pr


Single-minded SEO can be an easy and dangerous trap to fall into. Many bloggers fixate on a single strategy when it comes to search engine optimization. Some bloggers frantically scramble for backlinks instead of focusing on good content. Others try to pack every post with keywords, resulting in keyword density at the expense of legibility. The real key to white-hat SEO in blogging is balance. With that in mind, here are seven strategies every blogger should be aware of and use in conjunction with creating good content.

(1) The headline is the most important part of a post. In my experience, the single most important factor in ranking for a keyword or keyword phrase/string is the headline. One good strategy (employed in this very post!) is to ‘introduce’ the headline in order to increase the number targetting words and phrases. The first phrase above (Blogging Search Engine Optimization) is a good string to target. The second string is debatable. What would turn up the right result? ‘SEO Strategies Blogger’ is an unusual search string. It might have been better to go for ‘Blogger SEO Strategies,’ but a compromise was reached for the sake of making more sense to a reader and for this example.

(2) Backlinks should be built up naturally over time. Creating comment spam or buying lots of links really isn’t worth your time, energy or money. Greater rewards come from links you could never buy, from high-profile blogs or websites that are attracted to your content. Moreoever, search engines take notice if a relatively new site suddenly gets powerful backlinks and that site might be penalized for purchasing such links. Don’t expect strong, high-PR backlinks overnight. Be patient, write well, and they will come.

(3) Keyword density is important, but so is long-string keyword or phrase order. It isn’t enough just to target the keywords you want to rank for in every single sentence. In fact, though 3-5% is what most people recommend, that is a tough thing to accomplish. Instead, shoot for longer-string keyword phrases (e.g. ‘longer-string keyword phrases’!). Mixing up the order from phrase to phrase will not only make for a better blog read, it will also increase the likelihood that you will rank for unusual strings of keywords you may not have thought of (did you notice the variety of search string orderings in this paragraph?).

(4) Latent semantic analysis/indexing in a nutshell: write naturally and use relevant terms. Even if you’re not trying to rank for every word or phrase you use, search engines do look to see if you are using phrases that other sites are using when writing about certain topics. For example: this post is about SEO and mentions latent semantic analysis. That lets the search engines ‘know’ that I am aware of an important factor in search engine optimization. Using related phrases can help you rank above even more established and higher-PR sites for similar terms. It is a way of ‘rewarding’ people for writing better content, even if the competition is targetting similar keyword strings.

(5) Search engines look beyond your blog on the web – buzz may be important. Various people have analyzed (for example) Google patents and patent applications, and some experts have concluded that Google looks in emails and forums not only for links to blogs but also mentions of them. Applying latent semantic analysis, it is entirely possible that Google also pays attention to what words are used in conjunction with your blog’s title or url. In short: search engines may even use ‘buzz’ about your site – even if there are no links – to determine what your site ranks for.

(6) Relevant outgoing links are important, just like relevant incoming ones. Search engines look not only at who links to your site, but also who you link to. If you consistently link to sites about something unrelated to what your site is targetting you may, over time, start losing your rank for the keywords you are targetting. Some off-topic linking is fine, but it is best to keep in mind and link to other sites in your field or niche often. This shouldn’t be too hard to manage, as it makes sense to link to relevant sites!

(7) Most importantly: SEO isn’t everything! While all of these strategies are good to keep in mind, focusing too much on SEO will lose you readers (and respect) over time. Diversification is the key. Always be thinking of your multiple target audiences: regular (usually feed) readers, social media visitors, those coming via natural backlinks and search-engine users. So, whenever you write a new post or page, think about SEO but don’t forget to also think about the diverse visitors who come to your site from all over the web and for all kinds of reasons. SEO is important but content (cliche:) is still king.

Some of these may be old (white) hat to many you, but it’s good to practice a bit with every post. The trick is to have SEO be second nature – a natural extension of your writing. Think of the Googlebots as another member of your audience, just like your regular readers and other visitors! Communicating with them well is just another thing to keep thinking about.

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I assume everyone is as sick of thinking about the impending Google PageRank update (slated for this month – August 2007!) as I am. If you’re concerned about your PageRank and fretfully trying to predict it, just remember: it isn’t all about incoming links and their PR value. Most people focus on that particular part of a very complex equation. In fact, Google looks at a number of factors that many folks don’t realize in determining PageRank. Here are two that may surprise you:

(1) Relevance of Outgoing Links: Amazing but true, Google looks at not only who links to you but who you link to! If you link to every kind of site under the sun, Google won’t know what to think your site is about (yes, I’m attributing ‘thought’ to the mindless GoogleBots!). Also, if you link to too many low-PR sites Google might not believe you to be an authority in your niche.

(2) Other References to Your Site: buried deep within Google’s patent applications are strong pieces of evidence that suggest Google scrapes even non-indexed sites, follows no-follow links and even checks emails for references to webpages. So, if there is a lot of buzz about your site, you might find that your Google PageRank turns out higher than you thought it would!

With that said, I swear I won’t write another post about PageRank until after the update!

Using Technorati, Google or Alexa alone provides an incomplete pictures of the rank of a given website or blog. However, taken together, these provide a meaningful way to measure the worth of a site. Each of these can be ‘gamed’ – particularly Technorati and Alexa – so taking any one rating system at face value can be misleading. So why does this matter? Well, knowing the ‘value’ or ‘rank’ of a page helps you assess the quality and accuracy of the content you see.

Google: People love, hate, bash, ignore, and adore Google for the PageRank system – but it is an invaluable way of checking the value of a site. A rank of PR3 or less is fairly easy to acheive, so any site with a rank from PR1 to PR3 is likely either new or not well read or linked to. PR4 is somewhat harder, and marks a typical decent/good blog that has taken reasonable effort to create and maintain. PR5 suggests strong readership and/or high-quality incoming links, while PR6 generally means that a site or blog is quite well established – and possibly run by multiple authors. Anything PR7 or above is either extremely old and well-developed with incoming links and/or it is maintained by multiple authors and frequently releases new and useful information.

Technorati: Technorati authority ranks blogs based on the number and kind of incoming links, as well as the number of people who have manually ‘Faved’ a given blog. This latter part of the equation is part of what makes it so easy to game – a lot of people have joined “Technorati Fave Trains” and Fave one anothers’ blogs in order to gain rank. So, Technorati rank is useful, but probably best used if you’re concerned about a site’s Google PageRank or if the site is too new to have a reliably current PageRank.

Alexa: Alexa rank is a good way to gauge traffic to certain kinds of pages. However, because that rank is based on the number of visitors to a site using the Alexa toolbar, it can be heavily skewed by the kind of page being visited. For example, since people want to boost their own Alexa rank to earn money, sites about making money online often have a disproportionately high Alexa rank. So, again, Alexa is a useful gauge of page value – but only in conjunction with these other sources.

Mixed: So, with all of this in mind, the question becomes: what does it mean if a site has a higher rank in one of these categories than the other? Well, if a site has a high Technorati rank but low Alexa and Google (Page)Rank, then the ranking is likely inflated. A high Technorati and Alexa rank but low Google PageRank probably means the site is popular or blog well-read, but it is too new and has become popular since the last PageRank update. High Google PageRank and low Technorati and/or Alexa rank indicates that the site has strong support from powerful incoming links, but that it likely isn’t trafficked by the same mainstream audience that uses Alexa and Technorati..

OK, I’ve added some pretty new bloggers (but with interesting blogs and blog concepts, so check them out!) to the blogroll here so I feel a little compelled to throw out some tips for getting started with blogging. Yes, you can find tips for blogging all over the web but most sites will try to sell you something – and if you haven’t noticed: there are exactly 0 ads on this site. So here goes:

1) Find blogs you like, subscribe to their feeds, fave them on Technorati, and leave comments on them. Make those comments relevant. Feeds and faves will help you easily keep track of new posts on these blogs you like, plus if you feed/fave a blog it helps their rank – so tell them when you’ve done it! Some blogs with ‘do-follow’ will give you a PageRank boost for your troubles, but in other cases it’s just a way to get a feel for the blogosphere and will help you get to know bloggers who you can ask questions of and get tips from.

2) Don’t overload your blog with ads and buttons too early. Put a few things up, the things you really want people to click, and add and subtract as you go. Too much stuff looks spammy and can make it so people won’t click anything. If you watch your Google or MyBlogLog analytics (both of which you should be signed up for by the way,  with an MBL widget on your site too!) you can watch what people click, where it is on your page, and adjust accordingly. Also, think about your goals: you probably aren’t going to make a ton from AdSense right away, so think longer-term and put up buttons like Technorati faves and FeedBurner buttons like you see on this site to build up the readership and popularity you’ll need to earn more in the future.

3) Carefully choose your blog tagline. This has two incredibly important functions: it both tells your readers right away what the page is about and helps Google and other search engines know as well. It is much easier to rank for things in your blog title – so choose those phrases carefully, and change them as the content of your blog changes. For more keyword/SEO tips see recent posts on this blog.

4) Link out to get links in. Linking to relevant blogs and websites will help get their attention. Most veteran bloggers have various ways to see who is linking to and talking about them, and they will perk up and pay attention if someone new comes into that mix. However, don’t expect linkbacks from big-time sites like TechCrunch, of course – look for successful bloggers who still interact with their readers.

5) Get the right bookmarking and stats tools on your site. I recommend checking out the beta test for the Romlet blog widget, which is a brag badge, bookmarking tool and stats counter all rolled into one. If you’re not getting many visitors you can opt out of the public stats portion, but the widget will help you track in real-time where your traffic is coming from. Ther’es nothing worse than getting a big hit from a social news site and finding out about it too late to vote for it or ask your friends and fellow bloggers to! The MyBlogLog Recent Visitors widget is also a must-have – it lets you see who is visiting, then trackback to them and thank them for showing up. Together these two widgets cover a lot of the basics, and are better than cluttering a blog with all sorts of stuff.

That’s it for now – feel free to ask questions or add to this list!