Close
Close

The Blogger’s Guide to Google Authorship

This guest post is by Tom of make-a-web-site.com.

At the 2011 SMX Advanced event, Matt Cutts announced the Google initiative to support authorship markup, or more simply, to give you ownership of your content in the search results.

Let’s start with a definition.

Authorship, in this context, refers to Google’s parameters for making a verified connection between a person’s original web content and their Google Plus profile.

Google created Authorship by developing the HTML markup rel ” author”. When content owners apply it correctly to their content, Google can create the connection with their G+ profile.

Google will then display your profile picture next to your content in the search results. If you’ve set Google Authorship up properly, your search results should look something like this.

Search results

What is rel = “author”?

You’re probably very familiar with the standard linking practice for web content.

link1

Traditionally, the href in a link refers to the attribute or location where the linked content exists.

If you add the attribute rel = “author” to links to your own content, it will associate your ownership—or “authorship”—with the content on the linked page.

This is the first step in telling Google that you are the owner and original publisher of that content.

The new anchor, with Authorship applied, will look like this:

link2

The new markup HTML code rel = “author” is changing the game of search as we know it.

Why is Authorship important?

Google has made it quite clear with the development of Google Authorship that it’s moving away from regarding pure link-building as a factor in web page authority. Your value as an author will come into play more as Google dials down its dependence on basic links.

Another possible effect is that Authorship may increase Google search clickthrough rates. You probably feel that you are naturally drawn to a search result with an image beside it. According to one study, adding Authorship to links increased Google search CTR by 150%.

Implementing authorship on your website

Adding Authorship when making your blog should be standard practice for all webmasters. These are the recommend steps.

  1. Make sure you have a Google + profile. If not, sign up here.
  2. Make sure you have confirmed the email address within your profile. Google wants to make sure you aren’t a robot.
  3. Link your Google Plus profile to your content.The Contributor link

Now, to create the Contributor link in your Google+ profile follow these steps:

    1. Log into your Google+ account. On the home page at the top right, you’ll see the Edit profile button. Click that.Edit profile
    2. In editing mode, click on the About tab on your profile.The About tab
    3. On the About page, scroll down the the Contributor to link, and click on “What pages feature your work?”Featured work
    4. Click Add custom link.Custom link
    5. Type in either your root domain or the page where you content is posted (see the Note below), and label it accordingly.Contributor to

Note: if you are identifying your authorship of the content on your site, link to your root domain name. So in my case it is http://www.make-a-web-site.com.

If you are claiming authorship of a guest post, add a link to the guest post. So, for this guest post example the link would be http://www.problogger.net/google-authorship-get-your-photos-in-the-search-results/.

Finally, let’s link your content to your Google + profile.

Google+ profile link

Make sure you are use the rel = “author” markup in the code of your guest post bio to verify that you are the original owner of the content.

The HTML will look something like this, but make sure you place you Google+ profile address in between the quote marks.

link2

What about guest posts?

For guest posts, it’s important to make sure you have the correct HTML in your bio box. Make sure you are using the rel = “author” markup. No markup, no snippet!

Then, link to that post from the Contributor section in your Google+ profile as I outlined above. The only downside is that you are going to have a lot of links if you are a serious guest poster.

How to test it’s working

To check whether your website or content has been linked to your Google+ profile, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

From the image below you can see that my Authorship of my website content has been verified by Google.

Verified by Google

What Google has to say

Google has posted publicly about this topic. See Google’s head of webspam team Matt Cutts and software engineer Othar Hansson discuss Authorship in the video below.

They provide a very concise introduction to what Google Authorship is, including a whiteboard demonstration, how it works, and what the benefit is for webmasters. They also cover the basics of using authorship for SEO.

Conclusion

Building good relationships is the backbone of good SEO. Authorship allows you to make the most of the high-quality, original content you produce—it allows you to become an expert in your field not only in the eyes of your readers, but in the eyes of the Google algorithm as well.

Although this project has initially been launched as a way to allow your profile photo to show up next to your results, I believe it will become a larger ranking factor in the future. That’s why it is important to start implementing good habits now.

This guest post was written by Tom of make-a-web-site.com. Naturally this article has been rel= “author” to Tom on Google +.

SEO for Bloggers With Soul

This guest post is by Sarah L. Webb of S. L. Writes.

Maybe you consider yourself a serious writer who doesn’t have time for the details of how to boost SEO.

Why should you bother with that when you’ve launched a blog to help people and make the world a better place? Every post you write is packed with valuable information and compelling content. For you, that’s most important, and it should be.

However, it’s hard to change the world if you can’t reach the world, and SEO increases the chances that readers will discover this life changing blog of yours.

You still might think SEO is mostly fake and contrived and not worthy of a serious writer’s attention and time. You might view SEO as a spammer’s bag of tricks, even with Google’s efforts to make it harder to manipulate the system.

I understand that you’re a truly passionate blogger who wants to distance yourself from the kind of malignant marketing that clogs your spam folder. But there’s more to it.

Basic SEO practices are also good blogging and writing practices. More than just helping your site show up in a search engine, SEO can help improve a blog’s focus, readability, and value.

Here’s how it happens naturally.

Focus keywords: passion and niche

Keyword usage is possibly the number one strategy for bloggers, likely because it’s one of the simplest. But keywords have gotten a reputation for destroying perfectly good writing by making it annoyingly repetitive. That’s because spam writers pack keywords into every sentence, thinking it makes a difference.

Instead, the only keywords you need to focus on are passion and niche. Your blogging niche is probably your passion.

Of course those two terms won’t be your actual keywords. Instead, your keywords are the names of the category/sub-category that your niche falls under. For example, your niche and therefore your keywords might be rooftop gardening, comic book collections, or backswing.

This is far from contrived, and you’re probably already using these words because they’re the subject of your blog. It’s actually what your site is about and what your posts are about from any number of angles. The majority of your posts, therefore, and your titles, should naturally include these words on a fairly consistent basis.

If readers can’t tell what your blog is about, they probably won’t come back. If it’s clear that your blog is all about rooftop gardening, then rooftop gardeners will keep returning for more information. Otherwise, they’ll think you’re some sort of generalist blogger who once wrote about rooftop gardening on a whim.

So it’s bigger than keywords. It’s about the focus of your blog.

Still concerned about the quality of the writing? SEO can help improve the reading experience of your posts.

Titles and language: be direct

Honest, soulful, non-spam blogging is all about the readers, isn’t it?

Beginning with the title, SEO reminds you to tell readers exactly what to expect from an article. They shouldn’t have to read hundreds of words only to realize your post won’t give them what they’re looking for. Readers are busier than ever and they literally have a million other things they could be giving attention to. If you don’t respect your readers’ attention, they may never bother to read your work again.

It’s only fair that you don’t waste their time with misleading, ambiguous titles or introductory paragraphs that dance around the subject. More than likely, they won’t even click the link if the title is bad and isn’t somehow informative. You can still keep intrigue and shock, but the topic should always be clear and specific.

Another value of being SEO minded is that it reminds you to write in a clear, conversational tone. As the saying goes, “Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.”

This is more than search engine friendliness. Conversational language helps you connect with your audience and convey those brilliant ideas to the broadest, possible range of people.

Before you could ever think about the “how” of language, I’m sure you determine the “what.” What’s the value in everything you’re doing, and how does SEO help you improve that value?

Length and links: offer valuable content

When I’m grading student papers, I can estimate how well-developed or under developed the papers are by looking at the word count. Word count factors into the quality of writing because many students make strong claims, but they fail to support illustrate, or expound on those ideas.

For instance, students would probably say they can sum up this entire post in one sentence.

I can too: SEO can help improve a blog’s focus, readability, and value.

But if I had just stopped there, would you be convinced? Would you really walk away with a renewed perspective on SEO if I had left it at that?

That’s where elaboration comes in. Make a wonderful claim, and then tell readers how to apply it or how it relates to them.

Readers like posts that are packed with insight and helpful information. Being vague and general won’t give them that. Write it plainly, but also write it completely.

Include links wherever they’re truly relevant. Give readers the opportunity to continue learning beyond the single post they’re reading.

All of this is in line with your noble mission, not contrary to it.

SEO with soul

Unfortunately, a system put in place to measure the value of sites so that Google could deliver the best value to its users has been hacked by people trying to make a quick buck. But like any form of technology, a few people who abuse the system don’t make the system inherently worthless. Like Facebook, Twitter, and television, it’s about how you chose to use the tool, and the kind of value you bring to it.

If you’re a regular at ProBlogger, you’re probably someone who uses technology for legitimate, even charitable purposes. Your good intentions should lead you to an honest use of SEO. I call it SEO with soul.

So I urge you not to let the spammers keep you away from a great thing. Take back SEO, and show the world how to do it right.

Sarah L. Webb teaches writing at the University of Phoenix in Louisiana, is working on a collection of architecture poems, and blogs about books on writing and other off topic issues at S. L. Writes.

The Only SEO Your Blog Posts Need

This guest post is by The Blogger.

Okay, I know you’ve read posts about SEO, PageRank, and other things we bloggers should all know about.

This stuff is helpful, but it has come to overshadow some of blogging’s golden rules, like that original content is king. I doubt this fantastic blogger ever focused on “Search Engine Optimization,” yet her fan page is bigger than yours or mine will ever be.

All you really need to know about SEO are three relatively simple things and how they relate to each other. I’m talking about Keywords, PageRank, and backlinks. In this post, I’d like to explain how these three things come into play when you publish a new blog post. If you learn something by the end of this, post a comment and tell me.

1. Find popular keywords

To discuss keywords, we’ll began after your post is written, but before you hit Publish. I’m not here to tell you how to write posts. Everyone writes in their own beautiful way and you may be onto some new way of writing that is totally revolutionary and perfect on its own.

Keywords do two things, they describe your post and they make it popular. By popular I mean people are search these keywords in Google Search.

So here’s an example: You write a blog post on vacation spots in the Caribbean. Potential keyword phrases include “vacation spots Caribbean,” “cheap Caribbean vacations,” “best places to vacation Caribbean,” and anything else you’d imagine people are currently searching in Google. You need a way of knowing which keyword phrase is best and I’ve got just the tool for you.

The best keyword tool

Good news, you don’t need to imagine because Google lets you know for sure. Head over to the free Google Adwords Keyword Tool and try out some searches. Just plug in some short, two- to four-word phrases and see which are popular.

You have to try out a few searches to get the hang of this thing, so don’t get frustrated if your initial searches produce low results.

The Adwords Keywords Tool is totally amazing. It shows search term volumes and competition levels. Ideally, you want keywords phrases with low competition and ridiculously high search volume. This can be tough. Some phrases, like “cheap car insurance” or “purchase blog hosting,” are already totally bought out. Some phrases that aren’t popular at all are bought out. Weird huh? Google makes too much money.

But you’re not paying a cent here. Hooray!

Here’s an example of how I used the Adwords Tool: I just published a blog post on About Me pages and found “About Me page” to be a good keyword phrase for it. 246,000 people were searching that and competition was low—which is good enough for me! Some phrases get searched as much as 151 million times a month though. Impressive, huh?

Notes: Disregard one word phrases, those won’t help you here. Also disregard the website and category fields as you don’t need them for these searches.

Once you’ve found a good phrase, we’ll work on putting those keywords in your post title.

2. Put the keywords inside your post titles

WordPress.com estimates that 500,000 new posts enter their blogosphere each day. That’s just the .com. Factor in other platforms and we’re talking a couple hundred million.

But about 95% of these posts are mistitled. The post authors slap careless titles on their posts that prevent the posts from ever being found. Why would you want a blog post to not be found?

Now I know I talked about titling posts in my previous post—but I’m not some title guru, okay? Just bear with me.

Titles broken down, again

A blog post title consists of two parts: what you see, and what Google sees. What you see is the actual title! What Google sees is the permalink. You want those keywords you just chose inside the permalink. This tells Google crawlers what your post is all about.

One way to accomplish this on a WordPress blog is by going to Settings—Permalinks in your blog’s admin panel then selecting Post Name. You can also download the Custom Permalinks plugin, which gives you a bit more control.

Either way, take that post you wrote on “vacation places in the Caribbean” and put your keywords in the title right after .com/ or .org/ or .net/ or whatever. Separate them with a dash and be as simple as possible. Google loves simple.

Now, your blog post is keyword-specific. Sure, you can also put those keywords in the post body text itself—if you’re doing it right, they should already be in there! Don’t ever try to trick Google by mistitling posts, that’ll surely get your penalized. The point I’m making though is a lot more people will see your post if the permalink is done right.

3. Build PageRank through links

PageRank is your blog’s, or any webpage’s, relative importance on the web. It is measured by incoming links, which Google sees as “votes” for your content. That’s the simple part. It’s the recursive nature of PageRank that makes it so confusing. (Click through that link for a super-techy Wikipedia post.)

Building your rank

You build PageRank by getting links from websites or blogs that have high PageRanks themselves. Ideally this happens because folks just want to mention you!

What PageRank gives you is much, much more complex though. It allows your blog posts to rank well in Google and usually results in a lot more traffic. Perhaps most importantly opens new doors for how you can make money with a blog.

So of course, people manipulate PageRank. In the bad old days of blogging, you could setup a niche site with three articles on it, get some good backlinks from already-established sites, and your traffic would soar. You’d be on Google’s top ten for whatever Keyword phrase you focused on! Not anymore. Yet backlinks are still very important.

Best PR tips I can give you

So you’ve written your post, you’ve found great keywords to describe it and to put in your permalink, and you’ve titled that bad boy. The post is done.

Here’s what you can do with your blog post to build PageRank effectively:

  • Get it linked from a news site: I was fortunate and got my first blog mentioned in the Huffington Post early on in my blogging career. This brought tons of new folks in, and the link itself was a huge Google-vote for my site.
  • Get your post in link round-ups: Lots of blogs do weekly features where they recommend five or ten article links for their fans. Ask a site manager to get on their round-up and offer the same in return.
  • Use link-text wherever you can: A raw link in a blog post is good for SEO but a link on good anchor text is better.( Anchor text just means the words you place a link on.)
  • Focus on one or two posts: A couple of posts can bring massive traffic that will then view other posts. Instead of getting every article linked, try to get your best two posts linked several times.

PageRank is a bit odd. Once you have it, you don’t need to focus as much on it because your articles should already rank well in Google, and chances are people are linking to your organically. But before you reach this point, it’s work, work, work.

What are your thoughts?

Do you think SEO has gone too far? Do you even bother making SEO tweaks anymore? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

The Blogger is a 25 year old guy from New York who answers about 150 blog questions over his first coffee of the day. Read his full story here. You can find him on Twittersubscribe to the club, or ask him a question at his blog and he will answer right away.

The Top 6 SEO Resources for Bloggers

This guest post is by Matt Beswick.

For anyone involved in SEO, staying on top of the game is a difficult task thanks to the unpredictable nature of the business.

As a blogger, however, it’s almost impossible—all you want to be doing is writing great content and generating traffic, right? Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, things change in the blink of an eye, so keeping tabs on the latest SEO witchcraft inevitably demands a lot of research off the clock.

The following websites are the best references on the web for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening, and make sure that their site isn’t doing anything that risks putting them out of favour with the big G!

SEOmoz

Since 2004, SEOmoz has been one of the most highly respected sites online when it comes to providing top-notch SEO analysis, advice and knowledge.

Their accumulated SEO wisdom is practical and credible, thanks to their renowned staff of expert authors. With plenty of general articles and loads of quick, helpful tidbits, SEOmoz istheultimate SEO destination for many in the industry.

Search Engine Roundtable

Maintaining one’s relevance in an industry that changes as quickly as SEO is a challenge. That’s where Search Engine Roundtable comes in.

Like the Slashdot of SEO forums, it reports on the best writing in the field and compiles it into a running commentary on the state of the industry. Featuring some of the most insightful analysis of the Search Engine Marketing world available, Search Engine Roundtable is a must-read.

Search Engine Land

Covering literally every aspect of SEO and online marketing under the sun, Search Engine Land is a favourite among SEOs in every niche.

Boasting regular full-length articles by some of the most recognised names in the business, it’s practically a necessity for those who wish to stay ahead of the curve on SEO matters.

Whether you’re after how-to tutorials, buyers’ guides, or white papers from the web’s biggest tech companies, Search Engine Land has it all.

State of Search

A relative newcomer to the scene, State of Search is nevertheless one of the most reliable sources for SEO news and views that you can find.

In addition to their in-depth coverage and superb articles, they also boast a newsletter, weekly podcasts on Webmaster Radio, and a whole lot more.

Bolstered by a loyal and growing fan base of SEO professionals, amateurs and freelancers, State of Search is one site that shouldn’t be ignored.

Search Engine Journal

Taking the traditional SEO journal format and spicing it up with some extra goodness, Search Engine Journal delivers the goods on a consistent basis.

The forums are a veritable Algonquin Round Table of SEO discourse and are a terrific resource in and of themselves. On top of stellar articles and opinion pieces, this site also claims some of the best SEO link-building tools out there.

Google Webmaster Central

Google dominates so much of our online lives that it’s no wonder we spend so much time and effort optimising pages for their algorithms. When in doubt, going straight to the source for the best information on optimising for those algorithms is a pretty smart move.

Google Webmaster Central is the official SEO blog for the world’s biggest search engine company. To get the sanctioned party line from Google’s top brass and read helpful, informative posts by the likes of Matt Cutts, head here first.

Over and Out

The moral of the story is that the laws of entropy apply to SEO just as they do to the rest of the universe: without a constant input of effort, it’s easy to fall out of the loop and lose your handle on what’s hot in the ever-exciting world of SEO.

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to stay on top of current developments by checking these sites regularly—they’re quite simply the best of the best when it comes to doing your industry homework. If you can recommend others, though, let us know about them in the comments.

Matt Beswick is a digital consultant based in the UK, specialising in SEO, and also runs Pet365. Find him on Twitter @mattbeswick.

How I Tweaked my WordPress Blog to Rank Better in the Search Engines

This guest post is by Jonathan of NutraSol Natural Center.

As bloggers and website owners, improving our websites is an absolute must, and search engine optimization is important if we want to get more traffic through search engines.

I have been familiar with SEO since before I started my first blog on professional business strategies. I came across it during the research stage when I was trying to learn everything I could about creating a website. Once I was exposed, I was instantly hooked.

What interested me the most about SEO was the challenge of competing with other sites to appear on the first page of Google for my target keywords. It is almost as if SEO gives us esoteric super-powers that are only fully understood by a small community of internet marketers.

After learning enough to get me started, I created some blogs and conducted experiments that allowed me to learn a few tricks on my own.

Using WordPress features for SEO

Not long ago, I started a Spanish blog on home remedies and alternative medicine. It’s not in English—my apologies—but that’s the blog I first implemented this technique on.

When I started it, I had envisioned it as a reference site where people could go and find information on natural remedies, so I decided to have the articles on static pages rather than blog posts. 

I also decided to have the names of the ailments in the page URL. For example, for hypertension, I had the URL http://www.informenatural.com/hipertension/  on a static WordPress page. 

The logic behind this approach was to have a reference page for all the ailments I covered, and people could go there just to get this information. It was going well and traffic was growing little by little, but suddenly, a light bulb switched on in my head. 

I decided to turn my static-page reference site into an online magazine instead, and to feature articles that would encourage social activity where people would be allowed to leave comments. Effectively I wanted to move from a static informational website to a blog.

The problem was that in order for me to do this, I had to turn all the pages I had into posts.

Turning pages into posts without losing links

The site was already two years old and I had backlinks around the web that I didn’t want to lose. But I also knew that I couldn’t have the old pages and the new posts existing together because that would create duplicate content issues for my site with the search engines. Not only that, but all of the pages were in Google’s index and some were ranking in the first page of search results for some of my target keywords.

Now, you may be thinking, “Why didn’t you just give the posts the same URL as the pages?” or “Why didn’t you just use a 301 redirect?” The reason is because I was going to turn all the articles I had into posts, and I didn’t want one post to have a permalink with a specific single keyword term such as Hypertension. I also preferred to have more pages indexed by the search engines anyway.

Hypertension Page

So, I decided to take a different approach. I decided to turn the single keyword terms into categories so that I could keep the same URL structures and can keep all the inbound links my blog had acquired over the years.

I also decided to do this because the single keyword term in the URL could then be used to direct users to other articles that have to do with that term.  For example, www.informenatural.com/hipertension would no longer lead to one article on a static page; it would be the page to go to to find all the posts related to that subject.

Add Category Hypertension

Here’s how I did it

By default, WordPress category pages contain the word “category” in their URLs. For example, informenatural.com/hipertension would be converted to informenatural.com/category/hipertension. 

In order for things to go as planned, I needed to remove the word “category” from the category permalinks. I did this by using a WordPress plugin called WP No Category Base.  Doing this allowed me to maintain the URL and preserve the permalinks in the format I originally had them in.

After doing this, I copied the content from the page to the post, with my keyword terms in the titles and permalinks of the posts.  Then, I deleted the pages.

Hypertension Category Page

This allowed me to maintain my links and transform my static-page site into a blog. I conducted keyword research, found the long-tail terms that I wanted to rank for, and included them in the permalinks of my posts. 

After that, I signed into my Google Webmaster Tools account, and used the Fetch As Google tool to submit the new URLs.

Hypertension Post

Grow your traffic with WordPress

These changes have allowed my traffic to increase tremendously and I predict it will continue to grow with time.

WordPress gives us the flexibility to do many things with our blogs and it allows us to stay organized while we’re at it.  If you find that a post is not ranking well enough for a keyword, you can always do some keyword research to find a better phrase with more searches and change your URL to include that term.

Experiment with your blogs, using WordPress features to your advantage, and you can help your blog grow like never before.

Do you use WordPress features to help your search rank? Share your favorite tip with us in the comments.

Jonathan is the founder of NutraSol Natural Center and LocalRoamer.Com. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and he is currently enrolled in courses to get a degree in Nutrition. Jonathan has designed 2 blogs on natural remedies to educate his customers for his store at Informe Natural and Earth Doctor.

Google Penalizes Copyright Infringers: Are You At Risk?

This guest post is by Shahzad Saeed of TechAndProject.com.

Recently Google announced on its official blog that it will start penalizing sites that are accused of copyright infringement.

The announcement may reduce the content theft around the web, since now it is clear that if a site continuously violates copyright laws, it will lose search rankings and possibly even be removed from Google’s index. On the other hand, today’s technology makes it easier than ever to copy, modify, and share any information from the web. But the problem is that the vast majority of people do not care about copyright. This may now result in legal actions and loss of Google traffic.

How can you avoid Google penalties related to copyright? Here are a few tips.

A quick disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this does not intend to constitute legal advice. It is only the results of my own research.

Reusing content? Get the author’s permission every time

I’ve found many of my articles published on other websites without my permission. Some people assume that there is no copyright infringement if they steal the content, but credit the author’s website. This is incorrect.

Some others assume that the worst thing can happen as a result of copyright infringement is that they will receive take down notice from the author, and then, if they remove the copyrighted material, they will be out of trouble.

Let me talk about my experience. I published an article titled Top 10 deadliest air crashes in the last 10 years on my own blog. At the time, Google brought a nice amount of traffic to that post. But recently, when I Googled the keywords related to that post, I’ve found that it’s no longer listed even in the first ten result. Instead, a ripped post was there. It was republished in an article gallery where users are paid for the content! I’ve found the same article reproduced without my permission on other blogs as well.

Sometimes, it is nice to see that your work has been used by many people around the web, even if they are not crediting you. I don’t care if someone gets paid a small fee for my article; what I worry about is suffering a Google penalty if someone steals my content.

If you plan to copy more than a few words or phrases from someone’s post, ask the original author for permission to republish it. If you copy copyrighted material without getting permission from the author, and crediting the author, your actions will infringe their copyright. If you cannot get the author’s permission, restate the ideas in your own words.

Determine if permission is needed

In some cases, using work without permission is allowed. For criticizing, commenting, and news reporting, short quotations are considered fair use. You can also use material that’s available in the public domain.

Finally, you are allowed to use a brand name on your site under nominative fair use laws. In this case, your usage of the name would not be considered trademark infringement because the use is unlikely to confuse consumers, as you’re merely using it to identify the brand without suggesting affiliation or sponsorship with the brand owner.

An example is Windows7sins.org—a site where free-software enthusiasts criticize the use of proprietary software especially Microsoft Windows.

It is really important to identify what works come under public domain and which don’t. Public domain materials include federal government documents and materials produced before 1923. If material was produced between 1923 and 1978 without a copyright notice it is also considered to be in the public domain.

For a blogger this does not matter much, unless they’re copying material from printed sources, because the web didn’t take off until the late ’90s.

On the flip-side of all this legislation, if you want others to have free use of your work, you can explicitly make it clear that you do not assert any copyright ownership. You can learn more about the public domain here.

Use materials licensed under Creative Commons

As you might know, Creative Commons (cc) enables you to license your own writing, photos, videos, or anything you’ve created for reuse by others, and it’s free. The CC license tells people that your content is available for mixing, copying, and modifying with their own content and creations. It automatically grants third parties permission to use your work.

Creative Commons is not a license that allows the reuse of any work, but it is less restrictive than standard copyright. In order to identify what you can do and can’t do with Creative Commons-licensed material, you should check what type of license the material is available under. Here are the different types of Creative Commons licenses.

  • Attributions: authors specify that the work can be copied if a credit is given to the author like linking to the original article.
  • Derivation: authors specify if the work can be altered or only verbatim copies of the work are allowed to be reused and shared.
  • Commercial or non- commercial licenses: authors specify if the work is allowed to be used for any purpose, or only for non-commercial purposes.
  • Share-alike: authors specify that if the work is reproduced, then the derived work has to use same license (or they may specify that it doesn’t).

Using Creative Commons-licensed content is a good choice, but attributing it properly can be difficult and a bit confusing.

The first rule of thumb of using licensed content is to attribute the creator properly.  Open Attribute is a simple tool I suggest for anyone to copy and paste the correct attribution for any CC-licensed work.

Most bloggers and webmasters use Flickr to find images for their own blogs. Not every picture on Flickr is free to use, though. Some of the Flickr images are “All rights reserved”, so you can’t just copy and use them unless you have got permission explicitly from the owner.

For finding a Creative Commons-licensed images, you can use Google Advanced Image Search. If you are a Flickr fan when it comes to using images for your blog, use the advanced search and limit your results to Flickr or any other specific domain that you are interested in.

WordPress users can use the Flickr pick a picture plugin to find suitable pictures from Flickr.com. Another useful plugin is Free Stock Photos Foter, where users can find free—and freely available—stock photos.

Another important thing to keep in mind is not to hotlink the images that you use. Many people are lazy, and when they upload the picture they just bulk upload it—they might not have given name, title, and tag to each and every picture on their site. If you then hotlink those pictures and do some basic image optimization techniques on your blog, chances are high that you will outrank the source picture—not good if you want to stay on good terms with the image’s owner. So the best practice is to host the image yourself instead of hotlinking it.

Add licensing information on your site

You can see, most of the mainstream websites have some kind of copyright messages on the site. Displaying a copyright message is not necessarily needed to claim your rights over your blog and its content—as soon as you publish an article on your blog, it is automatically copyrighted.

However, a copyright notice can be useful if you need to defend your rights to your blog in court. The following is the common format for displaying copyright.

© [Full Name] and [Blog Name], [Current Year or Year Range]

[Source]

No matter what size a blog is, no blog is secure from content theft. Some bloggers license their blog under creative commons license by arguing the issues of content theft and difficulty in discouraging copying under the (DMCA) Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Some bloggers, like Leo Babauta of Zenhabits.net, encourage readers to copy their content to their own blogs any way they need—even without attribution.

If you own a blog licensed under Creative Commons, it’s a good idea to use WordPress plugin called Creative Commons Configurator. This adds your CC license near the footer of your posts, and in the head of your blog. This will be visible only to robots, but ensures your approach to copyright is clear to all—including Google, which means you should avoid their penalties when others reuse your content.

My advice? License images and videos under CC, but not the text of your blog if you don’t want your blog get penalized by Google. But what about you? Do you protect your copyright, or license your content for others to use? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

Shahzad Saeed blogs on TechAndProject.com where he talks about Technology for students. If you want to learn web designing either to become a freelancer or to be an employee feel free to read his article series on web coding.

Why Google Loves My Blogs (and How to Get it to Love Yours)

This guest post is by Melody McKinnon of Canadians Internet Business.

The latest algorithm updates from Google have broken the hearts of many blog owners. The search engine appears to have lost interest in many of them.

Yet on every website and blog I own, my attention from Google has increased—even on blogs less than a year old.

Naturally, I want to stay in Google’s good books so I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’ve concluded that Google is simply looking for blogs with a personality worthy of its love. It’s no longer a matter of superficial gestures and pretty words. This somewhat fickle search engine uses several factors to determine if you are ‘the one’, and I happen to meet that criteria by nature.

  • I prefer to write (and read) posts that are packed with information that may not be easy to find online.
  • I write for people and what they’re searching for. I answer the question, “What would I be happy to find if I was searching for this topic?” When that task is complete, I go back and lightly optimize for organic search.
  • I’m consistently active on social media.
  • I’ve built quality relationships with other bloggers.
  • I’ve been marketing online since the 90′s. I’ve seen every manipulative trick and they all had one thing in common: they came back to bite people on the butt every single time.

Desperately seeking

Google is trying harder to find what people are looking for these days, so it helps to view the search engine as a person rather than an entity. If Google placed a personal ad, here’s what it would be seeking:

  • Good looks and a great smile: custom design, limited advertising, and shareable images.
  • Charm: social media and blog interaction. Give them something to talk about.
  • Friendly and open: user-friendly blogs with easy commenting.
  • Intelligence: deep, meaningful content that is truly useful.
  • Unique: dare to be different and create unique content.
  • Good listener: cater to the searcher, not the search engine. Are you really giving them what they’re looking for?
  • Integrity: are you a cheater? Manipulation has no place in a good relationship with Google. Neither does copyright infringement, illegal activities, or hate content.
  • Long walks on a Vancouver beach: geographically-specific content when applicable.
  • Sincerity: thinly disguised advertising, superficial posts built around keywords, and buying links will not be tolerated.
  • Highly respected: Google respects those who are respected by websites it respects. You may have to repeat that a few times to get it!
  • Great attitude: upbeat stories, suitable for a family audience.
  • Hang with a good crowd: avoid linking to, or being linked to by, the “slums” of the Internet.
  • No hookers please: there’s nothing wrong with making money with your blog. The key is to give more than you get.
  • Love yourself: you can’t expect anyone else to love you if you don’t love yourself. Produce a blog that you would love to read.
  • Love them back: sign up for Google+ and take the time to learn how to use it. Add both a follow and share button to your blog.

Oh Google, your love means so much to me. I’m inspired by your efforts to control your wandering eye and focus on those who are truly worthy of your attention. You make me feel like the most special website in the world wide web!

Melody McKinnon holds 52 certifications in business, marketing, writing, nutrition, biochemistry & general sciences. She blogs for the newly relaunched Canadians Internet Business, All Natural Pet Care, and Petfood Industry Magazine.

Link-building Tips and Tools for Bloggers in a Post-Panda and Penguin World

This guest post is by Corey Northcutt of Northcutt.

There have been several great link building posts so far this year on ProBlogger, including 10 No-Nonsense Ways to Build Links, How to Systematically Build a Mountain of Links, and A New Linking Strategy. And of course, Darren wrote earlier today advocating a more level-headed approach to backlinks.

So you might be asking what more can be written about link building for bloggers? The answer is, a lot. Bloggers have an advantage that static and retail websites don’t. There are tons of great link-building strategies that can be utilized to increase backlinks.

Link building post-Panda and Penguin

Before we get started, I just thought I would mention a few Google algorithm changes that you should know about when thinking about link building in 2012.

Google’s Panda update

In February of 2011, Google released the Panda update that took rankings away from websites with low-quality content and sites with more advertising than content.

This affected anyone who used article marketing as a way to build links and drive traffic to their websites, since article networks were hit the hardest, though some—like HubPages—regained their rankings in subsequent updates.

Later, social networks like Digg, Last.fm, and others were affected as well.

Digg's search engine rankings

Not sure if your favorite website, link source, or network was hit by Panda? Check by going to the following URL, and replace domain.com with the website’s domain.

http://www.semrush.com/info/history/index.html?domains[]=domain.com

You will then see a graph showing the website’s estimated number of keywords in search. If you see the graph going up, that means they are gaining more visibility in search. If it’s going down, then they are losing visibility.

You can even use the Google Algorithm Change History chart to match a spike in search rankings with a specific Google update.

Google’s Penguin update

If that wasn’t enough, along came Penguin. Penguin, announced in April 2012, decreased search visibility of websites that participated in black-hat SEO, keyword stuffing, cloaking, link schemes, duplicate content, and other activities that violated Google Webmaster Guidelines. This affected anyone who built links through link exchanges, reciprocal linking, paid links, spammy links, and any links that Google interpreted as “intended to manipulate PageRank.”

Hence, if you want to avoid being penalized, avoid the following:

  • over-use of keyword-based anchor text (aka, hundreds or thousands of links built to the same keyword phrases)
  • lots of sitewide sidebar and footer links
  • paid links (with the exception of those from directories)
  • always linking to your homepage (as a blog, you should have lots of links built to your blog posts too).

The goal to any and all link building is to make your link profile look natural. Links from a variety of different types of websites with an extremely varied usage of anchor text make for a great, natural profile.

Link-building strategies for bloggers

Now that you know some things to avoid, here are some things you can actually do to build links to your blog. You have probably heard of some of these strategies before, but hopefully those will at least include an extra tip or two that you might not have tried yet.

Remember that link building should not just be solely for increasing search engine rankings or building up PageRank. The point to building links, in the eyes of Google, is to increase your traffic and build useful relationships.  This should be your immediate goal as well. Links can do this regardless of whether or not they contain the “nofollow” attribute, contain redirects, come from a site with a high PageRank, and so on.

With this in mind, it’s a mistake to focus on any one type of link as if it were the most valuable trick in the bunch—the web does not work this way.

1. Submit your blog to blog directories

One advantage blogs have over other websites is the ability to submit to tons of various blog and RSS aggregators. These directories will either list just your blog, or your blog’s latest posts, or both. Although it has been several months since the list has been updated, there is a huge compilation of blog and RSS directories listed at TopRank.

Don’t have time to submit to them all? Then you will want to at least submit to quality ones like Alltop (free), Best of the Web Blogs (fee required), and Technorati (free).

2. Complete your social network and forum profiles

If you participate on any social media network, social bookmarking site, community, or forum, you will want to make sure that you have a link to your blog on that website in your profile.

If you are an active member of the community and contribute valuable information, chances are people will want to get to know you better by visiting your blog. Don’t leave them without a link to click on! And when it comes to forums, if the forum allows a link in your signature for each post you submit, be sure to include one as those will get more clicks than the ones in your profile.

links on social profiles

3. Become a guest author

Guest blogging is really the best way bloggers can build links to their website that will not only count for search rankings (99% of the time) but will also lead to increased traffic generation. So how do you find blogs to submit guest posts to? There are a few good ways.

  • Search Google using queries with the keyword of your niche plus “submit guest post,” “guest post guidelines,” “guest author guidelines,” “guest post by,” and so on.
  • Check out lists like the 202+ High Quality Internet Marketing PR3 – PR8 Blogs That Accept Guest Posts.
  • Join communities like My Blog Guest.
  • Use Google Authorship. If you know a blogger who writes a lot of guest posts, search for their name and Google+ on Google. For me, you would search Corey Northcutt Google Plus. Then, under the link to my Google+ profile is a link to More by Corey Northcutt. Click on that link to see what blogs I and other prolific guest bloggers have contributed content to.

Of course, finding opportunities to guest post is only a quarter of the battle. If you want have a high rate of guest post acceptance, you will likely need to meet these criteria:

  • Be a recognized name to the blog owner by commenting on the blog (with valuable comments) as often as possible.
  • Follow the blog for a little while to get a feel for the topics, length of posts, writing style, and formatting. If the blog has guest post guidelines, be sure to follow those in your submission.
  • Research the topic you are about to propose to see if someone else has already covered. The easiest way is to use the search box on the blog itself or go to Google and search site:domain.com topic keywords and change domain.com to the domain of the blog.
  • Submit only original content. No one wants a post that you’ve already published elsewhere.
  • Make sure your post content includes links to the blog’s other posts. See the first paragraph of this post as an example.
  • Format your author bio similarly to other guest authors. For example, if they generally have no more than two sentences, a link to their blog, and a link to their Twitter, then yours should not be five sentences with three links to different websites.

4. Contribute unique content to quality article networks

Article directories get a lot of legitimate scrutiny by professional SEOs, but I’m going to mention this anyway.  I’m not talking about hiring someone in India to write you a $2 article.  I’m referring to legitimate, high-quality editorial contributions to only the sites with the highest standards.

While guest blogging has many more benefits than article networks, some bloggers may find it difficult to score guest posting opportunities if they are new which makes article networks the next best thing. When I say unique content, I mean content that hasn’t been “spun” or published elsewhere. And when I say quality article networks, I mean ones that:

  • have some sort of moderation: they shouldn’t just let anyone post anything they want
  • fit your niche, like Self Growth for the self-improvement and personal development niche
  • have a built-in community that actually wants to read articles, like HubPages and Squidoo (You can typically tell this from the number of followers authors have and quality comments their articles receive. Note that the comments also need to be recent.)
  • feature authors on their homepage, newsletters, etc.
  • don’t have too many ads on article content or the site as a whole. This is because A) Google tends to penalize sites that do (see Google Panda update information above) and B) the more ads on your content, the less likelihood that anyone will click on your link.
  • allow you to add more than just text to your content—include images and video.

5. Get your content on weekly roundups

A trend in the blogging world is to create a weekly or monthly roundup of the latest posts on particular topics. For example…

These are only a few examples, and mostly in the online marketing niche, but chances are there are others in other niches. Your goal, if you want to be included in these roundups, is to get on the radar of the people who create them. Ways to do this include interacting with them on Twitter (I included their Twitter handles for this purpose) and commenting on their blog (especially recap posts) with your blog link.

6. Comment on blogs

Blog commenting is powerful for a variety of reasons beyond just link building.  Again, this is not to be abused for anchor text links and generic comments, but if you leave valuable engagement, you will likely get the attention of the blog owner and authors of the blog plus other members of the blog’s commenting community. This will inevitably drive traffic back to your website.

The key is to comment on active blogs. In days of yore, link builders would search only for dofollow blogs (blogs that removed the nofollow attribute from comment author’s links) and seek out posts that were months or even years old simply because those posts have gained some PageRank over time. Doing this is pretty much worthless in terms of getting attention from people in your niche or driving traffic to your website. Instead, aim for new blog posts, and aim to be the first comment on the post.

When it comes to leaving links, leave behind our blog’s URL in the website field. And use your real name—preferably first and last name because John Johansen will stick more in someone’s mind that simply John.

To get an extra link to your blog in your comment, look for blogs using the CommentLuv plugin (do a Google search for your niche keywords + CommentLuv enabled to find them). They allow you to add a link to your latest blog post to your comment.

commentluv-enabled blogs

Also, if you use the Livefyre comment system on your blog, look for other blogs using Livefyre. Some have a feature called My Latest Conversations enabled which will automatically link to your latest blog post at the end of your comment. These links back to your latest post are even more powerful than the link to your main blog since people can easily see your latest and greatest headline and click through to it.

7. Use your blog’s design

Looks can get you far when it comes to building links. If you have a unique design, there are galleries that exist purely to showcase blog designs. If you use WordPress, there are galleries that are all for WordPress designs (like We Love WordPress) or at least have a category for them (like Best CSS Gallery and CMS Designs). Some theme designers even have a showcase of blogs using their designs, like Organic Themes, WooThemes, DIYthemes, Templatic, and StudioPress (to name a few).

So search for galleries for your blog’s platform and theme, then see if your design has what it takes to get listed in their showcase.

Link-building tools

Of course, a link building guide wouldn’t be complete without some helpful tools. Here are some inexpensive (and even free) tools you can use to research link opportunities, keep track of your links, and measure the fruits of your link-building labor.

  • Spreadsheets: If you need a place to organize your top links, spreadsheets can be an inexpensive (if your use Microsoft Office) or free solution (if you use Open Office or Google Docs). Be sure to enter the URL your link will be placed upon, the URL of your website that you are submitting, the anchor text you use, and whether the link is live or pending. Marking pending links will help you be able to go back and follow up on them later.
  • Webmaster Tools: If you want to take inventory of the links you already have, you can find them by visiting either (or both) Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. Both are free to set up and can give you lots of valuable information about your website.
  • Open Site Explorer: Open Site Explorer is part of the SEOmoz toolset. You can use it to get limited information about any website’s backlinks by signing up for a free account, or get full information by signing up for a Pro account. It’s pricey at $99 per month, but if you are planning on doing lots of link building, it’s a useful tool set to have access to. If you just need it for a short amount of time, you can get full access to all of the pro tools for 30 days with a free trial.
  • Authority Labs: Authority Labs allows you to see your website’s rankings in Google, Yahoo, and Bing for keywords you specify. Once you have completed the free trial, you will be asked to either enter your billing information of stay on with a  free account that will monitor the rankings of ten keywords for one domain. Additional keywords and domains start at $9 per month.
  • Google Alerts: This counts as a tool and a strategy. Chances are, there will be people who mention your name or your blog on their website but don’t actually link out to you. Set up a Google Alert for your name or blog name, and Google will email you any mentions it finds. Then all you have to do check out the mentions (which is good for reputation management anyway) and kindly ask that someone who mentions you links to you too!

There are lots of other link building tools out there (almost too many to mention), so shop around.  Often, the best tools are simple hacks that are almost too obvious to cross your mind. You can learn about more of these little tricks and reviews of the larger titles in these posts by Point Blank SEO, Search Engine Journal, and SEOmoz.

I hope that the information, strategies, tips, and tools help you in your quest to attaining more links to your blog to help increase your visibility in search and overall traffic. Any questions? Let me know in the comments!

This is a guest post by Corey Northcutt , CEO of Northcutt, an inbound marketing agency.

Traffic Technique 6: Backlinks

Backlinks have become a topic of much discussion since Google’s Penguin update set back the ranks of websites whose backlink profiles seemed “unnatural.”

Links in a chain

Image courtesy stock.xchng user jingvillar

But before we get into that, let’s stop and take a step back to look at the backlink “bigger picture.”

Links are the glue that holds the web together. Without links between sites, the web would be a lot less of a “web”—it would probably be a strange collection of isolated pages. That wouldn’t be much help, because we’d have no way of moving between those pages—either on our sites, or between sites.

So links are an integral part of the web. They’re a bit like the roadways that web traffic drives on. Search engines link to the sites they list, advertising links to sales pages, and other tools that aren’t part of the web, but are still online—like RSS and email—help us generate traffic through links.

Links and search

The search engines have always given attention to links between sites, as those links are seen as an indication of the authority or value of the linked sites. Originally they gave value to links, the link text, and the metadata associated with links, such as link titles and follow attributes.

But things have changed. The idea that links between sites were bad news originated with the idea that PageRank could be reduced if you “shared” it among too many external links form a page. And now the Penguin update has people scrambling to remove their backlinks from sites that link to them. What a turnaround!

Organic search is, for most of us, a major traffic generator. But by trying to shape their backlinks—and their “backlink profiles,” the aggregate of all the backlinks to their sites—many bloggers worked to construct links that best suited the search algorithms.

As we’ve seen, that’s a risky thing to do, because as soon as the algorithm changes (as with Penguin), your site loses rank.

The far better option is to construct all links—the ones you include on your site, the ones you publish in off-site content and promotions, and so on—for users, the same as you do (I hope!) your content.

Links for readers

It makes perfect sense that the links that generate the greatest traffic will be those that make the most sense to users, and are the most attractive to them.

What that means is that link context, and link text, are really important. They’re important in attracting readers’ attention and encouraging them to click. But context and text are also critical in qualifying the readers who do click.

To put that another way, there’s no point misleading readers with the text of your link, and the place where you include it, because they’ll only be disappointed when they get to the linked page. Oh, and the search engines will penalise those sites, too.

Of course that reality can also work for us: we can use honest, reader-focused linking to ensure that the people we want to reach the content we’ve prepared specifically for them, do! Not only will the readers love us, but the search engines like it, too.

A good link

So, what makes a good link?

The text that’s used in links to your site should describe the content that’s being linked to.

That means that the links to your blog won’t all read the same way, they won’t all talk about the same product or promotion you’re running, and they won’t all be crammed with keywords.

They won’t all link to the homepage, either—over time it’s only to be expected that different people will link to different pages on your blog, in discussions about those different topics and posts.

This is natural linking at its best—and it’s how users make sense of the information that’s available on the web.

Don’t forget, either, the menu, sitemap, and footer links on your blog. Does it really help users on your fishing blog to include the keyword “fishing” into each main menu item, page title, or footer link? Hopefully they’ll be able to tell from the context provided by your blog’s design and content that the various sections are about fishing.

Ultimately, I feel that good links are like good SEO—if you do it as a matter of course, and a matter of providing great content to your readers, the backlink issues will all take care of themselves. What do you think?