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Digital Services

  • 04 Jun 2021
  • 3 min read
  • by Andrew Girdwood

A lightweight guide to business blogging

Ready to start creating SEO-driven content for your business blog? Here's everything you need to get started.

Thank you.

If you're offering some of your own time and initiative to write a blog for your company, thank you. If you've been asked to do so and have made the time to find this blog post, then thank you as well.

There was a time when "Make sure your business has a blog. It is good for your SEO." was common advice. It was terrible advice. It wasn't necessarily incorrect, but it was dangerously truncated, frequently misunderstood and has not worked out well.

Each crank of the handle on the content production machine, each tweet, Instagram or public Facebook post spits out another webpage. In January 2021, Netcraft counted at least 1,197,982,359 sites in their response survey. Imagine thinking that a single blog post would influence Google's rankings by just existing? It's nonsense.

Google's response to business blogs churning out dull lists and painfully unhelpful advice has been to push up the quality cut off point even higher. Good!

My favourite, dangerously truncated, SEO maxim is this; "No reaction, no ranking". If your blog post doesn't get a reaction from a community of interest online, it won't help your SEO.

That's my favourite recommendation, but not the number one rule in this lightweight guide. The most important rule is "Ignore this guide if you want".

I mean it. I blog to relax, even if my job is in digital marketing and professional SEO. If you're writing about something you're passionate about, but the idea of doing anything in the name of SEO is enough to suck the joy out of the task, then don't do it. It is far better than you write well and return as often as you can to a subject on which you can share expertise.

Expertise happens to be at the heart of yet another critical acronym in search: E-A-T. That stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. You'll find loads of opinions about that online, but the short version is this; Google uses humans to evaluate search results, and they make sure appropriately E-A-T sites have good rankings.

Google explains why. Here's the SEO takeaway from the horse's mouth;

"... we fundamentally design our ranking systems to identify information that people are likely to find useful and reliable. "

How can Google tell if people are finding content useful and reliable? The search engine looks for various signals, like the author's expertise, but they also put plenty of emphasis on how other trusted sites are reacting to it.

There, that's the defence of my favourite SEO rule done. "No reaction, no ranking".

With that done, to helpfully fulfil the promise of a lightweight guide to business blogging, here are some scannable tips.

Keywords and language

Always use customer language, not your business jargon. For example, your training program isn't an academy, it's a training program, so while you can brand it "academy", you might also want to mention "training program" when you can.

The future is more prosperous than the past, and you'll find a more significant SEO win if you can predict keywords that people will start searching for soon before anyone else writes about them. For example, if you offer legal services to restaurant chains then (at the time this guide was published), it is less helpful to share a late but well-written guide to GDPR than release an early guide to the HFSS restrictions coming into force in April 2022.

Clusters and hubs are good. Your claim at E-A-T credibility is more substantial if you frequently write about a topic, keeping your published content up to date (make edits, you can change webpages at any point) and write again on a subject than if you produce one skinny page and leave it at that. It's even better if those pages link to one another, creating a cluster of credible content.

If you have two or more equally good choices when it comes to terminology, consider writing about both and linking the two together as a start of a hub. If you only have enough material for one blog post on the subject, then use Google Trends to compare and see which seems to be most popular in your part of the world, paying attention to the breakout terms as a way to make an informed decision about future customer language.

Titles and tags

The title of a blog post can make or break it. The title becomes the main summary of the page in Google and on social media if the post gets shared on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. With that in mind, write titles that offer context and incite curiosity. For example, rather than "Our green policy", consider something like "Our green policy: We've got to stop drinking plastic tea".

Avoid clickbait; no one likes it, not even algorithms. Clickbait is blog posts with dramatic titles but do not then follow through with content that lives up to the promise. For example, if mentioning plastic tea in a title, protect your credibility and trust (e-a-T) by citing the research that suggests teabags release microparticles of plastic into drinks. Also, make sure your new green policy includes action against using those teabags in the office.

Each blog post you write needs two short summaries; one for Google and a second for Facebook/LinkedIn. The first is two short sentences that ideally replay text from near the top of your post and contain a helpful solution (or the promise of) to whatever customers might be searching. The second is three short sentences that can stray further from a verbatim copy but still tightly and invitingly summarise the page.

Each blog post you write needs one great picture, or it will fail, and you will have wasted your time. The image you use here is for the Open Graph image meta tag and used by social media platforms whenever almost anyone shares your post. Ideally, it'll be postcard-shaped and at least 1200 pixels wide. Search engines can also use images as thumbnails.

If your CMS (content management system - like WordPress) allows it, your article will also need to be assigned to a category (few and fixed) and given some tags (many and free-hand). While many blogging CMSs will allow you to use brand new tags at your whim, be conservative and re-use old tags if at all possible to help build a content cluster around the topic.

Layout and presentation

Write for the web, do not write as if you're supplying content to a magazine that someone has made time to pick up and read.

Get to the point quickly; rush to be helpful without cutting quality.

Avoid writing vast blocks of texts. Use short paragraphs instead, and do not be afraid of bullet-points and lists. People will be reading this on phone screens.

Use sub-headings often.

Include images, video, charts and tables. The goal here is to make your blog post an article that other websites want to mention and link to reference your data or creative brilliance.

General business blogging tips

The main company website should have pages about every important product and service you offer. Link to your service and product pages when you mention them in your blog post.

Don't be smug; this is not art. You might be using artistic talents to create a great blog post, but you're writing for a business objective (such as brand building), and that means a helpful post that people will want to recommend to their friends.

Don't forget the "So what?". You don't need to include a hard sell, which often puts people off, but including a clear next step or call to action such as a "Contact us for help" button can turn a blog post from a vanity traffic driver into a sanity lead generator.

Publish early, without sacrificing quality, and update as needed.

Once published, don't delete. Work hard to keep accurate content on a similar subject on the page you've posted. If that becomes impossible, investigate whether you can redirect the URL to its replacement.

Mention people and companies. You are more likely to get a reaction from the people you’ve made part of the blog post.

It’s easier to write if you do it often and have a routine.

Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood

Head of Media Technology