Lee Odden Interview

So, you want to learn how to market a blog?

Lee Odden is an interesting guy that you can learn a lot from, instead of wasting your time by giving his credentials you can read them here if you wish. Let’s get right to my interview with Lee Odden from TopRank Online Marketing shall we?

Hello Lee, I understand you don’t want to be referred to as Mr. Odden so I will refrain from calling you Mr., is this ok with you?

Of course!

You are a busy guy, I found the 3 things that you appear to want to be known for:
Search Engine Optimization
Online Public Relations
Blog Marketing Services

SEO, blogs and online PR all work together quite nicely. “Busy” is an understatement!

What is blog marketing? Don’t blogs kind of market themselves? What kinds of things can a blog marketing service offer to business owners?

I’ve never really subscribed to the “build it and they will come” philosophy for blogs. It’s certainly viable to drive the majority of traffic to a blog without using the search engines. You can develop a good audience with great content, commenting on other blogs, tagging etc.

At the same time, an intentional effort can be made to improve visibility in places outside of the blog and RSS community. Blogs possess many SEO friendly characteristics inherent to most blogging software, (good HTML structure, categories, link friendly, etc) but many bloggers do not intentionally take advantage of search engine traffic.

Implementing principles from web site optimization on blogs provides a better opportunity for search engine traffic as well as link traffic from other blogs, tags, bookmarks and RSS feeds. Some blog optimization tactics are unique to blogs and some are more consistent with dynamic site optimization.

I don’t recommend that blogs rely solely on search engine traffic by any means, but you can increase first time visitors and the number of RSS feed subscribers if your blog ranks well for relevant terms. Example: search for “blog marketing” or “seo blog” on Google. Online Marketing Blog’s #1 ranking turns into an extra 5-10 new RSS feed subscribers per day that might not otherwise find that blog. Those rankings are a result of content, blog optimization and regular SEO tactics. Keep in mind, a high ranking is no substitute for the traffic that great content can bring you.

We get about 45% of all traffic to Online Marketing Blog from Google, Yahoo and MSN. The rest comes from links on other blogs, bookmarks and tags, RSS feeds and blog/RSS search engines.

As a “provider” of blog marketing services, we actually add blogs to existing sites much more often than create stand alone blogs. A web site with a blog and RSS feed can generate traffic from the many blog/RSS search engines which a site without a blog/feed cannot. In other words, Technorati and Bloglines are going to refer traffic to blogs, not regular web sites without blogs.

Blog marketing services often include a range of tasks including: developing the blog strategy, researching a keyword glossary, blog software configuration, customization and template optimization, ping configuration, RSS and Blog directory submissions, adding a RSS-to-email subscription feature, adding chicklets (RSS Feed Subscription Buttons), enable post bookmarking links for del.icio.us, Digg, Furl and Technorati tags to the post template, setting up blog monitoring through Technorati, PubSub and BlogPulse as well as site visitor statistics reporting.

We might also research related blogs and make contact via comments, or post with a trackback to get their attention along with issuing a series of optimized press releases.

Along with blog optimization and related tasks, we’ll also submit the blog to a few regular search engine directories that have blog categories. For most stand alone site blogs we conduct a low key, ongoing link campaign for blogs similar to what we do with a regular site SEO campaign.

The mix of blog marketing tactics is really dependent on the purpose of the blog. Some of the blogs we setup are online media kits that archive a company’s press releases and host high resolution photos and bios of key company personnel. Others offer daily new product announcements and reviews with links to an ecommerce site. Still others exist as stand alone blog URLs that offer news, tips and information and can also generate leads to the main company web site.

There are many good resources for blog marketing tactics and here are just a few:

Steve Rubel – Micropersuasion
Rok Hrasnik – RSS Diary
Darren Rowse – Pro Blogger
Stephan Spencer – fellow blogger and SEO at Business Blog Consulting

What is an online public relations service? I have a personal website on “water gardens” that gets no love from the search engines, (it is 5 months old) what kind of things could I do to increase an awareness of it? I know it is non business example, but explain to us the value of public relations as a service.

Online public relations services typically focus on getting clients editorial visibility on the Internet. Frequently the most common goal is to help clients improve visibility where their target audience is looking for information online that does not involve any type of advertising. Websites can generate significant traffic from exposure on news search engines like Yahoo News and Google News, online publications and blogs. While Online PR can be very effective, it is not the solution for everyone.

Two popular areas within online PR include press release optimization and article marketing. Also, blogs are excellent tools to support content distribution and syndication for online PR campaigns.

The key component of an online PR initiative is good content, something newsworthy and valuable. It’s also important to understand the target audience, their needs and have a firm objective or outcome in mind. It’s pretty straightforward stuff.

Your water gardens site has some good content and you might think about doing a few things:

  • Write a series of top ten or top five lists. Example: “The top 5 mistakes people make when designing a water garden.
  • Write a more extensive how-to and make it available in PDF format.
  • Write an optimized release about the “Top 5 things” with supporting industry information, and quotes from you and another source. Include a link from the release to your extensive How-To as an available download, but they need to visit your water garden site to get it.
  • Distribute the release through online wire services like PRWeb and PR.com.
  • Contact other bloggers that write on the topic of water gardens to let them know about the series of top ten or top 5 things you’ve written for feedback.
  • Write to journalists that cover home and garden topics for popular online publications to see if they might be interested in publishing your how-to article. Include a link to your press release and a link to your blog in the request.
  • Do some social bookmarking of your own articles along with other good resources. When any of your articles appear on other websites or blogs, be sure to bookmark them with del.icio.us, Furl, etc.
  • Send some of your articles with links embedded, to article syndication or submission services.

I know you are going to hate this phrase but is “Search Engine Marketing Dead”? From my novice perspective it is, I will try everything once and all the marketing techniques people said worked a year ago get literally zero results today. What do you think of this and how do you keep on top of what works?

Individual tactics do not make a successful strategy. Many of the marketing techniques for better rankings that are touted as the “next big thing” are also prone to become old news and worthless or in some cases a source of trouble.

I will stick to the less sexy and boring mantra that focuses on the value of creating fresh, themed content with a steady stream of inbound links from relevant sources. Methods to improve your site from a code, content, inclusion and linking perspective are of no use unless you have good content.

I believe it was Matt Cutts from Google that talked about wanting to continue making SEO easier for webmasters and spamming harder. However, as long as search engines do not disclose exactly how they rank pages, there will be a role for search engine marketers to help companies improve the marketing performance of their web sites organically and through paid advertising.

Search engine optimization and marketing involves more than keyword research, code and content optimization and link building. Analytics, usability and integration with offline marketing and other online channels are becoming more and more important to the daily routine for many SEOs.

Over the past 8-9 years the only thing that has been consistent with search engines is that they will change. For that reason, there will always be a need for search engine experts to help companies make the most out of their search marketing programs.

I see you have moved your blog from blogger.com to your own domain. Why did you move your blog off blogger.com? Was it a bad neighborhood?

The primary reasons I moved from blogspot.com hosting were to improve credibility with a dedicated domain name and to use a more robust blogging platform, which is WordPress.

I also notice you have an empty index.html page on your blog that redirects back to the http://www.toprankblog.com/. Why not fill that page with content? I have done this on my blog (http://www.water2garden.org/index.html) bad idea? Please explain.

Thank you for pointing that out. I asked my blog guy, and Thomas says the index.html page was there when the blog wasn’t live as a place holder. Rather than having the same content on two pages, you would be better off permanently redirecting the unused file (index.html) to the “real” home page file, index.php which is what we’ve done recently.

Thanks Lee