All of us have now heard of blogs. For search engine optimisation purposes, a blog is a key weapon in your website promotion armoury. Many businesses are now seeing a growth of traffic and a commercial return from their blogs, especially those who allow their customers or even detractors to post comments and get engaged.

There are certain guidelines which will help you to maximise the impact of your blog and none of them are complex or difficult to implement.

Content & Keywords

You should have an ongoing content strategy for your blog. Each post should fit within that content strategy and over time you will build up a mini encyclopedia of useful and unique content for your readers.

Develop a character or personality within your blog, even within a business blog, and if you can be opinionated, as well as even subversive or argumentative if it suits your cause!

Don’t post on a subject if you are not knowledgeable about it – there will be thousands of others out there who know more! If you really need to cover a particular subject and feel unsure about the level of your knowledge, interview an expert. Interviews can make great reading, and if you pick someone suitably well-known or famous, you will increase your readership greatly.

It may be that you have a limited number of topics on which to post, due to knowledge, experience or to maintain focus, and these topics should be clearly illustrated using categories.

Your categories should be easy to navigate within your blog, and articles or posts should fit within a particular category. You can add tags to the post to further define its content, and a tag list or cloud will help to ensure you don’t repeat tags or use synonyms, as well as making it easy for your audience to surf relevant content.

Keywords are vital in blog posts, but don’t overdo it. Far better to sprinkle your keywords throughout an article where relevant and to make sense to your readers, than to overload an article in an attempt to con the search engines.

Your title should be punchy, informative and where at all possible include keywords and phrases. Ditto the URL for your post, which should reflect your title.

Keywords should also be included when you optimise your images, video and podcasts (audio). Not only for the search engines but for anyone using screen readers and other applications which enable the less able to navigate a website easily.

Keep your posts timely and seasonal. Watch the news and trends, and capture traffic caused by a specific news story that is relevant to your audience.

Be aware of the time of year. If you write a business blog for small businesses, consider what they may be interested in right now. Is it the end of the tax year? Height of the season? Time to plan marketing for Christmas? Post relevant content which fits with your readers needs. A blog for home owners – why not give them some spring cleaning tips? Remind them of jobs that need doing at this time of the year. Think about your audience.

How to articles are often widely linked and need to be informative, descriptive and include photos and/or video. A How To article about using your products may have a very small audience if your product is niche, but it will become the de facto link for that information if it is well-written.

How Much & How Often

Search engines look for fresh content and regularly updated websites, so post regularly, even if it is only once a month. It is better to post little and from time to time with though-provoking content, than to fill your readers RSS feeds with too many posts that don’t cut the mustard.

Keep posts short. Blog readers want something quick and concise to skim. If you want to write at length on a particular subject, write an article, then summarise and link to it in your blog post. Anyone who needs further information can then read the article.

Promotion & Your Blog

Link, link, link! Don’t necessarily ask for a reciprocal link, you may not need to. Many good blog owners are on top of who is linking to them and will respond anyway if they are interested in your content. It may take time to establish backlinks, but they will come if you have linked out first.

Make your links within your blog useful – not ‘click here’, but ‘great article on SEO for small business’, for example. This will help with how the search engines rank your content, as well as helping your readers.

Look around for other blogs in complementary not competitive topic areas and make purposeful comments. Don’t hard sell your content on someone else’s blog, but do (deep) link back to your own where permitted. Quite often you can include the name of your blog and a link within the name field of the comment box nowadays, and it is worth considering this for your own site.

Check your RSS feed is optimised, working and set up to be found automatically. Submit your RSS feed to blog directories and any news sites which scrape RSS feeds for their content. This can often bring in additional traffic, particularly if you are writing about breaking news stories in your sector.

There are many other ways to optimise your blog, but just by applying some of these you will find that it increases the ranking of your website on the search engines. Take a holistic and long-term approach to your blog and it will grow to become a valuable marketing and communciations tool within itself.

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About the author:

Phil Robinson is an online marketing consultant with over 17 years experience in marketing planning, internet strategy and online acquisition. In 2004, Phil founded ClickThrough, an ethical search marketing agency. He gives best practice training for businesses, runs seminars and writes books on digital marketing.