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I’ve just finished doing a quick slot on the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) benefits of blogging at this morning’s New Media Breakfast in Edinburgh. Here’s what I had to say, together with some additional perspective on some of the issues I didn’t have time to delve into.

Blog for SEO?

Do we recommend blogging as an SEO technique? Yes, but not just for SEO’s sake. That route, as well as likely being less effective SEO-wise, would inevitably result in you missing out on all the other benefits of blogging that Gordon discussed.

Blogging, as part of an integrated and intelligent online marketing strategy? It’s simply great for search engine optimisation.

Why Blogging is Good for SEO

Many organisations who blog, enjoy good search engine rankings. Is this because Google thinks blogs deserve to get a ranking boost? Probably not.

The ranking boosts are more indirect. It just so happens that blogging encourages a lot of practices that tick the search engine algorithms’ boxes.

1. Good Quality Informational Content

A very large portion of searches are research type queries. Very often blog posts contain detailed answers to this sort of query. As such, it’s information that Google wants to have ranking highly (as opposed to say brochureware content)

2. Fresh Content

Freshness is often cited as an important ranking factor for websites. I’m not so sold on the idea.

I am however very sold on the idea of web pages getting a freshness boost. Our little Google Caffeine experiment following the fatBuzz launch certainly proved that. Likewise our post about asking for blog comments enjoyed a period of ranking highly for the phrase “way to get blog comments”. Three weeks on it’s now lower down the first page and will continue to drop off as time goes by.

This freshness boost is a phenomena you can use in many ways to punch a good bit above your normal ranking levels.

3. Depth of content

Which site do you think a search engine is more likely to rank highly for the phrase “mugs” (sorry, a personal obsession):

  • A single page site about mugs;
  • A site containing many pages covering many different aspects of mugs?

Blogging regularly means you unconsciously transform your site from the first type of site to the second. You “reassure” Google that your site is genuinely about mugs, or whatever the service is you offer.

4. Search engine friendly content

Much good indexable content on the web remains virtually unfound in search engine results pages because the technology platform it is delivered on is sub-optimal for SEO. I include many commercial content management and e-commerce systems that claim to be search engine friendly in that category.

Leading blog platforms on the other hand are mostly set-up in a genuinely search engine friendly manner.

Closely related to this is the way most blog platforms organise content, compared to many other text based websites. The use of tags and categories, by happy chance, result in your blog using two of the least known, yet most powerful on-site optimisation techniques of internal linking structures and themeing.

9 Tips for Improving the Ranks of Your Blog

In roughly reverse order of importance:

1. If your platform allows it, change the page urls from post numbers to include the words from the main header of your post.  So your url would look like:

http://www.my-blog.com/my-first-post

Not http://www.my-blog.com/?post=1

2. Include target keywords in the title and content of your posts (provided of course you don’t ruin the user experience – I didn’t have to work to get the keywords SEO, blogs and blogging into this page)

3. Where practical make sure that the full version of your post is only available on one url only. Achieve this by making your blog’s home page, tag pages and category pages show snippets, rather than the full text – see the Attacat Brain home page as an example)

4. Link to other pages in your site (including previous posts) and relevant pages on other sites where appropriate. Consider using keywords within the link text (aka anchor text)

5. Use tags.  You’ll probably naturally use many of your target keywords in the tags anyway.  However that doesn’t mean you should neglect doing some keyword research

6. If there are not good over-riding marketing reasons for doing so, include your blog within your company website domain (e.g. www.your-company.com/blog not www.your-company-blog.com). This will allow your main site to gain maximum benefit from all the content you create and the links from other sites you gain.

7. Use a leading blogging platform rather than a tacked on blog module. Past experience has shown that the cost of sorting the issues of non-dedicated blogging platforms far exceeds the costs of deploying an additional leading paltform. Even something as widely acclaimed as the Drupal CMS has a comparatively poor blogging module. The worst culprits tend to be commercial proprietary ones with large license fees.  (There are exceptions to the rule of course!)  Our platform of choice is WordPress.org. For our clients with limited technical support and/or a desire to get a technophobic team to post, then we recommend the much less flexible but wonderfully simple Posterous. Blogger, WordPress.com and Tumblr are OK too, just not our preferred choices.

8. Market your posts thoroughly. It’s not good enough to just write great content (there were some great tips at the breakfast).  Including sharing buttons (such as the Twitter buttons etc on this post) is a good start.

9. Write good, engaging content. Oh such a dull thing to say, but sorry, it’s oh so important.

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