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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

An easy way to convince your clients they need a blog on their website.

I'm sure you've encountered this before. A client says they want their website to be listed at the top of Google's search results, and they want to know how to get there. For years the answer was fairly simple. Make sure they had a well-built keyword rich site, which hopefully they did, since you built it for them, and try to get as many backlinks as possible. You would tell them to contact groups, organizations, clubs, associations, etc., and ask for links back to their site. They could even pay for backlinks if they wanted, although not a recommended method, it did work for some. After all, the more links the better. When Google saw how many backlinks their site had, it would automatically move them up the rankings. With enough backlinks, a site could reach the top of the list for their given keyword. Easy as pie. This method actually worked for a while, but some people started gaming the system and Google soon stepped in.

Although keywords and legitimate backlinks are still strong factors, Google has over 250 other secret criteria it uses to determine a site's rank. One of which is a site's actual content. You've heard the phrase “content is king”? This couldn't be more true in today's website rankings. Google is becoming smarter each day. There was a time when peppering a page with keywords was enough. But the king of search engines has grown past that. Now it examines a page's content to determine if and how predominant certain keywords are and how they relate to the rest of the text. In other words, it reads the content to make sure the site isn't spamming the system. To avoid any penalties a page needs to be well written with clear precise content that is relevant to the rest of the site. However, this alone isn't enough to make the grade. Google now favours sites whose content changes on a regular basis. Gone are the days when a simple static website, an online brochure if you will, was all a business needed. Hence, the title of this post.

Adding a Blog to your client's website.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to you that adding and maintaining blog on a website is one of the best ways to gain favour with Google. The problem is convincing your clients they need one.

Until recently blogs were mainly the domain of individuals or occasionally small groups. To many business minded people, blogs hold a certain stigma about them. They imagine stay at home moms or failed journalism students rebelling against the man. But blogs have come a long way and play an important part in today's online world. Especially when it comes to search engine rankings.

Convincing your clients

If you tell a client they need to add a blog to their site they will probably reject the idea. Blogs take time and dedication and most people have very little of the former and no interest in the latter. It's not such a big deal if you have corporate sized clients with a marketing department to take on the duty, but most of us deal with smaller clients who don't have the resources or are not creative enough to write and maintain a blog.

So how do you persuade your clients to start a blog? The answer is simple, call it something different, but not a blog.

When a blog is not a blog

By changing the name you remove the stigma associated with blogs. I've persuaded clients to add a blog to their site simply by calling it something else. A “news” section is a great example of a blog under another name. A “press release” section is another instance of when a blog is not a blog. By changing the name you open new doors for it's uses. No longer does your client need to slave over the keyboard coming up with ideas to write about. With a news section, your client can search through industry sites for stories and articles to share with their visitors. This content not only adds benefit for visitors it will also help their searchability in Google. The best part is, a “news” section doesn't require the creativity or time to maintain as a traditional blog does.

Most business owners stay current with what's happening in their industry. The easiest way to keep on top of trends is by browsing the Internet. Now, when they find something interesting they can create a news article on their website about it. All they need to do is write a short paragraph explaining the news item and then paste in the content from the original site, making sure to link to the original when citing where it came from. Including a link to the original article does two things. One; Google ranks articles with links higher than those without, and two; adding a link to the original article will tell Google they are citing and not stealing the content, which would hurt rankings.

Why it works

By adding a blog, or whatever you end up calling it, you create a section of the website that's constantly changing. When Google next visits the site and see's the change it will increase the site's page rank making it easier to find. Plus, these articles contain industry related keywords that will also help the sites discoverability.

Case Study

I implemented this strategy with Findlay Creek Hearing Care Clinic, a family run business that deals mostly with hearing aids and hearing tests. Located in Ottawa, Canada's capital city, they compete with much larger and more established regional and national chains. Since adding a “News” section to their website they've tripled their web traffic and saw a drastic increase in conversion rates.

Scott Mason, Hearing Instrument Specialist and partner at Findlay Creek Hearing Care Clinic saw the difference.

“We have a form on our site where people can request and appointment. One of the questions on the form is ‘how did you learn about us?' For the longest time the most common answers were ‘Doctor's Referral' and ‘Friend or Family Member'. But since we introduced the News section to our site we've seen a big increase in online appointment bookings and the majority of clients now say they found us through the Internet.”

Within a few months of adding the news section to Findlay Creek's website they jumped from third and fourth pages to the first page in Google for their targeted keywords. Other clients have experienced similar results by adding “blogs that are not a blog” to their site.

Implementation on an existing site

Once you've convinced your client of the benefits of adding a blog to their website it's time to implement. If their site is built on a platform like WordPress most of your work is already done. Just add a blog page, again naming it whatever you choose, add it to the menu and you're done.

But what if the site isn't built on an existing blogging platform, as was the case with Findlay Creak Hearing Care Clinic? You could code the blog by hand or pay someone to code it for you. But that could take a lot of time and money. When asked by Findlay Creak Hearing Care Clinic to add a news section to their existing website I started researching how to code one myself. I know the basics of PHP and MySQL but not enough to build a blog so I sought advice from a web design group I belong to. That's when fellow web designer Patrice Olivier-Wilson of Biz-comm.com suggested I not reinvent the wheel and just use WordPress. Just because the main website wasn't built on the WordPress platform didn't mean I couldn't use it for the news section. She explained that all I needed to do was install WP in its own directory or subdomain and link to it from the main site.

I couldn't believe how easy it was. I installed WordPress in a directory named News. I then chose a theme called Weaver II Pro that is fully customizable, which made it easy to make the WordPress blog look like the rest of the website. This new setup only took me an afternoon to complete and has had a huge impact on Findlay Creak Hearing Care Clinic's web traffic.

Results are in the numbers

It only took me a couple of hours to add a blog to the website and it has had a huge impact for my client, and it can for yours as well. Most visitors don't even know they are switching between a custom site and WordPress. With the simplicity of WordPress my client quickly learned how to use it and was publishing posts in no time.

So regardless of how a website is built there is no reason why it can't benefit from the increased discoverability a blog can bring to it.

Let me know how you've implemented a blog that is not a blog. Leave a comment below.