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The Professionals Guide to Blogging

The Professionals Guide to Blogging

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The Professionals Guide to Blogging
The Professionals Guide to Blogging

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Published by: LeBack on Apr 19, 2009
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The Principles of SEO for Blogs

It goes without saying that search engine optimization is just as important for
blogs as it is for websites. However, fortunately, blogs integrate software

that pings search engines to inform them of new content (as discussed in the
previous section), and consequently, blogs are usually crawled a lot more
often than a static site.

In this section, we’ll discuss some of the important considerations you must
make when choosing a blog platform for SEO and tools that will make SEO
much easier. You’ll also learn a little more about how to create content that
is SEO friendly, especially with regards to keyword research.

When you are considering SEO for blogs, you’ll need to think of employing
numerous on-site techniques so that search engines can discover your
content. The critical piece is keyword-rich content. Beyond that, make some
considerations for:

Usability and ease of navigation: Make it easy for your readers
to access the various parts of your page without difficulty. Be sure
to add important information in visible areas. One mistake often
seen with blogs and blog designs is the lack of a “Previous Posts” or
“Next Posts” link on the bottom of the page. It makes sense to flesh
out all these details as soon as possible.

Regular content updates: Search engines crawl websites more
often if they are frequently updated. Content updates are user-
friendly as well – readers have a reason to keep returning to the
site.

Creation of XML sitemaps for search engines (and HTML
sitemaps for user navigation): An XML sitemap is a file that contains
a list of URLs that informs search engines when new content
becomes available. You can also put numeric values to indicate
weight/priority on specific content. When content gets updated,
your XML file is updated. As long as you register your sitemap with
the various search engines, the search engine spiders will discover
new content by looking at your sitemap file. Adding an XML
sitemap is usually easy with numerous plugins available for blog
platforms.

Duplicate content: Your category pages may have the same exact
content as your monthly archives. If this is the case, be sure to
employ rules (such as in robots.txt) to filter out the duplicate
content. For example, in the case of WordPress, you may want to
add rules to disallow crawling of category page. This ensures that

search engines find the proper page (typically the main page) and
crawls that (and indexes it) instead.

Linking (both internally and externally): Link to your important
pages internally, and use appropriate anchor text to direct your
readers (and search engines) to content that you feel is important.
Link externally to diversify your content and link to other
recommended sources for information. For example, if you are
talking about search engine optimization and have a page
dedicated to SEO on your site, you may want to link to your SEO
page (internal linking). But if you want to talk about social media
marketing and don’t have a relevant page on your site, you might
want to point your readers to a better authority source on another
website (external linking). Also, when employing linking techniques,
use appropriate and descriptive anchor text, not “click here” to pass
the best link value to these pages.

Choosing a name that is easy to remember: Like any website
or brand name, your blog should not be difficult to remember (see
#3). Keep it simple.

Search-Friendly Platforms

Thankfully, numerous blog platforms meet the 12 basic SEO issues, but choose
wisely and be careful. To recap the CMS post, your blog platform should give
you the ability to make the following choices and customize your site with
some basic SEO elements. As indicated in the list below, some blog
platforms fall short and others give optimal control. Again, consider the pros
and cons of every blog platform you are weighing on before actually
choosing a platform.

1.Title Tag Customization and Rules: Unfortunately, being able to
customize your title tag isn’t always built in for some blogs. In fact, the
self-hosted version of WordPress requires an external plugin (to be
discussed) to customize the title tag. MovableType’s title tag will have
to match the post title (though a capable developer may be able to
circumvent that). In all likelihood, it will not be possible to make these
changes on a free blogging platform.

2.Static, Keyword-Rich URLs: Without a doubt, WordPress is the best
choice for keyword-rich URLs if configured properly. In fact, the
keyword-rich URL (otherwise known as a slug) can be customized to

your needs. MovableType and TypePad, on the other hand, do not have
keyword-rich URLs. The standard URLs have numerous digits in the
filename. ExpressionEngine, like WordPress, gives you the option to
add keyword-rich URLs with a small change: the delimiter between
words is an underscore instead of a dash. While this doesn’t typically
make a big difference on SEO, many people do suggest that dashes are
better between keywords. Even Google’s Matt Cutts suggests dashes.
(While the dashes-versus-underscores debate is evolving, the
recommendation is to stick with dashes.)

3.Meta Tag Customization: While not critical to search (and
consequently of small importance to choosing your search-friendly blog
platform), meta tags have always been a problem for blog owners. You
can specify tags (descriptive labels to websites) which work well with
blog search engines like Technorati and help for bookmarking purposes
with del.icio.us and StumbleUpon, but on the other hand, meta tags
are not easily defined. As in the case of title tag customization,
WordPress has this feature only as an external add-on.

4.Enabling Custom HTML Tags: Fortunately, all blog platforms give
you the freedom to add “nofollow” to URLs that you don’t want to give
outright endorsements to, and depending on the features defined in
your CSS stylesheet, you can use header tags such as H1, H2, etc. Be
advised that adding optional tags to your standard HTML tags is not
something you can do in Visual or WYSIWYG mode – instead, you will
have to edit the source of the blog post to make such changes, as
nofollow is only added if you hand-code it into the post yourself.

5.Internal Anchor Text Flexibility: As this blog post states, “In order to
be ‘optimized’ rather than simply search-friendly, customizing the anchor text
on internal links is critical. Rather than simply making all links in a site's
architecture the page's title, a great CMS should be flexible enough to handle
custom input from the admins as to the anchor text of category-level or
global navigation links.” Internal anchor inflexibility is typically not a
problem with many blog platforms as you can change the anchor text
as needed. However, as an aside, you may want to work with your
developer to employ page sculpting for less-important pages or add
nofollow to links to which you do not want to pass much link juice.

6.Intelligent Categorization Structure: Thankfully, most blog
platforms give you full control over categories and subcategories, and
the number of categories available is limitless. Furthermore,

depending on the software used (WordPress is great at this), you can
specify a different URL slug for your categories and even write a
description which will appear on the category pages.

7.Pagination Controls/Duplicate Content: Depending on whether
you’re hosting your blog software on your server or if you’re hosting
with a free option, the amount of control over pagination varies. If you
host the software yourself and have a development team editing and
updating the source code, you’ll have full control over the source code
and stylesheets and can add nofollows or noindex tags to any pages
that you do not want search engines to crawl. The recommended
suggestion is to use robots.txt, which is something that is only
available if you host the blog yourself. As such, there is a lot less
flexibility on these features when it comes to free hosted solutions.
Refer to this blog post for more information on how to deal with blog
pagination and duplicate content issues.

8.301 Redirect Functionality: Of course, this functionality is best
employed within your own hosting environment. WordPress has its
own 301 redirection plugin as well in case you are changing your file
structure and have hundreds or thousands of blog posts that will need
to be altered.

9.XML/RSS Pinging: All of the platforms discussed in this article have
XML and RSS pinging; without them, it would be debatable if it really
meets the criteria and is considered a “blog.”

10.Image Handling and ALT Tags: All blog applications mentioned in
this article also give you control over image handling. Keep in mind
that the hosted TypePad application has storage limitations depending
on the solution you have purchased, and the same applies for your
own hosted solution (check your quota with your hosting provider if
you have any questions). WordPress gives you incredible control over
ALT tags as you upload the image to the server through the software,
but all other platforms make it possible through editing the code by
hand.

11.CSS Exceptions: If you are hosting the blog yourself, you’ll have
complete control over your stylesheet and can add any CSS rules as
appropriate. Blogger.com also features CSS control, though
WordPress.com does not (and TypePad has this feature available only
for higher-priced subscriptions).

12.Static Caching Options: This is one feature that free bloggers (using
Blogger, WordPress.com, or TypePad) don’t have to worry about. Since
free hosted solutions are typically incredibly scalable, simultaneous
database connections during a traffic surge should not impact
performance on other blogs and won’t bring down your website either
(especially as it’s hosted elsewhere). On the other hand, if you host
MovableType, a static page is created when you publish your post.
WordPress does not offer static caching options out of the box and can
be troublesome because of the constant PHP/MySQL queries (though
there are a variety of third-party plugins to augment caching). Still,
when it comes to WordPress, your hosting configuration and server
resources ultimately determine how stable your WordPress blog will be
under hundreds of concurrent connections.

Plugins and Options for Bloggers

Since WordPress is by far the most prolific blog platform with plugin support,
this section will discuss a number of WordPress plugins available for making
SEO easy.

All in One SEO Pack: If you have to choose one plugin for WordPress to use,
this is the one you need. The All in One SEO Pack gives publishers the ability
to customize the title tag (and make it different from the actual post title)
and to add meta tags to individual posts and the blog’s homepage itself.

Google XML Sitemap: This plugin gives you the ability to create a sitemap that
is search-engine friendly. When a blog post is published, it also automatically
notifies search engines of changes via pinging. As soon as you publish a new
post, the XML sitemap gets updated.

Dagon Design Sitemap Generator: You already have a sitemap for search
engines, but what about for visitors? Dagon Design’s sitemap generator is a
fully customizable sitemap generator that you can add on a single page for
ease of navigation for those human readers. It also allows you to view the
number of comments your blog posts have received at a glance.

Objection Redirection: Making a big page structure overhaul? Use this plugin
to redirect pages without having to edit your .htaccess file.

WP Super Cache: If your server is stressed under an intensive load of
concurrent database connections, WP Super Cache kicks in to serve static
HTML files without processing the heavy PHP scripts. While this is may

suffice as a viable solution and will keep your website up during a traffic
spike, your hosting environment may still have problems with this setup, so
stress testing is absolutely imperative.

Disqus: If you don’t want to manage comments yourself, the Disqus
comments plugin is a social community that also serves as a WordPress
plugin.

WordPress has thousands of plugins available, and many of them support
additional features, including analytics, social integration, and more. The
official WordPress plugin directory can be found at
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/.

Note: Upon starting a new WordPress blog, be sure to set up the permalink
structure appropriately. By default, your URL may be something to the effect
of www.mydomain.com/?p=302. Change this as soon as you get started to
reflect a keyword-rich URL structure and to employ slugs rather than post IDs
within the URL.

Keyword Research, Selection, and Usage

We have already discussed keyword research in our Professional’s Keyword
Research Guide. To summarize key points, keyword research is important
because it builds search traffic, improves the user experience, and exploits
areas of opportunity. You can use a number of tools, including WordTracker,
Google AdWords Keyword Tool, Yahoo! Search Marketing, Microsoft adCenter
Keyword Generation Tool, KeywordDiscovery, KeyCompete, Spyfu, and Keyword
Intelligence (by Hitwise) to brainstorm keywords for your blog content.
Additionally, note the trends and popular keywords using tools such as
Google Trends, del.icio.us, and StumbleUpon (check buzz.stumbleupon.com).

By using these tools, you can get a better idea of what the average
computer user typically searches for. Identify these keywords and phrases
and put them in the content, title, page slug (if applicable), meta tags, alt
tags, bold tags, header tags, and more. As always, keep in mind that blogs
need to be human-readable, so don’t overdo it – as Darren Rowse puts it, “do
not sacrifice your readers’ experience of your site just for the sake of SEO.”
If your website is focused on a specific niche, you’ll be able to apply the
necessary keywords in later articles and posts. For more tips on how to
incorporate appropriate keywords into your blog posts, refer to this post:
Headsmacking Tip #3: Run Your Blog Post Titles Before Keyword Research
Before You Hit Publish.

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