focus on increasing the number of inbound links to your web site. Links to your site should come naturally as you build up great content, however, there are many tactics available for increasing the number of links – some are definitely better than others. Be very wary of purchasing links or participating in excessive link exchange programs because these actions can lead to drastic penalties being bestowed upon your site by the search engines. Stay away from the too-good-to-be-true linking “opportunities” out there, use a bit of common sense, and you should be able to stay clean. Take a proactive approach to creating content that will naturally garner links. Your web site should first be relevant to its target audience and not look too spammy. By being more relevant, your audience will appreciate your web site more and will be more willing to link to it on their blog or from other web sites. Creating mutual relationships with other related websites is also a good idea since search engines, in the context of oversimplification, basically search for the most popular and trusted web sites to rank first. Another way to improve your incoming link status is to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to share your web site. This can be done by adding links to social bookmarking sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon.

Combining these two tactics will have your web site leapfrogging your competitors in due time. Keep in mind that search engine optimization is an ongoing process and not a one-time instant results campaign. And, as hard as it is to remember, square pegs only fit into square holes.

PPC and SEO Work Well Together

When dealing with the complicated world of internet marketing, there are numerous headaches to getting a web site noticed. Whether it is the competition or the clutter, really driving prospective customers to a site can be a hassle. Some seem to think internet ads are the best way to go, while others would rather crawl their way though the ranks of search engines to come out on top. While many internet companies search intently for the solution, the true answer is easier than it may appear. The answer is BOTH: Paid search ads and natural search optimization together work more effectively and efficiently than either by themselves.

*12.6% of conversions credited to natural search were preceded by ad clicks

*Searchers use nearly as many branded searches as non-branded searches

*Branded ads increase new visitor traffic by 12%

Some internet businesses stick to one or the other, but the truth is that they are an effective tag team for many reasons. Most companies aren’t the number one result in an online search results page immediately when they begin their search engine optimization, so while your web site climbs in search rankings internet ads keep you in the customers immediate search results.While your natural rank may not show immediately, your ad will. This supplementation will lead to valuable traffic as your ad can drive interest to your web site. Many companies believe they are done with advertising once their site has a sufficient rank. Sadly, this is not the case. Many times customers’ searches are too long, too specific, or just to general. Paid ads can help insure that your relevant page is still displayed even in these instances. Another benefit with the saturation and supplementation of both elements is it can aid in brand association, so that customers think of your product or service in a particular category due to its dominate presence in a search.

A successful marketing campaign must include both advertisements and a high ranking natural search result. In the highly competitive internet market no company should simply be satisfied with a decent ranking or clever advertisement. Using both strategies ensures that you are receiving the maximum return on your investment. – J

At Risk of Being Redundant; Google On Duplicate Content

Part of the job for the PPC or SEO analyst, consists of debunking… a large part of our job revolves around explaining rumors and misreads. For years, we’ve had to explain a particular twist of semantics that somehow has convinced people that if you have duplicate content on a web site, Google takes out a pen and puts a black mark by your name.

No, Virginia, there is no duplicate content penalty – at least not the way people think.

When faced with multiple pages that look too much alike, Google has to decide what’s what – why it’s seeing double, or whether there’s any malicious intent with what it’s finding. For the most part, the average website doesn’t practice malicious copying, nor do they usually scrape content from other sites. What happens is they end up with catalogs and parts listings that contain 80% plus duplicate wording, or end up with 16 different possible ways to land on the “same page” because there are that many different search options in their web catalog that will land you on the same exact item. This can cause confusion.

Google’s basic, and hopefully final, word on the subject is simple – when we find a bunch of pages that look really similar, we group them into a “cluster,” then we pick a single URL to represent all pages in that cluster. But then they do something else that the average webmaster probably never even notices.

“We then consolidate properties of the URLs in the cluster, such as link popularity, to the representative URL.”

Notice the absence of any pens, or black marks, or slaps, or shackles or any other form of “punishment.” They just group all “duplicated” pages and consolidate the info under one indexed URL. For the average e-commerce site, this is not a problem.

But let’s say you are one of these folks who has 854,000 items in a dynamic, database-driven catalog and all items are shown on a “shell” page that gets populated by the shopper’s query when they’re looking for their item, but because of the way your catalog is built, the ONLY thing that changes on the pages is the image file name, the price, the part number, and the name of the item. Sounds like you probably have 845,000 duplicate pages that will not be indexed individually. If you’re looking for some massive number of “pages indexed” (for whatever reason), you are quite liable to be disappointed. Until there is enough variance between items, like a longer description, or some individualized stats which also populate those pages, you stand very little chance of seeing more pages indexed – you are more than likely seeing fewer pages indexed as Google compiles it’s clusters.

In fact, catalogs that work this way violate Google’s best practices as outlined in their Webmaster Guidelines. Google doesn’t publish all this info for fun – they are trying to help us help ourselves. They say very plainly:

“Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.”

If you feel like your site is suffering from this “clustering” of pages that seem to be duplicated, work with your webmaster to rectify the situation and then use Google’s Webmaster Central tools to request a re-evaluation of your domain.

If you just have 16 different search options that all lead back to the same item, don’t worry about it – one of those URLs will be indexed, and that’s all you need. You’ll want to monitor your SERPs so you can see which pages make the cut so you know how Google “sees you, and keep your site map up to date, but other than that, most of us have very little to fear from the Duplicate Content Penalty…

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