Best practices for SEO and blogging


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Huzzah presentation about SEO and blogging, how to pull them together and how to write a great blog.

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  • Don’t write headlines for SEO. Yep.
  • How many people here use some kind of content management system to upload articles? Saxotech, or WordPress, or Drupal or similar? Probably all of you.

  • By default, most content management systems take the headline - the visible text you see here - and use it as all or part of the page’s title tag, too.

    If you’re lucky, and your content management system lets you type in a separate title tag, that’s fine. Follow along and apply what I talk about to your title tag. Just understand your headline has to be at least similar, or you’ll confuse your readers and the search engines.
  • The title is that little bit of text you see in the top bar (aka the title bar) of your browser window.

  • If you want to nerd out, this is what the title tag looks like in code.

    The title tag shows up everywhere on the web. Just about any tool that uses your site’s content will start with the page’s title tag.
  • Feed readers use the title tag. A feed reader is a tool many people use to subscribe to a site’s latest stories. When I subscribe to a web site’s RSS feed, I get a list of titles from the latest stories. It’s convenient, because I can review the latest stories from many different sites, all in one place. Then I can decide which stories I want to read and click through to those sites.

    If your headline becomes your title tag, and your title tag is the first thing someone sees in a feed reader, then your headline determines whether they’ll click through to your site.

    That’s pretty important.

  • Search engines use the title tag. On any given page, the title tag is the strongest signal of a page’s relevance. The words that come first in the title tag are the words for which you have the best chance of being found.

    And, search engines display the title tag at the top of the search ‘snippet’. So once you show up in the rankings, the title tag is the strongest signal to the reader that this is a page they do or do not want to read.

    If you look at this example, the title is ‘Captain Crazy Pants and the Flight to Nowhere’ with some other stuff after it. If you search for ‘captain crazy pants’...

  • ...this article is #3 out of 2 million competing pages, beating sites like YouTube. That is, in large part, because of the title tag. I only use the phrase ‘captain crazy pants’ one more time on the whole page.

    I know what you’re saying - that’s just some nonsense phrase, Ian. We’re real journalists. We don’t write about drunk Google engineers who harass innocent SEOs. This will never work for me. But nice job presenting the best possible case. Loser.
  • Well, here’s a slightly tougher term. This page starts with ‘Tokyo Auto Show’. #3 out of 10 million pages.

  • And here’s a local interest story, ranking #1 for a niche search on a specific organization. This kind of attention can be pure gold for an area publication. Chicago Business grabbed both the top news search spot, which you see inserted into the regular search results, and the top regular search spot.

  • I couldn’t get permission to share specific client data, but we’ve tested great, clever but not fully descriptive headlines against fully descriptive headlines that aren’t as clever. The fully descriptive headline wins every time, without fail, usually by 2:1 or more.

    And that’s not just in search!!!! Clickthru from feed readers, Twitter ‘tweets’ and other ways of forwarding a story to others perform better, as well.

    Now, a couple of examples...
  • First, they accurately describe the story on their own.

    If you write either of these headlines on a blank sheet of paper and then show them to a stranger, they’ll probably know what they mean.

    A lot of writers tell me that this isn’t the right approach: They say you want to entice the visitor, make them want more. That might work in print, again, because of all of the stuff around the headline. It does not work online, where the only stuff around the headline is probably lots of other headlines. In print there’s scarcity. Online there’s not.
  • Second, they use the full names of the events, people or whatever else, in the headline.

    The first headline doesn’t say ‘Local group’ or ‘Scammers’ or ‘Nice people’. It gives the organization name.

    The second one doesn’t just say ‘CR-Z’. It says ‘Honda CR-Z’. It doesn’t say ‘Tokyo Show’, it says ‘Tokyo Auto Show’.
  • Third, when necessary, they place the story.

    The Autoweek headline comes right out and says “Tokyo Auto Show”. You immediately know where this news came from. This can be a slightly harder one to figure out - if you’re an Indianapolis business publication, you don’t always have to say ‘Indianapolis’. But if the story takes place at a specific meeting or event, you probably want to make that clear.
  • Follow these three rules and you’re in pretty good shape. Notice what I’m not talking about, too:
  • I don’t mention search engine keywords. Can you get more search traffic if you analyze every headline for the perfect, most-trafficked search phrase? Yes, probably. But the tradeoffs aren’t worth it: First, you’re not a professional SEO, you’re a writer, or an editor. Your time isn’t well spent on mining for keywords. Second, I’ve found that researching the best phrases generates headlines that read like a middle-school essay. Third, and most important: If you’re fully descriptive, in 95% of cases you’re going to get a good result; if you aren’t experienced, key phrase research might get you a good result 10-15% of the time.

    Go with the better odds.
  • I don’t talk about the fact that longer headlines will cause wrapping. That’s because wrapping is perfectly OK! in print, you can’t write a headline that wraps because you have limited space. Online, who cares?

    I promise you - promise - you will not lose an advertiser or a reader because some of your headlines wrap. I swear. Honest. CNN - arguably the publisher who ‘gets it’ best online - lets headlines wrap.
  • A couple of quick examples: Does this headline tell you what the story’s about?

    Does it pass the blank sheet test?
    Name full names?
    Place the story?

  • The story, as it turns out, is an Anderson Cooper blog post by one of his correspondents.

    Now, maybe if you’re as cool as Anderson Cooper you don’t have to worry about it - people read your stuff because you wrote it.

    I’m not cool. So I need to follow the rules. I’d write something like “Despite BP Oil Spill, Beaches Say Come On In, The Water Is Fine”. Or “Come on in, the water is fine, despite BP oil spill”.

    I know, blech. But remember that clickthru rate. You’ll get a lot more readers, and you can wow them once you’ve got them.
  • Here’s another one.

    I have to admit, this one would probably make me click. Which goes to show there are exceptions to every rule. But I might make a small adjustment...
  • ...and at least place the story.

    By the way, this is a Slate story.

  • Don’t make me go there.
  • Please. Really.
  • Now some of the geekier stuff: You need to get your site indexed as quickly as possible - when you do a new post, you want it out there, searchable and findable as fast as possible.
  • There’s not much to this, but taking a couple basic steps will really help. Pubsubhubbub is a protocol that lets you push updates to servers that subscribe to your content. It’s very fast, because you notify the server, rather than waiting for someone to refresh their RSS reader or for a server to poll your site. It’s about as close to real-time as you can get.
  • If you use WordPress, there’s a plugin. If not, but you use Feedburner, you can just turn on the ‘Pingshot’ option. Or you can install it yourself, if that makes you feel special.
  • Sitemaps, duh. But video sitemaps have surprised me lately, so I thought I should give ‘em a special mention.
  • I had a video up for a month and couldn’t get it indexed. But I went ahead and added it to a video sitemap, and it showed up in Google’s index in less than 12 hours.
  • Plugins for WordPress.
  • Plugins for WordPress.
  • First off, don’t obsess about the length of your articles. Make those suckers long.
  • First, if you are responsible for formatting your images, compress them! Look at this image.
  • Then look at this one. It’s 18 kb. Almost 1/4 the size. It’ll load faster, which means more people will use it (because they don’t have to wait). It also means search engines are more likely to index the image.

    This isn’t really part of fully descriptive or properly classified, but it aids in both. Slow loading images don’t perform as well in the rankings, and they sure don’t get as much love from your readers.
  • You also need to resize images in a photo editor, not using the height and width attribute.

    I see many cases where an image that’s 300 x 300 pixels (dots) on a page is actually a 600 x 600 pixel image that’s been scaled in the HTML itself.

    Your content management system probably lets you scale images by a % or specific dimensions when you insert them into your articles. But most of those systems don’t actually resize the image - they don’t take the original file, smush it down, and then save that as a new, smaller file. Instead, they wedge the original file into a smaller space by using some code: The height and width attributes of the IMG element. I won’t nerd out about it - you can look that up if you need to.

    When that happens, the page still delivers the humungous image file. Visiting browsers and search engines have to take the time to download an image that’s larger than necessary in both dimensions and file size.

    And, visiting search engines can’t properly classify the image. Google and other engines classify images by dimension. If you scale your images in the HTML code, you’re forcing the search engines to take an extra step. Why do that? Don’t!

  • And, make sure you fully describe the image in its ALT attribute.

    The ALT attribute is literally the alternate description of an image. It’ll show up if, for whatever reason, a visiting browser doesn’t download the image. It’s also used by search engines to categorize images.

    Remember the blank sheet of paper test? If you write your ALT attribute on a blank sheet of paper and show it to a stranger, they should know what the image is about.
  • If you want to see the nerdy stuff, here’s what the ALT attribute looks like.

    Your content management system probably lets you specify the ALT attribute. The field may be called ALT, or ‘alternate’, or ‘description’, or ‘caption’. If you can’t find it, Tweet me and we’ll figure it out.

  • The next few tips deal with building and retaining your audience, and doing some easy link building at the same time. I’ve found that the two go together: Build audience, build links. No audience, no lasting links.
  • First off, don’t obsess about the length of your articles. Make those suckers long.
  • Make sure that each section of your post fits in an average browser window, though. If you look at this one you’ll see that each of the numbered items at least comes close to a decent fit. I’ve tested, and breaking up a page this way can boost time-on-page by 40%+.

  • Stumbleupon is a nice source of traffic. But it can be pretty fleeting unless you make the stumblers stop.
  • Easiest way to do that is with a great image. And not just an image - you need to do something with it. Don’t rely on stock photography to make a Stumbler pause.
  • And you don’t have to be a great artist. There are some tools that can make it easy. Comic Life, Photoshop (although calling that easy may be a stretch). Or crayons and a scanner, for god’s sake.
  • If you’re going to scale your blogging work in terms of marketing and SEO building, you’re gonna have to connect with more than 5 people. If you’re like me and have the social skills of a lump of fungus, you need to be systematic.
  • Don’t put stupid links on every page.
  • Don’t put stupid links on every page.
  • Don’t put stupid links on every page.
  • The tag cloud - omg.
  • The tag cloud - omg.
  • Create hubs. This may seem like a duh, but I can count the number of blogs doing this well on 4 fingers.
  • One lonely page.
  • Don’t just write one blog post. Write series. Write connected/related posts.
  • Don’t just write one blog post. Write series. Write connected/related posts.
  • Use a tool like cross linker.
  • Don’t write headlines for SEO. Yep.
  • This isn’t a bad little headline. It’s clear. It’s got ‘how to’ to get things moving.
  • This is better. It implies grabbing. Grabby marketing must be better, right?
  • Ah - HAH. This one’s better. It draws a connection between the topic and something that’s on folks’ minds. An old, old advertising trick.
  • This ain’t subtle. When you’re writing a headline, look at what folks are searching for. Google Trends ain’t bad
  • Don’t write headlines for SEO. Yep.
  • I keep a record of blogs and sites where I need to regularly participate. And I use a CRM tool to keep track of who I should contact when.
  • This isn’t cynical. Think about it. You keep track of who gets you a nice gift at your wedding and send them a thank you note, right?
  • And, my favorite tools for this.

  • Best practices for SEO and blogging

    1. SEO + blogging Cut the...
    2. blogs don’t matter
    3. gaaah wtf do you mean!?
    4. ok, i lied
    5. Blog = Content Management System
    6. Put your blog on your site. 1 Pretty please.
    8. Get indexed fast.
    9. Use Pubsubhubbub. 2
    10. Pubsubhubbub
    11. XML Sitemaps Pages Images Video
    12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 XML Sitemaps: Affect on video traffic Indexed in 12 hours.
    13. Get fast. Plugin: Google XML Sitemaps Google XML Sitemap for Images Pubsubhubbub
    14. sup?
    15. See to your images. 3
    16. 115 kb
    17. 18 kb
    18. <img src=”froggy.jpg” height=”250” width=”250”> oy. this is very cramped.
    19. Good ALT attribute: “Sheep say web 2.0” Bad ALT attribute: “What the heck?”
    20. Good ALT attribute: “Sheep say web 2.0” Bad ALT attribute: “Talking sheep”
    21. W3 Total Cache GZIP Caching Mini cation
    22. Build audience and links. You're blog's so easy to read. And I have a brain the size of a pea.
    23. Fit the scroll. Not the screen. 4
    24. Fit the scroll, not the screen.
    25. Search Apple Store Mac iPod iPhone iPad iTunes Support iPod shuffle iPod nano iPod touch iPod classic Apple TV Accessories Download iTunes 10 Products iTunes and more Compare iPod models. iPod engraving. iOS 4 Update iPod everywhere Corporate Gifting Watch the Keynote. Find the one that’s Free. Only from the 100+ new features. At home. At work. And Special pricing on iPod Steve Jobs unveils the perfect for you. Apple Online Store. Free for iPod touch and anyplace in between. models. new iPod lineup. iPhone. Free download. Endless entertainment. Your music, movies, TV shows, apps, and more. The best way to follow your favorite artists and friends — and discover the music they’re talking about, listening to, and downloading. iTunes is home to everything that entertains you. Learn more iPod iPod More iPod iPod Everywhere iPod Resources iPod touch In-Ear Headphones Nike + iPod Download iTunes 10 iPod classic Accessories iPod Car Integration iPod in Education iPod nano Apple TV iPod Tours iPod Support iPod shuffle Corporate Gifting Accessibility (PRODUCT) RED Compare iPod Models Shop the Apple Online Store (1-800-MY-APPLE), visit an Apple Retail Store, or find a reseller. Apple Info Site Map Hot News RSS Feeds Contact Us
    26. Make Stumblers stop. 5
    27. Make Stumblers stop.
    28. Make Stumblers stop. Comic Life Photoshop Crayons & a scanner
    29. Link sparingly. Link smart. 6
    30. Conserve link authority. nofollow
    31. Conserve link authority. Catalog request Legal Careers About Our ego
    32. Conserve link authority.
    33. Conserve link authority. January 2010 2009 (21) 2008 (21)
    34. Conserve link authority. oh god! the tag cloud's gone feral!
    35. Conserve link authority.
    36. Create hubs. 7
    37. Interlink. Create hubs. sniff How to: Relax
    38. Interlink. Create hubs. woot! How to: Relax Relax and live longer How to not be like Ian Relaxation techniques
    39. Interlink. Create hubs. woot! How to: Relax Relax Relax Relax and live longer Relax How to not be like Ian Relaxation techniques
    40. Interlink. Create hubs. Plugin: Cross linker
    41. Write headlines for trends & attention. 8
    42. Write headlines for trends & attention. How to: Write great headlines
    43. Write headlines for trends & attention. How to: Write great headlines 5 reader-grabbing headlines
    44. Write headlines for trends & attention. How to: Write great headlines 5 reader-grabbing headlines 5 headlines grabbier than a Glen Beck rally i'm wandering in darkness
    45. remember, ian lurie hates america
    46. Build relationships. Not links. 9
    47. Systematically build relationships.
    48. Systematically build relationships. joe said really nice things about me. I'll make a note.
    49. Systematically build relationships. Google Reader
    50. Make it easy to share.
    51. Obvious directories. Yahoo! Directory SEOMOZ directory list
    52. @portentint I'm calm.