We talk a lot about the power of using blogs as part of your social media strategy. We’ve documented how they can build links, help you attract customers and make you a quick favorite to the search engines. However, there’s a lot that goes into blogs and often getting started can be a bit intimidating. Google spam fighter Matt Cutts recently spoke at WordCamp San Francisco and shared some quick SEO tips for bloggers.
Obviously, WordCamp was biased toward the WordPress platform, but if you’re just getting started with blogging, WP really is a great choice for you simply because of how it easy it is to set up. And as Matt stated in his presentation, it takes care of 80-90 percent of the mechanics of search engine optimization right out of the box. You’ll still want to do some little tweaks to make it even more SEO-friendly, but you’re not going to face a lot of the initial set up issues that you will with Typepad or, God forbid, Blogger. (Please don’t ever start a blog on Blogger. No good can come of it.)
You can find the slides to Matt’s WordCamp presentation on his blog, but here are the lessons I took from it to help small business owners get started in blogging and WordPress.
Don’t be afraid of plugins: The idea of installing multiple WordPress plugins probably sounds absolutely torturous. But I promise you that WordPress makes it really easy to do and that the benefit of getting minimally daring can really change the experience users have with your blog.
During his presentation, Matt recommended that new bloggers add the following plugins to their blog:
- Akismet (This one actually comes pre-installed so you don’t have to do anything!)
- Cookies for Comments
- Enforce www Preference
- Feedburner Feedsmith
- WP Super Cache
But even those are just the basics. If you think you’d like your blog to do something it doesn’t currently do, try searching through the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. It’s probably already in there as there’s a plugin for virtually everything.
Be passionate about your subject: Okay, so your blog is going to be about your business or industry, that’s a given. But who’s going to be the person responsible for blogging? Just because you’re the head honcho, doesn’t mean that responsibility is best placed on you. Find the person who is most passionate about your company, the industry and what you do. That’s the person you want to be writing about it because that type of enthusiasm and energy is infectious. If you’re loving what you do, your customers will see that. And they’ll want to know what you’re up to. If the person who cleans your building is the most passionate person in the world about your company, let them blog.
Find your niche: There are a lot of blogs out there. If you’re going to capture attention, you need to give people a reason to care about you. That means staying away from the “this is what I did today” style of blogging and giving them something that interests them. Just be who you are and then find ways to build out. If you’re a pizzeria, write a blog about running that pizza shop. Over time, you can get into how to make pizza, eating healthy pizza, etc. You don’t want to over reach at the beginning. Your goal isn’t to be everything to everyone; it’s to attract the people who are most inclined to care about what you’re offering.
Use keywords: A lot of bloggers discount the power of using keywords in their posts. You don’t need to spam your posts with popular terms (in fact, doing so would be bad), but look for natural ways to use keywords in your content, in blog tiles, in the URL, in your image ALT text, blog categories, etc. All of these little things not only help you gain search visibility, but they also help people find you, which is what you’re really after. Matt suggested using tools like Google Adwords Keyword Tool to help you see which terms people are using to find business like yours. Just because you call something one thing, doesn’t mean your users don’t have a completely different name for it. If you’re calling it “soda” and they’re calling it “pop”, they’ll never find you.
Optimize your URL structure: One of the easy ways to take advantage of those keywords you’re using, is to use a custom URL structure on your blog. Don’t worry, it’s painfless. All you have to do to set this up is to head into your Permalink Settings in WordPress, hit the Custom Structure option and type /%postname%/ into that field. This will set it so that your post title will appear by default as your permalink URL. That’s the same post title you smartly infused with keywords. It’s good for rankings, but it’s especially good for the user experience.
Attract links: Matt said attract links, but I’m really going to call this “just be interesting”. As a small business, people are on your blog to hear about what you’re up to and to be given a chance to interact with you. Set yourself apart by doing original research, giving constant great information, making fun lists, meeting people on Twitter and engaging them, integrating Facebook, Friendfeed, etc. Get creative. Use video and photos and everything this social Web has to offer you. Yeah, you’ll get links and that will improve your rankings, but really, you’re going to get people interested in you and make them subscribe to your RSS feed. The links are nice, but engaged customers who will tell their friends about you offline is even better.
If you’ve been hesitant to start a blog because you thought it was too difficult to set up and maintain, I recommend you try out WordPress. I maintain several different WordPress blogs and if I can do it…well, then anyone can. 🙂
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As an atheist, I don’t follow “god’s” advice! 😉
“You’ll still want to do some little tweaks to make it even more SEO-friendly, but you’re not going to face a lot of the initial set up issues that you will with Typepad or, God forbid, Blogger. (Please don’t ever start a blog on Blogger. No good can come of it.)”
I started my blog in 2002. I don’t think WordPress existed then. I will stick with Google’s Blogger.com (blogspot) due to the fact that my blog URL is so well known at this stage and that I have merchandise and gear with the URL. My EGO blog is pretty high up in the Google search engine. Do a search on the words “ego” (58,000,000 hits) or “egoist” (3,390,000) and you will find my blog on the first page at the moment.
I will create a new site at EgoSoleTrader.com and I will then use a WordPress template called Revolution. I am working together with Kalle Blomqvist (a.k.a “Charlie Bloom”) on a new business venture and these blogs (NetZpider.net – NetBachelor.com – NetBachelorette.com) will all use the WordPress tool.
I wish I’d read this post six months ago. It would have saved me six months confusion and blind alleys.
Can I suggest you might like to consider adding Zemanta to the list of plugins?
I started my blog with Typepad and while I liked it well enough, I was attracted to WordPress because of the plug ins. So I switched. I was a little intimidated by WordPress until I started using it. I really do enjoy all the features and they are super simple to use.
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Getting your site ranking high on Google is a tough task. Yet, the right strategies and sites can do the job in time. Getting 1000’s of back-links to your site is a great way to do this. Also submitting to directories can help a bit.
Thank you so much…
WP has some great plug-ins, for sure. But I am sticking with Typepad.
They Rock over there in San Fran.
The Franchise King
Oh no, why should you never never start a blog on blogger. This is terrible news, can you explain further?
I have my primary website with a wordpress blog, but I found it hard to use and that I could not have so much creative control. As a total novice I really like the drag and drop functions on blogger, and that you can add html and functions easily without knowing what the hell they are. Also you said that WP does much of the search engine stuff for you…but my blogger site ranked much higher and was much more visible immediately than my wordpress one???
Help, what to do????
This could not have come at a better time! I’m just moving my blog over from Typepad to WordPress at the site! Great stuff! And wonderfully timely! THANKS!
I agree about WordPress and although my blog is still a work in progress it is quite simple to set up. The plugins are great and the forum members are very helpful if you are experiencing problems.
Thanks for the pointers. Very new to the blog world and have been wondering how to get visibility. Comments on finding a niche and being passionate about your subject valuable.
WP still seems tough to get into but will revisit as I get more experience.
There are also 5 easy steps for optimizing your blog on Google:
1. Register with http://www.google.com/addurl
2. Register it with Google’s Webmaster Tools (https://www.google.com/webmasters/)
3. Create a Sitemap and register it with Google for better results (http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/)
4. Create a Robots.txt file within Google Webmaster Tools to let Search engines know that they can browse your site freely. (https://www.google.com/webmasters/ – Under ‘Tools’ – Generate Robots.txt
5. Update your site content regularly.
Thanks for great SEO sharing. I agree as i also use those technique. However, i think the most important factor is the keyword that we target to seo optimize, content rich unique articles and lots of links inbound and outbound.
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Great timing on this post. Thanks for the great info on blogs & Google.
WordPress ROCKS! Plain and simple. I thought I needed way more, so I built some sites in Drupal, then Joomla. Then hired developers to simply keep them going and working. Ay ya! Painful. Both of those CMS’s are awesome, but WordPress is for the small biz owner. And if you can’t custom develop your own theme, look at Thesis. Ask Lisa about it — they use it, I think.
Ooops. I feel a little bad, what’s wrong with Blogger? Why you tagged it as God forbids Lisa? I’m a blogger user and have not seen any problems to it yet.
But of course, I’m always open for possibilities. I will try considering WordPress in the future.
Very helpful post, Lisa. Part of joy/frustration of blogging is feeling like a lone voice in the wilderness. These tips are quite helpful for gaining a bigger audience.
Okay a Blogger lovers in the audience, I see. 🙂
The reason I advise against Blogger is they don’t seem to rank as well as Typepad or WordPress blogs. One of the reasons for that is they’re not set up as well SEO-wise as WordPress blogs. There are no category’s, there’s tons of duplicate content issues with how they’re set up (see: http://andybeard.eu/1832/blogger-blogspot-blogs-seo.html) and they’re just a lot more cumbersome than some of your other options. If you’re currently on a Blogspot blog and love it, more power to you. However, if you’re just *starting* a blog, you may as well relieve some of your headaches and go with WordPress. That’s just my opinion.
TJ: Absolutely right on the Thesis theme on Outspoken Media. The creator Chris Pearson is a good friend of ours and we absolutely love it, promote it and recommend it. 😉
There is really nothing wrong with blogger although it doesn’t have a lot of the features of the other blog softwares have. You can also create custom templates that will handle some of the problems with SEO, especially if you start off with their minimal template. I’m happy with it for what it is, and also how it integrates with everything else google.
I love WordPress! And thank your for writing this article. Now when someone asks me why I love WordPress I can be more articulate that just saying “oh I just love it.”.
This post is great example of the difference between a blogger and a journalist; a difference I hope will shrink over time as bloggers understand the importance of being more journalistic in their approach to writing.
As a writer who is aware that she is representing a biased point of view, a journalist would have realized that tossing a pejorative at a competitor like “(Please don’t ever start a blog on Blogger. No good can come of it.)” would create the very disconnect showed in the comments that followed.
A trained journalist would have been sensitive to the reader’s perception of that statement and would have refrained from making such an unsupported and obviously biased claim. Such a journalist would have instead saved that observation for a summary closing paragraph and would have supported that observation as Lisa so capably did after she was called on it.
Being a journalist means structuring your communication in a way that honors the reader and respects the reader’s right to comprehensible writing supported by facts and illustrated by analysis. Lisa is a capable writer who could deliver a much more impactful message with just a bit of journalism.
Hi Charles, thanks for your point, but here’s how I look at it:
The way Lisa expressed herself is exactly why there was so much discussion. Had the article been over-sanitized and bland, others would not have felt compelled to speak up and become part of the conversation. The point was discussed and it made an impact on people, precisely because she spoke her mind in a passionate way. Now people will remember the point she made and why she made it, more than if the words had been edited again and again.
I’m not into saying any old thing just to shock people and start arguments. But in this case, the way it was expressed worked well to spur conversation.
This site has more readers each month than many magazine and newspaper sites — journalistic sites — so I think people must appreciate this form of authentic and informal expression.
I’m just saying, you know …. 🙂
I’m sorry if the tone of the post rubbed you the wrong way. If I was being too playful with my writing, I apologize and will keep that in mind. I do have a degree in Journalism, so I understand the nuances. I treat my blogging a bit different than other types of writing. And as Anita points out, I think the tone lends itself more to conversation, which really, is what I was going for.
Thanks for the constructive comment, though!
Very solid advice Lisa (as usual). I wholeheartedly agree with the Blogger jab and Charles should relax. This post is about getting your blog to rank and the subdomain option of Blogger is a killer in search engines.
As a side note to all you Google Blogger.com fans out there! 🙂 You could have a stylish template, inspired by a WordPress template, and at the same time use the functionality of Blogger. I got a template for my EGO blog that had been converted & enhanced by eBlog Templates. The template is based on “Revolution Two Lifestyle” WordPress theme by Brian Gardner.
I recommend you to an interesting post (What Blogger Should Do by Evan Williams) by a former co-founder of Blogger, now at Twitter. I have a link to this post in my post, What Am I Doing On Twitter? (Click on “Martin Lindeskog” Says: if you want to read it.)
Great info for increase blog page rank! Thanks!
Great article on using stand alone wordpress blogs instead of wordpress.yourname.com.
A great feature of WP is the volume of plug ins that are available, a lot of them for Free.
A key factor is still getting noticed and you need to spend time getting the links back to your blog out there.
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Also – make regular updates. A blog that is updated frequently has a better chance of achieving higher search engine rankings.
I enjoyed this read Lisa, thank you.
In my blog I try to post information for community events and for individuals from our voting area to network, attend classes offered around town and support each other in business. We hope to keep our economy vital and for individuals to participate in prospeorus activities. I still do not know much about promoting blogs, since I just naturally created one for our precinct, however I would like to know more about getting more ideas for promoting it. We are networking small business owners from our area so they survive no matter what economic times we face ahead.
There is so much information out there to read. I’ve been trying to learn how to get my Racing Social Network and blog site to rank higher in Google. Thanks for the info.
Good work Lisa! So now about the “stay away from writing ‘I did this today’ post’ the good point in here but, how about writing about personal blogs? Just look at some blog that written by no-one even knew about with a HUGE traffic. How do they get those traffic? WordPress is pretty good by the way.
Interesting, good article.
Great post. Was posted a bit back, but the tips are still relevant and useful. As I just started a wordpress blog (after reading this im glad i did) this is exactly what I was looking for. Great starter point for me as I am an extreme noob to blogging and all that it intails. Thanks for the tips and now that I found the site, will now search for newer tips and tricks – im sure there are a bunch, thanks again!
I agree in that of having passion for your subject; however as this article also indicates its good to learn more about optimizing the project. I do like blogger and wordpress equally and that goes to show that it is fine for the market to have some competition for it later has each company striving to improve. In the end the consumer benefits by evolving superior products and in this case blogging platforms.