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Search Engine Optimization for MSN Search

One of the nice surprises that we’ve had over at the Breaking News Blog collective over the past few months has been the way that MSN Search has ranked our blogs highly. Even though the blogs are new and are yet to have the many links that their competitors have pointing at them – we have been on the receiving end of some pretty decent traffic from this new search engine.

A number of times I’ve asked why this is so – I’m not sure how long it will last but we’re making the most of it while it does and doing our best to optimize the blogs for MSN and the other Search Engines.

Search Engine Journal has a helpful article on Search Engine Optimization for MSN Search which might give some hints as to why we’ve been so highly ranked on MSN Search. here are a few of the key points that they make that might help you optimize your blog for MSN search – a growing force in the Search Engine wars.

- ‘MSN readily admits that MSNbot will actively be using Meta tags for part of its web site analysis.’

- ‘Similar to other search engines, the ‘title tag’ again appears to be the most heavily weighted within the algorithm, followed closely by the Meta Description Tag’

- ‘The Bot does not read text within a graphic’ (rather it likes simple and plain text best)

- MSN Search calls for pages to be under 150K in size

- Words (even keywords) within headers, footers and tables will not be read. Again, simple text is the rule of thumb.

- Linking, as per usual, will be an important part of MSNBot’s equation. (particularly internal links from the main page are powerful. They suggest that every page on your site should be accessible from your front page by three clicks only).

If you want more information on SEO for MSN search you might want to look over the MSN Search section for Site Owners.

Google Back Link Update in Progress

Google seems to be doing a back link update at present. I’ve noticed significant changes in some of my blogs back links so far. Traffic changes and SERPs often follow such updates.

Update: Others are seeing it too

Update II : Sorry for my lack of explanation here – I’ve had two emails, a comment and two instant messages asking for clarification as to ‘backl inks’. I was in a rush to post the information and am about to dash off now – but put simply (or as simply as I know how), a ‘back link’ is simply another site linking to your blog.

Every month or two Google does an update to the number of other sites that it finds linking to your blog (and the posts within it). The amount of links pointing at your blog has an important part to play as to how highly they rank your site. No one really knows just how they rank sites, but we do know that backlinks play a major part in it. So when they do these periodic updates webmasters all over the web hold their breath to see what it will reveal and what impact it might have.

For example – problogger.net had no recorded back links to it two days ago because it was a brand new domain (only a month or so old). A few minutes ago I checked and found that Google now sees 2080 backlinks pointing to it (probably mainly from my old domain – but also from many of my wonderful readers who changed the links on their sites to the new domain). This should help me increase my readership in the coming weeks and months.

Note: Backlink Updates take time to take full effect. Google has many data centres and it takes time for them all to come into line (if they ever completely do). If you check your back links now they could well be different tomorrow (or in 10 minutes) – it takes a while for Google to stop dancing.

How do you check your back link numbers I hear you ask? There are a number of ways. You can use a number of online tools – I use Digital Point’s Back Link Tracker which is a free service. To get the most of it and track your back links over time you have to check it every day or two. otherwise you’ll just see how many back links you have on any given day rather than the changes in your back links over time. It will also track your page rank, how many pages Google indexes and other things like your ranking on particular key words.

You can also use the ‘link:’ command in Google. ie type in link:www.yourdomainname.com into the search field on Google. It will come back to you with sites that it finds linking to your site. Note: if you use this method your results probably won’t reveal all links to your site – I know doing it for me now the results omit ‘duplicate results’. But if you do this over time you’ll see changes. There are plenty of other tools out there for this type of thing also – my suggestion is that if you’re going to track it choose one tool and stick to it so that you can track your results consistently over time.

Duplicate Posting and Free Articles = Duplicate Content

I’ve noticed a growing trend among bloggers who have multiple blogs to post the same post numerous times in different places.

I can see why such a practice might seem tempting:

  • it cuts down the work you have to do (two for the energy of one)
  • it increases the chance of your post being read by readers
  • if you’re making money from your blogs it double’s the chance of earning a dollar from your work

For these very reasons I’ve entered into duplicate posting in the past also. It just seems to make sense to get your material out there in as many places as possible doesn’t it?

Unfortunately whilst duplicate posting might have some of the above benefits it is also worth counting the cost of such a strategy. Duplicated posting might double the chances of your work being read, but it also runs the risk of getting you in trouble with Google. You see they don’t like duplicate content – content that appears in different places in the same basic form. They warn about this in their guidelines to webmasters.

‘Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.’

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Search Engine Friendly URLs

I just stumbled upon this useful article on Search Engine Friendly URLs which is filled with wonderful tips on choosing the right URLs for your website. It isn’t written specifically for blogs but the information is useful to keep in mind when setting up the way in which your blog comes up with URLs. It has a good section explain the pros and cons of ‘Dirty URLs’ or those URLs that tend to be filled with numbers and punctuation marks rather than words.

This article will be more helpful of course for blog users using systems like WordPress and MoveableTyle that allow you to customize the way in which your URLs work. Here’s a taster:

‘The first path to better URLs is to design them properly from the start. Try to make the site directories and file names short but meaningful. Obviously, /products is better than /p, but resist the urge to get too descriptive. Having www.xyz.com/productcatalog doesn’t add much meaning (if a user looks for a product catalog, they might well expect to find it at or near the top-level products page), but it does needlessly restrict what the page can reasonably contain in the future. It’s also harder to remember or guess at. Shoot for the shortest identifiers consistent with a general description of the page’s (or directory’s) contents or function.’

Read more at URL Rewriting – Search Engine Friendly URLs

Using Wordnet to Research Keywords

SEO Chat has a great little article on using a little online tool called Wordnet to research keywords and optimize sites for Search Engines. It gets a little technical but is helpful if you persist with it and play around with the tool.

Basically Wordnet gives you synonyms and hypernyms of your keywords – as they’d be seen by Search Engines. Its a really nice tool that is worth checking out (although can take a little time to get your head around it and find ways to utilize it well)

Author ‘randfish’ finishes by explaining how he uses it in his SEO techniques:

’1. Keyword Research- I want to check my terms in Wordnet to find related words, terms, etc. that searchers might use to find my site. It’s great for this and very simple….

2. On-Topic Site Architecture – The best sites for search engines start by describing a broad term and then going narrow. If you have a site about Real Estate, you can start with that topic, then have sub-topics about each hyponym and from each of those have their hyponyms….

3. On-Topic Links – You may not have realized how valuable a link from a type of site is. With real estate, for example, a link from a site on ‘property’ to the home page or a link from a page on ‘land’ to a deeper page is exactly the type of thing that would conceptually give you a SE on-topic boost….’

Outward Links – Good for Blogs?

Wayne at Blog Business World writes a good article on the value of outbound links in Search Engine Optimization. As he observes there are both pros and cons in linking to other sites from your blog that are worth considering as you think about SEO. I personally come down on the side of the argument that is pro outbound link. I don’t have the technological knowledge Wayne has to argue my case but from anecdotal evidence I’ve found the strategy has really helped my blogs to rise through the Search Engine Rankings.

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SEO Techniques

Tanya at SEO and Affiliate marketing blog is writting a well thought out series of posts on Search engine Optimization which so far has four steps to it.

Step 1 – Picking a domain name

Step 2 – Research your niche or theme

Step 3 – Building your site template

Step 4 – Building a Product Page

It is not really written from a blogging point of view but rather from a pure SEO perspective – but none the less there are some good general points in there that should help bloggers.

Google Backlink Update: Feb 05

It seems that Google is doing a back link update. I noticed it last night with a rise in my SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and a corresponding rise in traffic on a couple of my sites. The increased traffic was coming from Google which is usually an indication that an update is underway. Its not back up to the levels of traffic that I had after the pre Christmas update (which knocked off two thirds of my traffic overnight) but its a step in the right direction and something of a relief for me.



Read more of what people are saying about the update at Digital Point: Google is updating and Webmaster World: Major changes in Google Update Starting.



Have you noticed any difference in your google referrals in the last 24 hours?

Search Engine Optimization for Blogger Blogs

Wayne has been posing hard til it hurts over at Search Engine Journal where he’s just written a series of excellent Seach Engine Optimization (SEO) posts on optimizing your Blogger Blog. It is a series in four parts (so far):

- Search Engine Optimization and Blogger Blogs Part One

- SEO & Blogger Part 2 – Search Engine Power of Blogs

- SEO & Blogger Part 3 – On Page Blog Optimization Techniques

- SEO & Blogger Part 4 – The Link Power of Blogs

The techniques that Wayne talks about and observations that he makes are good solid SEO strategies that are proven to work – not only on Blogger blogs but on other blogging formats and normal websites. It is easy to be overwhelmed by SEO strategy – I know when I first started looking into it I was totally confused but it is well worth doing a little research and having some of the basics in your mind as you blog. Don’t become obsessed by it – but be informed and where you can use the basics to enhance your chances of being ranked highly by the search engines.

Update: Wayne has also posted this series in full on his own blog at Optimization for Blogger Hosted Blogs