Search engine optimization, blogs and RSS are all the rage these days for marketers. But how can they best be used? This was the topic addressed in the session “Blogs, Podcasts and RSS: New Tools for Customer Acquisition and CRM” at the Direct Marketing Association’s 2006 Annual Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco last week.
Stephan Spencer, president and founder of New Zealand-based Web design and consulting company Netconcepts and a co-presenter of the session, says that these technologies can be used by for-profits and nonprofits alike.
Blogs — which are basically Web sites made up of journal-like entries — can be powerful tools for nonprofits in that they allow them to convey a message in an authentic, personal way that may not be possible to achieve on their main Web sites. Organizations can create individual or group blogs that give an insider’s view on the organization’s activities, mission, passion, etc. Blogs are also a strong search engine optimization strategy because you can focus on keywords that are picked up by search engines. For example, if you are a healthcare organization focused on a particular disease and you want more visibility, you can write blog posts about that disease and the programs that your organization offers related to it. As a result, your organization’s rankings on the search engines can improve.
Spencer says when former President Jimmy Carter took a trip to West Africa in 2004, he wanted to keep a trip diary and post it on the Web site of his humanitarian organization, The Carter Center. Spencer convinced The Carter Center to have Carter do a blog rather than create a standard online diary. The result was a number of inbound links to the blog from outside Web sites as well as press mentions. A key to a successful blog, as evidenced by Carter’s experience, is to have it done by someone who has interesting things to say or is newsworthy.
An RSS feed, also known as a news feed, is a syndicated news feed in an XML format that people subscribe to. Subscribers are alerted when new articles on the topics matching their interests are available. Spencer says organizations can use these not only to reach constituents and alert them to news, but they can syndicate content out to other Web sites through RSS feeds.
Spencer shared the following tips for making the most of blogs:
1. Focus each post on one, two or three keyword themes and incorporate those keywords into your post title. Create a custom title tag for that post where you incorporate synonyms for the keyword that you’re focusing on.
2. Link back to older posts in your blog when they’re relevant.
3. Use keyword-rich anchor text. For example, don’t use phrases such as “click here” when linking to a previous blog post or something on your Web site. These are what Spencer calls “throw-away phrases.” Search engines will associate these phrases with the page you’re linking to. So when you say “click here,” you’re basically telling the search engines that the page you’re linking to is about “click here.” Be sure to use link text that conveys to search engines the topic of the page you’re linking to.
4. Make text bold when you want to add emphasis to a keyword theme and make it more noticeable to search engines.
5. Create a group blog that includes multiple authors. Blog postings should be added several times a week, if not every day. A group blog is a good way to build momentum to hold visitors’ interests.
Stephan Spencer can be reached via www.netconcepts.com