Blog Optimization Checklist

In working on the seo for bloggers book and dealing with blogging clients, I’ve come up with a handful of things you (or your blog software) should definitely do if you want to rank well in the search engines.
These are the absolute necessities of blog optimzation.

  1. Automatically send and receive trackbacks
  2. Automatically ping blog services when new post is made
  3. Maintain a blogroll
  4. Single-post page title tags contain the post’s title
  5. Permalink URLs contain the post title
  6. The post title is the link to the permalink page
  7. Post titles are wrapped in heading tags
  8. Create multiple paths for spiders through your archives (monthly, related posts, most popular, etc)
  9. Use categories and make them keyword-rich
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Pat Buchanan Bemoans The Long Tail of Culture

I was reading Time magazine on the train (I accidentally subscribed) and I came across this gem in an interview with Pat Buchanan

You liken the immigrant wave to the Visigoths who sacked Rome. Is that fair?

I’m predicting that America will no longer be one nation but more like the Roman Empire–a conglomerate of races and cultures held together by a regime. The country I grew up in was culturally united, even if it was racially divided. We spoke the same language, had the same faith, laughed at the same comedians. We were one nationality. We’re ceasing to be that when you have hundreds of thousands of people who want to retain their own culture, their own language, their own loyalty. What do we have in common that makes us fellow Americans? Is it simply citizenship? Or is it blood, soil, history and heroes?

Whatever else we may think of his xenophobic politics, he’s very clearly proclaiming the traditionalists’ slander of the long tail. Perhaps this is a bit overly dramatic, but I feel some Dylan is in order here:

Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it’s ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

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The Manuscript

I’ve got this packet of printed out chapters from the book.
And they’re cover’d in small ink scribbles (my handwriting), ready for me to decypher and make digital.
I gotta say, I think this is where it gets a tad tedious.

Wish me luck.

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Harmonic Series And Niche Search Volume Estimation

Building on my post from last night, I went to work trying to figure out a formula to estimate the total number of searches in a niche based on the number of searches for its most popular term. Applying the rules of power law curves means that I should be able to get a pretty good estimate fairly easily.

In practice, developing this formula was not easy however. As I mentioned yesterday, power laws are generally a series of values that look like this:
100
100/2
100/3
100/4
and so on. This is known as a harmonic series because “the wavelengths of the overtones of a vibrating string are proportional to 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4…” (from wikipedia). Math is crazy like that.

If the top term in your list has 100 searches and you want to find the total number of searches in the Wordtracker accessible niche (keywords that have at least 2 searches per day), you’ll need to find the sum of a range of numbers: 100/1, 100/2, 100/3 all the way down to 100/(100/2), a harmonic series. If you graph the sum of the range for every number from 10 to 4000. You get a very slight curve, like this:

I’ve plotted it against a linear trend line (in black) to demonstrate that this is in fact a curve, and so there is no simple slope to solve we can use to solve our problem.

I did a little research and it turns out that the sum of a harmonic series increase in very nearly the same way as a log normal curve (the formula is actually ln(n)+.5772156649, which uses Euler’s constant). Using this knowledge I was able to come up a formula.

Where Y is the number of searches for the most popular keyword in the list and X is the total number of searches in the niche:
X=(LN(Y/2)+0.5772156649)*Y

What this means is that if you have a niche where the most popular term has 1200 searches, you should expect to have around 600 total keywords in your list and about 8370 total searches per day.

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How To Guestimate Keyword List Size Using Power Laws

Here’s a crazy one.

Wordtracker only shows keywords with at least 2 searches in a 90 period on Metacrawler, which can be more or less equated to the total searches each day on all engines.

I’ve found most targetted keyword niches exhibit more or less normal power-law curves (as opposed to Nielson’s drooping tail, when graphed double logarithmically against a true power law trendline, keyword lists often have slightly drooping heads). So, speaking very roughly the second term has half as much traffic as the first, the third has a third, the fourth a fourth and so on.

When you’re building a keyword list with wordtracker, the “end” of the tail for you will be where the keywords have only 2 searches. So using our understanding of power laws we can estimate that this 2 searches point is at keyword number N, where the traffic of the very first term divided by N is 2. If the most popular phrase in your list has 400 searches the power law curve would suggest keyword number 200 has 2 searches a day.

So a quick rule of thumb to guestimate keyword niche breadth is to divide the traffic of the first time in half.

I’ve seen it be a decent rough estimate in nearly every “normal” niche I’ve looked at.

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Comments and Links: Friends or Foes?

You have a modestly popular blog with a regular readership. Would you have a comment system on your blog, with lots of your fellow bloggers commenting in your posts, or would you rather shut off your comments to force links and trackbacks?

The question arose as I read How to spice up your comments area. Nektros.com has an extremely active comment system in relation to its feedburner-reported subscribers so yeah, Yvonne knows how to get a comment system rolling. But when we’re talking about leveraging the community-linking aspect of the blogosphere for SEO purposes, are comments self-defeating?

The topic has been covered before (I can’t find a reference right now) and I’m still not sure where I stand. Comment areas obviously increase repeat traffic, create a very loyal audience, and author lots of great content for your blog, but each comment is a reply that could have been written on a blog, boosting link popularity. I suppose it comes down to timing and needs. But changing comment policies like underwear isn’t likely to cultivate any sort of comment regulars.

I’ll take my chances, what do you guys think?

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My Duplicate Content Tool for Detection

Following my own advice (which some seem to have liked) I went and created a Duplicate Content Detector tool. Its still very beta (like all the other tools I’ve posted) but its simple and it works.

Enter your domain name, select which version is your primary domain (with the WWW or without it) and submit. The tool will compare the number of pages indexed for a set of searches in Google to check common duplicate content problem areas. If it finds any it will tell you what they are, how bad they are, and how to fix them. So give it a whirl and tell me how you like it, just please don’t try to break it too hard.

I talk more about these duplicate content problems in my upcoming book, too.

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Teaching Gets You Links

Copyblogger has piece on links and the sandbox for new blogs in Google.

The sandbox is often misconstrued (I’m sure Brian understands this correctly however) as a delay on newly registered domains. Its not, its a delay on the power of links to a site. That’s why its so important for new bloggers to get links before they can rank well in the search engines and garner traffic independant of its upstream sites. For SEO purposes a link is a seed that can be leveraged into greater traffic.

So you’ll need authority sites and in-content links. The most authority blogs and sites are probably not going to be participating in sponsored post type offers, so you’ll have to get more creative. A press release can help but the core of the story has to be strong to actually get authority links.

Its all about useful information, words you can use to do stuff. Like the old saying goes, everyone has an opinion, but not everyone can teach you to do something. Content is dead and resource is king.

Hack, tool, or how to, its has to be a platform. Simple and flexible.

And sexy.

You have to give the people what they want. Every blogger wants more traffic. Most people want more money. Or love, or convienance. If you teach them how to get what they want, you’ve gained a reader. And probably links, lots of them.

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Parasite SEO and Search Activism

One greyhat SEO technique that has been given new life with the inflation of web2.0 is parasite SEO. The idea is simple, you post an optimized message on an open web site that already ranks well, eventually your content can rank for specific terms. Wikipedia, Craigslist, Digg, Delicious and various blogs’ comments immediately come to mind as potential hosts.

The problem is that it can be difficult to include links to some monetization setup. If your only goal is to broadcast a message on a specific search term, as could be the case with search activism.

You’ve probably heard of hacktivism. Well intentioned hackers break into organizations for political reasons Usually cheap website defacements are the result. Search activism is similar, you’re using the spring board of search traffic to spread an idea rather than to makes sales.

So the make perfect vaguely reprehensible partners, parasite SEO and search activism. Learn which open websites appear already for the term you want to rank on, like say Phil Knight (or just try all of them, especially the ones mentioned above), and put a chunk of a few hundred words of optimized content. If the host page has a lot of existing content (like a comment on a blog post) you may need to either increase the amount of total content you post, or repeat the keyword(s) more often.

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