Search engine optimization for your blog

My friend Kimberly D. Wells recently asked this question in the Blogging for Business forum on Ryze:

Is anyone else finding that their Blog is getting heavy traffic from search engines? Any tips for Blog SEO?

A pretty good chunk of our traffic here comes from search engines. Here are some tips for optimizing your blog for search engines:

  1. Keyword research– What are the most popular terms around your topic? Use Overture and WordTracker for research.
  2. Keyword-rich category names – Text in hyperlinks gets preferential treatment. Category links are going to appear on every page, so they’re going to get a lot of exposure. Also make sure that there are hyperlinks to the category name(s) in each post of the category(ies) that the post is in.
  3. Hyperlink titles to the permalink – In plain English, that means make sure your headlines are linked to the permanent URL for that post. Blogger, by default, doesn’t do that — instead, the timestamp is the permalink. Wacky, useless convention. I have instructions on how to fix this here (see step 2). Warning – it’s pretty technical – probably going to be a challenge if you don’t know HTML.
  4. Use Trackback/pingback to notify other bloggers when you link to their blog. Some will automatically display a link back to your post.
  5. Put titles in an H2 or H3 tag – H2/H3 tags will score better than just big bold text created with CSS.
  6. Make sure each post can be its own page – If each post is on its own page, your keyword density (one of the criteria for search engine rankings) will be higher, since each post will talk about one fairly narrow topic. If all you have are weekly/monthly archives, and each post is a bookmark, you’ll have long pages with a variety of topics discussed, and your keyword density drops.
  7. Leave comments on other people’s blogs – Don’t spam them just to get a link. Contribute to the conversation. But you can usually put a link to your blog in when you leave a comment, and that helps build link popularity for your site.

An important note is that (and many other free services) really isn’t well-suited for much of the above. Most of the things I describe above that you do on your own blog either aren’t there by default (heading tags, hyperlinked titles) or aren’t supported at all (categories, single pages for each post). That’s why I generally recommend using WordPress or Movable Type on your own domain if you really want to get the maximum marketing benefit out of your blog.

For more on this topic, check out Case Study: Using a Weblog to Achieve #1 Rankings in Google