Google Juice

I am not an expert on Search Engine Optimization but I’ve been messing around with it a bit lately and thought I’d pass on a few tips. These tips relate to both SEO (Search Engine Optimization) proper, which means helping people find your blog posts, which, in turn, means hyping up your Google Juice, as well as general social networking. Almost everything here is obvious but I see many blogs that I really like not doing at least some of them.

Social Networking (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

Your blog should have an easily available set of social networking buttons on each blog post. Ideally these buttons should be on the view of your blog that shows the various recent posts (titles and summaries) as well on the individual blog post pages. Many blogs have buttons that link the reader to the blog author’s Twitter page or other places, but this is not what I mean. I’m talking about the twitter (or other social networking site) button that instantly generates a tweet (or other appropriate action) when pressed.

This button should not lead the reader to a place where they can sign up for the ability to share a blog post. Some blogs do that and it is counter productive. A lot of your readers will ignore this. The social networking buttons should include a lot of options because, even though most people probably use Twitter with Facebook a close second, there are still lots of people who use Stumble Upon or other sites. So when choosing what buttons to show (by adjusting your social networking plugin) be generous.

It would also be nice if your sharing buttons were clearly marked and readily available and distinct from your “follow me on X” buttons.

Some bloggers have a Twitter button that generates a tweet with an @ tag like “@wordpress.com” or something along those lines. That is pretty useless. The @ tag should be more specific to your on line presence. Nobody cares that a tweet was generated from a WordPress blog. That @ tag is to bring relevant individuals into the conversation, not to advertise a generalized blogging network. So adjust that if possible.

Depending on your blog there may be a plugin you can use (or replace) to do this.

Search Engine Optimization

Google ranks and finds sites using a number of criteria most of which are at least initially mysterious. SEO developers (those that develop plugins or strategies etc) attempt to “game” this to enhance their users’ or clients’ Google Juice. Google then adjusts. It is an arms race that you will lose if you don’t keep up. So keep up.

Also, it is probably true that faster rendering sites get higher up on Google search pages than slower rendering sites. So, make your site faster.

Themes or templates for WordPress sites that are old should probably be replaced. Newer templates or themes may be better optimized for speed.

Themes or templates can be “SEO optimized.” But if that is something that was done a couple of years ago, it is probably outdated. Make sure your theme or template is updated (usually a largely automatic process but you need to press a button).

At the moment, it seems that templates or themes that make use of “schema.org” work way better than those that don’t. Search engines use schema.org markup to get at the information on your site. Make sure your theme or template makes use of schema.org. It will say that in the description.

In short, if you have an old template or theme, replace it and make sure the new one is schema.org ready.

I assume it is also true that you should be using the most current version of WordPress or whatever other blogging software you use.

SEO and Social Networking Plugins

To get those sharing buttons, and to improve SEO, you can get various plugins. Get recently developed or updated ones, and keep them updated.

Specific SEO strategies

Pick good keywords. The first keyword you list is the keyword you think will lead people to your post. If you use a generic keyword, your post will be one of a gazillion other posts on a Google search. If you use a more specific one you may get better results. This obviously depends on what people are searching for.

Use your keyword a reasonable number of times in the post, including the title and the “slug” (the part of the URL that identified your post).

Try to write the title of your post in the form of a likely common Google Search. If I write a post on how high sea levels may rise with global warming, I might title it “How high will sea levels rise with global warming” and/or use a phrase like that in the post. The keywords might be “Sea Level Rise, Global Warming, Climate Change.”

Use headings (headers) and put the main keyword in a header tag. This may be extra work since you may have to hard code it, but it is not that difficult. Use HTML code to make an H2 level header and put the keyword in it as part of the title of that section. Many of us think of using titled subsections as a tool for long text, to help break it up, and you may be reluctant to use headers with short text. Forget that convention and use the headers even when your blog post is short.

A blog post that is under 300 words has less google juice. I can imagine why this is true, but I don’t know. But it appears to be true because all the SEO experts say it. At least for now.

Using graphics in blog posts

Graphics seem to increase Google juice. If you use graphics, there are a few guidelines that may help.

  • Retitle the graphic, if needed, so it says something that makes sense. So, change 23272w90348408.jpg to Map-of-sea-level-rise.jpg.
  • Put a phrase that uses your keyword (if appropriate) in the alt-test and description, and include a caption with that as well.
  • Enhance Discoverability

    Put links to your other posts in your posts, when appropriate.

    Use title tags properly

    Each HTML page has a “title tag” that is said to be very important for search engines. Google will create the search engine result largely from the title tag. There are SEO plugins that allow you to manipulate this data. I am somewhat agnostic about this approach as I’ve seen mixed results, but if you have an SEO plugin you should try doing what it tells you do to about post titles and descriptions.

    Don’t be an idiot about post titles

    The title of your post is probably the most important thing when it comes to SEO and in general getting someone to read it.

    The first rule is don’t be cute. Well, be cute if you want, but don’t create a title that has great literary value or that conveys some subtle bit of humor or makes a nuanced connection between two things you are writing about, etc. etc. unless the title also states what the post is about.

    In other words, the title of your post is the ONLY means to tell a potential reader what your post is about. It is NOT an IQ test or a test of popular culture knowledge or anything else.

    Let me put this yet another way. Your post title should not be a quiz that only your “smartest” or most socially aware readers, or more typically, your most telepathic readers, will understand. The title of your post should not be a challenge that only some will overcome in order to unerstand what your post is about.

    Have I put that enough ways?

    For example, this post is titled

    “Expanding Blog Readership Through SEO and Social Networking”

    If I wanted to be more literal I might have said,

    “Clickety–clack 10 SEO hacks”

    “Link or cut bait”

    “Searching For Juice”

    … or any number of titles that make a subtle, nuanced link between something you weren’t thinking of and something in my own head. Don’t do that. Google won’t figure out that your post is there, and if Google does, and puts your post on the only page in a search result that matters (page 1) readers won’t figure out what you are writing about.

    Save The Drama For Your Mama

    And by Drama I mean your inspired literary blog post title and by Mama I mean a header within your post.

    See what I did there?

    Expanding Blog Readership Through SEO and Social Networking, according to YOU

    Please make your brilliant suggestions (and corrections of what I’ve said) below!

    I break most of my blog posts, here and on scienceblogs.com, into a pre and post section with the pre-section being what shows up on RSS feeds and the rest below the fold. Some people find this annoying, but I find the opposite annoying. I don’t use my RSS feeder to read other people’s blogs. I much prefer to read those blogs on their own terms. I want to see the blogger’s choice of typeface and styling, layout, etc. etc. and I want to know what else is visible on that blog post’s page, i.e., on side bars and such. This is because, as a blogger, I know that people who bother to write for the internet also often have other tings going on, other things they want to show us. Like fer instance, James Hrynyshyn at Class M has a widget on his left sidebar that shows us the “remaining allowable emmissions in tonnes of carbon from fossil fuel use etc.etc.” and I like to keep track of that. (The current countdown reaches zero on October 8th, 2043). And there are other things like that.

    I examine a lot more blog posts than I read. If I open a post in the RSS reader that I use, I want to see enough to know what the post is about but not enough to even fill my computer’s screen, so it is one less step to navigate to the next post (depending on what navigation tool I’m using). In other words, I like to use the RSS feeder like those old chapter headings used in many 19th century books, which gave you a bunch of information underneath the chapter heading about what was coming up in that chapter (some TOC’s of the day did the same thing, a tradition revived in recent years in textbooks).

    I suppose that it is because I like RSS summaries better than having RSS’s provide the entire post that I write most of my own blog posts this way. Some people tell me that they will never, ever read my blog and that I am a bad person because I do this. I am considered “guilty” of doing something ungood, and I’m told by some that they routinely unsubscribe from bloggers who do this. Some of my fellow bloggers never split posts for RSS feeds and claim that this is the only moral way to blog, and act all holier-than-thou about it. My fellow bloggers who do split their posts are usually silent on the issue because post-splitting is stigmatized as the wrong thing to do, and because it does have a mercenary aspect to it; In theory, we who get paid by the hit get something if you actually show up on our sites, but not if you merely read a copy of our work delivered to you by a third party. A split RSS feed is like a marquee; you get to see the name of the movie or maybe a poster or a trailer for free but if you want to watch the whole thing you’ve got to pay. For a movie, that’s between five and ten bucks where I live, but for a blog post it is a mere mouse click. A blog post that is a short announcement of something else (a pointer to another post or an upcoming event, for instance) should be all “above the fold” but a longer written work is the author’s intellectual property and there are numerous ways to deliver such property. Requiring someone to open the book to read the novel is not an immoral or unethical act.

    The mercenary nature of splitting a post along with the grumbling of the annoyed, I think, causes many of those who do this to simply remain silent when the conversation is happening, but I find that silence annoying as well because in fact, there are those of us who strongly prefer the split method in no small part becuase that is how we use our RSS feeds. Everybody has a set of preferences as to how they want the Internet to be, and sometimes individuals make their little part of the internet the way they want it. If one presents the attitude that one is expressing oneself by doing this, then other people may grumble silently and even walk way unhappy, and usually people leave you alone. But, if others have already expresses a disdain for a certain practice then an individual blogger or webmaster does not really have much purchase in the game, and it is hard to claim freedom of expression or artistic license.

    The point is, what we do, what we can and can not say that we like, what we are expected to dislike, is a function of culture and received knowledge (or, really, received attitude) more than it is rational. For instance, there is a good argument that the typeface “Comic Sans” is an excellent typeface for certain uses. It seems to go well with presentations for children, for instance. But other than its use in a cynical context, the people who have decided what your attitude should be have decided that you can never use it. In fact, you can’t even use it in a cynical context because people often notice the typeface before they notice the cynicism, and most people who are ready to condemn you as a human being based on a typeface choice are rarely able to take back their hatred once they’ve unleashed it.

    There are also profound differences in the choices we have. Over at Scienceblogs.com, we are about to have a major redesign of the site. When that happens, I think I’ll be losing my left sidebar. I put a lot of important stuff in my left sidebar, including badges linking to various networks or causes. I may have to live in a world, in a few weeks, where I have to tell people “no, sorry, I can’t be part of that network anymore because you require a badge and my blog can’t have badges.” Some people will storm off and hate me until the day they die. Others will not notice. Eventually it may be that nobody uses these badges anymore because some other way of doing whatever the badges do emerges and spreads. Oh, and in case you have not noticed, left sidebars are becoming increasingly rare. It turns out that current models suggest that ad-clickiness of a web site is enhanced with all content on the left and all the ads above, on the right, within the stream of text/comments, and in that annoying popup that is currently sitting behind this very window waiting for you.

    I personally disdain white or light text on a black or dark background. Yet, one of the blogs I write for does this. It is not a choice I make. Do I hate myself for writing a blog that is annoying for myself to read? (There are technological fixes for this problem, and I use those, by the way.) At one of the blog networks I contribute to, the blog post is split automatically for me, I have no choice. At another we are encouraged by management to split posts so that our front pages look a certain way and we all get more views. At another, there is no rule and the bloggers are split between “I split for the cash” and “Splitting is immoral, might as well step on the baby kittens” and “What is this splitting thing you speak of?” and everything in between. Then there is me: “I split because I like it, and I want everyone else to do it” which, I know, holds no cachet whatsoever with the anti-splitters because they have already received their culturally determined stance on the morality of splitting and that’s the end of it for those poor souls. And, yes, for me it is also true that “I split most posts because I want you to come to my blog and read them …. I want you to click on my page, I want you to see my sidebars, I want you to see the pointies to before and after posts and visit them as well. My motivation for writing this post is in part to get you to join me here.”

    There is another level at which choice is limited. Some of us don’t care if our blogs make any money for them. Some people even claim that they don’t care if anyone even reads their blog (which I find hard to believe). Some of us got laid off and live in a house with not enough room so we sleep on the living room floor and would appreciate the fucking clicks so we can keep the interest on our loans paid off, thank you very much. One could argue forever about choice, but if one is going to do that, your argument will not have much meaning unless everyone else can also examine all of your choices, because you are certainly not doing it right from the point of view of someone else, maybe many others!

    I want RSS summaries, not whole posts, unless the posts are short. I want my blog’s home page to have title/text, title/text, title/text for several posts with little paging-down, and I want you to read most of my blog posts at my site, not on your reader, because a) I made it all nice for you and b) I want your damn click. And, I can exercise that choice because it is my intellectual property, and you can vote one way or another with your “feet.” It is just a bit annoying to me that the rhetoric related to this issue describes the situation in only one way, with little or no reference to the full context and all the relevant factors.

    I guess it is polite of RSS to take only what our posts suggest for them; Technologically that is not required. Technologically, you can scrape the whole blog post if you like. But, there is a copyright issue here. Scraping past an RSS summary and taking the rest of the post is sort of like being sent a PDF file of a free chapter of a book otherwise available for sale, but you have software that searches the host’s site for the rest of the book and takes that too. Your access to my blog via third party technology, interfaced with your wants and needs and my intellectual property, certainly makes an interesting nexus.

    That is all, thank you very much.

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