Writing a business blog is hard work. When I see businesses – especially small businesses – put in the effort, my heart sings! But when they do it in a way that makes all of that effort a complete waste of their time, it breaks my heart!
Unlike Neidermeyer from Animal House, I take no pleasure in telling people that their blogs are essentially worthless. I believe that inbound marketing in general and blogging in particular have the power to make the business world a better place. If we can turn marketing from something people hate into something they love then we all win.
This week I want to share a few all too common observations that make me die a little bit inside every time I see one of them. If I can save just one recruit this week, my writing will not have been in vain.
Sabotaging Your Own Business Blog
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#1: Host your business blog on a different domain
Let’s say your business name is ACME and your website is located at www.acme.com. This means that your domain name is “acme.com.” This is important because it’s what the search engines consider to be your home. Anything they find outside of that domain belongs to someone else, and not you. The common mistake I see with businesses is that they host their blog on another platform like WordPress.com and just accept the default domain. In our example, the company’s blog would be acme.wordpress.com. As far as the search engines are concerned, all of the content on that blog “belongs” to WordPress.com and not acme.com.
You’re getting zero SEO (search engine optimization) juice from all of the content you’re writing!
How to fix it: This is particularly tragic because one of the biggest benefits of blogging is how helpful they are to building SEO authority. If you’re building your house on someone else’s land, then it doesn’t belong to you and you’re giving away all of those assets! It doesn’t mean that hosting your blog somewhere else is bad, it just means that you need to make sure you use the same domain. In the WordPress.com example, you can still use their service and use a custom subdomain so that your blog appears at, for example, www.acme.com/blog. This option isn’t available with the free hosting, but it’s not very expensive to fix this glaring problem.
#2: Bury the lead
There are a couple of business blogs I read regularly because they contain information that is highly relevant and important to me. But, man, do I dread reading them! The reason I dread reading them is that they take way too much work on my part. They’re technically-oriented blogs whose content is heavy in math, science and technology. The problem with them is that they don’t tell me what the point of the post is anywhere! They assume two things that are frequently not the case:
- That I’m going to read the entire article, from start to finish.
- That when presented with all of the facts, I have enough knowledge to understand the significance and draw a conclusion.
I read a LOT of stuff every week. When scanning my RSS feed, I’m performing triage. I look at the headline and decide whether or not it’s worth a click. If it is, then I perform a quick cost/benefit analysis of the article. Is the cost of investing my time to read it going to be worth the benefit of whatever I learn? If I can’t determine what the payoff is in the first couple of paragraphs, I have two choices; leave or read the entire article and take my chances. 9 times out of 10, I leave.
The second problem is that these blog posts assume that I have the same level of expertise that they do. If I did, I probably wouldn’t need their blog! They frequently provide facts, figures and statistics that require either more subject matter expertise than I have or else require additional research on my part.
How to fix it: First, make sure that you tell the reader what they’re going to learn from your article in the first couple of paragraphs; preferably in the first few sentences. Let’s use the article you’re reading right now as a case study. First, the headline and opening tell you that my intent is to show some common, serious mistakes businesses make with their blogs. I also infer that I’m going to try to prevent you from making those same mistakes. Then, throughout the article I’m not just telling you what the mistakes are, but I’m also offering advice on how to avoid and/or fix them. I’m not assuming you can see it yourself.
#3: Put a muzzle on me
This one really makes me scratch my head. Google is very unambiguously deemphasizing back-links in favor of social signals in its algorithm. It’s looking for social shares and conversations to help establish the relative value of pages (and domains). So it really is curious when a blog makes it hard to share its articles or (more commonly) puts up roadblocks to conversations because their comment feature is substandard.
Unfathomably, one of the biggest offenders in my book is the Hubspot blog. The commenting function on their blog is incredibly simplistic and lacks some basic functionality. First, there are no social integrations that will allow me to Tweet my reply or share it on Facebook. But more frustrating than that, it doesn’t support threaded conversations. I’m a frequent commenter on their posts and it’s virtually impossible to remain engaged with the topic because I have only two choices; subscribe to the entire comment thread and have my email inbox flooded with (mostly low quality) comments or simply walk away. Not that they really need it, but they’d get far more engagement and social signals if they incorporated these features – which should really by standard today.
How to fix it: First, use a commenting platform on your business blog that allows threaded conversations. By default, WordPress incorporated this into their platform. You can also kick it up a notch by incorporating upgraded systems like Disqus (which is the platform I use). These platforms add the social integration and community features that can really drive engagement.
If you’re going to invest the effort into your business blog, please don’t make fundamental mistakes the undermine the fundamental benefits of your blog. By hosting it on a separate domain, you’re throwing away ALL of the SEO benefits. If it’s unreadable, then why bother at all? And if you’re going to sabotage the social engagement aspect, then you’re losing out on the largest social signals for search engines today.
This doesn’t necessarily make your blog worthless but it’s another misstep that makes me sad. Make sure you include calls to action in your posts that will drive readers to take actions you want them to take. Convert those visitors into leads!!!
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