Jun 17, 2007

Three Things I'll Bet You Haven't Done With Your Blog

Image of Blogger Beta logo courtesy of Blogger and Google This is part of a series of posts on improving the search engine optimization and traffic counts of individual blogs.

Most bloggers are not SEO experts like Andy Beard, and they go about their happy blogging lives wondering why traffic is so hard to generate, and why Google assigns them a low PageRank. Now, I am far from Andy's league in my knowledge of SEO, but this site bounces back and forth between a PR of 5 and 6, so I am doing at least a few things right.

At any rate, here are a few specific tips I have learned that have improved my site's performance (my apologies to those for whom this is old news):

1. Tell the search engines you exist. You can sit around and wait for Google, Yahoo!, and MSN to find you, or you can go deep into the servers of these search engines and shout about your site. Spend a few minutes at places like Google Webmaster, Yahoo! Search, MSN Live Search, and DMOZ. You will see improvements in your traffic within days of submitting your site, and if you produce quality material, eventually this will translate into inbound links from other bloggers who recognize your unique genius.

2. Tell Google that your site has images. You need to register with Google and list your sites, which you can do under Webmaster Tools. There is also a "Enhanced Image Search" function that is critical: be sure to check the box marked "I would like to enable enhanced image search on my site and am authorized to opt into this advanced service." Immediately after doing this I saw a jump of about 100 visitors a day.

3. Do not be afraid to use the "No Follow" tag on outbound links. You get penalized by Google every time you have an outbound link. That being said, linking to high-ranking sites is much, much, less of a penalty than linking to sites witha PR of 0 or 1. I took a considerable PageRank hit on this site when I launched my photography blog because I provided quite a few links early on to build traffic and rank. This site went from 6 to 5 in PageRank, but my photography blog jumped from 0 to 4 in three months. Anyways, the "No Follow" tag tells Google (and any other search engines that recognize it) that this link should be ignored. Here is a quick example:

Example of using the REL=No Follow Tag in outbound links

There are, of course, certain limits you want to place upon REL=NO FOLLOW usage. After all, the Internet is built upon the concept of interlinked websites, and theoretically no one would have any PageRank if every hyperlink carried this tag. Thus, don't be a mercenary, sticking REL=NO FOLLOW on every link, but don't be a fool, either, and allow your site to bleed PageRank just because you are unaware of the penalties associated with wanton outbound links.

Besides, every once in a while you'll want to make a nickel and promote quality products like discount furniture, making sure that website gets the full link value, right?



Anonymous said...

Yes. No. No. Thanks for the tips!

historymike said...

You're welcome, Anonymous, although if you get a Google/Blogger account, you can link us to your websites via the profile.

Besides, it's really about the power of shared knowledge.

Anonymous said...

No, no, and no. I don't have a blog.


Stephanie said...

*grumble, grumble*

Like I needed more on my to-do list.


Thank you for the tips! Though, I must say my baby blog has been getting quite a few more hits than I expected. Not as trackable as HazPas was, but I'm gratified by the attention.

Btw, as per graphics, what tools do you use to create those images (quotes, ect.). I tried to create something using Paint, and it was awful.

Stephanie said...

BTW, any tips on how to find out if an image is copyrighted?

historymike said...

My favorite image enhancement tool used to be PhotoShop, but it is expensive, and I only had access to it on one computer at work.

Now I use the free shareware The GIMP, which has most of the same utilities and is easy to download.

As far as copyright-free work, Wikipedia has thousands of public domain images.

Of course, you can always post a copyrighted image, give credit, and stand behind the doctrine of fair use.

There's a disclosure statement at the very bottom of my blog with some Fair Use disclaimers if you are interested.

Stephanie said...

Thank you, I'll definitely check them out. I do not want to infringe on copyright, but I also do not know much about how it works with photography.

It gets to be one of those questions where you have to balance the need for financial compensation with the credit of photographs worth sharing. I would hate to be the means of someone losing (or feeling as if they were losing) part of their living.

Andy Merrett said...

"You get penalized by Google every time you have an outbound link."

I think that's a little unfair. Yes, you can be marked down for lots of outbound links, but I don't think using the nofollow tag stops Google realising it's a link - it just stops that other site getting any of your 'link love', which is supposed to be a basic principle of the web and blogging.

I personally think the benefits of linking out to other blogs outweigh any SE penalty, but then it does depend on a number of factors, granted.

Great blog, by the way. I'm not having a go at you! :)

historymike said...

Thanks, Andy.

I think bloggers who want to improve their website's PageRank have to be cognizant of the costs of outbound links.

I am a big fan of helping out new sites, but I am careful about throwing around a lot of free links with no reciprocation.

I also use "rel=No follow" more with established media sites (say CNN.com) or Wikipedia, for whom my linking a page will have little or no effect on their PageRank.

I think where people start bleeding major PageRank is on those blog rings, where you innocently add a feed to a hundred or more sites that show up on your sidebar, and have no control over the exodus of PageRank to sites that might never send you a visitor or reciprocate a link.

I know a site owner who had five of those "communities" listed on his site with something like 350 outbound links.

On every single page he created on his blog.

Despite the fact that this person is in a league above me, at the time I had a higher PR.

Since I passed along this tip, his site jumped from a 5 to a 7 PR.

Anonymous said...

This would be great advice if any of it were true. Unfortunately, it's not and your use of No Follow tags on links not only has absolutely no effect on your Google Page Rank, it is incredibly selfish. I will make sure I never link to you again on my high-traffic blog.

historymike said...

So what's not true, Anonymous? Do tell.

If you re-read the post carefully, I am suggesting people use discretion on outbound links. Feel free to link to your favorite sites, but why throw link love at a site like CNN.com, which will not benefit appreciably from a bunch of PR 1, 2, or 3 links from new bloggers?

You bleed PR that way. Save the non-"no follow" links for your core group of bloggers and people who actually visit and link to your site.

I use "no follow" primarily when I am writing a lengthy historical essay referring to terms that readers may not know. I might end up with 50 links to Wikipedia on some posts, like this one on The Rise of Nazi Germany, 1919-1933; should I take a PR hit just because I want to direct readers to further information?

I argue no.

historymike said...

PS - you didn't leave a reference to your high-ranking blog, which I would be happy to visit.

historymike said...

More thoughts on No Follow and links by RandFish.