If you are in the SEO copywriting business, you learn many tricks of the trade. Here are some of them. With this in-depth analysis of mistakes made by one business blog you will get guidelines on how to avoid making them yourself.
When I recently wrote about business blogs being fakes, I never thought I’d soon have an exemplary confirmation for all my claims. But here I am, after I have just stumbled upon one so serious a case that I must explain in detail. Not only did I analyse the blog, but the accompanying social media channels as well. And, oh boy, is there a material to write about!
Before we continue, let’s just make sure that we’re on the same page here. When I say ‘fake,’ in the sense of ‘fake business blog,’ it means that the blog writing is outsourced, i.e. that an external associate is writing blog posts for the company, and in most cases this author has nothing to do with the company itself. In my experience, the author could be working from home, wearing pajamas, sitting in his bedroom, as far as on another continent!
So read on – if you want to learn what aspects of business blogs openly state that the blog and community channels maintenance had been outsourced, hence a confirmation of their fake genuine status.
14 reasons why DP blog is fake
Before I start, I have to emphasize first that I have no intention to linking neither the blog I am referring to, nor the company’s social media channels. I do not want to bring them traffic, nor do I want to openly claim I am right for what I am saying.
I leave it to the reader.
1: BLOG POST AUTHORSHIP
Every blog should have an author: either a generic one, such as YNAD (a.k.a. you need a designer), the company’s or a person’s name, an acronym, or whatever else there is.
It’s become a common practice to have a person’s name as a blog author, and especially to give them a byline and an avatar too. That way the blog becomes more human – if there is a real person’s face behind the written word, people are more likely to engage with posts and will surely be more susceptible to what has been written.
This business blog, which I will from now on refer to as DP blog, has neither of that. In fact, what they have is an authorship conflict, and no resolution to the issue in sight.
There is an author’s account, called MDj, and almost every blog post is signed by another author, called VV.
What this tells me is that neither of the people involved is a techie, and it kind of startles a small warning sign in my head forcing me to stop and wonder for a moment. If any of the two people were techies, they would have done things differently: either creating a new author’s WP account to publish new posts from; or leaving out the signature of the blog posts’ real author. The insistence on signing the author at the end of each post slightly indicates that that could be the person actually writing the posts, while the WP account name could be the big boss who wants to have access to all, with only the basic minimum credits given to others. Which, altogether, is not an advisable practice.
While I am at it, it just occurred to me that when I say ‘real,’ as in “blog posts’ real author,” who knows if the signed person even has anything to do with the texts published!
2: NO COMMENTS SECTION
When was the last time you read a blog post and were inclined enough to leave a comment?
Or, better yet, when was the last time you read a business blog and have actually seen the comments section below the post?
Many business blogs opt out of comments section due to several reasons:
- they publish controversial content and want to be undisturbed for it;
- they do not publish their blog posts for the people but for Google – to make more traffic on their website;
- they cannot deal with comments in the right way because they do not want to be criticised for what they do;
- they do not want to provide their readers with backlinks;
- they do not understand the point of having a blog on the website.
With our DP blog, I have strong reasons to believe all these reasons, together with many others, are behind the no comments policy.
3: FAKE STYLE (too much glorification)
Before I move further from the authorship issue, and before I delve deeper into the stylistic problems, here is one which hurts both my eyes and my linguistic senses: fake style is easily identified. And that is one of the highly wrong ways to base a blog on.
So, what is the point of having a blog on the website, if not to fake it so as to achieve better ranking on Google? If not to openly and shamelessly promote yourself or your business?
Well, that you can learn only from those who started blogging long before it became the IT thing on the web, and that is why so many business blogs today risk the bluntly and shamefully fake status.
With a decade-long blogging career in my fingers, I have every reason to believe all I say here.
So, if you want to run a business blog, and outsource its creation to somebody outside of your company, do not fake the data.
If you run a small business but you entertain yourself as the most successful company your city has ever seen, once the old people leave you and the new ones come and realise what you did, the word of mouth will spread faster than you could ever imagine, thus not ruining your reputation but your business as well.
Same way, if you run a modern touristic complex in a relatively undeveloped area, do not fake data whatsoever! Hence, claiming its roads infrastructure is “not on a high level,” while in reality there are no roads; claiming you live in harmony with nature while there is garbage polluting rivers all over the place; and trying to make fun of holding records in numerous negative trends; while at the same time glorifying your touristic complex, is an open lying to your prospective customers and, in the long run, will ruin the reputation of the region, as the property buyers will inevitably spread the word among their other wealthy friends, and they will never come back to you.
Yes, you will earn money on the way, but is the accompanying price the risk you are truly willing to take? Is that the idea you have in mind: fool the others and take their money while you can?
4: RUN-ON SENTENCES due to LITERAL TRANSLATIONS
Ding, ding, ding! Seems like our dear DP blog has made yet another stylistic-translation error in their quest for authenticity!
One of the possible problems in translation as a job is preserving the style of the original text. In some cases, it may ruin the translation, as lengthy sentences and curious punctuation of another language are a crucial signature mark of the original language.
Running a bilingual blog with an unprofessional translator will reveal a lot about a business. The first instance may be that you, as the business owner, do not pay attention to such linguistic trivia and that you do not appreciate the subtle linguistic nuances that are the genuine quality of true language aficionados.
Oh, yeah, and it will definitely show that you do not pay your poor outsourced blog author enough to make a living.
Let’s say your bilingual website is in German and English. These two languages belong to the same language family, yet significantly differ, mostly in morphology. While German can add up many affixes to the words hence modify their meaning, English cannot, and would most often translate a single German word with an entire phrase or even a sentence.
Depending on the original language you write a blog post in, the translation is very likely to be influenced by the source language. Non-professional translators will make it even worse, as they tend to stick to the original as much as possible.
In fact, it has a lot to do with what their mother tongue is, and whether they translate into it or from their mother tongue into a foreign language.
And that is how we arrive to the issue of run-on sentences. One of the many pet peeves of English grammar Nazis, run-on sentences are a difficult notion to explain to many foreign speakers, whose interference with their mother tongue is often the cause of bad language style.
It is simply not possible translating anything word for word, especially in the creative writing industry, as it is the style that is truly difficult to copy.
To summarise this run-on sentence resulting from lack of translation skills in “translators,” let’s say that translators need to make adjustments to the texts they work on. Once you see a bilingual text with a 1 to 1 phrase match, meaning that every comma is in the same place, every full stop, every semi colon; just think of who speaks that way in two different languages and remember that it can only signal artificiality and an uneducated attempt to stick to the same core values where there is no place for such traditions.
5: LANGUAGE RULES AND GUIDELINES
Each language has its grammar rules, morphology and syntax. There are other aspects as well, but let’s just not dig too deep into that matter for the moment.
The point is to illustrate that both super- and supra-levels of different languages, understandably, differ. Sometimes the differences are more obvious, sometimes so subtle that an untrained eye would not even be able to spot them.
Such is the subtle difference with including punctuation marks in English, as “the coma at the end of a sentence.” within the quotation marks, unlike the punctuation marks being left outside the quotation marks in many languages other than English.
With our dear DP blog, it seems to me that the authors cannot decide on whether to follow their language’s guidelines or not.
Namely, during the first couple of months of their blogging life, they seemed to had mastered the language, at least according to the style guide I had in my hands. Or my laptop. You get the point. I saw the style guide, and I saw that the rules were obeyed.
However, there has recently been a shift in their modus operandi, as they seem to have switched from their language to some other language’s style guide. What could be the reason behind their rationale, I cannot really tell, but I do hope they will in the future find one path to go and stick to it.
6: NAMES SPELLING
When it comes to names, English has etymological spelling, which means that all words are spelled the way they used to be spelled even 500 years ago, while the pronunciation changed. That is why today we write the word ‘names’ and read it /neɪmz/ – there is a clear mismatch between the letters and the sounds they represent.
Unlike English, German, or French, there are Latin, or Slavic languages, even some Romance languages (Spanish, Italian) up to a some point, or, say, Dutch, that mostly do not have such issues, as their spelling systems are mostly based on 1 on 1 match. That means that the letter you write is the sound you pronounce, and one letter is read as one sound and one sound only. There are some instances of such words in English, but they are mostly one syllable adverbs or pronouns, such as ‘it’ /it/, ‘in’ /in/, ‘or’ /or/, etc.
Hence, when writing English or any other foreign name in a language with phonological grammar rules, names must not be kept in their original spelling, as there is also a difference in letters number and the basic sounds of a language.
Once again, the DP blog failed this test as well, because they used to spell names in phonological rules, then all of a sudden they switched to the original. Why, only time will tell us. I surely will be there to monitor the development of the story.
7: (NOT) EXACT MATCH ANCHOR TEXT
Ah, peculiarities of running business blogs… Everything must be in perfect order, otherwise you risk being not penalised by Google but rather, well, neglected, hence ranked the same as before.
Once I started working in a digital agency that deals with web and graphic design, as well as social media management and SEO copywriting, I learnt some bizarre rule of exact match anchor text. Why is this the case, and why it must be obeyed, or why do these professional bloggers advocate it so strongly, I have still not figured out. It has to do with signalling your audience that the word or phrase they click on has to do with the content behind it rather than using the entire sentence or even a passage to explain what the linked content is about.
Basically, it is a signal for Google that you are technically knowledgeable about linking quality content rather than being a novice in the blogging world.
With the subject of this writing, i.e. the DP blog, this exact match anchor text seems to be an issue once again. For quite some time, they perfectly subtly linked both internally as well as externally, but it’s been months already since they seem to cannot decide on where to go next, and, what’s more, they tend to link out of the blue anchor text. Who runs their blog, a high school kid who just started learning about blogging?
8: LINKING TEXTS IN VARIOUS LANGUAGES
I never actually thought about it until I got a job in the web industry, but linking texts in various languages is a big no-no in the business blog world. When you consider the rationale behind the rule, it actually makes perfect sense.
Your target audience is, say, Turkey. You write in Turkish and in English, as you want to rank on a global scale. You intend your content in Turkish for Turkey, and your content in English for all other countries. Your Turkish audience does not have to know English – that is why you write for them in Turkish. Some of them might know English, but your basic supposition is that they do not know it.
Whatever is it that you write about, if you found the sources in English, or, better yet, French and Japanese, it is not advisable to link the content in those languages – it confuses both Google and your target audience. If they do speak the languages, they might understand the linked content, but if they do not, you have just caused them a readers’ frustration due to language barrier. As for Google – I wish I had a direct contact with them to ask them a bit about this…
In other words, linking content in the target language shows utmost respect for your target audience, allowing them to further explore the notion you are writing about. Linking content in a foreign language causes frustration, hence you risk losing the reader.
To cut the long story short, if you write in a local language and link content in a foreign language, you fail the business blog test. And the DP blog has, of course, yet again failed the test! We’ll see what’s cooking in their kitchen in the future, but for now, with the linked content language, they have switched from obeying the rule to disobeying it.
9: OGP AND FEATURED IMAGES SIZES
Ogp is a open graph Facebook protocol that fetches an image linked to your page’s code. It usually scales 1200×630 pixels, and is uploaded to your website’s server gallery, and linked to the page by the very post author. It is a standard procedure, and it is the image you see in your post on Facebook once you post the link there. No rocket science about it whatsoever.
However, the featured image is somewhat tricky, as it is individually tailored to each blog. It is the image you see above the text, and it has somehow become the standard to have it. The bigger the image, the more professional you look. Or so it should be.
It goes without saying that these two images should be one and the same picture cut in different dimensions.
The particular blog that inspired me for this post has had the featured image dimensions 1900×530. Such high width of the image means it has to be high-quality image, while height makes it particularly tricky to cut out while at the same time sticking with the main idea of the 1200×630 ogp.
Think of it in terms of paper format. A4 standard is not the same as A4 letter, nor even close to B4.
I am not sure on who decides on the featured image size once the blog is launched, but I do see there is an internal turmoil in the company once they start experimenting with the image size long after the blog is already there. What could be the reason for it? Have they left the aforementioned high school kid to experiment with what he likes best? Have they outsourced the blog to another company or an individual but forgot to ask the first one on the dimensions? Are they ashamed of their lack of knowledge on the issue? Do they even know what a featured image is?
Is it possible that this single problem could be the quintessential indicator of the business blog fake status?
10: (NO) FOLLOW LINKS TAG
There seems to be many SEO and technical rules to comply with if you want to have a successful business blog. Linking is an important side of the story, thus so many analyses of the earning links issue.
The “no follow” tag in a linked content code, modified in the visual card of WordPress dashboard, signals Google not to track traffic you send to the linked content’s source. It’s basically tricking your readers into clicking on the link without being counted as the source of the traffic you direct to the source.
Another reason behind the “no follow” tag is the ranking factor. If you link a website that’s better ranked than yours, you hurt your website’s ranking – as if decking oneself with borrowed finery. However, if you link a website that’s ranked lower than your website, you hurt yourself. It is allowed, advised even, linking to only the same rank websites. But, in the long run, if we analyse linking solely, how are you ever going to make any progress if you tap in one place all the time?
I have no idea neither why nor when has this become a rule of a thumb, but business blogs include the “no follow” tag in their code, almost every time.
DP blog used to comply with this rule. They would leave some links to be followed, whereas most of them would contain the “no follow” tag. Until recently. That’s when they decided to allow tracking all links, hence leaving out the “no follow” tag.
To me as a business blog creator working full time in the creation of both expert and viral blog content, this switch signals the following:
a) that they either do not know about the “no follow” tag rule, or
b) that their website ranking is decreasing so steadily that they have no other options but to deck themselves with the finery of better ranked websites or blogs, or
c) that want to kill their website’s blog’s ranking as soon as possible.
11: DOUBLE SPACES vs. NO SPACES
Depending on the style guide you use, and depending on the field, the publication, the text editor, and many other aspects, there is a commonly accepted rule that after a comma, or a full stop, there is one single space before the continuation of word flow. Whatever stays with us, either one or two spaces, it is quite sure that no spaces after punctuation marks will never become the norm.
In the age of MS Office Word text editor, or Apache Open Office, or any of the Mac or Ubuntu text editors, it’s fairly easy to check whether you pressed space button once or twice.
Consistency is the key here, and if you constantly switch between two options, that’s a fair signal you are not quite familiar with what you are doing. Why not including the text editor option which displays the number of spaces between words? Uuum, maybe you do not know about it as you are the high school kid just learning on how to use text editor or WordPress dashboard to publish new content?
12: LANGUAGES and TARGET AUDIENCE
Target audience in social media channels is one of the key features playing role in your website’s ranking. If you attract audience organically, that’s awesome, but if you have not yet achieved such quality, you have to have some tricks up your sleeve.
So, let’s say that you own a business in France targeting German audience, hence writing your social media posts in both languages. You do need traffic from your place of origin to signal Google that you are ranked well among your own community, but you need even more traffic from your target audience to show Google that they appreciate you even higher.
Accordingly, your posts in Facebook and Twitter should target your desired audience first, thus be written in German first, and only secondly your country’s residents, thus French. This is particularly important when boosting posts on Facebook, i.e. paying Facebook to display your posts to as many users as possible, according to the criteria you set up.
Can you imagine the absurd of writing posts in French and promoting them to German users? It once again comes down to the language barrier and causing frustrations to the audience you reach, let alone the waste of money on promoting such stories.
But, hey, that is yet another test the DP blog failed so openly, as targeting audience with the wrong language posts is what they started doing recently. Could anyone, please, help me understand the idea behind such social media suicide?
13: SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS LENGTH
Each social network has a post length limit. Twitter is the most famous one, even notoriously, due to their 140-character policy. LinkedIn has also limited the length to some 600 or 700 characters, while Google+ and Facebook left virtually endless post length to the users’ responsibility and liking.
But. There is a catch in this too.
If you stumble upon a FB post with a READ MORE tag at the end, and learn it’s a short essay in 400 words, are you likely to click on it to see the rest? Only if it’s awesomely entertaining, or you have an interest in the topic.
However, with relatively boring posts that are there to fake authenticity, post length is an open signal on the lack of the desired authenticity, especially if you target the wrong audience or suffocate them with your utmost babbling just for the sake of being present online.
The thing is, FB posts are there to be short and sweet, not to tell your entire family tree in each and every single post. If you do not know this, please find somebody to explain it to you, since you are already way too old to use Facebook in the first place. It is a social network for younger audience, and once the older generation masters the use of it, it is a reliable signal of its outdatedness.
Lengthy posts on social media channels are a signal of trying too hard where there should be no effort at all. Seems like DP blog owners cannot afford a proper social media manager either.
14: ABSENCE OF AUTHOR PERSONALITY
To wrap the story up, it is in order to close the circle with the issue we opened it with: the authorship problem.
You will notice in many lifestyle and especially cosmetic and makeup blogs that there are not only photographs but constant self references. The authors often talk about themselves, referring to what they do; illustrating the products with photos they themselves make; showing you their fashion choices or what they ordered online by wearing the products themselves.
Even highly professional blogs such as the Moz.com will instill their authors’ personalities into their posts. That is how you, as a reader, will know there’s a real human behind the screen, the actual hands rather than a robot who typed the post you are reading and sharing.
Even I did that here by writing a highly personal blog post on How to lose weight without actually losing weight – but I did it not to show you that I am human but rather because I had the need at the time to write a post about my sports experience, as well as to show that you should not pay attention to weight only when engaging in any type of physical activities but on the long-term results instead.
When that human element is missing, be sure you are reading a fake business blog – they will never EVER let the author peek out through the words they write as business owners believe there’s no place for personality or individuality in the business world.
Now go back to the beginning of this post and read about the authorship conflict (point 1 in this discussion). By now many things about faking a genuine business blog should be much clearer. Have you got anything to add? Feel free to share your thoughts!
Before you go, remember the story of the boy who cried ‘wolf?’ Well, with businesses and online world, it goes like this: faking your reality and forcing others to believe it makes it even less real.