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Monday, October 17, 2005

More on Search Engine Optimization - 5 Steps to Optimizing Your Blog Posts For Higher Search Engine Rankings

What I'm finding is that as my blog posts are rapidly accumulating, the chances of a new reader finding older articles is reduced, even with the available Google search feature in my blogs. Let's assume for a second that my belief that (most of) my posts are fantastically informative is true. So now I'm worried that new readers won't be able to experience the greatness of my old posts because they don't even know certain valuable (to them) posts exist and thus don't know what to search for.

So what to do? (Warning: The rest of this post is based on educated speculation that comes from my experience as both a former search engine webmaster and as a general web programmer and web consultant.)

Over on Search Engine World, there's a great article on how websites can be structured for optimization of multiple keywords and phrases using the concept of a "theme pyramid".

It took me 2-3 reads of the article to absorb the importance of its information. Now here's the thing that the article doesn't say: you CAN use this "theme pyramid" concept for optimizing your blogs for increased search engine referrals. However, what you will need to do is create a hybrid website that serves to organize your blog posts. This means writing some new summary content that leads directly or indirectly to specific blog posts.

Note: Some blogging platforms such as WordPress, MovableType, and Mambo allow you to have both blog pages and website pages. Other platforms such as Blogger.com do not allow this, which means that you need to get your own web domain. The steps below apply to both situations.

Step 1: Start by reading the Theme Pyramid article. Read it 2 or 3 times, if necessary, either the same day or over a couple of days. Once you feel that you've fully grasped its concepts, you can get to work on applying them to your blog posts.

In the meantime, I'll summarize that article's concepts: There are 5 levels to the "theme pyramid". The top level, level 1, is your website home page. It contains the broadest topics, so it's unlikely to get a lot of search engine referrals. Level 2 contains single keywords. As you go down the levels, you use more and more specific keyphrases of 2 or more words). The bottom-most level, level 5, refers to your actual articles - or in this case, your blog posts, in which hopefully you've already written about a single specific topic per post.

Step 2: If your blog posts are not already categorized via some blogging platform such as WordPress or MovableType, then get a big piece of paper and draw a mindmap of the potential categories. Make sure you choose single-word keywords as well as specific phrases for each post. (If you have a blog with many posts, you may need to stretch out this entire exercise out over many days, weeks or months. Start with one or two level 2 keywords and associate them with any relevant posts.) What you have to do is create a hierarchy of categories, topics, and specific keywords and keyphrases, as described in the Theme Pyramid article.

Step 3: Apply the concepts in the Theme Pyramid article to create and optimize web pages for levels 1-4, as described in the article. This means you'll have to write some content for each level that hyperlinks down to the next level. If you are, for example, running a food blog, one branch of your pyramid/hierarchy might be "food: fresh fruit: exotic fruit: dragonfruit". The final level would then hyperlink to one or more of your blogs that talk about dragonfruit. Remember that each hyperlink's text should use your keywords and phrases. That's the whole point of this exercise, as this will improving SE (Search Engine) ranking for your pages, and likely for the pages being linked to - whether the blog posts are on the same domain as the pyramid pages or not.

Step 4: If you don't already host your blog on your own domain, get one. Choose a domain name, register it, and get a hosting plan. If you're in North America, I highly recommend GoDaddy or Dreamhost - although Bluehost appears to have some great deals. I currently have no stake in any of these companies, although I do have clients that use the first two options. The only drawback with GoDaddy is that for the incredibly low hosting price of US$3.95/month, you do not get access to the web server logs. You have to pay an extra monthly fee for that. (I was extremely peeved to find this out AFTER setting up my hosting. But the total monthly cost is still pretty low.)

Step 5: Once you have the level 1-4 web pages set up on your website, link level 4 pages to your individual blog posts. Now submit all level 1-4 URLs to various search engines (but not blog directories, please).

Conclusion: For all but the smallest of blogs, the above exercise is a major undertaking that you shouldn't rush through. Cataloging and categorizing your posts is probably the most time consuming. Apply the principle of kaizen, improvement through slow degrees, one step at a time.

This exercise gives your newer readers an easier method of finding older content through associated concepts. This is especially helpful if they only have a vague idea of what they are looking for. (Your regular blog readers can already easily get their daily dose of blog posts via the blog's main page.) Setting up this pyramid also increases the chances of getting a higher number of search engine referrals, since you now have web pages that cover a broader range of related topics, and which are all hyperlinked together in a hierarchical fashion - which the SEs apparently love.

Addendum: There's a lot more I have to say about these techniques. I will be applying the theme pyramid concepts to my new Curry Elvis website. (It will host my 4 existing cooking blogs, 4 new food, drink and cooking-related blogs, and one promotional mini-site for a friend who is promoting some excellent new French and Italian wines currently unavailable in North America.) I'll be documenting the entire redesign process and blogging about it, eventually, in this blog and on my main website. When I have time, I'll also collect up all the related posts and diagrams and put them into a free e-book on my Chameleon Integration website. Keep an eye out over there for developments in about a month.

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