SpeedBlog & SEO. The last word.
For those of you currently testing the Beta Preview version of SpeedBlog (as well as for those who are yet to even activate!), here’s some search candy. And some tips to help SpeedBlog optimize your blog posts automatically for you. But first things first …
The myth about SEO
You can find thousands of pages on the net, hundreds of websites that claim to specialize in search engine optimization but it all boils down to different interpretations of one single SEO starter guide from Google. Everyone claims to know SEO well yet there is no proof asked or required to stake the claim to an “SEO Trickster.”
Much to the dismay of hapless bloggers, neither Yahoo! nor Google refute or otherwise endorse any claims to such a trick or method by which one can optimize a site to out-rank every other site. No really, if such a method were to exist, there would be no need for a search engine!
Search Engine Poisoning and your website
In Search Engine parlance, any attempt that exploits or otherwise makes use of a method that gives your website or a page more weight than it deserves is an attempt to “poison the search engine listing.” Search engines are designed to not only thwart all such attempts but also to penalize imposters from exploiting any loopholes which could potentially alter ranking without a good reason to back up such a listing. And, there are a good number of alternate (and undocumented) methods by which Search engines can cross-check what you’re up to. Contrary to what some SEO sites may suggest, there is plenty of computing horse-power, technical prowess and time available to scrutinize each and every such attempt!
About page-rank and the worth of your site.
A common misconception many SEO optimization sites proliferate and insist for is to aim for a higher page rank. While a higher page rank may translate to some bragging rights, in no way a higher page rank means anything in isolation. Did you know that any display of a page-rank outside of Google tools is illegal? Not to mention, a page rank is associated with a keyword which these SEO mastery sites conveniently disregard? Page-rank is also specific to Google. Bing and Yahoo use different terminology!
First of all, there is no such thing as a page-rank (in isolation). The worth of your site is not measured by page-rank+keyword alone either. It is thousands of other statistics about everything else on your blog, post, paragraph, site, your network, in-links and even out links. Indeed, if you’re linking out to malware sites whether by intent or not, you do deserve some credit don’t you? To summarize, even if you can influence some of these thousand variables, you can influence just a tiny bit. The extent of such manipulation is counter balanced by other statistics that Search Engines and their partners consolidate on a periodic basis.
So, for a moment (at least until you read this post), forget there is such a thing as a page-rank or the worth of your site based upon page-rank alone!
SEO Black magic and META, TITLE Tags
So, what is common between a site that provides SEO optimization techniques and a typical person browsing through that site? Human psychology. A person who wants to believe he has found a solution does not really care whether the techniques themselves have any credentials to back up the claims; its just the way we are. Rumors, recipes and sooth-Sayers are just as good as their believers are.
Let’s take an example that has nothing to do with a Search engine-- alright, maybe something; how does a home seller sell/rent his home?
Are Meta Tags important? Of course they are; What good would be your home if you do not have a good paint on the outside? Is Title of your post/page important? Of course it is, you have a house number don’t you? Is META DESCRIPTION important? Maybe, if you’re selling your home, you would want to describe in a few words right? How many words? Depends on who is listening – someone in a hurry or someone who’s here on behalf of the buyer … Tell me in a few words what describes your home - “Pool, 3000 square feet, new insulation, 5 rooms, no stair, single level, double pane windows, energy efficient AC, heater” – ah the META Keywords!
The prospective buyer may or may not decide to actually walk into the home to inspect but really, isn’t most of it dependent upon what you said earlier? Of course, now that you provided the META tags, the prospective buyer is also looking to verify the veracity of such claims. If you did not describe them, maybe he wouldn’t be looking for as many features but now that you did, you must prove that they really exist. It is a double edged sword, you must entice the buyer to see the house but you must be careful to not overstate the obvious! Too much emphasis on say “double pane windows” – only to find out the buyer saw one exclusion means you just spoilt your chances on an otherwise imminent deal!
Search engines kind of behave similarly – They have a very short term memory and time allotted to you. Your site must provide proper directions, descriptions and keywords, deliver just as promised and not deviate too much from what was described in context. If word of mouth can help a prospective home-buyer, subsidiary statistics and data feedback can help your site (in-links) but only so much as to get to you. The innards of your home/content must explicitly convince the buyer/search engine what you’re trying to sell/say. Content is just as if not more important than your entry (meta tags) schematics. If you re-arrange the furniture in your home, does it confuse a previous visitor? Pleasantly or does he have to start over again?
Much against what you may think, SEO is not black-magic. Programmers like you write Search Algorithms. Their aim is to ingest as much information and categorize them as best as they can infer. Technological breakthroughs happen much more frequently than you may think. Gone are the days of Lynx processing when Search engines could only see in B&W or only in text. Search engines can not just translate that style sheet that refers to absolute positioning but also get that layer content you declared invisible.
Human Friendly vs Search Engine Friendly URLs/Content
Now, reserve your skepticism for a moment. At least until you understand what I’m about to say. For a search engine, there is no difference between the following two URLs …
Yes, there is no difference at all! It doesn’t matter whether you use Human friendly URL or not, a search engine does not differentiate. However, consider this:
There is a hell lot of difference between the above two URLs. More so for a search engine than for a human.
In the first example, even though keywords exist in the URL itself which may imply a search engine may be fooled into believing the context of content would be about those very keywords but if it were to be true, the URL would have to be much much longer containing as many keywords as exist in the content itself. The thinking and justification provided by most so called SEO experts is probably based upon an assumption that search engines are stupid. They’re not. A human friendly URL provides indirect benefits. Human Benefits. Humans do not search like search engines do. Get a catch-phrase, get the keywords an average Joe would search for and if it happens to be the same as your URL, you do reap the benefits.
The 2nd example is a lot more involved. When a rel=”tag” link specifies a tag, the entire portion under the href after the Tag is considered a “Tag”. So Tag/SpeedBlog and Tag/SpeedBlog.aspx are entirely different. Indeed, one cannot expect people to be searching for speedblog.aspx !
Search Engine Optimization is subjective. Never exhaustive
SEO changes; in dimensions of time, content, subject, context and even seemingly unrelated variables such as retention span and bounce rate. What may work for you in January, may not work for you in peak Baseball season. What works for you the first time you make a blog post may not work when someone uses the same keywords elsewhere. What gives you a good rank in text results may get modified once the image crawlers index your content. What was once your number one keyword may get overridden by a video crawler. What you see as a top search result may be seen in an entirely different light by your neighborhood kid (BT). A perfectly optimized original content post with the right keywords, right ’everything’ may appear at the top of rankings one month but may face a stale content penalty the next month. SEO optimization is subjective. And subject to way too many variables you can keep track of or influence.
Is SpeedBlog the one stop SEO solution?
No. Nothing could be farther than truth. In fact if anybody claims to provide you with a guaranteed SEO ranking, be wary, you’re dealing with an imposter. Let me start with a Disclaimer: SpeedBlog does not cheat. It does nothing illegal. In fact, even if something is legal, SpeedBlog implements strategies that are based upon ethics rather than “legalities.” SpeedBlog does not purport to nor add anything auto-magically.; Everything that is added or optimized is entirely based upon the content the author supplies.
SpeedBlog does Search Engine Optimization; Automatically
The premise behind SpeedBlog is to keep things simple. As simple as they can be. So, all an author needs to do is provide content. SpeedBlog adds/changes the required Meta tags, descriptions and even the non-visible elements that help (not trick) search engines find their way around your site. SpeedBlog also keeps a track of which posts get the most traffic and adjusts their priority in Sitemap accordingly.
Following are the top 10 things you need to do to help SpeedBlog optimize “SEO factor” for your blog posts:
1. Provide Keywords and Categories from Windows Live Writer in your first post itself
Remember you can always add more keywords from the Web Visual interface later on. SpeedBlog incorporates a built-in Keyword/Tag suggestion module as well. Put it to good use! The aim is to keep a few chosen keywords; Do not overdo just because it seems so simple.
2. Provide Image Descriptions from Windows Live Writer in your first post
SpeedBlog allows you to save Draft posts, whether locally or on your server. Make sure, before you hit the publish button, all your images have proper descriptions (Alt-text). SpeedBlog may choose certain keywords from your descriptions to rename the images; Certain keywords may also be used from your content to perform the renaming. Again, this is not always the case. SpeedBlog also avoids any contention between competing keywords, posts and even other Blog posts on your site. Keyword density and the length of your content, its originality and occurrence, traffic sources, details and user engagement determine how and to what extent SpeedBlog applies SEO to your blog posts.
3. Provide proper descriptions for your Blog and Categories
Whenever you create a Blog, the Description for that Blog goes a long way in determining the relevancy of each one of your posts inside of that blog. Make sure you don’t leave it empty. The same goes for Categories(PE) too.
4. Provide a good summary, suitable for multiple views.
SpeedBlog uses windows live writer’s split post mechanism to receive summary and the long form content. SpeedBlog does not automatically generate a summary for you. It does generate a lot of things based upon the summary you provide. There are a couple of dos and don’ts when writing an effective summary for use in SpeedBlog. Do make sure you use an image inside Summary. It is not mandatory but goes a long way in helping things both visually as well as algorithmically. Know that different templates and views in SpeedBlog modules may move the images around. In fact some templates may remove the image from Summary in its entirety. Some others may need to resize the image so make sure you supply at least one good high resolution image in your entire post. Again, make sure the image description and sizes etc are set well before you hit the Publish button. A post summary should not just be a repetition of the keywords/tags you specified earlier. It should really be about what the rest of the post is about. In fact, other than specifying keywords/tags via WLW, you do not need to worry about keyword density or anything SEO anymore. Just relax, all you need to provide is the content and let SpeedBlog do the rest for you.
Rarely, SpeedBlog (PE) may also revise and/or override your chosen keywords. You can choose to accept or reject these changes from the Web UI. How does it generate these keywords? SpeedBlog integrates with DNN Search and provides an optimized search summary (which may be different than what you would have provided). This data is compared with the incoming search traffic to individual blog posts on a periodic basis. If you did not choose the right keyword or summary it is glaringly apparent and you’re hit with the bright red optimization override modules. You may however choose to retain your selections.
5. Use URLMaster or a human friendly URL rewrite module.
SpeedBlog is optimized to work with URLMaster. Theoretically it should work similarly well with other URL rewriters too. SpeedBlog generates URLs that not only compliment URLMaster but also behaves differently on whether extension less URLs are available or not. Some SpeedBlog (PE) modules may not be available unless URLMaster is present and some others may operate with limited features. For example, provisioning rel=”tag” attribute is not necessary if URLMaster is not present since the URL has too much scum in it anyway. However, when URLMaster is present, operational and is using extension less URLs, there is much to be gained from using clean and search+human friendly URLs.
6. Use the Tag Module on a select few pages.
By now, you would have known that whichever page SpeedBlog.Tag module is present upon, all the Title, Keywords, Meta and other Human+SEO optimizations are done automatically. You can place the existing Tag module on multiple pages and it can work its magic everywhere. However, do not overdo it. The Tag module looks at the other modules present on the page and may end up generating portal level content if it doesn’t find an active post viewer module. One such exception where such a behavior is desirable is for the Portal Tag cloud. But it doesn’t make sense to show Portal Tag cloud everywhere.
7. Use the provided SiteMap
Just copy the SiteMap.aspx from DesktopModules/SpeedBlog folder, overwrite the DNN SiteMap.aspx and voila; Your sitemap will have integrated Blog post links, prioritized in place based on your blog posts (publish date). Remember, even though SpeedBlog supplies the sitemap.aspx, it does not overwrite the Core DNN shipped sitemap. You must do this manually. Sitemap must be served from the root of your website. Not from any subdirectory under it.
8. Use built-in rss handler
Add the following line to your web.config
1: <add name="SpeedBlogRssHandler" path="*.rss" verb="*" type="Subodh.Modules.SpeedBlog.RSSHandler" preCondition="integratedMode"/>
Once you enable RSS feed from any module, SpeedBlog inserts the RSS feed auto discovery headers on your DNN page.
Notice however, since with SpeedBlog you can have multiple templates on the same page and you can enable multiple modules to provide their own RSS feeds, you may end up overdoing the available RSS feeds on one page. It doesn’t violate any rules/RFC to have multiple RSS feeds on the same page however, it is recommended to keep the number of RSS feeds on one page around or less than 5.
9. Choose your outgoing links carefully.
DotNetNuke marketplace and Snowcovered are filled with modules and developers that do not pay much attention to placing outgoing links to other websites. If you paid for a module, and still find that module placing HTML links to their sites, demand a refund. It doesn’t matter whether the link is inside a non-visible element or inside an HTML comment section; It is a hideous practice that must be discouraged for the reasons below:
Contrary to what many people think, the result of outgoing links has very little to do with sharing the so-called google-juice. A common misconception is “Getting linked from high page ranked sites” somehow automatically lifts the (linked-to) site’s page-rank. Another even more common misconception is – “ Larger the number of incoming links, better is the page-rank.” Maybe it is one of these (or both) that drives module developers to knowingly or unknowingly insert outgoing links in modules they sell or distribute.
The Problem? The benefits of using such a dubious approach is too little compared to the penalties that your site may be subjected to. Consider this; A site that you link to (in search parlance, a site you trust or encourage users to visit) may end up proliferating malware, spyware or other illegal content or, may otherwise end up being penalized for linking to such sites. Whether knowingly or unknowingly (Cheap Adsense Ads ? VIAGRA ads? Google Money making schemes, phishing ads, harvesting sites .. the list is endless) if the site that you link to gets penalized, you get penalized too. There’s a reason that even though the Core DNN Blog module supports share-it social bookmarking, SpeedBlog doesn’t. Maybe there would be a better way of doing this in future but until there is, be very careful before you link out. And no, its not because you do not want to share your success. In fact, with SpeedBlog, you can always choose to remove the “nofollow” attribute for out-linking to users and sites you trust. Spread some love but be careful who you love :-)
In the same spirit of avoiding penalization much after you‘ve even forgotten about a blog post, SpeedBlog will normally download all external images (and create a local copy) even if you hot linked. This behavior can however be (PE) overridden.
10. If possible, avoid Google AdSense, Google Analytics, RM/Yahoo marketplace Ads or …
Or any such make quick money schemes. The last portion of this blog post has actually nothing to do with SpeedBlog. But it builds over what you already know. Unless you are running a very high traffic site with at least a 1000 unique visitors every day, you do not have a good inventory value. If you do not have a good minimum, you are not safe from random ads that scammers and all the douche bags on the internet can manage to place on sites such as yours. If you’re serious about SEO, you do not want to be providing links to any such sites that have or can be blacklisted or otherwise penalized by search engines.
Why do I say no to Google Analytics? Well, go ahead and use it, just do not expect your SEO optimizations to override what Google already knows about your site! Every blog post goes through a bell curve in its life span. When the blog post is fresh, SEO drives incoming traffic until the blog post reaches the top of the bell curve and the traffic gradually dies down on that particular blog post. What your site gains though is repeat visitors if your content really provides some value to them. If you use Google analytics to begin with, the effect of SEO optimizations doesn’t work all that well unless you’re already at the top of the bell curve. Of course, you’re free to make your own assumptions and decide whether Google Analytics is really providing you a real value. Even if you do not use Google Analytics, it does not imply Google (or any other search engine) does/do not have insights into your real visitors. They do .. although not as accurately/as-early.
Comments and suggestions, even Flames are welcome!
DISCLAIMER: This post provides a rough round-up of SEO features available in SpeedBlog. Due to nature of SEO, some features cannot be isolated between CE and PE versions. The author does not provide any guarantee nor claims to have provided any information that is not available otherwise for free. This post has not been reviewed nor approved by Yahoo. SpeedBlog does not make use of any hidden secrets, nor does it make use of non-public domain information to provide optimizations. Your mileage with SpeedBlog SEO may vary.