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Print this articleGetting your blog picked up by search-engines

Blogs are websites themselves, so they’re picked up by search-engines like Google, Yahoo! Search or MSN Search. To be successful, a blog has to get good visibility on their results pages through major keywords. So a site has to be designed from the start to react to the mechanical classification criteria these engines use.

Blogs have several built-in characteristics that get them often picked up by search-engines, well-listed and placed in a prominent position on results pages.

-  Because they are personal diaries (at least at the beginning), they usually have a lot of text which helps them get picked up. Search-engines don’t pick up sites with a lot of graphics or Flash animations but not much text.

-  Each “post” usually occupies a single page, accessible through a “permalink” and dealing with a single subject, and is much more often picked up by search-engines than long pages about many different topics (such as archives or a blog homepage).

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A post

-  The heading of a post is usually reproduced in the page heading or the URL (address). For example, on the Radio Free Nepal blog, at http://freenepal.blogspot.com, each post is on a page of its own, such as http://freenepal.blogspot.com/2005/04/state-vandalism-in-nepal.html:

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Post title

The heading of the post (State Vandalism in Nepal) occurs not just in the page URL but also in the heading of the document, as follows:

So the post heading has been added after the blog’s name, which appears alone on the blog’s homepage (freenepal.blogspot.com).

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Links are automatically created

The presence of descriptive keywords in the page headings (the content of the <TITLE> tag in HTML language) and in the URLs of these documents are key criteria for search-engines, so it’s very important to choose post headings carefully to ensure they get picked up.

-  Links are automatically created, especially to archives, and are text (see examples on the right of the Radio Free Nepal pages).

This is very good for getting picked up because the text content of the links (called “anchors”) is key to the relevance of pages the links point to from the search-engines. So in the example here, the presence of the words “State Vandalism in Nepal” in the first link or “Radio Free Nepal” in the 9th boosts the relevance of the page indicated by the link for these terms. Also, the page with these links (the clickable text is detected as important by search-engines) and the page indicated by them will be considered relevant.

How to get a blog picked up more

Blogs have many inbuilt advantages to get them picked up frequently. Once a search-engine has “found” the blog, either by it being submitted manually or by search-engine “spiders” following links, a blog will have much more chance than a standard website of being displayed prominently because of its natural advantages. But you should try to increase this visibility by going a bit further.

Here are some tips on how to do this, using major keywords drawn from the topic of your blog.

1. Focus on technology that helps getting picked up
If your site isn’t yet online, be careful what technology (such as Blogger, Dotclear, BlogSpirit, Joueb and many others) you use to put it there. Choose the one that includes the maximum details for getting picked up:
-  The heading of the post must be fully reproduced in the page heading (the <TITLE> tag) as well as in its URL (which isn’t always done, since in the address some tools truncate the post heading after a certain number of characters).
-  Creation of “permalinks” (links to a page containing a single post) must be possible.
-  The technology chosen must allow you to do as much as possible in the design and personalisation of your site, such as using your own graphics and personal style-sheets. You must learn how to do as many technical things as possible so you can use the maximum number of factors to help the site get picked up.

To check all these points, have a look at sites using the technology you’re considering (you can always find a big enough sample there) and see how they’re displayed. You’ll learn quite a lot this way.

2. Choose the best headings for your posts
This is very important. The heading of your post will be reproduced in the heading of the single pages displaying your posts, in their URLs and in the text of links that point to them - three key places for search-engines. So the post headings must contain, in a few words, the most important terms, to allow them to be picked up. Avoid headings such as “Well said!” “Welcome!” or “Great!” The heading should describe or sum up in less than five words what can be found in the post that follows. Think of the words you’d like a search-engine to pick up from it and put them in the heading. Not so easy, perhaps, but very effective.

3. Provide the text
Search-engines love text, so provide it for them. You can post all the photos you want as long as they go with text. Try to make each post at least 200 words long so it’ll have a good chance of being easily spotted by search-engines. Also avoid having several very different topics in the same post, as search-engines don’t like that. The golden rule is one topic, one post.

4. Pay attention to the first paragraph of your posts
The position of important words in the text is also crucial. Take great care with your first paragraph. If you want to be picked up with the words “release hostages,” for example, put them among the first 50 in the post. The same goes for all the keywords you choose. A page with them at the beginning always gets better search-engine results than if they’re at the end (all other things being equal). Stress these words, by putting them in bold for example. This signals to the search-engine that they’re important.

5. Avoid duplicate content in a post
All search-engines have ways to detect duplicate content and if two pages are over-similar, only one of them will be spotted and the other rarely displayed on a results page. Google, for example, displays this message:

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Duplicate content

(( In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to those already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included. ))

This often happens with blogs, as the pages containing each post can appear very similar.

For example, if you have an identical introduction on each page, either put it at the bottom or just on the home page, so as to make all your pages very different from each other.

6. Don’t give your blog a title that’s too long.
The best title (the content of the tag <TITLE>) for search-engines is between 5 and 10 words long, not counting “stop words” such as “the” or “and.” The page heading of a blog usually has two parts:

-  The general title of the blog
-  A repeat of the heading of the post.
So as not to exceed 10 words in the general heading of pages presenting each post, you should use no more than five words for the general title of the blog and five for the heading of the post. That’s not very much, but being concise as well as informative is one of the keys to getting picked up easily by search-engines.

If you can (not all technologies allow you to do it), put the heading of the post at the top and the general title of the blog afterwards, rather than the other way round.

7. Syndicate your blog
Most blog tools allow you to create an “XML thread” or “RSS feed” with which users can pick up your posts in suitable software format. You can offer this facility on your blog (it only takes a few minutes to install). You’ll not only get more visitors but on Yahoo!, it’ll be indicated prominently as shown: (( View as XML )).

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RSS syndication

So make use of this.

8. Keep your links updated
Links are very important for search-engines because they allow them to compile a popularity rating (called PageRank by Google) of webpages. So build up the number of links to your blog by:
-  Inserting it in directories (see below).
-  Looking for “cousin sites” that aren’t rivals but offer material on the same topic. Exchanging links between blogs in the same area of interest should be sought as quickly as possible (this is quite frequently done and approved of in the blogging community, which is another advantage of blogs). Blogs are also well-suited for this, as the margin is often empty and they can be posted there.

Featuring in topic directories

Featuring in general-interest search-engines (such as Google, MSN, Yahoo! and Exalead) and directories (such as Yahoo! Directory and Open Directory) is very important but getting featured by topic is too because it:
-  generates more focused visitors.
-  increases the number of links to your blog, which is good for your popularity.
-  gets you known by other blog publishers who might want to exchange links with similar sites.

Among the many search tools (search-engines and directories) that pick up blogs, are:

English-language

French-language

A bigger list is at:
search-engines.blogs.com/mon_weblog/2005/05/les_search-engines_de_.html

Also have a look at the directories of each technology provider, such as:
-  www.canalblog.com/cf/browseBlogs.cfm
-  www.dotclear.net/users.html
-  www.blogspirit.com/fr/communautes_blogspirit.html

Conclusion

A blog has all the elements for getting easily picked up by search-engines. With the tips given here, you should get very good results and increase your blog’s visibility. So off you go - and remember that “content is king.”

Olivier Andrieu

Olivier Andrieu is a freelance Internet consultant specialising in getting sites picked up by search-engines. He also runs the website www.abondance.com.

Contents:
Bloggers, the new heralds of free expression
What’s a blog ?
The language of blogging
Choosing the best tool
How to set up and run a blog
What ethics should bloggers have ?
Getting your blog picked up by search-engines
What really makes a blog shine ?
Personal accounts:
 - Germany
 - Bahrain
 - USA
 - Hong Kong
 - Iran
 - Nepal
How to blog anonymously
Technical ways to get around censorship
Ensuring your e-mail is truly private
Internet-censor world championship