I talk with fellow web designers, the issue of “SEO” invariably comes
up. That’s techie slang for “search engine optimization,” of course,
that black science of making sure Google lists your site higher than
your competitors. Over the years a small army of shady characters have
tried to game the search engine results.
I’ve always thought such tricks were pathetic and bound to lose over
the long term. Search engines want to feature good sites. It’s in their
best interest to make sure the sites listed are the ones people want to
see. A search engine that returns unsatisfactory results quickly
becomes a has-been in the search engine competition. So as soon as a
site such as Google notices some new SEO trick is skewing the rankings they tweak their secret search algorithm to fix the SEO loophole.
Just Give Google the Content It Loves
In theory it’s easy to make Google, Yahoo, MSN and
the other big search engines happy: give potential visitors site
they’ll want to visit. Forget the tricks and spend your time putting
together an amazing site. Search engines like text, so write, write,
I’m looking to join a web design house, which means I’ve been
interviewing with slick web developers lately and whenever they ask me
the best way to increase SEO for their
clients, I tell them to start a blog. They look at me like I’m an idiot
but it’s absolutely true: two blog posts a week will end up being over
100 pages of pure content. All of these sites full of Flash animation
get you nowhere with Google.
Just a note that any kind of text-rich web system can achieve many
of the same results – blogs are just the easiest way yet to get content
on your site.
Presenting What You Already Have: Blog your Water Cooler Chat
When I talk to people about starting a corporate blog they quickly
start telling me how much work it will be. Bah and Humbug – your
company’s life is probably already filled with bloggable material!
I used to work in a bookstore where I did most of the customer
service, much of it by email. About two or three times a week I’d get a
particularly intriguing query and would spend a little time researching
an answer (mostly by looking through the indexes of our books and
searching the arcane sites of our niche). This research didn’t always
pan out to a book sale, but it marked our bookstore as a place to get
answers and gave us a competitive advantage over Amazon and its ilk.
Each of my email answers could have easily been reformatted to become a
blog post. By the end of a year, I’m sure the volume coming from these
obscure searches would be quite high (see yesterday’s Long Tail Strategy
post on the HitTail blog for an account of how attention to search
engine’s one-hit-wonders helped achieve a widespread keyword dominance).
Whenever something new happens that breaks you out of your routine,
think about whether it’s bloggable. At the bookstore, a new book would
come in and we’d spend ten minutes talking about it. That conversation
reached half-a-dozen people at most. In that same ten minutes we could
have written up a blog post saying much the same thing.
Last Spring a controversial article appeared in the local newspaper
that tangentially involved my employer. That morning my workmates
gathered together in the reception area for the better part of an hour
trading opinions and wisecracks. After about five minutes of this, I
slipped back to my office and wrote my opinions and wisecracks down
into my blog. I hit post and came back to the reception area – to find my
workmates still blathering on, natch. My post reached hundreds and took
no more time out of the work day than the reception pontifications.
Humans are social animals. We’re always blogging. It’s just that
most of the time we’re doing it verbally around the water cooler with
three other people. Learn to type it in and you’ve got yourself a
high-volume blog that will add invaluable content and SEO magic to your site.
Mix up your content: Tag Your Site
Lastly, a point to webmasters: it usually pays to think about ways
to re-package your content. My most recently experience of this was
tagifying my personal blog over at “QuakerRanter.org.” Every time I
post there a Movable Type plugin fishes out the key words in the
article and lists them afterwards as tags. These tags are all linked in
such a way that results send the term through the site’s search engine
to give back an on-the-fly index page of all the posts where I’ve used
Tags are like categories except they pick up everything we talk
about (when we use them aggressively at least, and especially when we
automate them). We don’t necessarily know the categories that our
potential audience might be searching for and tagifying our sites
increases our keyword outreach exponentially. My personal blog has 239
entries but 3,860 pages according to Google.
It’s the parsed out and re-packaged content that accounts for all of
this extra volume. This doesn’t increase traffic by that nearly that
much, but last month about 30% of my Google visits came from these tag
indexes. More on the mechanics of this on my post about the tagging.