The blogosphere is an increasingly crowded, complicated space to navigate. Everyone’s an expert, everyone has “great” content and everyone’s rabidly eager to be found. So how do you get Google to pay attention to blog posts?
Today, at BlogWorld 2008, Dave Taylor, author of The Intuitive Life Business Blog, Ask Dave Taylor, and the Attachment Parenting Blog, offered eleven tips for how you can maximize your blog traffic.
1) Optimize the title of your blog entry
Be specific. Your title is the single most important tool you can use to get your blog found by Google. Give your post a title that conveys the gist of what you’re saying. Avoid being cutesy or esoteric – while that might reel people in to buy a print publication, it doesn’t work on the web.
2) Keyword density
You can get a sense for whether you’re on the right track by using Google Adsense – if you see ads that are unrelated to your content, you’re not paying attention to how you’re writing. Be specific and repeat your key phrases over and over again when you’re writing. Avoid using “it” to refer to the object and when you’re trying to link to something, use specific words rather than phrases like “Click here” or “link here.” Help the search engines out by offering clues.
3) Name your images (and other files) carefully
Name your images with keywords – eg: iphone-ipod-playing-song.jpg rather than DSCN06.jpg.
4) Pay attention to alt and title
Fill in alt (text or non graphical browers) and title (info that can title a link) with actual keywords.
5) Avoid using words like “more”
Using phrases like “read more” or “read the full post here” is a bad idea. Every time you link to a post, the hypertext reference (the blue underlined words you click) is really important. “It’s a really important vote for what the page you’re pointing to is all about,” says Taylor. Google, Yahoo etc don’t index websites, they index web pages. The way that you link from one page to the other is important. A good practise is to use the title instead of read more. Another area you can apply this when building your own site -- don’t link users back to “home.” Link back to the name of your site.
6) Use savvy permalinks
Use the actual full link to the entry for your permalinks. Google ignores certain words – the, in, of, at. A good link is something like: How-keep-track-company-buzz-online.html. If you’re using something like WordPress, you can install a plugin that allows you to use better permalinks.
7) Use HTML too, not just CSS
CSS itself doesn’t give search engines any clue. Use H tags, in addition to CSS. This will attract Google’s attention, letting it know what the title and headlines are. “As you go more and more indirect, it’s harder for search engines to decipher what you’re doing,” explains Taylor.
Gorgeous websites in Flash are virtually ignored by search engines because they don’t understand them. Somewhere along the continuum of a beautiful page that nobody can find and an ugly page that’s totally searchable, try to come up with a happy medium that best represents your strategy and interests. If you’re going to do a video blog, have a transcript on the page (use a site like Mechanical Turk ). Same thing with podcasts. Without these, Google will skip right over you.
8) Minimize exit links
Taylor’s take is that blog rolls are bad. Every single link that takes people away from your page is bad. So many bloggers want to maximize their number of external links. It’s pointless. People are more likely to leave your page than they are to stay and read it. Minimize the number of external links. From a search engine perspective, the less links you have the more important the few links you do have are.” Taylor explains this relationship as being equivalent to big man on campus – your 3 friends gain more cool points than the person that no one likes. And if you have 300 friends, each friend gains much less from you than if you had just 3.
9) Use internal links to cross-promote content
Refer to earlier blog entries to drive traffic back and forth. It helps to use plugins that pull related entries for you.
10) Encourage easy commenting
Seth Godin’s blog, according to Taylor, sucks ( I don't necessarily agree.) The reason for Taylor's antipathy? "Simply because Godin doesn’t allow for users to comment. You need to make it as easy as possible to let people comment. More comments give the search engines more content to analyze. Comments are like fairy dust from heaven.” (Yes he actually said that last bit.)
The benefits of user comments - they add content to a page that you are no longer adding to, which makes what would otherwise be long dead posts gain new life for search engines. According to Taylor, if you’re making people register to get a comment, you’re getting about 5% of the comments you would usually get. But what about spammers. He didn’t really go into that.
11) Don’t be afraid of keyword research
Use a site like keyworddiscovery.com or wordtracker.com to figure out whether you should use the word cellphone, cell phone or mobile phone for instance. You’d be surprised at how significant the difference is. “Cell phone” (2 words) is searched 20 times more often than “Cellphone” (one word.)
Using all these tactics to drive traffic to your blog “is like building a sand castle,” says Taylor. “Any one grain of sand is irrelevant but when you start putting them together right, you can really do something wonderful.”