October 15, 2010 Author: Jessica
Being someone who spends my days on a computer, I’m often asked about blogs. How do I successfully engage end users? Why isn’t my blog ranked at the top of search engines? What’s the best way to advertise new content? Well, before we cover those questions, let’s backup a little. Before we dive into blogs, we need a basic understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Search Engine Optimization also known as SEO; sounds scary but there is nothing to be afraid of. All SEO is a process of optimizing your content for search engines. Keywords, organization, and linking all support the improvement of SEO. There are many ways to use SEO, but this topic requires its own blog post(s).
So, what does SEO have to do with writing a blog post? Everything! Every blog post requires a title but before you just type in a title, stop and think about it. Having a blog title made up of common, everyday words will make the blog harder to find on search engines. For example, if you’re looking for a blog about arranging wedding roses, you wouldn’t search for “arrange flowers”. Instead you’d type in “Arrange wedding roses” which will produce more accurate results. The second title specifies the type of flower and the type of arrangement. These are keywords. Having keywords in the will help place the blog higher than blog posts without keywords in the title.
Now that we have keywords in the blog title, let’s cover the use of categories. Blog categories were once explained to me as drawers in a file cabinet. Each blog needs to be filed away and there are only so many drawers, so each drawer needs to cover a general topic. The above simile uses the drawers as categories and the file cabinet is a website. The main points to take away from the example is each blog needs to be assigned to a general category, there should be a limited number of categories, and categories help organize your posts. So if you have a category labeled “Fitness” and I find one blog in this category I can easily navigate to the Fitness category to view the rest of the Fitness blogs.
Tags are a place to enter keywords that deal with the topic of the blog. We can think of Tags as the folders in the file cabinet drawers. These would be keywords that are (or wouldn’t fit) in the title. Back to my Fitness Category; if I wanted to see more specifically blogs about Running, a tag would take me to that “file” with all Fitness blogs that deal with Running. When thinking of tags, it’s suggested to have a handful (or two) and reuse as the tags over and over again. Having too many tags can overwhelm end users. How do you enter a tag? Most blogging sites follow this format: health,medical center,technology. Where a comma separates the words and spaces are only allowed between phrases, like “medical center”.
Now that we’ve gone over how to organize your blogs, the next step forward is end-user interaction. This section will cover comments, trackbacks, social networking, and RSS feeds.
Each blogger has their own opinion about enabling comments on blogs. The purpose of comments is to allow readers to share knowledge, ask questions, and give their “two-cents” on the topic. You might even get comments from readers requesting more blogs about the topic at hand. Without comments, it’s just your opinion/view out there. No discussion, no feedback. Not having reader’s comments makes for a pretty lonely blog out there on the web. Now, I do want to mention briefly that having comments enabled on your blog not only leaves the door open for readers to interact with the blog, it also can lead to some spam. There are tools available to help alleviate spam and some bloggers just turn off comments on old blog posts.
Every now and again, you may write an excellent blog that completely inspires someone. This end-user would like to write more than a comment; that’s where trackbacks come into use. Trackbacks are a way of telling another blogger that you have found their post useful, and have made a post of your own which continues the discussion. This feature must be enabled on your blog site and enabled on the other person’s blog site to work. When a reader uses a trackback that was set on your site, you will receive notification. Now you can see what they wrote and post your comments. You can look at trackbacks as a way to “link” common blog posts together and generate more conversation.
With the explosion of Social Networking websites, it is an excellent SEO strategy to use plugins on your blog site that enable readers to easily place a link to your blog on their social networking site (facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc.) This is the electronic “word of mouth” advertising that every successful blog uses. Using this feature as a plugin, takes little time to setup and can be one of the best features on your blog.
Living in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Many people don’t always have time to sit down to go through all the of the blog sites they want to. This is where RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds come to the rescue.
Every blog should have an RSS feed URL. This allows potential subscribers to use an RSS Reader, which requires this URL. A RSS reader aggregates all of the end user’s favorite blogs and RSS feeds into one central location; allowing the user to simply check the RSS reader to view the latest updates from their selected blogs and RSS feeds. A RSS reader can be a stand-alone desktop application like NewsGator or many homepages like Google allow you to add widgets that will serve as an RSS reader.
*** Suggested Tip: Use Google’s Feedbuner to publicize your RSS feed. The advantage of Feedburner is it allows you to change where your blog is hosted without changing the RSS feed URL that viewers have subscribed to. Subscribers that are linked to RSS feed’s that are run through Feedburner won’t even notice that your blog location has changed which prevents loosing subscribers. If you move your blog without Feedburner, then users will have to re-subscribe to your RSS feed which can lead to loosing subscribers. For more information on what feedburner can do check out their help section.
In conclusion, successful blogs harness Search Engine Optimization which leads to more readers. Keeping your blog organized and encouraging viewers to interact with your blog are the fundamental steps to building something great. There have been many steps covered here and I hope every topic gives you a better understanding on how each part builds to the next part.
Do you have any experience with blogging? If you have, what has helped you? If you haven’t, did this article help get you started?
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