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  • Warren: Blogging and Social Media definitely go hand in hand. Having a successful social presence can do a lot for a...
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    While there’s always been lots of debate as to what criteria Search Engines use to rank web pages in their search results, what there is little debate about is that appearing high up on the Search Engines Results page has become of key importance to most businesses. Why? Simply because currently, Search Engines are the preferred research tools in today’s marketplace.

    As a result, Search Engine Optimisation (aka SEO) has developed into a thriving (if often maligned) industry as organisations, both large and small, strive to gain higher positions and greater visibility in the Search Engine results pages (SERPs).

    The other thing that has become increasingly apparent is that blogs (and business blogs in particular) have a number of attributes which help them rank highly in the Search Engines, making them an important or even, dare I say, a key part of Search Engine Marketing. To understand why, first let’s have a quick reminder of how Search Engines work.

    Search Engines: a few basics

    The main Search Engines – I’m thinking here primarily of Google, Yahoo and Live – collect information from websites using electronic programs called “robots” or “spiders”. They find new sites and content generally by following links and then reading and indexing the code which creates the individual pages (and hence the text they contain). This is all stored on their servers so that when a search is submitted, the Search Engine sifts through all the relevant pages in its index and then ranks them in terms of relevancy using a mathematical algorithm. The result of all this is what we see on the Search Engine results page.

    They determine this relevancy using over 100 different criteria, if we are to believe the experts in this field, though some criteria are obviously considered more “valuable” than others. Those considered particularly important include the text itself, the inbound and internal links, focus and relevancy of the information and some key onpage elements such as the Title tag. It is also worth reminding ourselves that search engines rank individual pages rather than whole websites when they create their results pages.

    So how can we apply this to blogs?

    Armed with an overview of what Search Engines are looking for to rank pages highly, it’s clear that blogs do in fact fulfil a number of these criteria perfectly, which goes a long way to explain why they rank so well. Specifically:

    • Text: Business Blogs tend to be focused in their content and that is ideal for what Search Engines look for when they are searching for pages which fit with specific search criteria;

    • External Inbound Links: the overriding philosophy in the blogosphere is to reference other blogs by linking to relevant sources; so blogs offering good (and often specific) content are likely to attract a greater number of links;

    • Internal Links: blogs are automatically structured in such a way that the internal linking is excellent with highly relevant anchor text (the words that actually form the link) which is an extra bonus;

    • Up to date information: the most successful blogs are generally ones which are regularly updated and hence offer a growing resource of recent and relevant content;

    • Onpage elements: good blogging software has excellent flexibility which gives you the opportunity to have specific onpage elements (such as the Title Tag) for each individual page.

    Blog Search Engines, Pinging and Instant Indexing

    Although blogs appear in the main Search Engines like any other online site, they also have their own set of Search Engines which focus primarily on blogs. This is important because the way that these Blog Search Engines find new content is different to the main Search Engines.

    If blogs are set up correctly, they will automatically “ping” these search engines – this is the digital equivalent to a ‘tap on the shoulder’ telling them that there is new content for them to index. This happens instantly and, with one of these Blog Search Engines belonging to Google, this means that Google’s main index can pick up your post almost immediately – my best is 6 minutes.

    Of course, if the blog is part of your main website then there is also the greater chance of the rest of your site being indexed more frequently too, let alone all the pages benefiting from the value of the inbound links coming into the blog, linking to your new articles! Ah, is there no end to the benefits!! ;)

    Conclusion: keep developing your Business Blog

    If, like me, you already use a blog for your business, then these Search Engine benefits will not be anything new – no doubt you will have already have seen the sort of great results that you can achieve. If you haven’t, then we really need to talk! :) However, they are particularly impressive when you consider that you are probably writing your blog with your readers uppermost in your mind and these benefits are merely a welcome (albeit very beneficial) side effect.

    Business blogs however are not a magic solution and nor should they be used in isolation – they are at their best when used in conjunction with other marketing activities, both online and offline. Equally, they are not trying to manipulate Search Engines – an accusation sometimes levelled at SEO companies. Simply put, well written and focused blogs give Search Engines exactly what they want to provide for their users – good, specific and up to date information on the subject matter that they are searching for.

    And providing that is of course where both the challenge and the benefits lie!

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    Looking for Business BlogsWhen starting a blog of our own or one for our company, hopefully we take time to plan out the content and look at what we want the blog to achieve for us and perhaps follow a process such as the one I advocated in the Green Cross Code of Blogging.

    One of the key parts in this process is the “look and listen” phase. This is when you take time out to research what is already going on and what is being discussed around the blogosphere in your industry or area. By following other blogs which address the same subject areas as your own, you should get a better feel for some key elements which will help you with your own blog, such as:

    • what others are writing about

    • what conversations are ongoing,

    • what topics are already being covered and by whom

    • who the main players are

    • which are the key blogs to read and be seen on

    • ideas on how to present your own blog




    But of course first of all, we have to find them!

    So what are the best places to find what blogs are already out there in the area that you have an interest in. Personally, I’d always start any search of this type with a Blog Search Engine and specifically Technorati which I suppose doubles as a Blog Search Engine and a Blog Directory. Being able to see who is linking to whom allows me to easily trace a route through to find the blogs that I am looking for. Others you could also check are Google’s own Blog Search Engine and Icerocket.

    However, there are other ways of locating blogs which would be of interest to you (and then of course adding them to your RSS reader – makes life a lot simpler afterwards!) and here are some which should make the job easier:

    • Blog Directories and RSS Directories: check through some of these blog focused directories which are usually organised along business and general interest lines. Choose your sector and start reading.

    • Social Networking / Business Networking sites: with the proliferation of the sites such as Facebook, Linkedin, Ecademy, Xing etc, there are a good bet for finding information on relevant blogs. This may be listed on the profile page of the person but it is also worth checking the “signature” text that appears under their posts on the discussion forums where they are often promoted;

    • Other Blogs: once you have a blog you are interested in then use the links and recommendations that they provide. These links may well be in the text of the post itself or in the Blogroll (or Recommended sites) in the sidebar of the blog;

    • Press Releases: as companies take on board the fact that press releases should contain more social media tools and be aimed at their target audience rather than editors, they are including blog addresses in their contact details. Get a Google Alert set up to include their News section and get a daily email on who’s making press releases which contain your keywords;

    • Blog Awards: there seem to be a number of Blog Awards now, either at national level or in specific sectors. Either way they should throw up blogs which are worth looking at;

    • Search Engines: of course the main search engines also include blogs along with the other websites and so may throw up different results to the blog search engines. In any case, always worth a look because of their “firepower”.

    • Blog Carnivals: Blog Carnivals are generally arranged around a theme so check out ones that might be happening in your area of interest and see who is getting involved.

    • Corporate Sites: as more and more companies realise the benefits of a having a blog (or more likely multiple blogs) you will find links to them from their sites. So check the company you are interested in and have a look around!

    • Google Alerts: don’t just use Google Alerts for Press Releases, make sure that you cover all the Google sections available – you can find some research ideas with Google Alerts here.

    Of course, since these are good places to find blogs, they are also excellent places to promote your own. As a first step, do make sure that you have your blog submitted to the various blog and RSS Directories and that your blog software is automatically pinging the Blog Search Engines every time that you post. After that you can look at some or all of the other methods for your own promotion purposes as time permits.

    Try to pick up as much as you can from the ones that impress you most but above all enjoy reading the blogs you find – that’s what they are there for!

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Technorati have just announced and implemented a facelift for their site which at first glance looks good and very clean, though as ever I find myself starting to look for things where they used to be but aren’t any more!

    With so many new features and additions over the past few months, the interface had certainly become rather cluttered so this is certainly a good decision to have stood back, looked at all the different functionality and then decided on the best way to present all of the information. Clearly lots of work behind the scenes as well.

    There seems to be a lot more focus on personalising the information which follows a good trend in web design and, from my own point of view, having all of the information about a blog in a single view rather than having to sift through a number of different page views to find it all is very positive.

    I look forward to going through in more detail and looking at all the changes. In the meantime, you can find out all the changes that have been made in Dave Sifry’s Announcement on the Technorati Blog. Have fun!

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    Seminar FAQsBusiness Blogging Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Q – Does my blog only show up in Blog Search Engines or also Google, Yahoo and MSN?

    A – A common misconception when businesses start to use a Business Blog and learn about the Blog Search Engines is that their Blog will only appear in these blog specific Search Engines and not in the mainstream ones. This is not true.

    A Blog at the end of the day is a website with special charateristics and so will certainly appear in the main Search Engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. In fact, they are much more likely to rank highly because they have key elements that the Search Engines find very attractive:

    • their internal stucture, which is highly organised and groups similar posts together in categories which creates highly relevant pages on individual topics which Search Engines love;

    • the very focused nature and quality of their content which is at the core of what Search Engines are looking to offer their users;

    • the fact that they are generally updated on a very frequent basis, as the more recent the information the higher its relevance is likely to be

    • the inbound links from other blogs (and websites) which is part and parcel of the ethos of the blogosphere and which constitutes a major factor in ranking sites.

    The main Search Engines will find your Blog by following links to it from other sites that are already in their index, so there is no need to submit it directly to them, and it will then be treated using the criteria that are applied to any other site. Criteria which you will rank well in if you are using a Blog to good effect.

    You can use other Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) methods in addition which will give an additional boost in your rankings, but you already have a number of advantages which will serve you well. So make sure that you write quality and targeted posts on a regular basis and ensure that you promote your blog well.

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    The launch of Ask.coms own blog search engine last week has prompted me to look at what both Asks new offering brings to the blogosphere and also what Sphere offers, a search engine which I had not looked at previously here.

    There are already a number of players in the Blog Search Engine space, from specialist blog engines such as Technorati and IceRocket and blog search offerings from the main players in the general Search Engine market such as Google Blog Search. As such, the marketplace is already looking quite competitive as everyone looks for which features to offer and how to go about differentiating themselves.

    So let’s have a brief look at what both Ask and Sphere are offering us in terms of search and functionality:

    ASK.com
    They call it their Blogs and Feeds search engine and they have teamed up with Bloglines to provide the information within it, there are three main tabs which return results for a general search, an RSS Feed search and a News Search.

    On the general search, you can search according to relevance, date or popularity, with the displayed results giving you the post title together with the author, name of the blog and a short description. It offers 4 options in terms of what you can do with the displayed results: you can preview the blog without leaving the search page by using their binocular feature; you can subscribe to the RSS feed and a drop down menu gives a choice of readers; you can also save the result to visit later which is a nice touch; and you can share the results by posting to del.icio.us, bloglines, digg etc.

    There is also a fully functioning advanced search option which allows you to search according to a number of different criteria such as title, author, description etc and by specific time frames. As Ask.com has created this is conjunction with Bloglines, so the RSS feeds are ranked according to Bloglines subscription data not entirely fair but it is difficult to rank RSS Feeds so I guess it has to be done somehow.

    Sphere
    Sphere runs their own Search Engine and the initial interface reminds me of a mixture of Google and Technorati, which I guess is where some of the inspiration will have come from.

    Probably the main stand out feature for the search is that there is a deal of flexibility open to you in terms of the time scales being searched, although this is only available once you have your initial search results which defaults to the last day guess that shows just how much information is now posted on blogs! You can choose to look at the last week, 4 months or choose a customised range of your choice with a natty little graphic to do it with. On top of this you can choose to organise the results by relevance or time.

    They give a profile of the author of the Blog which contains average number of posts per week, links per post, last 3 links in and last three links out. The additional information link takes you to a page which recreates much of the same information together with the last three posts made. You can also subscribe to an RSS Feed of your results.

    As for the results between the two difficult to tell. Speed was good on both and I was more familiar with the results on Sphere to be honest but the functionality and hence flexibility on Ask seemed to have the edge.

    So, over to you – try them out and let me know what you think.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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