Common advice for success online is to establish and run a blog. In response, businesses create a quick blog and fill it with the basic topics that come to mind.
After a few weeks, maybe a few months, the business owner looks to their site and sees little in the way of tangible results. The blog appears to be a waste of effort. The few marginal sales it brings in aren’t worth the investment of keeping it up to date. The blog is deemed a failure and left to die.
This is a dangerous situation. A business without a blog can still be a reputable business. A business with a failed blog is a business that looks like it doesn’t care to see things through.
Thankfully, it’s possible to revive a failed blog and use it to thrive. You just need to know why the blog failed and how to fix it. There are two main categories for blog failure: a natural death or an artificial penalty.
Natural Reasons the Blog Failed
Natural blog death occurs constantly on the web. Webmasters and business owners abandon blogs for numerous reasons, occasionally deleting them, but most often simply ignoring their presence. The root cause is typically a poor return on investment, but this itself has numerous causes.
Too narrow or too broad a focus can hurt a blog. If your focus is too narrow, you’re going to run out of topics very quickly. There’s only so much you can write about the uses of cheese as a mousetrap bait before you’re repeating yourself, and repetition has issues of its own.
On the other hand, if your focus is too broad, you’re going to fail to attract an audience. Users who want to read about mousetraps aren’t going to follow your blog if you post about mousetraps once a month, and fill the rest of the space with posts about basketball, welding and the vegan lifestyle. You need to reach a critical mass of information on a given topic to attract an audience.
A lack of optimization can keep a blog out of the search results. Google has put a strong emphasis on content over the last several years, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore keywords and site optimization completely. If you ignore keywords, you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you’re ignoring meta titles and descriptions, you’re letting opportunities pass you by. Proper linking, creating a streamlined user experience, installing and using analytics... it’s all opportunity.
An inconsistent or nonexistent blogging schedule keeps you from building an audience. Users like regularity. If they know they can find new content from you on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, they’re going to be happy to tune in on those days to read what you have to say. If they tune in on Wednesday and find you have posted since last Thursday, and when they check back on Friday, they find you posted on Wednesday evening and twice on Thursday, you’re going to drive them away.
The most dedicated readers may subscribe to your mailing list or your RSS feed, but most will just find a more consistent blogger.
Artificial Reasons the Blog Failed
Artificial blog death almost always comes from Google. They determine your blog has been trying to pull a fast one over the algorithm to obtain a place in the search results you don’t deserve. They slap your site with a demotion or a penalty, and it’s up to you to find out why and fix the problem. If you’re new to SEO or you left it in the hands of a third party, it may be too much work, leading to an abandoned blog. Fixing it means you’ll have your work cut out for you.
Duplicate or thin content leads to common penalties. You can’t copy content from other sources, even if you own the other sources. Even if you put a light spin on the article, you’re still going to be hurt due to duplicate content penalties. Thin content is more subtle; it means too many pages on your site have too little content spread across them.
Poor link building can hurt a site even with no malicious intent. Linking is tricky, and any form of paid link building is liable to hurt your site in the long run. To add to this, it’s easy for an unwary business owner to fall victim to one of the many SEO scams out there. If you contracted a third party, paid them a lot of money to manage your blog and saw no returns, you might be a victim.
Penalties are sometimes easy to fix, and sometimes can be quite difficult, depending on what caused them. You will want to check Google’s Webmaster Tools to see if any penalties have been applied.
- Check for link penalties, pull your backlink profile and disavow any spam links.
- Check for link penalties, audit the links on your site and remove or nofollow offending links.
- Check for over-optimization penalties and fix keyword density issues.
- Check for duplicate content penalties and change up content, titles and meta descriptions.
- Check for thin content and merge pages, bolster content and add value to existing pages.
A talented SEO team or a dedicated firm can help you audit and fix your site, if you don’t have the ability to do so in-house.
Establishing a Blogging Habit
Once any lingering penalties have been removed, you need to establish good blogging habits and keep your blog going.
- Post regularly, on a schedule. If you write a post before you need to post it, schedule it for later delivery.
- Post often, but not more often than your audience can handle. Three times each week is a good minimum, but you can post each weekday or every day of the week if it proves effective.
- Try to shoot for posts between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length; enough detail to keep you out of range of thin content penalties, but short enough to keep user attention.
- Optimize your posts for skimming. Bold important phrases, use bullet points, make your advice actionable and include compelling images.
Once you have this foundation, you can worry about more advanced SEO, social media marketing, analytics and conversion tracking. You need a strong foundation, however; or the rest is just superfluous.
Any other tips you'd like to add? Let us know in the comments!