How often have you asked 'How can I do more SEO' and been told the answer is to add a blog? Why is this and is it really a silver bullet for better rankings in the search engines or could you do yourself a whole lot of damage?
Well because in certain circumstances it can really help. If you have a small company that just does its thing and your website is no more than a dozen pages then there's not much for Google to get its teeth into and there are only limited reasons for others to create backlinks to you.
A blog or a vlog or even something like a knowledge base all have the potential to become homes to rich content that search engines will love and others will reference.
I've seen blogs turn average companies into success stories and individuals into respected experts - often reaping benefits far beyond better search engine rankings. But I've also seen them damage company reputations and cause potential clients to mistrust individuals.
Adding a blog is fine, but you have to do it right.
That means high quality content that's understandable. Or to be more specific useful content. What we each define as useful is subjective so lets just see useful to a pretty big audience.
I used to say it needs to be well presented but in today's fast moving world people just want the info and they want it now and if a wobbly video contains better information than anywhere else its going to be popular. So useful is key.
Sometimes useful is because it is better presented than the way other people have presented it in the past so don't ignore that but what I'm driving at is that high quality means useful and understandable.
Some people can do this on the fly. It might come effortlessly for a solicitor to reflect on recent court cases or changes in the law. They might actually enjoy doing it and if so they're going to pump out quality content in no time.
Others will sit and stair at a computer screen, struggle to come up with anything to say and usually end up producing content that simply doesn't engage because they aren't feeling the passion for it or because they simply don't have a way with words.
Its here that the blog risk comes in. If blogging or creating content on a regular basis just isn't something that comes naturally to you then you're going to produce a mess. Its not going to rank because its not useful to anyone but what it is going to do is undermine your reputation because it clings onto the side of your website like a half inflated bag of nothingness.
That means it not just failing to give you any SEO benefits, its actually affecting how well your visitors convert.
Finally there's the blog that seems to come together quite well, seems to rank quite well and seems to bring in visitors but they never do what you want.
I was looking at the blog of a gardening maintenance company the other day. All very interesting but I'm never going to hire them because they're located several thousand miles away. They're pushing so much great content out there and people are seeing it but 99.99% of them won't be converting because they can't.
Half working blogs don't need to be abandoned though. This is just a case of sitting down and thinking "How can we use this success in other ways". The gardening maintenance company could include Amazon affiliate links to products. If their readers click through they'll get a commission for any sales that follow. Suddenly a local business can start converting their national and international visitors.
My advice to people who are thinking about starting a blog is to write their first 20 or 30 articles before going live. I recorded 60 podcasts before I launched just to test the format really worked. This approach will help give you an idea of how easily blogging or content creation comes to you and if you can find a reasonable number of subjects to talk about without struggling.
If you have a reasonably large social media following don't be afraid of diving in there and asking your followers. They are a gold mine for ideas because they are your target audience.
I'd then suggest showing these pieces of content to friends and family. Perhaps even share them on social media and openly ask for feedback. People love to give advice and its a great way for them to feel they have a relationship with you.
But if you struggle with content then what about simply outsourcing it to a gifted writer. Nothing wrong with that and there are plenty of them on Upwork and Freelanceer but remember you get what you pay for. Cheap ghost bloggers are going to deliver the kind of verbal vomit that will just bring your site down.
Great content starts at around $1,000 per article so it doesn't come cheap - after all the writer has to learn about your field and how you fit into it before they even pick up a pen - but that doesn't mean it can't be profitable.
Some of the biggest names in many sectors, SEO included, contract out their blogging and content creation to ghost content creators. We can argue all day and night about whether its wrong or write but they do it and it works.
There's good reason why starting a blog is good advice in search engine optimization but there are equally good reasons why it could do your cause damage. Its not a one way street to success.
So before you start an actual blog try creating 20-30 pieces of content and see how well it goes and what feedback you can get. If its a struggle but you have funds then a ghost content creator might be worth a try but in all circumstances ask yourself, "Will this content bring me visitors who will actually convert, who will do what I want to make the core reason my website exists a success? Being a popular blogger doesn't mean being a financial success.
Ultimately though if blogging is not for you then the idea that flogging a dead horse will help your rankings is a far fetched one. Accept it and explore other alternatives.
I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.
If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.