by Brook McCarthy
15 May 2020
When the Victorian Department of Health came calling, I asked them where they’d found me. It was Google. When the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries got in contact, it was also through Google. Multinational corporations, editors of business magazines, one-to-one business coaching clients? All found me through Google.
So what’s my SEO strategy? It’s pretty simple – I blog once or twice a month, every month, and have done for 10 years now. Blogging for business is fantastic for helping prospects to find you through Google and increase the number and quality of those leads, among many other benefits.
You are a media company. Especially if you make a livelihood out of your words, business blogging is a must. It’s easy, accessible and, with a few good digital habits and a solid understanding of SEO fundamentals, it can prove not only financially lucrative, but a great creative outlet.
The first task I ask students of my Blogging for Business course to do is choose 5-7 blog categories that are not too broad, not too narrow, and that relate to their services. This helps to focus people on their specialty and reduces the temptation to blog about any old topic that catches their fancy.
That’s not to say you can’t write about any topic – indeed, a great story or an offbeat, memorable and quirky opening ‘hook’ is a great way to start a blog post before seguing into the main topic of the post.
In the olden days, we had traditional media and digital, and Public Relations professionals acted as gatekeepers between businesses world and the media.
Nowadays, it’s a wild west, rich in possibilities. Not only are you using your business as a media company, to create and disseminate your expertise and opinions, but you can pitch yourself directly to media, write or contribute articles without needing a PR intermediary, approach journalists directly on places like Twitter, and help yourself be found by all and sundry, through Google.
One of the strategies I used with great success to build my business and website 12 years ago, was to interview thought leaders and experts on behalf of my clients, to publish on my clients’ blogs. It enabled me to have a great reason to introduce myself, to do favours for others first, to demonstrate my writing and marketing expertise, and to build my network.
When you’re building relationships with people, ask if you can guest blog on their website (and get a link back). Interview prospective clients, thoughts leaders, self-employed colleagues and other interesting folks on their specialty topics, and link back to their websites.
Your business blog is your PR department, doing publicity on your behalf. Your opinion pieces, your thought leadership pieces, your raves and rants and personality-driven, memorable blogs are important – they demonstrate your passion, enthusiasm and point-of-difference.
I’ve appeared in two print magazines and countless websites, without a pitch or media release, but where the media approached me after Googling a topic and finding my blog.
Every Google search is a person with a problem seeking a solution. Think about the myriad of questions you could answer, and particularly from the perspective of your ideal client, not your colleagues or competitors.
Search engine research will tell you the volume of searches for your services and how high the competition is: your SEO sweet spot is low competition and high volume. You’ll need to use your creativity to find smaller set of categories and topics and long-tail search phrases to satisfy this sweet spot.
Writers often make the mistake of writing blogs teaching people how to write better – but people seeking writers don’t want to know how to write – they want to hire someone to do it for them. Understand the real, deeper problems that your business seeks to solve, and how these evolve depending on what customer journey stage your prospect is at. Ideally, your business blog covers all customer journey stages that your prospects are Googling, within your specialty.
Don’t just write for the here and now – ponder where you’d love your business to be in five years’ time and the kinds of questions you wish your prospects would ask you – and write these strategic blogs to create your future.
Each blog post should have one longer keyword phrase which need to appear in your copy in a natural, reader-friendly way.
As well as the body copy of your blog, your keyword phrase needs to be in your title tag, headers, URL, and meta description.
You need to know the fundamentals of on-page SEO:
Google’s free Search Console has a section called the Search Analytics Report which helps you understand what keywords people are already using to find you. When you know your strengths, you can capitalise on them.
Ensure you have internal links going into and out of your most popular blog posts, consider embedding any relevant lead magnets in those posts, and also link to your key services pages, where relevant. You want to ensure none of your web pages lead to a dead end.
The most important technical must-haves are:
Again, Google Search Console is fantastic for this – quickly analysing and grading the severity of your site issues and giving you plenty of information to fix these.
Links make the world wide web go ‘round. They help search engines make sense of the validity or relevancy of your content and they absolutely count even when it’s just within your website.
Your blog categories are broad topics around which you want to rank. You then write blogs based on specific keywords related to that topic that all link to each other to establish broader search engine authority – otherwise known as topic clusters.
Over time, you’ll be creating a web of internal links, not only between your blog posts, but from your blogs to your services page which will help ensure that your blog is ranking, but also that your key services pages are too.
Your business blog can be optimised for Google AND be quirky, memorable and filled with personal anecdotes and stories. You do not need to sacrifice your quirk to have a Google-friendly blog.
While a lot of self-employed folks worry about the line between personal and professional and how much is too much to reveal in their marketing, business has changed irrevocably over the last decade. Over and over again, I’ve seen how putting your values, backstory, opinions and personality into your business blog can pay dividends.
When trying to decide whether or not to share something personally, consider whether you’ve satisfied the three pillars of content marketing: content needs to be useful, valuable, and relevant to the people it’s seeking to attract.
If you’ve satisfied these, be bold! People do business with people. Don’t infantilise or underestimate your audience by editing yourself out. On the contrary, your stories make you memorable. The more of yourself you put into your marketing, the better it will work to attract those perfect-fit people who make doing business a pleasure, as well as highly profitable.
Listers – over to you! Do you find blogging brings you clients?