Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

This is one of those terms that techie people throw around completely oblivious of the fact that non-techie people have no idea what they're talking about.  "Oh, these are some things that will really help your SEO."  Well, if I don't know what SEO stands for, that whole sentence is kind of null and void.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  It sounds scarier than it really is.  If you break down the whole term: "search engine" is what people use to browse the internet.  Google or Yahoo! are search engines (there are dozens, but those are big ones).  Optimization is just that, you are trying to make whatever it is that you're doing the best that it can be.

 So, in this case, SEO means that you are making changes to your blog that will affect how relevant your content is.  In layman's terms: you are changing if it comes up on page 1 on Google or page 3,122.

You want to work on your SEO because if you want new people to see your blog, you will need to have your blog come up when people type in keywords on Google or Yahoo!.  You don't want the only way to see your blog online to come from literally typing in the exact name of your blog.  No one except your relatives will do this.

All of the posts I have listed in my How To Get Blog Traffic series are things that will help your SEO.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How To Get Blog Traffic: Posting consistently

Aside from not having a focus, another pitfall a lot of bloggers fall into is inconsistent posting.  How much posting is required to be consistent?  This is another one where I use my go-to reality check: how would I react.  If I came across a blog that was last updated three years ago, I would probably think it was inactive.  Three months ago?  I would probably think it's on the back burner.  Three weeks ago?  Forgivable if the posts are long and thoughtful.  Three days ago?  Acceptable.  But this is me.  Think about how you would react.

That said, posting consistently encourages traffic.  Even if people are interested your posts, they are not going to turn into loyal readers if they feel like you don't care about the blog.  A blog should ideally be something that your readers look forward to reading on a regular basis.  Like the daily comics or something.  If you didn't know when the comics would next be published, you'd probably just forget about them.

But blogging should be fun, not life-consuming.  Making blog writing part of a day's routine can help.  More importantly, embrace the idea of scheduling blog posts.  Scheduling blog posts is usually a post setting option.  That way your whole day does not have to revolve around getting back the computer in time to make a post.  It also means that you can sit down when you have time and crack out three blog posts and space out the posting over the course of the next week or two.

The number of posts you have written does affect a blog's popularity.  But an active looking blog will always look more attractive to new readers over an inactive one.  Therefore, if you write three posts in one sitting, it is far better to have one post every week for the next three weeks than just posting all three at once.

This also helps with the pacing of your ideas.  But more on that later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Are Blog Subscribers/Followers?

Subscribers/followers are one those those things that are easy to fixate on.  I think because it's a tangible, obvious thing to notice for both the blog author and the reader.  But sheer number may not necessarily be an indication of a healthy blog.

Let's first discuss what a subscriber/follower is.  All blogs have the option of becoming a subscriber.  This means that the reader has registered with the blog so the blog can send posts and updates to the reader.  Where the blog sends the posts is up to what options you provide your reader.

Blogger (run by Google) has an option to become what they call a follower.  This means that the subscriber has blog updates sent to a blog listing Google site called Google Reader.  On most blog hosts, people can subscribe to your RSS feed.  The RSS feed is just the internet coding for your blog.  So if they subscribe to an RSS feed, the blog sends your posts to whatever RSS reader they have chosen to use.  The final method of delivery is subscribing by email.  The blog sends posts directly to a person's inbox.

Usually blog hosts provide one method of default subscription and the blog author has to add the others if they want to give their readers options.  I recommend giving readers as many options as possible.  So long as each option is clearly labeled, you don't want to miss out on a potential subscriber.  Subscribers mean repeat customers.

This leads us to the number of subscribers.  A healthy blog has a large number of active subscribers.  This means that it really doesn't matter if a blog has 1,000 people subscribed to it.  If none of the subscribers bother to read the posts or comment, the blog might as well have no subscribers.  So yes it's fine to watch how many followers you have.  But they need to be followers that are actually interacting with your blog.

The lesson here: engage your subscribers.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What Are Blog Labels/Tags?

When I first started blogging, I assumed that the labels/tags you added to your blog were like keywords.  So I would pile on every single keyword I could think of that might have been related to the post in an effort to have Google make my blog come up as a number one hit.

It actually took me a really long time before I started to figure out what they were really for.  Now I'm not saying that the labels don't affect internet searches.  The Google algorithms for relevant material on searches are extremely complex I'm sure that labels probably factor somewhere in there.  But they're really not for the searches.  The labels are actually for your blog.

When you get people to your blog, you ideally want them to read more than just your newest post.  Number of views does affect search engines.  Every time someone views a post, the post becomes more relevant.  So if someone types in "apple pie recipes," a post that has had 10,000 views and 50 comments will rank higher than  a post that has had 1 view and no comments.

So you want to try and get the most out of all of your posts, not just the newest ones.  This is where the labels come in.  Think of the labels as file folders more than keywords.  If you write a blog post that is part of a series, you would want to give it a label/tag.  So if you write your apple pie post, maybe add the label "pies."  Then when you write another post the next week about key lime pie, you can add it to the "pies" label as well.  What this does is allow the reader to click on "pies" and then see every single post you've ever made about pie.

So only add labels that you know you'll probably have multiple posts for in the same category.  Labels can make searching your blog very easy but they can also be a distraction if you have too many labels.  A blog post with fifteen labels at the bottom and all the labels only having one post each in them is not going to help readers find your other work.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How To Get Blog Traffic: Finding a niche

I think one of the biggest pitfalls most bloggers run into is not having a focus for their blog.  They like the idea of starting a blog.  They think of a cool name, get all excited about the layout and then... now what?

Pretty much every person I've come across with the complaint "my blog gets no traffic" has one thing in common: there is no focus to their blog.  There will only be a smattering of posts.  One talking about the weather, one talking about how dinner didn't taste right and one about a comic book.  And then it comes as a shock that no one has thought to type in "Fred Alistar III's blog" on the internet to read about those three things.  That was a very exaggerated example, but you get the idea.

Someone gave me some good blogging advice once and so, to quote Oscar Wilde, I'm going to pass on the good advice since it's the only sensible thing to do with it:

Your blog should provide a service.

Yes, it's that simple.  I say provide a service.  But the idea of "service" can be broadly interpreted.  Basically you need to figure out what you have to offer people.  Are you there to entertain?  Are you there to inform?  Are you there to sell?

You must find a niche.  Unless you're already famous, nobody but your family members will type your name in on the internet.  So how will the general public find your blog?  You need to blog about things that people might type in on the internet.  So if you like food, title your blog post "Delicious Apple Pie Recipe" instead of "My Recipe."  You are providing a service by providing subject material (apple pie recipe) that people will probably type in on the internet.

A focused blog allows for word of mouth to kick in.  As my go-to reality check, I always think about how I react to things.  If I was talking to a friend and the subject of food came up, there's almost no chance I would say "Hey if you like food you should check out this guy's blog where he talked about his dinner once."  However, there is a really good chance that I would say "Hey you should check out this blog I saw where they posted a fun new recipe every week."

Find a niche.  Provide a service.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What IS a Blog?

The word "blog" is a hybrid word for the term "web log."  Think of it like an online, public journal.  The author writes journal entries and other people can read it.  A blog differs from a website in that it revolves around continuous posting vs. static information.  To continue the metaphor, if a blog is like a journal then a website is like a pamphlet.

Some people/businesses use a blog instead of a website.  Much depends on what the site needs to be used for and how much the person wants to spend.  In order to have a website, you must pay for a domain name (it's like your personal street address).  A blog can be free if you use a blog host (so it's like an apartment, you use it but it's technically not yours).  As with living situations, the potential of the blog will be somewhat limited if you use a free host vs. owning your own domain name.  In the "house" you can remodel all you like but in the "apartment" you can only really add furniture.

Starting a Blog

Starting a blog is simple enough.  For now, let's talk about starting a free blog.  A free blog means you are posting with a blog host.  You must work within the limits of the blog host as opposed to having your own site where you could essentially have complete freedom and control over how your site looks.

To find free blog host options, you can type in "free blog hosting" on your internet browser and scroll through.  As of right now, there are two main blog hosts that most people seem to use: and  There are lots of opinions floating around as to which blog host is better but basically it boils down to this:

Wordpress allows for more customization.  Blogspot (Blogger) is easier to use.  Blogger is also owned by Google which some people prefer if they already use other Google programs.

Once you decide which free blog host to use, you're going to have to sign up by choosing a blog title and web address.  My advice is to pick something catchy, try and include a key word in the title that will relate to the focus of your blog (like if it's a food blog try and use the word food or eating in the title) and try to pick words that are easy for people to spell/remember.  You want to make your site easy to find and talk about.

After you set that up, you're going to have to do some legwork and spend time familiarizing yourself with the the layout.  A lot of this is just getting used to where buttons are.  If you've ever used Word or Power Point, you'll find a lot of the workings are self-explanatory.  YouTube is a great resource if you find yourself confused.  Just type in "how to use blogger" (or whatever you're using) and you'll get hundreds of introductory videos.


I work in the field of music but I've always enjoyed writing.  I actually considered studying creative writing in college but then decided that deadlines might suck some of the fun out of it for me.  After college I started getting into writing short stories as a hobby and publishing them as ebooks.  Long story short,  I got into blogging February 2011 as a way to create an "author webpage."

This story is really exciting, I know.  The only reason why I'm telling it is to give you an idea about my background.  I never studied marketing.  I'm proficient at working a computer but by no means could I build one from scratch or program one.  I've never had a job working in sales (not even retail).   The only reason why I originally started an author blog instead of a website is because a blog seemed easier to customize and was free.

So the only thing I really have going for me is a willingness to learn and experiment.  In the process of figuring out how to blog I discovered that I really enjoy blogging itself.  The purpose of this blog is to share what I've learned and what I'm currently learning.  Hopefully it will turn out to be helpful to those of you that are interested in starting your own blog.