Professional Blogging – Protecting Your Brand
Once you’ve started a blog, what are the steps to take to go from blogging professionally to becoming a professional blogger?
There are quite a few things you can do to increase your credibility, visibility and branding, while also working towards being able to make money using the content and credibility you have created. Some of these are related to protecting yourself and your brand, others on how to brand yourself and put yourself in the spotlight. Finally, I will touch upon some of the ways you can monetize this for yourself.
In this first part I will focus on Protection of your brand and content.
Once you have started a blog you will see immediate visitors. Except, they are not interested in your blog or content, but in trying to brute force your login credentials and get into your blog’s administration. I know it spooked me when it first happened, and I immediately took measures to protect my content. Additionally, if your content can spark a debate, expect trolls and hateful comments – if not, comments directing to affiliate links and spam sites.
If you are on WordPress, plug-up!
Install Akismet Antispam, a plugin that really helps to avoid the greatest part of spam on your blog. Nothing hurts your credibility than allowing a serious piece to be followed by strings of comments on where to buy Viagra or meet Russian girls. Without a plugin like this, those comments are likely to flood your pages. This plugin requires an email address and approval on the first comment, which blocks most spam. You will have to review occasionally, but that is a small price to pay. Do not activate any sort of Captcha. Captchas often require scripts, are universally considered annoying and do not really offer much extra protection. For the sanity of your legitimate commenters, leave this off.
Secondly get a good firewall/protection plugin. I use Wordfence and Sucuri, which offer pretty good protection even in their free forms. Of course, you get lots of options when you sub to their premium version, but it will depend on how professional your blog is (is it already generating revenue to cover that cost) if this offers return on investment.
It also allows you to block people who try to log in using specific account names automatically. I would suggest renaming the Admin account to something else, and not use your name or your blog name to log in to your posting account. Then, list all of those usernames as auto-block. Suddenly instead of red URLs of people trying to crack your username and password, you will hear nothing but crickets.
SEO and Google Rankings
SEO (Search Engine Optimalization) refers to making your content easy for Google (and other search engines) to pick up, analyze and rank. Optimizing this will place you higher on Google’s search results, meaning that if people are searching for content you write about, they will find your blog sooner. I use a plugin pack to help me out (All in One SEO Pack) but you don’t really need it.
Make sure that your title accurately shows the content, and that you have all relevant tags active, that should be enough. To find out what tags are good, read through your post and think up all of the search terms you would use in Google to find it yourself. Then, tag it with the core words from those search terms. For example, I might write a post about how to explain a one-year gap in your resume. I consider that the following search terms will be likely:
- How do I explain a one-year gap in my resume to recruiters?
- Getting a job with a resume gap
- One year unemployed, what to say about it?
- No job for a year and no experience, help!
Seeing this, I would then tag the post with “One Year Gap, Recruitment, Jobhunt, Job Finding, Finding a Job, Resume Gap, Unemployed, Help, Advice” – which would mean the tags “click” well with any of those searched. Doing this means your content will get spotted much sooner, increasing your readership but also the quality of the top content in Google.
Content scraping and Copyright
Once you have a blog, expect it to be scraped. People use automated scripts to copy your blog (sometimes down to the pictures and design!) and copy it somewhere else. Often this is done by spam blogs and affiliate marketing spammers because top blogs attract attention, so if they copy your content they can drag visitors away from you and to their spam-ridden sites instead.
Your first line of defense is being clear in what the legal status of your content is. You can do this by going to Creative Commons and selecting the kind of content you make, and what rules apply. Filling this in creates a nice HTML snippet which you can put in a widget somewhere on your site, and people visiting can see exactly what is and is not allowed with your content. This actually helps in protecting you from people committing “casual plagiarism”.
Secondly there is a website (Copyscape) where you can fill in your post URL and see if someone has copied it somewhere else. If so, you can send emails to the admin, the host and finally Google itself to file for the content to be removed. See DMCA Takedown Notices for what this is and how it works. Why do you need to do this? Well, aside of it being pretty crummy for other people to abuse your content, duplicate content lowers the Google ranking on all sites with duplicate content. This means you will get less attention because someone copied you – and they do not care, because they will simply copy others’ sites and keep rising in the rankings, while you are a single person trying to create proper content!
Professional etiquette and the art of evasion
One other thing to contend with when protecting your brand is the nature of comments, advertisements and affiliations you will receive on your blog. Being associated with organizations can be a powerful booster to money and reputation, but can also put your personal brand in danger.
As I stated, if your comments spark discussions, that is something to monitor. Do not tolerate abusive comments, especially not to other commentators, and be sure to rebuke and if necessary ban them from the discussion. That said, you also do not want to curb lively discussion or seem like a blog dictator. So beforehand, make a “bottom line” for yourself, at which point you need to interfere. If a warning did not settle it, a second one might do it – people warned with a ban often take a step back. If not, do not fear banning them, as more people will be drawn in by good discussion than banned for trolling.
When you use advertisements (whether from affiliations or adsense or a similar service) make sure to do your best to control the content. You do not want an all-ages blog flooded with adult advertisements, nor would you want ads for disreputable organizations. Nothing destroys a personal brand quicker than being associated with an unpalatable organization. This also means that if you have the option to go for affiliate deals (congratulations!) make sure they are in some way appropriate for the blog and related to the content. Outdoor clothing brands for a hiking blog are fine, but cheap loan advertisements likely are not.
Always be courteous and civil in your comments, these people read your blog and are willing to spend the time to engage with you. More people visit your blog by your advocates linking you to their friends on social media than improving your SEO rating will ever do. A blog is for people, so invest in the people that are your audience.
In the next installment of this series I will talk about deciding on your audience, analyzing your blog’s stats and engaging meaningfully with them and your blogging peers.