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Monday, November 07, 2005

Increasing Blog Traffic - 10 Factors Affecting Your Search Engine Rankings

Warning: This very long blog post is a summary of ongoing research and as such, may be incomplete.

New blogs almost always suffer from the same problem: lack of traffic. Of course, traffic decides whether or not a blog succeeds, just like circulation determines the success of a print magazine.So how do you increase web traffic?

Web and blog traffic comes from four primary sources:

  1. Search engine results pages (SERPs).
  2. Links from blog directories.
  3. Links from other web sites.
  4. Bookmarks from regular readers.
The percentage of traffic from each source varies by blog, with factors include age of blog, type of blog, popularity, etc. One point of view maintains that all or most initial traffic to a blog comes from source #1, search engines. After this initial traffic, the quality and relevance of your blog content directly affects the traffic from sources #3 and #4. Traffic from source #2 has yet to prove its value, at least to me. Notice that I have not included traffic from "free traffic credits for surfing" websites. This source, too, has not so far proven to be of much long-term value.

So, it appears, then, that much of your blog promotion effort should be to increase traffic from search engines. How do you do this? There are numerous factors that affect your SERPs rankings, with each search engine using different rules. The diagram below shows some of the factors that I have noticed explicitly affecting blog rankings. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

I'll summarize each factor in this post, and expound upon each in later posts. (Start from the bottom-center factor and going clockwise to "Google Page Rank".) The factors below apply to most search engines, unless otherwise indicated.

  1. Repetitive use of keywords/phrases over several entries: The more blog entries that you have that focus on the same topic, the more relevant your blog will be rated.
  2. Number of clicks on any or all of your SERPs links: You may at some point rank high in the search engines for a certain keyword/phrase, but if no one clicks, or you get less clicks than another website's SERPs links, then some engines will eventually reduce your ranking.
  3. Number of blog directories/ search engines pinged per post: The more blog directories and search engines you "ping" for each entry you post, the more often your blog gets indexed. The more you get indexed, the more visible you are in the blogosphere. Keep in mind that some engines/directories or pinging utilities have a daily ping frequency limit to deter splogs (spam blogs). My personal choices for pinging are Pingoat, Pingomatic, and Blogflux Pinger.
  4. Number of new blog entries posted per day: The more entries you post daily, the more search engine referrals you are likely to get per day.
  5. Title of entry: The title of your blog entry should use appropriate keywords/phrases to increase the relevance ranking of that particular entry. For example, if you are writing about "web metrics", then don't use "web analytics" in the title. Be very specific.
  6. Filename/ URL of entry: If you are able to control the URL of each blog entry, take advantage of this. For example, check the title of this post: "Increasing Blog Traffic - ....". I'm very verbose in the titles of many of my blogs for a very specific reason: the more relevant keywords/phrases I have in an entry's URL, the higher the relevance of that entry. If the filename of this entry was "moreblogtips.html", the ranking will not be as high for "blog traffic" or "search engine rankings". The domain name of your blog also adds relevance to your SERPs rankings. If you are writing about blogging, your domain name should include the string "blog". If you are focusing on, say, AdSense revenue, include "adsense" in the domain name.
  7. Title of blog: The title of your blog adds relevance, just as the filename of an entry does - just more so. If you cannot control the domain name of your blog, the next best thing is to use a relevant blog title.
  8. Keyword density/ Location of keywords in entry: Some search engines index an entire entry, others do not. While there is a limit, the more often your keyword/phrase appears in an entry, the higher the entry ranks for that keyword. Some SEO experts say that a 4-8% frequency for your terms in each post is good. Less frequent occurrence of your terms gives you a lower ranking. More frequent occurrence might penalize you as being a spam blog. What's also important is that your terms appear as early as possible in an entry, in case a search engine only indexes a portion of each entry.
  9. Presence of h1-h3 HTML heading tags in entry: Some search engines give higher ranking to entries that have HTML heading tags with keyword/phrases. But if you use h1-h3 tags in an entry, the terms in the headings should be the same as the rest of the entry.
  10. Presence of bolded text: Some search engines also give higher ranking if an entry has keyword/phrases bolded.
  11. Google page rank: This factor, of course, only affects your Google SERPs. In fact, your Google SERPs ranking affects your Google Page Rank, and vice versa. What affects your page rank? Several factors, including:
  • Link text of outbound links: The hyperlinks in a blog entry should be attached to the keyword/phrase that you are optimizing for.
  • Age of domain and duration of current registration: For Google, the longer your domain name has been registered, the better. You are less likely to be a spammer if your domain is older than 1 year. If you are about to register a new domain, it is to your advantage to register it for at least 2 years. However, that does not mean you will not get a page rank, eventually. (All of my domains, free or paid-for, had no page rank earlier this summer. When Google re-calculated page rank in early October, all of my sites went from 0 to 3-5. Not great, but a starting point for future ranking.)
  • Quantity of content and duration of appearance: If you have thousands of content pages that suddenly appear on your website, this tells Google that you are more than likely to be a spammer. Real content does not appear this quickly, no matter how fast a person can type. However, having thousands of pages that appears in a more realistic, humanly-possibly duration gives your site much more relevance than a site with fewer pages but containing the same keywords/phrases.
  • Page rank of inbound links: Simply put, the more high-pagerank sites that link to your site, the better. An older algorithm that Google published shows that a fraction of the page rank of each inbound link to your site is used to partially calculate your pagerank. There are other factors, although I'm still researching them and will report later.
  • Bookmarks from Google toolbar: This is pure hypothesis, but my feeling is that data collected from Google's toolbar in the MS Internet Explorer and newer Mozilla browsers (at the time of writing) is used to enhance page rank. If two sites contain posts about the same topics, the one that is bookmarked more often might just get a higher page rank.

These are just some of the factors that affect your SERPs and thus likely the quantity of traffic your blog receives. I'll try to post revisions to a new entry whenever I collect new information.

Factors affecting your search engine rankings

(c) Copyright: 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash, http://blogspinner.blogspot.com/

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BlogSpinner-X serves two primary purposes. Firstly, it houses the original version of my Blogspinner blog, and contains the full-text of my older entries. Secondly, the more recent entries are excerpts of the full-text entries posted over on Blogspinner V2.0. In other words, the "X" stands for "eXcerpt".

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I'm a geek/ philosopher/ composer/ artist/ cook/ web programmer/ consultant/ photographer/ blah-blah-blah who is also a published writer and author. This is one of several blogs that I write.

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