Archive | Website Content RSS feed for this section

Are you writing the blog entries that people are looking for?

From the old blog.

Blog entries are a great way to bring people to your website. They provide fresh content related to your organisation or business – the type of fresh content that search engines love. Other bloggers are also more likely to link to your blog posts than the home page (or services page) of your website, and those links can bring both referred traffic and a higher ranking on search engines.

So, how do you create the sort of content that people are looking for and linking to?

Google keyword tool and Google trends can give you an indication of how popular particular keywords related to your industry are – and how this popularity has changed over time. Writing articles which feature these popular terms  on is one way to optimise your website for searches relating to your specific niche.

However, this form of keyword-based SEO is not the be-all and end-all of website content. It’s important to also tap into what people in your industry are interested in right now. Listen in to conversations using Twitter search, look at the questions that people are asking in LinkedIn Answers. Has something in your field changed in the last week? In the social media space, for example, Facebook has recently altered its promotion guidelines again. When I was searching for more information about these changes last night, it was the early bloggers who got my clicks and a link back to their posts.

Alternatively, is something big going to happen in the near future? Is there an event coming up which you can link in to your topic? Last month, I wrote a couple of blog posts themed around the Royal Wedding: one on iPhone applications and another around social media use. The social media post is now the second most visited article on my blog (behind an earlier article I wrote on Facebook competitions).

The final thing to remember is that on the internet, you’re rarely a minority of one. If you’re searching for information and can’t find it, then chances are that other people will be looking for that information unsuccessfully too. Can you write a blog post to fill the gap? My post on re-importing photos in Windows 7 came from such a search. While it’s never going to be my main source of traffic, it’s been responsible for one or two new visits to my site every day since I wrote it.

Again, I’ve written a post here which focuses on content. So be it. In my opinion, content is absolutely key. Writing posts that are topical and useful is beneficial for both audience engagement and search engine result.

That said, there are specific keyword strategies and technical tips, including search-friendly URLs, title tags and internal linking, which can also help your blog be found by searchers. You can find some of these in this article by Rowan Pawale. If you’ve got other tips for bloggers, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Comments { 0 }

Spotting comment spam

I got some lovely comments on my blog last night.

Regards for this post, wrote one Justine Lamaack, I am a big fan of this site and would like to go along updated.

Another commenter added: okay without appearing too sticky or groupie’ish you are amazing for posting this aha thanks man.

There’s not many posts on my blog yet, but I still get six or seven comments like this a day. You won’t see them on the site though, because they’re spam.

Spammers, it seems, are smarter these days. I get less comments that are obviously spam, comments that are stuffed with irrelevant keywords and links, here than I did on my earlier blogging efforts. Instead, the spammers are trying to flatter me into approving their messages.

Why? Because if I approve it, they’ll get their link on my blog where it will be seen by other readers. And because, once I’ve approved one comment from a particular user, my blog will usually automatically publish other comments from the same person – comments which can then contain as many keywords and irrelevant links as the spammer wishes to include.

Spam comments

However, it’s still quite easy to be smarter than a spammer. The image above shows three things to watch out for.

1. The commenter’s name

It may be obvious that the spammer is posting on behalf of a website which has little to do with your post and they’ve used that website as their name (1b). Alternatively, they may have used a personal name (1a), but it doesn’t match up with their email address.

2. The website/email address

Does the website look genuine? Is it relevant to the comment? Is it one you’d want to visit? It may be worth trusting your gut instinct here, because checking it out may lead you to some unsavoury content.

It’s worth taking a look at the email address too. Does it match the website’s domain name or have they used a free email account such as gmail or hotmail? Of course, lots of genuine commenters use webmail accounts, but there is usually a clue when it’s being used by a spammer (such as the different name/email account name above).

3. The comment itself

It’s nice to have such appreciation for your writing, but it’s also worth thinking about whether the comment is specific to your blog. The comments above, for example, could’ve been posted on pretty much any piece of online content.

It can also be easy to spot spam comments because of their poor English. Extra words. Awkward phrasing. Misuse of capitals. Real commenters can of course make mistakes too, but if the language issue is combined with any of the other factors above, it’s probably comment spam.

Stopping comment spam

There are two main ways of preventing comment spam on your blog. You can install a ‘human-test’ which needs to completed before the comment is submitted. This could be a CAPTCHA code or a maths question that the user has to answer correctly.

You can also set up a system of moderating your comments – either all of them or the first one from each user – rather than letting them appear on your blog automatically. If you’re using WordPress, the Akismet plug-in can also filter out most spam comments and hold them in a separate queue for deletion or, in rare cases, approval.

If you’ve got any tips for spotting or stopping spam, feel free to leave me a (real) comment below.

Comments { 0 }

The Sun Microsystems Blogging Principles

From the old blog.

So far, I’ve only read the preface to Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams’ Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. However, there’s already something on page xii that made me want to pause and post here.

The authors are talking the blogging principles that Jonathan Schwartz introduced for Sun Microsystems employee blogs in 2004:

  • Don’t do anything stupid.
  • Write about something you know about.
  • Make it interesting.

While the Sun website today seems to have a longer list of blogging principles, these three, in my experience, seem to be good general guiding principles, not just for employee blogs, but for blogs in general.

Don’t do anything stupid

When you’re blogging you’re essentially having a conversation. The other conversation participants – your readers and commenters – may be people you know, people you get to know or people who’ll always remain amongst the anonymous visitors figure in your Google Analytics statistics. The important thing is that they’re people. Remember that, and you won’t go far wrong.

What counts as ‘doing something stupid’ is fairly subjective, and bloggers will need to decide for themselves where they draw the line. It might be as simple as deciding not to post publicly anything that you wouldn’t want your parents or a future employer to see. Of course, mistakes are made. However, if you acknowledge them and try to deal with the consequences in a way that takes into account that there are actual people involved, then it seems that in most cases the harm can be minimised.

Write about something you know about

I’m not this one’s 100% essential. Anyone who’s read the Julie/Julia project blog (or seen the film starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams) will know that you can build up a huge blog following as you learn to do something. In many cases, such as a recent post I wrote on a cupcake icing failure, your readers will be keen to share their experiences and help you out.

The better advice may be, ‘don’t pretend you’re an expert if you’re not’. In a job interview, for example, it’s often easy to tell when someone’s bluffing or has hyped up their skill-set on their CV. Fake it on your organisation’s blog, and you may end up being similarly caught out.

Make it interesting

As a blogger, you’re already interesting. Again, it’s because you’re a person. You’re unique. Let that uniqueness shine through in your posts, and it’ll help make them interesting. It may be that you take a great picture, or that you’re good at making people laugh. Use those factors to make your blog stand out.

Also, make sure you’re having a conversation that’s relevant. What are people talking about at the moment? Do you have anything to add? I realise that, by writing a post inspired by a book that was first published in 2006, I’m not following my own advice here. However, from my experience, if you can provide the content that people are searching for right now, you’ll not only increase your website traffic, you’ll also be creating something of real value to your readers.

So: don’t do anything that you think is stupid, write about something you’re interested in and don’t fake it, and be different and topical. Three(ish) blog principles inspired by Sun Microsystems.

I should probably go and read the rest of Wikinomics before I post any more, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on other essential principles for bloggers. Feel free to leave me a comment below.

Comments { 0 }