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I recently was contacted by Yehuda Berlinger, a professional blogger who runs a blog about being a blogger looking for corporate blogging positions called Blogging Without a Wire and another blog about gaming.
He had a few great questions. I answered his email and then asked him if it would be alright to use my response in a blog post. With Yehuda’s permission, below are his questions and my (as usual) long winded answer. Any bloggers out there that have more to say, Yehuda and I would love to hear your comments. I would also like to put out a call for anyone that wants to be a guest blogger on this subject.
1. Yehuda’s Personal blogging question: While my own blog (http://jergames.blogspot.com) is doing "well" in terms of PR, it still has very little traffic (200 tracked visitors a day) resulting in only token monetization ($300 a month). I know that's better than most, but I feel like I have the potential to do so much better. How do I start really moving forward on my own blog?
2: Yehuda’s Corporate blogging question: I recently got, and left, a job as a corporate blogger. The expectation was that I will drive lots of traffic and lots of results. But my own blog took two years to get where it is today, and, while high in PR, it's low in traffic. If what I think I can do as a corporate blogger (create daily posts, control the corporate conversation, be the friendly face of the company) is so much different from what people expect from a corporate blogger (drive traffic and sales), am I pursuing the wrong thing?
First of all, congratulations on the 200 visitors per day, that’s a pretty good start. What you are asking about is a big question and a challenge that my team and I are faced with as well. It's true that blogs can drive traffic and lead to sales but I think what you are experiencing is something I, and I think many of our colleagues, are encountering as they try to instill social media participating practices into the corporate process. A lot of companies shut down or ignore the concept that there is such a thing as blogging best practices and that's not something you can just slap on the production line (believe me I've tried) and start to see spikes in sales and traffic.
The bad news is that most of my answers require a significant investment of someone's time and brain power. Here's the opportunity or good news --- the fact that it’s hard to tap into blogging traffic makes corporate blogging a great value for the companies and people who master the art. Doing this takes a lot of time and effort and, depending on what the client is paying you, it may or may not be something that you can systematically provide as part of your arrangement. As professional bloggers, we need to sell the client and get the resources we need to prove the case for them. Once we get their buy-in, we need their support or a level of authority to go out and transparently blog on their behalf.
I think there are a couple of components to driving traffic. They are:
The actual setup of the blog,
Keyword research and targeting,
Ongoing monitoring for keywords and identified blog feeds,
Social media promotion and blogger outreach.
All of these are very important, but I think that monitoring and commenting are the keys to driving traffic.
There are also some other factors that play into the mix:
Who you are (commercial vs. independent blogger, due to the fact that many bloggers have their own commercial agenda. Just a hunch, but sometimes I feel that a blogging community is more apt to promote the independent voice than point traffic to a commercial entity even if the content is insightful and useful). This contradicts a point I will make below hosting the blog under the company domain but it does not override that advice.
How stimulating or controversial you are (do your posts spark discussion or outrage), or how inquisitive / conversational you are (some bloggers have a knack for getting the conversation started by raising questions and then keeping the conversation going. This requires dedication, vulnerability and passion on the blogger’s side because they’re saying 'I don’t have all the answers').
So, to answer your question, here are some things to try if you have not already.
Optimizing the technical setup of the blog: If it’s a commercial blog, I think the ideal is when the blog is part of the company domain. For example, company.com/blog. My rationale… presumably, the company website has been around for awhile and this is an advantage over a brand new domain or a company.blogspot.com URL. If a company is going to invest in blogging, they might as well leverage this advantage and let the content and links that the blog generates boost the corporate website’s page rank and, as I like to say, overall content footprint. In my experience a sub-folder (.com/blog) is better for SEO than a sub-domain (blog.company.com). Also see my previous post written about this. In the past I've written about Should you host your own corporate blog or use a service and The Ups and Downs of Multiple Website Identities.
Making SEO more than just an afterthought: Also, you want to make sure your blog has some of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) basics. Each blog post creates a permalink. Make sure the permalink page uses a title tag that includes the title of the blog post. Also, tag and categorize the post with a category or tag name that is relevant but also part of your target keyword list (see next two items for how to discover keywords).
Keyword Research: Do some keyword research around your topic and figure out the relevant terms that attract the most searchers per month. There are some OK free tools out there for doing this: Webmaster Toolkit or SeoBook's Tools and Gagets. I assume that you are probably already aware of these. There’s also a commercial product called Trellian which is what my SEO department uses.
Subjective Input: After you have developed your keyword list, give each of the phrases your own relevancy score. I like to use a scale of .01 – 1.0. A 1.0 is a dead-on match meaning that this term is very likely to be a qualified visitor. I would give a broad general term like “game” a lower score (because it is likely that only a fraction of the people searching on this term are interested in your what you are offering). You can then use these scores as a way to adjust and filter against your search frequency and post frequency (see next item). I use Excel to calculate by multiplying frequency by the score.
Blog and Social Media Community profiling: Once you have figured out your best list of terms, use Icerocket.com to check the post frequency about those terms. If the term is searched a lot and posted about a lot you know that if you optimized a post around that term then it is likely to attract a larger share of attention. You can also look at it another way. If the relevant term is searched a lot but not posted on a lot, that could be an opportunity to post about something that is of interest to searchers but does not have a lot of completion in the social media search engines like Technorati.com. This means that your post will stay in the social media searches longer because it’s not getting pushed down into obscurity, but generating a high frequency of noise around the term. Assuming that the term is a popular search phase, it’s likely to garner some extra traffic and attention due to the decreased level of completion in the blogosphere.
Content Strategy: Think about your audience. What are they interested in and what are the popular blogs that they are reading? Develop a profile of the bloggers who are reaching your audience. Read through their blog and look at who’s commenting and visit their blogs as well. Develop a matrix of the community and really try and identify the influencers and the active participants in the community. Create a blog roll on your site of these blogs that will help the bloggers develop an awareness of your site. Develop a strategy that will lead them to reference some of the work you’re doing (Admittedly, this is the toughest part but that’s the price we have to pay for greatness).
Timely Monitoring and Quick Response: Start monitoring all the blogs and important keyword on a daily basis. You should be on the lookout for blog posts that you can add value to by either commenting or posting about. If you see a post that you think you can add value to, comment now and write a post later.
Comment, comment comment: A good insightful comment on a popular or even not so popular blog can drive a significant amount of traffic and awareness to your blog. More importantly, comments will help you develop a trust within the community and with that blogger. Don’t assume one or two good comments are going to do the trick. It needs to be a consistent process that is guided by your monitoring. The earlier that you can spot a good comment opportunity and make a comment, the better chance you have of getting your thoughts into the mix and gaining some visibility and respect from the community.
Use blogging best practices for outreach: A lot of people talk about how gaining the attention of influencers and getting them to blog about you is a great way to generate traffic. Of course that’s true but some people look at influential bloggers as a PR opportunities (visualize a juicy sizzling steak) and try to pitch them using traditional media relations techniques. This might work sometimes but it could backfire (see the Bad Pitch Blog). I would say developing trust through a comment is a far better approach than directly pitching a blogger to write about you. Of course, this approach takes more time, but luckily you did not ask me how to be efficient. Then try and develop relationships with not only the big influencers, but some of the more passionate and lesser known bloggers by commenting and reacting and adding value to what they are saying on their blogs. Commenting on blogs is one of the best ways to direct people to your site. Make sure your comment adds value to what is being said.
Cultivate Inbound links: The ideal is when this happens naturally; you write a nice post and a blogger finds it and cites your page. That generates traffic and a link. However you can also give this process a nudge. This is a tricky area and it takes a certain chutzpa to do it but reach out to the bloggers and ask them to feed back to you on what you have written. You never know what they’re going to say, if anything, but I think that if you genuinely try to solicit their advices, it’s likely to lead to some link love down the road. I know that this also seems a little like you have an hidden agenda, but really you’re trying to be included in the conversation that’s going on, and sometimes you have to put your client or yourself on the line a little bit. Initially you may receive feedback that’s not entirely positive, but that’s something to build off of.
More tips and tactics: Here’s a good article I found that talks about some of the technical, feed related ways to promote a site.
- Create something new: Create a tool, academic research, do a poll/survey or produce some resources that will create some thought leadership or be of interest to your target community. I've done this for my own company (Corporate Blogging Survey , the Blogging Success Study, Corporate Guidelines for Using Blogs and Forums , 10 Tips for Becoming a Great Corporate Blogger ) and it continues to be a great source of links and traffic to my site.
Social media networking: If you have not already developed a presence in the large social media networking communities such as MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, MyBlogLog, those are a great resource. Or, target more focused communities that focus on a certain industry. A great new example of this is MyRegan, a community of communicators. You can also engage in micro blogging with things like Twitter and Pownce.
Of course there are entire books (See below) written on this subject so by no means do I think my list is the authoritative list of ways and means. Let me know what you think. Did I tell you things you already knew or do you find some value in this? What really works for you? Let me know what points you like. Again, I’m sure you’re already doing a lot of this.
The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil
Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging by John Cass
What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting - Ted Demopoulos
The New Influencers: A Marketer's Guide to the New Social Media - by Paul Gillin
Blog Marketing by Jeremy Wright
Naked Conversations by Shel by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel
Tags: advice, blog marketing, blog promotion, blogging strategy, blogging tips, online PR, professional blogger, successful blogging
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, Blogging Tools, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media
For all you PR bloggers and blogging skeptics out there, please file this post under further proof that blogging can lead to a credible media citation and ROI. In my last blog post, I asked Should corporate blogs use ghostwriters?. A few weeks later a reporter, Tony Kontzer from Investors Business Daily called to request an interview with me. Last week this article titled Writing Blogs Can Be Hard, So Get 'Help' appeared in the online version of Investors Business Daily's technology section. One more thing, the reporter actually quoted me correctly and gave me the last word in the story. Pretty cool ah?
Check out the story. Kontzer offers some reasons why companies start a blog and highlights the choices companies need to make when selecting who writes the content. The story presents some alternate view points (from Nancy McCord, Mary Gillen, Debbie Weil, and me) on the questions that surround why blogs can be an effective marketing tool for business and the use ghost bloggers.
There are several decent blog search tools out there and each one has its charms. Sphere is new and shiny. I really like Technorati because it provides so many ways to slice and dice the data. But come on Technorati, your blog search engine is like my old moped that i had to whack with a hammer every once in a while. IceRocket is fast and the SCOUTS at the office seem to like it a lot because if its trend tools. However, I'm really loving Google Blog Search because it's so fast and accurate. Here's a link to one of the latest enhancements to what is destined to become the blog search engine of choice for bloggers looking for fast and accurate blog search results.
Filed under: Blogging Tools