First of all I read the sticky at the top and admittedly that did answer a few of my questions - but I still have some!
My situ: I have a website for my business and previously Google loved me(!) and I was #1 in the search results for a bunch of relevant search terms. At one point I even had three site links. Happy days! Then along came this Panda and Penguin thing and it's fallen out of love with me. If it wasn't for Google Places (it's a bricks and mortar business) I think the phone would have stopped ringing. I have seen a definite decline in trade/enquiries. First off I have polished up my site a lot. Ditched keyword stuffing of image names and tags and all that jazz. I've made a partial recovery doing this - I'm back on the first page of results, albeit at the very bottom, for a couple of my former "best" search terms. For the others I'm now lurking around on pages two and three. Talking to others in my industry (tourism) their advice, and I think it's good, is to get social i.e. G+, Facebook and Twitter. Although I previously had (dormant - my bad!) registered my business a Twitter account and a Facebook page I honestly never used them. My last Tweet was in 2008. Awkward! So I've joined G+ and my plan is to start with the Tweeting and Facebook-ing.
Also recommended by my industry peers is blogging which is something I've never done before. I want to blog purely to increase the SERP of my website. I'm not interested in AdWords or affiliate linking type stuff at all. I just want the blog to let Google to know that my site has 'fresh' content related to my industry/geographic location. I have signed up for a Blogspot and a Wordpress using my business name but I have yet to blog anything on either of them. I did create a draft on the Google one though. Pretty much I'm here because I want to start blogging the right way (for SEO) and I have a few "should I do this or this?" type questions and I'd appreciate some advice on the right way to go about doing this properly.
Okay, my questions are...
Google vs. Wordpress?
The sticky pretty much said Wordpress was the way to go but is that definitely true for SEO? Something in my head tells me that Google is going to favour it's own service over another's. Is that true or false? When I looked at the Blogger set-up I liked the whole comments and moderation of comments thing. Am I right in thinking Wordpress has the equivalent and ability to moderate the comments? When I looked at Wordpress' Settings>Ratings I couldn't see anything regarding comment moderation. :/
Hosting of blog?
Of course I have my own domain but for SEO is it not better to have your blog elsewhere and links from there (hosted by Google? Wordpress? A second hosting account and url of my own?) linking to my business homepage? I'm aware that Panda/Penguin is no longer a fan of back links but I'm finding it quite hard to let go of their previous significance and to me links coming into my domain from Google/Wordpress blog posts would be a good thing? Why would the author of the sticky recommend self-hosting, is that just for more tools to make a fancy pants blog vs. using freebie Wordpress or Blogger hosting? Fancy-pants tools to mess around with is not my aim here - SEO of my business homepage is! Also, the sticky was written in 2009, is it's "self hosted using Wordpress as myhotelname.co.uk/blog" advice still accurate?
I brainstormed and decided I didn't want to go down the "oooh we had a family from Australia stay with us for four nights this week blah, blah, blah" route. (Well not yet anyway, we'll have to see how much I get into blogging lol.) I thought I could instead do a blog that posted about local discounts/deals, new restaurants, local tourist attractions and any "big" news for the city when my hotel is. My draft post on the Blogger site was 'inspired' by a local theme park who put a discount deal up on Groupon this week. I pretty much wrote the details of the deal (not exactly 'fresh' content but hey I'm new to this okay!) in the post, did a no-follow link to the Groupon offer and wrote about the theme parks opening hours, their food offerings and pricing too. I also went on to add some pictures of the theme park, a map of how to find it re: the local area and in relation to where my business is located from it and I embedded a YouTube video (hosted on my business' YouTube account) of some of the rides that are in the theme park. Finally I threw in some more personal sentences where I talked about the pricing structure of going to the park and about the size of the Groupon discount. I also said maybe people should do the rides before they go eat in the restaurant(!) So pretty much: is this kind of a blog post the right kinda thing I should be doing? I definitely have guests (families ofc) who visit this theme park when they stay with me so there is a relevancy link there somewhere!
Other post ideas are to write about local restaurants. (No evening meals are served here so they're not competition). Perhaps include their menu, any specials, pricing etc. If they offer me a free meal a link to their homepage wouldn't be no follow lol. I was also thinking I could write posts on local tourist attractions. Get opening hours info on there, photographs, public transport/driving directions, prices etc. etc. - Are these ideas any good for blog post subject matter?! Please don't tell me I need to write about the day-to-day running of the hotel because that's going to get really boring really fast imho.
Blog post linking?
I no follow linked to the Groupon offer in my draft post but the purpose of the blog would be to boost the profile of my homepage and sell people some hotel rooms. How do I weave that in? Do I just rely on the homepage link in the side panel or do I weave it in to my posts? Eg "Coming from out of the area to visit the theme park? Why not stay with myhotelname you can see rates and room availability here" kinda thing? Or is that a no-no?
Blog post vs landing page?
I have landing pages on my homepage at the moment for a few local 'attractions'. Eg a page about the local hospital, I get a lot of guests visiting because they are going there, either to visit sick relatives or for interviews, temporary jobs etc. and my hospital landing page has info about what public transport you need to get there, car paring charges and a hospital site map so visitors can get the right car park for the right hospital building etc. etc. This is a good info for a visitor to my city and it works great as a landing page with it's 'call to action' to book a room with me. So.. aside from having the date at the top of the page and a comments section at the bottom - how is a blog post any different to landing pages I've created in the past for places in my area? Would I not be better just making more landing pages or is it the user generated content of the comments that deems a blog post to be better than a landing page of the same content?
Let's say I publish the theme park blog post draft, am I right in thinking that the next step is to tweet "hey there's a deal at the local theme park, look here:" and link to my blog post, then do essentially the same thing on G+ and Facebook or am I completely off the mark here?
Sorry for all the n00b blogging questions but if anyone has any "best practice" advice for the above I'd really appreciate a reply!