SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and has been an on and off topic of dialog since the dawn of search engines. More recently, free blogging sites such as Blogger and Word Press have brought website management directly into the hands of people delivering content without any prerequisite knowledge of HTML. While these blogging sites offer easy-to-use and robust services, they often leave something to be desired in terms of SEO, once again bringing the topic to the foreground of discussion. Here are a few simple things you can do to optimize your blog to improve your ranking and increase traffic.
1. Title Tags! You're It...
One of the most effective changes you can make to get Google and other popular search engines to properly categorize your blog is to “fix” your default title tags. Both Blogger and Word Press don’t use an ideal titling scheme for blog pages, especially if you are using a third party layout. Word Press has a convenient plug-in to address this called SEO Title Tag. While Blogger doesn’t have such an elegant solution, optimizing your title is only a matter of changing a couple lines of HTML. To do this, go to Layout and click “Edit HTML.” Now find and change the line:
<b:if cond="data:blog.pageType =="item”’>
<title><data:blog.pageName/> | <data:blog.title/></title>
This magical code sets your main page’s title to be the name of your blog, while sub pages have titles in the form: “This Article’s Title | My Blog’s Name.” You can customize this however you want, but I’ve gotten pretty good results in this manner.
Search engines’ reliance on meta-tags has somewhat diminished, largely due to abuse by webmasters overstuffing them to improve their site’s ranking. However, they are still used to a certain extent, especially by non-Google search engines, so meta tags can still play a role in SEO. Tags that can and should be used are Author, Keywords, Description, and (in some cases) Robots. The first three are pretty self-explanatory and can be inserted anywhere between the head tags like so:
<meta content ="Mike Keller" name ="author" />
<meta content ="Keywords, Or Phrases, Describing, My Blog, Separated, By Commas" name ="keywords" />
<meta content ="A short description of my blog goes here in sentence form." name="description" />
Note: If you want to go the extra mile, you can also set your description tags to dynamically include the article’s title, similar to the way we did for the title tags.
In Blogger, if you happen to disable the “Add your blog to our listings?” option, it automatically adds the tag <meta content = "NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW" name = "robots">. In short, this tells search engine spiders not to index or follow links on your blog and can be very bad for SEO. Make sure this option is disabled.
Note: There is no need to explicitly define a meta-tag for “INDEX, FOLLOW” as that is the default setting for all web pages. If, for whatever reason, you want the web crawler to see your site as “INDEX, NOFOLLOW,” for example, you’d have to define that meta-tag explicitly.
3. Manual Submission
Google does an extraordinary job of crawling the web and finding new websites. But if you’re impatient like me or Google just so happens to miss your site you can always submit your URL manually. You can also submit an XML sitemap, which may help your ranking as well, by using Google’s Webmaster Tools. Just use an RSS or Atom feed that is automatically generated by Blogger and Word Press. They can often (but not always ) be found at “yourblogsurl.com/rss.xml” or “yourblogsurl.com/atom.xml.”
4. Feeding Frenzy
As I mentioned before, most popular blogging sites now automatically generate an XML news feed, either via RSS or Atom or both. A great tool for publishing and customizing your feeds is with FeedBurner, which is now owned by Google and easier than ever to integrate with your site and your Google Webmaster Tools. Publishing a feed for your blog helps with search results as well as with keeping readers continually engaged with your blog.
5. Blog Well, Blog Often, Make Friends
All other SEO tricks and tips aside, the best way to increase traffic is to have a continuous stream of compelling and well written content. Stay true to this, and you will not only earn new readers, you will keep the ones you already have. You should also make friends to increase the likelihood of people linking to your site. Search engines keep track of how many times your page is linked to, so as a general rule, the more links to your blog, the better.