Al McCullough is a blogging traveller and travelling blogger, Al is now providing his expertise on building an online presence for your brand.
Blogging is like pizza - it's a great analogy (and I'm terrible at those). You have all kinds of topics (toppings), you can get extra saucey with both if you want to, and quite often there's some cheesiness involved — case in point. And just as everyone has a favourite type of pizza, so too does everyone have a favourite blog!
As mentioned in Part One of Kashoo’s Build Your Brand Voice Series, technology changes — FAST. In fact, it was only a few years ago that you had to buy your accounting software on CD/DVDs and install them on your computer — how archaic! Now you just login to Kashoo’s cloud accounting and BOOM — you’re accounting!
So Part One of our Brand Voice series detailed why your small business should have a blog in this ever-changing digital world. And in Part Two, I’m going to provide a recipe on HOW TO BLOG, and discuss parts of the blogging process, leading with every bloggers favourite topping — err — topic: SEO.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO is a little like the chicken and the egg argument, but with words. Some SEO experts will say you should write with SEO in mind first and then your audience, others will say the opposite, and that you should write with your audience in mind first, then SEO. I’m in the latter group (but do not consider myself an SEO “Expert”).
Blogging does involve SEO tactics in order to help rank in Google Search Results (GSR). Even a blog a week can help, and if you’re researching and using proper keywords, you can rank higher, quicker. But how do you do that? Well, that does depend on a few things.
Knowing how (and when) to compete is definitely part of the SEO equation. If you’re trying to rank for a popular search phrase like “Best Pizza Chicago”, I hate to burst your deep-dish cheese bubble, but that’s not likely going to happen overnight, especially if you look at the number of results returned for that phrase:
When it comes to your small business, think local — VERY local. If you happen to be in the Chicagoland area, you can change your keyword/phrase to be “Best Pizza Chicago Wrigleyville” and will have a better chance of ranking higher for that search phrase, as visible in the number of returned results for that phrase:
As you build up your site's pages and blog posts, you'll eventually be able to compete on a larger scale, so you don't always have to be threatened by those large numbers — just be aware of them.
Popularity and Timing
I’ve written many travel and minimalist-related blogs, and when those articles have ranked high in GSR, it’s had a lot to do with timing. If you can beat others to the punch on a recent or popular event or “buzz word”, you’ll likely rank higher. BUT, if you stop writing and your blog/website becomes stale (no new content) then your ranking will probably start tanking.
Competing with the big boys is also pretty tough, and Google likes it when you “pay to play”, meaning those Google Ads you see in your GSR are paying to be visible there, and sometimes they pay A LOT!
Some phrases are likely to be more popular than others, or example, if you try to rank for “top 10 pizza places in Chicago”, don’t get crusty if sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp take the first few slices for that search phrase.
Keyword/Phrase Usage and Placement in Blogs
Now I knead to go into some more detail on how to put all these SEO ingredients together. It's going to seem like you're tossing pizza dough in the air for the first time, hoping it doesn't come crashing down to the floor. But don't worry, after a few blogs you'll-a be-a pro-a atta da blogging, eh!
Using Blog Keywords and Phrases to Help Build Your Brand Voice
When writing with your audience in mind first, you should still have SEO in the back of your head. But what do you do with these magical SEO keywords and phrases, and where do you put them to help with your ranking?
Your blog titles should include your keyword or keyword phrase. This blog is titled: Building Your Brand Voice...I’m sure it won’t immediately rank on page one of GSR in the next few days, and we’re okay with that, because we’re writing with YOU — our reader — in mind first.
With blogs, you’ll often hear the term ‘clickbait’. What this means is a headline is used as just “clickbait” in order to get you to open the blog.
Catchy headlines are typically used when sharing a blog on social media. And the term Headline and Title are often interchangeable these days.
In the example above about What Your Accountant Won’t Tell You — that headline (and matching title) was actually quite strategic. We wanted to stress the importance of the Income Statement report within Kashoo. To do that, we needed to both a) find a pain point, and b) show value that eases that pain.
The term “What Your Accountant Won’t Tell You...” (pain) was thought of, then googled, and the results returned equalled the population of Canada, so we knew it was something people look for. Then we added "...But Your Income Statement Will" (value). And where does Kashoo rank right now? Here’s an incognito mode screenshot with the results:
Not to brag, but ranking amongst Reader's Digest, Men's Health, and outranking Fox News is actually quite an accomplishment.
Now, one could argue that those clickbait headlines don’t always describe the article very well, and sometimes have very little to do with said article, but that’s part of the trick when writing headlines.
If you've seen the movie The Shipping News, you'll be familiar with this lesson Kevin Spacey (Quoyle) learned about writing headlines.
Headings & Subheadings
Headings are those H1, H2, or H3 tags you’ll see in Content Management Systems (CMS, more on those later). They tend to be a larger font, and are used to break up the blog posts into sections, or separate thoughts if you will. You can also have your title and some sub-headings be similar, just try not to make them exactly the same.
Keywords in Page Link
A permalink (or simply "link") is what appears at the end of your domain name for that blog post. So for kashoo.com, our blog is located at kashoo.com/blog, and links are the blog articles thereafter.
Let's go back to our Income Statement example, where we wanted to rank for "What your Accountant Won't Tell You". We used that phrase in our link, further assisting in our higher ranking:
Keywords in Body
This is tricky sometimes, but can be done very easily when using less obvious search phrases. The real trick is to NOT make it obvious as to what your desired search term is when writing.
So if you want to build your brand voice, following these tips and tricks to build your brand voice is a great first step in the right direction. And now that you’re armed with this info, you can build your brand voice like a boss!
See, not obvious at all.
Other Things to Consider When Blogging
AS you start blogging you'll learn more and more about SEO as you go. And SEO is a constantly evolving thing. But SEO aside, there are a few other things you'll want to try to include, both on your site's pages and within blog posts.
Call to Action (CTA)
Nowadays, websites are (and should be) designed to entice a visitor to take action. For bloggers, it’s usually a sign up for their newsletter, and you’ll often see a pop-up asking you to sign up and in turn you’ll receive something free. For businesses, the CTA could be used to ask visitors to download an app, or even start a free trial.
Images are nice, and can offer up some curb-appeal or a break in the action. But just dropping an image isn’t going to do much outside of aesthetics. There are numerous ways an image can help your business.
Let’s say you’re a contractor, and you just finished a kitchen reno job in Faketownville City. You’re going to want to have some pictures of that job, maybe even some before and after shots illustrating the improvement. You’ll want to tag those images and add a description too. What are tags? These are how search engines find your pics. Let’s say someone wants some ideas on "kitchen renos", how would you tag your pics? Again, this leads back to SEO keywords.
You can even kick it up a notch and create videos of that kitchen reno. And social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube are all great platforms to have pics and videos seen by millions — but that’s a whole other blog!
This is where many people can get lazy with page building and blogging. All of your website's pages, blog posts, and images should have what’s called meta-descriptions. These descriptions are what appears as the few short sentences when your site or image is returned in search results.
Now, this description used to be a major factor in search ranking, along with meta tags, but people found a way to exploit that. It isn’t a factor in search as much anymore, if at all, but it’s pretty important to say a few words to describe your page/blog/etc, because people do read that description in search results.
Within your blog you should have links to other blogs, articles, or resources. These can be both internal (links to your own site) or external (links to another site).
This is quite subjective, for sure. You’ll get a wide variety of personalities who read blogs; some who like long informative posts with an abundance of info and stats to absorb or toss out like Jeopardy answers, and those who prefer a quick read of under 1000 words because they know a squirrel could dart by and grab their attention at any moment.
It’s nice to have those quick reads, but those long reads with plenty of keywords spread throughout can definitely help with both build your brand voice and your SEO.
The best part about blogging for your business is that it’s just like making pizza - you can do it yourself, or you can pay to have someone else do it. Wow, this pizza/blog analogy is hotter than a pizza oven (see, cheesiness).
Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress and Hubspot can be used to assist in everything mentioned above to do it yourself. You don’t have to be a programmer to figure that stuff out either. But if it's a steep learning curve, paying to have a site built with a blog has never been cheaper!
In this day and age, there’s no reason your small business should be without blog - even posting just once a month can help build your brand voice. But in order to TRULY build your brand voice, you need to get more eyes (and ears) hearing your brand voice. How do you do that? Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Build Your Brand Voice series as we serve up a slice on SOCIAL MEDIA!