Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SEO for Mommy Bloggers

Laura Pick as a little girl
At last week's Blogging for Business conference, Shannon Johnson of the What About Mom blog mentioned that someone should write a post about search engine optimization (SEO) for mommy bloggers. I figured for sure such a post much already exist, but when a Google search on "SEO for mommy bloggers" came up empty, I decided to fill the void. I mean, there's just a chance this might actually be useful, and Shannon's pretty cool even if she doesn't drink beer.

So where should you start? Other posts on blog SEO might suggest envisioning a sales funnel or Pareto chart to help focus on the most important items first, but c'mon, you're moms! Let's get relevant—approach SEO like meal planning. Start with the entree, then a carb (e.g. potatoes, rice, pasta), then a veggie, then the surrounding but important stuff: ketchup, butter, napkins, a mop bucket (if you have a two-year-old boy), a power washer (if you have two-year-old twin boys), etc.

Blog name: this is the one piece of text that will ALWAYS be with you, so choose it carefully. Actually, this has almost nothing to do with SEO and everything to do with creativity. And it's pretty clear from Guy Kawasaki's ultimate mommy blog list (a bit dated now, but still interesting) that when it comes to blog naming, moms are way more creative than most marketers.

Blog subhead: this is the visible, short paragraph of text that accompanies your title. Not every blog has one, though I would highly recommend it. The blog subhead helps establish the personality of your blog. For example, my blog subhead includes the text "B2B lead generation and marketing, Web 2.0 social media, business blogging tools, micromarkets, interactive PR, and web marketing tools and resources." That's rambling and unfocused—so it matches my blog perfectly.

What personality do you want your blog to have? Are you the car seat mom, the gourmet-meal-in-10-minutes mom, the professional photographer mom, the green-and-vegan mom, or the Uzi-toting-Gatorade-swilling-Toyota-Tundra-driving mom? (That last one would likely have little SEO competition.) Just don't be the overworked mom, the sleepless mom or the good-grief-why-am-I-doing-laundry-while-he's-watching-football-AGAIN mom, as all of those are redundant and will never help you stand out.

Meta tags—title and description. These are two tags that appear in your template code. I'm sure you know this, but you can see what's in these tags on your blog or any other website by clicking on "Source" in the "View" menu on your browser. You'll see something like this:




"Title" can be longer and more descriptive than your actual blog title, and "description" should be in the form of a complete sentence that includes keywords which reflect the personality of your blog. Some people will tell you that the "description" tag has no effect on SEO. There is a chance that those people are smarter than me, so ignore them.

As an example, the "title" from the Jenandtonic blog is:



Jen doesn't use a "description" tag (she might add one if you tell her to, but she's not going to listen to me), but does use another very interesting meta tag, the "mommyblog" tag. This doesn't seem to have any effect on SEO as Google can't even find this, but it does make Jen's source code very interesting, including some words I don't normally include in my blog:




I'm not sure exactly how to modify these tags in WordPress or TypePad, but in Blogger, go to "Manage...Template" then click "Edit HTML" and you can add these tags just below the tag.

Post title: This is a very important phrase in SEO. Use titles that there is at least a chance people might search on. For example, the title of this post, "SEO for Mommy Bloggers" is much more likely to be searched than something like "Ideas for how women who are moms and blog can possibly get more optimal position when searched." (Actually, I haven't done the quantitative research on both of those terms, so I'm going out on limb a bit here, but I'm guessing that the first title will do better in search.)

Post content: Use key phrases SEO for Mommy Bloggers throughout the text of your SEO for Mommy Bloggers post so that important phrases SEO for Mommy Bloggers stand out more prominently to the SEO for Mommy Bloggers search engines.

Tags: Tags are key phrases you can add to posts, again, to help search engines recognize which terms in your content are important. I recommend using a tool like Keotag to automatically generate tags for blog tracking services like IceRocket and Technorati.

Whew, that's it for the "on-blog" SEO (the main course). But there are also several tactics to improve your search position that are external to your blog (the condiments and dessert, so to speak; by the way, can anything that doesn't contain chocolate really qualify as a dessert?).

Linking to/from other bloggers: The single most important bit of external SEO you can do is developing relationships and cross-links with other bloggers. Every blog that links back to yours gives you more credibility and authority in the eyes of the search engines. So, for example, if I link to Dooce, maybe Heather Armstrong will notice and link back to me. Then again, maybe she'll just think I'm weird.

Plus, linking to other bloggers is a great way to make new contacts, and not linking to anyone else is one of the seven deadly sins of blogging.

Social bookmarking: Make sure your posts get tagged on social bookmarking sites like Digg, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Sphinn, Mixx and Searchles from time to time. Exposure for your blog on Web 2.0 sites makes you smart, hip, and 10 years younger. Ideally, your readers would do this for you (especially if your blog includes convenient social bookmarking buttons—see below), but if you have to do it yourself (doesn't it seem like YOU are the one who ALWAYS has to take care of EVERYTHING??!!) then that's okay.

Social bookmarking buttons: These are cute little buttons you can add to your posts to help people tag and promote your content. You can do this the hard way, by adding buttons one at a time using resources from this List of Social Bookmarking Buttons & Widgets for Your Web Sites & Blogs (yeah, and you can make your own soap and sew all of your kids' clothes too), or just use ShareThis, which is much easier.

RSS feed: Without getting into the technology behind this (which, like the technology behind electronic ignition systems, is something you are PERFECTLY CAPABLE of understanding but most likely just don't care to), RSS is just an easy way to share your content across other sites, and an easy way for users to access it using an RSS reader or personalized start page.

It's easy to create a feed for your blog using Feedburner. Then you can distribute your content far and wide by submitting your feed to various RSS and blog directories.

How was dinner? Finally, after all of this work, you'll probably want to know how you did. For an objective and detailed (and free!) evaluation, go to WebSiteGrader and follow the simple instructions.

Other links: Here are a couple of less mom-friendly but more advanced posts on SEO for blogs:

Twelve SEO Mistakes Most Bloggers Make from Stephan Spencer (except ignore what he writes about nofollow tags; nofollow tags are to HTML code what lead is to children's' toys—poisonous and completely unnecessary. I'm on a crusade to stamp out nofollow tags.)

Tips for Optimizing Blogs and Feeds from Ross Dunn

Thanks for reading my second post ever that references mommy bloggers.

And as for the photo at the top; yes, that's my mom (the little girl on the far right). She's still going strong, turning 88 next month.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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