Since I’m speaking this week at Search Engine Strategies on the topic of SEO through Blogs and Feeds, it seems fitting that this issue of “100% Organic” be related to blog optimization. Even the top SEOs make mistakes with their blogs (and yes, I make some of them too). What are they? Here’s my list:
- Allowing title tags to be auto-generated (from the post title, category name, etc.). Every category page and most permalink pages (i.e. post pages) should be hand-crafted. Don’t just let the blog software reuse the post title or category name with your blog’s name tacked on in the front. Why? Because an ideal post title is seldom an ideal title tag. Optimizing your post title or category name by working in synonyms, multiple verb tenses, etc. into it can ruin its punchiness and thus its reader impact. For example, “Marketing on MySpace” makes for a great post title but “Social Media Marketing on MySpace, the King of Social Network Sites” makes for a title tag with broader keyword appeal.
How would you accomplish this? If your blog is powered by WordPress, then you can use my WordPress plugin called SEO Title Tag. It even offers a “mass edit” administrative interface for making bulk edits across dozens or hundreds of pages at once. I am not aware of a similar plugin for Movable Type or other blog platforms, but perhaps this article will spur someone on to write it. ;-)
If you don’t have the time or resources and wish to continue with auto-generated title tags, you should at an absolute minimum hand code the title tag on the home page, and then on the rest of the blog place the blog name at the end of the title tag rather than at the beginning (or remove it altogether). This will give you more uniquely focused title tags.
- Letting pages get indexed that should never be indexed. Some pages shouldn’t be allowed into the search indices because they are either basically content-less (like the “Email this page” form or “Enlarged photo” pages) or because they are substantively similar to other pages (like the “Printer-friendly” pages). Peruse your indexed pages in Google using the site: query operator and look for which pages don’t deserve to be there. Then disallow them in your robots.txt file.
- Having multiple homes for your blog. Does your blog have what search engine geeks refer to as “canonicalization” issues? If you can get to a page by multiple URLs, then the answer is “Yes.” For example, ries.typepad.com and www.originofbrands.com and originofbrands.com all lead to the same page.
- Not using “optional excerpts” to minimize duplicate content. This may be known by other names in other blog platforms, but in WordPress the optional excerpt on the Write Post form is where you can define alternate copy to display everywhere but on the permalink page. That will make the content of the post unique to the permalink page, reducing the potential that you’ll lose rankings for duplicate content because the post would otherwise be included in its entirety on numerous pages, including archives-by-date pages and category pages.
- Not using rel=nofollow to strategically direct the flow of link gain. Some internal links aren’t very helpful because they have suboptimal anchor text (e.g. “Permalink” and “Comments”). Some external links just leak link gain to nobody’s benefit, such as “Digg this” links.
- Over-reliance on date-based archives. Most blogs organize their archives by month rather than by keyword. That’s a shame because the anchor text of links is so important to SEO, yet these date-based archives tend to have terrible number-based anchor text. Organizing your blog into categories is a step in the right direction, but implementing tagging and tag clouds across your blog is a much more search engine optimal approach. Then you can ditch your date-based hierarchy, or at least rel=nofollow all those date-based archive links.
- No stability in keyword focus on category pages. When categories have been selected – at least in part – because of keyword research, then your category pages can be of great SEO benefit. But in order to really give those category pages the best chance at competing for their targeted keywords, the pages need stability in their keyword focus. However, in most cases the keyword focus jumps all over the place as new posts make it into that category page and old posts fall off. Using “sticky” posts which stay at the top of category page regardless of the age of that post will give you the opportunity to incorporate keyword-rich introductory copy into the pages. For example, the sticky post on the Politics category page at businessblogconsulting.com sets the stage with a keyword-rich, relevant and useful introduction to the posts within that category.
- Suboptimal URLs. The most optimal URLs contain relevant, popular keywords and a minimal number of slashes, without any question marks. If using WordPress, be sure to change your “Permalink Options” to use rewritten URLs rather than the default of post IDs. If using TypePad or Movable Type, change from using the default of underscores to hyphens instead, as hyphens are preferred from Google’s standpoint. TypePad and Movable Type also tend to truncate URLs mid-keyword. Consider for example the post on the TypePad platform titled “Hotels, Hospitality and Social Media” which converted to a URL of http://bloombergmarketing.blogs.com/bloomberg_marketing/2007/08/hotels-hospital.html. Note how the URL was truncated and the works “hospitality” and “social media” were lost. If using WordPress, make use of the “post slug,” to custom write the filename of the post’s URL and eliminate throwaway words from the URL such as “the” that appear in the post title but add no value in the URL.
- Only one RSS feed, and it’s not even optimized. Each category on your blog should have its own category, so that people who are mostly interested in just one topic can subscribe to – and hopefully syndicate – the category-specific feed. Same thing applies if you have tag pages hosted on your blog. Tag-specific feeds are great for users and for SEO. Optimized RSS feeds are ones that are “full text” not summary feeds, have more than just ten items (e.g. 20 or 50), have keyword-rich item titles, incorporate your brand name in the item titles, include important keywords in the site title, and have a compelling site description.
- Offering suboptimal podcasts. If you are publishing podcasts on your blog, be sure to optimize the ID3 tag, include show notes with each podcast, create show transcripts (hint: CastingWords offers inexpensive podcast transcription), and ensure you have a presence in podcast directories like iTunes.
- Putting your blog’s URL or your RSS feed’s URL on a domain you don’t own. Does your blog’s URL contain blogspot.com, typepad.com, wordpress.com, etc.? If so, please repeat after me in a Homer Simpson voice: “Doh!”. This is a disaster waiting to happen. What happens if you want to move to another blog platform or service provider? You won’t be able to 301 redirect. The best you can do is put up a “We’ve moved” post then abandon the blog. Like what my daughter had to do with her Neopets blog when she moved it from neopetcheats.wordpress.com to neopetsfanatic.com. Another mistake is using Feedburner without using their MyBrand service – which means that all your RSS subscribers are subscribing to a URL you don’t control. You’d be in a pickle if you ever wanted to change from Feedburner to another service. After Google acquired Feedburner, they made the MyBrand service free. So there’s no excuse for not using it. I use MyBrand with my blog, so my feed URL is http://feeds.stephanspencer.com/scatterings instead of http://feeds.feedburner.com/scatterings.
- Using suboptimal anchor text when linking internally. It’s not uncommon for bloggers to use “here” or “previously” or similar suboptimal phrases as anchor text within post copy. Resist the temptation and use relevant keywords instead.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.