Conventional SEO practice demands that every business Website add a blog somewhere in the hierarchy “to attract links”. Link attraction is the new link building, and that is mostly a good thing because earning links is much more difficult than building them. But while every site needs at least a few links to help it earn trust and position in Bing and Google’s search indexes, Web marketing has taken the whole idea of earning links too because of an atmosphere of fear and despair.
The fear and despair were created by Web marketers and have been spread by Web marketers. These are the people who bought and sold links with abandon for years until Google became sophisticated enough to detect a lot of the paid links and take atction against them. These are the same people who devised crazy strategies like PageRank Sculpting, which harmed so many Websites that Google was forced within six months to make radical changes to how it distributes PageRank across the Web in order to defuse and weaken the self-destructive practice.
Fear and despair are the messages that Web marketers spread whenever they lose clients, their sites “take a hit”, or some well-publicized Google algorithm update coincides with the absolute collapse of their paper mache digital marketing strategies. Once these people are chastized they swear off violation of Google guidelines forever, but as soon as someone produces the next bottle of Magic Ranking Potion they are off to the market to buy as much as they can get before supplies run out.
The last widespread gimmick in Web marketing was guest posting for links. Guest posts are still alive and well but the guest posters are trying to be more clever about how they use those articles to obtain links. Worse, guest posting has morphed into the Magic Ranking Potion for Websites that are starved for content.
If Your SEO Specialist Tells You To Blog, Ask Why?
Seriously, if you approach an agency or consultant for an SEO plan and they do their perfunctory audit but then suggest that you need a blog, you should be pushing back and asking why you need a blog.
If the only reason an SEO specialist can offer for creating a business blog is to attract links you should pass on the option. Yes, you have the opportunity to earn links with a blog but there is no guarantee you will. Worse still (and we have to deal with this challenge for our own clients), your company just may not be in an industry that attracts a lot of links.
When your SEO provider starts suggesting you write long articles that really have nothing to do with your business because they are “good link bait”, ask yourself if that is the type of content you would share with your customers if they walk into your store or office. If the answer is “no” then no matter how many links you can attract, this is really not the content you need for your Website.
Search engine optimization is not all about links but when marketing experts only talk about links after the audit is done you should be asking why they cannot come back to the main content of your site.
To be fair, many clients become set in their ways. You find a comfort zone with your Website presentation and when someone suggests you do something creative with your product pages you become conservative. This is the real reason why SEO specialists tell you to add blogs to your sites.
Blogging Is a Cheap Fix for a Fundamental Problem
When a company wants more traffic to its Website but it is unwilling or unable to change the site, the only alternative to is create new content that doesn’t directly distract visitors from the primary content. In today’s SEO strategies this almost always becomes a blog. A better solution for some companies is to create microsites around product campaigns; unfortunately, too many Web marketers advise against this out of fear that such sites create extra work (they don’t have to) and that they might “split off PageRank” from the main site (which is absurd).
Whereas you can create powerful microsites to establish clear brand value messages, the SEO specialist community waves you away with a flurry of badly composed case studies that “prove” microsites are a bad idea. They argue for a blog even though you really have nothing to blog about.
Every business has a fundamental problem: once you build the Website you intend to create, that you have envisioned in fine detail, you inevitably discover that the masses you hoped would find it are not there. We’ve seen this disappointment at all levels of marketing, from companies with tens of millions of visitors per month to lone affiliate marketers who only attract a few dozen visitors a month.
The fundamental problem is that no matter where you are in achieving your goals with your Website, that is never where you want to be. Fundamentally, business decision-makers continually push for superior performance over the previous reporting period, and sooner or later you reach a point where that just isn’t feasible with the available resources.
Company Website Blogs are Low-Hanging Fruit: Treat Them As Such
If your Website does not have a blog and your SEO specialist is telling you a blog will take you to the next level, sit down and ask yourself if you have defined the next level. If you haven’t then any additional traffic a blog brings in is a convenient “next level”, but will it be the level you want to reach?
It’s easy to advise a company to throw up a blog. It’s not so easy to keep the company blogging. If you don’t have the time and money to commit to a regular blogging schedule then you should set very low expectations for your blog. The less content you publish the less long-term search engine optimization success your blog will achieve. You can accomplish lots of nothing with nothing; you can also accomplish lots of nothing with next-to-nothing.
But blogging for the sake of SEO is equivalent to leasing a fleet of delivery trucks for the sake of having a fleet inventory. Do you need 100 delivery trucks for your business or not?
Blogs are Communication Platforms
If you have something to say to your visitors, who are potential customers, what do you need to say that cannot and should not be said on a product page? Frankly, if you cannot deliver an in-topic message on a product page you should be asking why the blog post is necessary. “It’s for links” is not a sufficient reason.
Yes, you need links, but blogging software was not created so that people could earn links. We developed blogs for the sake of giving people a place to read whatever we have to say that we feel is important. If your company sells camping gear then your camping gear blog should be saying something important to people with an interest in camping (and camping gear — the market for camping gear is larger than the camping market).
An SEO specialist should be thinking in terms of how to enhance your communications with the public through a blog, not in terms of how to obtain links. If you have a consistent message that adds value to your business, then you should leverage that into a link attracting powerhouse. But just throwing up content for the sake of attracting links is counterproductive.
Within three years most companies start asking themselves why they have published so much content. Sure, the content brought in links but how much did it contribute to sales? And do you know what happens next? They start taking down “irrelevant content”. This tends to happen more often when a new SEO provider or expert arrives on the scene. They perform an audit, find a lot of irrelevant content, and recommend that you take it down.
Worse, they advise against using 301 redirects to channel whatever PageRank-like value those blog posts attracted toward more content on the site that is relevant to the business. The myth of the relevant link has convinced many people who should know better that you must obtain “only relevant links”, which is complete and total nonsense. That a camping gear company Website earns a link from a forum about water reclamation projects in Africa does not mean the link is irrelevant or spam. Too many Web marketers would advise you to disavow such a link. Too many disavow files are loaded with such good links.
If you have something to say to the world, say it. Don’t worry about who links to it or why. If you didn’t ask for the links or place them yourself (either directly or through an intermediary) then the links are fine. The content is fine.
If Your Company Has Nothing to Say, Do Not Blog
The worst thing you can do is add a blog to a business Website and then load the blog with “guest posts”. Unless the guest posts are carefully chosen testimonials (masquerading as case studies) from your customers, you have no compelling business reason to turn your voice over to a mob of strangers who have their own agendas.
Customer testimonial guest posts are actually a pretty good idea. You’ll find that the use case study can be very compelling and helps attract more customers, although you are not guaranteed to see more sales and registrations. You may also “earn” links from the guest bloggers who tell their friends and followers where to read the articles.
Nonetheless, if your business does not work well with lengthy customer testimonials, and you do not want to fill a blog with such posts, then why do you need a blog? There are other ways to earn links, even with ecommerce Websites.
You’re also allowed to place links to your site. You can even buy them, if you wish. You only have to decide if you want the links to attempt to influence search results. If you don’t want that then you should have no problem buying and placing links that use the “rel=’nofollow'” attribute. This is a business decision, and SEO should always support the business decision.
By creating visibility for your business through links that don’t violate search engine guidelines you increase the chances that random consumers will link to your brand Website without any input or incentive from you. The more you act like a brand and the more you broadcast that brand message the more likely people will link to your brand Website. You don’t need a blog to be or act like a brand.
You need a blog if you want to communicate your thoughts and aspirations as a company to your visitors, partners, customers, and potential customers.
You need a blog if you want to elaborate on the strengths and values of your products and services in ways that product and service pages just don’t allow.
You need a blog if you want to address customer community issues, concerns, and questions. You might be able to address these topics with a FAQ page but a blog gives you more flexibility. Make the right choice for your business. Don’t let anyone’s SEO formula make the decision for you.
Read More about Search Engine Optimization
Follow Reflective Dynamics
Click here to follow Reflective Dynamics on Twitter: @refdynamics.
Click here to follow SEO Theory on Twitter: @seo_theory.
Reflective Dynamics' RSS Feed (summaries only)