Sprechen Zie Blog?
Although your first reaction might be ‘Why would I want a blog on my website?’, a better question is likely ‘Why wouldn’t you?’. You have yourself a well-designed and functioning site, you have done your due diligence with respect to Search Engine Optimization and you are keeping tabs on your site with some statistical analysis, these are all good things, but a blog can be a very nice addition.
From a business perspective, a blog is an easy way to reach out to your clients and visitors and provide up-to-date information on things that may affect them. It provides your site with dynamic content that is useful and interesting, and also is a means to drive both new and repeat traffic to your door. You do not have to be James Joyce to write a blog, entries can be short and to the point and should be written like a newspaper - in very plain English. Content can highlight industry changes, your company’s activities in the community, or provide tips to homeowners like how cleaning your gutters prevent ice dams in winter.
Adding a blog to your site does not need to be a technical nightmare - if you have an in-house web server and the expertise, then deploying WordPress is not much of a chore. If that is too much of a technical undertaking, you can rely on a hosted solution - www.blogger.com and wordpress.com are both free and a decent web designer can integrate these solutions into your site quite easily.
I really cannot stress enough how big of a bang-for-the-buck a blog can be. The only caveats are - be careful what you put in print, have your entries proofread before you publish to avoid any embarrassment or damage to reputation; and for those hosting their own, stay on top of the blogging application updates and patches.
Another aspect of blogging I wanted to touch on, even if you don’t want any kind of blog on your site at all - you may be able to contribute to other blogs. In return for your content, perhaps you could throw a link back to your own site in your posts. Something like that could even be done here on AU or over at the ASCNet Community, the drawback to the latter being that it’s not accessible to the public, so the traffic bonus could be limited, but it does all depend on your intended audience.
Bringing in the Traffic
In part one of the series, I talked about getting a site and doing it right. Now what? Well if you have a site and you are content with the form and function, it is likely a good time to find ways to become noticed and drive traffic to your site. While I often suggest using other media to announce your web presence - print, radio, etc. - today I'm sticking just to using the web and the ever-present search engine. One of the main goals for your site is to have a good page ranking - this means being listed in the top results when a potential client does a search using keywords that relate to your business. This general process is known as Search Engine Optimization - SEO, which is equal parts science and art. There is also no lack of people claiming to be SEO experts and will gladly take your money and deliver questionable results - take due care.
First your site needs a little prep work, you need to take care of three things right off the bat - your Meta Tags, SiteMap and robots.txt. All these might be something your web developer will take care of (and they should); but it does not hurt to know what they are all about.
Meta Tags are pieces of HTML code - hidden to the casual observer - that hint to the search engines what your site is all about. These hints help your site get properly indexed, so when someone does a search for “antique watch insurance southern Ohio” your site gets listed, preferably on the first page of results. The two key meta tags for this are called description and keywords - the first is a brief description of your site or that particular page, the latter is a collection of keywords that relate to the content, essentially these are the search words that should bring a potential client to your doorstep. Here is what they look like in the page source code: http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_meta.asp
A sitemap is an xml file - sitemap.xml, that resides at the document root on the webserver - it is a file that search engines can use to understand the layout and content of your site - it is a guide or map that crawlers refer to. Since many websites have dynamic content, a good sitemap helps to reveal that content and the sites true hierarchy which would otherwise be hidden from the crawler and therefore not indexed. Sitemaps do not have to be handcrafted, there are free generators available to simplify the task - http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
Finally, robots.txt; now that you want to entice the various web crawlers, spiders and bots to come for a visit, you may also want them to play nice and index that which you want indexed and possibly ignore other content. The robots.txt file gives them basic instruction on what part of the site is okay to crawl and what is off limits. Keep in mind - not all crawlers are respectable and they can ignore robots.txt - dealing with them is a whole other story though. Again this file goes into your web document root directory. Using robots.txt is not a security measure and does not ensure the privacy of content and should not be used with that goal in mind. More info - http://www.robotstxt.org/robotstxt.html
With those items taken care of, now it’s time to submit your site to some major search engines. This is basically the process of alerting the various search engines to your site’s existence by submitting the URL to their various services:
Do not expect instant results, but your site will be crawled and indexed, and good formatting and content along with proper meta tags, sitemaps and a robots.txt should help your page ranking. That about wraps things up, I hope you can put some of this to good use on your site.