Chris Talley in Communications at USAA DM’d me today on Twitter to let me know that USAA now does have a corporate blog, “Inside the Mission Blog”. That's great I've added the blog to the list of blogs in the Fortune 500, and thought I'd take some time to review the new site.
Generally the blog looks good, simple and clean. It looks like the blog first published in July of this year. I enjoyed the content, and thought the blog was off to a good start.
I wasn't able to tell what blogging platform USAA is using, so it’s probably their Site WCM system. The site is in a folder. I really liked the option to subscribe to multiple different RSS feeds. That's very helpful.
I did find a few issues that I thought I’d mention in the spirit of helpfulness.
Blog Commenting System
The comment system requires that you register with USAA.com. Given that USAA is a financial institution, this may not be a surprise. But in the blogging community, the ability to quickly post comments, even if those comments are moderated is a community norm. The comment system would certainly benefit from using a commenting system like Disqus.
I did see a few comments here and there. I suspect the reason for the lack of comments is the issue with the commenting system. Where I did see comments, they were from people who had been ranked already within their existing forum system. Again using an existing forum commenting system gives the impression that a blog is exclusive rather than open. Now any company can make decisions about what their comment strategy will be, but if USAA wants to get more comments from beyond their membership, and the wider blogging world opening up the comment system (with moderation) would be a good way to do that.
Another issue I notice was that writers are not getting back to respondents. On this post by the CIO, for the comment that did appear, USAA’s CIO, Greg Schwartz did not write the return comment, rather the blog manager did. This is fairly common practice amongst blogs, GM’s blog is well known for having moderators answer executives customer comments, but again if you want more comments encourage your thought leaders to answer comments.
Might just be me, but the permanent URLs looked a little bit long for Google, plus there were a number of special characters in the link. Here's an exert from "The Art of SEO," by Eric Enge, Stephen Spencer, Rand Fishkin, and Jessie C. Stricchiola on page 108 under the SEO audit:
“Make sure you have clean, short, descriptive URLs. Descriptive means keyword-rich but not keyword-stuffed. You don't want parameters appended (or have a minimal number if you must have any), and you want them to be simple and easy for users (and spiders) to understand."
This URL from a recent post doesn't look too good to me given this advice:
Blogging Review Final Thoughts
I'm glad to see another large financial institution join the ranks of the corporate blogging world. I'm also curious to know how USAA is building out its content strategy overall and whether it is developing a content garden? This was a quick review and it would be cool if I could follow up with an interview from a USAA social media professional. As I've previously completed interviews with other corporate bloggers, we can use the blogging ranking system together to rate the blog. I always find the internal employees give lower marks than I would! :-)