We’ve written before about the benefits of business blogs, and why we’re big fans of getting a blog properly integrated into your website.
Previously, the key benefits of blogging were keeping fresh content on your site, and providing informal insights into your organisation’s work and related topics. For most businesses, that was enough, and if they built a regular audience of readers who liked the “newsletter home” type of content, so much the better.
That approach though tended to lead to what I call a “whimsical” posting style. So a typical article might involve giving a personal opinion or commentary on current affairs, often linked (with varying degrees of awkwardness) to the business’s products or services. That’s how you get articles like “Why cupcakes are like the Olympics” or “Have you made anyone’s day this week?“.
Now, there’s nothing terribly wrong with that; it does give some insight into the personality of the writer (and thus the organisation), and if readers are enjoying it, then the “fresh content” and “informal engagement” boxes are definitely ticked. But, to really make your blog deliver, you need to start thinking a lot more out of the box.
There are two things which have changed in the last year or so.
Firstly, Google’s algorithm has had a few changes, all of which favour genuine, original content which is being shared on social media. The days where crude keyword stuffed articles (think those About.com style posts which seem to have been written by robots), and random bulk-bought links from websites which had nothing to do with your industry, pushed you up the search engine results ladder are rapidly disappearing over the horizon.
And of course, there’s a virtuous circle of more links > more traffic > more authority with Google > more visibility in SERPS.
Secondly, the rel=author markup has come along. This is designed to identify an individual as the author of a body of web-based content, even if that content is spread across a number of websites (for example, guest posting). If you’ve got your blog or website set up to use the markup, it further enhances the value of great content and helps that content to stand out in search results.
So, if you can take your articles to the next level and start creating content which your readers want to tell other people about, it will make a big difference to your website’s authority ranking – as well as enhancing your credibility with readers.
Think about the last few articles you personally have bookmarked or shared. What did they have in common? The chances are, they will be doing one of the following:
No matter which sector you’re in, there will be aspects of your own business which lend themselves to these kinds of articles – which will provide real value to others, and which they’ll want to share.
If you’re a printer, you could include a downloadable “cheat sheet” explaining key printing terms and options which your clients will need to understand to get the best from your work.
If you’re canning sardines, you might want to talk about sustainable fishing, but could also include a well-researched survey of the latest stats around global fish stocks.
If you’re helping people get to grips with social media, showing the thousands that get phished each day on Twitter what’s happened and how to fix it might send you hundreds of web hits each week (it does!).
So whether you’re writing about double glazing or ballet slippers, start thinking more widely about your topics. Think about what your target customers would get kudos from sharing with their peer group, and how you can make their lives easier. They, and Google, will thank you for it.
Great social media and great Google rankings often go hand in hand. We know that lots of our clients, the workings of search engines and what Search Engine Marketing (SEM) companies do is a total mystery. To help you out, we’re very grateful to Blaine Peakall, a local SEO expert based near us in Bury St Edmunds, for guest posting the article below.
So much time, effort & cost was consumed in preparation. Design, messaging, imagery, navigation and content were carefully crafted to create your winning proposition.
But a few weeks after launch, reality struck.
You had expected a steady stream of enquiries from your website but they didn’t come. You tested the web enquiry form over and over assuming that a technical glitch was directing your valuable leads into the eternal ether. But, the tests checked out fine. Finally someone showed you how to access your website analytics. That’s when you understood the problem – people weren’t visiting your site.
Every day there are over 1 billion searches on Google for information. That’s a lot of potential visitors. But here’s the problem – there’s over 550 million other websites. That’s a lot of competition. You cannot simply assume people will find you – you have to work hard to be found.
Generating Traffic (Visitors) through Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing is a method of inbound marketing in which your goal is to ensure your website is found by people searching for the products and services you offer. 90% of user searches never go beyond the first page of search results, so to be found you need to rank prominently. Not simply for brand or company name searches, but for people searching for the products and services you provide.
There are two places to appear in Google search results. The organic / natural listings are the main body of search results (which may include news, images, videos, place results etc. depending on your search query) and the paid adverts which appear above and alongside the natural listings.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) helps you achieve a prominent position in the natural / organic search engine results for your chosen keywords. These listings are unpaid, unbiased and algorithmically generated.
Pay per Click Advertising (PPC) helps you market your company, products and services through paid search advertising (such as Google AdWords). These are the sponsored listings that appear above and alongside the natural search results
SEO and PPC are very different techniques but the goals are the same – to get your web pages ranking prominently in the search results in order to generate traffic to your website. If you get it right you’ll tap into the huge online audience and your inbox will be overflowing with web enquiries.
Blaine Peakall is the founder of Peak Demand, a Bury St Edmunds based Search Engine Marketing Consultancy. He is accredited by both Google and Microsoft and provides SEO and PPC advice, training and consultancy services to organisations in the East of England.
I read a great blog post recently explaining that as a business, and whether you like it or not, your website is NOT the same as your Internet presence.
To see the truth of this, just google any major brand and see what proportion of those links are to the company’s main website. Depending on the brand, their own site may not even make the top spot. But even if it does, below that will be a big cluster of other “stuff” which customers, and potential customers, will read – and all of which can potentially impact on the perception of that company.
Some of that “stuff” will be the company being represented on websites that they can control – they can choose to claim their own presence there and add to it.
Google Places is one example of this.
Others are less controllable – a hotel might have a strong representation on Trip Advisor for all the wrong reasons, for example.
Most of the sites that show up, though, will be social in some form or another, and usually any company can choose to actively develop a profile. If a business has an active Blog or Facebook page, these will show up early on in the Google rankings.
There are many, many subtleties and complications around the art of SEO which we absolutely don’t plan to cover here. Suffice to say that high rankings don’t always equal traffic, and traffic doesn’t always equal customers – and customers are why we’re all here, right?
But, you should at least be highly visible when a potential customer googles your company name. If you’re not, there may be major issues with your online presence, which tend to lead to major issues with credibility.
Social media has a strong influence here, too. Let’s take a look at our result, when searching for Rose McGrory Social Media:
Our website is, as it should be, the top result; and Google likes it enough right now to provide some featured sub-listings (called “sitelinks”) into parts of our site it thinks are important, including our Blog. Which is nice.
Below that, though, you can see the impact of our activity on social media: our Facebook and LinkedIn profiles are both on the first page, along with other smaller forums such as 4networking and bestofbury, on which we feature.
Twitter, interestingly, doesn’t show up at all – primarily because neither the main username nor the description fields are long enough to accept “Rose McGrory Social Media”. Both Twitter and our YouTube channel do make page one if the search is limited to “rosemcgrory”.
Our social media profiles help us to own that crucial first page of Google when anyone searches for our company name, but they will also boost rankings by driving traffic directly to our website – and Google likes a busy website.
So social media and website rankings are mutually supportive, provided you do a good enough job of your social media postings to either send traffic directly to your site, or at least induce some curiosity as to what you’re about.
From our analytics, we know that many of you reading this article will be here because they saw a Tweet about this post – and without that activity, you probably wouldn’t have gotten around to visiting, right?!