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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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    Geographic search with GoogleGetting your blog indexed by Search Engines is relatively easy – you write, get linked to and the Search Engines follow the links and find you. Et voila! However, for most bloggers, ranking highly is more important and doing so on Google in particular for some it’s for bragging rights (egosurfing and the like) but, for business bloggers, it is for commercial reasons. Lets be honest, getting found means more potential readers and so more potential customers.

    However, although we tend to use Google in the singular, there are many different Google search results for the same phrase, the primary factor being where you are searching from.

    We know that Google operates Google.com as the global search engine and then a large number of individual country search engines, the UK one, for example, sitting at www.google.co.uk. The results at Google.com and Google.co.uk vary quite markedly with more relevance given to sites which are country specific in the google.co.uk results. There is also a third option which I am primarily interested in here, which is for “pages from the UK” only, and is activated by a click box as you can see below.

    To be included in this listing, Google needs to ascertain where a blog writer is located so that they can decide whether they should appear in these results or not. This they have generally done either using the country suffix on the domain so for UK results, .uk as in .co.uk or .org.uk – or where the IP of the host server indicates they are based. Result – if you are a UK blogger with a.com domain and host it in the US then there is no way of Google to know that you are UK based and so you are excluded in a uk only search.

    With me so far? Good. (Oh and by the way, this is the same for all other countries, US expected)

    However, rather than suddenly reach for the UK Hosting Directory, Google it seems has now offered a solution to ensure inclusion, by allowing us to associate our sites (and blogs) to a particular country, no matter what domain name or hosting we have.

    As outlined in Better Geographic choices for webmasters:

    Starting today Google Webmaster Tools helps you better control the country association of your content on a per-domain, per-subdomain, or per-directory level. The information you give us will help us determine how your site appears in our country-specific search results …

    So, pop along to Google Webmaster Tools and get yourself associated with the country you are targetting – you can only do so with one at the moment so don’t try to be greedy, but it’s probably worthwhile and certainly if you are not appearing where you would like in your country specific results.

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

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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.

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

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