Add Balance to Your New Blog Through SEO, Design and Content!


Like most marketing disciplines, launching and maintaining a blog is an act of balancing different needs with limited personal resources: your time and your brain-power! Do you spend your energy on writing content, improving design and usability of your blog platform or work on SEO and search engine needs? The answer as it usually is in marketing is: all of the above! But it really depends on where you are in the blogging life-cycle.

Over the past 8 years, I’ve probably written over 1,200 posts for my blog, my work blog and online communities. So as you can guess, I’m all about content. Without engaging, well-written and informative content, it will be hard to earn an audience. But the reality is that your focus as a blogger and marketer, will depend on where you are in the blog life-cycle!


For example, when you’re launching a blog, you have to initially focus on design and usability. The goals range from choosing the proper platform (WordPress, Squarespace, WIX, Tumblr, etc) to choosing a template. And the best way to choose a template and look and feel for your blog is to go check out other blogs! Visualize and imagine the type and variety of content you would like to produce and how you would like it presented. Because in my experience, once you’ve chosen a template, it’s never quite that easy to move to different templates, something always breaks. And changing platforms? Ouch, that’s a huge undertaking even with decent migration tools.

Now that you’ve got your platform and template, you’ll need to pick through the options for color palettes, fonts, text sizes, menus and more. You’re tuning your blog and brand presence to make it engaging and intuitively user-friendly. Think about a new reader hitting your blog, what’s the first impression they get on visit #1? And how do you encourage them to poke around and learn more about your content? It’s all about creating an engaging online brand presence that will clearly define your expertise in your chosen topic area. The goal is to give your reader an immediate understanding of your expertise and reassurance that you truly can help them learn more about that topic

Ok, you’ve got your platform, template and you’ve established a brand presence, now you need to start organizing and/or creating content. Whether you’re talking graphic images, logos, blog posts, quotes and more, you’ve got to start producing! Keep your content topics and themes pretty narrow to begin with as you start to establish your blog voice. Create a list of potential topics to write about and to get the wheels going, start drafting some pieces. You’ll find that your writing and blogging only gets better with time and practice. Hopefully you’ll eventually get into a writing rhythm and have lots of good content drafts with supporting quality graphics and images to show your expertise to your audience. And keep them coming back!

The next step after you’ve created a great online brand presence and started to create your content stream is to bring in organic search traffic. Most likely, a substantial portion (over 50% of your blog traffic) will come in from Google, Bing and Yahoo for users looking to learn more about your topic. The obvious goal is to rank on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) to maximize visibility and click-through traffic.

You can create clickability by writing a pithy and catchy SEO title and description for your posts with use of engaging key words. This SEO specific meta-data is often written separately from what your reader will see ON the blog. You can also add micro-data/rich-snippets that will make your post stand out further with author information, a rating and much more. Search engines are focused on delivering the highest quality content and articles to their users. So your goal is to attract new followers and offer that helpful content once they click through. Ideally they are also sharing your content out to their friends and colleagues. Search engines are increasingly looking for social signals that your content is valuable! Social sharing, time on page, lower bounce rates and overall website traffic will help your posts rise up on SERP.

As you can see, there is a lot of work beyond just creating content and posting. While your core responsibility is to put out great content for your readers, better design and usability will engage readers more effectively and help them get value from your content. Tweaking your content for SEO means it will become more visible on search engines and once you deliver a great content experience, you will increase the visibility of your posts.

And that’s how you create a virtuous marketing cycle! Use SEO to maximize the visibility of your blog and content online, design a blog and website that’s easy and engaging to use, and then create great content that educates and assists readers. Ideally you’ll create a loyal readership that will help spread word about your website through social media and sharing which will improve your search engine rankings to bring in new readers.

And that’s not the end of it. Once your website is launched, you need to continually refine all of the three elements above when time and need dictate. Question and challenge yourself. Are you keeping things interesting for your reader? Are my graphic images engaging enough? Is my writing fresh or is it getting stale? Can I improve the menus and organization of my posts and information for readers? Can I maintain or increase the visibility of my posts on search engines when they change rules and algorithms on their side? The best way to improve your online presence is to see what other bloggers and content creators are doing online, there’s always room to improve!

I can tell you first-hand that creating great blog content and keeping your readers engaged is a never-ending commitment. And it’s a fun ride to deliver great and useful information to your audience on a regular basis. But in these days of online and digital marketing, the skills to engage your audience and influence them is a huge challenge but extremely rewarding. Respect your audience, write high quality content for them, make sure it ranks high on search and I’m sure you’ll do great with a loyal readership!

Ron Wen

Squarespace versus WordPress


For those of you heavily invested in blogging, the natural platform of choice is WordPress.  Free and easily customizable, WordPress gives you so many options in terms of creating the look, feel and functionality of your blog and website.  But after four years of managing my SMB blog which gets about 8,500 unique visitors a month, I moved over to Squarespace in April 2015.  And for the most part it has gone well with some caveats.  My goal was to have a simpler administrative experience so I could focus on content which is what I got.  But that wasn’t without some drawbacks on Squarespace.  Here’s how I see the two platforms…



  • Easy to learn and use with an elegant interface
  • Visually well-designed templates, good for high-quality images
  • Built-in content delivery network with fast page-load speeds
  • Responsive design for our mobile visitors
  • e-Commerce engine and shopping cart built-in
  • Contact forms built-in
  • Automatic software updates that have gone through QA, easy to manage


  • Migration tool decent but imperfect, will require lots of hand edits to move over
  • No SEO description or title easily available for blog posts.  Impacts clickability of posts showing up on search engines
  • Social sharing limited and flat, recommend use of add-on
  • No media library, must upload image multiple times for re-use
  • Presentation of blog posts and drafts is columnar, not tabular.  Not easy to navigate with a large number of posts



  • Thousand’s of hosting options available at different companies, prices
  • Ton’s of template options but of varying quality
  • Huge library of plug-in’s for additional feature/functionality
  • Ability to get “under the hood” to edit your pages and posts
  • Easier to manage a large number of posts
  • Great statistics and metrics available as part of platform


  • Steeper ramp-up to learn interface and capabilities of platform
  • Need to update platform regularly and potentially break parts of website
  • Great choice of plug-in’s but of varying quality
  • Getting responsive mobile version to work properly can be tricky
  • If CDN needed, must manually add for heavy traffic websites

In the end, Squarespace is an excellent blogging platform for the price but just be aware of its limitations. If your website is image-heavy and you need an online store, Squarespace is an easy choice. However if you’re more about text content and SEO results are crucial for you to drive traffic, WordPress may still be a better choice. The ability to leverage WordPress’ vast library of plug-in’s to get exactly what you need and edit the blog post under the hood is a powerful advantage.  There’s no right answer when it comes to your website and blogging platform, just be aware of what you get and what you give up!


Marketing Zen: When Marketing Doesn’t Even Feel Like Marketing

When does marketing not even feel like marketing?  When it’s really well-done content marketing!  Have you ever looked at content marketing strategy from the prospect perspective? I’m talking about companies that do an exemplary job of content marketing to you or me, the professional marketer! And when I think of really effective content marketing, two companies immediately leap to mind:  Business Insider and Hubspot… 

If you’re not familiar with Business Insider, think business website with marketing services and advertising as their revenue stream. In addition to their business news website, Business Insider runs extremely effective email newsletters and campaigns around their internal content and curated content. My Business Insider emails are a welcome reprieve in my daily activities and I’d say I open 90% of their emails. Business Insider emails are usually a mix of news and entertainment for both business and personal growth.  

And what Business Insider does so effectively is every now and then, they slip in a sponsor message and/or offer.  Given how much value they’ve given me, I usually open up those emails too! They’re clearly marked as sponsored emails but they still get extra attention from me. Business Insider is clearly aware of effective content marketing and agrees with my content marketing mantra: educate, entertain and inform. And it doesn’t have to just be your core topic area, you can get a bit off-topic but still keep your audience engaged. The content stream from Business Insider is SO valuable, you’d nearly pay for it which is an impressive marketing accomplishment. In the end, when you’ve got a targeted and engaged audience, you can try all sorts of different content but still get the desired results. 

Another effective example of content marketing is by no surprise, an inbound content marketing company- Hubspot! While their audience is much more targeted to professional marketers, they are a content engine and marketing machine. From webinars to templates, articles, infographics and more, Hubspot is one of my favorite resources for B2B marketing ideas and inspiration. Turn over your email address, download that .zip file, and voila, instant lead.  

And while I’m not currently a customer, I guarantee that the next time I’m in a decision-maker or influencer role for inbound or content marketing in a future organization, Hubspot will be evaluated as a possible option. Again, given how much value they’ve provided me over the years, I’m curious to see how great a company is with their customers given what they’ve done for a non-customer, me! Their content stream establishes authority and expertise, it also shows their high service levels and raises expectations for their audience.  

Think about the purchase cycle for a marketing automation solution. It’s probably at least a 3 month evaluation process that comes maybe every five years or so. Unless you’re a marketing consultant you are not likely evaluating marketing automation solutions regularly. So how and why does Hubspot want to stay in your mental mind map? Lots of high-value content marketing with an eye towards a potential pay-off years from now. Now that is some SERIOUS and committed content marketing, eh? 

If you look at your own life from both a professional and personal perspective, I’m sure you’ll recognize other effective examples of content marketing and the same feelings and perspective that I have about Business Insider and Hubspot may ring true for you. So if you ever doubted the value of content marketing, think about the companies that are currently engaging you and how they do it. I think you’ll find that great content marketing barely feels like marketing. It feels like doing business with an old friend that you trust and believe in…  

Ron Wen