So you've started a business blog, providing authoritative insights about the latest news and most pressing issues in your industry. With such great content, your blog should be raising your company's profile and generating more customers. That is, of course, if anyone is actually reading it.
The trouble with blogging is that having great content isn't always enough. You also have to keep search engine optimization in mind, and make your blog attractive to the biggest search engines to drive real traffic.
Here are five tips to help you optimize your business blog for search:
1. Conduct keyword research.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your business blog is to fail to include appropriate keywords in your posts. Every post is an opportunity to get noticed by search engines for a new set of keywords.
What makes a good keyword? Ideally, your blog posts should focus on long-tail keywords, such as "Sony Cybershot digital camera" or "Barack Obama action figure." Good keywords should generate a small, but well-targeted amount of search traffic, including at least 500 exact match searches each month. They also shouldn't be too common and too competitive with more popular blogs and websites.
Related: 10 Ways to Turn Your Blog into a Lead-Generation Machine
To determine whether a keyword has too much competition, first install a free browser toolbar -- such as SEOBook's SEO for Firefox plugin -- that displays information about each site in the Google results pages whenever you search for your target keyword. Then take a look at the latest Google Top 10 results for your target word or phrase. If you see a lot of highly-ranked sites with many backlinks pointing to each page, your chosen keyword might be too competitive.
2. Build quality backlinks.
Backlinks play a crucial role in search by acting as "votes of confidence" for every page on your website. If you have plenty of high quality, relevant sites linking back to your page, it shows the search engines that your blog is also high quality.
To improve your rank in search engine results, consider making guest posts on relevant sites and participating in industry forums. This can result in links back to your site, which will ultimately boost your search rank.
3. Encourage social sharing.
Social signals, such as the number of times your content is shared on Facebook or the number of links back to your site from Twitter, play a role in how sites are prioritized in search engine results. That means social networking must figure into your blog strategy.
Related: A Six-Step Survival Guide for Search Engine Updates
For maximum impact, maintain an active presence on the social networking sites that are popular with your readers and provide tools on your site to help them share your content. For tips on how to write posts that get noticed and that people want to share, check out Copyblogger's resources on headline formulas.
4. Improve your site structure.
The navigation structure of your business blog plays a critical role in how it is indexed and crawled by the search engines. So, it's vital that you incorporate these best practices:
• Use a "shallow" navigation structure that enables every page to be reached within three clicks.
• Add internal links on every page, referring users to other parts of your site. This improves the user experience by helping expose readers to more content and increases the search engines' ability to reach every page on your site.
• Remove duplicate content from your website. When pages on your site have the same content, there's a risk that search engines will display only one page of such content in their results. To increase the number of pages that show up in the search results, rewrite any duplicate content to make the pages distinct from each other.
5. Think long term.
Following these tips for your business blog will take time. If you haven't paid attention to search engine optimization until now, you aren't going to revise all of your posts to target the best keywords, become a social media butterfly and restructure your website's navigation structure in a single day.
But that's okay. If you make ongoing optimization a long-term priority for your blog, you'll soon see a payoff in the amount of free traffic coming from the search engines.
Related: Why Content Marketing Is King
AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media and various other marketing strategies.