Some of you are probably sitting there stunned right now. Without search engine placement, it’s very hard for a site to get a lot of attention from search engines, isn’t it? Yet I’m fairly sure that (to a degree) even SEO professionals will agree with the premise here when I make the case for it.
First, what exactly does SEO do? SEO helps you to improve search engine placement by helping you identify and accentuate keywords and keyphrases on your website so that search engines such as Google will rank you highly for those keywords. Their advice revolves around several points: use your keywords and keyphrases on every page, get a lot of inbound links, and make sure that you continually have fresh content.
I argue that a good, healthy blog already does this.
First, keywords and keyphrases already appear on most of your pages. If you’re writing a focused and well-written blog, you will already be using your site’s keywords over and over without even trying. For example, the site you’re reading will have the phrase “personal finance” all over the place because I write about personal finance. The same holds true for “debt,” “investing,” and many other related terms. Why? That’s what I write about. Thus, these phrases come up again and again in my natural writing.
Second, a well written blog will simply draw inbound links. As long as you participate in the community and reach out on occasion, your site will automatically gain links from a variety of other sites – carnival links, links from your comments on other sites, and links from people who just discover you and add links to your compelling work. These links add up over time, and their diversity will appeal to the search engines: your work must be important because it’s linked from a huge number of pages.
Finally, a blogger always has fresh content. The simple practice of blogging means that you’re regularly updating your content and generating new pages. Basic blog design will ensure that these pages are interlinked, meaning that any internal pages you have that are heavily linked will boost your homepage and other pages on your site.
Search engine optimization does work, but most of the principles will cause much larger boosts on static sites than on blogs. Why? Blogs naturally do the things that SEO groups recommend. Note that I am not saying that SEO is worthless for blogs; I’m just saying that in the larger scheme of things, a blog owner is better served focusing on design and content than on SEO tricks.
Here are ten things your blog should be doing already that will help with search engine optimization. If you’re doing these, then you’re already doing enough; focus on the content instead.
Basic META tags should be in your template. Each page should have a META description tag and META keywords tag, but adding these to the site is as easy as dropping them into your template file. Make them once and they’ll be a part of your site for good.
Each page should link back to your main URL. That way, if/when an individual post becomes very popular, it will lift your homepage (and other internal pages) due to the associated rank.
All of your posts should be accessible by clicking links from the home page. This means that your homepage should link to archives, and these archives should link to all of your posts. This way, search engines can find every post on your site.
The name of each post should be in the title of that page. Most search engines give preference to page titles that contain the entire search term, so make sure that your blog uses the title of the post in the title of the page. Usually the name of your site and the title of the post is more than sufficient for a title for an individual post.
The name of each post should ideally be in the URL of that page. Many search engines give preference to page that contain the entire search term in the raw URL, so make sure that your blog uses the title of the post in the URL in some form.
Keep your pages fairly short. Don’t have individual pages that are more than 250 KB in length if at all possible. Search engines often stop at lengths in this range.
If you’re doing all of these things, you’re already ahead of many people. Now, sit back and focus on the content; the incoming links are the next big part you need, and content does that better than anything.
Building a Better Blog for 2007 is a month-long series at The Simple Dollar, outlining steps you can take to build a long-term healthy blog that will attract readers. Jump ahead to the next essay, The Mini Audience, or back to the previous one, Leverage the Past.