SEO, or search engine optimization, can be a mysterious thing so as my follow-up to Ten Technorati Tips, here are ten ways to increase your blog's presence on Google, Yahoo and other search engines.
If you are an experienced blogger feel free to leave sage advice in the comments. If you have questions or would like information on a different blogging subject, leave a comment. For more basic blogging information, check out a new blog called Blogging Basics 101 which opened for business this week.
1. Make sure the search engines spiders are crawling your blog, or in other words, submit your blog's URL to Google by going to Google's submission page. Go to Yahoo's submission page and MSN, and do the same thing (AOL is powered by Google and therefore if you're read by Google you'll be read by AOL). Everything I've read says that submitting to any other search engines is unnecessary. There are sights out there such as Submit Enginez that claim to allow you to submit to twenty or more search engines at once but I don't know if they are effective or necessary.
2. Make a plan about which keywords you'd like to use in your blog. Go to Google's Keyword Tool (or Digital Point Solution's Keyword Suggestion Tool or View Bids) which evaluate key words by the number of searches performed and type in a word such as "Alaska" and you'll see the various phrases that include the word "Alaska" and how popular each is. For example, you can see that "Alaska," "Anchorage, Alaska," "Alaska cruise," and "Alaskan" are the most popular and the relative price advertisers will pay for those phrases when placing their ads on your blog.
Run through various words or phrases that you feel describe your blog and see what combination gets a comfortable amount of traffic. Be careful, trying to compete against the most popular words is more difficult, so pick words that aren't obscure but that aren't at the top of the list.
4. Start "optimizing" your blog for those key words. Make sure your page title--or the title you see at the top of your blog page, on this page it says "Scribbit|Motherhood in Alaska"--reflects those key words.
On Blogger you can add this by going into your template and in the first line after the head tag where it says title followed by $BlogPageTitle$ type whatever key word phrase you'd like to use. On this blog I've targeted the words "motherhood" and "Alaska" so I added the phrase |motherhood in Alaska after my title. And it's worked. If you go to Google and type in those two words you'll see I'm the first entry.
5. Turn your attention to other places key words are used in your blog. That means abandoning the cute, fluffy, catchy titles for posts that are so tempting but absolutely useless when it comes to SEO. Short, informative titles with effective key words are what you're looking for.
For example, last month I did a quick little post about getting a new camera. I took a picture, uploaded it and without much thought titled it My New Camera. Makes sense, right? Simple, personal, to the point. However it was quickly pointed out to me that a better title would have been "My New Canon Powershot SD 600." Now perhaps that's a bit long and involved but if I had titled the post "My New Canon Powershot" or "My New Canon Powershot SD 600" whenever someone searches for Canon or Canon Powershot I would be high on the list. The word "camera" is vague enough that I have little chance of finding the first page of Google with that in my title.
So avoid obscure titular references, quotes or phrases and incorporate key words that the crawlers will notice and write posts that will produce titles worthy of search engine notice.
6. Remember this same principle when linking to other sites. Do you notice how in this post whenever I have a link to another site I list the title of the article or site by name? It is common among Bloggers to incorporate links casually by writing click here but every time you post a link that way you've wasted an opportunity for the search engines to notice you.
So not only are nouns key words, proper nouns are key words too and mentioning your links by name grabs Google's attention.
7. This same principle holds true for images. When you have an image on your blog, such as on your sidebar, adding a title to the image is one more way to insert key words into your blog.
For example, on my sidebar at the bottom of that lengthy list of collapsible menus is "Buttons and Awards." Click on the plus sign to expand the menu and you'll see a long list of images. If you allow your cursor to hover over each image, you'll see that a title for the image appears. Now I haven't done this for each image, there are a couple I've forgotten, but most have titles that will appear.
Each one of these titles will be noticed by the search engines and will connect me to anyone searching for those titles.
To do this, use this html and type title="Whatever You Want the Title to Be" alt="Whatever You Want the Title to Be" in between img and src= in the html for the image.
8. Beware of using--for lack of a better word and to refrain from breaking this rule myself--dirty words or phrases. If you use certain words in your posts or titles, however innocently, the search engines make no differentiation and will catalogue you accordingly.
Now this may be fine with you, but then again you may not want visitors looking for questionable content, especially if you have pictures of your children and family posted. Because I discuss my life so openly I try to avoid using words that would bring unwanted visitors and so far my Google analytics tell me the most colorful search I've had is "my husband wears my pajamas." I'd like to keep it that way.
9. Avoid things that can damage your Google ranking. Rather than spend time listing the various things that can hurt your blog, I'll just refer you to this comprehensive article Search Engine Ranking Factors. Scroll down to where it discusses detrimental factors and make sure you're not doing anything so offensive as spamming your blog with keywords, stealing content, hijacking a URL or posting offensive content. All are red flags for the search engines.
10. Build up your links. No one knows exactly how Google sorts and ranks and crawls each site--it's a secret algorithm that is more carefully guarded that the recipe for Coca Cola--but links are a big part of it. The number of sites linking to you and the number of sites you link to are all measured and weighed as is the authority of an inbound link.
So the point is, if you have many sites linking to you--especially sites that are big and have authority--then your Google ranking will be higher. For example, a couple months ago I got a couple links from The Anchorage Daily News and it instantly improved my Google ranking on unrelated posts.
Finally, remember that SEO is more art than science. For additional reading, if you are a fluent coder SEO Guide for Beginners may be helpful (but don't be fooled, it's really not that basic) and Optimizing Your Blog for Search Engines is an article that talks about Section 508 and 301 redirect and sitemaps which will keep you busy with more techy details.
SEOMoz is a blog that deals entirely with Search Engine Optimization that frequently has helpful articles.
Problogger has many helpful articles with easily digestable information, a few of which include: Search Engine Optimization for Blogs, SEO Tip 1 Use Keywords in Titles, Formatting Images for SEO, and Search Engine Optimization for Blogger Blogs.
Technorati tags: Alaska, SEO, blogging, Google