Fun Times with SEO: Building a Subdirectory Blog

Fun Times with SEO: Building a Subdirectory Blog

wordpress subdirectory blog(Just a heads up – this post is part of my fourth case study on improving traffic and conversions to a minisite I bought off of Flippa. Go back and read about the site itself and my progress with the project if you need to first.)

Anyhoo… The biggest challenges facing sites like mine (aka – long-form sales letters without a ton of content) are that a) there’s very little content that can be used to pick up good long-tail keywords and b) that Google is increasingly penalizing these “thin” sites as part of the Panda algorithm update.

The solution? Simple – a subdirectory blog!

One of the first things I did at the start of this case study was to install WordPress on a subdirectory of the site (in this case, in a folder named “blog”) and load it full of keyword-optimized articles pointing back to the main site. It’s a strategy that’s worked well for me in the past, so today, I want to take you through the steps involved so that you can set up your own subdirectory blog.

But first of all, why choose a subdirectory for my blog? Why not a subdomain or an external blog?

Besides the fact that I’ve used this method successfully before, the answer can be found in a DIY SEO article on the topic of subdomains vs subdirectories:

“Content that gets links helps tell Google that that entire site is trustworthy. If you host your content on another site then any links you get are telling Google that their site is trusted, so that option isn’t ideal. Towards the same end, a subdirectory is generally acknowledged to generate more trust or “link equity” for your main domain than a subdomain.”

Basically, any link juice or backlinks that the content on my subdirectory blog generates will provide more of an SEO benefit to my main site than articles hosted on either of these other options.

Installing a Subdirectory Blog

That aside, installing a subdirectory blog is incredibly easy if you’re able to use the Fantastico WordPress install script (and most web hosting plans offer this option or similar programs). To get your blog set up, simply follow my automatic WordPress installation instructions, but instead of leaving the “Installation Location” field that allows you to specify a subdirectory for the install, enter the name of the folder in which you’d like your blog to reside.

In my case, since I wanted the blog to appear as “http://www.mysite.com/blog/”, I entered “blog” into this field. You can enter any name you want for your subdirectory blog, but it’s important that you not create the folder first, as this will disrupt the install process.

Customizing Your Subdirectory Blog

In general, it’s a good idea to give your subdirectory blog a similar look and feel as your main site. That way, visitors who arrive through your blog and click on links redirecting them back to the main page won’t feel lost when they arrive on a page that looks substantially different. It’s a cognitive dissonance thing – and since you want visitors to feel as comfortable as possible when they land on your sales page, it’s a good idea to keep their entire experience as consistent as possible.

So to find a WordPress theme that looks like your main site, you have two different options. You can,

a) Spend hours and hours searching the WordPress database for a suitable free them, or
b) Make your own!

(You can probably guess by my exclamation point which of these options I prefer…)

If you have a customizable theme like Thesis, Genesis or Headway, you can modify the theme’s appearance to match your main site as closely as possible. OptimizePress is also a good option that you can use to make your blog and sales page themes match exactly.

But for this project, I used a tool called Artisteer (aff link; free trial). I’ve had it for years and have more than made up for the initial purchase price in terms of the number of themes I’ve been able to create for my sites. Basically, it allows you to build your own WordPress theme from the ground up, customizing every aspect from the background color and texture to the styling of the widgets in your sidebar. It has a few quirks to learn, but overall, I’ve found it to be a valuable addition to my internet business software collection.

For this project, I built a theme with the same light blue background as my sales page, and incorporated the same site colors throughout. I grabbed the header image from XHeader’s free header set and added a few words of text through their program. In total, I spent maybe 20 minutes customizing the look and feel of the blog, and I’m very pleased with how it looks next to the main site.

Adding Content to Your Subdirectory Blog

The final step for me was loading my blog with unique articles. Currently, the site has about another month and a half of articles that will be published automatically each week. There were a couple different things I kept in mind while having the content created:

1. Keywords – While each article has at least one mention of my main target keyword, I also wanted them to include a variety of related LSI keywords in order to pick up clicks from other super long-tail keywords.

2. Relevance – I wanted the articles to provide helpful information for anyone who winds up on the articles, but I also didn’t want them to give away everything the reader needs to know to solve their skin care problems. For this reason, I asked my writer to intentionally leave out certain pieces of information in order to motivate readers to click through to the sales page.

3. Call to Action – Each article on the blog ends with a resource box style call to action encouraging the reader to visit the main page. These rotate automatically and are served up using the Ad Injection plugin in WordPress.

As I’ve mentioned before, there are still a few other things I might do to the blog – including adding a lightbox style pop-up that redirects people back to the sales page or signs them up to my opt-in list. But that’s relatively low priority compared to my next project, which is going to be backlinking my blog articles and trying to get some traffic flowing to them as well as to the sales page.

That’s it for now – if you have any questions about using subdirectory blogs to improve SEO, feel free to ask them in the comments below!

Image: Eric M Martin

(PS – How cute is that WordPress logo pumpkin?!  Love it!!!)

8 Responses to Fun Times with SEO: Building a Subdirectory Blog

  1. Chas says:

    You know, I always keep coming back to your site, because you give such great tips. It may be a small courtesy, but, whenever I see an opportunity for recommending your site, I do so. You mentioned you weren’t happy with the latest results from your 7search campaign and I was wondering if you have ever tried http://www.jumpfly.com ?
    Also, have you ever completely dumped a site’s files and started from scratch? Is it a hassle?

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Chas – Thanks so much, I really appreciate you taking the time to recommend my site! Glad you’re finding it useful 🙂

      As for your questions…

      1. I haven’t tried Jumpfly, as I don’t do much PPC, but I’ll check it out. I like to work with 2nd tier engines because Adwords and adCenter are so expensive, but there’s always a tradeoff in terms of traffic quality.

      2. Yep – I’ve dumped a site’s files and started from scratch. It’s not super fun, but my goal is always to improve site quality and conversions, and sometimes that’s just not possible with existing content. For my case study site, I think I’m going to wind up doing quite a bit of changing, unfortunately!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. Ben says:

    If the sales letter itself is on a wordpress installation, you can simply create a new page ‘blog,’ go into settings (i think reading), and choose the blog page as the location of your posts.

    • Sarah says:

      Ooh – good point. My sales letter is HTML, so I wasn’t thinking about this method, but Ben’s right – if your sales page is in HTML, that’s a much easier way to do things.

      Thanks Ben!

  3. Great tip Sarah. One question though: If i finally choose to create my blog on a subdomain, i have to do different SEO campain for my main domain and different for the subdomain?

  4. Randy says:

    Great post Sarah! I have had a subdirectory blog for over a year even though I do need to write more (my last one was in January I think). I did want to know if your blogs templates are built by you or if you use a wordpress editing app like so many sell.

    Thanks again for the great post!

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Randy! For subdirectory blogs like this, I use a program called Artisteer (aff link; free trial) that lets me create a look and feel that’s as close as possible to the main site – although there are plenty of free WordPress templates that’ll work fine too as long as you’re willing to spend some time looking.

      Hope this helps!

  5. Katie says:

    Hi, I was wondering if this sub-domain vs. sub-folder debate is still applicable now that Google webmasters treats both the same? I’m referring to this article from Search Engine Land: http://searchengineland.com/new-google-classifies-subdomains-as-internal-links-within-webmaster-tools-91401 I’m in the process of creating a blog, and am trying to decide whether it should be a sub-domain or sub-directory off of my existing website.

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