Many of the same principles apply to optimizing a blog for search as for optimizing a business website: use keywords in the body copy, post titles, subheadings, permalink URL, image alt tags and meta tags. But a blog also presents additional opportunities for search optimization beyond those that apply to standard websites (which is why Google loves blogs). Take advantage of these six techniques to help get your blog ranked highly in relevant searches, and increase your overall web presence.
1. Categories: For the sake of user-friendly site navigation, standard websites usually have a fairly small number (generally no more than six or seven) top-level sections. Furthermore, some of these are virtually worthless for search (e.g. investor pages, and “Contact Us” is almost always a top-level link even though this page has no search value).
But with a blog, you can create any (reasonable) number of top-level categories, and give these keyword-rich labels. For that reason, think about your blog categories carefully: create category tags that will be meaningful and useful to both human readers and search engine spiders.
2. Fresh content. Most B2B website content (other than items like news releases and upcoming events) and much B2C content as well is fairly static; once it’s written, it tends to stay pretty much intact for the life of the website. But Google’s recent algorithm changes (which Bing and other search engines will most likely try to mimic) favor fresh content, as least for certain types of searches. Authority still matters, but freshness is now a much more important ranking factor than it was in the past.
Blogs are one of the best mechanisms for publishing a steady stream of new content. They are also a great platform for responding to breaking news or the latest developments in your industry. So while an editorial calendar can help your blog posts on track and on schedule, it’s crucial to also build in the flexibility to write posts responding to current events in your industry. This both increases the relevance of your blog and takes advantage of new-to-the-world search phrases that won’t show up in keyword tools.
3. Syndication and blog directories. Content syndication and blog directory sites provide valuable backlinks as well as driving traffic directly to your blog. Technorati and AllTop are two of the general-topic blog directories. Nearly every industry has its own specific directories and syndication sites as well; for example, B2B Marketing Zone for B2B vendor and influencer blogs, and Social Media Informer for social media-related blogs. In addition, there are hundreds of smaller blog directories and RSS submission sites that can further increase the reach and visibility of your blog.
4. Social media. Sharing your content on social networking sites like Twitter and (most importantly) Google+ as well as social bookmarking sites creates links to your blog. More important, however, is that Google tracks social signals (the overall level of content sharing for your blog as well as the authority of those sharing it) as measures of the quality and authority of a blog. So while sharing your own content provides some SEO benefit, building and nurturing a network of authoritative people in your industry and producing content they want to share is even more valuable.
Add social media buttons to your blog to encourage readers to share your content. Tools like ShareThis, AddThis and Wibiya, or WordPress plugins like SexyBookmarks, make it easy to add buttons for any of the most popular social networks and bookmarking sites. Of course you can add these sharing buttons to a standard company website as well, but readers are far more likely to share useful blog content than ordinary vendor web pages; while 60% of all social postings link to published content (news sites or blogs), just 4% link to corporate website content.
You can also build high-authority backlinks through commenting on other blogs as well as writing guest posts (with embedded text links) for other industry blogs. Again, you could use these techniques without having your own blog, but many bloggers are more likely to consider publishing a guest post from a fellow blogger (whose writing they can easily evaluate) than from an unknown corporate or agency contact.
5. Clean code. Google and many other search engines reward sites that have fast loading time, use the latest best practices in web coding and are W3C-compliant with higher rankings. If all of that sounds a bit technical, don’t worry; most of the leading blog platforms automatically create fairly clean, compliant code. Free blog platforms like TypePad and WordPress produce clean code out of the box. Fee-based platforms like Compendium and HubSpot are also search-friendly.
6. WordPress plugins. WordPress blogs can easily be made even more search engine-friendly through the use of a few key plugins. You can find lots of posts about the best SEO plugins for WordPress, but a few of the absolutely key plugins are:
- • All in One SEO Pack. Among it’s other features, this plugin makes it easy to add meta title tags and automatically create search-friendly URLs for each post.
- • W3 Total Cache. This plugin uses caching and other techniques to dramatically increase the load speed of your blog and improve the user experience.
- • Google XML Sitemaps with qTranslate Support. Sitemaps help the search engines more fully and accurately index a website or blog. For a relatively static business website, it’s easy to create an XML sitemap using an online tool then submit it to the major search engines. For a blog, which is constantly changing, using a manual process would be virtually impossible. Fortunately, this plugin creates an XML sitemap of your WordPress blog in a format supported by Ask.com, Google, MSN Search (Bing) and Yahoo, and automatically keeps it up to date as you write new posts, add categories, and make other changes to your blog.
- • WP Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides a wealth of information to help with SEO efforts, such as which keywords and referral sites are driving the most traffic and which landing pages draw the most search traffic. This plugin makes it a snap to add the Google Analytics tracking code to all of your blog pages and posts, and automatically include the code on new posts.
- • Sexy Bookmarks. The Sexy Bookmarks plugin adds a configurable set of social networking and social bookmarking buttons to each of your blog posts, making it easy for your readers to share your content on their site(s) of choice. Sharing provides useful social signals to the search engines about the authority of your content and creates valuable backlinks.
- • Do Follow. By default, WordPress applies the insidious nofollow tag to outbound links from your blog. This is done ostensibly to prevent your blog from passing authority to sketchy sites through comment and backlink spam. However, if you are moderating comments to your blog, those kinds of links shouldn’t be an issue. Do-follow outbound links to high-quality, relevant websites actually help with SEO as well as increasing reader satisfaction, generating more comments, and helping with relationship building.
Once you’ve developed and optimized an effective business website and launched a properly optimized business blog, the core of your web presence optimization framework is in place. Now you’re ready to take the next steps to expand that presence and work toward dominating in the search engines for your core terms.