We talk a lot about the power of using blogs as part of your social media strategy. We’ve documented how they can build links, help you attract customers and make you a quick favorite to the search engines. However, there’s a lot that goes into blogs and often getting started can be a bit intimidating. Google spam fighter Matt Cutts recently spoke at WordCamp San Francisco and shared some quick SEO tips for bloggers.
Obviously, WordCamp was biased toward the WordPress platform, but if you’re just getting started with blogging, WP really is a great choice for you simply because of how it easy it is to set up. And as Matt stated in his presentation, it takes care of 80-90 percent of the mechanics of search engine optimization right out of the box. You’ll still want to do some little tweaks to make it even more SEO-friendly, but you’re not going to face a lot of the initial set up issues that you will with Typepad or, God forbid, Blogger. (Please don’t ever start a blog on Blogger. No good can come of it.)
You can find the slides to Matt’s WordCamp presentation on his blog, but here are the lessons I took from it to help small business owners get started in blogging and WordPress.
Don’t be afraid of plugins: The idea of installing multiple WordPress plugins probably sounds absolutely torturous. But I promise you that WordPress makes it really easy to do and that the benefit of getting minimally daring can really change the experience users have with your blog.
During his presentation, Matt recommended that new bloggers add the following plugins to their blog:
- Akismet (This one actually comes pre-installed so you don’t have to do anything!)
- Cookies for Comments
- Enforce www Preference
- Feedburner Feedsmith
- WP Super Cache
But even those are just the basics. If you think you’d like your blog to do something it doesn’t currently do, try searching through the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. It’s probably already in there as there’s a plugin for virtually everything.
Be passionate about your subject: Okay, so your blog is going to be about your business or industry, that’s a given. But who’s going to be the person responsible for blogging? Just because you’re the head honcho, doesn’t mean that responsibility is best placed on you. Find the person who is most passionate about your company, the industry and what you do. That’s the person you want to be writing about it because that type of enthusiasm and energy is infectious. If you’re loving what you do, your customers will see that. And they’ll want to know what you’re up to. If the person who cleans your building is the most passionate person in the world about your company, let them blog.
Find your niche: There are a lot of blogs out there. If you’re going to capture attention, you need to give people a reason to care about you. That means staying away from the “this is what I did today” style of blogging and giving them something that interests them. Just be who you are and then find ways to build out. If you’re a pizzeria, write a blog about running that pizza shop. Over time, you can get into how to make pizza, eating healthy pizza, etc. You don’t want to over reach at the beginning. Your goal isn’t to be everything to everyone; it’s to attract the people who are most inclined to care about what you’re offering.
Use keywords: A lot of bloggers discount the power of using keywords in their posts. You don’t need to spam your posts with popular terms (in fact, doing so would be bad), but look for natural ways to use keywords in your content, in blog tiles, in the URL, in your image ALT text, blog categories, etc. All of these little things not only help you gain search visibility, but they also help people find you, which is what you’re really after. Matt suggested using tools like Google Adwords Keyword Tool to help you see which terms people are using to find business like yours. Just because you call something one thing, doesn’t mean your users don’t have a completely different name for it. If you’re calling it “soda” and they’re calling it “pop”, they’ll never find you.
Optimize your URL structure: One of the easy ways to take advantage of those keywords you’re using, is to use a custom URL structure on your blog. Don’t worry, it’s painfless. All you have to do to set this up is to head into your Permalink Settings in WordPress, hit the Custom Structure option and type /%postname%/ into that field. This will set it so that your post title will appear by default as your permalink URL. That’s the same post title you smartly infused with keywords. It’s good for rankings, but it’s especially good for the user experience.
Attract links: Matt said attract links, but I’m really going to call this “just be interesting”. As a small business, people are on your blog to hear about what you’re up to and to be given a chance to interact with you. Set yourself apart by doing original research, giving constant great information, making fun lists, meeting people on Twitter and engaging them, integrating Facebook, Friendfeed, etc. Get creative. Use video and photos and everything this social Web has to offer you. Yeah, you’ll get links and that will improve your rankings, but really, you’re going to get people interested in you and make them subscribe to your RSS feed. The links are nice, but engaged customers who will tell their friends about you offline is even better.
If you’ve been hesitant to start a blog because you thought it was too difficult to set up and maintain, I recommend you try out WordPress. I maintain several different WordPress blogs and if I can do it…well, then anyone can.