Monday, 21 June 2010

SEO Tips for Blogging

Hi everyone! I hope you are all enjoying the World Cup! I wanted to write another blog post that aims to help you get traffic to your blog. You can see the tips I previously wrote here. That post was much more about setting up a blog and general tips you can follow to help you find your feet when starting out. Today, I wanted to write a short piece about trying to get your blog more traffic or better ranking on search engines (SEO stands for search engine optimisation and is the process of getting your blog, or any website for that matter, a better ranking on search engines). It should be noted however, that it might take a while for your blog to get indexed by a search engine but these tips should also be helpful for that. It took my blog a few weeks to get noticed by Google and is only now starting to appear higher for certain search terms.

1 - Titles

Titles are extremely important for blogging. Try to create catchy, content driven titles. This helps two folds. Firstly, visitors are more likely to read the post if you have a good title. Think of it just like print media - headlines in newspapers and magazines are clevely and carefully written for maximum impact. Secondly, keywords that you use in the title are also picked up by search engines. For example, the title of this post is 'SEO Tips for Blogging' which means it'll get picked up if someone searches for something similar. A really good tip that I try to use a lot is to front end your titles (this might not be the correct term, it's one from literature class). Basically you rearrange the title so that the most important word or phrase is at the start of the sentence. Let's see an example from a well known television show:

"Space, the final frontier" vs. "The final frontier, [is] Space"

We could analyze this sentence and go into detail of why the front ending has more impact (or not, if you disagree) but hopefully you can simply hear that it sounds more dramatic. Front ending is used a lot in literature and a lot by clever bloggers and headline writers. By changing the order of the title, you can target specific contect and increase the title's effectiveness.

Let's take a look at this post's title and a couple of variations:

"SEO Tips for Blogging", "Blogging Tips - SEO", "Blogging - SEO" "Blogging Tips about SEO" etc.

What I've found in the past from doing some user research is that most users categorically do not read a lot of the text on the Internet. Especially titles, instructions, comments etc. They'll read the first few words and skip the rest. That's why it's important to make sure the first words are the keywords that will catch people's attention. Also be sure to keep it short and not too lengthy - unless you are writing a very detailed post about something quite complicated.

2 - Keywords

This similar to the titles tip but know your keywords and how to use them. It's important to use keywords cleverly in a post so that it is indexed but also not obvious. So for example, if you have a post about SEO tips you might have a range of keywords including: SEO, blogging, websites, search engine optimization, Google, Yahoo, Bing, search results, keywords, links, page rank and so on. You shouldn't make it obvious you are aiming for these keywords - they should come naturally in the post. This isn't a difficult tip to follow, if you write posts that are well structured and of a high standard then this should come natural. But you should pay close attention to this tip if you write a post that is personal in nature. A lot of people can often write blogs like they are diaries and then wonder why no reads them. That's because writing: "I had a nice walk in the park today" is less likely to get noticed by a search engine then "I had a nice walk in Regent's Park today, I felt just like a tourist in London". The first sentence there aren't any strong keywords to pick up on. In the second sentence there is "Regent's Park", "tourist" and "London". People searching for these things just might come across your blog! Obviously we're playing a bit of a game here but if you want to increase your organic search result position then this is a one way to improve it.

Another important tip if you are using a blogging platform (such as Wordpress or Blogger) is to always keyword/tag/label your posts. This is actually a way to get traffic (a lot of people on Wordpress search for things using tags) and it's a great way to help search engines find your blog.

3 - Network

This is similar to the tip from the previous post I wrote. But if you want to get noticed, it's important to put your blog out there! Comment on other people's blogs/twitters etc. Send emails, leave messages and try to build a friendship with people who blog about similar things to you. Then hopefully you can request a blogroll exchange (they link to you and you link to them). This benefits you and them but you should try to make sure the sites have a similar theme. Getting a link exchange from a technology blog when your blog is about cooking will actually harm your search engine ranking. This is because people used to pay for links to artificially boost their search engine ranking. Google now has a smarter algorithm which tries to see if the link is genuine or not. Obviously if you're linking to a friend that you know then you might be willing to ignore the negative impact to your search ranking. This might be slightly harder for you to achieve. And it might also take a long time for you to get anywhere with this. But it's important to try and get some links to your website. Besides, being part of a blog network is really quite fun and gives you another thing to do with your blog when you're not writing actual entries.

4 - Post Fast

This is probably impossible for you to do unless you are a pro-blogger or have a lot of free time etc. Posting faster than other people means youre post will get seen by a search engine quicker than other posts giving you a head start to get traffic and work your way to the top of the search engine rankings. For example, if you are really fast and post before another blog about the latest release of movie or write the latest news regarding a company then a search engine is more likely to display your result first because you've been indexed first. Does this make sense? It's complicated to explain but is pretty straight forward - get ahead of the competition!

5 - Content

Lastly, content is important. Not necessarily what you write about, but whether you write good, interesting articles. This might seem a bit trivial but it is important. People like having something to read, so always be sure to try and write something worthy of their time. Unless of course you just have a image/video blog and then by all means post away. But having good content ultimately should mean that people visit your site and stick around, you have good titles and include keywords in your posts. What really helps a blog is having dedicated visitors that might have even subscribed to a feed or have your site bookmarked.

Blogging is a personal thing at the end of the day - people blog for different reasons. But if you are aiming to get noticed by search engines then these few tips will hopefully help you.

What are you experiences of writing a blog and SEO? Ever tried to get a better search ranking? What steps did you take to achieve it?

(image credited to Danard Vincente).

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