In this post we are going to explore the value of using your business blog to help your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts.

What is SEO?

Before we get too far into this, it would make sense to define what SEO is. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Essentially what that means is being found on search engines (like Google and Bing) for different search queries.

Why is SEO Important?

People use a variety of methods to find out about things. They ask their friends. They use social media. They read reviews. And yes, the use search engines like Google to find things. Feel free to look at this chart that outlines how much searching people do – the numbers are staggering and if you have one big takeaway it should be that the numbers continue to grow.

The reason the number of searches is growing is because users (those same people that are using the internet to visit your website) are becoming more confident in the results they are getting.

Therefore it is critical that as you are figuring out how to connect with these people you factor in SEO – the thinking is that if a user takes the time to do a search for something that is relevant to your business there is also a high likelihood that the same person could also be a good prospect for your business.

If in your efforts to come up high on a specific search result you achieve success then there is a much greater likelihood that the people using that same search engine to find results that are the same as the specific search results you are trying to “optimize” for will actually find your business.

  • Win for the searcher.
  • Win for the business.
  • Win for the search engine (they are after all giving great results which means that both the searcher is likely to come back, and also that the business is more likely to want to advertise.)

Business Blogging SEO Opportunities

One critical concept that every business blog needs to appreciate is that each blog post is a unique opportunity. Each blog post should be focused on one specific idea with a very specific goal in mind. That is not to say every blog post should be the same, or for that matter that you as a business owner are limited to one goal for your entire blog.

In fact so much of the success of your business blog is going to hinge on its ability to move quickly and to adapt to evolving business needs.

When we start to explore the specifics of SEO as relates to your business blog these same ideas are very much alive. Every blog post presents a unique SEO opportunity. The more blog posts you have the more SEO opportunities you will potentially find.

Of course, just like with other strategies, the better each blog post is, the more likely it is that that post will see SEO value. Businesses that consistently create great blog content begin to see an accumulated value over time. This is very true for SEO as well.

Humans Versus Machines

It is critical that as you are beginning to craft your SEO strategy you keep in mind that while it is wonderful to have the search engines serve up your business as a top result for a coveted search term, you also need to keep in top of mind that fact that search engines need people in order to work. People type in search results and people also click through on search results and ultimately it is people that your business relies on to become customers.

#1: Focus on the user and all else will follow.
Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we’re designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line.

Source: The Google About Page

If that is the attitude that Google takes on people, no matter how you feel personally, as a business owner looking to generate an SEO strategy you should be well aware of how Google will be analyzing your goals in the context of theirs – so if you provide a poor user experience there is a good likelihood that Google will begin to downgrade the value of your site in terms of how they offer up search results.

SEO Big Picture Ideas Keep In Mind

When it comes to SEO there are a number of best practices to consider but ALWAYS keep in mind what your end goal is. In most case the end goal is focused on a conversion of some kind – a purchase, a comments, a subscribe, a share…

As the site owner it is important that as you consider SEO you keep in mind the technology interaction that you are trying to achieve. Essentially you are asking a computer program to apply a “value” to a page on your site. So that means you need to be able to effectively convey to the technology what your page is all about. There are a few ways to help “technology” understand your page, and there are even plenty of best practices for “onsite” SEO, but the main thing to recognize is there are no smoke and mirrors here – the words you put on your page are going to have a very big impact on how search engines “understand” your page. The words you use matter. Choose them wisely.

Another big factor that search engines are using to evaluate how important a piece a website and a webpage are is based on how the rest of the internet responds to your content. That used to mean focusing on trying to get other sites to link to yours. Today links still matter, but search engines are also starting to factor in social media activity as well (shares, comments, social posts) – in either scenario (links or social) the factor is based on how the rest of the internet responds to your content. In either scenario, good content does well. Great content does really well. Consistently great content does phenomenally well. The search engines are paying attention.

SEO Implementation and Your Blog

While there is a tremendous amount of material on how exactly to run an SEO campaign, both focusing on your onsite and offsite needs (more on this below), in terms of a larger framework here are a few thoughts you will want to keep in mind as you begin to focus on SEO for your business blog.

A few high level ideas to get you started though…

Experimentation.  Much like we talked about in a previous piece in this series, experimentation is critical. And like we advocated with the idea behind experimentation in terms of trying out strategies, ideas and exploring new buyer channels, so too with SEO will you want to experiment with the key words you are trying to rank for. You want to make sure that you are presenting your digital efforts in the most compelling manner possible – and so much of that as we all know rests squarely with being in front of the right people. It might take some time to find the best possible search terms. You should be prepared to experiment.

Consider utilizing paid search to more quickly discover stronger keywords. This is particularly true if your site is not generating enough traffic – it might take you literally months to get enough information on some of your keywords if you are waiting on organic search. On the other hand if you run a series of paid Google AdWords you will very quickly be able to see how certain keywords perform versus other keywords. Just remember to measure how these keywords perform on YOUR site – are they bringing in the right visitors. As a side note, if you are seeing that all your campaigns are falling short of your expectations than it might be a good excuse to go a little deeper to try in figure out why your website is not converting. In any event, by utilizing a paid campaign to find the best keywords for your business, you can then use that information to write blog posts towards those keywords and try to rank highly in organic (the non-paid) search results.

Go long tail. Long tail keywords are those three and four letter phrases – so instead of “Dry Cleaner” you might try to focus on “Boston Eco Friendly Dry Cleaner” – the internet is a very crowded place so often by going after more specific, and highly targeted keywords you are going to find there is less competition. Beyond the amount of competition, you are also going to find that the people who come to your site with this long tail keywords are going to likely be much better potential customers for you (again, this is measured by having goals in place before you even start.)

Social Media for SEO. Another factor you might want to focus on is social media, particularly as social media is starting to assume a larger role in how search engines rank content. In terms of SEO, social media is a really wonderful opportunity to achieve lift quickly. And how does one do this? By…

Creating great content. If you are noticing a theme by now you’d be correct. Great content not only represents your business very well, it also has other benefits including things like SEO. People share great content. They also tend to stay on your site longer to read great content. People are also more likely to take another action on your site if you have great content (such as reading another page) so your bounce rate is lower. Search engines are paying attention to all of this.

Be relevant. If you are going to go through the trouble of optimizing your website for SEO please make sure that the terms you are optimizing for are actually relevant to what a person searching might be interested in. There really is not much value in having someone arrive at your site only to quickly leave. It sounds obvious but it is worth mentioning.

Be link worthy.  Consider trying to create exceptional content that will garner inbound links.  A few strategies that are current right now include creating Inforgraphics, videos and webinars.  If you want to take this even further consider taking out a press release to promote these efforts – press releases tend to get a ton of links as well although there are plenty that would question the SEO value of press releases…

Zig when everyone zags. If you are just now starting to get serious about your website you are going to see that many of your competitors are years ahead of you. In terms of SEO this is going to take time to overcome. Ranking for long tail keywords is a great start. Optimizing for social media is also a great idea.

Rewrite. Over time you are going to gain very valuable information that is extremely relevant to your business. Use that information and go back and re-write old blog posts with this in mind.

With SEO Patience Really is a Virtue

It will get better over time. The truth is every SEO campaign has to start somewhere. That place is called the beginning…. Do not expect that where you begin is where you will end.

Also be prepared to exercise patience as much of your effort specific to SEO will take time to build. Over time you will get more links. Over time you will get smarter. Over time you will have data to make decisions from. Over time you will do a much better job of writing.

The SEO Fishbowl

All too often a business blog will go through an evolution and at some point SEO will suddenly become very “interesting” to a business owner. For some businesses this happens sooner. For other businesses it happens later. Usually though it happens only after a business has been online for some time and is finally comfortable with the “grandness” of it all – the internet after all is a very big place.

One item that you will want to be particularly vigilant about is making sure that your intentions are still “good.” SEO for the sake of SEO does not have any real value. Your SEO strategy should always remain grounded in a simple premise that you are very end user focused. Again – it is the end user that is the one that will actually be in some way interacting with your business.

Educate Yourself

SEO is a huge field. It is a very distinct discipline. Google is a multi-billion dollar company. And there are many firms whose sole pursuit is to provide SEO services. Some of those firms charge large amounts of money meaning that there are many companies out there that not only recognize the value of SEO but they also recognize the proven expertise of these firms.

If you want to hire an SEO firm do your homework. Working with the right SEO company can have an extremely positive impact on your business.

Of course not everyone wants to hire an SEO firm. Many companies prefer to keep SEO in-house and do it themselves. Given that this field is so wide, that the keywords you likely care about are competitive (meaning that your competitors are working very hard to get the top slots too) and that you are likely going to be competing against not only your competitors but also the SEO firms they might have hired, make sure you do your homework before you get too far into this.

Making bad decisions can have a real impact on your bottom line. Of course on the other side of all this, not doing anything will usually not yield great results either…

A Word of a Caution

If you spend enough time in the space of SEO, undoubtedly you will come across the term “black hat SEO” which is an attempt to use known SEO techniques to game the system.  It might be extremely tempting to run this route but the costs can be substantial should the search engines get wise to your efforts.  And the penalties can be substantial.  Generally if you are seeing an SEO technique that has the potential to be taken to extremes, likely there are a good handful of folks doing exactly that.  And also likely is at some point it will catch up with them.

And so if we are talking specifically about your business blog, please refrain from activities such as keyword stuffing, keyword cloaking (white on white text) and engaging in manipulative link building activities – it might give you a quick bump, but if you are looking to create a truly sustainable business the potential downside is way to great.

Further SEO 101 Reading

Google SEO Resources for Beginners by Google
The Beginners Guide to SEO by Moz (formerly SEO Moz)

Closing Thoughts

SEO is really an amazing concept. Here we have all these web surfers. They are all out there looking for things. A few businesses recognized this gap and filled it by providing a service to help these web surfers find things. Some of these web surfers are literally searching for things that your business offers. You on the other hand on the other side of the transaction – you are the business that these web surfers are looking for… if only they could find your business. SEO certainly has a big role to play in that equation. As a business owner that is extremely exciting!

PS – there will not be any worksheets on this top – SEO is just too “big” a topic…

Note: This post was originally published in August 2012, and has since been updated although the prevailing sentiment of focusing your SEO efforts towards human outcomes is still valid and will likely be the case for years to come… In any event, thanks so much for taking it to the end!