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  • Warren: Blogging and Social Media definitely go hand in hand. Having a successful social presence can do a lot for a...
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    One of my favourite analogies when I talk about social media and online marketing is the concept of spreading “welcome mats” around the internet. The more individually made mats that you make and strategically place, the more chance you have of being found in an increasingly competitive online market … and of course the better the chance of developing those all important contacts and relationships.

    What’s a Welcome Mat?

    So, what do I mean by “welcome mats”? Well, for me, they come in many different shapes and forms but are essentially places on the web where you invite people back to your website or blog by introducing yourself (through something you have written yourself or via someone else’s reference or recommendation) and making contact with them. Essentially a “doorway” back to your site indicated by a “welcome mat”.

    Still not clear? Well, let me give some of the forms that they can take. Some of the principal ones that come to mind are:

    • Website pages which appear as Search Engines results

    • Blog posts (individual, categories etc.) in Search Engines and Blog Search Engines & Directories

    • Social/Business Networking Profiles pages and the posts or comments you leave on these sites

    • Bookmarked articles on Social bookmarking and Crowd Sourcing sites

    • Links coming from other websites or blogs

    • Blog comments you leave where the “name” will link back to your blog

    • YouTube profiles linking your videos back to your site

    • Reference to your post from a Twitter message (either your own or someone else’s)

    • AdWords (PPC) Adverts

    • Directory entries

    • Articles posted with a link in the signature file

    • Forum / Bulletin Board signatures

    In each of these cases, you are effectively creating a Welcome Mat – something which provides information about you and your business, and then extends both an invitation and the means to find out more about you, via a link back to your site.

    So, how will people find me?

    As people use the internet for research, social interaction, fun, information gathering or whatever they individually want, they “cross the internet” in a variety of different ways – just how they go about it, is totally out of our control. In fact, it’s likely to change each time and so the ‘route’ that they take will be different too.

    They might use a search engine and then follow links in a directory they find, or head straight for the blogosphere and check Technorati. More and more, they may use a tool like Twitter to ask others’ opinions or they might start off with some Press Releases via Yahoo News. Whichever they choose, our goal as online marketers is to make sure that we appear in as many relevant places as possible to increase our chances of being part of their search – creating multiple and specific Welcome Mats allows us to do this.

    Our mission – should we choose to accept it! – is to make sure that we give ourselves the best chance possible to place a welcome mat in their path and make it attractive and relevant enough for them to follow and read our information. No small task!

    Where do blogs fit in?

    The trouble is that creating Welcome Mats is all well and good but the internet is vast and there are a lot of people vying for attention – so you have to take the time to make them relevant and to make them stand out. They have to demonstrate why they should spend time on your site rather than someone else’s. Blogs have two key roles to play in this scenario.

    In the first instance, they are a great way to create welcome mats. For example, each time that I write a post which I hope will first and foremost be of interest to people who read my blog, I also know that it will also automatically:

    • create 5 or 6 new pages (individual post, home page, archive page, 2 category pages) 5 potential Welcome Mats on the main Search Engines;

    • ping 35 blog search engines, directories and RSS directories – let’s say at least 10 Welcome Mats;

    • if it is well written, it may be fortunate in having 5 people reference it in addition from their blogs giving another 5 Welcome Mats;

    • add to Feedburners Headline Animator which I use when I post on Business Networking sites which displays links to my RSS feed on average another 5 Welcome Mats;

    • perhaps referenced, tweeted or dugg on relevant social media sites if the post is something that people believe is worth sharing.

    So, by posting on my blog and focusing purely on my key aim of writing something which will prove useful and interesting, it is also likely that I will automatically create over 25 new Welcome Mats. That for me is a bonus rather than the primary reason that I write … but is also an additional reason to encourage businesses I work with to get their own business blog.

    In the second instance, blogs are also a great place to refer people back to – so not only do they fulfil the role of information creator and distributor, they are also a great place for all of these welcome mats to lead back to, rather than a static website. This is particularly true when it comes to social media and the interactive nature of the blog acts as a central focus for the other tools such as video, microblogging or social bookmarking. There is no better place for someone to get to know you (and decide whether they want to do business with you) than on your blog – so let it reflect the information and values you wish to communicate.

    So, go for it!

    It’s no longer the case (if it ever really did work this way) that you can simply put up a “roadblock” and divert people automatically to your website. This smacks of so called “interruption marketing” and as such gets short shrift from the net savvy users that we have become today. Today, we have to use our powers of attraction and our networks instead to help to deliver our message and information to the people interested in it.

    The ‘Welcome Mats’ of today need to be much more based upon four of the principles of social media – creating, sharing, participating, involving – than on the advertising bias of a few years ago. These also offer many more opportunities. So take the time to look at your own and see whether you are creating attractive invitations that people are going to want to follow and share with others – if you find that you’re not, then I’d suggest that now’s the time to start.

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    SEO in business blogs for rankingIt really is a total waste of effort setting up a business blog if your sole intention is to use it to enhance your Search Engine rankings. If you do, then youre not just missing out on the important benefits that blogs offer, youre also missing the point of blogs altogether. Oh, and in the process, youll also be jeopardising the success of your own, right from the word “Go”.

    “But I thought a business blog would help my Search Engine rankings!”, I hear you cry. “Absolutely”, I reply, “it will. Enormously so!”

    The thing is, thats not the point.

    Running a blog will give you the chance to do so much more, whether you are looking to use it to initiate dialogue with your readers, build trust and foster new connections with customers and prospects, carry out market research or customer service, or indeed any of 101 different business uses that blogs can be put to.

    And thats where your focus, effort and attention should be directed – your readers – not simply on helping your SEO efforts!

    However, if you do spend the time to keep the content of your blog focused on what your target audience wants then, believe me, the much lauded “Google Juice” will flow naturally because of what you write and the way that you write and structure it. However, it will do so as an automatic by-product rather than the sole aim.

    The same values hold good in all areas of social media – concentrate on the people you are talking to and what you are talking about and youll go far. Social networking sites, for example, are called that rather than Google Ranking sites for a reason. If Google is your main reason for being there then the networking activity will ultimately die, killing your presence on the site along with it.

    I might add that if you use these tools to do nothing more than sell, then youre also missing the point and once again youll find that this comes back to bite you. Using social media to employ the same “old school” marketing tactics that we, as consumers, are rejecting en masse shows a lack of understanding in my book not only of the medium but of people.

    Anyway, enough ranting about this – back to my main point. Business blogs are great in providing enhanced Search Engine opportunities but try not to focus on this to the exclusion of everything else or you risk losing everything. Focus instead on your readers and I guarantee that your SEO desires and requirements will follow.

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    To say that I’m not a fan of Blogger is probably understating things a bit – when it comes to business blogs, their system is certainly way down the list of blogging platforms that I’d choose or recommend.

    However, when it comes to their owner Google, then as part of their foray into the world of blogging, Blogger is a crucial part. Firstly, in spite of my reservations, they certainly helped the personal blogger (and splogger – but that’s a different story) by buying and developing Blogger when blogging was still something that the general public knew nothing about and businesses had never considered them as a serious marketing tool.

    After that, they introduced a blog specific search engine which, although it doesn’t match Technorati in the level of information that it offers, is still blog specifc and is updated very quickly through pinging. Recently, they have also bought Feedburner which is the preeminent RSS tool – a key element of blogs around the world.

    So what have they done now? Well, in many respects, nothing as innovative as the elements that I have mentioned above, but nevertheless, something which is significant … although it may not sound it. They have added blogs to their universal search engine.

    So what is good about that? Well firstly, this is the selection that you can make on Google’s homepage which currently allows you to choose images, news, maps … etc or others. In the near future, you should also be able to choose blogs as well as an individual “category”. This is a real change and step forward for blogs because of the preeminence and influence that Google has as a Search Engine which will in its turn benefit blogs more than simply having the blog search engine as a separate entity.

    So, yet again, Google leads the way in terms of accessing and referencing blogs … so let’s take advantage of the elements that they offer and use them to our advantage!

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    SEO in business blogs for rankingIt is an absolute waste to set up a business blog with the sole intention of using it to enhance your Search Engine rankings. If you do, then you will not only be missing out on the important benefits that blogs offer but also jeopardising the success of your own, right from the word go.

    “But I thought a business blog would help my rankings!”, I hear you cry. “Absolutely”, I reply, “it will, enormously so!”

    But that’s not the point. Blogs enable you to do so much more, whether you are using them to communicate with your readers, build trust and connections with both customers and prospects alike, carry out market research or customer service, or indeed any of 101 different business uses that they can be put to. And that’s where your focus, effort and attention should be directed, not simply on helping your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) efforts!

    If you do these things correctly and keep the content of your blog focused on what your target audience wants then, believe me, the so called “Google Juice” will flow naturally because of what you write and the way you write and structure it, but as an automatic by-product rather than the sole result.

    Ive seen the same issues come to light elsewhere recently as well. I belong to a couple of online business networking organisations and on one of these, Ecademy, there has been a lot of debate recently following Googles last algorithm change. This resulted in the site not delivering page 1 results as regularly as it had previously been prone to do due to its structure and overall page rank. A number of people have commented that there has therefore been a drop in value of the site because of this and have been asking whether it remains worth the subscription.

    My response again is that the Google / Search Engine benefits have to be viewed for what they are an excellent by-product which is great to have. However, the reason for joining a site like that is to help foster relationships with other business people and provide networking opportunities. Thats why its called a Business Networking Club rather than a Google Ranking Club. Google juice is great but that cannot be the main reason for your being there or else the networking element will ultimately die, killing the site with it.

    And the same is true with blogs. Business blogs are great in providing enhanced Search Engine opportunities but try not to focus too much on those or you risk losing everything. Focus instead on your readers in your blog and I guarantee that your SEO desires and requirements will follow.

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    Geographic search with GoogleGetting your blog indexed by Search Engines is relatively easy – you write, get linked to and the Search Engines follow the links and find you. Et voila! However, for most bloggers, ranking highly is more important and doing so on Google in particular for some it’s for bragging rights (egosurfing and the like) but, for business bloggers, it is for commercial reasons. Lets be honest, getting found means more potential readers and so more potential customers.

    However, although we tend to use Google in the singular, there are many different Google search results for the same phrase, the primary factor being where you are searching from.

    We know that Google operates Google.com as the global search engine and then a large number of individual country search engines, the UK one, for example, sitting at www.google.co.uk. The results at Google.com and Google.co.uk vary quite markedly with more relevance given to sites which are country specific in the google.co.uk results. There is also a third option which I am primarily interested in here, which is for “pages from the UK” only, and is activated by a click box as you can see below.

    To be included in this listing, Google needs to ascertain where a blog writer is located so that they can decide whether they should appear in these results or not. This they have generally done either using the country suffix on the domain so for UK results, .uk as in .co.uk or .org.uk – or where the IP of the host server indicates they are based. Result – if you are a UK blogger with a.com domain and host it in the US then there is no way of Google to know that you are UK based and so you are excluded in a uk only search.

    With me so far? Good. (Oh and by the way, this is the same for all other countries, US expected)

    However, rather than suddenly reach for the UK Hosting Directory, Google it seems has now offered a solution to ensure inclusion, by allowing us to associate our sites (and blogs) to a particular country, no matter what domain name or hosting we have.

    As outlined in Better Geographic choices for webmasters:

    Starting today Google Webmaster Tools helps you better control the country association of your content on a per-domain, per-subdomain, or per-directory level. The information you give us will help us determine how your site appears in our country-specific search results …

    So, pop along to Google Webmaster Tools and get yourself associated with the country you are targetting – you can only do so with one at the moment so don’t try to be greedy, but it’s probably worthwhile and certainly if you are not appearing where you would like in your country specific results.

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    Business Blog Post TitlesAs you sit down to pen your next post, you’ll probably already have a clear idea of what you want to communicate and how you want to go about getting that message across. Nevertheless, unless you can entice people to read what you’ve written, then all of your hard work will have been in vain. So take care with the title you use for the post as it plays a key role in that process.

    Why are Post Titles important?

    Well, they’re important in the same way that a newspaper headline is – they attract our attention, offer an insight or a “teaser” as to what the post contains and hopefully encourage us to read the full article. We have a huge amount of information presented to us every day, and so it’s really important to grab peoples attention in the short space of time that we have before they move on to something else. It the case of our blogs, we generally only have the post title at our disposal to achieve this.

    However, there is an added complication. We need to remember that we are in fact trying to attract the attention of two groups: readers (or should I clarify by saying human readers) and Search Engines.

    If they both reacted in the same way to words then things would be easy, if a little boring. However, they dont and nor are they attracted by the same things. While human readers are attracted by humour, nuance, plays on words as well as information, Search Engines are attracted purely by the words which we provide. Ideally, we need to find a way to cater for both.

    Where do we see the titles?

    However, we also have to bear in mind what people actually see in different situations and places – bear with me here, its important! The first obvious place is on your blog itself – at the top of your post is the title which will hopefully inspire you to read the post below it. Nevertheless, you are already on the blog, so in some ways the battle is already half won!

    The title of your post also appears in the main Blog Search Engines such as Technorati or Google Blog Search and in the RSS Feeds that people receive in their readers. As people browse here, then the title is critical in attracting their attention as they skim through the articles on offer. The more information that we all try to process in as short a space of time as possible then the less time we’ll have to attract attention and the more critical it will become.

    Post Titles and Title Tags

    However, when it come to the main Search Engines, things are slightly different. What appears on the results pages of Search Engines such as Google and Yahoo is not actually the title of your post but the Title Tag. This is distinct from your post title and something which you can control separately. The Title Tag is doubly important because it is an important element that the main Search Engines look at when ranking pages – they do take note of the title of your post, but they take much more interest in the Title Tag.

    So which way to go? My own preference is to keep the title interesting without making it too cryptic, and I always try to include the main keyword for the article. In addition, I make sure that, where necessary, I modify the Title Tag to ensure that that is keyword rich. (More details in my SEO series and a great WordPress plug-in from Stephen Spencer to help you).

    In other words, I try to appeal to both audiences. You are best placed to know what will appeal to your readers and you can guess that, for Search Engines, the principal keyword phrases for the post are going to be key. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to combine both as well as you can.

    This you have to read

    So where to find more information about titles, headlines and how to write them? Well, if you only go to one place, then head on over to Copyblogger’s posts on Magnetic Headlines. Highly recommended!

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    Back in December of last year, I wrote what I thought was a harmless little post called All Bloggers are Real Amateurs which did a little word play on the fact that the word “amateur” comes from the Latin “amare” – “to love” and that you should ideally be passionate about the subjects that you blog about. All well and good.

    I wasn’t targeting any keywords but I do basic optimisation on everything that I write so the Better Business Blogging site is set up with good title tags (using Stephan Spencer’s SEO Title Tag plug-in which is great and takes all coding effort out of it) as well as a number of other tweaks. Thought nothing more of it and it passed into the “Great Archive in the Sky” as posts do.

    However, recently while checking my blog stats, I noticed I was getting a number of hits on that post – not massive, but enough to stand out a little. That’s great, I’m always up for some additional, if unexpected, traffic. I checked what keyword phrase was attracting the hits and found it was “real amateurs” and discovered that I was position 2 for a UK search on the phrase and about page 6 worldwide.

    The downside was that all of the other sites were, shall we say, adult in nature and this was clearly a popular search term for a certain type of site. Aha … the penny finally dropped. (Took a while … yes, I know) In hindsight, having one of the tags as “blogging with passion” wasn’t a great idea either!

    So, the moral to this story is two-fold:

    • one, we know that blogs are attractive to Search Engines, but you can’t always dictate what they should or shouldn’t find attractive about your posts; and secondly,
    • if you are targeting keywords in your posts, then do your keyword research not only to make sure that they are relevant to your target readers but also that they are likely to produce the results you expect

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    An analogy that I use when I talk about emarketing is the idea of making mats, specifically Welcome Mats, which you then spread around the internet. The more individual mats that you make and strategically place, the more chance you have of being found in an increasingly competitive online market.

    What am I on about? Well, these Welcome Mats are places where you essentially introduce yourself and then invite people to learn more about you, your business and what you offer. Generally this means “inviting” them back to your website or to your blog.

    What form can these take? Well, for example:

    • Pages which appear as Search Engines results

    • AdWords (PPC) Adverts

    • Links on other sites or blogs

    • Directory entries

    • Articles with a link in your signature

    • Forum / Bulletin Board signatures

    These are all what I would call Welcome Mats each will ideally be individually crafted, give a short introduction to you and your business and then invite people to find out more through a hyperlink through to your site.

    So, as people use the internet for research or information gathering, they cross the internet in many different ways – how they go about it is totally out of our control. In fact, each time will be different and so the route that they take will be different too.


    They might use a search engine and then follow links in some directories, or head straight for the blogosphere and check Technorati or maybe start with some Press Releases via Yahoo News. Whichever they choose, our goal as online marketers is to make sure that we appear in as many relevant places as possible and so cover all options – creating multiple and specific Welcome Mats allows us to do this.

    And why do I consider blogs to be Mat Making machines? Well as I write a post which I hope will first and foremost be of interest to people who read my blog, I know that it will also automatically:

    • create 5 or 6 new pages (individual post, home page, archive page, 2 category pages) 5 potential Welcome Mats on the main Search Engines;

    • ping a number of blog search engines, directories and RSS directories – let’s say 10 Welcome Mats;

    • if it is well written, it may be fortunate in having 2 people reference it in addition from their blogs giving another 2 Welcome Mats;

    • add to Feedburners Headline Animator which I use when I post on Business Networking sites like ecademy which displays links to my RSS feed on average another 5 Welcome Mats.

    So, by posting on my blog and focusing purely on my key aim of writing something which will prove useful and interesting, it is also likely that I will automatically create over 20 new Welcome Mats. That for me is a bonus rather than the reason that I write … but is also the reason that I encourage businesses I work with to get their own Mat Making Machine.

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    I was interested to note over the weekend that Google had downloaded a new version of its toolbar onto my computer. Not that important in itself, but it had added an option to install a button which gives instant access to Googles Blog Search engine – pity that they decided to use the Blogger.com insignia which is bound to cause confusion. Nevertheless, an positive step to take.

    This was not the only new publicity for Googles Blog Search. Techcrunch also pointed out something I had not noticed which is that a link to Googles Blog Search had also been added to the Google News homepage. Not exactly prominent at the moment (look at the top right hand corner) but a step in the right direction.

    While neither of these actions by Google is in any way groundbreaking, it is nevertheless a clear indication that they are taking their Blog Search engine and blogs in general very seriously.

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    Seminar FAQsBusiness Blogging Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Q – Does my blog only show up in Blog Search Engines or also Google, Yahoo and MSN?

    A – A common misconception when businesses start to use a Business Blog and learn about the Blog Search Engines is that their Blog will only appear in these blog specific Search Engines and not in the mainstream ones. This is not true.

    A Blog at the end of the day is a website with special charateristics and so will certainly appear in the main Search Engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. In fact, they are much more likely to rank highly because they have key elements that the Search Engines find very attractive:

    • their internal stucture, which is highly organised and groups similar posts together in categories which creates highly relevant pages on individual topics which Search Engines love;

    • the very focused nature and quality of their content which is at the core of what Search Engines are looking to offer their users;

    • the fact that they are generally updated on a very frequent basis, as the more recent the information the higher its relevance is likely to be

    • the inbound links from other blogs (and websites) which is part and parcel of the ethos of the blogosphere and which constitutes a major factor in ranking sites.

    The main Search Engines will find your Blog by following links to it from other sites that are already in their index, so there is no need to submit it directly to them, and it will then be treated using the criteria that are applied to any other site. Criteria which you will rank well in if you are using a Blog to good effect.

    You can use other Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) methods in addition which will give an additional boost in your rankings, but you already have a number of advantages which will serve you well. So make sure that you write quality and targeted posts on a regular basis and ensure that you promote your blog well.

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