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Running Blogs: How to Use SEO and Social Media Effectively

June 22nd, 2011

running blogsThird in an ongoing series

My two prior posts on lost blogs and search-engine optimization using an SEO pack were, I admit, fairly negative — so now I will change tracks to tell readers about the best strategies for running blogs as opposed to what NOT to do. But before I do so, I must address an obvious question: Why should you care what I think? There are thousands of writers who all claim that they are experts in SEO, blogging for money, and related items.

Well, I will lay my digital cards on the table. Those who are interested in my experience can read the About page and see my LinkedIn profile, but the true proof, of course, is always found in the results:

running blogs

That is a selection from the Microsoft Excel file that I use to track the performance of this site — it is the tab on which I record rankings in Google search results for the keywords that each page is targeting. (For the record, although I now live in Israel and work in worldwide and Israel SEO-consultant services in addition to my day job, the rankings are for non-personalized searches in the United States — the “target market,” so to speak — using the Rankchecker for Firefox Tool by SEO Book. My prior post on news blogs contains more information on personalized and geographic-based rankings in Google.)

Clicking on the image will make it larger, but here is the gist: The rankings for the short-tail keywords targeted by the main pages of the site — and not the blog posts, which are discussed below — have steadily improved over time. For example, this site’s ranking for the keyword “search-optimization software,” which has an estimated 9,900 global monthly-searches in English, has risen from below 200 in November 2010 to thirteenth in May 2011 so far. And how did I do it?

  • I DO NOT spend countless hours submitting this site to junk directories or using black-hat SEO software to get backlinks. (I have a life and day job, after all.)
  • I DO NOT submit spam guest-posts to other SEO blogs to get backlinks from the community. (Why publish good content elsewhere when I can do it here?)
  • I DO NOT spam my pages and posts with the keywords I am targeting. (Google is not stupid, and that method is increasingly ineffective — see a prior post on the SEO effects of social-media today as compared to keyword spam and useless backlinks.)

So, what DO I do? Simple.

Tips on Running Blogs

Before I began publishing this blog, I spent hours on keyword research — and by “hours,” I mean “HOURS.” I researched, analyzed, and organized an Excel spreadsheet containing hundreds of keywords relating to SEO, SEM, PPC, blogging, and social media — all of the topics that I wanted this blog to address (focus on whatever topic is relevant for your own blog, of course). I used my specific strategy — and, no, I cannot give away all of my secrets — to develop a two-part website hierarchy. (See a post written by my boss on the importance of using SEO while developing a website at the beginning rather than optimizing a site after it is already developed and live. The importance cannot be overstated. And if you like his article, I would not mind if you comment or promote it, of course!)

Some keywords target the main (index) page and its subpages through keywords including “SEO software,” “SEO news,” and “SEO-software reviews.” Other keywords are used in blog posts — like the “running blogs” keyword that this blog-post is obviously targeting. While I will not give away any proprietary secrets, I can say that blog posts target long-tail keywords while the pages target short-tail ones. And the blog posts rank highly more quickly while the rankings of the pages are increasing over time — but more slowly. And this is to be expected.

For example, here is another selection from the aforementioned Excel file that lists my current rankings for a few blog posts:

running blogs

Several of the posts targeting keywords that have high traffic are already on the first page of Google or even near the top — with little additional effort on my part. In general, the strategy comes down to a few basic elements:

  • Perform keyword research and create the site to incorporate a keyword-based strategy within the hierarchy and elsewhere
  • Optimize the SEO functionality of the site to incorporate items including various types of sitemaps, quick page-load speed, breadcrumb navigation, and internal linking
  • Place social-media sharing buttons in the optimal ways and places
  • Write good content!

And, in all honesty, that is all I have done to achieve the listed results. As readers will see in the archives, I wrote only two to four blog posts a month. I do not spam keywords or chase backlinks. Everything else takes care of itself. It may seem to be a cliche to write that “content is king,” but it is the truth. As long as I produce quality content on a site that is optimized well for search engines, then those who find the content and like the writings will link to it and share it on Facebook and Twitter naturally.

In addition, I admit that I have achieved these results with a blog website that, to be honest, is a little basic. I have not yet incorporated any web-development “bells and whistles.” As a former newspaper-reporter and editor, I have always prioritized quality content (the words) over the visual appearance (the website). But at some point, I will still probably redesign this site.

Regardless, my personal strategy comes down to the economic and business theory that I learned in my MBA studies at universities both in Boston and here in Israel. Take the economic principle of “opportunity cost” — time is a zero-sum game, so any time spent doing X means that one cannot do Y (or vice-versa). As a result, one must prioritize one’s work as far as what is more important.

As far as SEO, here is the implication: Say I have five hours this week to devote to this blog — what will be the best use of my time? Should I spend five hours submitting 100 backlinks to random directories or writing two quality, SEO-optimized blog posts? My research and experience endorses the latter because the net benefit of writing more posts within the strategy I have described surpasses the net benefit of submitting to directories or chasing random links.

In fact, I would say that researching and writing quality content — as opposed to using content farms and article-marketing automation — almost always produces better results while running blogs than nearly any other tactic over the long-run, especially since Google is increasingly favoring the same tactic in its algorithm.

Samuel J. Scott, a former journalist in Boston turned Internet marketer in Israel, is the founder and publisher of My SEO Software and Director of Digital Marketing and Communications and SEO Team Leader at The Cline Group. You can follow him at Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. His views here and elsewhere do not necessarily reflect those of his company and clients.