Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Optimizing your blog for search engines

Optimizing your blog for search engines

Lately, blog optimization has been catching on like a wild fire. People have been blogging about their increase in search engine traffic due to SEO and others are starting to realize that they need to optimize their blog. There are many different ways that you can optimize your blog, but here is what I recommend doing.

URL Structure

The URL structure of your blog should filled with words and try to avoid numbers and extraneous characters. Many people like the date in their URLs, but I prefer it as domain.com/posttitle. This keeps the URL short, easy to remember and crawlable.

Page Titles

Search engines use the page titles in their search results. Most blogs have their page titles as Blog Name >> Post Title but I recommend just having the page title as the Post Title. Here is the code I use for Movable Type and WordPress.

Movable Type

title> /title>))

Meta Description

Search engines usually see your content as duplicate. Granted it usually is not duplicate content, but without a unique meta description tag on each of your posts you are hampering your search engine traffic.

Movable Type
meta name="description" content="$MTEntryBody words="25"$> ..." />

If you use WordPress download the head meta description plugin. Set it at 15 to 25 words. Somewhere within that range is usually fine.

The headings should represent your blog content, do not stuff tons of keywords within your headings. When using headings you have many choices, but try to use H1, H2, or H3 headings.
Section 508

Pictures and text links should have a tooltip when they are hovered over. You want to use "alt" tags on pictures and "title" tags on the text links. Make sure that the alt and title tags represent the picture or link and try not stuff irrelevant keywords within them. Here is the code for alt and title tags.

alt="enter description here"

title="enter description here"

Most blogs do not have a sitemap and they do not need one, but it cannot hurt. You can use Google's webmaster tools to create a sitemap. This will just help the spiders index your site thoroughly and efficiently.
301 Redirect

When people link to your blog they usually link to http://domain.com or http://www.domain.com. Because of this the search engines usually see them as two separate sites and you may have 100 sites that link to http://domain.com and 50 sites that link to http://www.domain.com. If the search engines saw it as 150 links in total instead of 50 and 100 your rankings would most likely go up. You want to consolidate the links and do a 301 permanent redirect in your .htaccess file. Here is the code that I use:

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_Host} ^YOURDOMAIN.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.YOURDOMAIN.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Make sure the code is on 4 lines in your .htaccess file and replace "YOURDOMAIN" with your domain name.

Don't be a link Nazi. Make sure to link out to other related websites within your content; it can only help with your search engine rankings. By linking out, those sites might link back or include your blog in their blogroll. The more related incoming links you have, the higher you should rank on the search engines.

If you want to increase your traffic you have to ping the blog search engines. You can do this through ping-o-matic or pingoat. If you use FeedBurner they also have a list of blog search engines that you can ping through them. By doing this every time you write a blog post, it will show up on search engines such as Technorati and Icerocket.

These are the things that you should do to your blog to maximize your search engine rankings. It cannot hurt to optimize your blog the right way, so give it a whirl and watch what happens to your traffic. You might see a drastic increase in search traffic or you may see little to no traffic increases. This all depends on the age of your blog and how optimized it already is, either way it cannot hurt to optimize your blog.

Enjoy the post? Here are some more that may interest you.

* Subvert and Profit Expands to StumbleUpon
* Thoof: Personalize Your Web Experience (Assuming You Use It Enough)
* Why We Rank #1 for 'John Chow' and Why You Shouldn't Mess With Google

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