SEO for Blogs and Feeds

I had the opportunity to sit in on the SEO Blogs and Feeds panel at Search Engine Strategies New York this year. It was a great session, with presentations from:

  1. Stephan Spencer, NetConcepts
  2. Sally Falkow, Expansion Plus
  3. Rick Klau, Feedburner
  4. Greg Jarboe, SEO-PR

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York, April 10-13, 2007.

There was some great information shared by this panel. As a rabid blogger myself, I am always amazed that I can go to these things and still pick up new tidbits of information. It’s a tribute to the quality of the information that the panelists put out there.

Many of the search engine optimization (SEO) techniques for blogs are the same as for any other Web site, such as on-page optimization of titles, categories, and URLs. Spencer suggested include paying special attention to internal linking issues, such as putting keywords in anchor text, creating lists of popular or recent posts, and using links on article titles.

Other on-page optimization tips include:

  • Get a plugin that let’s you customize the titles of each post. In fact, the SEO Title Tag plugin for WordPress is a good choice, because it also let’s you write custom titles for any of the other pages in your blog (including, for example, category pages).
  • Use the article title in links to the Permalink post, not the text “Permalink”
  • Link to related posts at the bottom of each post

Besides on-page optimization, there are several issues with RSS feeds to consider:

  • Make sure you setup RSS autodiscovery, so the feed is easily seen by a Web browser or feed reader. It’s one line of code, and will make a world of difference in how many subscribers you get to your feed.
  • Make sure you have automated pinging set up, so that you proactively notify all the directory services as soon as your post goes up.
  • The default redirect in an RSS feed is a 302 redirect. This is bad news. Set it to a 301.
  • Publish your full content in the field. Don’t provide a snippet and ask people to click through. Make it easier for them to read your content, and you will reap rewards from that effort.
  • Unless you have a specific reason for supporting multiple feed formats, don’t. Make life simpler on your users and support 1.

Blogs can be a great way for sites that may not have the opportunity to create lots of new content on their sites to try new things and branch out into related areas. For example, Greg Jarboe presented a case study from StubHub, a marketplace for matching buyers and sellers of event tickets.

StubHub created 15 blogs to share news about ticket sales and events. In the process, the blogs also created more linkable content, created pages with the top relevant keywords currently being searched for on search engines, and directed readers to check out StubHub’s services without giving a “hard-sell.” The blogs were all completely transparent about being created by StubHub, which Jarboe stressed was important

In one blog post, StubHub simultaneously performed a service to potential ticket-buyers and put in a plug for their business by pointing out that ticket prices for sold out shows go up considerably as it gets closer to the event, while linking to their site for examples. Other examples include posts on “America’s Top 10 Theater Tickets,” and “America’s 10 Most Theatrical Cities.”

Besides creating relevant content, Jarboe said the next most important thing to do is make sure the right people will find you. He suggested adding relevant bloggers in your space to your blogroll. to find out which sites you should add, you can use a service like BuzzLogic, which lets you plug in keywords and see the top bloggers in that topic area. Once you have that in hand, you can see who links to them, and who they link to.

Presto, you have a marketing outreach plan that is rapidly coming together. Now you can begin interacting with those players, linking to them, letting them know about the unique and interesting content on your blog, etc. Great way to get started.

As a result of these efforts, StubHub achieved two number-one rankings, and 18 top 10 rankings for relevant keywords in just three months, and the 15 blogs were generating more than 1,700 visits a month.

To wrap up, I am going to add one additional tip of my own: Watch the major blogs in your space closely, and be opportunistic. If you see what other people are writing about, it will become clearer to you what the various major players in your space want or need. You can then use your own expertise in the space to deliver solutions to the problems they identify, or the requests that they make. Relationships with major players will carry you a long, long way.

Eric Enge is the president of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy outside of Boston. Eric is also co-founder of Moving Traffic Inc., the publisher of City Town Info and Custom Search Guide.

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