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Taming the Small Business Search Engine Beast

In this post Mark Hayward shares some search engine optimization tips for small business blogs.

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image source: smemon87

When it comes to your small business blog, do you care about search engine optimization?

I think many small business owners would like to have a better understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) but most are just too busy trying to run their venture and don’t necessarily have the time to learn.

When I started my business a few years ago, I knew if I was going to succeed I would have to get on to the front page of most major search engines. Subsequently, I began to read everything I could related to SEO.

Because search engine optimization is an ongoing science and art, I continue to scan all I can on the topic. Recently, I was perusing WordPress SEO: The Only Guide You Need and thought that it would be great if I could ask the articles author, Glen Allsopp, a couple of questions that could help small business owners to better understand SEO.

Question 1. In layman’s terms, what is search engine optimization (SEO)?

Glen: The saying “build it and they will come” sadly does not apply to the internet. Even if you provide the best service in a certain small business niche, or have the most informative and valuable content on your blog, it doesn’t mean that people are going to be able to find your venture on the Internet. There are lots of ways to get people to your business blog and one of the best sources of traffic (of course) comes from search engines.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is about helping people to find your small business online by creating a search engine friendly website and blog. An effective SEO strategy takes time, patience, and consistent hard work. For a small business owner who is just getting started in the SEO process, they can work on their search engine rankings by improving the relevance of the content on their site and increasing the number of backlinks pointing to their pages, among other things.

Question 2. Why should small business owners care about SEO for their blog?

Glen: Many people will tell you that the best thing about SEO is that it brings brings free, targeted traffic to your small business blog. While this is true in some regards, you have to remember that it’s likely you’ll have to put a lot of time into making a quality, optimized website in order to increase your rankings. So you may not pay in terms of money (unless you buy links), but you certainly will pay in some form.

However, time and monetary investment aside, the obvious benefit of increased search engine traffic is that it’s usually very targeted and specific to your business.

If you can rank highly in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for phrases that are relevant to your small business niche, then there’s a good chance that you can make more sales, attract more clients, and get quality leads landing on your small business website.

Unlike many other sources of traffic, SEO is often something that you work hard on for a while and then you can usually put a lot less effort into it once you’ve achieved your specific goals. There are exceptions to this, of course, but for most industries, once you have achieved rankings you don’t need to do half as much work to maintain them.

Another reason small business owners should care about SEO is because not only can it help to bring more traffic to your site, but it can also protect you from any reputation management issues that you might have to deal with. If you sell products or services, the last thing that you want to have is for negative content to appear in the search results of your ranking and thus swaying potential customers away from using your company.

Question 3. If a small business owner wants to improve their search engine optimization, how do they know what words or which phrases to ‘rank’ for in their niche?

Glen: A good place to start is to have a clear view of what your business is about and the type of visitor you’re hoping to attract. Before you head over to keyword research tools, try thinking of the words and phrases you would use to find whatever it is your small business is offering. On a similar note, ask friends and family how they would search for the solutions that your business provides.

My two favorite tools for keyword research are the Google External Keywords tool and the free version of the Wordtracker Keyword tool. The Google tool is much better for search volume figures as you’re going directly to the source, but I like to use the Wordtracker tool as it gives me phrase ideas I would never have thought of.

When using the Google Keyword tool be sure to select All Countries and Territories from the drop-down option, but leave the match settings to broad or phrase while you’re browsing around. Once you’ve found a main phrase that you think will bring in targeted traffic then you can change the match to exact to get a real idea of how many people are searching for that term.

Please keep in mind, that although you may be excited by phrases which get a large number of searches, make sure you’re looking for visitors that are actually going to convert.

For example, if your small business specializes in selling lenses for digital cameras, then there’s no use in aiming to rank for the phrase “digital cameras.” First of all, it’s going to be very competitive because it’s such a broad phrase, and secondly, you aren’t going to get the real value of that audience unless you also have a lot of cameras for sale.

Conversely, I would recommend aiming to rank for less competitive phrases such as Nikon D3000 lens and then transitioning up to a phrase like Digital camera lens. This is just an example, but I hope it gets the point across.

Finally, before I start putting in the work to optimize for a phrase I’ll run it through Google Trends to see whether the term is declining in popularity, staying steady, or increasing. After all, you don’t want to put in lots of work on a term only to find that nobody is searching for it 6 months later.

Question 4. What are five things that any small business owner could do today to help improve the SEO of their blog?

Glen: Before I get into the specifics, I do want to say that SEO is not just a ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ strategy. You should aim to take a holistic approach to the process, rather than focusing solely on one thing. Building links to your small business blog won’t get you anywhere if you haven’t optimized for your phrase. Likewise, you could have “perfect” on-site SEO and not rank because you don’t have enough relevant backlinks. Now, my five tips for improving SEO today are:

  • Optimize Your Small Business Site Around a Phrase

It’s likely that your homepage or the main page of your blog is going to become one of the strongest places on your site (in terms of how many links it has) so if you aren’t using that link juice to rank for something, you’re missing a big opportunity. Unless you have a mega-name like “ProBlogger” which people search for (anyway) without even knowing the brand, it’s good to pick something that is relevant to your small business blog topic.

For example, when I owned PluginID it was obviously very easy for me to rank the homepage in search engines for the brand name. Inevitably this also become one of the strongest pages on my site, so I used the ‘link weight’ it had and optimized for the phrase ‘personal development’ which is what my site covered. I managed to rank 10th in Google within a few months, despite the competitiveness of the phrase, and brought in a new audience that I wouldn’t have otherwise reached.

  • Write the Best Content You Can

With my internet marketing blog ViperChill, I haven’t actually worked that hard to build links to the site. Yet, Yahoo tells me that I have over 16,000 backlinks and the search engine traffic to the site is increasing drastically each month. The reason I’m getting a lot of links and more search engine visitors is because I’m writing helpful content that people want to share with their audiences and talk about.

Small business owners should know that I’m not some lucky exception and that they can do exactly the same thing for their small business blog. If they focus on writing genuinely valuable content, that’s an excellent strategy to increase the inbound links to their site.

  • Set-up Google Webmaster Tools

I don’t like to give Google too much information about me or my websites (I make my living online, so don’t want to give away everything I’m working on). But if you don’t need to be as secretive as me then I highly recommend that you sign-up for Google Webmaster Tools.

Not only will it tell you if your small business site has been hacked – which is common with blogs – but it can also help you to find pages on your site that are resulting in 404 errors (that people are linking to), whether your robots.txt file is valid, and which phrases your site is ranking for. If you have pages that don’t exist which have links pointing at them, then you can redirect them to relevant pages. Similarly, if you know you’re showing in the top results for a phrase then you can increase your traffic by getting more links to that page and thus, increasing your rankings.

  • Link Out to Other Bloggers

While I don’t recommend that small business owners do this as a form of ‘link exchange’ or even using your blogroll, I do recommend that now and then you link out to other blogs and bloggers in your business niche. When drafting content for your blog you can ‘link out’ first and foremost as a way to help find excellent content for your readers. Hopefully, the owners of the sites that you linked to will come and check out your blog and link to your posts, which is going to help your rankings.

  • Use the All-in-One SEO Plugin

I’m sure there are alternatives which do similar things, but I’m a huge fan of the All-in-One SEO plugin for WordPress, which can be found here. One great thing this tool allows you to do is to change the title tag of your individual posts. I regularly make mine different from an actual post title which gives me the chance to rank for a lot more long-tail keywords because of how important heading and title tags are.

Another great feature is that you can automatically insert meta-descriptions into your posts (the snippets you see in search results) based on the first few sentences of your blog posts.

While there are a lot more SEO tasks small business owners can do, these five items should start any blog owner off in a good position.

Question 5. Do you have any favorite online tools that can show a small business blog’s SEO strengths and weaknesses?

Glen: Sure, there are a few I would recommend checking out, but I do want to say that you shouldn’t take them too seriously. Instead, small business owners should use them as a guide to help figure out where they may be going right or wrong. SEO is not something that can be fully automated and dissected by computers alone…yet. ;-)

  • Rank Checker for Firefox – will help you to see how you’re ranking for your targeted phrases in Google and other search engines.
  • Playground by Dave Naylor – is a bookmarklet that works in most popular browsers that will show you when a site was recently cached and things like keyword density, so you can see what terms search engines are going to think your page is mostly about.
  • Website Grader – by Hubspot, will notify you of things like missing alt-tags and which pages on your site are missing descriptions.

Coupled with the two keyword research tools I mentioned earlier, Google Webmaster Tools and the All-in-One SEO plugin for WordPress, most small business owners should end up with a great internet marketing toolbox.

I prefer to still do a lot of manual work to judge how competitive a niche is and use things like how many indexed pages there are of my site in Google, compared to how many are actually on the site, to determine whether there are things that need to be worked on.

Question 6. What is the easiest way for a small business owner to measure the SEO return on their time investment?

Glen: Don’t focus too much on keyword rankings. It may sound strange that I say that, based on what I covered earlier, but let me explain. I think it’s important to have phrases in mind that you want to optimize for and good on-site SEO in place, so that you can increase the long-tail traffic your website receives.

However, as an indicator to how well SEO is working for your business, rankings are not great. Instead, you should be looking at how those rankings are converting to see how effective your efforts are. Whether you want more RSS subscribers, product sales, or leads; it’s these things you should be tracking based on your search engine traffic, rather than where you rank for certain phrases.

As an example, many small business owners may be looking to increase the amount of subscribers their blog has in order to make their mark on an industry and later sell products or services. A great free tool that helps you track this is Get Clicky (though I recommend their premium version). With Get Clicky, if I go to the ‘Links’ section, and then click on ‘Outbound’, I can clearly see the sources of traffic to my RSS icon which in the situation for many people, is a conversion.

Instead of just focusing on certain phrases that are popular, I can focus on the ones which are resulting in people clicking on my RSS feed, rather than increasing the stats on my analytics account. Small business owners should always have some form of conversion tracking in place, even if it’s just for your feed, to judge how your SEO efforts are working out for you.

I would like to thank Glen (@viperchill) for the time he took answering the questions above. If you have further small business blog SEO questions, please ask them below in the comments.

Want more small business social media tips from Mark Hayward? Then subscribe to his RSS or email feed and follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.

Optimize a Single Post On Your Blog for SEO

This is an unofficial extra task for the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook.

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Today I spent the morning working on a task that I try to do at least once a month – SEO on individual key posts in my archives.

While it’s important to know and practice the basics principles of SEO in the way you set up your blogs structure and in the writing of your posts – I find it can be very worthwhile periodically going back through key old posts to optimise them even further. I’ve used the following process for a while now and in most cases where I do it I find I’m able to increase my ranking for different posts.

I’m not the world’s best SEO but here’s the process that I use in doing this (I invite you to share yours in comments if you do this type of thing) – I hope you find it useful:

1. Identify Key Posts to Optimize for SEO

Across my active blogs I have 10,000 blog posts so I need to be a little strategic about choosing which blog posts I go back to to give a little SEO attention to.

For me the way that I do this is to dig into my Google Analytics account to work out what posts are already having some success with search traffic – but which could be improved. I generally look for posts that are ranking anywhere from #2 to #10 for their keywords (although sometimes focus upon those which are #1 to strengthen them further).

If a page is already generating some traffic from Google for a keyword but isn’t in the number 1 ranking for the word and increase in ranking should also see an increase in the traffic that the post receives. I’ve seen a variety of studies over the years that show that the #1 ranked result in Google can be getting anywhere from 35-55% of all clicks – the higher you are to the top the better.

Lets look at an example:

I’ve got a page on DPS which ranks #2 (depending where you are) for the term Portrait Photography.

It is a good page to optimise because it’s a relatively good term in the amount of traffic it drives (it’s a term that get a fair bit of searching for in Google) but also because the page is a ‘sneeze page‘ which links to quite a few pages across my photography blog and as a result those who visit that page end up visiting over 7 pages on their visit (the site average is a bit over 2 pages per visit).

The page already generates some healthy traffic (a few thousand visitors a month) so I know if I could get it ranking higher it will generate more.

2. Analyze the Competition

I don’t tend to get this deep into SEO too often but from time to time it can be worthwhile doing a little analysis of what pages that are ranking higher than you for a keyword are doing.

market-samurai-SEO.pngOne tool that I use for this (and other keyword analysis) is Market Samurai. It’s a tool I’ve only been using for a little while but it’s very handy. That link is an affiliate link but it does give you a 12 day free trial. I’ve shelled out for the full version as it has been so handy a tool for this type of analysis.

One of the modules in the Market Samurai system (there are quite a few more) is one that does analysis of what competing pages are doing for a keyword. Lets take a look at what it gives us for ‘portrait photography’ as a keyword (click to enlarge).

portrait-photography-analysis.png

You can see that the #2 ranking is for my site but it also shows a variety of information for other ranked sites in the top 10. Some of the information given is not overly relevant to me (or at least is out of my control like the first column which looks at the age of the domain) but some of the information is useful in getting a handle on how your page compares to other sites.

Knowing this might help you work out what you need to do to rank higher – or it might also give you an indication of whether you have much chance of ranking for the keyword at all (if the site you’re trying to compete against is way beyond what you can achieve it might be an indication that you want to go and work on another page).

In this example lets compare my page with the #1 ranked page:

  • DA – domain age – they have a real advantage here.
  • PR – page rank – their page is a 4 and mine is a 3. Something to work on.
  • IC – index count (the number of pages indexed on the domain) – they are obviously a lot bigger site. This doesn’t mean I can’t rank for the term but gives an indication that I’m up against a pretty established site.
  • BLP – the amount of backlinks pointing at the page. They obviously have more (we’ll do some more analysis of this below).
  • BLEG – links from .edu/.gov sites pointing at the page – they have a couple here while I don’t
  • DMZ – is the site in the DMOS directory (I don’t page a lot of attention to this but some say it can be a factor)
  • YAH – is the site in the Yahoo directory (again, not something that I pay much attention to but some say it can be the difference between getting a higher ranking and not)
  • Title – is the keyword/s in the title tags of the post (we both do this)
  • URL – is the keyword/s in the URL of the post (I have the advantage here)
  • Desc – is the keyword in the meta description tag (not something that I’ve found to impact SEO much but perhaps something to consider with the way your post appears in Google)
  • Head – is the keyword/s in a header tag on the page
  • CA – The Cache Age (the number of days since Google Cached the page)

In this case – the analysis shows me that I’m up against a pretty heavy hitter. It’s an established site with lots of links pointing both at the domain and the page itself. I’m tempted to settle for just ranking #2 for this page but for the sake of the exercise I’ll push on.

Note: Market Samurai also gives you the opportunity to dig deeper into competing sites and can give you a breakdown of the actual links pointing at a page. I won’t do the analysis here (it might be deeper than where people are at) but what I found was that in the case of my competition on this one is that the competing site had a lot of forwarded links pointing at it. I’m not sure what was going on with it but it seems that the majority of the links pointing at my competition are from forwarded domains and not actual live pages. This gives me a little hope so I’ll push on with optimising the page.

3. On Page Optimization

The above competitive analysis might give you a few hints as where to begin in optimizing your page. For example if you’ve not got your keywords in ‘title tags’ or ‘header tags’ – you’ll want to fix that. If your keyword is not in the URL, that’s another thing to consider. Those three tweaks alone could have a fairly significant change (I’ve seen changing title tags to include keywords as increasing rankings significantly).

Once you’ve done that you might want to also look at some smaller tweaks that could play a part. Using keywords in bold, using keywords in alt tags on images etc. These are probably not going to have a major impact but could help a little.

Ultimately if you want to rank for a particular keyword – you need to be using that keyword on your page in key spots (titles, headings, URL). Don’t stuff your page full of the keyword (and whatever you do keep your content useful and readable to readers) but a few tweaks might help.

4. Off Page Optimization

You might find that with some on page optmization that your post is already increasing its rankings – particularly if the keyword you’re looking at is not highly competitive. However at times it can be worth looking at ways of generating some extra links to your page as the number and type of links are important in determining how a page ranks in search engines.

I don’t tend to do much of this type of SEO as I find my site tends to get a nice number of links pretty naturally from other sites but I know those who are more into SEO will work hard on some of the following:

  • analysing where the competition is getting their links and looking for opportunities to get links there too – for example if a link is coming to your competitor from a forum discussion or blog comment you might also have an opportunity to leave a quality comment there with your own link.
  • links from other blogs you own (particularly one on a relevant topic) link to your page from it
  • internal links – this is something I do do – basically its about interlinking your posts. While internal links don’t count as much as an external link they can help a little.
  • pitching links to other blogs – if you have a relationship with other blogs in your niche try pitching a link of the page that you’re optimizing to those bloggers.
  • sharing links in social media – most social media sites like Twitter and Facebook put no-follow tags on links so they don’t count directly for SEO but I find that an occasional push of an older post on social media sites can lead to indirect links from other bloggers. I also suspect that search engines are paying more attention to what links are being shared in social media sites so getting your links into them (without spamming) could be useful if you have a network of people who will pass them onto their own networks.

Note: the generation of links can be a fairly ‘black hat’ game at times. It can also be pretty addictive and become an obsession. I personally would prefer to spend my time producing quality content than spending my days asking for links. Do be a little careful with link building – not only can it be a time suck but if you engage in tactics that Google sees as against their Terms of Service (buying links for example) you could also be jeopardizing your sites ranking in their index.

Further Reading on SEO

Do you ever go back and optimize individual posts on your blog for SEO? If so – I’d love to hear your approach to it. This is the way I do it but I’m certain that there will be many other approaches that others take.

Scribe SEO Review: Rank Higher in Search Engines Without Compromising The Quality of Your Posts

Have you ever heard the statement – “Write for People not Search Engines“?

It’s a teaching that many bloggers have heard that encourages bloggers not to compromise the quality of their blog posts in order to get search engine traffic.

The temptation that some bloggers fall into is writing the kind of content that ranks well in Google – but which becomes increasingly unreadable to real people.

What if there was another way to Rank Higher in Search Engines Without Compromising The Quality of Your Posts?

I’ve long thought (and taught) that there was a better way. Using a well optimized blog theme (like Thesis) and knowing some basic principles of SEO so that as you write your quality content you naturally use them to improve your SEO. Having the basics of SEO in mind as you write and tweaking your content as you write it is great – however it requires you to know some of those basics.

Now there IS an easier way

Brian Clark has just released Scribe – a WordPress Plugin that analyzes the content that you write on your blog at the click of a button and then reports back from within your WordPress dashboard on how you can improve your search rankings.

As Brian writes in on the about page of Scribe – it’s like having an SEO expert as an editorial assistant.

I’ve seen and tested a number of SEO type tools previously and Scribe beats them all on a number of levels. Most importantly – it takes what you’ve written (for real people) and uses THAT as the basis for what it recommends instead of starting with some keywords that you want to rank for and creating something that doesn’t really help anyone reading your content.

I’ve been playing with this plugin for a week or so now and it’s really good.

You don’t have to use all the suggestions that Scribe gives you if you feel that you don’t want to make all changes but many of the things it recommends are things that will definitely help your SEO and which SEOs would recommend (that the rest of us might not naturally think of).

The great thing about Scribe is that you can go back to any of your old posts that you’d like to see ranking higher and get it to optimize them too.

As an extra bonus I’m finding that simply using Scribe is giving me a great refresher in SEO and I’m starting to do some of what it recommends more and more as I write.

Scribe syncs beautifully with themes like Thesis, Headway and Hybrid as well as the All in One SEO plugin.

72% off for 4 Days Only

There are three options for buying Scribe but for the next 4 days you can lock yourself in at the most advanced package for the price of the starter package (a saving of 72%).

If traffic from search engines is something you want to tap into more, without compromising the usefulness of your content, Scribe is an option worth investing into. Learn more about it here.

Have you used the Scribe SEO plugin? Leave your Scribe SEO Review below in comments.

7 Considerations on Generating Traffic to Your Blog

Over the last few weeks I’ve had three conversations with readers regarding different sources of traffic.

In each case I had a number of email exchanges with each blogger (all on the same day) and ended up laughing to myself at the common theme but extremely different opinions being expressed by each of the bloggers.

In each case the bloggers had strong opinions (and experiences to back those opinions up) on what type of traffic was ‘best’ and how to get it.

  1. In one case the conversation started with a blogger telling me that I focus too much upon social media traffic and not enough on traffic from search engines. Their niche didn’t work with social traffic but with search traffic they did best.
  2. In another case the blogger told me that they’d been told to forget about search traffic in their niche and work more on building traffic from other sites and to convert it into ongoing traffic with newsletters.
  3. In the last case a blogger told me that in their opinion the best type of traffic was social media traffic and they didn’t see the point in newsletters.

I was reminded through these conversations just how many different valid approaches there are to blogging. I also came away with a few thoughts that I thought I’d jot down here on the topic of driving traffic to blogs.

traffic-blog.png

1. There are Many Valid Sources of Traffic

The above chart shows just 8 of many sources of traffic to a blog. As I write this others are already springing to mind (for example some bloggers run paid advertising to drive traffic to their blog – others get it from banner exchange programs). The reality is that there are many potential sources of traffic.

2. The ‘Best’ Source of Traffic Varies from Niche to Niche

As I thought about the 3 bloggers I was chatting to above it struck me that each had found great sources of traffic but that they were each operating in very different niches.

The first blogger who had written off social media was in a niche that people were simply not using social media for (I won’t reveal the niche as I don’t have their permission but it was a very very niche focused blog). Perhaps they could have driven a tiny bit of traffic with social media but for them Search was a much better place for them to invest their time.

3. Different Sources of Traffic Will monetize differently

Another important factor to consider is that some sources of traffic will monetize ALOT better than others. I’ve found that search traffic can work very well with AdSense for example (it depends upon the niche and intent of the reader). People arrive on your site searching for specific information, read your content, see an ad that relates to their search term and click on it.

RSS readers on the other hand don’t tend to convert for AdSense as they tend to be loyal readers and many don’t even click through to your site to read your content. RSS readers (and social media traffic) however can convert really well for affiliate promotions or selling your own products to.

4. Traffic Patterns Change over the life cycle of a blog

As a blog matures its sources of traffic often quite naturally change.

There’s no typical one size fits all pattern to this but at first the traffic might mainly come from other blogs or forums where you comment – or blogs where you guest post – or articles that you write. In time you might start to see more traffic from RSS or newsletters as a few people subscribe. Perhaps then some traffic will come from other sites who link to you (people who subscribe via RSS might have their own blogs) and from social media. After a while your search engine ranking might kick in as a result of the links from other sites and your guest posting and article writing and you might start seeing Google traffic. Once your blog is more established you might start seeing social bookmarking viral events that spike your traffic.

Again – this is not going to be the pattern for all blogs but in time traffic will naturally start to come from different places – the key is to try to leverage it for ongoing good (trying to get your blog to be sticky rather than just having one time visitors) and to work out how to convert that traffic for the goals you have.

5. Bloggers should be open to different approaches

While each of the three bloggers had discovered great lessons and good sources of traffic for their niches and the life cycles of their blogs – I was left wondering in each case whether the bloggers were being a little too closed off to different sources of traffic that perhaps could have added to the overall mix of traffic.

I see a lot of SEO type bloggers write about the worthlessness of social traffic for instance. One common comment that I get from some SEOs (definitely not all) is that social media traffic can’t be monetized. The reality could not be further from the truth. It won’t always convert but it certainly can. For example I know in each of the E-book launches that I’ve done in two niches that I’ve seen significant conversions from Twitter traffic.

On the flip side of things I hear some social media focused bloggers write off SEO and say that it works itself out and you don’t need to optimise your blog for search if you just produce good content. While there is some truth in that (good content does tend to generate natural incoming links to some extent) with a basic understanding of principles of SEO and a few minor tweaks a blog can rank much better in search engines without compromising the integrity of the content.

I guess what I’m getting at is that if you get exclusive about the type of traffic you are after you could actually be limiting the potential of your blog’s incoming traffic.

6. Too many Eggs in One Basket Can Be Dangerous

I used to be very focused upon search traffic in my early days of blogging. I worked hard to optimise my first blogs for search and got to a point where I was making a full time living from the ad revenue I was getting almost exclusively from Google. As a result I got a little lazy in some of the other areas – I didn’t work to convert readers to be loyal with newsletters or with prominent calls to subscribe to RSS, I didn’t build too many relationships with other bloggers to generate referral traffic and I was very inactive in social media (although it was much more limited back then).

As a result when Google decided to adjust their algorithm one day and my rankings dropped (and almost completely disappeared) in their results I lost almost all of my traffic – and as a result almost all of my income.

I was lucky in that Google readjusted their algorithm a couple of months later and I regained a lot of (but not all) of that traffic but in the mean time I looked for and found a ‘real job’ – and more importantly learned an important lesson about the power of having more than one source of traffic.

That experience was the beginning of me doing a few things that included working harder on capturing readers as subscribers (email and RSS), networking more with other bloggers in my niche and getting more involved in promoting my blog in other places (mainstream media, social media etc). My hope in doing all of this was to build up other sources of traffic so that if Google ever switched off my traffic again (temporarily or permanently) I’d at least have enough traffic to survive.

Google still does send me around 40-50% of my traffic (it varies a little from blog to blog) but I’m in a position now where I could survive for an extended period if it all disappeared (not that I’d like for that to happen).

7. The Importance of Personality and Being Yourself

I’m sure there are other factors that are at play that might be worth considering when looking at traffic. One of these (that I’m yet to fully think through) is personality type.

For example a lot of my my technically thinking friends seem to enjoy the challenge of SEO a little more. They love experimenting with and testing what happens when they make small tweaks to different aspects of their blogs. They’re constantly testing different setups and do quite well from it. I am not technically minded and find their attention to detail very very unusual (and so far from where that I’m at that I feel like I’m from another planet).

Other friends are perhaps a little more social by nature and as a result seem to do well on Twitter.

Others seem to do better by applying their freakish ability to write blog posts that get tonnes of links from other sites and which do brilliantly on social bookmarking sites..

Others are networkers and spend a lot of time interacting with other bloggers and site owners and tend to get links and traffic that way.

Others just seem to be brilliant at building community on their blog and as a result retain almost everyone who ever comments and build new readers from those people telling their friends.

I guess the lesson here is to be yourself and work with your strengths. Of course you don’t want to let your strengths dominate so much that you ignore or become lazy in areas that you’re not as strong in – but do follow your natural abilities and leverage them as much as you can.

Remember that there is no wrong or right way to generate traffic for a blog. If you were analyze the sources of traffic on many top blogs you’d find quite different factors at play!

What to Do When Your Search Rankings Drop

“I just lost all my Google traffic – help!”

This request hits my inbox every week or two from a distraught blogger who has logged into the blog’s statistics one morning only to discover that most of their traffic has completely disappeared due to the all powerful Google making some kind of change in their algorithm and how they rank sites which resulted in that particular blog either disappearing from search results or at least being buried many pages down in the rankings.

The feeling associated with this discovery of a loss of traffic can be sickening.

I still remember the first time it happened to me (back in 2004) as if it were yesterday – it was like someone had sucker punched me in the gut – really took the wind out of my sails.

Up until the day it happened traffic had been healthy on my blog – healthy enough to just make a full time living from. Then when the traffic from Google disappeared I was down to 30% of what I’d come to see as ‘normal’ traffic and suddenly my dreams of being a full time blogger seemed over.

What to do when your Google Traffic Disappears

OK – so the question that I’m asked each time this happens to a ProBlogger reader is – what should I do?

It’s a tough question to answer – partly because I’m not Google and don’t have any insight into your particular situation and partly because each time it happens it is different. I’m also not an SEO expert am won’t give you any technical advice – but let me give you some general advice to start with:

1. Don’t Panic

I’ve had this happen to me at least 5 times over the last 7 years of blogging and most successful bloggers I know can recall a similar number of Google fluctuations that have brought decreases (and increases) in traffic in their blogging history. It happens to us all – sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways. In chatting with one Google employee recently he told me that they are making daily (and more) changes to the way that they rank sites (mainly small tweaks) so over time we’ll all notice changes.

The key is not to make massive big changes to your site’s SEO too quickly or as a gut reaction to a change in your ranking.

For me the first time that this happened (when I lost 70% of my traffic) I was very tempted to make big changes to my site to try to fix things. I was advised by a few wise and experienced web masters to wait. I did and a few weeks later almost all of the traffic returned. Google fixed itself (phew).

If the traffic doesn’t come back after an extended period you might want to get some expert SEO advice and make some larger changes – but I personally am glad that I’d seen out the dips in traffic rather than doing anything to hurt my long term rankings.

Of course there are times when you might need to make some changes…. such as….

2. Have You Done Anything Black Hat?

Google has guidelines in place for webmasters. If you want to rank well in their search engine you need to play by their rules. Of course there’s a whole industry around ‘bending’ and ‘manipulating’ the rules and many web masters make a living by doing it – however if you are caught breaking the rules by Google you’re likely to be penalized.

If this is the case for you you have two choice:

I know of numerous bloggers who’ve asked for reconsideration and have been reinstated back into the index. It can take a little while (the last one said it took a couple of weeks for them) but in the long run it can be well worthwhile.

3. Build Other Sources of Traffic

The biggest lesson that I learned back in 2004 when I lost most of my traffic as a result of a Google algorithm change was that I needed to diversify my approach to building traffic to my blogs.

Up until that time I was almost exclusively working on driving traffic via Google. It was like a drug that I’d become dependent upon in some ways and much of my day was spent writing content for Google and attempting to ‘get links’ to that content from other sites. I was not really writing for regular readers or trying to build community on my blog – I just wanted traffic that I hoped would click my ads and affiliate programs.

This approach had worked for me – however when my Google traffic disappeared I was left with little and realized how short sighted I’d been. I began to change my focus and started working on other sources of traffic.

I still love the traffic that Google sends me but today if it all disappeared it would hurt – but it wouldn’t be the end for my business. Next week I want to followup this post with another one looking at some of the ways to become less reliant upon Google traffic and to build traffic from other sources – stay tuned for more.

5 Ways to Get Your Blog Indexed by Google in 24 Hours

This is a guest-post from AdesBlog.com. Follow Ades on twitter @ades.

We all know that content is king and that if you keep blogging… if you keep doing what you love… the traffic and the money will follow suit. While that’s partially true, there is also things that you can do to:

  • Index your newly launched blog fast by major Search Engines

  • Increase traffic to your blog
  • Improve your SERPs (Search Engine Result Positions)

Why wait right? Content can be king but waiting around for traffic to come by itself is not a good way to start blogging. So let’s start…

Getting Indexed

Let’s say you launched a blog today and want it on Google’s results tomorrow. Can this be done? Yes.

Easiest way to get indexed by major Search Engines is to get mentioned by established blogs. This usually will get your blog indexed within 24 hours. But since we are new (i.e the newly launched blog of ours) I don’t think any blogger want to mention it. So instead of begging other bloggers to notice your newly launched blog, you just have to figure out other ways of getting indexed by Google fast. Can it be done? Absolutely! (All it takes a little effort on your side).

1. Blog Communities

There are few blog related community portals that have a very good rankings in Google and other Major Search Engines Results, they are: MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog, Blogged and NetworkedBlogs, particularly MyBlogLog. This means that if you get your blog on these blog communities, Google will have no other choice but to index your blog. So, go ahead and register for an account on these communities and list your blog on it. Once you are done you will have a page like this, this and this.

What to pay attention: Your blog’s description (have a proper write-up), keywords & tags (add related keywords and tags to your listing, this will be used by other members to find your blog), branding (put your logo, avatars, screenshots etc. have a consistent branding everywhere), and list your blog in the correct category.

2. Site Valuation & Stats Sites

Some of those How Much Your Site Worth? sites have a good ranking in Search Engines. All you need to do is to go there and check how much your site worth. This would create a special page for your blog (like this) and consecutively it would be indexed by Google. Here is a list of worthy sites: WebsiteOutlook, StatBrain, CubeStat, WebTrafficAgents, BuiltWith, WhoIs, QuarkBase, URLfan and AboutTheDomain.

3. Feed Aggregators

List your blog’s feed in these feed aggregators Feed-Squirrel, OctoFinder, FeedAdage. Once you have submitted your feed to these sites, they will keep track of your newly published posts and index them in their site. Whenever someone clicks on the blog post title, he/she will be redirected to your original blog post sending you free traffic and getting your latest posts indexed by Google.

4. Social Sites

Registering account on Social Sites with the same username as your blog’s URL is very effective in getting your blog indexed by Search Engines. Especially for those targeted keywords.

For example, if your blog’s name is WhiteElephant, it’s a good practice to register the same username at twitter as @WhiteElephant, and to create a page in Facebook at www.facebook.com/WhiteElephant. Having a consistent keyword-username on all major Social Sites will help get your blog indexed faster, and at a later stage it will also help build a “brand” for your blog.

So, get account on major Social Sites for your newly launched blog, namely: Twitter, Facebook (create a page for your blog), Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious etc. By the way, it’s a good pratice to create a separate Social Sites account for each of your projects. This way you can stay focused and post messages that are related to your project. In the long run, this will help build a community that are like-minded around your project.

Note from Darren: it’s worth nothing that many social media sites (like Twitter) use no follow tags on links which means the links don’t really help with SEO. Having said this – it’s still worth getting pages for your keywords/brand as these pages can rank in and of themselves in Google and can help you to have control over numerous search results for the same keyword.

5. Misc Sites

Squidoo is a community website that allows people to create pages (called “lenses”) on various topics. Creating a topic that is related to your blog and then including your feed in that page would help your blog get indexed by Search Engines. Squidoo used to have a really good ranking in Google results, but not so much today. But it’s still ranks well and it shouldn’t be neglected.

ChangeDetection is a website that monitors sites for changes. When you monitor a particular site using ChangeDetection, it will ask you whether you want the notices to be public or private. If you say public, it will be published in their news section. For example; AdesBlog.com got an update today, type of update: text additions etc. This of course will get picked up by Search Engines and Search Engines in return will index your blog.

Technorati is a search engine for searching blogs. According to Wikipedia, as of June 2008, Technorati was indexing 112.8 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. It’s a dying breed, but not just dead yet. You have to definitely register for an account and get your blog listed on Technorati.

That’s it. Once you are done with creating accounts and submitting your newly launched blog in the above mentioned sites, you should see your blog in Google’s Search Results within 24 hours. Most of the time it will appear within the next few hours only.

Lastly, getting indexed is one thing but sustaining that traffic is another. And this is where the Content is King phrase should truly be emphasized. Because, without a good and valuable content, all your effort will be just wasted.

I hope you have found this post useful.

Abdylas Tynyshov (Ades) is a full-time blogger based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He blogs at http://www.adesblog.com and is the creator of a great freeware color picker tool. You can follow him on twitter at @ades.

Outbound Links – An Endangered Species? [And Why I Still Link Up]

Yesterday on Twitter I made this remark:

“A change I’ve noticed from the ‘old days’ of blogging – people don’t link when they quote you as much as they used to.”

The replies to my tweet were quite varied – some agreed while some disagreed – some argued that a link was not necessary while others argued that it was essential. The replies highlighted just how much diversity of opinion there was on the topic so I thought I’d put together a few thoughts on the topic.

But before I share why I DO link to others from my blogs when quoting or borrowing ideas directly from others I thought it might be worthwhile sharing some of the reasons people gave yesterday for why they thought links were becoming LESS used in this way.

1. Competition

The most common remark to my tweet was that people thought it was mainly to do with a change in the way that bloggers viewed other blogs in their niche.

The theory is that in ‘the old days’ of blogging the blogosphere was more about sharing ideas, networking, communal learning etc – but that these days it’s more about ‘getting ahead’ or ‘empire building’ in some way. As a result other blogs are less seen as an opportunity to network or have mutually beneficial opportunities – but that they’re more seen as ‘the competition’.

Of course there are plenty of examples where this is not the case – but I suspect it’s one of the reasons that some bloggers don’t link out to others.

2. PageRank Sculpting

The other main theory that people shared (and a few admitted it was why they didn’t link out) was that they saw links on their blogs as valuable and wanted to use them in ways that benefited themselves by ‘sculpting’ the link juice on their sites.

This is an SEO (search engine optimisation) approach to linking – the theory is that the more links you have on a page the less weight each one of them carries in passing on page rank to the sites you’re linking to.

The idea is that you link to fewer sites so that the few that you do link to (your own internal links, links to your other sites, links to partners sites or those paying for links) have maximum benefit. The practice is to limit links and/or use nofollow tags on any link that you don’t want to pass page rank so that those that do pass it pass the maximum.

I know that most bloggers probably don’t page sculpting in mind when they’re linking to other blogs – but it was the 2nd most mentioned explanation that people mentioned to me on Twitter yesterday.

3. Laziness and/or Forgetfulness

The third theory shared on why people don’t link is that they either forget to or that they’re just too lazy to do it.

I suspect that most bloggers at one time or another have inadvertently forgotten to link to another page when quoting them or bouncing off something they’ve written. I know I’ve done this a number of times over the years (I fix them when they’re brought to my attention).

4. Ignorance

The last theory that some of my followers shared is that they thought that some people simply where not aware of the etiquette when it comes to quoting others (or that they simply didn’t believe in it).

This was highlighted to me in a couple of the DMs that I received after my tweet from people who admitted that they didn’t link to other sites that they quoted because they’d never heard of the practice. They did not do it maliciously, they had no ulterior motives – they’d just never thought to do it or been taught that that was what should happen.

5. Or Have Things Just Changed?

As I pondered the topic yesterday it struck me that perhaps things had simply changed and that I was ‘old fashioned’ in my approach.

Perhaps this ‘ignorance’ could also be explained by a change that is happening in the unspoken etiquette of the web? Perhaps there’s a transition in belief and behaviour happening here and I just need to get with the times?

After all times are changing – people of my parents generation are always telling me how things that they used to think were unacceptable are now common place…. social interactions change don’t they?

I really hope that this last theory is not the case – you see in my experience linking to other sites from your blog is actually something that is very powerful. In my experience it improves your blog to do it but also makes the web a better place.

Which leads me to an exploration of why I link out to other blogs and websites from my blog.

Why I DO Link to Other Sites

Let me start by saying that when I say I link to other blogs and websites that I’m talking about doing so as a way of giving credit to those sites. For example when I’m quoting someone or when I’m directly taking an idea that someone’s written about on their site and am extending it, reacting to it or bouncing off it some way on my own blog.

As I said above – I’m sure there are times when I’ve inadvertently not done this (you’re welcome to point them out to help me rectify this). Enough disclaimers – here’s some reasons that I do link:

1. Etiquette/Manners/Courtesy

At a base level I think it’s important to acknowledge the work of someone else when you use it.

When someone has written something that you’re quoting – that person has taken time to craft those words, they’ve gone to some effort to make the impression that they have on you. You in turn are using their words (and the effort that they went to to craft them) to improve your own blog in some way – as a result I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

You could of course do this without a link – but I think a link shows a little extra spirit of generosity and appreciation that is simply good courtesy in my mind.

2. Usefulness

Linking to your sources makes your content more useful to your readers.

Good content is useful content. I’m constantly talking about how to build a successful blog you need to be producing something that is useful in some way to those reading it. By linking to the page where you take a quote or idea you’re providing your readers with the opportunity to read more on the topic or see the quote in it’s original context.

Your reader may or may not click the link – but it does give them the opportunity to explore further or learn more.

I know that as a blog reader when I’m reading a quote that I find particularly interesting that I want to learn more about who said it. If there’s no easy way to do this I think have to go to the effort of researching myself. I actually find this annoying and it creates the impression to me that the author of the content is too lazy or stingy to go to the effort themselves.

Giving readers other things to read around the web adds depth to your blog. Yes it sends people away from your site to read someone else’s – but if it’s a link to something good they’re more likely to come back because you become a trusted source of information.

3. It Makes the Web Better

Links are what makes the internet what it is.

I still remember the first day I got online. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I connected on my brand new dialup modem but I do remember looking at my watch later that day and realising that 7 hours had passed and that I’d barely moved much more than the index finger on my mouse as I surfed from one page to another.

I was caught in the ‘web’. One site led to another which lead to another which led to another – the web inspired me.

I had a similar feeling the first day I visited the first blog that I had ever read – it linked out generously to other blogs in its niche which in turn linked to others. I was immediately hooked into this community of websites – but particularly to that first one which got me going.

Perhaps this is a little naive – but for me the internet has always been built on the ‘link’. It’s what makes it so great and as someone wanting to be a good citizen of the web I think it’s important to continue the tradition of what has made it great.

4. The Power of Links to Build Relationships

A simple link to another site can get you on their radar and be the beginning of a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship.

Here’s a quick illustration as to the power of a link:

Every month or two on my photography blog I run a post that is simply a list of interesting links from other photography sites around the web from the last month. I sometimes throw a few internal links into these posts but they’re largely just a list of links with short descriptions to other photography sites.

There are many benefits of these posts, for example:

  • they’ve been on the front page of Digg and can be spread virally around the web
  • they’re useful to readers and I get a lot of thank you comments and emails from readers as a result

But the biggest benefit to me from these types of posts is the impact that they have on the sites I’m linking to. Last time I did one of these posts I linked to 15 or so other photography sites.

  • The next day I had 5 emails from owners of these sites. All thanked me for the link.
  • 2 of those who wrote offered to write guest posts for my blog.
  • Over the coming week 6 of the sites I linked to linked back to my blog
  • Others tweeted about the post
  • 2 of the other bloggers and I have been exploring ways we can work more together

All of this started simply with some linking to other quality content in my niche.

While my blog has a fairly big readership and the traffic I sent out was substantial – the same principle is true for sites of all sizes – links have the potential to get you on the radar of other bloggers and web masters – where this can lead you is anyone’s guess.

5. Outbound Links and SEO

Outbound links can help your blog’s search engine optimisation (directly perhaps but indirectly definitely).

I’ve heard it argued that relevant outbound links can actually help your own site’s ranking in search engines (ie search engines look at the sites you’re linking to as part of their algorithm).

I have heard this debated and in my own limited testing have not seen it as a major factor (it may be a minor one but other factors like your title tags have a much bigger impact) – HOWEVER I do think that linking out can definitely indirectly help your SEO – based upon reasons we’ve already covered:

  • Linking can stimulate reciprocal links – as a result of building relationships with other websites you increase the chance of being linked to yourself. It doesn’t happen every time but sometimes when you link to another blog you’ll find that blogger starts to subscribe to yours and in time will link back. This helps your search ranking.
  • Useful content ranks high – Google’s main purpose with it’s algorithm is to find the best content it can and rank it highly. If links increase your site’s usefulness (point #2 above) in time you’ll see this reflected in your Google ranking as your site gets passed around by readers and Google does its thing in finding it.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll rank high in Google by linking to other sites – but indirectly I think it can certainly be helpful. I guess this really comes down to my main philosophy about SEO – set your blog up well and be aware of the principles of SEO but then concentrate on producing the kind of content that the search engines are looking for and build relationships/network. Search rankings tend to have a way of looking after themselves.

Quick Tips on Linking Out

Let me conclude with a few last thoughts:

Don’t link out for the sake of it – I’ve seen some bloggers link out to other blogs in large quantities with the belief that it’ll help them build relationships with loads of other bloggers. Link out when it’s relevant to do so, when you’re giving credit and when you think it makes your content more useful.

Don’t get caught up in linking schemes – one thing I do know is that Google is always on the look out for ‘link farms’ or schemes designed to manipulate their rankings. I won’t pretend to know where Google draws the line but simple reciprocal links seem to carry less weight than normal organic links and when search engines spot you involved in a bad neighbourhood of the web engaging in lots of interlinking you’re probably going to do yourself more harm than good.

I don’t get into it at all these days but IF you’re going to get into reciprocal links keep them relevant to your content, do it in moderation and make sure that the sites you’re linking to are of a high standard and quality.

PS: a quote from Google’s Matt Cutts:

Let me finish with a quote (and a link of course) from Google’s Matt Cutts:

“I would recommend the first-order things to pay attention to are 1) making great content that will attract links in the first place, and 2) choosing a site architecture that makes your site usable/crawlable for humans and search engines alike.”

I’m interested to hear your thoughts (and practices) when it comes to linking out from your blog. Do you do it? Why/Why Not?

Does Search Engine Optimization Make a Difference?

Earlier today I had a debate via instant messaging with another blogger who told me that Search Engine Optimization doesn’t make any difference any more. They argued that you just need to provide good content and search engine rankings look after themselves.

While I see where the blogger comes from and I agree to a point that search rankings look after themselves when you build a useful blog – I’m also convinced that knowing some basic SEO and implementing it on a site can have a significant impact.

Want proof?

Check out this chart:

search-engine-optimization-makes-a-difference.png

What you’re looking at above is the search engine referred traffic over the last two months on my digital photography forum. The blue line is the last month and the green line is the month before that.

You can see quite clearly that around 25th June something happened to change the amount of search engine traffic arriving on the forum.

What happened? I simply installed a plugin called VBSEO. It’s a plugin for VBulletin (the platform I use to run the forum) that simply makes the forum more search engine friendly. It does quite a few things including changing the url structure of the forum to include keywords rather than numbers.

Here’s when the plugin was installed:

search-engine-optimization-makes-a-difference-1.png

Within a day or two we noticed search engine traffic increasing. In the period you see above search traffic is 35.98% higher than in the last month than the proceeding one (that includes the first half of the month when the difference wasn’t massive). In fact over the last week search traffic has been up by 69.66%!

Now it is worth saying that Vbulletin is not well set up for SEO in its default form (in fact it’s pretty bad) and that most blogging platforms are better optimized in their default form – however I think it’s pretty clear from the above graph that SEO does have an impact.

Further Reading: check out our Search Engine Optimization Tips for Bloggers for more specific details on how to optimize a blog for search engines.

8 First Step SEO Tips for Bloggers

“What are the first steps to optimizing my blog for searches?” – question submitted by @monedays using the #pbquestions hashtag on Twitter.

Much has been written on the topic of search engine optimization for bloggers – but let me give you a few basic first steps:

1. Content is King

The quality of the posts you write is the single most important factor when it comes to Search Optimization on a Blog. I suspect others will argue differently but as I look at my own blogs success in the search engines I’d say that this has been the number one factor.

Quality content that helps people will quite often draw a reader to want to share what they’ve written – of course they do this by passing on the link to your post and often they’ll do it in a way that helps your search rankings (on their own blog for example).

2. Anticipate What People Will be Searching For

Every time you write a post you should be automatically be considering what words people might be putting into search engines to find that type of information. Once you know what kinds of words they’re using you’re in a great position to position yourself for that search.

3. Titles Titles Titles

There are a number of things to keep in mind when it comes to titles. Google pays particular attention to titles – so make sure you get them right:

  • first make sure that the way you set your blog up puts the title of your post in the ‘title tags’ on the back end of your blog. This is really important.
  • if you’re just looking from an SEO perspective don’t include your blog name in the title tags of single posts. This dilutes your keywords. Of course if you’re looking more at branding including your blog’s name in the title tags might be worth doing.
  • next – include the keywords that you identified in point #2 in your post title
  • also, keep in mind that the words you use at the start of a title tend to carry more weight than words you use later in your title

4. Keywords in other parts of your post

Use the keywords you identified in point #2 within your post also. If you want Google to rank you for a term or phrase you need to use that term or phrase. Use it in sub headings in your post (use h tags where you can), use it in the content itself, use the words in the alt tags of images etc. Don’t go over the topic but do use the words where you can naturally in the post.

5. Link to Your Own Posts

Don’t over do this one but while links from other sites are a great way to increase your blog’s rankings so are links from your blog. Interlink your posts to share where readers can find more information on your topic (where relevant) but also consider linking to key posts on your blog from other places on the blog (sidebar, front page etc).

6. Links from Outside Your Blog

Links from other sites to yours are key in SEO but they can be hard to get. Start to linking to your blog from other sites that you have or are active on. Some (like on Twitter) won’t count for anything much as they have no-follow tags but they are all potential ways for people to access your site and some will help with SEO.

Don’t become obsessed with getting links – rather become obsessed about writing great content and the links will generally come in time. However if you’ve written a great post that you think will be relevant to another blog don’t be afraid to let that blogger or website owner know about it – they could just link up.

Also – take note of the type of posts that you write that do well at getting other sites to link to you. You can learn a lot about generating linkable content by doing so and might just develop a technique that will work again and again.

7. Plugins

I don’t tend to do much to the back end of my blog to alter things like meta tags – but there are some good plugins around if you’re using WordPress that can help with some of this and that may give you a small edge. Check out 9 SEO plugins that every WordPress Blog Should have for some suggestions on this.

8. Readers Begat Readers

This isn’t an SEO technique as such but it plays a part. The more readers you have the more likely your blog is to be found by other readers. There’s a certain ‘snowballing’ thing that happens on a site over time – as you get readers quite often momentum grows as those readers pass on your site to others in their network. They link to you, they bookmark you, they tweet about you, they email friends about you, they blog about you, they suggest your site in recommendation engines….

Not all of this counts with SEO but some does and the accumulation of it over time all certainly helps to grow both organic and search traffic. I guess what I’m saying is to get readers any way you can – don’t just focus upon ‘SEO’ as such. It all counts.

My Hunch with SEO

Before I share my hunch…. let me say that I’m not an SEO and this could be completely wrong…. but it’s a hunch that I’ve had for a while now.

I’ve been doing this blogging thing for almost 7 years now and from what I can see the tweaks that many bloggers do on their blogs to optimize it seem to be having less and less impact on the rankings of blogs. Don’t get me wrong – I stand by the above tips completely and would do them as a common sense bare minimum – but from where I sit Google seem to be in the business of finding the best information that they can for their users. They don’t always get it right but I think they do a pretty good job.

As a blogger your job should be to provide the best information that you can.

It strikes me that Google have an ever increasing way of working out if your information is good. It’s not just about what keywords you have or how many links that you get – but these days they own Feedburner (know how many people subscribe to your blog and what links people are clicking on), they own Google Reader (again giving them all kinds of great data), they own Gmail, Google Analytics, YouTube etc…..

Now they may or may not use all the data in their ranking of sites but they certainly could know a lot about your blog and the posts you write. There’s also been increasing talk over the last 6 months or so about how easy it’d be for search engines to start generating data on what content is being shared in social networks and bookmarking sites.

My hunch is that many traditional SEO methods are less important (NOT irrelevant though) and that other factors are increasingly going to come into play. I’m sure that some will work out ways to manipulate this (SEO 2.0?) but increasingly the way to get ranked high in Google will be that you just need to keep producing great content and making sure that it’s sneezed out to your network.

Help this process along by giving your readers way to share your content (and seed it to social networks) as well as to become subscribers.