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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.

Here are some other bloggers to keep your eye on – a breath of fresh air from the types of things typically covered on this one. Start by checking out Disassociated and WallStreetFighter if you’re sick of reading blogs about search engines, ranking, blogging, and so on. Webomatica has content of all kinds, including posts about blogging but not an overwhelming number of these!

Also see Herebox and Hoodmonkey for all sorts of weird randomness – you really never know what to expect with them. For tips on life I’d recommend LifeLearningToday, and for interesting random stuff check out TheThinkingBlog.

You can’t miss WebUrbanist for amazing images of street art, graffiti and other such things. Also definitely have to check out the incredibly stupid blog: Allsux. If you host your own blog and want to widgetize it, be sure to get a Romlet! If I missed someone I should know about drop me a line and I’ll throw you a shout.

OK OK, so I can’t help myself … I have to send you to a few blogs about blogging too. You absolutely must read and subscribe to Alister Cameron’s blog – he is a great guy with excellent blogging tips, with a mix of post lengths much like Andy Beard (hint: check them both out!). You also have to check out Nate Whitehill – also a savvy blogger with well-organized tips, tricks and advice. Finally, though not just about blogging, check out TheArticleWriter for tips on writing and earning money at it as well. And one final meta-link: this is not a blog at all, but a way to get more exposure for your blog and well worth checking out for any blogger: Peopleized.

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!

A lot of bloggers and others working to develop SEO on websites frequently report writer’s block. Personally, I find enough relevant content in any given day skimming my usual sources and branching out through links – enough to write posts on between 1 and 6 blogs or websites a day! So how do I do it? Well, I use a few different resources, which gives me both a variety of content to choose from and a number of perspectives on any given issue. Blogs, Google news, and prominent websites in a given subject area are all good places to start, but here are some other ways of finding content on relevant subjects that many people don’t (but should) take advantage of:

1) StumbleUpon by Keywords: sure, a lot of people use Digg and Reddit to find content, but it’s pretty hard. Neither of those sites have nearly as good precision search capacity as StumbleUpon. Many Stumble users don’t realize that (right on their toolbar) they can choose to Stumble by keyword. This taps into sites both new and old with information related to the search term, and usually yields results that are significantly different than search engines

2) Technorati Blog and WTF Searches: Technorati is another great resource, particularly if you’re looking for up-to-date information you aren’t finding on Google. For example, when I was looking for information on the upcoming Google PageRank update, most of the Google searches seemed to turn up out-of-date information about the last PageRank update. Technorati, however, shows recent blog posts on the subject which were more helpful

3) Forums and Newsgroups: of course people who are really passionate on issues usually end up posting on various sites online. If you’re writing about niche subjects be sure to seek out relevant forums. These are also places you can ask questions if no one is writing specifically about what you need to know.

4) Other User-Submitted Content Sites: Sites like Associated Content and Yahoo Answers can be good places to look for subjective content. You probably can’t trust these (as with Wikipedia) to be definitive sources, but there is also more interactivity than a static resource – like forums, you can ask questions and get community answers.

Of course there are many other ways to find relevant content, but if you use these kinds of resources to keep informed you’re sure to have more ideas for subject matter you and write about!

Recently a number of bloggers have been asking us about about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), including bloggers who are successfully using Social Media Optimization (SMO) techniques. This came as something of a surprise, but it seems clear that a lot of bloggers forget to target all audiences possible, which can reduce overall readership potential. We, for example, focus more on SEO than SMO – though a balance is ideal. Further, using SMO techniques targets a relatively limited range of people – with a somewhat limited range of interests. Alternatively, SEO can bring in search traffic from all over the world, and specifically helps bring in people who are interested in the content they searched for that is on your page!

With that in mind, I will be writing a few posts with SEO strategies for bloggers who want to target search traffic. Don’t forget: these don’t have to conflict with SMO, they can be an added bonus! This first set of steps is really easy to follow and a good introduction to SEO for blogs:

(1)  Use the free Overture Keyword Tool to find a search phrase. If your blog is, for example, about ‘race cars’ try putting the words ‘race’ and ‘cars’ in the search box. You’ll notice right away that tons of people search for race cars, of course. Now, getting your site to come up on searches for that phrase is going to be tough (just Google that same set of words to see how many sites you are competing against!).  Pick a few sets of keywords from the results that are a little less high traffic but still have significant search volume and are relevant to your site, like ‘modified race car’ or ‘street race car.’

(2) Use Google and do a search for the phrases you have selected. How relevant are the results? How many results are there? How high are the PageRanks of the top sites (if you have a Google Toolbar installed that shows you automatically? If you find that the top results are highly relevant and detailed, that there are a lot of results or that their PageRanks are all very high, you may want to target a different keyword phrase or string (by inputting your keywrod phrase into Overture and going ‘one level deeper’ to add another keyword to the phrase). If not and you have found something worth targetting, then write a post about 

(3) Your post should contain the keyword phrase or string in the headline (e.g. Cool Modified Race Cars) and should repeat key words or phrases in the body text as often as possible. Also, if possible, encourage people link to that post using the anchor/title text that matches your keywords of choice (e.g. modified race cars).

(4) Check your results for keyword density using a Keyword Density Calculator. Most people suggest shooting for a density of between three and five percent. That can be quite difficult (five percent in this case would mean that your phrase should be 1/20th of the text, which means integrating it into almost every sentence!). Try to mix things up – rearrange the order of the keywords and where they fall in the text. And above all: make sure the content isn’t comprimised while you are going for keyword density!

Once you get the hang of this system it is pretty easy to use. It is also a good way for bloggers who are having writer’s blog to figure out new topics related to their core issues of interest. Best of all, SEO brings in search traffic which can give new life to a blog that has a set readership. Finally, SEO also means that if your SMO strategies every fail you have something to fall back on!

WebUrbanist.com is a hot new blog that has really hit the ground running – covering everything from online ‘societies’ to real-life design. Straightforward and engaging text is blended expertly with eye-popping imagery and stellar links. In one short week the site has covered really cool and interesting guerilla marketing campaigns as well as creative and diverse urban street art. In contast but in parallel, the site’s authors have also written about the controversial Google Street View and posted scandalous images from it as well as documenting the incredible readership of the Wikimedia Foundation that runs Wikipedia. Perhaps most amazingly, the site has already gotten link love from a variety of blogs and news sites, including the popular PR7 CNet! The site is definitely worth checking out and well worth subscribing to – as each new post is carefully crafted by one or more experienced authors and really contains a vast amount of interesting images and content.