In this episode, Michael and Chris discuss blogging tips for painting companies that improve SEO, including:
  • Using products and services in your blogging strategy
  • Generating topic ideas
  • Structuring and format blogs for better SEO results
  • Adding value for customers and potential clients
  • Avoiding common mistakes
For more information on what we discussed in this episode, visit https://www.searchprimer.com.

Episode Transcript

Chris Raines:

Yeah, when you’re writing a blog post, it’s surprisingly easy to apply the best practices in SEO. It’s really something that is quite doable by in-house staff, if they happen to be good writers. The SEO stuff is pretty easy to take into consideration and that’s what we’re going to dig into today.

Michael Utley:

Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential and industrial painters to grow their businesses in their local or regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades and this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from searchprimer.com, the experts in digital marketing for the trades.

Chris Raines:

All right, welcome to episode 37 of Grow Your Painting Business, the podcast from SearchPrimer.com. My name is Chris Raines and I’m joined by Michael Utley. How are you doing, Michael?

Michael Utley:

Good. Good morning. Happy Friday.

Chris Raines:

Happy Friday. It’s a good , cool, snowy day in Nashville, Tennessee.

Michael Utley:

Yeah, yeah. Something we haven’t had much of lately.

Chris Raines:

I know, it’s been kind of a warmish winter, so it’s nice to see the snow coming down. We’ll be traveling today, but I don’t think the snow’s bad enough to affect that.

Michael Utley:

Yeah, same here. I think you’re headed to Knoxville, I’m headed to Murfreesboro. Is that right?

Chris Raines:

Yep, yep. So safe travels to you.

Michael Utley:

Same to you.

Chris Raines:

Today, Michael, we’re going to talk about blogging.

Michael Utley:

Yeah.

Chris Raines:

So I think blogging’s something that every business, especially local, service-based businesses like painters, know that they should be doing, they should be putting content on the internet, on their website, but it can be overwhelming. Not knowing where to start and what do we blog about? How do you even structure a blog post? Then there’s the technical side of it and working through your content management. So we’re going to talk today and hopefully give people, painting businesses, if you’re a painting contractor, some actual tips on how to actually start in-house producing your own blog content with a kind of a rinse and repeat sort of system.

Michael Utley:

Yeah, absolutely. Blogging is one of those things that if you do have somebody who’s a good writer, it’s actually quite doable to add the best practices in SEO to your content. So we’re not going to get into so much the heavy duty backend technical stuff with SEO for an entire website, but just taking a blog post and thinking about how to essentially dress it up or prepare to create it with SEO best practices in mind.

Chris Raines:

Perfect. So let’s kick it off, Michael. Just in terms of, let’s just talk about even finding things to write about. What’s a good place to start for businesses, painting businesses, service businesses, on how to start finding what to write about?

Michael Utley:

Yeah, this is one of those things where the answer is pretty obvious, but we see a lot of people get it wrong. There are a lot of websites where the CEO maybe is involved in doing some of the thought leadership material or whatever, and they want to write about leadership, they want to write sort of about their story and their experience. It’s actually better to start with your services or your products and use those as a jumping off for your topic development.

Michael Utley:

So if you’re an industrial painter, case studies, sample projects, before and after pics, those are a really good starting point, because they’re basically centered in your services.

Michael Utley:

So for us, number one, is just start at the right starting point, starting with your services. Even the sub-services that make up those services and using maybe a case study or a before and after approach, that’s always a good way to make sure that you’re putting yourself in line for the types of people who are going to look for you.

Chris Raines:

Awesome. So start with your own services and then projects related to those services, that’s a great place to start.

Michael Utley:

Yeah.

Chris Raines:

You could probably come up with 10 or 12 just right there from your favorite projects that you’ve worked on.

Michael Utley:

Absolutely.

Chris Raines:

Let’s talk about another one. We’ve got it on the list here and I like this one. It’s questions that your customers ask. So talk about that, Michael.

Michael Utley:

Yeah. So another great way to develop topics, and this is, again, critical to being sort of pointed in the right direction for the purposes of SEO or search engine optimization. Talk to your sales folks and say, “Hey, what are the questions people are asking?” A lot of times it’s going to be really, really keyword rich material that is exactly the type of thing you would want people to know that you’re an authority on answering.

Chris Raines:

Yeah.

Michael Utley:

So yeah, so let’s stick with that example again. If you’re an industrial painter and someone asks, “Hey, do you all do sandblasting to repaint equipment?” It might be something you do, it might not be, but if it is something you do, it’s a great topic. It’s really easy to sort of boil that down to a handful of things that people ask, and you could do a blog topic on each one of those.

Chris Raines:

Yeah.

Michael Utley:

You might also have a services page or a sub-services page on your website for it, but it’s okay to talk about how you do it differently or how you prepare the area or what your philosophy on doing that type of service is, and how you bring in-house expertise to bear on that type of activity. Give your unique perspective on it in an environment where, or in a writing format where you can be a little bit more loose than a services page.

Chris Raines:

Yeah, and honestly, that’s how we’ve come up with topics for this podcast.

Michael Utley:

Oh yeah, totally.

Chris Raines:

You have people ask you all the time different questions about SEO and we just take a question, and suddenly it’s a 15 to 20 minute podcast.

Michael Utley:

Yep, absolutely.

Chris Raines:

You can do the same thing, no matter what business you’re in.

Michael Utley:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.

Chris Raines:

Great. Let’s go on down and let’s talk about, I want to talk about, a lot of people have questions about how long should a post be and then things like images, how many images? So talk about what best practices are, in terms of word count, how many words and then the use of other media inside of a blog post.

Michael Utley:

Yeah, it’s good to have, on any page on your site, a minimum of 300 words, because below that, it’s hard for a search index to know that they’ve confidently got the page indexed. So they tend to consider that below minimum content. For a blog post, we really like to be between 500 and 1,000 words. It’s okay if you have a topic where the content just justifies less material, but if you do have a good meaty subject, 1,000 words is a great target.

Michael Utley:

There’s a lot of focus, a lot of discussion around real long-form content. I think that’s really important for understanding what people are wanting to read in maybe the news space, in media and the news. But I think for something where people are trying to solve a question or know if you offer a particular service, 500 to 1,000 is the sweet spot.

Chris Raines:

Right. Let’s talk a little bit, Michael, about how that content is formatted. You shouldn’t write just a 1,000 block of text. So talk about how people consume content and the best way to break that up, so that it’s digestible and kind of follows best practices for just formatting.

Michael Utley:

Yep. The best thing to do, it’s good to have a page title and it’s good to have sub-headers, and for those sub-headers to break up the page into absorbable chunks of content. People tend to scan pages first and see if it has what they’re looking for and then to go back and read in more depth. So two things that are really good to use, actually, I’ll give you three things.

Michael Utley:

One is breaking the page up with sub-headers, so breaking it into sections, each one being maybe one to two paragraphs and then using a visual noise like numbered lists or bulleted lists. Those are good. Also, I like having an image or two on each page to make sure that you’re doing something that’s just sort of hits the brain in a different way and is a visual exploration of the material that you’re exploring.

Chris Raines:

Yeah. Let’s talk about after … so you’ve decided the content that you’re going to write about, you’ve got it written, and now you’ve got it formatted. Let’s talk about the last couple miles here and getting to the finish line of taking that and then pushing it out to the internet.

Michael Utley:

Yeah, so what you want to do … so, how much do you use keywords, right? That’s probably the big thing that comes to mind there. What I like to recommend is write the material, just without worrying about keywords. So first pass, just write your posts, say what you want to say. It’s really hard for people to write taking keyword inclusion into consideration, it’s very distracting.

Michael Utley:

What I find it’s better to do is actually just write the material, get a first draft out, and then go back and say, “Okay, could this title have a better use of our most important keyword or idea?” Then say, “Okay, could the sub-headers better tie into the types of keywords that we want supporting our main keywords?

Michael Utley:

So if industrial painting is your main sort of topic or the context of what you’re writing about, you need to make sure that’s in the page title. Then if you’re digging into describe services that you offer regarding that, you could talk about something like industrial painting services as a sub-header and have maybe a bulleted list. That sounds a little bit like a services page, but maybe your blog post is understanding the uses of sandblasting in an industrial painting environment.

Michael Utley:

You might have some kind of odd ball topic that’s not a services page, but it sort of has some similar ideas for a services page, a bulleted list. Then making sure that you’ve got some keywords applied to the alt text in the file name of the images that you use on the page. Those are one of those indirect locations that search engines like to look to see if they can figure out what the page is about.

Chris Raines:

Explain, Michael, what an alt text is.

Michael Utley:

Yeah, every popular content management system, WordPress, we like to use Craft a lot lately, other ones. If you’re loading an image to a page, you can typically load some text that describes the image, and so using good keywords in that text is important. Another thing you can do is have a visible caption below the image, depending on your CMS and how your pages are set up. But yeah, going through and using keywords in all those key areas, title, sub-headers. One that I didn’t mention is the first paragraph of copy on the page, making sure that it has good keywords, really throughout the body of the content.

Michael Utley:

You want to make sure that you’re circling back and not speaking too abstractly or metaphorically about what you’re talking about, but actually mentioning it directly, occasionally. Like the phrase industrial painting or industrial sandblasting. Then alt text captions, or excuse me, image file name. Then the last one would be thinking about how you’re linking between your pages.

Michael Utley:

Go into a couple of old posts that maybe touch on the topic that you’re writing about with your blog and just putting in a link to the new page. Don’t link the text, click here to point to new page, instead, use something like industrial sandblasting as the text that you’re linking over to the new blog post. So yeah, doing those things, that’s going to get it over the mile and make it a really valuable post for SEO.

Chris Raines:

Awesome. Let’s talk about a quick word on proofreading and then distributing it, distributing a blog post.

Michael Utley:

Yeah, there are a couple of things that we like to do. We have our writers go through a process to kind of make sure everything’s good, but then we have it go through the hands of an editor and the editor’s job is to make sure that it’s a fit for what we’re trying to achieve with the page and the website that it’s going on, but they’re also proofreading. You really want to make sure that you do a good job with that, you don’t want things to sort of reflect badly on the company and feel unprofessional.

Michael Utley:

Especially if you’re working with folks who are used to texting and, “Uh, it doesn’t really matter.” Well, it does. You want to make sure that you’ve got somebody proofreading who can really go through and handle it carefully.

Chris Raines:

Yeah.

Michael Utley:

Then for distribution, email and social media are really great ways to make sure you’re pushing your content out there. We like to take the best of the blog and share it out to social media channels, just stagger it out. Sometimes we use Hootsuite, sometimes we’re just manually logging into social media accounts and pushing content out. Then email. It’s great to have an email newsletter and if you’ve got a couple of blog posts that tend to get a little bit more activity, seem to be more popular, rotate those into a newsletter where you’re sharing two or three posts from your blog once a month, for example, to your audience, existing customers and sales leads.

Michael Utley:

It’s a great way to keep a lead warm and to stay top of mind. Even if you don’t get the project this time, email’s a really great way. By pushing blog content that answers questions, you’re offering something of value, rather than just pushing them a sales pitch over and over.

Chris Raines:

Yeah, Michael, and let’s talk about if you’ve been doing blogging for a while, you probably have a back catalog of blog posts. So what should people think about in terms of looking back, I mean, should they ever delete old blog posts if they become outdated? How often should you update old blog posts? Talk about what you do with old catalog content.

Michael Utley:

Yeah, a deep bench of content is generally very good, because what you’re doing is you’re building the value of the domain over time, over the years, so that search engines have a better and better idea of what that website is about. Yeah, there is an instance where you should delete content. If it’s about a service you no longer offer, you should get rid of it.

Michael Utley:

A lot of people ask the question, should we keep it just for the SEO value? The problem is it’s taken people and search engines off track on who you are and what you do, and so we recommend unpublishing and retiring that content. Another good use of the backlog, besides keeping it clean, is to actually take things and update them for the new year. So if you have something that’s sort of, how to hire a good industrial painter, you might have written it during an economic downturn and during a strong economy, things may be slightly different.

Michael Utley:

So you may use that material as a jumping off point for the subject matter of a new post. By the time you rewrite it, it may be fairly different, different enough to stand on its own as a separate page and to keep both of them live on the domain, the old one and the new one. So yeah, updating things for the current year is always a good sort of a way to go to come up with a new topic.

Chris Raines:

Let’s talk about this one last topic here, and that’s guest blogging. So you don’t always have to blog on your own website, you can reach out to your peers in adjacent industries to blog on their website. So how should a painting contractor, a painting company, approach guest blogging?

Michael Utley:

Yeah, and this goes two ways. Sometimes it’s good to have folks who you want to have come in and appear on your blog to write for you. An example of that would be if you have maybe a manufacturer of a product and you want to let them promote themselves on your site, it gives you something that you can share that is useful to your audience. Information about a new product or the actual physical product that’s used in any number of applications. So that’s one type of guest blogging where you’re opening your blog up to others and asking them to contribute.

Michael Utley:

The other type is where an owner or executive in the company goes and appears on other blogs. This could be, if you’re part of a, for example, a business coaching round table and they have a website and you write a blog post about your business, that’s a great opportunity for you to get a link out there on another website pointed back to your domain, pointed back to your website. That’s really valuable for SEO.

Michael Utley:

So yeah, guest blogging’s not dead. It’s a lot of work, it can be very tedious. So I would say treat it as something to be opportunistic about. If you part of a business coaching group or you make a contribution to a nonprofit or you sponsor a little league team, those are all opportunities to go share something on their website, with their permission of course. You’re going to need their permission to get that inbound link. So yeah, anytime you have a chance to get a link back to your website’s, always good.

Chris Raines:

Yeah, super.

Michael Utley:

Well, unless … yeah, not always. [crosstalk 00:16:00]

Chris Raines:

As long as it’s a good neighborhood, right?

Michael Utley:

Yeah, assuming you’re working-

Chris Raines:

There’s a lot of bad neighborhoods on the internet.

Michael Utley:

That’s right. Assuming you’re not sponsoring the things you don’t want people to know about, right?

Chris Raines:

Right, yeah.

Michael Utley:

But yeah, no, little league teams, church stuff, even low domain authority.

Chris Raines:

If it’s local, it’s great.

Michael Utley:

If it’s local. Yeah, we call those silly church links, to kind of clean up my language on an early Friday morning here in the snow. But yeah, those small little signals tell search engines, “Oh yeah, this is-

Chris Raines:

This is a local business.

Michael Utley:

“Yeah, this is a local business and it’s a good domain.” Yeah.

Chris Raines:

Yeah, awesome. All right, that’s all we have. Hopefully that can take you guys … if you’re listening to this and you don’t really need to hire a professional marketing agency to start doing content on your own, so hopefully you can take those things and just run with it.

Michael Utley:

Yep. And if you need help, check with us.

Chris Raines:

Yeah, awesome. All right, see you on the next one.

Michael Utley:

Thanks, Chris.

Michael Utley:

The Grow Your Painting Business Podcast is a free service of searchprimer.com. Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools in digital marketing. Searchprimer.com.