Ed: This is the fourth part of a five-part mini-series on the topic of things to think about when starting a business blog.
There are some basics things you can start doing today to increase the visibility of your real estate blog in the search engines. For the most part, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) balances fairly well with user experience — but whenever there is a conflict, I will always err on the side of user experience.
Do some research and know which keywords you want to rank. This is easily done for free by visiting Yahoo’s Search Marketing resource center and clicking on the “keyword selector tool.” Remember to be specific with your list — do not try to rank for the most popular terms because they are also the most competitive. Instead, pick popular keywords that are also the most relevant to your blog. Decide on about 10 keywords, post them within eyesight on your desk and refer to them every time you write a post.
You should have a very clear picture of what your audience is interested in before you start blogging so try to resist straying too far off topic. Your blog titles should always contain a keyword phrase and the phrase should be repeated a few times throughout the post. Do not repeat the phrase so much that it sounds silly. Search engines are not dumb and they will consider excessive keyword ‘stuffing’ as SPAM and penalize you for it.
By far the biggest factor for ranking high in search engines is inbound links to your blog — unfortunately it’s hard to garner any links to your blog if you are not actively participating in the community and linking to other blogs. Do not get caught up in inbound vs. outbound links. If you’ve done a good job identifying your keywords and blog focus, your site will become a destination for users and ultimately, for search engines. Some linking tips:
- Links – Use them everywhere, try to link within your blog (remember to use keywords in the anchor text) and don’t be afraid to link to other blogs (I’d actually encourage it on the premise that it will lead to return links).
- Use the hyperlink functionality available with all blogging software
The Laundry List
Now that you’re writing excellent copy, here is a laundry list of things you should be doing to help search engines and users discover your blog. Depending on your provider you may only be able to do 70% of the list, which is fine since it’s probably 70% more than most bloggers are doing:
- Make your blog easy to subscribe to by adding feed buttons
- Create only one URL. We are guilty of this at Zillow because “zillow.com/blog” and “www.zillow.com” are two separate URL’s that host the same content. Ideally we should have a “301” redirect to remedy the situation.
- Rewrite your URLs to contain keywords (usually the blog title) and separate words with hyphens, NOT underscores
- Edit your “Title Tag” from the default, usually blog providers will just put a generic title that advertises their services, make sure you change it to reflect your blog brand and get keyword placement
- Check for SEO plug-ins with your blog host
- Add categories to your blog. Make sure you use your keyword list when picking categories
- If possible, add sticky content to each category page. This will be 2-3 keyword-rich sentences that describe the category and always lives at the top of the page. This is a great user experience since each category has its own home.
Optimize Your Feed
Now that you’ve created some stellar content and made your blog search engine (and user) friendly, it’s time to ramp up the distribution. Most avid readers of your blog will visit your blog through an RSS feed, below are things you should be doing to make it as easy as possible for them to read it.
- Claim your blog in Technorati and subscribe to it
- Make each category in your blog subscribable, then subscribe to all them
- Allow users to subscribe to each category
- Post full text, not just summaries
- Make sure you include a site description, most providers will default to a generic one for you
All of the above tasks should take you no longer than a couple of hours (other than writing the actual articles), but it’s well worth the time considering the potential traffic upside.
- Content is King, but the Voice is Queen: Finding Your Voice and Picking Topics
- Setting Up Your Blog: Picking a Blogging Platform & Basic Setup
- Avoiding Legal Pitfalls in Blogging: What to Keep an Eye On
- SEO & Syndication: Maximizing Search Engine Rankings
- Attracting a Conversation: Blog Comment Tips