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Blog Marketing 101 – Strategies & Tactics

Dennis Plucinik

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Content is unquestionably the most important part of any blog. Without it, it isn’t a blog. However, it’s best to think of the content like a car engine – without the other parts of the car, it’s not going anywhere. I’m going to outline the other ‘parts’ which will get your blogs moving.

Definitions:

Backlinks: Any link from another web page to your own (a.k.a. ‘Incoming Links’).

Page Rank: A ‘grade’ assigned to a site based on many secret variables including (incoming links, outgoing links, quality of content, etc.). This determines how close to the top of the page your site shows for any given keyword search on Google.

Supplemental Index: This is how Google (others have similar mechanisms) categorizes sites it has deemed to be low quality, provide low value to their users, and thus are basically not worthy of displaying to them. For you this means you basically don’t exist on search engines. Sites which fall into this category include spam, sites, and link farms. Unfortunately, forgetting to follow some standard SEO practices could land you here – and getting out is not easy.

Essentials:

Search engines find and display your site by analyzing its HTML content. There are several necessary elements to every page which a search engine will look for first:

    • Page title
    • Meta title, description, and keywords
    • Favicon.ico
    • Robots.txt

Having all of these things makes the search engine have to work a little less, thus making your blog more “search engine friendly” (it will also make the page load faster).

Another thing to keep in mind is that search engines cannot index graphic text, of Flash content (including Flash video). Through advanced CSS styling, it is possible to allow search engines the ability to index graphic text. One way to ensure that Search engines can pick up some of the content from a Flash video clip, is to post a summary of the points discussed in the video so that the search engines have something to latch onto.

Top 5 Strategies:

        1. Broaden your content distribution networkHere’s the key: “content distribution networks” = “social networks”. Think of them as the roots which keep your site deeply planted in the web of related sites. They allow you to reach out to many more readers who will in turn provide the traffic to monetize your sites.RSS is a form of content distribution, as is e-mail newsletters, however, social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, LinkedIn, etc. can be even better since they are already loaded with content hungry users which is essentially – more traffic to your site. Each of these networks has many features which you can leverage to your benefit.
            Here are a few examples:

          • Search LinkedIn’s ‘Answers’ section for terms related to your industry – now answer some of them. Depending on your target industry, you may find a HUGE amount of activity meaning there is a thriving community of professionals who are good candidates for composing the core of your blog’s returning visitors and comment contributors.
          • Facebook, MySpace, and other social networks likely have groups already dedicated to your field. If so, join and participate in them; If not, take the opportunity to create one. You’ll need to spend some time searching the user base for qualified users but they are likely there, so invite them. This example brings up an important part of leveraging social media for marketing purposes – pay attention to the people you interact with. It may seem like you’re shouting into the wind but there are real people behind the screen names, and they could potentially become loyal (valuable) followers. Court, coddle, and cater to your fans and you will be rewarded with their loyalty. This concept may be difficult to grasp if you think of your customers as ‘just another sale’ and not those with whom you build relationships which produce long lasting and recurring returns.
          • Most networks provide a ‘friending’ feature which is basically a mutual agreement between two users to share more private information about each other. This feature is what ensures a qualified audience for further marketing. These friend bases can be used to promote featured content, contests, polls, etc. from which you can expect a high response given their highly qualified nature. Friends can also be searched for based on interests and other qualifying factors such as location, or gender.

          The key to making these features work for you is to participate in the, (This is the gas in our car analogy).

        2. Participate in your communitiesOne thing which holds true for most businesses is that word of mouth is extremely effective. It’s more effective if it’s someone else’s mouth but yours works fine as well. ‘Commenting on other blogs’ is one of the first technique you will probably hear suggested by other bloggers.
            There are many benefits including:

          • validating yourself as a credible source
          • building rapport with other blog owners and their readers
          • planting back-links (technically and functionally) on external sites

          It goes without saying – the more outgoing you are, the more people will want to associate with you and this especially holds true within the blogging community. An eventual effect of community participation is that other bloggers will start talking about you, referencing you, and linking to your posts, even when you haven’t asked them – provided you’re writing substantial, high quality, and attractive content frequently.

        3. Write substantial, high quality, and attractive content frequentlyWriting is easy. Writing something worth reading is not. Assuming you are a specialist in your field, write something which is unknown to those aren’t. Whether this is an observation, an entertaining perspective, new knowledge, research, interviews, etc. In addition, the content should not consist of one paragraph. If you’re going to post one paragraph, don’t post it. It waters down the quality and says to your readers that you don’t have that much to contribute. Also, you can’t really convey much valuable information in that dew words. Substantial means at least several cohesive paragraphs.There are certain types of articles that are more ‘linkable’ than others. For example, lists and how-to’s are very linkable and are very effective in conjunction with social news sites like Digg, Reddit, NewsVine, etc. “Top 5 Mistakes ____ Make”, etc. They are quick and easy to digest and have been proven to be very popular because of their promise of an easy read and min/max expectation setting right from the start. This is one technique which is key to any writer: knowing your audience and how to relate to them = online readers like lists.

          The side effect of writing this type of content is that it is content that people are more likely to refer back to. This means more back-links for you and thus a higher SITE-WIDE page rank.

        4. Measure your effortsUsing web analytics tools like Omniture, or Google Analytics is necessary to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. Google Analytics allows you to match results exactly to specific tactics. For example, if you distribute your blog content via RSS or a mailing list, you can customize the links pointing back to your blog by appending a tracking variable which will allow you to see how many people actually responded. Google Analytics even allows you to assign a ‘goal’ to a user visit such as leaving a comment, signing up for a newsletter, or subscribing to an RSS. Google uses those goals to calculate an ROI based on the value that you assign to each goal.Without being able to determine cause & effect relationships you cannot possibly implement a flexible enough strategy to be effective.

          Analyzing user behavior is one way which you can go one step deeper by getting behind the eyes of your users. CrazyEgg is an inexpensive heat mapping service which, by providing you with a small JavaScript snippet to include on your site, allows you to actually see where your visitors are clicking by overlaying a graphical ‘heat map’ onto any page(s) you choose. This can help in determining if visitors are confused as to where to click, or if a feature (ex: mailing list signup button, RSS subscribe button, leave a comment field, search field, etc.) is visible enough.

          Another essential tool is Google Webmaster Central. This tool will allow you to interface with the crawlers directly. They tell you how to feed them (ex: XML site maps) and they give you valuable data in return (ex: crawling stats, including broken links or otherwise unknown problem areas).

In closing

Implementing these strategies requires direction and commitment. Each individual technique can be executed in different ways in order to accomplish a specific goal. There are many different sites which require you to register and maintain a profile. A part-time employee would never run out of work if given the responsibility of managing the online marketing campaign of a single blog.

Following even a few of the techniques described above could certainly draw in enough of a traffic boost to increase the overall site’s rank. In terms of monetization, the increased traffic could produce more click based revenue, and the increased site-wide page rank would cause product pages (if you have an e-commerce site) to rank higher in search results thus providing a better competitive edge.

There are still more complex techniques to increasing your blog traffic via both paid and free online marketing which I intend to outline in the near future.

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