While the focus is on WordPress blogs, this can apply to other types of blogs too like Moveable Type and Blogspot. There are a number of mistakes I see bloggers make. I’ve made them too. I’ve got 12 tips to help you refine your own blog.
1. Write for humans, not search engines
Cramming posts full of random keywords is not the way to get to the top of any search engine. You’ll eventually be booted for keyword stuffing. Good search engine rankings are about quality content. Write something people will care about and want to share. Be bold. Give your opinion on something. Be honest. People like transparency. But remember you have an audience too: bearing your audience’s feelings in mind, and using good spelling and grammar are important. Write articles that are relevant to your target audience. Random articles on everything under the sun probably won’t help you as much as focused blogging on specific subjects. (Unless it’s a personal blog, in which case, go for it.)
2. Your title is important
A descriptive title is more attractive than a generic one. Also, that title is what will show in the link from the search engine. Like so:
Give something that will entice someone to click on it. For example, Lorenzen Chiropractic Clinic started a new blog. Like many new blogs, the first post was going to be something like Welcome or Hello. Not bad, but not great. Instead, the first post was changed to Choose the Red Pill! Definitely more interesting if someone runs across that title in a search engine. Also, titles that use keywords for subjects you want to attract people to your site on can be good too. For example, I offer web design and development for WordPress. Note how my title has the word “blogging” and “WordPress”.
3. Link to other sites
If you share any information from another website, link to it. Otherwise, you’re just committing theft. Don’t try and tell yourself it’s public domain. It probably isn’t. I’ve discovered most people don’t know as much about copyright law as they think they do. When in doubt: ask. Contact the site owner and ask for permission to post this to your site. Or, you can do what most do: copy an excerpt, give credit to the author (and a link) and encourage your visitors to check them out. Just don’t copy it wholesale and stick it on your site (and if someone doesn’t want you even putting up an excerpt, take it down as soon as you are asked). Same for images: don’t pull them from another site and stick them on yours. Also, don’t link directly to that image either (look up hotlinking images).
Remember: just because something is common practice doesn’t make it OK. When talking about current events (or even older events) linking to news articles rather than just regurgitating news gives you more credibility. Don’t worry about people leaving your site. There’s a good chance they’ll be back if you’ve got anything worthwhile to say. Also, site owners you link to may investigate their incoming links and come by for a peek at those who liked them enough to share some link love.
4. Link to your own site
Promote your other posts and services by linking to them in your posts. Linking every other word is going to be annoying and spammy. But linking when it is relevant is a good idea. It let’s new visitors know more about you and search engines like them too (yes, linking to your own pages can be a good thing).
5. Social Networking is your friend
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…all that stuff is good for getting the word out about what you wrote. And some of them can be good avenues to discuss what you wrote too. So if you use those, have links to them on your blog. Then, let your fans and followers know when you’ve made a post.
6. Use an RSS feed
I see this most often on sites like Blogspot, but other blog owners can be bad about this too: failure to include an RSS feed. They are good to have because it’s just another way to let people know when you’ve made a new post. Not sure what RSS is? I wrote about it a while back in a post called What is this Subscribe thing? RSS what??
7. Subscribe by email is super awesome
This is one I only recently started doing: giving visitors the ability to be notified of new posts via email. I use Feedburner for my RSS feed and they have an easy way to add an email subscription service to the blog. Also, people can read your posts in their inbox.
8. Categories: use them
Categories help your visitors better navigate your blog. Use categories that are specific to what you will be writing about. If you look to the right of this post (you may need to scroll up by this point), you’ll see categories that cover what I write about. Generally, you want the list fairly short. Some may even consider my own category list too long. But it could be worse…my husband, Jonathan aka Skippy, has about 50 categories. Because it amuses him.
9. Tags can be helpful too
My husband tends to use categories like tags. A tag is more like a subcategory. It can also be useful for generating articles using Related Posts plugins (when you see blogs with a list of articles saying “If you liked this article, you may like more like these”. When he started blogging years back, neither of us really understood tags so he didn’t use them. And instead, his Categories section became another feature on his personal playground.
10. Give lots of ways to find older posts
WordPress gives lots of ways to find past posts you’ve written. Make use of them: search box, Archive list, calendar, categories, and tags…these are all methods to help your visitors find other posts you’ve written. Help them out and activate all those things.
11. Contact Info
Put a link to your email address (and make it clickable). I know people some try and hide email addresses from spam bots. Most of those methods usually annoy the visitor. And most don’t actually work. So just don’t. Spam is a part of website ownership (part of email ownership too). Accept that and move on. Give visitors an easy way to get in touch with you, whether it’s a form or an email link. Twitter and Facebook can be good too provided you are actually monitoring them or at least being notified by email when people contact you through those methods. Just don’t use them as the only way to reach you: not everyone cares for social networks.
12. Be good to search engines: titles and descriptions are our friends
If you have a WordPress blog, make sure you have an SEO plugin installed, such as SEO Ultimate, All-in-One SEO Pack, or my favorite, Yoast WordPress SEO. Among the many features these plugins provide are the ability to add a title and description to each post. If you don’t set one, search engines grab the first few lines and the post title. Which isn’t too bad, but search engines look for set title and description tags, which are much better. They carry a lot of weight with search engines. So it’s a good idea to have them.
Got questions about any of these tips? Ask away! If I have enough details to share on any of these, I’ll make it another post.