How to Hire a Good Freelance Blogger

Blog posts, articles, and random acquaintances are all telling you how much you need to be blogging for your small business. That sounds nice and all, but who has time to write regular blog posts? And if everyone else is doing it, why would anyone bother to read what you write?

When Blogging Isn’t Worth It…

The fact is, all those sources harping on the benefits of small business blogging aren’t wrong, but they’re not always telling the whole story. If you start a blog to start a blog, that’s just dumb. Blogging without a strategy is a huge waste of time and energy.

Even if you do somehow manage to put out posts once a week, getting it done isn’t enough. Unless your blog posts offer valuable information to the people you want to be reaching, and more importantly, actually get read by them, you’re not getting anything back for the work you put into it.

…And When It Is

If you’re going to start a blog for your small business, you want to do it right. Your posts need to be approached with a specific goal in mind. You need to ask yourself:

  • What do I want to get out of the blog?
  • Who do I want my posts to help?
  • What do they need?
  • How will the blog, and each individual post, represent my brand?

How to Find the Right Blogger

Your time is valuable and running a small business means you’ve got a lot on your plate. If you do want to branch into blogging for your small business, but don’t want to personally take on the time obligation, you need to find a good freelance blogger.

It might be tempting to head to one of those sites that offer a few hundred words for pocket change, but we’ve already established that this isn’t worth doing unless you’re going to do it right.

You want to work with someone that will take the time to get to know your brand (bonus points for prior expertise in your industry), knows how to write for the web, and understands the importance of appealing to your target audience.

A good freelance blogger will insist on:

  • Understanding your small business blogging goals.
  • Learning all about your business and products.
  • Getting a clear picture of your target audience.
  • Learning what kind of questions and issues concern them.
  • Developing a blog strategy focused on providing value to your specific audience (e.g. prospective customers).
  • Discussing some kind of strategy to promote the content and get it in front of the right people (although expect this part to cost more).

Basically, if you just want posts up so you can say you have a blog, go ahead and hire a content mill for $20 posts. If you want a blog that serves as an actual marketing tool, look for a freelance blogger with the chops and online marketing know how to push for everything described above.

Learning Search Engine Optimization

Over the past couple of months I’ve been hard at work researching as much as I can about Search Engine Optimization.  There’s a wealth of resources available to help a person learn this skill, many of which are free.

Based on my experience, the best places to start are with Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide and the Beginner’s Guide to SEO from SEOmoz.  The guide from SEOmoz in particular is very in depth and gives a lot of tips and tools, as well as references to resources for further research into the particulars.

Some of the initial tips I’ve learned are:

  • One of the most important tools for search engine optimization is an understanding of keyword quality.  Google’s Keyword Tool is extremely valuable for understanding what types of terms people are searching for in your industry and how competitive those terms are, so you can determine the best keywords to target and design your website accordingly.  SEOmoz also provides a Keyword Difficulty tool to help you identify the phrases likely to be too competitive to be worth trying to target for a smaller business.
  • Use your title and description meta tags well. Making sure the primary keywords you want to target are represented in your webpage’s title tags is one of the first steps to strengthening a page for SEO.  The meta description tag, while not playing a direct role in how likely your page is to rank high in search results, can play an important role in how likely users are to visit your page once they see it listed.
  • Avoid displaying important information within images, flash animation, java or videos. Often the flashier visual touches on a website are overlooked entirely by the search engine crawlers.
  • Make your website easy to navigate–this is important for human users and search engine crawlers. Make sure that none of your pages are hard to find and the most important ones are linked to from many, if not all, of your other pages.
  • For a small business, avoid targeting general search terms as you’re likely to be outranked by larger businesses with more resources and brand recognition.  Using geographic targeting or a focus on specific product offerings in your keyword choices can lead to better results.
  • Make sure that the copy on your website includes the most important keywords you want to target–but not to the point that the writing becomes awkward or stilted. The usability and consumer appeal of your website must not be lost in your efforts to get it noticed by search engines. In fact, having a well designed website with useful content that people like is one of the most important ways to encourage others to link to you, which is one of the main factors search engines look at in determining page rank.
  • Learn html, at least at a basic level. You can’t make the necessary changes to a webpage if you don’t know the basic structure of the language with which webpages are built.  I was completely intimidated by the idea of learning html until I started and found it’s really not all that difficult. This website’s been the main one I’ve turned to, but this one and this one were also recommended to me as good resources for beginners.

There’s much more to it than what I’ve included here, but these seem like some of the most important lessons for someone starting out.  There are lots of blogs and websites with regular pieces about tips and tools for good SEO, SEOmoz and Search Engine Land seem like two of the most established with regular updates.  Google also has their own blog with some information.

It seems that most SEO consultants regard each other as more of a community than competitors, which leads to many of those with experience offering up their expertise to anyone willing to seek it out.  This means there are ample resources for increasing your knowledge and expanding your skill set in this industry.