Clients often ask us about blogging best practices, and how to increase the visibility and quality of content on their blog. This is a big question to answer, and an even bigger answer to give. True, a blog is an extension of your site (in some cases, a blog is the entire site). So you need to apply SEO best practices to your blog as a foundation. But blogging is also a social activity rooted in publishing.
Yes, blogging is part of your company’s social activities. It’s the content that’s fed through the social sphere. Without content, social media would not exist. It’s that stuff people share and connect through. And your blog needs to become a part of that.
So today, I’m going to share with you some small tweaks you can make to your blogging activity that will help strengthen the relationship between your community and the social networks.
While there is a much larger holistic strategy at the heart of a thriving blog, we’re going to discuss a few action items that’ll help make your content more targeted:
- Know who your community is.
- Know where your community is.
- Build and strengthen your community.
- Make it easy for people to share in the community.
- Get in on Google Authorship for increased visibility.
1. Know Who Your Community Is
Not knowing who the heck you’re talking to in your blog is a problem. As a business owner, you may have a good idea of your primary customer, and often, this is a perfect place to start when thinking about personas for your blog (the people you are talking to).
In the post: “3 Ways to Align Your Blog Content with Your Target Audience,” I talked about that all-important starting point. If you have products and services, who buys them? If your product is blog content — what types of people read it and for what purpose? There’s a story behind why your audience engages with you. Dig in and let that be your guide for the content you create.
2. Know Where Your Community Is
You may already have social communities established, but do you know which social communities are more geared towards your target audience? Do you also know how those channels interact with your blog and its content?
Guesses and intuition can only get you so far. You need to have some data to help you make informed decision. In Google Analytics, there are several reports connected to social media that can offer very telling data about what social channels people are coming from to your blog and what content they’re sharing.
The great thing about Google Analytics is that it’s free data, just waiting for you. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best data right out of the box. Remember that Google Analytics comes with default settings and reports, so areas will need to be customized to extract the data you need.
Here’s some articles that can help you better understand the Google Analytics social reports:
- Getting to Know Google’s Social Analytics
- Understanding How the Social Reports Can Boost Blog Content
Remember, a blog is a social networking activity, and the channels the content is shared through (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus) is essential to keeping it alive. Without your community sharing content that’s relevant to them, blog efforts can sometimes fall short.
3. Build and Strengthen Your Community
As the hub of your community, your blog should make it very simple for readers to discover the social networks you’re in. And your social networks should be cross-promoted so that your community can discover new content from your brand in other areas.
That means having your social icons set up in a way that’s easy to find on the blog, preferably above the fold. And you can use the data you discover in Google Analytics to better understand what social communities are worth investing more resources in (where the traffic is coming from; where content is being shared). And here’s some information on choosing social plugins for your site.
Think about the social plugins that are going to make it easy for your community to engage, while at the same time considering things that may impact the performance of your site (like page load times). And different buttons offer different functionality. Some offer easy access to join a brand’s social network with one click, some show the user how many people in their network are also a part of that community. Decide what’s best for what you are trying to accomplish.
A Note on Optimizing Your Social Presence
Making sure your social presence is cohesive is an exercise in branding and marketing. Ensure your messaging is consistent across all your “about” sections in all your social networks (that doesn’t mean “exactly the same,” but it means cohesiveness). Make sure your about sections offer useful information about the brand while at the same time alerting the community of the other ways people can connect — be it your YouTube account, your LinkedIn and yes, the blog!
Consider also using the keywords that are important to your business in your descriptions, for example, keywords from your SEO campaign. This post by AJ Kohn goes into detail about the things you can do to optimize your Google Plus profile specifically.
And don’t forget to take advantage of all the features that are available to you to make a robust social media profile. This three-part series on optimizing your brand’s LinkedIn profile offers tidbits on how to do so.
4. Make It Easy for People to Share in the Community
Have you ever been to a site and been accosted with a million buttons to share the content you’re reading? Sometimes blog owners worry that if they don’t offer every possible way to share, they’ll miss out. But here’s the thing: your target audience isn’t everywhere.
Usually, brands have a few core social media networks that actually matter to them, because that’s where their community is engaging. So you can ditch that massive share button widget and just hone in on giving your regular readers a simple way to share content.
This point goes along with what we discussed in an earlier section: know where your community is, and cater to them. There’s social plugin tracking in the Google Analytics reports we talked about that helps you find out which buttons are being used most to share content. This is one way to aid in your decision-making.
But don’t forget to take into account all factors and metrics available to you. Another way to decide if the social share button is right for your blog is more of a common-sense approach. If you don’t have any images on your blog ever that are worthy of people sharing on Pinterest, for example, don’t have a button for that. For more help on choosing social media share buttons, check out this post.
5. Get in on Google Authorship for Increased Visibility
Of all the recommendations here, as a blogger, Google Authorship is a must. It first starts with Google Plus, Google’s social community. Anyone who has any Google account already has a Google Plus profile by default (Gmail is one example of a Google account, but there are other commonly used Google product lines).
Many of these default profiles go untouched by users, but it offers a great opportunity for added visibility of content in the search results and among users of Google Plus, and is essential for bloggers.
See, Google Plus ties in with Google Authorship. Google Authorship is a process by which you link a blog’s (or site’s) content to the author who created it using a Google Plus profile. Authorship allows a brand and an author to claim ownership of content on the Web. And it’s essentially a trust signal by Google, saying this person on this site creates acceptable content.
And Google rewards this by giving the content another opportunity to be found in the search results. The “snippet” the Authorship program renders in the search results has been known to increase click-through rates to the content (you know what I’m referring to, right? That thumbnail of the author’s face next to the content).
And we are now seeing multiple pieces of content in the search results tied to an author. Plus, being a part of the Authorship program offers an additional data point about the performance of the content from that author.
So How Do You Get Authorship?
The way to implement Authorship can sometimes be a laborious process, made even more complicated if you have multiple authors on a blog. But it seems as though Google is making it easier to do so as time goes on. Here’s a great list of authorship resources by Raven.
I’ll offer a general overview of how to get Authorship going (at the time of this writing, results may vary based on your site):
- If you don’t already have it, add a plugin for author bios on the blog that renders at the end of each post.
- Have contributors set up their Google Plus profile, making sure there is a recognizable head shot for the main profile pic (260 x 260 size), and any relevant information about them in the About section.
- If the regular contributors have an email at your company domain, this is the easiest way to link up the site’s blog with the Google Plus page (by adding that email to the “work” section of the Google Plus profile). Otherwise, add the blog domain in the “contributor to” section of the Google Plus profile.
- On the blog side, make sure that all the articles have the byline: “By [NAME],” and each contributing author will need a short bio for the bio plugin we talked about in Step 1. To manually add the rel=author markup in the bio section for each author, you can write a sentence that connects the Google Plus profile with a bit of code. (Note that this is what works for our particular situation in WordPress, but it could vary, and in some cases, the Yoast plugin makes it even easier). So the sentence could read something like:
Connect with [NAME HERE] on <a href=”https://plus.google.com/[INSERT GOOGLE PLUS PROFILE LINK HERE]?rel=author”>Google+</a>
You can retrieve the Google Plus profile link for each individual author by going to their Google Plus profile and copying the unique URL for that profile. Please note that you can take the “/posts” off the end of the URL before copying into the code below.
Once the link between the blog and the Google Plus profiles has been made for all regular contributing authors, we can then request to add them to the Google Authorship program for consideration (note: this can take several weeks to be approved). Logged into Google Plus, you can follow the instructions here to add the blogger to the program.
Hopefully the steps laid out in this post get you on a path where you have better understanding of who your audience is, what blog content is working for you and how to gain more visibility of that content. Remember, a blog is a social hub and a social marketing activity. So take advantage of all the social tools that help your blog thrive!
Let us know if you have any questions or comments in the field below!