Friday, July 27, 2007

BlogHer Live-Blogging Session: Technical Tools to Build Traffic

Friday, July 27, 2:45 PM
Grabbing an audience and keeping them engaged is enhanced by technical know-how. We're going to help you get some, including how to use syndication to your best advantage, and a little DIY search engine optimization. This is a reprise of what was one of our most popular sessions at BlogHer Business in March, featuring, once again, Elise Bauer and Vanessa Fox.

Elise Bauer opens the session with the encouraging fact that her site receives over 50,000 hits a day and appears on over 200,000 RSS feeds! Her articles on the topic are gathered at www.elise.com/blogher.

Three Cornerstones for your content--it is:

USEFUL

ENTERTAINING

TIMELY

Community = the difference between broadcasting your message and engaging a peer group.

There is a shift in thinking between having a website and participating in a community, with feedback and interaction.

*Link out to other bloggers
*Leave comments on their sites
*Plan and participate in blog events
*Contribute to the community
*Participate in social networks (put your blog in your profile)

TOOLS:

*Google Alerts--get there by GOOGLING "Google Alerts." Heh. Sign up to the service and list keywords, and you will receive a daily list of mentions of those keywords, so you know who's linking to you and are able to reciprocate/interact.
*Technorati--same/similar service

*Google Custom Search--allows you to create a custom search engine for anything you want--Elise gives example using her food blog, and the custom search "grilled tuna." You can also have these searches added into your Google Reader.

SITE DESIGN:

Should be: Easy to load, easy to read, easy to find stuff on PCs AND Macs

Images under 15.5K ideally, or 31K
Page length and size under 100K
Font size MUST BE READABLE
Reduce Clutter
Avoid colored backgrounds for main text sections--hard to read
Search bars--best at the top of the page for visibility
Categories--categorize your entries
Multiple browser compatibility--check your site on IE, Firefox, Safari, for PCs and Macs
Screen resolution (lots of people may use 800x600 dpi monitors)
Find and fix broken links (Alexa.com has a free link-checker)

STATS--Measuring Site Traffic

Are you flying without an intrument panel?

1) Google Analytics
2) Sitemeter

*How do people come to your blog?
*Google or other search engine
*A link on another site
*Newsfeeds (Bloglines, MyYahoo, iGoogle)
*Social bookmarking sites (StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, Technorati, Digg, Sk-rt)--Know your audience, *and how appropriate each service is to your content
*An email link (some blogs have "email this" links)
*Press--encourage your own press; Elise's example is calling her local newspaper and offering material.

Question: Can stat counters be used in tandem? Usually. Stat counters give differing results, sometimes wildly diferent, so it may be good to use more than one. AdSense removes "bot traffic," so offers a fairly accurate result.

Syndication--FEEDS
*iGoogle allows personalization/customization--PROMOTE your feed! There is an "add to Google" button with iGoogle.
*Google Reader (response to a question--when you first sign up, you get the 20 most recent posts from each site you subscribe to--after those are marked as read, you only get "new" posts)
*FeedBurner (recently purchased by Google) offers amazing statistics on subscribers to your feed, with charts, etc. with free upgraded service. FeedBurner "manages" your feed. (Comment: if you want to check this once a week, do it on Monday or Tuesday to get the most information)
--FeedBurner also offers "site analytics"...these services help you to get to know your readers
*Feed to Email--Readers can subscribe to your feed via Email, and never have to download a feed-reader. Elise has 7,000 subscribers to Simply Recipes this way. Feedburner can manage this.
*DISCOVERABILITY--Make sure the proper RSS code is in your header

Useful services:
www.alexa.com
www.websiteoptimization.com
www.problogger.net
www.successful-blog.com
www.emomsathome.com

VANESSA FOX TAKES OVER, and starts with search engine optimization.

Search is "reverse advertising." Potential viewers are broadcasting their needs.

An overview of search:
*Relevant, useful results
*Exactly what searcher is looking for
*Searcher spends as little time searching as possible

Mechanics:
*Discovery--i.e. following links from other pages, through a Sitemap submission
*Crawlability--search engines must be able to ACCESS the page and extract text
*Relevance--WORDS ON THE PAGE. Substance over "flash;" How well the page is linked and described by other sites (Vanessa will do followup posts on the technical "how to" aspects)

Search engines are LITERAL. Use keywords that will pull the searchers you want. Use text links instead of "click here," to facilitate search engines. Keyword research is important (Vanessa will follow up on this, also), and allows you to optimize hits from searches. Search your own site for keywords to test it. Text in graphics, videos, Flash, multimedia, etc. are not picked up. More general "long tail" keywords do add up over time.

Examples: Zappos.com returns 21% of all traffice for keyword "shoes," while Nike only accounts for 1% of traffic from that keyword. (From Feb. 2006) Nike's site is all flash, so Google sees a blank page here and there, and you can hardly find the word "shoes."

Question: Are meta tags irrelevant? Mostly, with a couple of exceptions--title and description.
*The title tag is crucial--every page needs a unique title with relevant keywords
*Keep it short, attractive, enticing
*Title descriptive of content
*URL descriptive
*Consider your domain name (Vanessa's is "vanessafoxnude," and half her traffic comes from searches for the word "nude!")

Questions: What is the relevance of description tags, i.e. Technorati? A: Not much in search engines, per se.
How important is "no follow?" When you link out to other sites--"rel" added to link so that the link doesn't "feed" the search engine? A: It depends a lot on your intended use of the page, whether it's revenue-driven, if you're linking to an ad, etc.

Meta description tag--describe your pages YOUR way, not the search engine's way
*sell your site, but don't mislead
*incorporate target term
*at least 200-250 characters in length
*each page gets unique meta tag
*use your blogging software

Question: Does cross-posting harm your search stats? Answer: Not really, you just get duplicate results, so the engine will only choose one as "most authoritative." If one source is more important for your purposes, block the other one.

Question: Googling Vanessa's name returns a specifically desired post in the #1 spot...how did she accomplish that? Answer: Not sure, she didn't do any special coding--probably number of links.

Questions continued, but I had to relocate to live-blog the next session. This was great!

15 comments:

  1. This is just the sort of info I need. So when you get home, will you 'splain some of it to me? :)

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  2. No 'splainin'. This went by at breakneck speed, and used a lot of technical jargon that I didn't even understand. The saving grace is that both speakers are posting "technical support" posts later!

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  3. Thanks for informative, not egotistical, posts. Good stuff, but actually, most of it known. Hope there's more. Thanks for reporting...a great job on you part.

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  4. Thanks for the write up! I agree we had to go super fast. I wrote up some posts that hopefully explain things a bit more. And please post any questions you have in my blog and I'll do my best to answer them.
    http://www.vanessafoxnude.com/2007/07/29/the-power-of-search-driving-traffic-to-your-blog-a-blogher-recap/

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