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Blog yourself:Know who is looking

Most bloggers start by their blogs by writing about business or personal things hoping that they will attract an audience from their day to day musings. With each post they hope to pick up more and more readers who like what they have to say. For many, this works. Usually it's because they are good writers or have a clever take on whatever topic they choose to opine about.

But for every beautiful woman who takes her top off at the beach and gets the drooly-mouthed stares of the men in the vicinity, there are dozens of fat, beer-bellied men that make the kids giggle as they walk buy and attracts the incredulous stares of those who just can't turn away. The question is--if we relate these images to blogging--which are you?

Actually, the better question is, which audience do you want to attract. Some blogs are out there looking for the little-boy giggles. Others are trying to attract the same element that pays to go peek behind the curtain at the freak-show. If you're a business blogger, looking to speak to other professionals, you may not even want to be the gorgeous woman taking her top off. The point here is, before you can really know who or what you're going to be as a blogger, you need to know who your intended audience is.

If you start blogging without this knowledge then who ends up coming back to your blog may not be who you intended it to be. If you're blogging for fun, this won't matter so much. But if you're blogging for professional reasons, then you really want to make sure you know your intended audience well.

Know Who's Looking

Target Audience

Every grouping of people will have a different set of interests and needs. Sometimes these groupings overlap and you can attract people from multiple audiences, but knowing who your primary audience is will help you keep your blog focused on those that will matter most to you. Don't try to be all things to all people, as you'll more likely end up being nothing to most.

However if you can focus on one primary audience and perhaps one or two secondary audiences, you can keep your blog focused on delivering the type of content that your audience craves.

Areas of Interest

Once you have a firm grasp of your audience then find out what it is they are interested in that you can provide. If you're writing a blog for small business owners, they could be interested in any number of things. Some might be looking for ideas on how to run their companies more effectively. Some might be interested in how political developments will effect their bottom line. Others might be looking for how-to information on a particular topic.

While the audience is the same, the area of interest can vary widely. It won't do you any good to talk politics when the business owner who just wants how-to information. Similarly, the business owner looking for the ramifications the most recent vote in congress has on their business isn't looking for 12 management techniques that create a better work environment.

In cases where areas of interest are the same within multiple audiences you can focus your blog posts on your primary audience while throwing in references that will benefit the others as well. For example, a student might be looking for the same information as the business owner, but for entirely different reasons. If you reach out to students as your secondary audience then feel free to throw in some examples that they can relate to.

Needs to be Met

Finally, you want to better understand the needs your audience have that isn't getting met from other places. Some blogs can promote strategy, others just provide information. They guy interested in how politics affects his business may just want some basic information on the topic while another may be looking for tips he can employ to lessen any negative impact. Some may be looking for a community they can be engaged with about the topic, while another might only be looking for some input on how they should cast their vote to better serve their own personal needs.

Knowing the needs of your audience, or which audience it is that you want to attract, can help you focus your blog posts to more effectively meet those needs. It's possible that one blog, focused on a specific audience with specific needs, can meet a variety of needs. There is no reason that you can't create multiple blog posts on a single topic addressing the various needs of your readers. It's knowing these needs that's most important as this will give you fodder to write about that your audience will want to read.

By focusing on your audience, knowing who's looking for you and what they want to read, you'll be in a better position to attract that audience through random searches. As you write your posts you're more likely to use words that your intended audience searches for in Google, Yahoo or Bing. This will result in more targeted traffic delivery through the search results.

Unless you know who you're writing to then you really won't be writing to anybody at all. Before you start your blog, do a bit of research and get an idea of who's looking for what. This will help you better focus your blog on content that impresses those who'll be looking for what you blog about.

Blog Yourself writing blog posts with pen in hand and seo in mind

As a general rule bloggers tend to be really full of themselves. Just as a person needs a certain amount of ego to run for political office, you have to think pretty highly of yourself to write a blog. On the most basic level, you have to think that someone actually cares what you have to say, otherwise you'd just keep your ramblings hidden away in a Word document on your computer's hard drive. And perhaps people do care. After all, you're reading this blog post right now. But the danger is that as more people begin reading what one has to say on their blog, the more highly one tends to think of him or herself.

But who am I to condemn? You're reading my blog post and making me think more highly of myself. But I'll share. You're welcome to get in on some of the ego action with your comments below! See? It doesn't always have to be all about me.

But just because an over-inflated ego causes you to believe people want to hear what you have to say doesn't mean you don't have some valuable or important to contribute to the worldwide discourse on your given topic. As a business owner, communication is key and there is no better way to start a dialogue with your target audience than to start a blog.

The necessity of the ego doesn't devalue the quality of your message in any way. Again, just like a politician requires an ego, it is often that very ego that helps them get things done, hopefully for the betterment of their constituents. If you think highly of yourself as a blogger, in sufficient proportions, you're well on your well to being able to put together quality content that gets read, repeated, passed on, commented about and--most importantly--processed and put to good use.

Writing a good blog, if you do it right, will really have less to do you than your visitors. While you have to think you've got something to say, it'll be your visitors that confirm that thought or not. And while you may like the ego boost you get from growing your readership, you can also be providing a valuable service to those in need of such information.

Not to put it too bluntly, but the desire to blog often coincides with the desire for sex. You may feel the need to get what you want to say out there for public consumption, but it's only going to be any good if you are making someone else happy with it. That's what we'll be exploring in this series of blog posts. How to write blog posts that target your audience, capture their attention, and keep them coming back for more.

I know nobody writes blog posts with a pen as the title suggests, but I think you get the suggestive innuendo. We'll use that theme to further explore what it takes to put together a good blog. Not just a good blog post, but a good blog that gets read, repeated, passed on, commented about, processed and put to good use.

Oh, and we'll also make sure to cover some of the SEO basics in writing your post. If you've got a great body, no sense keeping it locked in a closet.

A few things You need to know About Site Architecture.

Website architecture is one of the most important aspects of creating a search engine friendly website. Below are just a few questions I was asked recently on the topic of navigation, site structure, site maps and pages site.

If I have a relatively small [site] with a flat/linear file structure and each page has links on it to every other page that the spiders can follow does it benefit me at all to have a site map?

If you only have a five to ten page site where every page is of equal value to the rest then a site map is unnecessary. However once you get beyond that, or begin having pages that are sub-pages of a section of your site it's a good idea to create a site map. Even if all the pages are represented in the navigation the site map will help the user know what information your site contains without having to go look for it.

One primary benefit of the site map is that it gives the visitor a birds-eye view of the entire site. In most instances, the navigation itself won't accomplish this, though it can depending on how it's laid out. But even still, if the visitor looking for a site map does so because they perceive an inability to find something that your site should have. It provides them with a complete picture. They know if they cannot find it on the site map then there is no need to keep looking through the rest of the site.

If I have a relatively small site is there any benefit for ranking by having a silo or pyramid structure rather than a flat structure? Do the spiders always prefer silo structures or does it only make a difference if the site if it is over a certain number of pages and if so what is that number?

I think in this case you defer to the visitor over the search engine. Organize your pages in a way that makes sense and will help the visitor easily find the information they are looking for. There is nothing wrong with silo-ing your site structure, even for small sites. Just make sure you're not adding additional layers for the sake of adding layers. Create a structure that makes sense from the visitor perspective. If you do that then it will make sense from the search engine perspective as well.

Do the robots really produce a 404 error if they can't find a robot text file on my site and should I make one just for that reason even if its a small site that otherwise wouldn't need it?

Anytime a search engine comes to your site (at least those who honor the robots.txt protocol) will search for the robots.txt file. Generally, not having a robots.txt file won't hurt you in any way but I do recommend adding one anyway.

Without the file in place the search engines can interpret that any way they want. Mostly it will tell them that your site is either completely open or forbidden. If you have the file in place you are letting the engines know that you have made a definitive declaration of what they can and cannot do in regards to spidering the site.

I have heard that pages should not be more that 100 or 150 k. Is that true? Does it affect ranking besides obviously affecting download times? Is k the same as kb (I know I could probably figure that one out)? How can I tell how big my pages are?

Its always best to keep your code as streamlined as possible. I don't think there is a hard and fast rule anymore as to how big a page can be, however if the engines are finding pages that have significantly more code than content then it very well may have a negative effect. Large pages with lots of content generally won't be a problem, but if the content to code ration is skewed too far toward code, then that represents an issue that's worth fixing. If too many of these pages exist on your site then its highly likely that many of your pages won't get fully spidered and/or many pages of your site could be left out of the index.

Typically when referring to file size someone might say 150k when they mean 150 kb. However if they say it's 150k kb then that suggests its 150 thousand kb. Just about any web file manager such as dreamweaver can tell you how big the page is. If the file is saved on your computer you can also look at the file size through windows explorer. When considering page size, search engines generally are just looking at the code, not necessarily at any additional downloadable items on the page (images, flash files, etc.)

I use iweb to make my site and it is limited in some things that it can do. It uses iframes to inset html content (or you can mess with it yourself). The way I understand it the frames are actually an entirely separate page that is imposed on top of the page you put it on. I have heard frames are bad for search rankings are these frames the same as iframes.

I don't have any experience with iweb so I can't answer any question in regards to that. Traditionally frames are not a good way to go for a site, but there are many ways to have the benefit of frames, without actually having frames. For one, if you need separate scrolling areas, this can be accomplished with CSS. For another, if you want to have one file for navigation instead of putting the same navigation code on every page, the use of server side includes (SSI) is the way to go. Includes allow you to create one file then globally include that file throughout the site. Update that one file and every page that pulls the include file in shows the updated information.

These questions are just a drop in the bucket of what you need to know regarding site architecture and navigation. But I do hope you they provided you with some valuable insight. I have answered a number of other website architecture questions in the past that will give you even more information on this topic. You can also check out my architecture checklist.

A Few things You need to know about Keyword Usage

I recently received an email from someone looking for some advice and a variety of topics. I thought our readers here would benefit from my response. This is the first post of a series of questions and answers touching on keywords, links, architecture and more.

We'll start off with the questions and thoughts regarding keywords and how they should be used on the page vs. how the search engines interpret them. For many outside the SEO industry keyword usage can still be somewhat of a mystery. Hopefully this information will provide some new insights or reconfirm old suspicions.

Keywords are not case sensitive for search.

This isn't entirely true. Search engines try to determine the searchers intent to deliver results best targeted for what the engine believes they are looking for. For the most part, capitalization won't matter, however if the engines can determine that capitalization of a word changes the meaning or intent of the search they may produce different results. Take for example a search for "MASH" and "mash." This is both an acronym and a word and the results are slightly different in Google.

Another example is "fat," "FAT," and "Fat." The differences on the first two searches are noticeably different. The third is only slightly different from the first but still different. Capitalization doesn't effect all results, for example a search for "Business Strategy" vs. "business strategy" produces the same results, at least on the first page of Google.

Keywords are weighted heavier if they are in the title tag or a header tag.

Keywords in your title tag are definitely weighted heavier than keywords in the body copy or anywhere else on your site. The Title Tag of each page is probably the single most valuable piece of real estate that you can use. Its also what the search engines show as the clickable link in the search results.

There is also evidence to suggest that hx tags are weighted a bit heavier than the standard formatted body copy. But this is only the case if it's done within reason. Weighting is all about differences. If all your body copy is an h2 then your keywords won't have any more value than the rest of the content. Use your Hx tags sparingly and they will be weighted accordingly.

Keywords are weighted slightly heavier if they are bolded, underlined, italicized.

I think the optimal word here is "slightly." Bolding, underlining or italicizing words can give the search engine an indication that those words are important to the reader because they are being called out differently than the rest of the text. But if you only bold the keywords you are trying to rank for then I think it's pretty easy for the search engines to discount that because you're using it as a tactic rather than as a way to serve your visitors.

But the issue of weighting also comes into play. If all your text is bolded then there is no additional weighting going on at all. That just becomes the baseline. For something to be weighted more than something else it has to be different from the rest.

What if someone searches for the plural or another form of a word but I only have the original word? For example if I have kayak on my page will come up in searches for kayaks or kayaking? If I have kayaking will that come up for kayak?

The search engines are getting pretty good at associating words together. Technically you don't need to have all the various forms of a word on the page in order for the search engines to rank you for it. An imperfect example of this is to run a search for "kayak" on Google. Scroll down a bit and you see this set of results:

Kayak Google Results

In these three results, somewhere halfway down the page or so, do not have the singular version of the word "kayak" in the visible title or description in the search results, but in all cases the words "kayaking" and "kayaks" are bolded. Granted the word "kayak" does appear in the page text but you can see by the bolding that Google is smart enough to figure out the relationship in the word variations.

In some cased you don't even need the actual word on the page at all for it to appear in the search results. If the search engines determine that the content of your page supports a certain word, even if it doesn't appear, then it can still rank. Though I'd think that pages with the word would tend to outrank those without pretty easily.

Assume someone searches for red trucks. I know that if I have the words red and truck anywhere on my page that my page will come up, but will my page be ranked higher if the two words are next to each other and in the same order on my page as opposed to being separated on the page? For example if my page has "buy red trucks" on it will that be ranked higher than having ...red... in one paragraph and ...trucks... in another? I realize that if they search for "red trucks" in quotes like that then it is better to have the words on your page just as searched for but I am not referring to that situation.

If someone searches using quotes, such as "red trucks," then the engines interpret that to indicate searcher only wants to see results that use that phrase as it was searched. Typically pages that do not use those words together as they appear within the quotes won't appear in the search results at all, unless there is a distinct lack of results to display.

Aside from that, you have a better chance of your page appearing in the results if you use the words as they are searched. The problem is you never really know how anything will be searched. Keyword research will give you the most common searches, but just as many searchers will perform a search differently as those who perform the search as it is most common. Therefore it is impossible to get every combination of the searched phrases on the page.

This then gives you the option of using the common phrase on the page but also to be sure to use the words independently of each other, so much as it makes sense to do so. Don't worry about always saying "red trucks" when you can also say "our trucks come in a variety of colors, including red, which is our best seller."

At what point are keywords considered spamming. For example I have a bullet point type of list on my home page that says that I am the only "blank" in "blank" area that provides service x. The words for the service I provide and the area I am located in end up getting repeated a lot. Will I face a penalty? It reads naturally and makes sense.

I think anytime that you use a keyword or a phrase over an over again you'll suffer some. How do you determine if you are using a word too much? Look at it on the page and tell me if a visitor would find it overly redundant. If it's used properly without any hint of overkill then you shouldn't have any problems. However, if it looks like keyword stuffing to the human eye, the search engines will likely consider it keyword stuffing as well.

How the search engines look at keywords really isn't magic. It's simply comes down to giving the visitor what they want. They don't want keyword stuffing or a bunch of keywords bolded on the page. They want information that relates strongly to the search they entered. If you provide that then you're pretty much set.

Something You Need To Know About Duplicate content And CSS

My last three posts covered a variety of questions regarding keyword usage, links and website architecture.. In this post I'll address the final question that has to do with the visual display of your pages, duplicate content and CSS.

While on the BBC website I noticed that they have an optional low graphics version for all of their pages. I am not sure how they do this but I decided I could do the same by making a low graphics imitation of each of my pages by having a button on each page that could allow people to switch back and forth. I have made all my low graphics pages not only with no or low graphics but with all web safe colors and web safe fonts. The text on the low graphics pages are identical to my regular pages.
Is this considered duplicate content? Will this hurt my search rankings? if it would hurt my ranking could I avoid that by using no follow tags on the links to the low graphics pages or would they still get indexed and subsequently hurt my rankings? Is there something I could inset in a robot text file so that the spider would not go to those pages at all?

They way this is done is by creating multiple Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). BBC.com allows its users to change display settings in a variety of ways, including six pre-set options. Each option, once selected, imports a different style sheet used to display the page. The page URL remains the same, but the way the content appears changes.

By using CSS to change the display BBC.com, or any site really, can have unlimited viewing options without creating any duplicate content issues. Based on the question above, the way the low-res version was implemented will produce multiple pages (URLs) that uses the same content that is also used on the "normal" version. This creates duplicate content that will potentially be a problem for the search engines. And yes, it could effect your rankings.

If you want to implement multiple layouts of your pages, or even a printer friendly version, CSS is the way to go. It's the easiest and cleanest way, and doesn't allow for any potential duplicate content issues. However, if you want to do things the hard way, there are a couple things you can do that will help prevent such duplicate content problems.

The first, as mentioned in the question, is to use the nofollow tag. All links pointing to these alternate versions should be nofollowed. I'd also back that up with a robots.txt exclude file.

Secondly, you could implement the canonical tag. In the <> section of your code place the following:

< rel="canonical" href="http://www.site.com/original-page.html">

This tag would need to be placed on each alternate version of the page with the link going back to the main version. This will tell the search engines that all other versions are not the real one and therefore should not be considered duplicate content.

These are band-aid solutions and I wouldn't recommend them. Creating unique CSS is simpler, cleaner, and ultimately the more perfect route to go.

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