Blogging for business is huge these days. When done well, it's a great tactic for engaging your visitors, facilitating conversation with your audience, attracting links, and getting more pages to rank in the search engines for relevant terms. But there are some key functioanlity areas you need to address when incorporating a blog with your main website.

PMA-homepage.jpgPremiere Martial Arts of Austin has been successful in the search engine rankings, and is starting to get the attention of their competitors. Head instructor Steve requested some help on how to stay ahead as competitors are getting the same links and targeting the same keywords. One of my first suggestions would be to start a blog to create more content, links from the blog to the main site, and backlinks - and Premiere Martial Arts has already done this! However, the PMA blog needs some significant work to make it function appropriately and effectively.

Why Blog?

The number one reason to start a blog for your business is to engage your audiences. It is a great way to share information, expertise, and news, and start a conversation with your customers, the media, potential partners, suppliers, and any other target audiences. It helps to infuse your web presence with some personality and transparency that is hugely important in business today.

Besides providing useful information and discussion, blogs are a great way to attract links to your website, which are a major factor in how well you rank in the search engines. Any time you mention information on your blog that ties in directly on a page to your website, link to that page. While this is considered an internal link, using descriptive anchor text helps the search engines (and visitors!) to classify the page to which you are linking - and this can help in the search engines. Additionally, blogging regularly means that you are constantly adding content. This gets the search engine spiders on your website more often and naturally attracts links.

As you optimize individual blog posts for your targeted keywords, you have the potential to have more pages rank in the search engines for those terms. Just think, if you optimized well and got lots of links, you could have website pages and blog posts fill up the top results when people search for "martial arts austin."

Incorporating a Blog With Your Main Website

Just adding a page to your main site with blog entries isn't enough. Blogging is so commonplace these days that readers have come to expect a certain functionality when they visit a blog. Not only is providing this functionality managing expectations, it's all about making it easy for your readers to find and share information.

Blog Navigation

You need to have different navigation on your blog than you do on your main website. Premier Martial Arts has added a blog page, but it is just a handful of articles within the main site with the same navigation in the sidebar. Visitors need to have several methods for navigating specific to a blog:
  1. by category
  2. by recent posts
  3. by date
  4. by popular posts
Category and recent posts are must haves, while the other two sections are nice additions.

Premier Martial Arts needs to ditch the navigation from the main site in the left sidebar and instead use a distinct blog navigation. It's always a good idea, however, to keep a few links to key pages on the main site. It would look something like this:

Premier Martial Arts Home

Blog Home

Categories

>Martial arts
>Karate
>Kickboxing
>News and events

Recent posts
>Title 1
>Title 2
>Title 3
>Title 4
>Title 5

Popular Posts
>Title 1
>Title 2
>Title 3
>Title 4
>Title 5

Archives

Recent posts and popular posts can be automatically populated. When setting up categories, be sure to create names that are descriptive and keyword rich, not cute.

Additionally the title of each blog post needs to be clickable. Instead of just reading all of the posts on one page, link the title to the individual post. That way, a reader can click to read just that post and all of its comments. Speaking of blog comments ...

Comments Section
The Premier Martial Arts blog has a link for comments, but it isn't used in the traditional blog sense. Instead of allowing readers to leave a comment under a specific post, they are taken to the main contact form on the website. This is not blog commenting!

Blog comments are a means to facilitate a conversation between readers and the blog author. They are also a way for people to get links back to their own blog. Each post should have its own comments section. Visitors can click on either the title of the post or a "comments" link under the post, where they are taken to the individual post page with all of the comments listed at the bottom and a form for submitting their own. This form should have fields for visitors to enter their name, email address, URL, and comment.

For an example of how a comments section should work, check out the one at the bottom of this article, and on every other article on Search Engine Guide.

Subscriptions

You have two primary call to actions on a blog:
  1. leaving a comment
  2. subscribing to a feed
Every blog needs to have an RSS feed (really simple syndication). An RSS feed allows regular readers to subscribe to your updates in a feed reader.

subscriptions-example.jpgThis orange logo is commonly used to represent an RSS feed. Users familiar with RSS will know how to use it. For those who aren't, it's always a good idea to provide a "subscribe by email option." This way, every time you post a new blog article, it will be sent to readers in an email. On my hobby blog, 226 or my 365 subscribers do so by email. You don't want to leave out that huge demographic who aren't quite internet savvy enough to use a feed reader. I've found that people who don't even understand how to comment on a blog will still subscribe by email. They get it!

Feedburner is a great tool for providing an RSS feed on your website. You create an account with Feedburner, supply it with your URL, and it creates the feed for you. It will provide a snippet of code for you to incorporate into your website as well as a variety of subscription buttons and the email field. It's pretty simple to set up.

Feeds are great because they allow people to easily track your blog updates, which in turn keeps them more engaged and involved.

Make It Easy To Share
Social media is huge these days. And you want it to be very easy for your readers to share your content with other through primary and niche social bookmarking sites such as StumbleUpon, Digg, Del.icio.us, and many others.

Blogging platforms offer plugins you can use to add buttons to your blog that readers can click to submit or vote for your article if they like. Make it easy for readers to share the stuff that they like!

Speaking of blogging platforms ...

Use A Blogging Platform That Meets Your Needs
Premier Martial Arts would have a more effective blog, that is also much easier to manage, if it were run on a blogging platform like WordPress, Blogger, or Typepad. These platforms are content management systems geared specifically toward blogging. They incorporate the options for categories, tags, recent posts, archives, subscriptions, comments and all of those blogging basics. And if something isn't included with the software, such as buttons to submit to social media sites, they're typically very easy to add to with plug-ins.

Many of these platforms also come with a large variety of templates you can use, and then customize. Or, you can find a programmer to create a template that matches your main website design.

If you are going to run a successful business blog, you really need to do it with software that will make it efficient and easy. And the best part is, most of these are free!

Go For Convention, Not Creativity

Get creative with the content on your blog. When it comes to the functionality, you're much better off to go with what is conventional. The navigation, comments, subscriptions, and other essential elements are conventional because they work. As the saying goes ... if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Of course, if you aren't using these basic conventions, it is broke--and you should fix it.

Blogging is a great online marketing strategy because it keeps your content fresh, engages your audience, and attracts links. So make sure that it is working as well as it possibly can!


August 22, 2008





Jackie Baker is an internet marketing analyst with SiteLogic Marketing (http://www.sitelogicmarketing.com) where she focuses on auditing websites as well as SEO, social media, usability, and information architecture consulting. She comes to the industry from a marketing/PR and website development background. Jackie maintains an active presence online through her blog RegardingHorses.com (http://www.regardinghorses.com) where she shares her love all things equine, particularly therapeutic riding.






Comments(4)

I love the idea of having a blog navigation of "most popular posts." I never would have thought of that. I was asked to blog for my company's new startup online games for health subsidiary, Playnormous, LLC and have been slowly learning about corporate blogging best practices. It's a very delicate balance between content that is SEO savvy, useful to your loyal readers, and is still interesting to new readers. Some great tips here. Thank you!

Melanie,

That's a great little tool! If you are using blog software like WordPress, there are a number of different plug-ins you can use to generate the Popular Posts list. Some do it automatically, and others allow you to set the number of posts to show at one time, select the ones that should be included, and randomize the list. Or you can hard code in a list of your choosing. I like to choose the posts that have been read the most or have the most comments. One that gets a lot of comments is nice because it means that it is engaging your readers and getting them to be active in a discussion.

Hi Jackie - do you recommend using PPC to promote a new blog and do you think a company hosted blog will do better in SERP than a public platform such as Wordpress or Blogger?
Great article too!

I love the idea of having a blog navigation of "most popular posts." I never would have thought of that.
Thank you!

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Search Engine Guide > Jackie Baker > Site Clinic: Incorporating A Blog On Your Company Website