Blog Marketing FAQs
The world of blogging continues to change rapidly and gain increasing interest, and is now a highly competitive area of online marketing.. Getting it right has never been so important, and getting it wrong has never been so easy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Writing & Marketing Blogs
- How long do blog posts need to be?
There really isn't a minimum or a maximum, and unlike with article directories you can publish anything to your blog - even a video if you like. Who says a blog post always has to be text? However, since in many cases you'll want a blog post to work as search engine optimised content helping to push your website up the search results it will be important to ensure that on the whole blog posts are long enough to count. If a blog post is too short then it won't have as much contextually relevant vocabulary, and will therefore carry less weight.
It's also worth noting that if a blog post is very short then people may not stop for very long on the page, potentially damaging your bounce rate. It's also important to be aware that it's usually a good idea to include a variety of lengths of posts.
We recommend a bare minimum of 150 words, a preferred minimum of 300 words and a rough maximum of 600 words. If your post is much longer than 600 words then you risk losing people unless it is extraordinarily engaging. You might as well split your post into two parts and publish them a day apart. For most people we would recommend a couple of 300 word blog posts and a 600 word blog post as a minimum average a week. We write daily blog posts for many of our clients, with the length varying from 300 words to 600 words.
- Should I include my primary keyword in most or all of my blog posts?
Absolutely not! This will result in your entire blog becoming keyword dense, which will not only result in your posts all being very much the same, and sounding rather forced, but probably blacklisted by the search engines for keyword stuffing.
Whether it's articles, web content or blog posts you really should not be thinking about keyword stuffing at all. Even a keyword density of 1% could be disastrously damaging these days.
If you only stick to one or two major keyword phrases and try to work these into every blog post then it is inevitable that fairly quickly you'll find yourself talking about the same things, becoming increasingly restricted in terms of variety and originality.
If you must use keywords at all have as long a list as possible - preferably a list of at least 20 very different keywords or keyphrases, or more if you can. We write blogs for several clients who have provided us with lists of over a hundred different possible phrases or keywords, and this means that we can include a wide variety of topics in their posts. Many of our clients don't provide a list at all, and ask that we create topic relevant content - this is the ideal approach.
To be honest if you are writing good quality content that's relevant, unique and original, and you're writing for real people about subjects of genuine interest and relevance then this is really all that matters. Writing in this way means that you'll inevitably be using subject related vocabulary, and you'll be writing engaging content which will draw in real people as well as search engine spiders.
- Can I use blog posts as SEO articles, and vice versa?
Although there's nothing basically wrong with this – you own the copyright after all - there is an inherent risk which it's important to be aware of. Contrary to what many people will tell you Google does not have a duplicate content penalty. If Google did penalise websites for having duplicate or similar content then weather channels and news channels would be struggling.
However, it is also Google's intention to try to provide a broad range of results for keyword searches, and so any websites including the same content will usually be spaced apart. This means that the first or more authoritative source of the content will be listed significantly higher than the website which includes the duplicated content. Both sites will be listed, but one will obviously receive preferential treatment.
If you publish SEO articles on your blog or website you have no way in which to guarantee which instance of your article the search engines catalogue first. They might well come across the version of your article published on a major article directory first, in which case your blog or website will not be listed as high. So effectively by duplicating your own content you could potentially penalise your own website's authority and rank. It is always much better practice to have SEO articles used purely for article marketing, and blog posts or website content written purely for those purposes.
- How often should I have blog posts published?
This really does depend entirely on your niche market, your budget, the amount of time you have and the length of your blog posts. There are some bloggers who publish many times a day, and others fairly rarely. For businesses it's important to publish a few times a week at least since this keeps both the search engines and real people coming back for your new content.
If you try to publish too frequently then you may find that it takes longer and longer to come up with new topics or ideas, and there's a danger of you becoming repetitive, or of publishing weak, dull content which will put people off. It's important to focus on quality rather than frequency. We recommend about three or four posts a week as a good average for most businesses, although we do write daily blog posts for some clients as this suits their market. If you're not sure then we'd be happy to offer you a personalised recommendation.
- Should blog posts include images?
In terms of SEO an image doesn't really add a great deal, but for a blog it's definitely a good thing to include an image, at least occasionally. No matter how much people may be after information, they're still going to prefer reading it if it's broken up with the odd pretty picture. For longer blog posts an image breaks the page up, making it more user friendly and appealing. Blog posts with the odd picture do tend to retain people's interest for longer than blogs which are purely text based.
Of course, if you are going to include an image in your blog post then it's important to make sure that it's relevant, and has something to do with what you're writing about. It's also important to make sure it is optimised, including having the image filename include your keyword, and the alt text to include a longtail keyphrase too.
Finally, always make sure that you really do own the appropriate copyright usability for the image. Using images for which you do not hold the copyright could result in either damage to your brand's credibility, or even a court case.
- Where can I find free images for use within my blog posts?
What you should not do is to search Google images, grab an image which catches your eye and stick it in your blog. The problem is that Google simply scans every available website and directory it can find, which means going through every '/images' folder on the web. This completely ignores any potential copyright, although Google does, albeit fairly subtly, include a caveat to this effect on its image search page. By using Google Images you're searching images completely regardless of copyright or licensing, and many of them - indeed most - will probably have some form of copyright attached to them.
Instead it is best to consider actively finding either royalty free or copyright free images. Many people mistakenly believe that if an image is royalty free (RF) you can copy it and use it on your blog without having to pay. This is not true. If an image is classed as royalty free then this means that you only have to pay for it once, after which you're free to use it as many times as you like. Other licensing models exist which may restrict you to a one time use only, unless you pay for subsequent uses of the same image.
There are plenty of websites available though which offer copyright free images should you be working to a tight budget. For example, we recommend:
- Should I encourage comments on my blog posts?
Definitely. One of the things a great many people forget about social media marketing is that it is supposed to be social. A blog is not a lecture or a monologue, it should be a dialogue. If all you ever do is preach from your blog then you'll find it very hard to gather followers, and almost impossible to encourage people to link to you or share your blog posts.
By actively encouraging people to respond to your blog posts, either by agreeing with you or disagreeing with you, you are demonstrating confidence in your brand and an openness to opinion which will boost your credibility considerably.
You'll also find that by encouraging comments and then responding to them people will become more loyal to your blog, and will be more likely to link to your posts, re-publish them, share them and comment again in future. In return you should try to make an effort to comment on their blogs from time to time too, although it should be noted that any comment left should always offer something of value, and not merely be an attempt at gaining a cheeky backlink.
- How can I encourage more people to comment on my blog posts?
There are three main techniques which you can use to encourage more people to leave comments on your posts. The first thing to do is to blatantly ask for them to comment. If your final sentence or line asks people for their thoughts, ideas, comments, opinions, experiences or tips then you are leaving them with a call to action which will increase the chance of them leaving a comment rather than clicking on the next link.
The second technique is to make sure that your blog post includes an opinion or idea which people are likely to either vehemently disagree with, or fully support. It can be a little risky, but if you can sometimes, perhaps tongue in cheek, play the devil's advocate from time to time you'll find people offering their thoughts and opinions, even if just to prove you wrong. Of course, in such cases it's important to follow up on these comments and demonstrate that you're not actually the devil - just his advocate!
A third way of encouraging comments on your posts is to quote or write in response to someone else's blog post. If you have read a post and you feel you have a lot to say about it, more perhaps than a single comment, then write it up as a post on your own blog, include a link back to theirs, and then leave a post on their blog indicating that you have detailed your thoughts and responses in a post which they and their followers may be interested to read. Be careful with this one, but if done well it can be a highly effective way of increasing the number of comments and the number of people regularly visiting your blog.
- What is the difference between publishing a blog and blog marketing?
Publishing a blog means posting regular new content on your own blog. Blog marketing differs from this in that the aim is not just to publish new content but to foster and encourage a sense of community. This is achieved by writing blog posts which actively encourage people to respond by posting comments, writing responses to those comments to turn the blog post into a conversation, and leaving relevant comments on other people's blog posts too.
Blog posting is, in essence, a monologue or speech. Blog marketing takes this much further and turns your speech into a debate which creates an active community of people who will share and link to each other's content. This offers you three main advantages: more of your blog posts will be quoted, linked to or recommended, more people will visit your blog on a regular basis, and your professional reputation will be increased. Of course, you'll also benefit from being involved in a community which is always trying to be ahead of the game, giving you great insights into the latest ideas, as well as a market with whom you can share new ideas and receive honest and helpful feedback.
In fact blog marketing has so many important benefits that it's essential you take the concept seriously and try to embrace this approach rather than relying wholly on blog posting alone.
- Which blog platform should I use?
This isn't easy, and it's important not to rush into making a decision too quickly. There are several important questions you will need to ask before committing to a blog platform. Although you can often change blog platform later on, using an export and import tool, there are often likely to be problems, ranging from not being able to important everything (leaving behind images, or comments for example) to taking a hit as far as your search result page ranking and traffic is concerned.
One of the first things to consider is whether you're going for a free hosted blog or whether you'll be hosting it yourself using your own domain. There are plenty of free blogging platforms available such as Blogger.com, WordPress.com and MSN Spaces. These are easy to set up, unlike hosting your own blog, but there will be drawbacks to this, including being unable it integrate it within an existing website.
The list of blog platforms is tremendous, with the following list indicating some of the more popular choices people have opted for:
- Movable Type
- Expression Engine
- Text Pattern
- Powerful Intentions Community
- City Desk
- Boast Machine
- Blog Drive
Choosing a blog platform means thinking about your needs first before looking at what's available. Obviously popular choices such as Blogger and WordPress are everywhere, and these do offer a great many options and choices, but it's worth looking about to see what else is available before committing.
But ultimately it's important to appreciate that choosing a blog platform is going to make much less impact on the long term success of your blog than what you'll actually be doing with it. Quality posts regularly published will be of far more value than the odd bell and whistle.
- Should I include links in my blog posts? Should these be internal or external?
Short answer number one: Yes. Short answer number two: Yes. Basically links included in blog posts are a good thing, for three main reasons. First of all, linking to resources, either internal or external, helps add value as far as your readers are concerned. Directing them to useful resources, web sites, blog posts, news stories and such like all makes your posts that bit more useful, which will help encourage people to visit your blog more often.
Secondly, adding links to other, related posts in your own blog means that older posts don't get completely forgotten. Linking to older posts helps keep traffic routed through to them, and optimised internal links are also great in terms of SEO.
Thirdly, if you add external links to reputable websites then Google very much approves of this, and it will help you in the ranking stakes. If you're linking to good, solid websites with a sound reputation then this makes Google feel that your content is likely to be that bit more researched, and therefore accurate and trustworthy. Some bloggers feel that if they include links to other websites then they are in danger of sending people away from their site. However, this comes across as lacking in confidence, and not a good thing. If you're sending people to good websites then they'll come back to your blog for more recommendations.
Don't make the mistake of making all your external links open in a new window. People know how to do this themselves, and it doesn't help lower the number of people leaving your site and not returning.
- How can I optimise my blog for the search engines?
Blogs tend to be inherently optimised for the search engines anyway, with a solid structure, sound navigation and built in features such as templates, tags and categories. However there are still a few things you can do which will help improve the overall SEO value of your blog.
If you're using WordPress as your blogging platform then there are a number of excellent SEO plugins which are easy to upload, install and configure. Have a look at these for example:
- All in One SEO Pack - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack
- 1-Click Website SEO - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/1-click-website-seo
- Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bwp-google-xml-sitemaps
- Meta Keywords Generator - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/meta-keywords-generator
- SEO Ultimate - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/seo-ultimate
- SEO Content Control - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/seo-content-control
- SEO Friendly Images - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/seo-image
- SEO Smart Links - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/seo-automatic-links
When including images rename the filename to include a suitable keyword or keyphrase, and include this keyphrase in the 'alt' text and title too.
Think about the tags and categories you're using, and make sure that your keywords and phrases are included.
Don't forget to make sure that you have enabled RSS. Sometimes this is included but sometimes it is necessary to add it in yourself. Make sure your RSS feed is clearly visible, preferably near the top.
Then of course there are all of the obvious things such as having a good, clear template, a clear font that's easy to read, high quality, original and engaging content and a blog that's regularly updated with fresh new content on a frequent basis.