In early May, I led the Hot Seat Lab on Better Blogging for Business at MarketingProfs’ B2B Forum in Boston. In it, three brave B2B marketers volunteered to have their corporate blogs critiqued in front of a room full of peers. While the blogs obviously differed in design and content, their shortcomings from an SEO standpoint were surprisingly similar—and substantial. Here’s a summary of the problems they shared and what to do about them.
- Full posts on the home page
- Surprisingly, each blog was showing lengthy, full posts on the home page of the blog. As a result, many single-post URLs were not getting indexed, presumably because the same content was on the home page. Make sure your blog’s homepage contains only an excerpt or abstract from each post, and a link to the single-post page. Optimizing individual posts and getting the post URLs indexed is the key objective. You want your traffic to come to posts inside your blog, not the homepage.
- Not rewriting title tags
- By default, most blog platforms will incorporate the title of your post as the title tag for the post page. In some cases, this may be okay, but in most cases not. You want the visible title of your post to be engaging and creative, inducing site visitors to read more and share your post with others via social media. Creative and engaging titles, however, aren’t always keyword rich. Specify a keyword-rich title tag to help with search. But keep in mind, the title tag isn’t just for search engines; the title tag is also the heading of the search result. Make sure your title tag also induces searchers to click on it. If you’re using WordPress, a plugin like All in One SEO Pack will give you the functionality to do this.
- Lack of (optimized) alt tags on images
- While all of the blogs reviewed contained images to create visual interest for the reader, many of the images did not have alt tags specified. Where alt tags were used, they generally weren’t written with search in mind. If you’re not specifying alt tags aligned with the keyword strategy of the page, you’re missing another significant opportunity to tell the search engines what the post is all about.
- No control over what is indexed
- A quick look at what the search engines indexed from each blog showed low value URLs. Among indexed pages were URLs resulting from the blogs’ on-site search tools, and author, date, and tag archives. These URLs were indexed at the expense of indexing single-post URLs; many single-post URLs were not indexed. Blogs have lots of ways to get to the same content. These are great for users, but can create problems with duplicate content and unwanted things getting indexed (e.g., blog search tool results). Make sure you control what content you want indexed. If you’re using WordPress, Joost de Valk’s Robots Meta plugin is a great tool to help you do this.
- Poor meta descriptions
- Most blog posts did have meta descriptions, however, they were generally written with little care. Depending on the nature of the query, search engines may choose to display the meta description of the post as the search-result snippet. Ensure meta descriptions are aligned with the keyword strategy of the post and are interesting enough to get searchers to click on the search result. While the meta description may not always get chosen as the search result snippet, just in case it does, make sure it has the potential to pique searchers’ interest enough to click on the result.
- No redirects
- The lack of 301 redirects on all of the blogs created several versions of each page. Not only were there www vs. non-www issues, but issues of trailing slashes on URLs and no trailing slashes leading to the same content; and other related instances of the same content at different URLs. Review of site analytics of the blogs indicated many different URLs for the same content. Having multiple URLs for the same content will cause PageRank to be split among these pages rather than being concentrated into a single URL, especially as others linking to the content link to a variety of URLs instead of a single URL. While certain blogging platforms like WordPress automatically include the canonical tag on posts, your blogging platform may not. Yet, if your blogging platform does include the canonical tag on posts, you would still be better off fixing these issues rather than relying on the canonical tag.
While some of these items may seem pretty basic to experienced SEO professionals and are germane to all blogs, it was clear from review of these three blogs and from the discussion at the session that these issues are not generally known among general B2B marketing professionals. Take some time to take a fresh look at your blog. While things may look good on the surface of a blog, a look under the hood can reveal significant roadblocks to achieving the SEO success you’ve been seeking.