Improving Your Blog: The Google Game
I’m the first to admit that I, too, was sucked into the Google Game, the game of playing with my blog to ensure the success of my blog’s participation in Google world domination control of all things searchable. As part of my ongoing series on improving your blog tips, one of the redundant bits of advice I give to my clients is how to play the Google Game while not playing the Google Game.
Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Playing the Google Games means understanding how Google’s PageRank algorithm works, which is much like predicting the stock market in relationship to the weather. Sometimes the weather cooperates, as does the stock market, but other times, both are unpredictable and based upon factors that twist and turn in the wind.
Have no doubt that as much as you want to play the Google Game, they have a team of experts determined to catch every underhanded method you can come up with. You are not the first to come up with these ideas. And they can change the rules at any time, as they did recently with the global PageRank zero-out. It means you aren’t playing with a fair player in a fair game.
Here are the basic tips I give my web consultation clients when it comes to SEO and the Google Game.
Google Ain’t The Only Game in Town
While the SEO world seems to revolve around Google, wiser, older search engine optimization and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) experts remember life before Google and know that Google isn’t the end all and be all of life on the web.
Many people, including the ones you want to visit your blog, use the search engine that came with their computer. They use MSN. Others use Yahoo, or a commercialized version of Yahoo that matches their computer manufacturer such as the Dell version of Yahoo. Since they trusted the company to buy their computer, the browser and search engine that came with it must be good, right?
Do you use AOL still and search through their search engine? Or the search engine version that came with your Internet Provider or email service? What about Ask.com which is growing in interest.
Are you writing and developing your blog with Yahoo, AOL, or MSN in mind?
What about international search engines? How is your coverage on alternative search engines?
Google wasn’t always around, and though they are trying, there will be someone to replace them in popularity. So don’t put all your eggs in the Google Game basket. Develop your blog to be an equal opportunity search engine optimized site. Be open to all the possibilities available to find your blog.
- Submit your blog’s information to DMOZ – Open Directory, supposedly the largest manually created directory of websites. Be sure and put the information into the appropriate and specific sub-category.
- Take advantage of pings.
- Create or use a sitemap with a WordPress Plugin to build a roadmap/table of contents of your blog for search engine web crawlers.
- Submit/ping your blog’s information to international directories and/or search engines.
- Submit/ping your blog’s information to subject-specific search engines and/or directories.
- Submit your blog’s information to social networking, bookmarking, and feed services appropriate to your blog’s content as many are skipping search engines completely and finding blogs through these services.
Let Keywords Count
Without a fact, no matter which search engine is being used to search for your blog, if you don’t have the words the searcher is searching for, you won’t be found.
It doesn’t matter how much you play the game, if the words are missing, how can you be found? It’s that simple.
Pack your site with images, flash, video, podcasts, and other multimedia, and without the words, it doesn’t matter. You won’t be found or it will be harder to be found.
If your site does pop up in their search results, make sure the post title, blog title, and first 100 words of the post excerpt have those critical keywords within them that shouts out “I have your answer here!” This is your only chance to make an impression, so make it a good one.
Put keywords or search terms in your post title, headings, content, links, and images. Use whole words not WP for WordPress or other abbreviations. Use the words you would use to search for the same information.
If you don’t have the words they are searching for, how will you be found?
Check Your Code
Anything that gets in the way of a search engine’s crawl through your site stops a search engine from indexing your site. search engine optimization really means making sure the search engine can get through your site without interference.
Validate your site’s design and coding to ensure that it meets web standards. Your site doesn’t have to be totally error free. Some errors that are hard to consistently prevent, and search engines ignore them. The errors you need to track down and fix are ones that stop a web crawler, redirect it, or bork your web page generation at any point, which blocks search engine web crawlers as well as readers.
Some savvy search engine algorithms, such as Google’s, now penalizes sites that are error-filled or designed with old web design methods such as tables. They’ve put in “rules” that assume a well and properly designed site is one that is run by a caring and knowledgeable webmaster.
This may or may not be true, and honestly, how would they really know the compassion of a webmaster, especially when they can pick up any WordPress Theme for free, trusting that the designer knew what they were doing cuz they sure don’t? Still, I’ve seen table-based designs take a hit in page ranking scores, as do other poorly structured designs. Why risk it with old fashioned HTML and code?
Server Your Readers First, Search Engines Last
So much energy goes into getting search engines to find your blog and push your blog posts up the ranks, it often takes away from the first thing to serve on your blog: your readers.
In order to build web traffic, you have to turn visitors into readers. Not long ago, I told the story of how a comment on my blog turned into a blog post about the blogger, whose traffic when from double digits to through-the-roof overnight. This is a blessing for any blogger, as it scoring high on Digg or getting a mention on any popular blog, but it doesn’t matter four or five days from now if there wasn’t enough content – quality content – on the site to fascinate the visitors and turn them into readers. The blog stats will drop right down to double digits and little will be gained.
Before you start trying to incite a riot to mob your blog, how about putting several months of work into building a body of work on your blog. Something for the visitors to check out and spend some time with rather than three unrelated posts.
If you put all your energy into the Google Game, there is little left over for quality content, the kind of content that gets your blog post linked to and recommended. The kind of quality that speaks highly of you and your expertise. The kind of content that makes people want to be your friend.
I’ve recently been in discussion with someone trying to game search engines and bring immediate attention to his blog with black hat SEO methods by creating many blogs that link to his main one. He thinks this is the road to blogging success.
Word-of-mouth can kill a blog faster than Google if you’re caught gaming the system and not playing “fair”. If you want to build your reputation via your blog, it’s the people’s opinion that really matters, not Google. The blogosphere is big, but word “gets around” quickly.
I really think that we’ve played the Google Game long enough. With all of us playing the Google Game, no one wins as there is too much competition and the game is up for Google. They are constantly figuring out how to put new controls on the game.
Put your energy into serving the readers and becoming an expert in your field, a voice people recognize and respect, instead of playing the game. You will naturally build traffic, and use your energy and time wisely and more efficiently.
Article Series on Improving Your Blog Tips
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.
…and not caring. :)
Very helpful series. I wonder if encouraging collaboration is also a point. Blogging is about starting a discourse. Would a blog improve if it invited people to improve its content, via commenting and discussing? Or is this the field of wikis? Is the purpose of a blog to ‘collect’ passive readers, or pose questions to the community?
Encouraging collaboration is an interesting point, but rarely covered by most of my clients who are into “themselves” and their needs rather than the needs of the blog.
I did do a series here in Learning the Art of Guest Blogging, which covers many of these issues.
Does a blog improve with multiple bloggers? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Can’t make a blanket generalization as it depends upon the blog. Diluting your content and “expertise” doesn’t make you an expert blogger, though it can jazz things up once in a while.
As to the purpose of a blog, that’s also wide open and subject to a lot of debate. If you ever get a sound answer, please let me know. :D
For a business, the purpose of a blog is to provide communication and customer support, and improve the company’s reputation. They often don’t think in terms of “community” though they should.
Great post and great site. I can’t believe I had not been here before…
I think you forgot to mention what programs like adsense have brought to the google game as well, and the breed of “new webmasters” that this game has created. I think the majority of these webmasters dream about earning a living online without really earning it…and who can blame them?