Web Pro Interview: Lee Odden

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TopRank, a Minneapolis, Minnesota search marketing agency is truly one of the best when it comes to natural SEO, social media marketing and new media PR. Website Magazine contributor Dante Monteverde quizzed TopRank's CEO Lee Odden recently (a sample is below) on the keys to driving blog readership, the efficacy of micro-blogging, and what attendees of SES San Jose can expect from his session titled "SEO Through Blogs & Feeds."
 
 
 Why should a website start a blog? Would you justify starting a blog for purely SEO reasons?
 

 For business purposes, blog software can serve many functions. It can be used as a content management system for archiving newsletters, product FAQ or an online press room/news room with press releases and media coverage. Example: http://www.toprankresults.com/newsroom/
 
 As for adding a blog to a web site in the commonly understood definition, it really depends on a number of factors: Does the company have something useful/meaningful to say? Are there staff within the company that actively read industry blogs? Can resources be dedicated to the blog on an ongoing basis? (IT, writing and editorial, monitoring, marketing, PR). A company should not bother with a blog if they answer no.
 
 There are many types of blogs and purposes ranging from CEO blogs to product reviews to private project team blogs. It’s a communication platform as well as a content distribution platform. That leads me to answering the part of your question about SEO. I don’t think for most businesses, a blog is worthwhile “purely” as a SEO tactic. However, if a company starts ANY kind of public blog, I can’t imagine why SEO would not heavily weigh into how it is setup, how content is created and how content is distributed/promoted.
 
 In other words, whatever purpose you have for setting up a blog, whether it’s to distribute news, offer tips or share customer stories, SEO benefits should taken advantage of.
 
 
 2.) The key to gaining readership with a blog is developing fresh usable content on at least a weekly basis. What if you don’t have time to write blog posts? Is it ok and/or when should I consider using and employee or hiring a 3rd party to write and/or manage my blog?
 
 Readership does rely on frequency. It also relies on quality and consistency of quality. People read blogs for different reasons. Some like to be challenged, some educated, entertained or even recognized. Blogger burnout and time are big issues with a long time blog. We’ve published Online Marketing Blog (http://www.toprankblog.com) since Dec 2003 and I can assure you, with a high demand marketing agency, plus distractions like Twitter and other social networks, it can be tough to find the time.
 
 To keep consistency and frequency of posts on a blog, it makes sense to create an editorial guide. This can be reflected by the blog categories as well as a document that outlines types of posts to be published on a regular basis. For example, readers will appreciate knowing that every Wednesday there will be some kind of poll or every Monday there’s an interview or list of practical tips.
 
 Also, sourcing other contributors is key, whether they are employees, clients, marketing partners or prominent connections in the industry that the blog targets. If the blog is popular, then people will feel recognized if they can contribute to the blog. It’s important to maintain editorial quality though. Allowing others to contribute to the blog requires time spent on editorial oversight, at least in my opinion. I guess it depends on the blog. Some blogs allow anything to be posted.
 
 We’ve been hired as a third party to write and manage a blog many times and the purpose is to get things started until the company can see how blogging works and to get feedback from the blogging effort. Client staff get more involved as they become more familiar with blog writing and are able to see feedback in the form of comments, brand mentions on other blogs, links and traffic sent to the company website.
 
 3.) Recently there has been a shift toward sites like Twitter.com that promote micro-blogging. What kind of effect do you think this is having on blogs and more importantly SEO?
 
 I think tools like Twitter, FriendFeed, Plurk, etc do distract people from blogging. I also know that there are a number of smart people who use them together. I don’t mean auto publishing blog posts to Twitter with Twitterfeed, as that kind of micro content is ignored. But personally recommending resources to a Twitter network can generate tremendous exposure if it’s done right and relevant to the audience. Twitter can also be a great tool fro sourcing content to put on blog posts. Just this week I polled my Twitter community with a question and it generated 40 replies within an hour. Those replies became a large part of a blog post which attracted quite a few links. Incidentally, feel free to follow me at http://twitter.com/leeodden
 
 
 4.) How much SEO value do you put on the syndication of your blog? Other than getting traffic and exposure from your blog can you derive any SEO value from your blog through RSS Feeds?
 
 For us, the SEO value from RSS distribution comes in part from syndication with embedded links back to the blog. For blogs that publish feeds using their domain name in the url, links to the RSS feed can drive some link popularity.
 
 
 5.) Can you give us some insight to how your run your blog: www.toprankblog.com?
 
 Actually, we started as more of a news blog but changed a few years ago to focus on original content. With the help of Jolina, Thomas, Jessica, Mike, Ashley and Julie from Toprank, Online Marketing Blog covers conferences such as Search Engine Strategies, Search Marketing Expo, Pubcon and other events put on by PRSA and the DMA. We’ve also done many text and video interviews with people including: Danny Sullivan, Guy Kawasaki, Matt Cutts, Tim Mayer, Barry Schwartz and Rand Fishkin. In the past we published quite a few resources on tactics such as blog and press release optimization and we maintain the BIGLIST of 500+ search marketing blogs, updated now about every 2-3 weeks. I tend to write a lot of internet marketing point of view posts that tie into our agency strategy for solving marketing problems for companies. Our staff also contribute posts from time to time. In the cases where others contribute content, I serve as an editor but will need to have someone help with that soon as finding time to do that well is a real challenge.
 
 
 6.) What can we expect to learn at your upcoming session at SES San Jose, SEO Through Blogs & Feeds?
 

 I’m speaking in two sessions at SES SJ actually, News Content Optimization and SEO Through Blogs and Feeds.
 
 With the News Content Optimization session, I’ll be presenting with Greg Jarboe and Lisa Buyer. Dana Todd will moderate. My topic will cover the distinction between optimizing content according to general SEO objectives, which tend to focus on lead generation and sales vs optimizing news content for journalists and buyers with the objective of getting selected as a subject matter expert or topic for a story in the media.
 
 With the SEO Through Blogs and Feeds session, I’m joined by Chris Boggs, Amanda Watlington and Daron Babin. Rebecca Lieb will be moderating. With this one I’ll be talking about “Blogs as the Swiss Army Knife of Internet Marketing” and present a few case studies of blogs used with company web sites.

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