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SEO Best Practices: Setting Up a Blog

Mark Jackson
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Blog Subdirectory vs Subdomain

Your blog should be the centerpiece of a larger initiative, one that engages your target audience in a "human" way, with the goal of creating signals that will aid/support what you're trying to achieve with SEO.

One mistake many businesses still make is creating posts that consist of self-promotion with little "meat" to entice anyone to engage with the content, much less share the content (in the hopes that you might earn a link or two, or any "viral" activity to the post, whatsoever).

What Are You Trying to Achieve?

One of the first things you have to consider is – indeed – what you're trying to achieve. How you answer the following questions will guide one of the most important steps that you'll take when setting up a blog:

  • Do you have issues with reputation management – i.e., negative brand mentions in the search engine results pages (SERPs)?
  • Are you trying to build thought-leadership for your company/brand?
  • Are you trying to build a channel to drive deep linking to specific pages of your website?
  • Are you trying to build depth of content or develop a tool to target "human queries" for your otherwise "corporate" website?
  • Do you want your blog to be non-branded and/or seen as a unique "unbiased" voice in your industry?

Setting Up Your Blog

Once you know you're trying to achieve, you need to consider where the blog resides. Should you use a subdirectory, a subdomain, a completely separate domain, or either WordPress or Blogger? Let's look at all the options.

Blog on a Subdirectory

More often than not, this is how I recommend clients set up a blog. In my opinion (and "yes", SEOs will have varying opinions on this), adding fresh content to the root domain is a good thing. I also believe that having an RSS feed of "latest blog posts" to the home page of the website is a good thing.

I believe that promoting content that resides "on" the website is a good thing because you can earn (deep) links and provide balance to your link profile. And, I believe that having thought-leadership content that is closely associated with your brand (resides, again, on the domain) is a good thing.

Pros:

  • Add fresh content to the root domain.
  • Add deep links (from other websites)/social signals directly to root domain (assuming that you've promoted this content well).

Cons:

  • Won't provide an additional "brand" listing (in most cases) in the SERPs, so doesn't serve well for reputation management.
  • No direct ability to get links "from another website/sub-domain".

Blog on a Subdomain

A good case can be made for why you might want to blog on a subdomain.

For example, perhaps you have issues with reputation management (perhaps someone posted to review complaint sites like Ripoff Report, Pissed Consumer, etc.) so you need to occupy additional real estate in the SERPs. By building your blog on a subdomain, you accomplish this by providing the search engines another "official web presence" (the search engines will treat this as a separate entity) for your company, that should rank when folks search your company name.

The nice thing about having a blog on a sub-domain is that it will also piggyback on the authority of your root website (hopefully you already have some authority on your root domain) and posts there can rank, without the need to build up the authority for a new website.

Pros:

  • Get an additional brand presence in the SERPs that you control.
  • Get links "from another website" (subdomains are treated pretty much as such); Ability to deep-link to specific pages within the root.
  • Piggyback on the already "built" (again, making an assumption here) authority of the root domain.
  • Can be hosted anywhere. Very important consideration for those on a content management system that does not provide a blogging platform.

Cons:

  • Not as much freshness on the domain.
  • Content that "hits" (gets good promotion/links) doesn't add as much link value to the root.

Blog on a Separate Domain

Some people like to create a "non-official" blog presence, to have control over a website that isn't directly tied to the brand. They want to have an "unbiased" voice (at least give the appearance of such) and probably use this to occasionally link to their main website.

I typically discourage these types of initiatives, for many reasons – not the least of which is the amount of effort that would need to go into making this new web presence gain any amount of trust/traction or authority.

Pros:

  • Can create an "unbiased" resource (that just happens to link to your corporate website, on occasion).
  • If the content is good, and it becomes respected in your industry, the blog can gain authority that can then be passed through to your corporate website through "unbiased" linking.

Cons:

  • There's a better than average chance that gaining good authority/ability for posts to rank is going to take considerable time.
  • Does little to really show thought-leadership for your company.
  • If you really do drop links to the corporate website, there's a good chance that it'll be seen for what it is: a paid advertisement, not an official unbiased reference. The backlash from this could be (should be) huge.

Blog on WordPress.com or Blogger

Some pretty large companies have gone this route because – to them – it's the easiest to execute. Mind you, a link from WordPress.com isn't a bad thing, but how does this help with any of the aforementioned reasons why you might want to blog in the first place?

Are you tying in the "thought leadership" to the brand? Are you adding fresh content to the domain? Are you aiding your abilities to provide an additional "official brand presence" to the SERPs? (Perhaps, but you're better off with subdomain).

Pros:

  • You could create some very aggressive link building tactics or "test" things without burning the domain.
  • You would gain a link that is coming from an authority domain (remember, a quality link profile is about gaining links from many different/authoritative/relevant websites/domains; not many links on one domain)
  • Easy. Just about anyone can get engaged and start blogging today.

Cons:

  • Limitations as to how you can design/template to fit your brand.
  • Any content promoted (linked to) won't provide direct value to your main company website/domain.
  • Inability to utilize plugins.
  • Cheesy. It is what it is. Not gonna be a great representation for your company.

Summary

Blogging should be a part of any sound marketing plan, nowadays. You need to create engagement and provide the ability for people to share content coming from your company. Face it, very few people are going to feel compelled to share your "service page", much less link to it.

Do blogging for the right reasons, and set it up in the right manner for your needs and you'll realize positive results.

Now that you've addressed best practices for setting up your blog, realize that you're just getting started...


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