The following were questions sent to us by readers of the StepForth SEO Newsletter and the StepForth SEO Blog. If you have a question of your own we would love to hear from you; email us your SEO question.

Question from Steve:
Information about the why’s & how-to’s of the BLOGosphere have made for a plethora of copy all over the SEO world, yet my constantly recurring question never seems to come up! And this first question always leads me to second one. (1) If your business is NOT in any way concerned with… let’s call it “journalism” (it seems that the business of StepForth would have a sizable reliance on journalistic talent), how would a company go about deploying a blog initiative and still have time to sleep more than one or two nights a week? (…there’s this business we gotta keep running!) And (2) if one were to hire one of many firms offering such a BLOG service, how would it come off as more than a thinly veiled SERP ranking initiative, when your business is not of the type where there is really any “news” to report — AND further, where the BLOG service cannot possibly be expected to have the specific knowledge needed to write usefully pertinent journalistic copy?

Answers from Ross Dunn:
1) You are right Steve, I imagine there are some industries where having a blog would be rather useless but I haven’t run into one yet. There are usually a few things to write about: tips on how to use your product, tips on how to get more out of your service, client testimonials, client case studies, industry news, new products or services being offered and why, new staff profiles, emerging opportunities in your industry, etc.

As to how to find the time to keep up a blog… it can be a struggle there is no doubt. Indeed I sometimes find our blog gets put on the back burner while we tackle extraordinary busy periods with new SEO jobs or competitor analysis contracts. The key is that whatever you write does not have to be epic in length – it just has to be interesting or provide some value to readers and build relevance to your site.

2) I would welcome feedback from anyone who has experience using an outside blogging firm. I have yet to hire a blog writer unfamiliar with my business – they have all been on staff writers with experience with SEO/SEM. Even my clients have been tempted to hire on and take a bit of the burden off but have not gone that route yet. That said, I have been keeping my ear to the ground for good writers and companies that could fit this niche. In on case I met some people who had teams of writers each with experience in different industries and that was how they answered my concerns about quality content. In their case the cost of hiring a writer included a small investment in the time it took for the writer to learn the basics of the industry so they could adequately write about it. Unfortunately I cannot vouch for the end quality of their writing because I have yet to go that route.

As for content such an offsite writer could provide… well there are some pieces of information that do not require intimate product/service knowledge. For example, the blog writer could keep the blog up to date with industry news, new products/services you are providing (by paraphrasing your site), they could even troll the forums related to your industry and create daily summaries of the discussions that take place. All of these elements can provide additional relevance to a website.

Question from JAG:
If we have a website and the homepage lists a number cities in a dropdown list. Are google robots smart enough to navigate through the dropdown list and start indexing the individual cities?

Answer from Ross Dunn: What I would term a “standard” drop down menu system is not search engine friendly because it is chalk full of code that search engines ignore. In my opinion the best drop menus are DHTML or CSS because they have the ability to be search engine friendly while offering the space saving and aesthetic advantages of a drop menu.

Question from Mackenzie:
Just recently I had a client ask about “Conversation Domination”. From what I have read, I’m skeptical as it seems like a scam. Because I look to Step Forth as SEO experts, I was wondering what your take is on this concept.

Answer from Ross Dunn: Hi Mackenzie, thank you for your kind words, I am happy to help. Conversation domination is a term I have only heard of a couple times before and from my research it appears that it is currently a term used for a set of social media marketing tactics designed by marketers Howie Swartz and Jack Humphreys. Now I don’t know if they in fact originally coined this phrase… I may be giving too much credit since it seems a logical turn of phrase in the social marketing realm.

Your question prompted some curiosity on my part so I checked into this a little further into their program and from what I have seen so far their program teaches users various techniques for taking advantage of social marketing to boost search engine rankings. Unfortunately I do not know how ethical their practices are or if ethics are a even considered in their teachings. That said I only had limited time to review their info so I would not discount it – they could have a great program.

If your client is looking to delve into social media marketing there are other resources that will provide free advice while they decide what direction to take:

Where’s StepForth in this list? We are not quite ready to commercially offer social media marketing services and until we are I think the teams above are more qualified to be your teachers. Soon, however, our new social media marketing specialist will be writing for this blog and we will be launching services to bring social marketing in house and take advantage of that realm with the zeal and professionalism that StepForth is known for.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.