Blogs 101 is a resource to provide our clients and readers with a clear concept of what a blog is, why a blog might be a positive addition to their website or marketing campaign, and how to implement, optimize and promote a blog. In Part 1 of this series I discussed the basics of a blog and some of the necessary steps to take before starting one. In Part 2, I will explain blog feeds and how to optimize a blog.

Blog Feeds and Syndication
Every blog comes with a web feed mechanism that automatically updates whenever you add or edit a post on your blog. The purpose of having a web feed is to notify people interested in your blog of new content as soon as it is posted. For this notification to occur, however, the interested blog reader will have to subscribe to your blog’s web feed using a special “feed reader” program that continuously checks for updates to your feed.

The following is a step-by-step example of how a feed works:

  1. A person likes your blog enough to want to be notified when you add new content.
  2. The person clicks on your blog’s web feed icon (example) and adds it to their feed/news reader (i.e. the free Google Reader).
  3. Some time later you post a new article on your company blog (
  4. When the new content is added your blog software automatically updates your web feed.
  5. Some time later the person’s feed/news reader identifies a change in your feed and automatically updates itself to alert the person of the new content so they can read it.

>> What is Syndication?
Syndication is the act of submitting your feed to other websites that republish or announce blog postings on a regular basis. By submitting your web feed you are actively syndicating your content on another website or website(s). Syndication is an excellent way to easily diversify your readership and it is very simple to do. For example, to submit your site all at once to such sites as Google and Technorati (a popular blog resource) just copy the link from your web feed icon and paste it into the “Feed URL” field at followed by your email address in the next field and you are done! Now, the site claims your feed will be monitored by Google and Technorati for new content and your content will now have a better chance of being read than it did before.

The Basics of Blog Optimization
When content is added to a blog it is done using a form-like interface that usually has the following fields: title, post (content), and categories. Each of these fields can be optimized using the very same tactics used on any web page during creation and do not require any HTML experience to optimize.

Just be sure to determine the best keywords to optimize each post; for fee-based research tools consider Keyword Discovery and WordTracker, or you can use free tools like the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. To use these tools just enter in a key word/phrase that seems to best represent the content in your website and run a search. The programs will deliver a set of related words in order of how often they are searched and this will give you crucial insight on what wording might get your posting more publicity or exposure. Once you determine the best phrase you need to use it when optimizing the following elements of the posting:

  • Title of the Post: Carefully craft your post title using the keywords you found most relevant and popular in relation to your article. Keep the title under 100 characters in length so it is web feed friendly.
  • The Posting: With luck your posting already includes incidences of the phrase that you chose to optimize. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Consequently you should review your posting again and, as long as you are not devaluing the post, you should try to insert incidences of the phrase in the copy and, if possible, within links.
  • Categories: if your categories are open to search engine indexing then you should pick no more than two extremely relevant categories per posting. This will minimize content duplication and ensure the content provides value to the category section when it is indexed by search engine spiders. If your categories are not open to search engine spiders then you can tag as many relevant categories as you require.

Intermediate Blog Optimization
In order to brand your blog with the same look as your website you will need to make design changes to the template; even if you just want to change the layout of the template provided with your blog software. When you (or more likely your webmaster) are conducting these changes there are certain optimal techniques to keep in mind.

  1. Post Titles Should be Permalinked: Ensure the titles for each blog posting pull double-duty as permalinks. Permalinked titles ensure that the keyword relevance in the title adds credibility to the linked page.>> What is a Permalink? When you submit a blog posting your blog software will add the posting to your blog home page but at the same time it will automatically generate a single page devoted to the new posting. The posting-specific page will be at an address that never changes so if you ever want to provide someone with a permanent link to your posting you provide them with the posting’s “permalink”. If you want more information, check out Wikipedia’s definition of a permalink.
  2. Title of the Permalink Page: If possible ensure that the title of the blog that you chose in Blogs 101, Part 1 is placed at the end of the page title on your permalink page. This is important because the title tag that appears in search engine results is often the same as the title tag on the page. As a result, stating the name of your website or blog is useless if the information the users are looking for is further within the title tag. Furthermore, the first text within the title tag must concisely represent the content of the linked page for top rankings to take place; this is a crucial part of search engine ranking algorithms. For example, a user searches for the term “cake making secrets” and is searching through the top ten results. At some point they see the following listings, which one do they chose? Here is title tag #1: “Michael Stangetter’s Creations :: Cake Making Secrets Revealed”
    Here is title tag #2: “Cake Making Secrets Revealed :: Mark Koppenhoff’s Creative Cakes” It is safe to say that 99% of people would pick title tag # 2 because, at the first all important glance, the content is obviously more relevant to their search.>> Note on Blogger: unfortunately Blogger automatically places the title of the blog at the beginning of the title on every blog page. At this time I do not know how to get around this. If you know, please share!
  3. Provide Links to Popular Posts: If one of your posts has generated a particularly large amount of interest and the topic is not completely time sensitive I suggest adding a link to it from a ‘most popular postings’ section of your blog home page or alternatively on a separate, easily accessible (read spiderable) page within your blog. After all, if your posting has generated significant interest it usually merits showing off to new visitors so they can see how worthwhile your blog is. In addition, by featuring your popular blog postings you will provide yet another access point for search engines to index the content.
  4. Provide Easy Access to Archives: Either your categories or your archives should be blocked to search engine spiders, making the one that is not blocked incredibly important for search engines to index regularly. Before the search engines can get to the categories or the archives however, you need to provide access. Make certain a link to your archives or categories is present on every page on your website so that search engines can easily spider and re-index new and old content.

Optimizing a Blog is the Simple Part, Really!
Simply put, optimization is the easy part because creating fresh, new, and engaging content is, by far, the more difficult task. It is amazing just how much time it takes to continually find new and interesting topics to write about. Sometimes it seems like nothing is available but if you dig deep enough in your industry using resources like Technorati or Google News you will likely find a concept that sparks a new article.

Coming Soon in StepForth’s Blogs 101 Series:
Exploring Social Marketing Options for Your Blog.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth SEO Services
Celebrating 10 Years of SEO Excellence