This is part of a series of posts on improving the search engine optimization and traffic counts of individual blogs. Previous articles focused on SEO, the importance of keywords, and using imags to generate site traffic.
Most bloggers have a purpose for their use of the Internet to broadcast their work to a worldwide audience. If you are happy with a readership of three- you, your spouse, and your Uncle Bob - this article will have little purpose, so scroll down to something else to read.
For the rest of you, getting search engines to highly rank your posts and driving traffic are part of the appeal of blogging. I have enjoyed meeting people (at least in a virtual sense) from six continents and many dozens of countries.
I'm still waiting for my first Antarctican visitor.
At any rate, read on for a few more tips on how to improve your blog so that you will attract and retain readers, and how to get the likes of Google, Yahoo, and MSNBC to recognize the unique value of your site.
1. Create quality content every day. Whatever it is that you do on your site, keep it fresh and give your readers a reason to visit. If you only post once every few days, people will not think that they are missing anything if they skip. In addition, Google's algorithm factors in frequency of posting and updating, so you have an SEO angle for updating your site. If you really have nothing noteworthy about which to post, at least add a new link on your sidebar, or tweak your template; both of these will tell the Googlebots that your site is updated. I have some semi-regular features on this site, such as The Quote Shelf and Rapid Rhetoric, which help me keep the site fresh when I am pressed for time or when I have writer's block. Sometimes the very process of posting anything can spark those creative juices.
2. Use your sidebar first and foremost to showcase your own work. Yes, you want to help out other bloggers and pass around a little link love, but you also have to look out for your own needs. Excessive free links with blogrolls and link circles can bleed precious PageRank. Try to limit your sidebar links to those sites who reciprocate, and to those who actually visit or send traffic your way. Conversely, posting some of your proudest blogging posts on the sidebar creates internal links that help raise the PR of individual web pages. Look on my sidebar at the section marked "Top Posts" - these are some of the most visited posts on my site. Since I created this sidebar category, most of these entries now rank on the first page of Google results, and this is because I have over 1,700 posts with internal links to these pages.
3. Visit the sites of SEO experts. I would love to take personal credit for every smart idea I use on my site, but I would estimate that only 10 percent of what I use to build traffic and PageRank I deduced on my own. One of the sharpest out there is SEO guru Andy Beard, whose site is a goldmine of information just waiting for you to collect its valuable nuggets (hey - I had to work with the metaphor).
4. Periodically retool your site's template. Nothing says "boring" to me like one of those standard Blogger templates that has not been tweaked. HTML requires little brain power, so start learning simple tricks like changing the color scheme. Use images in at least some of your posts for visual appeal. Change the default width of your index page, or - better still - use an interesting wallpaper for your background instead of one of those standard designs. While you do not have to go so far as adding closed captioning to a wild Flash intro, you should also be sure that your site takes into account the needs of most browsers and users.
5. Get regular feedback from your visitors, and listen to what they tell you. Sometimes you will tweak your template in one browser (say, Internet Explorer), but your site will be screwed up in another (like FireFox). Actively solicit opinions from your readers, like running a short post called "What Do You Like About This Site?" Then follow up with some of their suggestions. For example, I use an auto-refresh function on this site, and one person complained that the refresh was too quick (I had it set for three minutes). By doubling the refresh rate, I eliminated a source of frustration from a regular reader, and made that person feel like a part of the community of this site.