Search Engine Optimization is something that makes many blogger’s heads spin – I know this because every time I write an SEO article I get comments from bloggers telling me that its too big a topic and that they’d rather just write ‘quality content’.
Whilst I’ll never argue that quality content should be anything but a first priority in blogging, the fact is that there are many millions of pages of great writing languishing around at the bottom of search engines results pages that deserve to be read by many but which rarely see the light of day because their authors have failed to understand that just a few simple tweaks in the writing process could see them ranking considerably higher.
So it’s time for another series – this time on Search Engine Optimization for Blogs!
People often ask me ‘how do I get ranked number one in (((insert favourite search engine here)))?
My answer usually starts with – ‘I don’t really know what I’m talking about….but….’
You see whilst some of my blogs rank very highly on different search engines – I often don’t really know why. Much of what I do is educated guessing and experimentation. I do read a lot of other people’s advice on the topic, but the more I read the more I realize that I’m not alone in my guess work – virtually every article I read is a ‘best guess’ of some kind.
My main advice to people wanting to optimize their blogs for Search Engines is to keep it simple. Start with quality content on a specific topic and then tweak it using the best current advice going around.
When I think about SEO for my blogs I tend to divide the things I focus upon into two parts – offsiteand onsite search engine optimization techniques. Offsite techniques are more about what others do on their websites in linking to you, onsite techniques you have more control over as you write.
Off Site SEO Techniques
Off site SEO techniques are as the name suggests factors from outside the site itself (ie from other sites) that impact the blog’s ranking in search engines. Many of these factors are outside the blogger’s control – however they are useful to know. The most obvious and probably most powerful offsite factor are Inbound Links (something I’ve already referred to above).
It is generally agreed that the links that point to a website are one of the most powerful way of climbing Search Engines results pages (in fact many argue it is THE most important factor). – To put it most simply – every link to your site is seen by the search engines as being a vote of confidence in your site.
Ideally Speaking – The best inbound links have three main qualities to them:
- they are from higher ranked sites than your own
- they are relevant to the topic you are writing about
- they link to you using relevant keywords to your page
Whilst you may not have complete control over who links to you these are the types of links that you should be dreaming of.
How to generate quality inbound Links?
Of course whilst most of us know this it doesn’t make getting such links any easier – its in the hands of others in many cases. So how do you get such links?
- Directories – Another way to generating inbound links is to submit your links to directories. I know of webmasters who swear by the benefits of such a strategy – the first thing that they do when starting a new site is to do the rounds of directories – submitting links to key pages with appropriate keywords in the links. There are loads of directories out there – many of which offer a free submission. Ari Paparo has compiled a list of blog directories that you might want to start with.
- Quality Content – There are all kinds of link generating systems out there but in my opinion the best way to get links to your blog is to write quality content that people will want to read. You can solicit links with others or sign up for different link building programs or even buy text links on other sites but the cheapest and probably safest approach is to build inbound links in a natural organic way as others link to your quality content.
- Inter-link your Blogs – Increasingly bloggers are starting or joining blog networks to enjoy the benefits of multiple sites and writers working together. One of the advantages of networks of sites is that they usually link to one another. In doing so you have complete control over how your sites are linked to from multiple domains. It is worth noting that you should be careful with this approach – if all your sites are hosted on the one server many think that Search Engines will work out what you’re doing and the impact will be lessened.
- Notify Relevant Bloggers of your content – Whilst I don’t advocate spamming other bloggers and asking for links – I would recommend that if you write a quality post on a topic that you know will interest another blogger that it might be worth shooting them a short and polite email letting them know of your post. Don’t be offended if they don’t link up, but you might just find that they do and that in addition to the direct traffic that the link generates that it helps build your own page rank in the search engines (more on letting other bloggers know of your posts here).
- Swap Links – Similarly many bloggers swap links with other bloggers. Sometimes this happens pretty naturally (you see someone linking to you so you link back) but in many cases the links are strategic ones and formally arranged between site owners. I get daily requests for such reciprocal links (I rarely act on them). Whilst there is some benefit in such link swapping I would again advise caution here as many SEO experts believe that the search engines have methods for tracking such strategies and devaluing the links. Some try to get around this by doing indirect or triangulated links. ie instead of site A and B doign a direct swap they involve other sites. So A links to C in exchange for D (also owned by C) linking to B (also owned by A) – makes your head hurt doesn’t it!?! There are also a variety of systems around that say they’ll take care of such interlinking for you – I know many who use Digital Point’s Free C0-Op Advertising system. Personally I tend to avoid such schemes and have a policy of linking to sites I think are valuable to my readers. If they link back then so be it.
- Buy Links – Many professional web masters have a budget to purchase links from other highly ranked and and relevant sites. I won’t go into this too much here but you might like to read more about it in my recent post On Buying Text Links. update: I’d encourage anyone wanting to buy links to think very carefully about this. Google have been cracking down on sites that use this practice. They can’t catch everyone but some have been caught and seem to have been penalized for doing it.