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Archive for January, 2013

Blog Comment Maintenance

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

One of the beauties of a blog is that it provides user interaction.  One of the curses of a blog is that it subjects you to “user” interaction.  Comments are a great way to get feedback and have a conversation with your readers but there will be . . . SPAM.  Maintaining blog comments is vital to making it a dynamic communication tool.

So let’s deal with the positive aspect first, reader comments.  Trainers, consultants, and professional coaches can frequently write about something that not everyone will agree with.  Whether the comments are supportive or critical, it is always a good sign if your readers are taking time to comment on what’s written.  It’s the most direct indication that your blog is connecting with readers.

But comments only fill in one side of the conversation.  Many bloggers treat comments as the “reader review” section.  It has the potential for much more.  If a reader has a question or needs clarification, write a comment that provides the information they need.  If a reader criticizes a point in the article, either acknowledge the criticism or provide follow up clarification.  The point is whether good or bad, don’t ignore your readers.

Now for the negative aspect of comments, SPAM.  SPAM is unavoidable.  There are ways of minimizing it like captcha apps or more in depth SPAM tools like the one I use, SPAM Karma.  However, these are just a first line of defense that will miss some of the craftier comment bots.  The ultimate decision on what comments get approved and what comments get marked as SPAM comes down to the blogger.

We’ll tend to give the commenter the benefit of the doubt.  If there’s a chance that the comment is truly from a person then we approve it.  If you review some of our past posts, you’ll see examples of comments that are likely from a bot, but we’d rather allow a few bits of SPAM rather than mistakenly deleting a reader comment.  Here are our guidelines for approving or denying comments

  • Is it written properly?  Some misspelled words or inarticulate grammar is OK but if it’s so poorly written that a viable point is hard to decipher then it gets rejected.
  • Does it have a message that’s on point?  We just deleted a comment from a “reader” about becoming a creative writing teacher.  Nothing wrong with creative writing but it had nothing to do with the article on SEO.  If it doesn’t relate to the topic then it gets rejected.
  • Is it overly promotional of a product or service?  A lot of comments will come with hyperlinks in the comment or user name.  It’s a ploy by SPAM bots to generate a lot of incoming links to their site.  If we see comments that read as ads, it gets rejected.

Maintaining your comments section by replying to reader comments and scrubbing SPAM shows readers that you intend to have a dialogue with those that engage with you.  This interaction allows for more and better insights about your field of expertise and a feeling of community with your readers.

Blog Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Considerations

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

One of the most powerful benefits for a blog is its SEO capabilities.  Every single post can provide content to the search engines on a topic catered to your product or service.  This is extremely valuable to trainers, consultants, and professional coaches because it provides a platform to illustrate their knowledge and how they help clients.  However, a plan needs put in place so that the right content is being fed to search engines.  Setting desirable keywords and page structure is critical to maximizing the SEO benefits.

Keywords are phrases that you’d want to rank highly on search engines for.  Make that list and have it handy.  The more you can work those phrases into your articles the better.  Using those keywords in titles or links can add an extra boost to the importance search engines place on it.

A word of warning not to get carried away.  Using the same phrase every other sentence is annoying to read and first and foremost we want to ensure that the posts are valuable to our readers.  Also don’t try to cover every topic all at once.  For instance, in my case, if I write a post about blogging, I shouldn’t be looking to sprinkle in a lot of email marketing keywords.  Mix in the appropriate phrases where it makes sense but don’t force it.

After a post is written with identified keywords, an often overlooked aspect of blogging is incorporating search engine optimization features.  Truly, there is no reason to skip it as there are plugins for blogging platforms that make it easier than ever.  For wordpress, I use All in One SEO Pack  but if you are less familiar with SEO, YOAST provides a visual dashboard to rank how well the page is set up and provides suggestions to improve.

Whatever plugin you use there are 4 major areas that should be filled in.

The first is a category.  These are your overarching topics for the blog.  Using categories serves as a general keyword and on most templates will function as a navigation link that readers can use to sort articles.   Assign a category to every post, nothing should be left on the default “undefined”.

The second is tags.  Every keyword or phrase that is in the article should be tagged in your blog.  This insures that the code includes those keywords directly to the search engine so that it’s sure to be incorporated into the listing.

The third is URL name.  It’s more advantageous to have the URL include the title and/or keywords rather than be a random string of numbers, which is usually the default setting.  Most plugins will do this automatically or let you define it manually.

The fourth is a title tag.  This is an unseen section of the site but very important for search engines.  Most plugins will use the title by default but can usually be modified.  The title is a good start but if you can work in a couple extra keywords here, so much the better.

SEO is often a part of blogging that trainers, consultant, and professional coaches struggle with but it doesn’t have to be daunting.  Once you set up the tools for SEO it’s just the follow up step to writing an article.  The advantage being that it will be visible to more people via search engine and drive targeted traffic to your site.