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‘Blogging’ has become more than just a craze online; with even more sophisticated and free systems being made available, everyone and their dog are giving it a try. Sadly enough, not all bloggers are successful. They are ignored by search engines, and very few readers find them. That is too bad because, quite often, the topics and writing style of these blogs is quite good.
While business related blogs are generally geared towards selling products and services, they can be as badly managed as personal blog sites, where individuals talk about their amazing lunch date or the thrilling science fiction movie they saw on the weekend. Either way, without an ample amount of optimization, neither a business nor personal blog will be successful.
Skipping optimization is a fatal error, even if you already have a large following and are financially profitable. Sure, you are successful, but your glory won’t last unless you further your growth, there are always others out there vying for your audience.
There are several reasons why blog optimization is slightly different than the Search Engine Optimization techniques used for standard websites. Most blogs are listed on free, public blog platforms, or are run on someone else’s domain. Depending on a host site, this can have drawbacks, which can greatly affect your ranking – e.g. design issues.
It may not seem obvious at first, but the type of blog template you use is important. Sure, the layout may be quite appealing to you and your readers, but that does not mean that search engines like it. If they don’t, your rankings will suffer and new readers may not find you.
Don’t just optimize to boost your fan club numbers, but also upgrade your blogs to please your repeat visitors. Give them useful tools to work with, and make their viewing experience as enjoyable as possible. If they are hooked, they will spread the word, which is one of the best ways to grow organically.
Optimizing is one of these tasks that should be found on everyone’s maintenance list. Even blog sites scoring high rankings, and appealing to many loyal readers should not let opportunities to grow slip by. You have to constantly check and fix, so the competition does not sneak up on you. Indeed, slow down and your glory days are over.
Applying the following optimizing tips can be very useful in pleasing both the search engines and your users.
#1 Chuck your default template
Find some spare funds to hire an experienced designer. With a fabulous, original look, your blog will stand out and definitely achieve better rankings. If funds a tight and you are unable to hire a professional, at least customize your template with distinctive logos, unique pictures and color upgrades.
#2 Avoid unflattering colours
Despite your personal preferences, hot pink spiced up with neon yellow may not exactly be what your readers find attractive, especially if you are hosting a survival blog page, and not some teenage gossip column. Be smart and select color schemes that fit the theme of your company, or the topics of your text. For instance, softer tones go well for baby and parenting sites, while a dark background may look cool on video gaming sites.
#3 Really Simple Syndication
RSS is a great feature to have, and prevents your followers from ever missing your posts. Hosting blogs who don’t offer it are at a real disadvantage. Add it as soon as you can and ensure the logo is quite visible. If you are tucking it away in a corner underneath all your entries, or place it on your least popular page, it will be virtually useless.
#4 Be generous with your subscription buttons
Fans often want to subscribe to a newsletter or blog. Consequently, they will be looking for the familiar orange RSS logo, as well as other standard icons found on blog sites. Check out similar blogs to yours so you know what kind of links, subscription features, and social network sites are currently in demand.
# 5 Expand with Email
Not everyone uses RSS. Therefore, offer those readers, and others who are interested the option to receive your blog posts by email. If you don’t have the time to send out these automatic blog updates, don’t worry. Many online services can do it for you.
#6 Full Or Partial Feeds?
Depending on your blogging market space, you will have to decide if you are offering full or partial feeds. Before making your final choice, consider your preferences, as well as those of your readers.
#7 Write compelling RSS snippets
Don’t just copy a few words from your blog post for your RSS feed, but write a short, yet compelling piece that will peek your reader’s curiosity. If you have the talent, you could even end your snippet with a cliffhanger.
#8 Format your text properly
Readers are turned off by small fonts and text that is not properly broken down. Nobody wants to read a piece formatted in one big block. Break your text down into short paragraphs and use bullets whenever possible. Use a font that is easy to read.
#9 Use your spell check
Abbreviations are appropriate for text messages and tweets, but should not be used in blogs – unless they are an illustration. Even in this day and age, spelling is still important so use your spell check before publishing your daily ramblings. Don’t ignore it as readers will get frustrated and cancel their subscription. In case you are wondering; editors can also catch typos.
#10 Don’t forget your roadmap
Blogs that are part of a large website or important company should incorporate a navigation bar. Without site navigation, readers will be unable to link to the main pages – and vice versa. A well-laid-out directory can help increase revenue and promote your blogs.
#11 Speed counts
Readers want to read and not grow old while waiting for your blogs to download after clicking the RSS logo. If your hosting company is too slow, it may be worthwhile switching. A 30 second loading time is too long.
#12 Limit your widgets
#13 Deliver descriptive titles
Fascinating titles often result in higher click through rates. Web users will be intrigued and click on your blog rather than the one with the mundane heading. Just make sure that your title matches your content. People do not like to be deceived.
#14 Check your Cascading Style Sheets
When using a standard, pre-fab web design, your template probably has all your CSS already placed in an external file, but if you opted to go custom-made, you may want to inspect your blog designer’s handy work. CSS that are not put in an external file can clutter up your pages, and create havoc.
#15 Keep those posts coming
Do you want those search engine bots to visit frequently? All you have to do is post often. Although giants like, for instance, Google, Yahoo, Bing, MSN are important, do not just post to increase your rankings. Write regular blogs because you love it, want to keep your site fresh, and because you want your readers to feel appreciated.
#16 Link, link and link
References are cool, just don’t forget to link back to the original articles, blogs, studies, or whatever other source you used. By incorporating those links into your blogs you can make other bloggers aware of your presence. Adding links will increase both your and their traffic.
#17 Use the right anchor text
Web users are pretty smart and know where to find links. When you are creating a link to someone else’s blog, or even one of your previous entries, don’t create an anchor text that says “click here.” Instead use part of your blog entry – a single word, an expression, or a short phrase.
#18 Create original blog entries
More bloggers will link to you if your stories are unique. Everyone rehashes already existing content when inspiration is low; just do not make it a habit. The more you do it, the bigger your chances of being caught. Fresh blogs are in high demand, and if you’re lucky, may also go viral. Wouldn’t that make your day?!
#19 Draw attention through related post plugins
We’ve all heard it before; customize the functionality of your applications through plugins. It really makes sense, because through your plugins and deeplinks you can keep your archived blog posts in the spotlight. It would be a shame to bury those wonderful oldies. Bringing them back to life will give the search engines a little kick, and remind your fans of all your talents.
#20 Often ping
You should ping other websites every time you publish a new blog entry. I’m sure they want to know your site is still active and alive. You can also list your blog with ‘Google’s Blog Search,’ which will speed up the indexing process. Some blog platforms have automatic pinging included in their control panel. If that is not an option, employ a service like Ping-o-Matic to update different search engines about your new blog.
#21 Get your own domain name
Free hosting companies work great as long as they are around. Life happens and what will you do when they suddenly fold? It would not be the first time a blog host went out of business, and all their customers are out on the Cyber Street. Imagine how hard it would be to start all over elsewhere and retrieve all your faithful readers. All the heartbreak and hard work! Prevent this from happening by getting your own domain name.
#22 Manage both comment & trackback spam
Search engines like Google and Yahoo dislike spammy links. If they find heaps of them on your site, be prepared to carry the consequences. Stop harmful messages and deceiving links by managing comments and trackbacks before they ruin your reputation. Many efficient blog platform managing tools are available online.
#23 Upgrade your URL structure
Changing your standard numbered permalinks to a more search engine friendly version will increase your online visibility. If, by any chance, your blog platform uses unconventional URLs for their entries, check to see if bots an easily crawl them.
#24 Set up related categories
Aside from the main category, also list your blogs in 1 to 3 subcategories. Consider your keywords in your titles, and make sure the categories you select are all relevant to your blog’s topic.
These tips all make sense and are worth trying.
Really, who wants to wait around for Google to show up for an index session?
Why hesitate to jumpstart the process, and take the lead when you have all the necessary tools at your disposal?
As a blogger, who is unfamiliar with search engine optimization, you are bound to run into challenges. Don’t let the problems stop you, as only by trial and error will you learn. Believe it, you are not the first one stuck in a rut, and you won’t be the last!
This is a guest post by Michael Jenkins who is the director of Shout Web Strategy which is a firm in Melbourne specializing in Search, conversion rate optimization and web usability.