March 2006

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is as relevant and applicable to blogs as it is to websites in general and, when done properly, is an excellent way to help both Search Engines and visitors alike to identify the most relevant websites for their search.

By their very nature, blogs already contain elements which naturally lend themselves to good indexing and ranking in the main Search Engines. However, since blogs at one level are websites with certain specific characteristics, then the important elements used in general Search Engine Optimisation are also very relevant when it comes to ensuring that your blogs are optimised as well.

I thought that it would be worthwhile to revisit some of the main elements and take a look at them in more detail over the coming weeks, on a one by one basis.

The elements that we will be having a look at are those which are generally accepted to have the most relevance when it comes to be Search Engine ranking. These are:

  • Blog Content
  • Domain name

  • URL / Address of the page

  • Title Tag

  • Description Metatag

  • Headings and Bold

  • Image tags

  • Internal linking

  • External inbound links

There are other elements which are more specific to blogs which we will also have a look at such as tags which give additional information about the post and the blog – these are used by certain blog Search Engines such as Technorati and are likely to grow in importance.

Next post in the series will look at ‘Content’ – from an SEO point of view, of course!

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I’ve been prompted to share with you some of the places where you can get RSS Readers – which one is for you depends entirely on your preference and the computer you use.

Just as a quick recap, an RSS feed is a way of keeping up to date with information that you wish to receive by getting it delivered directly to you. To do this, you subscribe to the RSS feed on the website you are interested in using an RSS Reader, also known as a Feed Reader or RSS Aggregator.

There are a number of different RSS Readers available which vary according to whether you are prefer to use an online reader or one which you can download, and it will also be dependent on the operating system that you are using.

Some that I recommend that you look at and consider are:

Google Reader
My Yahoo

Offline (Windows)

Offline (Mac)
NewsMac Pro

If you’re after a really comprehensive list of RSS readers then try RSS Compendium – there really are lots to choose from!

The future

RSS is going to become more and more widespread and more recognised as time progresses – already it is appearing on more and more sites and should be a no brainer for all blog sites.

In terms of readers, the major players in the industry are all getting involved. Already, as you can see from the online readers mentioned above, the main Search Engines provide an online RSS reader in their customised homepage which is gaining momentum. This will only intensify as Microsoft will be including a reader as part of the next version of their Internet Explorer browser and FireFox already has one included in their current version which is becoming very popular.

So if you’re doing research and need to monitor lots of sites for news, or if you want to keep abreast of what is being said about certain industries perhaps for articles in your own blog, then you need to be using an RSS reader so you can see just how easy it can make your life. If you are publishing a blog or a website, then you need to be equally aware that this is increasingly going to be how people read your latest news.

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Jakob Nielsen has turned his attention to some specific usability elements in blogs which are certainly different to those that we have come to accept when creating websites. His article outlines what he considers to be the Top Ten Design mistakes that he sees bloggers making.

Although Nielsens stated focus is on usability and on blogs in general, if we apply these elements to business blogs then many still remain very relevant, particularly where individual professionals or small and medium sized businesses are concerned.

1. No Author Biographies
As a small and medium sized business, one aim of your blog in terms of marketing you and your business, is to help develop a level of trust with your target audience and to demonstrate your expertise to your readers. A short biography will help substantiate this and fill in some of the details about the person. Don’t forget to put contact details there as well! You also need to make sure it’s easy for people to get in touch!

2. No Author Photo
A photo can contribute to developing that personal touch which should help to show the people behind the company face. In professional services, such as law firms or accountancies, a photo on a website can help develop a sense of trust and the same is true here. Make sure the photo portrays you in the light you would like to be seen, though!

3. Nondescript posting titles
Apart from being clear about what you are blogging about, the title is absolutely key to the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) elements within the blog. A good title should not only be a clear indicator to the reader of what the post contains but should also contain the keywords of the article to help with Search Engines.

4. Links dont say where they go
Being able to easily find your way around a site or to other sites is fundamental to working closely with your readers and getting them to return, so make sure you “signpost” links as clearly as possible. Additionally, from an SEO standpoint again, the text you use to create the link (so called anchor text) is very valuable so use it!

5. Classic hits are buried
If there are certain key articles which any visitor to your site must read, then make sure that you highlight it on your blog. Key articles really show what you and your company are all about so make sure everyone has the opportunity to read these gems!

6. Calendar is the only navigation
Generally, when new people visit your blog, they are going to want to read your posts on certain subjects to get to understand what the focus of your blog is all about. So make sure that your categories are well named so that people can find for what they are looking for quickly and easily – then they’ll come back for more!

7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
Although publishing when you have something to say is good, regular posting is certainly beneficial so that people can know when to come back to view your updates. Of course, doing this through RSS would save them time and effort!

8. Mixing Topics
In a business blog, if you are able to keep to your specific area of expertise (your niche if you like) then this will help in your marketing efforts to position yourself as an expert in that subject area through the information that you are providing in your blog.

9. Forgetting that you write for your future boss
In the instance of a small business, you are in fact writing for your customers, present and future! Nevertheless, be very clear that anything you write can be found by them and so only write posts that you are representative of yourself and your business, as you are writing not only to them but to the world at large.

10. Having a domain name owned by a weblog service
Having control yourself of all aspects of your business is important and a blog, with its strong marketing and PR benefits, must certainly be one of those. Therefore use a blogging system that you are able to adapt to your needs through a domain that you own.

Overall, definitely a lot of relevance there to business blogging, including a number of key elements that you should consider right from the planning stage of your blog where possible. So making sure that you consider that you will need to deal with both your readers and the Search Engines from the outset is certainly good advice.

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