Bloggers are amazing for a number of different reasons, but one that has always stood out for me is the need for bloggers to be experts in many different fields, from writing, to design and marketing and advertising to name but a few. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for those who might not be familiar with the term, is, according to Adwordsedge, a general term used to describe specific techniques that can be used on websites in order to rank favorably with search engine. It can also apply as a term to describe people who actually do SEO for a living, as a noun as opposed to a verb.
But for this guide we’ll take a look at the search engine optimization as another tool in the ways you can promote your blog. This guide is by no means complete, or even heavy in detail, but is meant as a basic view of tactics and things that work to assure that you blog can be found, and hopefully discovered by people using search engines.
If you’re serious about getting a good spot in the search engines, or even about blogging in general, you need your own domain name. First and foremost they are cheap, so there is little excuse for you not to own one. I can go back to 97 when I first bought a domain name, I think I paid about $120 USD for 2 years for it. Today I pay $8.95 per year, and some sites charge even lower than this. Hosting for your domain is pretty cheap as well, with plenty of quality offerings out there for under $10 USD per month, of even $100 USD per year. Some can be as low as a couple of dollars a month, the price of a cup of coffee.
There are two schools of thought in regards to the structure of your domain name: practical or colorful. Practical domain names involve at least one key word that states the topic of your blog, but ideally more. For example Weblog Empire’s The Gadget Blog has the URL of www.thegadgetblog.com Unimaginative, sure, but highly practical. Another example is PVRSpot, the Weblog Empire PVR News and views blog with the URL of www.pvrspot.com. One keyword in the URL followed by another word that isn’t relevant but tries to be catchy. For colorful go straight to Gawker Media and do not pass go…domain names such as Kotaku, Gawker, Wonkette to name but a few. Personally, as you can see I generally prefer practical, because having keywords in the URL make it easier for your blog to be picked up for those keywords in Google. Colourful domain names are great, but lose on two counts for me: firstly they are harder to get search engine traffic from, and secondly they can be difficult to spell as well, which can mean lost traffic.
There are lots of different thoughts on hosting when it comes to search engine optimization, and I’m not going to pretend that I know which ones are right. There is more information in my guide here for DIY Blog Hosting that may be of interest if you are looking for a host, but as a rough list there is some things I can share from experience. Firstly, there are no major problems with shared hosting. Some people will tell you that shared hosting is the root cause of all evil and it can hamper you in getting your site indexed. I’ve never experienced it over maybe half a dozen hosts in the last 3 years. Personally I have my own a unique IP address for my sites that’s exclusive to the network not each blog. This is usually a cheap add on for many hosts, so if you are concerned about shared hosting I’d recommend getting your own IP address just to be sure.
Make sure your blogs have appropriate information in the meta tags so the search engines now what they are looking at. Most major blogging packages will allow you to do with from within their administration areas.
SEF Blog URLs
More available here on this one.
Links are the No.1 most important feature of getting a decent place in the search engines, and subsequently in building your site. First and foremost though: don’t go out and do silly things like setting up link farms (sites that are there for no other reason than to provide links) or posting to FFA Links pages, because generally speaking they don’t work. There are some legitimate strategies for getting links to your blog.
– Link from your own blogs if you own others is the easiet one. In may case I can usually get most search engines to visit within 24-48 hours to a new site using my own blogs alone.
– Swap links with like-minded bloggers: put up a notice saying your happy to swap links, or if you see someone else with a similar notice take up the offer. Where possible keep roughly on topic where you can
– Buy links: text links are the best in terms of SEO, make sure where possible its not behind code/ script and don’t pay top dollar. Even if its a week or a few weeks, you get picked up more by search engines and you’ll even get some extra traffic as well.
– Comment: seek out like minded blogs and comment on them, although they may not count with sites that use link=nofollow (a tag that blocks search engine tracking if you like) it exposes you and your blog to new readers who then might visit and put links on their own blogs. Its always important to remember secondary effects as well. Weblogs Inc., has the best blogs now for commenters because they reward commenters with a table which ranks their posts and provides links to their sites. Please though, with all blogs, make sure that you are interested in the post and you’ve got something useful to say. Never, ever comment spam.
– Advertising: although they are not suppose to make a difference I’ve found Google Adwords helpful in building a bit of extra traffic which has then provided links as well, secondary effect again.
I hope this is useful for those perhaps new to blogging or as a refresher to others. If your more interested in SEO tactics there are any number of sites out there on the subject you can read, but my final advice is this: if you don’t feel confortable with the tactics being suggested by myself or anyone else out there on the net: don’t do them. Many tactics suggested elsewhere are morally wrong, and in many cases break the rules at the major search engines. Sure, some can deliver short term gain, but they rarely ever deliver long term gain.