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How To Implement A Really Useful Blog for SEO Gains

Aug 17, 2007
We are repeatedly told that implementing a Blog (weB log) is an excellent way to steadily increase the depth of content on your site in an easy and efficient manner. We are also told that there are numerous benefits, because a Blog, if properly used, enables you to;

- Distribute new information to clients and prospective clients
- Efficiently increase site content by rapidly adding new material
- Provide "advertorial" material to other sites
- Increase links to your site as your Blog contents are disseminated across other sites on the 'net.
- Increase "deep link" count to internal pages e.g. www.yoursite.co.nz/your-log/archives/articles/Your_Tips
- Increase traffic as people find extracts from your Blog, and come looking for the source
- Increase your credibility as people find lots of useful, up to date information on your site

However, what is lacking is some hard information on "How To Implement A Really Useful Blog" for SEO Gains." So, here's some traction to help you up the hill...

Utilising a Blog as a business enhancement tool is far superior to a newsletter. There is minimal trouble to get a blog up and running, but make sure you host it on YOUR site. You have the choice of establishing a "hosted' blog on www.Wordpress.org and other Blog software services, but the greatest benefits will be accrued if you get it up and running at www.yoursite.co.nz/your-blog/

In our case, we've used Wordpress (www.Wordpress.org ) an Open Source application that not only has all the required "bells and whistles" but is easy to install, set up, and manage. It has an excellent "web browser" interface that means you can add new material from your desk, or from home. Hell, you can even configure it to accept and post incoming emails from yourself!

There are some basic system requirements - your (Apache) server must support PHP, and MySQL databases. These days, that's level of technology is available on most "basic" level hosting packages.

If you've got cpanel hosting with Fantastico, you can do the Wordpress installation in a few minutes because the installation scripts are probably pre-installed already for you! If not, it might take a little longer, but the Wordpress guys take pride in the "5 minute install" concept. It is really easy - even if you've got to download the application, unzip it, upload it to your site into it's own directory, add a new MySQL database, add a user, start the configuration file and insert the database / user /password details into the configuration file, it should be up and running inside 30 minutes. Be a good idea to read through the "Read Me " file before you start... the instructions are clear, concise, and in a logical and coherent order! Pity all documentation was not like that! :-)

With Wordpress, there are a handful of system settings to consider once you've got your blog operational. Of these, I'd say the three most important are as follows;

1: Options / Writing / Update Services

The setting for the automatic update services, where blog search engines, directories and news feed services are "pinged" each time you add new content. By default, Wordpress includes a few services, some of which will in turn update other services. However, you will probably want the widest coverage possible, and to extend that list to include all known services! Takes a little longer to process a new posting, but means you get the best overall result... and that's what its all about! There is a list of possibilities available at http://www.comauth.co.nz/ping-page.htm Copy and paste the ones you want to use into the "Update Services" panel at bottom of your "/wp-admin/options-writing.php" page and choose Update Settings to add them permanently.

2: Options / Permalinks

As they put it; "By default WordPress uses web URL's which have question marks and lots of numbers in them, however WordPress offers you the ability to create a custom URL structure for your permalinks and archives. This can improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links."

From an SEO point of view, we've chosen the numeric options so that our URL's not only look sensible, but the Search Engines will be also be able to navigate them. However, getting this arcane bit of trickery to work requires you to implement the supplied "mod_rewrite" in your .htaccess file... if you are developing a glazed look about now, just bear with me a little longer! :-)

The .htaccess file is a dangerous area to be playing in, as a mistake in this file can render your site inaccessible - until the Host Company's support guy sorts it out for you - usually by renaming it! How do I know so much about this shit? Well, it happened to ME! :-)

You should have installed your blog into its own directory, which minimises the potential problems substantially! Wordpress provides the correct "mod_rewrite" code in;

www.yoursite.co.nz/yourblog/wp-admin/options-permalink.php - its nasty looking stuff, as you can see below;

[IfModule mod_rewrite.c]
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /yourblog/
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /yourblog/index.php [L]

So, choose the Numeric Option
1) Copy it into a text file - e.g. open Notepad, paste the code in.
2) Save it as htaccess.txt in your local copy of your site
3) Choose Update Settings in Wordpress Options / Permalinks
4) Use FTP to upload htaccess.txt into your BLOG directory - Please, NOT your root directory!
5) Using your FTP application, rename the htacces.txt file to .htaccess

Open your Blog, browse around it and (hopefully) not only will everything be working, but the URL's will now not have any of those dreadful &, ? or = thingy's embedded in them. If its not working... the Wordpress support forums offer rapid response times to such teething problems. :-)

3: Categories

From an SEO perspective, its important to develop a good Category Structure, because the category names are going to be embedded as "tags" in all your Blog posts, a little like the concept of the "keyword meta-tag" and this will help define and describe your content.

Now that you've got the basics sorted out, start populating your blog with some quality content. I recommend writing it in an HTML editor such as FrontPage) because you can the make sure it's spell-checked as you go. Once you've got it formatted the way you want, go to the Wordpress / Write / Write Page and paste it in. Add the Title, select your Category/s from the right menu, and click the "Save and Continue Editing" button. You will then have a preview of your article in the lower section of the page. Double-check the formatting, and when you are happy with it, choose "Publish."

Blog Search Engine's and Directories
Once you've got some content built up over a couple of months, you will then want to get serious about getting it distributed to blog search engines and directories... So, in a future article, we will outline how to go about this process.
About the Author
Ben Kemp, aka The SEO Guy (NZ) is a free-lance Search Engine Optimisation practitioner and "road warrior" who splits his time between NZ & Thailand. He shares his experiences via The SEO Guys Blog
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