Sunday, January 30, 2005
Optimization for Blogger hosted blogs
The online business community has recently discovered the power of blogging, and as such are faced with raising the blog site’s ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). As a direct result of some of the blog characteristics, high search rankings are readily available for the careful blog writer.
Like any other website, blogs have techniques for search engine optimization (SEO), many of them the same as for traditional static websites, and many of them unique to blogs. Among the issues faced by some bloggers is the abundance of free blog hosting sites.
Not requiring any initial cash outlay, the free blog hosts have literally millions of blogs on their books. One of the most popular is the Google owned blog host Blogger.
Note that in this article, the capitalized word Blogger refers to the blog hosting company, while the lower case generic term blogger indicates the blog writer. Confusion between the two words will be avoided as much as possible.
Like all free web hosts, Blogger hosted blogs face unique optimization challenges. Unlike sites where the domain name is owned by the webmaster, free blog hosts maintain ownership of the blog. In fact, the blog name is a sub-domain of the blog host, making value from the blog URL a less powerful optimization tool.
Despite the limitations faced by a blog hosted by Google owned Blogger, there are many very powerful optimization techniques available to the blogger. As we will see, blogs have some optimization methods, that are only available to blogs in general, regardless of host.
When considering the optimization techniques to apply to blogs, the basics of fresh keyword rich content, theme relevance, incoming links, and link anchor text all apply to blogs. In that sense optimization for blogs is no different from other websites.
On the other hand, some additional methods and some restrictions in the choice of techniques are involved as well. The various restrictions are often a direct result of the placement of the blog on the free host.
In this case study, the free host is Blogger. These shortcomings must always be kept in mind, when considering the best course, to fully optimize your blog.
Free Blogger hosting for your blog
Blogger enables you to host your blog on their server for free. As a very simple use interface system, even a novice with absolutely no programming or blogging experience of any kind, can be fully operational in a matter of minutes. The procedure for starting a blog is very simple, and takes only minutes to complete.
The Blogger server offers the choice of having a free standing blog as a separate website, or the option of writing your daily posts on the Blogger interface, and file transfer them to your existing website via the built in FTP feature.
Blogger provides a choice of pre-written templates for the blog layout, but all of them are changeable to include different color combinations and page formats.
Blogger freely permits the use of third party add on features, including commenting systems, track back, visitor counters, RSS site feeds, and most scripts often seen incorporated into traditional websites.
Note that Blogger offers all of those necessary blogging functions, including a site feed through Atom, with the exception of track back, in its blogging service package. Other third party feeds can be freely added to the Blogger template. I use several on my blogs.
The user is under no obligation to use the Blogger supplied versions, however. The company agreement does require that the Blogger logo icon remain on all of the pages, however.
When choosing a URL for the blog, it will appear as http://yourblogname.blogspot.com or if you prefer, as http://www.yourblogname.blogspot.com making the blog URL a sub-domain of the Blogger system.
The main domain is indicated by the “blogspot.com portion of the URL. With being a sub-domain, there are some unique, but not insurmountable challenges to optimization, as we shall see.
A Blogger user is not restricted in the choice of blog titles, and careful title and URL selection can help greatly in the optimization process. Many blogs suffer from having very poorly selected titles, that contain no relevance to the overall blog theme. Keep that in mind when selecting a title.
Keywords within the blog title and URL are very powerful in ranking well, with a blog component, especially as a sub-domain from the Blogger host.
After creating a blog title, and selecting a blog template to be customized later, the Blogger registration process is completed. A new blog writer is ready to begin writing blog columns, which are referred to as posts.
The optimization and search engine power of blogs
Contrary to what many people believe, Google does not give preference to blogs hosted on Blogger, despite Google’s ownership of the popular blog service.
As a result, bloggers using the Blogger hosting system are on even footing with bloggers using other free or paid blog hosting services, and with blogs hosted under an owned domain name, or as part of an owned domain website. The playing field for optimization is as level as possible for bloggers using a sub-domain of Blogger, and for other bloggers as well.
Blogs rank well in the search engines by their very nature. They are regularly updated with keyword rich content. Most blog writers stick to a main theme for their blogs making relevance easy. Because of the blog’s versatility, the blogger can add more themes to the blog and tie them together, enabling a blog to maintain several strong themes.
Blogs are also link magnets, mainly from other similarly themed blogs. It is not unusual for a blog to receive a Google PageRank 4 or 5 after being live on the internet for only one month. The theme relevant links are often placed right in blog posts, and contain powerful link anchor text.
One way inbound links to blogs are freely given by other bloggers as many blog writers are not concerned about search engine rankings. As a result, the competitive level of the sought after keywords is not as strong as its overall potential, based on sheer numbers of blogs.
Bloggers maintain large link lists, called blogrolls, that usually sit on the blog’s home page. The weakness of the blog link lists is their volume, providing less than optimal PageRank and link popularity passage, as it’s divided among large numbers of receiving blogs and websites.
What the blog link popularity lacks in amount of what is passed along, is made up for in theme relevance and quantity. Blog links are literally a volume business. Note that reciprocal blog links don’t appear to suffer any downgrading, as is often the case for static sites. Incoming links, including reciprocal links, are effective for blogs.
On page blog optimization techniques
Blogs are optimized using the same techniques as static websites. Keep in mind that a blog is simply another website. What works in the search engines for other sites will also work for optimizing a blog.
Blogger assists the blog writer by building in many optimization features, that enable a blog to compete in less competitive searches, even if no other optimization techniques are applied.
The blog title is important, and should be chosen carefully to reflect the topics and themes of the blog. Many blog titles are frivolous, and provide little search engine value. Including at least one important keyword in the title is recommended.
The title is important as it forms part of the URL sub-domain. Combining a keyword enriched title with the blog URL is often enough to compete for non-competitive searches.
As the regular posts are added to the blog, each one generates a unique page with its own URL. Since the blog title forms part of that URL, it’s important that it contain some keyword, as the blog title is at the front of the URL.
The individual page URL contains all of a short blog post headline, and most of some longer ones. For that reason, place the targeted keywords early in a blog post headline to ensure their conclusion. Blogger publishes the page URLs, with the headline words separated by dashes, in accordance with the Google preference for dashes over underscores.
The blog title tags are readily and easily changed in Blogger, to reflect any targeted keywords and phrases. Because the blog itself is a website sub-domain, altering the title tag is a very powerful option for any blogger to utilize.
The Blogger supplied templates are pre-written with h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, and h6 tags. The headings are placed in the heading tags automatically, providing an instant search engine advantage for the blog. The templates are fully CSS compatible and welcome both additional CSS and html coding.
Blogs are well crawled by the major and lesser known search engine spiders. Because the posts are so frequent, the spiders return to reindex the blog, on at least a daily basis.
By pinging the blog, which is notifying the specialized blog search engines and RSS aggregators of an update, the blog reaches a huge audience including media outlets. A good one stop multiple site pinger is Ping-O-Matic.
Three very powerful optimization tools are missing from Blogger templates, and would be very helpful in improving searches for Blogger hosted blogs.
One missing item is categories. Blogger users can't place their posts into theme related categories. The ability of other blog hosts to provide categories gives those blogs a bit of a theme related SEO advantage. That is to say nothing of the benefit to the blog readers of neatly organized categories for related links.
Blogger doesn't provide a related links feature that lets readers find additional posts on the same blog topic. Another benefit to readers, and to the search engines due to the loss of an internal link, is missed by Blogger.
A third issue is the lack of internal "tag" coding. Blogger users are required to write their own tag code for Technorati and other users of post tags for search. As embedded linked keywords, tags are also very powerful for creating themes in search engines.
There appears to be little, if any discrimination against Blogger and other free hosted blogs among the members of the media, and other blog RSS feed subscribers.
The link power of blogs
Much of the search engine optimization power of blogs is through their extensive linking networks. Blog owners are free and generous linkers. They link to other blogs permanently, usually from the high PageRank home page, and freely link to what they consider interesting blog posts.
Not only are posts linked frequently by other bloggers, but the on page link is often from a post to a post. As a bonus, the link is usually dripping with important keywords and phrases.
Links from other blogs tend to be very theme relevant in content, as bloggers link to articles, blog posts, and other blogs that are of interest to themselves and to their readership. One way incoming links are a very frequent event for bloggers.
Reciprocal blog links don’t appear to be discounted by Google or the other major search engines, as the exchanges are usually between theme related blogs. Blog owners should, however, exert some level of caution, regarding link exchanges with non-theme relevant blogs, as those incoming links might not receive full value.
Linking to and from Blogger is easy, and the template provides an unlimited sidebar area for the inclusion of html links, to other blogs and traditional websites. Links can also be coded within the posts themselves, right at the time of post composition, using simple embedded html conversions.
The Blogger posts are archived after a chosen time period of usually one week, into one month long archive sections. Those time frames are changeable in the Blogger settings, for longer or shorter durations.
The internal linking of the pages is precoded by Blogger, enabling PageRank link popularity, and link anchor text to pass freely from one page to another. The pre-written code can also be altered should the blogger prefer a different internal linking structure.
Hosting a blog on a free host like Google owned Blogger need not be a disadvantage to achieving high search engine rankings. Simply apply recommended standard optimization techniques and the blog will do very well in the SERPs.
The Blogger supplied, and readily alterable templates contain many powerful optimization features by default, including h1 tags, CSS, and strong internal page linkage, to name just a few.
Be sure to keep in mind that the blog URL shows a sub-domain. Because of that limitation, care should be taken with the blog title, title tags, and the headlines given to the regular blog posts.
The power of the many keyword rich anchor text incoming links, from theme related blogs and websites, will go far towards reaching the top of the rankings.
The links are to be expected because of the regular posting of theme relevant content. Other bloggers will link naturally to the blog, with the highly potent one way link.
Be sure to add your own tag code for using those powerful search tools.
The blog combination of fresh keyword rich content and relevant incoming links will propel the blog, and a related website, to the top of the SERPs.
While it’s always a better policy to own your own blog domain, don’t be afraid of a free blog host, if you are short of cash.
Even a free hosted blog is highly powered in the search engines.
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