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Technical SEO Considerations For Websites

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seo There is a fine balance in SEO between focusing on user experience at the same time as search engines. Once a sweet spot is found, the balancing act has to be ongoing because both are interdependent of each other. Users understand that a great deal goes on behind the scenes of a website to make it amazing, but a certain amount of respect must be earned before they are willing to engage with it. Broken links, malware, slow loading pages and unresponsive designs are just a fraction of issues that can badly affect the usability and reputation of a website. The same can also be said for brick and mortar stores. If a store is untidy and hazardous or the staff are rude and ignorant there is very little chance that a customer will buy anything or go back to that place. One of Google’s own philosophies is to “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” For webmasters they advise a similar ethos by favoring websites that provide engaging, as opposed to thin, content.

Here is a hypothetical scenario. With everything above in mind, a web developer goes away and comes up with the most innovative, jaw dropping, responsive website that has ever existed. It attracts heaps of links, social shares and citations across the web and has even won awards for being so stupidly great. The website owners search for themselves in Google and are shocked to see that they don’t even rank for their own URL. After a closer inspection it is found that search engine bots are being blocked from crawling the website, there 40 products, it takes 15 seconds to load and it’s hosted in North Korea. For the sake of this example, that is actually possible. It is unbelievable that such simple issues can completely hold back a website. Without a basic understanding of SEO there is no way that a person would know what is wrong.

The problems above can be diagnosed and fixed in the following ways:

Firstly, install Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster. This is very important unless you have the time and patience to trawl through access logs. Although using Splunk to view access logs makes life easier.

Check robots.txt

Search for the following www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt to see what is blocking search engines from crawling your website. The most common mistake webmasters make is this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

This will stop all robots from crawling your website, although Google will list your website in the search results, it won’t show any content. To fix this problem change the robots.txt or add a new one like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow:

Check Meta NoIndex

Unlike blocking with robots.txt the html meta tag, noindex stops your site from being indexed completely. This can be useful when applied to certain pages that you don’t want to be indexed at all. It usually appears at in the header of a page and looks like this:

<META NAME=”robots” CONTENT=”noindex, nofollow”>

If the website title is not even showing in the search results then this could be why.

Check for sitewide rel=canonical

In 2009 Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft acknowledged the use of rel=canonical. This tag gives webmasters the option to remedy duplicate content issues by stating which version of a page is the most important. This in turn signals to a search engine that it should disregard the lower priority page in favor of the most important one. However if the tag is inserted into a global header it can cause a major problem. All of the pages on a website will be regarded as duplicates of whatever page is in the tag. This is how it looks in the of a source code:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/about/” />

Google only takes the preference into account and should not be substituted for permanent redirects. 301 redirects affect both the search engine bot and user experience in that a URL automatically switches to a new one, specified by the webmaster. They also pass some strength from one page to another which is another reason why they should be a first option. Problems arise when these redirects become chained. This occurs when a page goes from A to B to C to D to E at once. For the user this could go from A to E without any indication of the URLs in between. However this could cause search engine bots to give up crawling which stops your content from being indexed. For more information about duplicate content and canonicalisation take a look at this post.

Check for faceted navigation problems

A common issue that arises a lot with larger websites has to do with faceted navigation. This is where users are able to filter content based on facets such as color, size, price, language. It mostly occurs in eCommerce websites but can also affect other sites where each of these parameters can be changed to serve different content to a user. In some cases this can waste a search engine bot’s time and will cause it to leave your website. Every search engine bot has a budget for each website and it crawls them based on factors related to the underlying strength of that site. Once that budget is depleted it finishes and moves onto another website. If bots are being sent on wild goose chases because of hundreds of irrelevant variations of one item or product then the other, more important pages, are missing out. For example, if a page can be ordered alphabetically there is no need to index it twice because it is the same content in reverse.

This can be fixed in the Configuration > URL Parameters section of Google Webmaster Tools and Index > URL Normalization in Bing Webmaster. Here you can find a video of how to configure them for Google.

Check page load time

PageSpeed Insights by Google is an extension that allows you to test the speed of a website. It gives you a score out of 100 and pointers on how to improve your score. In 2010, Google incorporated page load time into its ranking signals which helps both usability and visibility in Google.

Check the current hosting provider

Another reason why a website is running slow could be due to the hosting provider. Search for the domain name in Netcraft to see where in the world it is hosted and which other websites on or the server. Hosting providers with full servers can slow a website down by making it queue up to serve content to a user. Servers that go down a lot also have a serious impact on rankings and usability. Signing up an account with Pingdom allows you to set up regular checks which notify you about the health of a server as an when an event occurs. If you run a busy blog website it would be important to know if it goes down. Pingdom can alert you by SMS if something does happen.

With these bare bones laid out, you can be search engine friendly and focus on creating great content for your users.

Guest Posting isn’t Dead (…Yet)

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Early this month, I was having a conversation about guest posting with a friend of mine. This is a topic I have personally been examining over the last year, so when he asserted that “guest posting is dead,” I had to voice my opposition.

I do, however, think that guest posting expectations bloggers have are sometimes a bit out of whack. Guest posting isn’t dead any more than blogging itself is dead, but the way some bloggers go about guest posting is certainly putting it on life support.

(If you’re new to guest posting, you might want to check out our five-part series on guest posting, which will help you write better posts and place these posts on great blogs, as well as our beginner’s guide to guest posting.)

Guest Posting the Wrong Way

Guest posting started as a simple theory: if you write a free post for another blogger and his/her readers like it, they’ll come back to your blog via the link at the end of your post and become a member of your community as well.

I can tell you from tons of personal experience that this doesn’t usually happen, at least, not at a rate that makes your hard work worthwhile.

Even if you write a guest post for a well-known, popular blogger, that traffic isn’t going to translate. Readers are fans of certain blogs because they like that specific blogger. You’re someone new, unknown, not to be trusted. A small percentage of people who read your post – even if they like it – will actually click the link in your bio, and an even smaller percentage will actually become long-term readers on your blog.

If you go into guest posting with the expectation that you’re going to get tons of traffic and new readers to your own blog, you’re likely going to be sorely disappointed.

Guest Posting = Branding, Not Immediate Traffic

I still recommend guest posting, however, because if you do it properly, you can end up with tons of new readers. It’s about being strategic.

Guest posting is about branding. You want your name to suddenly start popping up everywhere so people start to recognize it. If you write a one-time guest post on another site, you might get a few curious readers coming to your own blog, but if the same readers start to see your name everywhere, they’re going to start to wonder who you are, and if they like your content, they’re going to end up on your blog sooner or later.

So, think about guest posts in terms of groups of posts going out over the course of a week, not just single posts here or there. Immediate traffic shouldn’t be the goal; you’ll see traffic over time as name recognition builds.

Guest Posting for SEO

Guest posts are also great for SEO purposes. You do have to be careful about putting too much stock into a single type of link-building, since Google is constantly changing, but having your link without a post on a popular blog can help your search engine standings. Even better than linking back to your homepage in the bio is to link to specific posts relevant about the topic within the guest post you write. Don’t overdo it or your host will likely turn down the post, but definitely link to posts on your blog when relevant and helpful to the reader.

Relationship Building with Guest Posts

My favorite reason to guest post is to build relationships with other bloggers. If you offer a well-written, interesting guest post for another blogger, you’re giving them free content that they can’t get anywhere else. It’s a great way to get on someone’s radar. Often, I’ve guest posted for someone and they’ve gone on to become a long-term reader of my blog, even though they had previously never heard of me (or just knew me as one of the bajillon commenters on their site). Relationships with other bloggers in your niche are invaluable.

Managing Expectations

At the end of the day, guest posting is simply about managing your expectations. If you are looking for massive traffic numbers, especially right away, this is not an technique worth your time. If you’re taking a more “slow and steady wins the race” approach to blogging and interested in benefits other than traffic, guest posting is definitely a great blog-building technique to add to your promotional activities.

Interested in getting the most out of a guest post – or really any post you write on any blog? Jon Morrow is coming to NMX Las Vegas this January to present a session on the Anatomy of a 100,000 Visitor Post. You don’t want to miss this one!

The Monsters of the SEO World [Infographic]

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For every good SEO out there, you’ll find an evil twin – and SEO who uses black hat techniques to manipulate search engines. Google will never be able to keep up. I suspect that somewhere out there, there’s a creepy, dark castle headquarters where SEOs with waxed mustaches and monocles evilly laugh as they come up with new ways to game the system.

In this infographic from SmugGecko via Visual.ly, you’ll find an overview of today’s most common SEO “monsters.” In your pursuit to get to the top of Google’s results, make sure you’re not turning into any of these monsters yourself.

If you want to learn how to do SEO the right way, join us for NMX in Las Vegas! Every year, we feature sessions from leaders in SEO who can teach you white hat techniques for dominating Google.

A Beginner’s Guide to SEO Basics

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Earlier this year, I wrote a post called “The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter Basics” about how to use Twitter if you’re brand new to the platform. Month after month, it is one of the highest-trafficked posts here on the BlogWorld blog. You know what that tells me? It tells me that sometimes I forget that a lot of people have no experience with blogging and social media and are craving 101-level posts.

So today, I wanted to tackle another topic that seems difficult from the eyes of a newbie: search engine optimization, or SEO. If you want to learn SEO from the experts so that you have the top rank on Google for any keyword you choose, this is not the place for you. However, I think that if you’re a blogger that doesn’t know a darn thing about SEO, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. If you just take a moment to learn the basics, you can get your blog in front of a lot more eyeballs! And no, you don’t have to jeopardize your content to do it.

What is SEO? Why Should I Care?

One of the first things I did as a new freelance writer back in 2005ish was google “What is SEO?” I had no clue, but a lot of my clients were asking if I was skilled in that department, and I wanted to be able to say yes! If you have no idea what SEO is or why you should care, don’t worry. We were all in that boat at one time.

Think about  how your website gets traffic. Some people come to your blog when others retweet or like or otherwise share your links through social media sites. Some people come to your blog when it is linked in another blogger’s post or sidebar. Some people are regular readers or perhaps even subscribed to you RSS feed. But chances are that a large percentage of your traffic comes from search engines. SEO (again, that stands for search engine optimization) is your way of making your blog as visible as possible on search engines so that the people who could most benefit from or who will most enjoy what you write actually find you.

You’ll hear the word keyword thrown around a lot when talking about SEO. This is essentially the word (or words) someone types into a search engine when looking for something. So, think about the keywords your target audience are using. When they search for those keywords, you want your site to pop up as high as possible on the results list. Makes sense, right? The higher you are on the results list, the more likely readers will click through to your site.

As an example, let’s say you blog about movies and you were writing a review of Toy Story 3. You might want to optimize your post so that people searching for “Toy Story 3 reviews” and “reviews of Toy Story” and maybe even “Pixar movie reviews” see your site on page one of their search engine results list.

Good SEO can mean a lot of traffic to your blog. Even just the bare minimum can mean that you show up in the search results on page one whereas before you were on page 17.

Fact: SEO advice is always changing.

One of the most annoying things about SEO is that it is forever changing. What worked back in 2001 isn’t going to work today, ten years later. Heck, what worked last week might not work today. Search engines change the way they rate sites (their algorithm) constantly because if they didn’t, people would just game the system as much as possible.

So if you’re reading this ten years from now…sorry, dude. I suspect the information here is a little outdated! The same might be true a week from now. But I’ve tried to include tips that are as evergreen as possible. These are the basics, the building blocks of good SEO. It’s the bare minimum you should be doing if you want search engine traffic.

Making Your Website SEO Friendly

First and foremost, make sure that your overall website is friendly for search engines. Have you ever seen what the code of your website looks like? If you don’t know HTML, it looks like a mess, right? Well, essentially, that’s what a search engine sees. Kind of like the matrix, but without Keanu Reeves. In other words, a search engine doesn’t see pictures or your fancy site design. Those things might be great for your users, but you want to make sure search engines can index your site as well.

If you use WordPress or another popular blogging platform, chances are that you don’t have to do much to ensure your site is visible and easily picked up by search engines. Make sure your navigation makes sense (something you want to do anyway for your readers) and avoid too much javascript or a silly flash intro that search engines can’t understand. Create a few static pages to serve as anchors on your website, include some sitemap options (like an archives page or menu), change your options so that your permalinks are “pretty” (i.e., not just a bunch of random letters or numbers), and update often. Pretty easy, right?

Oh, and when picking your domain name, think about SEO. Branding is important too, of course, but if the URL of your homepage has nothing to do with your site’s topic, SEO will be a little more difficult. There’s a reason why RealEstate.com is higher on the list than Zillow.com for the keyword real estate, even though both sites are extremely relevant to someone searching for that term.

Individual Post SEO

The easiest way to make sure your individual posts are optimized for search engines is to download a free plugin to help you do just that. I like the All in One SEO Pack for WordPress, but there are lots of options. Some themes also have an SEO option built in. These plugins help you easily change the meta information for the post – basically, what a search engine sees rather than what the reader sees. For a title, you want to write what the post is about in as few words as possible, using a keyword that makes sense for the post if you can. For a description, type just that – a description of the post about the length of a Tweet, that uses keywords. For keywords…type your keywords. That’s pretty easy too, right?

So, going back to our example of a post with your review of Toy Story 3, even though you might think up some kind of clever title for the actual post, you’d probably want your SEO options to be something like:

  • Title: Toy Story 3 Movie Review
  • Description: Movie review of Toy Story 3 with discussion of Tim Allen as Buzz and Tom Hanks as Woody. Should you see Toy Story 3 with your kids? Read Toy Story movie opinions.
  • Keywords: Toy Story 3, Toy Story, Toy Story 3 movie review, Pixar movie review, Woody in Toy Story, Buzz in Toy Story, movie reviews

Essentially, your keywords can be the same as your post’s tags. Make sure you include tags and also categorize your posts well, as this will help with overall site SEO.

As you’re typing your post, be conscious of the keywords someone would use to find your post and sprinkle them as it makes sense. You don’t have to change your writing style much and you definitely shouldn’t stuff your post with keywords (this could actually hurt you), but as you’re writing, just keep keywords in mind and use them where they make sense. People have written entire websites and books about how to best use keywords; but again, I’m not an expert and the rules change a lot, so unless you’re passionate about SEO and have the time to invest in learning it, start with the basics of just “using keywords where they make sense.”

A few other quick tips:

  • Name your pictures. Nobody is searching for “IMG1290812” but lots of people are searching “Woody in Toy Story 3.”
  • If the title of your post is something crazy that is interesting but does not include your keywords, consider changing the permalink. Instead of yoursite.com/super-awesome-kids-movie-that-is-lightyears-ahead-of-the-rest, change it to yoursite.com/toy-story-3-movie-review.
  • Link to old posts within your new posts. When you add the link, do so with a keyword that makes sense, not just “click here.” Don’t overdo this and link to dozens of posts in the matter of a a single paragraph, but try to link to yourself at least once a post.

SEO and Links

One of the best things you can do for SEO is something you should be doing anyway – write awesome posts. If your content is awesome, people will link to you within their own posts, on social media sites, in comments, and more, and links are extremely valuable. When a search engine sees a link on someone else’s site to one of your post, they think, “Oh, so that blogger found this post interesting/informative/worthy enough to add a link on their own site? It must be good!”

That’s how I imagine computers think, anyway, if we could hear their inner monologues.

Basically, it’s a vote for your site, kind of like a thumbs up on Facebook. The more “votes” your site has via links, the better! And if you write great content, you’re naturally going to have more people linking to you. So if you do nothing else, blow us away with what you have to say so people share your link as much as possible.

Hope that gets you started with SEO. If you’re experienced with this topic, I hope you’ll leave your best top for beginners below as a comment to help us newbies learn more!

Will Sub-Domains Help You Recover from the Google Panda Update?

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If you were one of the many people who’s sites were affected by the Google Panda update, most likely you are still trying to figure out how to bounce back. The update showed us one thing – that Google wants quality content, so those who have been hit are doing their best to give Google what they’re looking for.

Content is king, as we all know, but there might be some other tweaks you can make to help you climb back up the Google ladder. According to HubPages.com, it looks like they may have stumbled upon something that is helping make a difference.

HubPages.com was one of the largest sites hit by the Google Panda update. According to Paul Edmondson, it’s chief executive, after the update their web traffic dropped by 50%. That’s a huge drop, especially for a site which does have a lot of quality content.

So, what’s the secret? Sub-domains. You see, Google’s search engine had indexed some pages that were tied to “ww.hubpages.com” rather than “hubpages.com,” and they were ranking higher. Was this just a fluke of some sort? I don’t think so.

Edmondson sent an email to Google asking if sub-domains would make a difference in their rankings and he was told in an email that he might want to try them. They started implementing this in late June and here are the early results as reported by WSJ:

The HubPages subdomain testing began in late June and already has shown positive results. Edmondson’s own articles on HubPages, which saw a 50% drop in page views after Google’s Panda updates, have returned to pre-Panda levels in the first three weeks since he activated subdomains for himself and several other authors. The other authors saw significant, if not full, recoveries of Web traffic.

On Wednesday, HubPages.com began a full roll-out of sub-domains for its authors.

Were you hit by the Google Panda update and if so, are you willing to give sub-domains a try?

Beyond “Snake Oil Salesmen” SEO: Great Content through Optimization with Ric Dragon

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As the BlogWorld East schedule starts to fall into place, I wanted to highlight some of the amazing speakers we have lined up for you guys and gals! Over the next few weeks, expect some interviews and guest posts from some of our presenters so you can get to know a little about the topics they’ll be teaching at the event. Today, Ric Dragon from DragonSearch was nice enough to sit down to answer some questions about his topic of choice – SEO. It’s something that is a thorn in the side for many bloggers, but at Ric shares with us, it doesn’t have to be!

Allison: Thanks for speaking to everyone here at the BlogWorld blog, Ric! For readers who may not know you, tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.

Ric: I was listening to a presentation a few weeks back being given by Bryan Eisenberg (author of Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, Call to Action, and other books) – he was starting off by asking the audience how long they’d been in the business, little by little narrowing down the hands raised to those who had been in the business to over a decade. I realized with not a little chagrin that I’d become one of the sage long-in-the-tooth veterans. I started a web development company fourteen years ago to provide development services to those wonderful graphic designers coming out of the big New York agencies – none of whom had a clue about what it took to make a website work.

Concurrent to that company, four years ago some business partners enjoined me to form another company to focus on online marketing. Since then, I sold my share in the web development company to focus on the marketing company, DragonSearch. There were some other adventures in between – most notably a failed startup that was designed to help bloggers and marketers connect, and to help bloggers earn income from their work. It was a great idea, but the timing left us without capital during one of the financial market downturns.

How did you first get started search engine optimization? What attracted to you to SEO initially?

I was actually reluctant to become an SEO. At our web development company, we had always provided “best practices” to our clients – making sure that pages were properly structured for SEO. But pretty much since the start, there have been a lot of individuals and companies out there providing SEO that I consider snake oil salesmen – and I really didn’t want to be associated with that bunch. Even today, the industry is plagued with a lack of standards and service providers that don’t stay on top of changes.

SEO is a discipline which is undergoing constant change. Something that we assume to be a truth last month is NOT a truth this month. But it might be, again, next month. It’s very Nietzshien that way – we have to constantly re-evaluate our assumptions. On the other hand, there is also an approach that is about “best practices” – structuring content in a way that is friendly to both people and machines. It reminds of that movie The Terminator, where Arnold Schwarznegger comes from the future to help us fight the machines. Except it needn’t be a basis for conflict – instead, SEO can be about making your content better for people USING machines.

A lot of bloggers say that the best SEO you can do is writing great content. Do you agree with that? Why/why not?

It’s remarkable how much antipathy there is with bloggers and SEO. Just last week I saw a tweet where someone said, “I write for people, not for Google”. And, it is true that, as Scott Stratten says, people don’t retweet good SEO. They don’t spread good SEO.

There is something in these statements, though, that is more of a reflection on those snake oil salesmen I mentioned above, and on experience with the worse of SEO. Writing great content and writing with passion is by all means paramount.

A better understanding of SEO can help you reach a wider audience. An underlying component of SEO is understanding your audience better. What could be wrong with that?

Another piece of SEO is doing things with “best practices”. Often, doing things in a slightly different way provides better results. In Florida, it is best practice to add a couple of nails on your roof shingles. The extra labor and materials hardly amounts to much in the overall project, but the result of still having protection from the rain after a hurricane is invaluable.

What’s the one change bloggers can start making today to make their blogs more search-engine friendly?

SEO isn’t, as many people like to say, rocket surgery. There are a LOT of little things that are worth being mindful of – no one thing. But the biggest, most significant thing that bloggers can do is to pause, and try to THINK like their audience. If you’re writing the next great American novel, that may not be a big concern. But if you want to develop an audience, and build out that wonderful thing where you’ve got a significant audience with lots of comments and give and take, then it pays to consider how they think, and of the words that they might use to discover you.

As part of your BlogWorld presentation, you’re going to be speaking about keyword research. Can you share with us your favorite keyword research tool?

In my other life I’m an artist – and in that capacity, used to teach drawing. I discovered that if my drawing students put on a carnival mask, their drawings would be significantly different. Sometimes, tools that help us think differently are the most valuable – they can help us get unstuck from a rut.

My favorite tool these days is http://www.wordle.net. I like to take a blog I’m writing and dump it into Wordle, and see the patterns. It will often show me that I’m emphasizing something with key word frequency that I didn’t mean to emphasize, and that I could be emphasizing something else.

Wordle treats each word as an individual word, so it can be helpful to use search/replace to manually connect phrases. For instance, I might make “social media” read as “socialmedia”.

Thanks again for stopping by the BlogWorld blog! BlogWorld East is fast-approaching, with more and more sessions being added every day. Give us your best pitch – Why should attendees absolutely make sure they make time for your presentation?

At its worse, SEO is about how we manage the perception of our relevance. At its best, it can help our writing be more relevant. If this presentation was only about “how to do SEO”, I think it would be a failure. There is real value to picking up on those things – but where we’re really going to make a difference is understanding SEO as a tool in creating more meaningful, more relevant blogs.

Blogging is part of a revolution in writing – in human expression. If it can be made better through SEO, or if through SEO we help a blogger’s audience gain more significant audience, then we’ll be doing something wonderful.

Ric’s presentation is currently scheduled for Wednesday, May 25 at 11:30 AM in room 1A07 – check out the full schedule here to stay up-to-date with schedule changes and to learn about other BlogWorld East speakers.

What Google’s Crackdown on Content Farms Means for Bloggers

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Recently, Google announced major changes to their algorithm, which will mostly cut down on how often certain written content will appear in search results. This is being seen as a crackdown on content farms, notorious companies that fill their websites with as much content as possible aimed at pulling in search engine users. Most of the time, this content is low-quality or rewritten content optimized to beat out the same content found on original sites. These changes will affect nearly 12% of search queries, so its definitely not an insignificant change. As usual, Google didn’t go into tons of details about their search engine changes.

What does this mean to you as a blogger?

The hope is that it will only help you, as long as you’re dedicated to providing original, thoughtful content. Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts, from Google, have explained that this algorithm change will reward people who have high-quality content, since they will no longer be beat out by people who are copying their work or providing low-quality content to scam the system. So that’s a good thing, right?

Yes, in theory.

But, I could see some problems with the changes as well. For example, if your website is new-orientated, you might see your search engine traffic drop a bit. Take this post, for instance. The news that Google is changing their algorithm certainly isn’t original – I read about it on multiple websites. I rewrote the story for you all (in case you haven’t read it yet), as well as interjected my own opinion and thoughts (i.e. what I’m doing now), but the story itself can be found other places. So, will my search engine rankings be hurt because of that?

If I’m doing a good job, and I think I am, I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. I’m not just rehashing a story – I’m adding a lot of original content that isn’t found in other places. Google is pretty smart. I think their algorithm will likely take into account whether or not original content is added. But then, I do expect that some bloggers will have to change how they do things, at least a little, if they want to maintain search engine traffic. I also expect some mistakes to be made. No algorithm is perfect.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how this content farm crackdown will affect bloggers and the web in general. As a freelance writer, I’ve worked for writing companies in the past (some even being accused of being content farms, though I stand behind the work I did as original and high-quality). I also have friends who work for such companies, and the writers forums are buzzing. Overall, I think that Google’s changes are going to be an extremely positive thing for bloggers, but I guess only time will tell.

What do you think of Google’s algorithm changes?

30 Days to a Better Blog: Do a Competitive Analysis

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Do a Competitive Analysis

Want to have a better blog? Analyze your competition! You’re bound to find things you can improve. Many sites just focus on an SEO analysis, but I think there’s much more you should look at.

The first step is to find the top five or ten blogs in your space. These may not necessarily be the highest rank in Google, Compete.com or Alexa – instead they may have a large amount of followers or be considered in authority in your niche. Put together a spreadsheet and take a look at the following for each blog:

  • Layout. How is it different from yours? Are there elements or plugins that it makes sense for you to include?
  • Content. What categories do they have that are the same/different? What is the length and layout of the posts?
  • Navigation. How easy is it to find related posts, search their site, and find their other topics?
  • Posting frequency. How frequently are they posting? Are you possibly posting too little or too much?
  • Voice. How is their voice unique and different from yours. Is there anything you can improve?
  • Community. Does this blog have a large following or a significant amount of comments? How is the blogger interacting with his/her community and are they inviting comments with each post?
  • Linkbacks and social media. A great tool to easily check out how your competition is doing in this area is Website Grader.

What else do you look at when doing a competitive analysis?

Image Source: SXC

12 Days of Blogging 2010: 9 SEOers Optimizing

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SEO is not my strong suit. And by “not my strong suit,” I mean that I know the basics of it and am waaaaay not into it. Some bloggers hate adding tags. Some bloggers hate working with photos. I hate SEO.

Yes, there. I said it already. I hate SEO.

Not to be confused with SEOers (or rather, the people who are super good at and love SEO). I love SEOers! They make my life easier and happier because they figure crap out. And then they tell the rest of us, in posts like the ones below.

As always, please feel free to leave a link in the comments if you recently read or wrote a post about search engine optimization.

Without further ago, today’s 12 Days of Blogging 2010: 9 SEOers Optimizing!

1. How to Explain SEO to a Client by Brett Alan at StartSEOCompany.com

I picked this post to highlight not because I think most of you need help explaining SEO to clients, but because I think that this will help you clarify what exactly SEO is and why it is important if you’re new (or even just new-ish) to blogging. Brett’s post simplifies the concept of SEO in a way that’s easy to digest, so you can understand it even if you barely know anything about blogging. From the post:

Explaining how search-engine optimization works to a complete newb (or client) can be one of the toughest and frustrating tasks for an SEO professional.

This isn’t a jab at client intelligence either. There’s a lot to wrap your head around especially if you’re new to marketing online. And with all the misinformation out there, I totally get how beginners would be confused.

Seriously, don’t feel stupid if you need this post. My own knowledge of SEO extends about…that far. I’m making it a goal to learn more about SEO in 2010, but it’s only one part of blogging – don’t feel down on yourself if you don’t quite get it yet! Head to StartSEOCompany.com to learn more about search engine optimization, and catch Brett on Twitter @brettalanseo.

2. The Most Popular Organic SEO Columns Of 2010 by Elisabeth Osmeloski at Search Engine Land

Ooo, it’s a list within a list. How meta of me. Search Engine Land is a really great resource if you want to learn more about search engines, bt upon going to the homepage, three words come to mind: Intimidating. As. Hell. If you’re a blogger, not an SEOer, chances are that you might be overwhelmed a bit by the sheer volume of information at Search Engine Land. Elizabeth’s post gives you a great places to state. From the post:

We’re fortunate enough to have some of the most brilliant minds and SEO practitioners writing for us here at Search Engine Land, and as I’ve run through the data on our most read stories, I’ve been consistently reminded just how amazing our talent pool is in this industry. The quality of our contributors’ advice, their keen insights and depth of experiences are so well respected across the industry and across the globe, that they deserve another look as we close out the year, and look forward to an even more productive 2011.

I highly recommend Search Engine Land if you want to learn more about SEO practices and news, and you can follow the blog on Twitter @SearchEngineLand. Elizabeth can also be found at Downhill Divas, and she’s on Twitter @elisabethos.

3. Back to Basics: Search Engine Marketing, SEO, and Paid Search by Arturas Kvederis from SEO Capo

Search engine optimization is actually just part of a bigger monster called search engine marketing. Arturas’ post talks about how SEO fits into that machine and why it is relevant to your. From the post:

Too often I have seen small business owners tempted with the instant results that PPC advertising can deliver – you must be careful when putting together your SEM strategy and ideally there should be a fine balance between PPC and SEO. So if someone asks me what is the best Search Engine Strategy PPC or SEO? The answer is both.

Check out SEO Capo for the full post. You can also follow Arturas on Twitter @godzhesas.

4. Social Media vs. SEO: My Approach by Darren Rowse at Problogger

Earlier this week, I posted something else that Darren had written at Twitip, but most of you probably know him best from Problogger. This post by Darren talks about the great debate between people who love social media and people who love search engine optimization, a debate which I’ve seen get rather heated at times. Writes Darren:

A number of readers asked for my own opinion: which camp do I stand in?

I’m going to annoy some people with this but the reality is that I’ve got a foot in both camps. Let me throw a few random thoughts out there in the hope that it’ll show why I’m a fan of both social media and SEO.

Problogger is a site that every blogger out there should read, so go check it out if you haven’t already. They also have a membership community that you might find useful if you’re looking for more advice on blogging and want to connect with other bloggers. You can also follow Darren on Twitter @problogger.

5. Bad SEO Advice by Vanessa Fox at Nine By Blue

Once you’ve gotten a handle on exactly what SEO is all about, it’s pretty easier to keep the advice from experts in mind as you write blog posts. Except sometimes, advice from well-meaning idiots is just that – advice from well-meaning idiots. If you’re new to SEO, like I am, you might not be able to pick out the real tips from the crap. This article can help. Writes Vanessa:

I come across bad SEO advice all the time. Much of it may seem obvious to those of us who have been involved in search for any length of time, but for people who haven’t, it can be difficult to know what’s concrete advice, what’s speculation, and what’s just plain terrible. For that matter, it can be difficult for those outside of SEO to know what’s smart and what’s considered search engine manipulation.

The Nine By Blue blog is a great blog to check out for more SEO and general online marketing advice, and you can follow Vanessa on Twitter @vanessafox.

6. How to Get Your Website on Google by Daniel Scocco at How to Make a Website

I’ve actually been a fan of Daniel’s for some time, since I’m a regular reader at Daily Blog Tips, and his How to Make a Website site is a great nuts-and-bolts guide for beginners. This gem is posted there – it talks about how to get a search engine to notice what you’re doing. From the post:

One common mistake webmasters make is to search on Google for the name of their website, expecting to find it there right away. When they don’t, they freak out and start thinking that something is wrong.

For example, let’s suppose that you just launched a website called SuperCars.com. You put some content there, get some backlinks, and then you use the “site:” parameter to see if it is indexed. It is. You then search on Google for “super cars,” hoping to find your site there, but it is nowhere to be found, even when you look on the second, third and fourth page of results.

Is there something wrong here? No. This is a perfectly normal pattern, and people call it “the sandbox effect.”

Learn more at How to Make a Website, check out Daily Blog Tips for digestible bits of blogging information gold on a regular basis, and follow Daniel @danielscocco.

7. Most Companies Still Don’t Get SEO – Yet They Want To Go Social? by Adam Singer at The Future Buzz

I don’t necessarily agree with everything in this post. That’s part of the reason why I like it. As I mentioned previously when I linked you to Darren’s post on Problogger, there’s a great debate regarding SEO and social media. The discussion is an interesting one, and although this post talks specifically about businesses, but it can be applicable to bloggers as well. Writes Adam:

The search marketing industry is far more mature than the social media marketing industry – if this company doesn’t bother grasping search, it makes little sense to skip to social.  Search is a core function of the web, and should come first.

The order matters, because search and social programs have an intersection, but to really activate this your core web presence and social content needs to be optimized.  Otherwise, all that effort of directing a community for the outcome of growing search KPIs falls short.  It’s analogous to building a skyscraper but wanting to create the top first without having any sort of base.

There’s a pretty good discussion going on in the comments of that post as well, so head to The Future Buzz to check it out and weigh in with your opinion. You can also find Adam on Twitter @AdamSinger.

8. How My Phone Helped Me Land On The First Page of Google by Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income

Pat Flynn is another one of those bloggers who is popping up everywhere. I wanted to include this post of his because it is a little different from the typical SEO post. It’s not about keywords and links and such, but rather about how to build quality content no matter what keyword you’re targeting so that all those SEO techniques you put into effect actually mean something. He talks about his initial idea to build a site around a topic that he knew nothing about. From the post:

How did I find the content?

Naturally, the first thing I did was search through Google. I was finding some of the information I needed from several sources, but only bits and pieces. I wanted the whole thing.

Plus, the sources were not reliable. Many of them said conflicting things, so instead of wasting my time gathering information that was potentially flat out wrong, I did something I never thought I’d do to help my niche site:

I used my phone.

Head to Smart Passive Income to read more and learn from Pat about making money online. You can also follow Pat on Twitter @PatFlynn.

9. How to Spot Keyword Trends by Peter Da Vanzo at SEO Book

For my final recommendation today, I chose this post by Peter Da Vanzo because it’s so darn comprehensive and easy to understand. It makes me want to go out and become an SEOer. Almost. Nah, not really, BUT it is literally packed with keyword trend tips that I can use to boost what I’m already doing on my own sites. From the post:

Given that search engine ranking has a long lead time, it pays to think about keyword trends well ahead of time.

The problem with the future is that it is difficult to predict. However, spotting trends is somewhat easier, and gives us an insight into how our niche is likely to develop. Trends typically follow a gradual, predictable pattern.

Let’s take a look at a few tools you can use to help spot long term keyword trends.

To find out about those tools, you’ll have to go to SEO Book. Don’t forget to also follow Peter on Twitter @peterdavanzo.

Remember, I need your help! In addition to the 9 SEOers Optimizing that I’ve listed above, I would absolutely love to read your post about this topic. Even if you’re a relatively new blogger, we all have something to learn from one another! Leave a comment with your link below, if you have one – or just comment with your best SEO tip.

Check out the rest of the 12 Days of Blogging:

12 Writers Writing
11 Tweeters Tweeting
10 Guests a-Posting
9 SEOers Optimizing
8 Affiliates Selling
7 Facebook Users Updating
6 Launchers Launching
5 Golden Rules
4 Podcasting Hosts
3 Ebook Tips
2 Ethics Debates
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (ebook coming soon!)

Tips for Improving Your Blog’s Google PageRank

Author:

Do you know your blog’s Google PageRank? If not, take a moment to check it out. That little number (between 1 and 10) is very important to the traffic and growth of your blog.

Why? Well Google is one of the most popular Web search engines and the higher your blog’s Google PageRank, the higher you land in the Google search results! Unfortunately there are no defined parameters to improving your ranking because the number is determined by a variety of factors. Google says, “PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results. PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value.”

There you have it. The more pages with high PageRanks linking to your site, the better! But there are also other tips for improving your blog’s PageRank. These are best practices for any website to follow, but Google approves of them as well.

  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. You want every page to be reachable from somewhere on your site. This is easy to do in a blog because you will assign every page one or more categories and tags.
  • Create a useful, information-rich site.
  • Use appropriate keywords. Think about the words that readers would search, and make sure that your Title and first paragraph includes those words/phrases. You may need to go into your blog software and edit your Title tags to pull in the name of the blog AND the title of your post.
  • Crosslink your keywords. If you have an appropriate category, tag, or previous post – crosslink to that within your keywords. This helps SEO and your PageRank.
  • Use text to display your important content, instead of an image. Some blogs like to use header images to add visual appeal, which is fine as long as it isn’t the title of your post! In any case, it’s best to use the ALT tag in your images to increase your use of keywords.
  • Make sure your links and HTML are correct. Google doesn’t like broken links!
  • Keep your linking sparse. It’s good to link out to other sites, but keep it to less than 100.

From what I’ve heard, a good PageRank is 4 or higher. So when you’re looking to obtain inbound links, you’ll want to first check a website or blog to see if they have a rank of at least 4.

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld Blog. Feel free to follow her Twitter @nikki_blogworld and @katzni

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