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Dear Bloggers, I Apologise. Regards, the SEO Industry

This guest post is by Daylan Pearce of Next Digital.

There are three common reactions I get from people when I tell them what it is I do for a job.

  1. “What is that?”
  2. “Oh that’s cool, how does that work?”
  3. *Rolls eyes* “Oh riiiight, you’re one of those guys!”

So what is it that I do for a job? I’m an SEO. Each day, I work with businesses and websites to make sure their sites and Internet presences are in the best shape possible to be found in search engines.

A big part of my role is to respond to the first two of the reactions, which is something I actually enjoy doing. These two responses open up a door for me to explain something I really love doing. It’s the perfect opportunity to educate someone on how I can help make a website, author or idea as visible as possible online.

Yet it’s the third response I mentioned that I, and many others, am finding is becoming more common lately. SEO has become a bit of a dirty word (okay, it’s an acronym, not a word) lately. And one of the most vocal groups of this negativity is from you guys—the blogging community.

There is a growing perception that SEO is full of tricks and cheats. That it is an industry full of scammers who are trying to use your site for nefarious and dastardly reasons.

And why wouldn’t you think that? If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, then you’re probably someone who receives daily emails from SEO companies looking for a guest post or link on your site. You know the ones—those poorly written and often templated emails asking if you’ll publish their awesome, relevant, and completely unique blog content on your site. The ones that remind you to “please ensure you use followed links, oh and please use these specific keywords.”

It’s insulting to you and your readers and they always seem to come from people who are doing it for SEO purposes. After cleaning out your inbox each day with the same rubbish guest post outreach emails, I don’t blame bloggers for not trusting SEO and those who claim to do it. We look like lazy, condescending jerks.

But we’re not all like that, I promise. I believe you can divide up SEO today into three categories. Every single person within the SEO industry will fit into one of these no matter who they are.

The scammer SEO

These people understand SEO, no doubt. They understand what algorithmically makes words and sites rank well and they will use any trick or tactic necessary to get those rankings.

Black-hat SEOs and companies want wins at any cost, and unfortunately the people who do partake in these tactics do often get results at the expense of those trying to do it by the Google/Bing/Yahoo etc guidelines and rules. However, these wins are often short-lived as search engines target these methods constantly, penalizing those who use them.

How to spot them

A lot of the time these tactics are obvious—we all know what spam comments and emails look like.  Sometimes, though, the tactics can get a little trickier.

Domain cloaking and redirects from approved links already on your site are two common tricks. Perhaps check your analytics now and again for any abnormalities within your referrer data or link profile:

  • keyword stuffing
  • redirects
  • linking to doorway pages
  • comment spamming.

The lazy SEO

These are the people within the SEO industry which blogging communities are probably exposed to most.

They are the ones that fill up your blog comment threads with seemingly obscure and irrelevant content trying to get an easy link on your site. They are the ones who send you those poorly written emails exclaiming their undying love of your blog to get a link. They are the ones who keep those companies who sell 1000 links for $49.95 in business.

How to spot them

These guys often have a shotgun approach to blog outreach: send many emails and hope at least one gets a response. They:

  • follow a generic (template) format
  • perpetrate spelling errors
  • have no personality
  • wish to write about topics not relevant to your site
  • offer money
  • have specific technical link requests.

The genuine SEO

This group of people know that SEO is more than just about title tags, directory submissions, and spamming blogs in the hopes of getting one response that agrees to a guest post.

Genuine SEOs will and probably have contacted you because they believe that they have something that could be of interest to your audience and their client/site. They are first and foremost online marketers who are looking to effectively convey a message to a relevant and engaged audience. The link is a nice by-product, but forming the relationship and reaching an audience is the real goal.

How to spot them

These SEOs can be trickier to identify due to the sheer volume of rubbish emails that often surround them. But typical features of a good marketer is someone who is offering:

  • relevant content to your audience
  • personalised contact and information
  • an understanding of your blog
  • a knowledge of the topic they are talking about
  • enthusiastic and personable interaction
  • a genuine tone of voice.

The shape of SEO

Unfortunately, we are all lumped under the one banner of SEO, a title that as an industry is having its reputations run into the ground because of quick wins and lazy tactics.

The ironic (and tragic) part is that SEO is all about building brand awareness and boosting reputation, yet the tactics that a huge number in the industry use to try and achieve this goal are destroying our very own brand and reputation. SEOs are hurting SEO.

Ultimately, it’s up to us as SEOs to help make the Internet and search results better. That may seem corny as hell, but we know how this search stuff works. We need to stop turning the Internet against us.

There is a reason that 19 of your 20 blog out reach emails don’t get a reply. Instead of coming up with tactics to get a link, we need to come up with and promote tactics to build an audience.  Otherwise it’s kind of like Superman using his powers to become the world’s biggest super-villain instead of helping those in need.

So, on behalf of all people within the SEO industry who do search marketing and optimization with the view to benefit users and readers a like, I apologise for those who don’t.

Daylan Pearce is search lead for Australian Digital Agency Next Digital. You can find him via his blog at DaylanDoes.com where he writes about all things search & social or on Google Plus.

URL Be Sorry! Google Cuts Back on Top-ranking Exact-match Domains

This guest post is by Rob Henry of K2L Marketing.

Regular Google users will know that one of the easiest ways to get a good ranking in its search results is for your web address to exactly match the search query.

Get it spot-on and, until recently, you’ve been almost assured of a position close to the top, and often in the number-one slot on page one of the SERPs.

But Google’s continuing mission to put right what once went wrong in their algorithms is now targeting what Matt Cutts calls “low-quality ‘exact-match’ domains”.

This adds to the work done by the Panda update, which filtered out poor-quality web pages, and Penguin, which tackled spammy pages.

According to a Cutts’ tweet on September 28th, 0.6% of English-US queries will be noticeably affected.

This might not sound like many searches in the grand scheme of things. However, the latest comScore figures show that Google sites were responsible for 11.3 billion individual search queries in the US alone in August 2012, meaning that 0.6% of queries amounts to almost 68 million searches per month.

What they said

Cutts’ full announcement of this update on Twitter read as follows:

Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality ‘exact-match’ domains in search results…

New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.

The immediate response was positive, with one Twitter user simply replying with “Yippeeee!,” and another joking “I suspect that won’t be a ‘minor’ weather report to the vast majority of affiliate marketers.”

Moving on from EMDs

So just what does this mean for online marketing and SEO? Well, it goes considerably further than simply meaning that EMDs won’t be so prevalent in the search results, because it opens up that top spot to other websites that are able to compete using the remaining “acceptable” methods of SEO not yet targeted for penalisation by Google.

There are as many webmasters out there who are frustrated by always ranking second to an EMD as there are site owners who will be negatively affected by this change. So it’s the perfect opportunity for us to re-optimize any of our pages that could use a bit of attention.

Poor quality content is already a no-no, as are paid links or those created by spamming blog comments and discussion forums. Now EMDs are out too. So renew your focus on legitimate PPC platforms and the remaining on-page SEO opportunities.

Where to focus for better position

Good-quality content will always be favoured by Google, and they’ve never stopped saying that well-placed on-page keywords are a good thing, as long as they don’t damage the overall quality and grammar of the page they’re placed on.

Look to your best-performing pages for inspiration, and you can’t go wrong: you’re likely to find a strong structure with keywords and phrases repeated a couple of times in appropriate places on the page, possibly helped further by your choice of anchor text for hyperlinks on the page, text used in image captions, and so on.

With these Google-approved locations for keywords, you can make sure your pages are viewed in the best possible light by the search robots, even if they’re hosted on an EMD. Hopefully, you’ll be able to snag yourself that top spot in the search results once the dust settles.

This blog was written by Rob Henry, marketing specialist at K2L. K2L Marketing is a full service marketing agency offering a unique approach to your marketing needs.

How to Find an SEO Goldmine for Your Blog

This guest post is by Elena Vakhromova of Freemake.com.

We all know that search engines are a big piece of blog traffic cake. Unlike other traffic sources (subscriptions or social media), search engines bring visitors who are generally unfamiliar with your blog and have one definite goal: to get an answer or solve the problem with the help of your post.

So while your Facebook fans would rather go to check out your recent post on any abstract topic, visitors from Google & Co. are able to discover only the posts which are shown in search results for queries they enter.

Ideally, every new post should bring visitors from Google, Yahoo, Bing, and so on. However, an average blog has only a few pages ranking high in search results and bringing new visitors daily.

When we started the Freemake Blog in May 2012, we never thought that one post (written in 20 minutes, purely for fun) would bring us ~6K pageviews daily. To tell the truth, we did nothing extraordinary to optimize this post. It just appeared when it was high demand for “funny questions to Siri” and there were almost no posts on this topic.

When we realized how fertile search traffic can be, we tried to write every new post aiming at the same result. And some of our initiatives have been successful.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that we write solely SEO-oriented posts, by no means. We understand that there should be a sound balance between SEO goals and common sense. So we never practiced keyword stuffing, but tried to find the topics which would be interesting to our readers and bring us traffic from search engines.

Here I’d like to share with you an approach that may help you find an SEO goldmine for your own blog.

Step 1. Look for standout ideas

Imagine that you’re going to write a potential SEO-boosting post and you face the problem of topic choice. First, you need to make up a list of all possible topics for the blog that you’re able to cover. There are several places where you can find ideas for new posts:

  • Q&A sites: Look for topics on popular Q&A sites (Yahoo! Answers, Quora, Mahalo, etc.). Go through all questions in your category.
  • News and trends: Your readers’ attention revolves around popular events in the world and your niche, so why not take advantage of upcoming releases, holidays, and rumors?
  • Comments & suggestions: Your visitors may suggest great ideas for new posts. If you don’t have a “Tip us off” page or at least a dedicated email address, it’s high time to think about it.
  • Competitors: Have a look at popular posts on competing blogs. If they don’t have such a section, you may check top search queries for that site in Alexa.
  • Social media: Visit your Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts and see what your friends and followers are sharing. Some of their ideas may be worth your attention.

Write down all interesting ideas. Then look though the list and cross out those for which you don’t have enough expertise.

Step 2. Forecast organic traffic

You outlined several ideas for a new post. Now let’s check their potential popularity in search engines.

For each idea write three or four possible keywords and compare them using the Google Keyword Tool. This lets you measure the levels of traffic the keywords would bring to your blog if you optimized a new post for them. Put down the rates of global and local monthly searches for each keyword.

The Keyword Tool will also help you identify more worthy keywords to concentrate on. You may also use:

  • Google Trends to compare the volume of searches between two or more terms
  • Google search suggestions and related searches to get more keyword ideas. Just start typing a query and look at the Google auto-suggestions. Then click Search and look for the related searches at the bottom of results.

google_suggestions

At the end of this process, you should have on your list only the ideas with high keyword traffic potential.

Step 3. Find free SEO niches

Once you’ve decided on the keywords, analyze your possible competitors to find a free niche. This tactic especially makes sense for small and medium-sized blogs that don’t have enough authority to compete with big ones for high search engine rankings.

Enter the keywords you picked up in Step 2 and look at the first page of search results. It’s worth trying to compete if, on the first search results page, you see user-generated content (e.g. forum questions, self-created tutorials, YouTube videos, and so on), or posts from blogs whose PageRank and Alexa Rank are poorer than yours.

On the other hand, if large authoritative blogs like TechCrunch, Mashable, or Engadget have already written on the topic you’ve chosen, and the first search results page has no “ray of light”, you’d better think of a different approach to this topic (e.g. a negative or funny one), look for another vacant query, or quit this idea.

Step 4. Pick the winners

So you have filtered your ideas by keyword popularity and competition. Now it’s time to identify the leaders. You shouldn’t always pick up only one topic—maybe several of them deserve to become a new post, or one idea may lead to several articles with different keywords. So let’s prioritize the ideas on this basis.

First, take the topics which are tied to upcoming events or rising trends, and publish the post at least two weeks prior to the event.

Then, give preference to evergreen topics which you’ll be able to update with new information.

Finally, pick up those which seem best suited to your blog content.

Step 5. Write a quality article

When writing a post on the topic you selected, remember that SEO aims shouldn’t affect the post quality. Don’t overburden the post with keywords. Keep in mind: readers who visit your post and don’t find any worthy content won’t come back to your blog again.

To decide which format better suits your new post, analyze your previous articles that gained high social engagement (tweets, likes, comments). What format, length, and headline peculiarities do they have? Don’t be afraid to repeat your successful experiments.

Consider providing useful calls to action and giving additional materials: links to particular tools, related articles, illustrative charts, images, and videos. Don’t write too floridly. Your readers are simple internet users, like you and me. So make every effort to provide a really interesting article.

Step 6. Reanimate SEO-unfriendly posts

As a bonus, I’d like to suggest reconsidering old posts which should be bringing visitors from search engines, but for whatever reason, aren’t. You may easily find such articles in your blog analytics: their keywords don’t bring much traffic as compared to your SEO-leaders.

No doubt, the reasons for this may differ from post to post—from technical or design oversights to high keyword competition. I’d like to draw your attention to the SEO drawbacks that you may eliminate in shortest time:

  • The keywords you chose are unpopular. In this case, examine Keyword Tool ideas to find better keyword combinations (go to Step 2 above).
    keyword_toolFor example, I see that our blog has a keyword funniest youtube channels which brought us about 150 visitors last month. Our post comes second in search results on this query. We consider the keyword unpopular—it has only 720 global monthly searches. Still the tool suggests to me the related search terms top youtubers, funny youtube channels, and best youtube channels.

    It’s clear that top youtubers isn’t what the post is exactly about, but a simple change from funniest to funny youtube channels might triple the clickthroughs to this post.

    • Your post doesn’t look attractive in search results, so people don’t click it. A skillfully written title and description will improve the situation.
    • The post doesn’t match the keywords for which it’s appearing.Short visit durations and high bounce rates are strong signs of this problem. Therefore, think thoroughly about what people expect to see when they enter a particular search query. What is their aim?For instance, imagine that you look for a good youtube converter and instead of a direct link to some converter, you see the analysis of how to choose a good YouTube converter. You may scroll the tips and even follow them one day, but your goal isn’t achieved, you haven’t received what you were looking for. So the post needs re-writing (keep in mind Step 5).

    Find your SEO goldmine

    Whether new or old, as long as it’s optimized for “right” search queries and written primarily for readers, your post has all chances to become a traffic goldmine.

    However, search engines are unpredictable mechanisms, so who knows how another algorithm update will impact on your search traffic?

    What steps do you work through to make sure your posts are optimized for the right search terms? Tell us your tips in the comments.

    Elena Vakhromova is a full-time PR manager and blogger at Freemake.com, developer of free Windows software for audio/video conversion and YouTube MP3 download.

Forget Everything You Think You Know About SEO

This guest post is by Mark Collier of www.DropMining.com.

For the last year I’ve been spending my free time after school conducting Red Bull-fuelled coding sessions in the pursuit of one single goal: to bring more science to the SEO industry.

As an industry we are still only taking our first few baby steps into the world of maths, stats, and data-driven decisions. For a seemingly data-dependent industry, SEO professionals are influenced to a surprising degree by rumour, anecdotal evidence, and unscientific tests.

SEOMoz were the true visionaries in conducting correlation studies to analyse search engine algorithms. With my project, I hoped to take it that little bit further and analyse more factors on a larger dataset.

After analysing the top 100 search results for over 10,000 keywords I had gathered 180,000,000 (one hundred and eighty million) data points on 186 potential factors in the Google algorithm. This has lead to the most comprehensive published research into Google’s algorithm, and some pretty incredible findings.

With so much data and so many findings it would be impossible to go through them all here on Problogger.net, so in this post, I have hand-picked all the most important findings for bloggers.

Background: correlations explained

Correlations are a useful but imperfect indicator of the relationship between two pieces of data, in this case search engine ranking and the factor being tested. They range from -1 to 1, a minus number meaning the factor correlates with a negative impact on ranking, and a positive number meaning ranking and the magnitude of the factor move in the same direction.

How close the correlation is to either of the 1’s is an indicator of its importance/strength. A 0.7 correlation is very strong whereas a 0.05 correlation implies almost no relationship between the two variables.

For example, correlation studies have been used to link income to education. As we all know the more education we have, on average the more income we earn, but where did that statistic come from and why do most people believe it?

Correlations are used to prove relationships between two pieces of data, in this case amount of education and income, and to figure out how important that relationship is, by putting numbers behind the logic.

Here’s a little example (these are made up figures [credit]):

Correlation table

In this sample, the correlation is + 0.79. Just from looking at the data, you can see that the more time the study’s participants spent in education, the more income they earned.

This is verified by the correlation which is a positive number (when education increases, income increases) and is very close to 1.0. This demonstrates that the relationship between education and income is a strong one.

My research findings

Now that you understand correlations, let’s look at what my research revealed about SEO.

Finding 1. SEO plugins are not the answer

I’m sure you are aware there are a whole host of WordPress SEO plugins available for your blog. These plugins tend to deal primarily with on-page SEO, for example, placing keywords in the URL, title, meta description, etc.

While some plugins deal with the indexing side of SEO, which may provide some small SEO benefit, the majority tend to focus their efforts on these on-page factors.

The truth is that contrary to all the rhetoric of SEOs and industry “experts” over the last ten years, according to my research these simplistic have almost no bearing on a page’s rank in Google.

That’s not to say that Google hasn’t developed more advanced algorithms to analyse content on a page, but certainly the traditional factors such as keywords being in title tags, h1/h2/h3 tags, etc. can be ignored when writing blog posts.

The main learning here for bloggers is that instead of worrying about search engines when you write your next blog post, you should focus 100% on the user.

Here’s the proof. Each ranking factor below is correlated to search engine ranking.

on page correlations

Check out all these articles in Darren’s resource on how to write a great post. Guess what? None of them talk about how users love a title tag stuffed with keywords or headings tags that are meaningless space-fillers designed solely for search engine spiders.

Finding 2. You gotta love link building

The only set of factors to have all the signals tested show a significant positive correlation was links.

Without a doubt, the single most important factor in gaining search engine ranking is building links to your blog.

Page Authority, an SEOMoz metric that models the PageRank for a given URL, was by far the most influential factor in the study. What this means is that it is not only important to build links to your homepage, but also to the posts you want to get rank well in Google.

When was the last time you wrote a guest post or created a viral infographic? How much time do you spend doing keyword research or doing repetitive, mundane tasks like manually optimizing posts for keyword density?

If there is one piece of action everybody who reads this post should take, it is without a doubt to create a link-building strategy for your blog.

The proof:

link related correlations

Finding 3. Domains still matter

There’s been a lot of scaremongering about exact match domains of late, but the fact is that Google still highly values EMDs that have high quality content on them.

That’s the key. If you have a blog and you plan to publish great content that users will love then a EMD can be a massive help in getting you to #1 for that big keyword.

After seeing this significant positive correlation between EMDs and ranking #1 in Google, I looked a little deeper at the domain name market and learnt that there were over 200,000 domains expiring every day.

Bloggers can catch dropping domains before they go back onto the market and create incredible sites with them, which will have a natural advantage over the competition. Matt Green wrote a great post about this tactic right here on Problogger.net.

The proof:

exact match domain correlations

Research in summary

I think the key learnings from all this data for bloggers can be summarised into one sentence: “write for your audience not the search engines, build links to your great content, and develop your blog on a great domain with incredible domain authority.”

Do you focus on SEO? What works to push your site up the search rankings? Share your thoughts on my research in the comments.

This guest post is by Mark Collier from www.DropMining.com and www.TheOpenAlgorithm.com

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.