One of the most common questions we get is, "should I add a blog to my site?"
Blogs have gained a reputation as having the potential to boost your SEO rankings, but it's important to understand what a blog does and why it helps, as well as when it wouldn't help.
What is a blog, exactly?
A blog is nothing more than a collection of articles, generally appearing on a website in reverse chronological order -- meaning the newest posts show up first. The key phrase there is "nothing more than a collection of articles." That's right, a blog is not some magical thing that will score you all kinds of love from Google; it's nothing more than a collection of articles.
What that means is, if you really wanted to, you could create your own mock blog just by publishing articles as standard html pages on your website, then publishing another page with links to all those articles. In its most basic form, that's really all a blog is.
So why does everyone say blogging helps SEO?
The simple answer is that SEO is a complicated subject. Because it's complicated, two things end up happening:
- Companies selling SEO services say "Blogs help SEO," because it's a thousand times easier than explaining why blogs help SEO, or that some blogging platforms will actually hurt your SEO, or that the same can be accomplished in Dreamweaver or another web publishing platform (albeit not as efficiently). When it comes to selling, keeping it simple helps.
- Companies who take the blogging plunge tend to notice their traffic increases. Because SEO is a complicated subject, the easiest explanation is that the blog did it. Then, when you talk to employees in those companies, they tell you how much of an impact blogging made on their business...and the legend grows.
So...Will a Blog Help with SEO or Not?
Yes and no. It's not the blog itself that will help with SEO. Remember, a blog is nothing more than a collection of articles. What tends to help with SEO are all the secondary things a blog does for you that you might not even be thinking about. A well-designed blog facilitates SEO best practices, by accomplishing the following:
- If you have a blog, you should be publishing on it. Anytime you add text-rich pages to your website, you're giving Google more content to index. More content means your website will show up for more searches. You're casting a wider net, which tends to catch more prospects.
- Most bloggers use WordPress. When setup properly, WordPress does a lot of stuff behind the scenes that is good for SEO. Now, don't think I'm suggesting WordPress will always help your SEO behind the scenes. WordPress can very easily be setup in such a way that it won't do you much good at all, and that's entirely up to the author of your theme…or your designer/developer if you had a WordPress theme custom made.
- However, even a perfectly setup WordPress theme won't do you any good if you don't follow some SEO best practices. Thankfully, WordPress makes it easier for you to follow these best practices. And we know the easier something is, the more likely we are to do it. Some of the tasks WordPress can simplify are:
- Adjusting meta tags (title, description, keywords)
- Linking to other pages on your site directly
- Linking blog posts together using tags, categories, and archives
- Proper formatting (heading tags, bold and italicized text, etc)
- SEO-friendly URLs (WordPress calls these "Permalinks")
- In addition to these, WordPress has a huge list of plugins that can add functionality to do just about anything else you could want
What to consider before you add a blog to your site
Now it's time for a reality check. I've shown that just adding a blog to your site is not going to magically get you more business. However, undertaken properly, blogging can significantly enhance your visibility online. In addition to showing up for more searches, enhanced visibility means you'll be seen more as an authority in your industry and it will help you build your contact network with potential clients, business and advertising partners, and even "old media" contacts like newspaper and television reporters.
I've seen blogging do amazing things for small and large companies alike. I've also seen a lot of businesses fail to reap any benefits from blogging at all. Here are some important things to consider before you decide to start a blog:
- Who will be responsible for getting blog posts published? Someone in your organization has to be committed to keeping the blog updated. This same person doesn't have to be the one writing the blog posts...you could have anyone handle that, or you could even outsource that entirely. But one person in your organization needs to be responsible for getting posts published on time. That person should have the authority to "motivate" people to get the job done. This will be your blog editor and the responsibility for publishing blog posts rests entirely on his or her shoulders.
- When will blog posts be published? You should set a posting schedule of once or twice per week and be consistent about it. The more consistent you are, the better off you'll be. I'd recommend setting a day and time when posts will be published and not missing those publication deadlines. Treat your blog like a newspaper...no matter what it takes, get something published on time.
- Who will train your people? Do yourself a favor and get some basic SEO training for your people. If funds are tight, you could just have the blog editor trained on basic SEO. If you're able, train your writers too. There are plenty of SEO companies out there that can help you with this, including us. Just a couple hours of training will make a world of difference.
- Which blogging platform will you use? I can't think of any reason to use anything besides WordPress. It's just so much farther along than any other blogging platform and it's so widely used that if you need to expand its functionality in some way, there's probably already a plugin out there that will do it for you.
- Who will design your blog? When I say "design," I mean design, develop, program...all of the above. If you decide to use one of the thousands of free WordPress themes, make sure it was created with SEO in mind. If you have a custom theme developed, make sure the developer is familiar with maximizing the SEO benefit of WordPress. Don't skimp on this...if you can't afford to pay $1500 or more for a custom WordPress theme, use a free one. You can always have a custom theme designed later, but if you skimp on a cheap custom theme, you'll be stuck with something that may not help your SEO like it should.
- How will you come up with post ideas?Most people find it incredibly challenging to come up with something to write about once or twice a week. If you're one of those people, I'm here to tell you to stop over thinking it. Your blog posts don't have to be mind-blowing insights into your industry. Sure, if you can throw in some amazing content occasionally, it'll help tremendously, but on the whole, remember you're writing a blog, not a New York Times best seller. It's far more important that you publish consistently. As you continue to blog, you'll get better at it, you'll come up with better post ideas, and you'll see what your readers like to read about and what they don't like so much. Still need some help? Here's a quick and dirty step-by-step:
- Publish posts on Mondays and Fridays at 7am.
- Write those posts a week in advance and use WordPress' post scheduling feature to have them automatically published on the right day/time
- Schedule a brief Wednesday morning brainstorming session with your blogging crew (30 minutes max.)
- Tell everyone to have 3 post ideas ready for the Wed. morning meeting each week
- In the meeting, everyone shares their post ideas
- Pick the top 2 and assign a writer or outsource it
If you're reading this post, I assume you're either considering blogging or are already doing it. Good for you! Just remember, that a little bit of preparation and understanding of the process can go a long way to ensure you reap the maximum benefit. Obviously, blogging isn't a magical cure-all for your SEO woes, but done properly, blogging can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Now get out there and start writing!