The search and social media industries are inundated with many myths, misconceptions, and mistaken beliefs. Blog optimization is no exception.
For example, since blog software was first invented, I have heard many search engine optimization (SEO) professionals preach that all organizations need a blog for short- and long-term SEO success. True? False? Depends?
Here is a short quiz with answers to help you with your blog optimization strategy.
Blogs are Naturally Search-Engine Friendly ... and Other SEO Lies
(1) All organizations need a blog for short- and long-term SEO success.
Answer: It depends on the industry and the country you're targeting. For example, currently, if you're targeting a German audience, most Germans are spectators, according to Charlene Li's Groundswell Social Technographics Ladder. (One of my German colleagues used a different word: lurkers.)
Many people in academia, genomics, pathology, engineering, manufacturing, and other industries just don't care about reading, tagging, reviewing, or commenting on blogs. Client interviews, field studies, and other website usability activities can help you confirm whether to have a blog.
(2) Blogs are naturally search-engine friendly.
Answer: Unfortunately, this answer is False. Remember, search engine optimization doesn't mean optimizing for search engines only. SEO means optimizing for people who use search engines.
The people who build blog templates might generate URLs (web addresses) that search engines can crawl. Translation? It means that search engines can access the blog content.
SEO is more than crawler-friendly URLs. SEO is about accommodating searchers' navigational, informational, and transactional goals. SEO is also about creating navigation and archiving systems that make sense to both humans and technology.
SEO is also about the knowledge graph. Website owners should understand relationships among entities and create a global, local, and contextual navigation system that makes sense to users and technology. Information architects are often needed to create a large blog's user-friendly navigation system.
Adapted from "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web" by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld. Used with permission.
A qualified technical SEO can take a blog template and make it better for both searchers and search engines. But Search Engine Watch readers, don't fall for this misconception. A truly effective blog should be customized.
(3) Blogs should be written for the 5th to 8th-grade reading level.
Answer: It depends on your target audience. For those of you who haven't heard of the Flesch-Kincaid test, it is a test that measures reading comprehension for contemporary (American) English. Many blog optimization practitioners recommend writing at this level for your blog.
I have clients who are members of professional organizations. Their education and experience level is clearly higher than that of a 5th or 8th grader. I have conducted usability tests with different branches of engineers (chemical, mechanical, electrical, systems, etc.) None of these groups expect a blog or a website to be written at the 8th-grade level. In fact, these test participants scan content for industry-specific terms – terms very few 8th-graders know.
Know your audience. Talk to them in their natural work or home environment. Test, test, test. Then write your blog content accordingly.
(4) Blogs are the best way to communicate that you are a topic/subject authority.
Answer: My gut reaction to this question is to say that the answer is False. Publishing a blog is not enough to communicate that the blog author or contributor is a subject authority. Participating in Google+ doesn't automatically mean a blog author is a subject authority.
I will concede and say that the answer to this question is that it depends on the blog authors. Some blog authors and contributors are subject authorities, but they show their expertise in many ways – not only with blogs.
In fact, blogs need to contain key pages that aren't a part of blog software packages. One example is author pages – both regular authors and guest (bloggers) authors.
Another example is wayfinder pages. When a blog evolves to millions of pages, blog owners need to create specific wayfinder pages to help users and technology more easily discover and locate desired content.
(5) Guest blogging is bad for both social media optimization (SMO) and search engine optimization.
Answer: It depends on knowledge of the guest author. It depends on the quality of the blog. It depends on the content the guest author is contributing to the blog. Is the content useful? Is the content desirable? Is the content findable…even with a typical blog's substandard archiving system?
I understand where this "guest blogging is bad" myth comes from. Google spam cop Matt Cutts wrote about it in his blog, The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO. I will reiterate the spirit of Cutts' controversial blog post: there are many good reasons for guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.)
Blogs are websites like any other website. They need to be architected properly. They need a consistent labeling system. They need an effective archiving system.
Duplicate content delivery is more common in blogs than one might imagine. So duplicate content should be managed effectively.
Blogs certainly have great benefits such as fast turnaround time and exposure, but if they aren't architected and managed properly, blogs can cause more harm than good.
So How Did You Do?
How did you score? Were you surprised by any of the answers? Share with us in the comments!
SES Denver (Oct 16) offers an intense day of learning all the critical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). The mission of SES remains the same as it did from the start - to help you master being found on search engines. Early Bird rates available through Sept 12. Register today!