Guest blogs: if you dupe on your own site, add a canonical link


In addition to the etiquette of not duplicating your guest post for another blog on your own blog, consider the fact that search engines do not reward publishing duplicate content. In fact, it can be positively detrimental to your search engine optimisation efforts to have duplicate content published.

Google Webmaster Tools

What is a canonical page? Why specify a canonical page?

One of the benefits of writing a guest post on another blog is so that you can link back to your blog and gain search engine rankings. If the article you write is duplicated exactly on your blog, search engines will sense that there’s duplicate content and penalise both pages. This isn’t good for you, nor the blog you guest posted on.

If you want your audience to be able to see the article on your blog, then one way to circumnavigate the duplicate content issue is to add a canonical link tag to the page on your site. The canonical link tag would look like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.otherdomain.com/where-you-guest-posted.html”&gt;

This way, you’re saying to search engines: “This is duplicate content, but the other page is the one you should index — it’s the ‘original’ article.” You can’t call your own page the ‘original’ unless you put the canonical link tag on the other blog, and that’s probably hard for you to achieve. So by putting it on your page, at least you avoid the potential penalty from serach engines for duplicate content.

With all that said and done, do you actually need the article on your blog as well? It’s much better etiquette to simply link to the other blog and they will undoubtedly link back to you and appreciate your sense of etiquette: reputation enhanced!

Check out this excellent resource in the link below:

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=139394

Thanks to Y J Tso at http://ca.linkedin.com/in/sepiariver for the orginal idea.

Viagra for your flagging corporate blog


Most corporate blogs are ghost towns, in terms of both content and reader engagement. Abandoned blogs litter the Web, making the businesses that own them look lazy, uncommitted and anything but current.

The reality is that keeping a blog fresh involves more time and effort than most brands are willing to invest, which only makes the few that do succeed look even better. So what are they doing that most others are not?

Start slowly, perfect your pace

The best blogs are updated pretty often. A 2009 study found that blogs with high Technorati Authority rankings post about 300 times more often than those with low Authority rankings and keeping a blog fresh is the only way to grow readership, boost conversions and develop thought leadership.

But getting there takes long-term planning and discipline. Don’t be the showoff that starts with a sprint and fails to finish.

Church Times blog instructions

The Church Times blog is written and drawn by Church Times cartoonist Dave

Instead, begin with a posts-per-week goal that you’re certain to hit before you ramp it up. During this time, refine your related activities — content distribution, baselines for measurement, trending and reporting — to get an idea of the impact a blog post can have on your existing marketing efforts.

Like any good publisher, you’ll need an editorial calendar. Plan several weeks in advance but realise that you’ll also need the flexibility to blog about hot topics as they come up. Use calendars that integrate with your existing project management tools whenever possible.

Basecamp is an excellent option, allowing multi-user commenting, attachment uploads and task assignments. If you use WordPress, you can choose from a healthy array of plugins designed specifically for multi-author blog management, including scheduling, calendar and task reminder tools.

Some of the most prolific bloggers I know simply use Excel spreadsheets or Google Docs. Don’t get lost in selecting between shiny objects: pick something and focus on the planning process.

Reject often

Cultivating a vibrant blog with a diversity of perspectives doesn’t mean those perspectives can’t be polished up, or that all content should be considered equal. An editor’s job often entails just as much rejection as it does approval.

Your blog is a highly visible, externally facing extension of your brand, and it requires a measure of selectivity. Establish official content guidelines and an approval process that your employees can reference during content creation, and use this to inform and explain your approval decisions.

Everyone at your company must understand (and you should champion) the fact that your blogging efforts need to integrate with business goals and content that doesn’t fit won’t be published — no hard feelings.

Nothing is good enough without editing

Dumb typos are the Achilles heel of otherwise valuable corporate content. As political journalist Theodore White said, “There are two kinds of editors, those who correct your copy and those who say it’s wonderful.”

MS Word, or another word processor, should be used until the post is ready to publish: not only do you then have backup copies but Word’s editing features are more robust than those of WordPress and most other platforms.

Adopt a mutually-agreed versioning system and append your initials and the date to the latest version, then share via Dropbox or Google Docs. Once finalised, mark the version as ‘final’ (in MS Word) and place the post in a folder separate from previous drafts (so you avoid confusing them).

Always know what you’re asking for

“What action do I want my visitors to take after reading this post?”. This question should be paramount throughout every stage of the content-planning process. Whatever your primary goal, reading the post should entice visitors to click on a related call-to-action you’ve intentionally placed in their path.

The call-to-action can be anything from links to related posts, to a booking page for an upcoming webinar you’re hosting. If you can’t think of a logical next step you’d like readers to take, the post probably doesn’t belong in front of them.

Guest author Ian Greenleigh is social media manager at Bazaarvoice, the market and technology leader in hosted social commerce applications. He oversees and contributes to The Social Commerce Blog .

 

How to get your blog posts working harder


Use a catchy subject line

The subject line is arguably the most important element of any post: titles that pique curiosity are more likely to be opened. When this is combined with strategic keywords that match the topic of the post, you have a blog that’s going to perform well.

The idea is simply to generate curiosity such as Why isn’t your team performing: perhaps they’re not in ‘flow’? You’re now wondering what ‘flow’ is all about, aren’t you?

Many of us don’t have large subscriber bases, so we need to develop a catchy title that also includes keywords that will get indexed by Google. Brian Clark at Copyblogger does an excellent job of this. One of his generally-accepted SEO copywriting tips is to place these keywords near the front of the title.

You should occasionally test your titles to determine what resonates most with your audience. Titles that offer immediate practical help, like How to get your blog posts working harder will result in higher traffic from a community than those that are too clever and thought-provoking.

Offer easy-to-skim content

When you organise your content so that it’s easily skimmed and assimilated, you tap into a secret of blogging. Time is precious and you have a few seconds to get two or three points across:

  • Blog as if you are talking directly  to one of your community members: my audience is business professionals and marketers. They expect you to get to the point quickly and avoid technical jargon.
  • Learn to write in a terse, accurate style: if you scan any news source, you’ll notice the paragraphs are short — only a few sentences. The Guardian’s Style Guide is useful and accessible.
  • Use subheadings: this helps both you and the reader. I tend to write my first draft quickly for flow and readability. Then I go back and organise with subheadings, while also reorganising and eliminating entire paragraphs so that my readers don’t have to.
  • Create lists: lists are the ultimate organising tool, which is why they’re frequently retweeted — thereby attracting valuable links back to your blog. Keep them to a few items otherwise you’ll make it confusing.
  • Use italics and bold text for emphasis: if someone reads your blog post word-for-word, it’s usually after skimming it first. Help readers do both by emphasising key points with italics and bold text. Use caps, ellipses (…) and exclamation marks only when they are really justified.

Mix content types and opinion and facts

Delivering great content requires a mix of qualities that keeps your readers coming back for more. The key isn’t always the quality of the message but how it’s delivered:

  • Offer your opinions: if you’re an expert in your field, then your opinion is relevant. Who do you respect more, the waiter who says everything on the menu is excellent or the one who looks you in the eye and recommends her favourites (or suggests avoiding some dishes)?
  • Use multimedia: make it a point to use images, screenshots and video to communicate your message with more punch.Link to your experience and case studies: advice has greater credibility when it comes from a practical, proven situation.
  • Leave out the rubbish: make the effort to edit out anything that doesn’t support your title or enhance your post. Include details to create a mental picture but leave out anything else that is not strictly relevant.

 

WordPress Excerpt feature

The 'Excerpt' feature in WordPress

 

Be aware of SEO factors

Learning the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) is a necessary aspect of blogging if you expect to build a sustainable reader base. While SEO can get complicated, you can be very effective by simply tuning into your audience and writing for them:

  • Excerpts: the excerpt of your post is the brief description included with the return of search results and is an extra option in most blogging platforms. A well-chosen description encourages click-throughs. If you don’t build an excerpt, the first couple of sentences of your post will be used as a default. Get in the habit of summarising your post in the first couple of sentences.
  • Keywords: learn the common words and phrases being used by your audience. For example, do they use the term entreprise or business? These subtle distinctions need to be made so that you can be found when they’re searching for your expertise.Links: the SEO experts universally agree that inbound links to your blog are useful for achieving a high ranking. How do you get these links? The most reliable way is to write content that people want to link to.
  • Anchor text: link to the keywords (known as anchor text) in your post that are aligned with the words you expect to be used by someone searching for your expertise. The classic mistake is linking to click here instead of more relevant keywords such as digital marketing or whatever relates to your expertise.
  • Link to earlier posts: link back to your previous posts to encourage your readers to hang around longer. This increases the likelihood they’ll respond to a call-to-action, such as subscribing to your blog or newsletter.
  • Tags: tags are handled differently in every blogging platform. Just be sure to use tags that are relevant to the post you’re creating, as well as the audience you’re blogging for. Only use tags that directly refer to your post to avoid undermining their effectiveness through dilution.
  • Categories: categories obviously help your blog visitors go deeper into the subject matter or topic that interests them most. Search engines also index your categories for the same reason, so choose your categories carefully. Too many and it is confusing to readers: too few and they are pointless. Aim for six to ten categories.

 

WordPress tagcloud

Tag cloud generated from WordPress

 

Encourage interaction and action

While blogging is a platform for publishing, the ultimate objective is to encourage engagement and interaction. Just as an engaged audience gives a speaker feedback on his live presentation, the comments to your blog will do the same.

You can and should learn from every single visitor to your blog by responding and seeking to better understand her point of view. Every comment probably represents the perspective of many others. The more you learn, the easier it is to focus your efforts on what’s most relevant to your audience.

Why else do you want comments? Because comments are social proof that your blog is popular. And this, in turn, encourages more traffic and subscribers to your blog. To encourage more comments, you may not only have to remind your audience to do so but show them as well. Write a post on commenting and use your blog as an example.

Show your readers exactly how to comment, and even go a step further to describe how to share your post by retweeting or using the Facebook Like button.

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