Starting a blog offers a number of opportunities to webmasters, including:
The chance to identify your brand as a ‘thought-leader.’ Blogs can increase the trust a search engine places in the author of the blog as an information source.
An avenue through which to drive traffic to specific pages of a website.
A means of creating a trusted information source that is not tied to your website
An avenue through which people can question and interact with your main website
When establishing a blog, there are four platforms from which to choose:
A blog hosting website
How do you choose which platform is most appropriate for your blog? This depends on the contribution you want it to make to your web presence. Consider these advantages/disadvantages of each platform when making your choice.
Using a subdirectory for your blog is a great way of adding current, updated content to the domain of your main website. This ties the links and social signals received by the blog directly to the main presence you are trying to promote.
The main disadvantage of using a subdirectory is that it doesn’t send links from another domain. Using another platform means that there is an additional domain linking to your website, which increases the diversity of your linking profile.
A subdomain can be a means of getting greater brand presence on the search engine results page. Your primary domain can be offered as the first result, and the subdomain of your blog as an additional result for the same search. This also improves the quality of your linking profile as links to the primary domain from the blog are interpreted as links from a separate website. This subdomain can also gain a high ranking more easily due to its association with the primary domain. Furthermore, they can be hosted anywhere.
Subdomains just don’t add as much value to the root website as does the use of a subdirectory. The work you put into new and current content doesn’t attribute this freshness to your main website, it gives it to the subdomain. The shares and links to great content posted in this way do not add much value to the primary domain.
Really, the only advantage of this strategy is that it may pose an opportunity to construct an apparently unbiased information source. If the search engine values this source, the links it provides to the primary domain can be considered exceptionally valuable, as the search engine interprets the information as unbiased.
In reality, this is very difficult to achieve. Becoming a credible information source takes a lot of time and effort, and even then, should it be discovered at any point as a link scheme, the penalties received render all the hard work pointless- it will also reflect very badly on your primary domain. If you are putting in the effort required to identify as a valued information source, it is probably smarter to do so for your primary website, so it can directly reap the benefits.
Blog Hosting Website
This is the easiest way of starting a blog. You can also experiment with link building tactics without posing great risk to your primary domain. Using sites such as WordPress or Blogger can send links to your website from another domain, which increases the breadth of your linking profile.
Naturally, these sites limit the flexibility you have in terms of template and design. Links provided in the blog also won’t contribute directly to your primary domain, and plugins are not supported. While this can be a great way of familiarising yourself with blogging, for a corporate web page with a clear plan, this is likely to add minimal value and can appear unprofessional.
What is the value of blogging in terms of SEO?
A blog is valued by a search engine when it is seen to relate to the search term, has been recently/frequently updated, comes from a trusted information source and actively engages with its audience. These are the signals a good blog can send to a search engine. The effort put into creating and maintaining a blog says good things about its associated domain, and the links included within the blog itself. Blogs also provide an opportunity to diversify the search terms for your primary domain, should these new terms be included in the content of the blog.
Blogging is also at the core of a website’s content strategy. Content strategy is one of the most crucial aspects of SEO, as this determines what you are actually giving to your audience. In the past, SEO has emphasised techniques of directing users to a page through technical strategies such as link building and keyword stuffing. Many of these approaches are now considered “blackhat SEO” and are heavily penalised by Google. Unlike good content, these technical strategies tend to focus on search engines- not their human audience.
New content can take a number of forms, from photos to press releases and information documents to video. Generally speaking, a blog is the most frequently updated content of a website. The content of a good blog should be the foundation of your site’s content strategy; the way in which content is planned and produced to maximise the potential engagement of your website’s current audience. An excellent content strategy will take this even further, their content will engage an existing user base whilst considering ways in which this base can be grown.
How is this done?
The answer to this question will be different for each individual webmaster. It involves considering what users want from your website, and determining if they are getting it. If they are getting it, is there a better way you can give it to them? If they want something else, how can you incorporate this into your current content strategy?
Imagine that you run a website offering pet care advice and the page on which users are most active is a forum where users share pictures and stories of their cats. Your content strategy may have been focused on improving your audience’s understanding of pet health care, but clearly this is not their key interest. In this instance, I would recommend altering blog content to include more pictures/stories about cats. Paying attention to how users react to this new content is also important- it is entirely possible they want the blogs’ content to remain similar. However, attempting to adapt your content to the wants and needs of your audience is a key aspect of SEO. If your audience responds negatively to change, change it back. Content strategy is about the relationship between your users and the content you provide them. Any response to a change you make can be used to clarify the desires of your audience.
Content strategy is also about attracting new users. Considering issues closely but not specifically related to your website can be a great way of attracting new traffic. If you can find an information niche associated with your website, blogs can be used to position yourself (and your associated website) as an information source. Blogs on topics that relate to your primary content, but are not necessarily the interest of your user base can be a means of directing new users to your website. For the pet care website example, consider creating a blog on organic food for pets.
The take away here is that content strategies must be flexible, and should not remain stagnant. Continually attempting to satisfy your existing user base whilst concurrently looking to expand not only generates a dedicated audience for your website, but signals to Google that you are a high quality information source, that responds to its audience. You’re not the boss here- Google wants you to give your audience what they want.
Blogs are also valuable as link bait. Each blog can be shared by readers through social media, and the blog author can also share their post this same way. Examining your most linked blogs is another way of determining your most popular content, which can lead you to change content strategy accordingly.
Blogs also increase the number of pages of your website to be indexed by a search engine. The greater the number of pages your website has, the great number of keywords you can optimise for. Even if this content is poorly optimised, as long as it is of a high quality, it increases your chance of appearing on the SERP for obscure and long tail keywords that you might not have considered optimising for. As we approach an age of semantic search, keyword optimisation becomes increasingly less important.
But traditional SEO isn’t dead yet. Keywords are still an important tool allowing search engines to index a web page. So how do you perform SEO in relation to your blog? Above all tailor your content to your audience. I’m sure I have mentioned this at least five times in this article, but it is in this approach that the power of blogs resides. In addition to this, optimisation similar to that required for a traditional web page should be undertaken. Steps include:
- Incorporating keywords in the URL
- Optimising content correctly
- Having an eye catching title that includes the targeted keywords
Blogs should be an important part of any internet marketing strategy. Using them correctly has the potential to generate a large, engaged audience and exemplify the author as an information source. These benefits can then be passed along to any presence the blog chooses to be associated with. Essentially, a good blog provides a stream of traffic that can be directed at will of the blogger.