How to Optimize Your Blog for Search Engines

by Abhishek

via Quick Sprout by Neil Patel on 2/2/09


search engine optimization

Over the past few years I worked with 30 of the top 100 blogs to help them increase their traffic. The thing that all of these blogs have in common is that they have great content. But one thing that most of these blogs didn’t do right is leverage search engines.

Search engine optimization doesn’t have to be complicated. As long as you follow the instructions below, you can optimize your blog within 30 minutes.

Title Tags

title tag

You may not know what a title tag is, but you have seen it. Every time you perform a Google search, websites with relevant title tags usually so up towards the top of the page. For example, I searched for the term “Neil” in the image above. Most of the results have the word “Neil” in the title tag. This means that if you want to rank for a specific term, it should be in your title tag.

Take a look at your blog’s source code, the title tag will be close to the top and it will look something like this: <title>Quick Sprout – I’m Kind of a Big Deal</title>. Ideally your title tags should be descriptive, short, unique, and somewhat keyword rich. With a blog though, the title tag of each page is the title of your blog post, but this doesn’t mean you can’t optimize it.

WordPress
If you have a WordPress blog go into your header file and replace your title tag code with this:

<title><?php if (is_home () ) { bloginfo(’name’); } elseif ( is_category() ) { single_cat_title(); echo ” – “; bloginfo(’name’); } elseif (is_single() || is_page() ) { single_post_title(); } elseif (is_search() ) { bloginfo(’name’); echo ” search results: “; echo wp_specialchars($s); } else { wp_title(”,true); } ?></title>

Movable Type
If you have a Movable Type blog, replace your title tag code with this:

<title><$MTEntryTitle$></title>

Meta Description

meta description

If you look at the image above, you will get a good understanding of what a meta description is. A meta description is a short sentence that describes what a web page is about. Each meta description tag on your blog should be unique, short, and descriptive.

Writing a unique meta description for each of your blog posts can be time consuming, which is why I recommend making the first sentence of each of your blog posts your meta description.

WordPress
The Head Meta Description plugin automatically adds a unique meta description tag to each of your blog posts. Just download it, upload it to your server, active it, and set it to 25 words.

Movable Type
I don’t know of any plugins that do the same on Movable Type, but through your post template code you can do the same thing. Just add this line of code:

<meta name=”description” content=”<$MTEntryBody words=”25″$> …” />

Sitemaps

You could create an HTML sitemap on your blog to increase the number of pages search engines index, or you could create an XML sitemap. I personally recommend going the route of creating an XML sitemap and submitting it to the search engines.

After you create your XML sitemap you can submit it to Google Webmaster Central, Yahoo Site Explorer, and Live Search.

301 Redirect

Some people have a tendency to link to http://yourdomain.com and others tend to link to http://www.youdomain.com. Both of those URLs may look the same, but one contains a www and the other doesn’t. So if 100 websites link to the non-www version and 1000 websites links to the www version, search engines may see both of those URLs as separate pages even though they are the same site.

You can solve this by adding a 301 redirect in your htaccess file.

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_Host} ^YOURDOMAIN.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.YOURDOMAIN.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Another way you can solve this is through Google Webmaster Central. In Webmaster Central (under the settings tab) you can tell Google to pick the www or non-www version of your domain. Although this is an easier solution than modifying your htaccess file, you should still do both because Google Webmaster Central doesn’t affect how other search engines see your blog.

Duplicate Content

If the same piece of content is on more than 1 page of your blog, you will have duplicate content issues. The more duplicate content you have on your blog, the less search engine traffic you will get. In most cases the same piece of content will be on your home page, the post page, and in your category achieves. Here is how you can get rid of your duplicate content:

PageRank Sculpting

If you have the Google Toolbar installed on your computer, you probably know what PageRank is. If you don’t, it is a numerical value from 1 to 10 that websites get. 1 means that a website isn’t that important and 10 means that a website is very important.

A good way to increase your Google PageRank is to control your links. If you have too many links on a web page, that page’s PageRank can decrease. Now this doesn’t mean having ten or twenty links on a page is going to hurt you, or that you shouldn’t link to other sites. In other words, you should not link out to 1000 other pages when it doesn’t provide any value to a user. A good way to solve this problem is to “nofollow” links.

Nofollow is an HTML attribute value used to instruct search engines that a hyperlink should not influence a web pages ranking. The code you can use to nofollow certain link is:

rel=”nofollow”

The links I recommend nofollowing on your blog are things like contact pages, terms of service, comment links, privacy policy, and read more links. You can pretty much nofollow the second instance of any duplicate link on a given page.

Image Search

People don’t just search for web pages, they also search for images. Search engines aren’t smart enough to decrypt an image and tell you what it is, like humans can. But through code you can help a search engine figure out what keywords your images are related too.

You can optimize your images through 5 easy steps:

  1. Enable image Labeler in Google Webmaster Central. (you can find it under the settings tab)
  2. Give meaningful names to your images. For example, GreenToyotaCamry.jpg is better than image1.jpg.
  3. Add long description tags to your images. For example: longdesc=”1998 green Toyota Camry driving down the highway”.
  4. In addition to a long description, an alt tag should be used as a short description. For example: alt=”Toyota Camry”
  5. Lastly, you want to upload big images. Bigger images usually have a higher priority than smaller images.

Conclusion

After you do all of these changes, your search engine traffic should increase. Just be patient because it could take a few weeks before you start seeing any increases in traffic. If you have a brand new blog, don’t expect to get much search engine traffic. It can take months before you start getting a lot of search engine love. ;-)

If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment.