Archive for November, 2006|Monthly archive page

Business Blogging – A Crash Course for Busy Executives

By BR Cornett

If you’re a business owner or corporate executive, but you don’t yet publish a blog, I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the big deal about blogs, already? Aren’t they just online diaries?”

Well, yes and no. Let me explain.

What is a Blog?

“Blog” is an abbreviated version of “weblog,” which is a term used to describe frequently updated websites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. Blogs are published using third-party content management systems, which makes them simple to manage – even for beginners.

The Evolution of Blogs

In the “early” days of blogging, most blogs were personal in nature. Blog authors posted their daily thoughts, rants and musings for friends and family to read. While the diary-style blog is still common today, a variety of other blog types have evolved as well. Today, blogs run the gamut from personal, educational, political, promotional, etc.

The Business Blog

As is usually the case with Internet technology, it didn’t take long for companies to see the potential benefits of blogging. Early adopters of the business blog had the corporate courage to share internal happenings with their customer base. Many people found this newfound openness refreshing, and word spread about the effectiveness of business blogs.

Over the last couple of years, tens of thousands of companies have launched business blogs. Some of these blogs have become successful by offering engaging commentary, news and helpful information from company leaders to customers. But just as many business blogs have failed as a result of their owners misunderstanding the medium.

Why Should I Blog?

Business blogs are becoming popular for a number of reasons. Because of their user-friendly interface, people update their blogs more frequently than they might update their regular websites. Some of the most popular blogs get updated once or twice a day. In addition to adding freshness and usefulness to a website, this also improves search engine visibility.

Blogs also add a social, interactive element to your website, because you can turn on a feature that allows moderated comments from readers and customers. When such interaction grows over time, it can have far-reaching effects.

What Should I Blog About

Some of the most popular business blogs are published by “thought leaders” in their respective industries. The authors of these blogs have had the courage to come out from behind their anonymous corporate websites to share their true thoughts and feelings about their products, their companies and their industries. These authors also know that the blog is not the place for brochure copy or other promotional content.

To get an idea of how you might create a business blog, look to some that are already popular and successful. Here are some to get you started:

The Many Personalities of a Business Blog

One thing you’ll notice about each of these blogs, is that they have their own style and persona. That’s because the authors have their own styles and personas, and the best business blogs truly represent their authors’ personalities.

Summary of Blogging Benefits

A business blog can help keep your website fresh and improve your search engine rankings. Some business blogs take on a life of their own, attracting more attention than the company ever dreamed of attracting. Business blogs also broaden your communication with customers by encouraging dialogue.

Perhaps the best benefit of all is that blogs are flexible enough to support any business goal, so you can determine exactly how your blog will operate and how it will support your communication goals.

About the Author

B.R. Cornett writes and works for Intra-Focus, an Austin marketing company specializing in Internet marketing, website development and CRM. Intra-Focus serves clients from many industries and from all over the country. Learn more by visiting www.intra-focus.com.

Do You Make These Common SEO Mistakes?

By BR Cornett

Search engine optimization is on the minds of a lot of web marketers and business owners these days, and with good reason. Search engine success can often turn a marginally profitable website into a huge success.

But having a website that’s visible to search engines is not the question. The question is, how do you get there? More importantly, what mistakes can you avoid that might prevent you from getting there? Here are some of the most common search engine optimization mistakes I see on business websites, and how you can avoid them on your own website.

Content as Graphics or PDF

When you put your words into graphical format (JPEG or GIF), those words become invisible to search engines. Sure, there are times when it’s necessary, like when designing a logo. But if you use graphics as sub headers on your web pages, you’re wasting a good SEO opportunity.

Often, I’ll see keyword-rich headers and sub-headers in graphical format, when the exact same look could be achieved with regular text formatted by a style sheet. It doesn’t make sense to me.

PDF files are another area where companies often rob themselves of search engine-friendly content. Let’s say you have a news section on your website, and all 15 news stories link to PDF files. In this case, you have one page of readable web content and 15 PDF files (that search engines cannot read or rank you for).

But if you made a separate web page with regular text for each news story, you’d have an additional 15 pages for search engines to crawl through and evaluate. You can still offer the PDF files for people who prefer to download the story. But you’d offer the PDF in addition to the regular text page, not in place of it.

Lack of Titles

In this usage, “title” refers to the title element within the HTML code that makes up a web page. Titles appear in three places: (1) at the top of the web code for a given page, (2) in the blue title bar at the top of your web browser, and (3) above each listing on a search engine results page (SERP).

The title element is an important part of search engine optimization because it tells search engines what the page is about. In fact, I would say the title element is one of the two most important parts of a web page for SEO purposes.

But I can’t count the number of business websites I’ve visited that lacked key phrases in their page titles, our lacked titles altogether. If an older, well-established website with bad titles were to suddenly optimize all page titles with key phrases, that site could easily double its search engine traffic in a few short months.

Lack of Sufficient Content

Like many things in SEO, good content helps people as well as search engines. People need content to help them understand your products or services, to tell them what to do next, and to give them a sense of your overall brand and reputation. Search engines need content to understand what your site is all about. So if your website lacks quality content, you’re depriving two audiences at once.

Non-Descriptive Hyperlinks

From an SEO standpoint, think of text hyperlinks as road signs. They tell people and search engines where they’re going, and what they’ll find when they get there. If most of the internal text links on your site use phrases like “click here” or “learn more,” you’re missing another SEO opportunity.

If you have a text link that goes to a page about CRM software, don’t label it “learn more” — label it “CRM software advice” (or whatever is applicable). This helps people navigate better, and it gives search engines plenty of clues as to what your site is all about. Search engine developers know that the hyperlinks on a site say a lot about the site’s theme or topic, so they’ve built their algorithms with this in mind.

Conclusion

You need to eliminate bad SEO habits before you can rise to search engine greatness. Use this article as both a starting point and a checklist. Print it out and go through your website page by page, checking for areas where you can improve your visibility. Good luck!

About the Author

BR Cornett writes and works for Intra-Focus, an Austin search engine optimization, web development and Internet marketing firm. Intra-Focus serves clients from many industries and from all over the country. Learn more by visiting http://www.intra-focus.com.