Image of a man casting a fishing net symbolizing search engine optimisation
Casting a wide net. Some rights reserved by NeeZhom Photomalaya

Why search engine optimisation is important for your blog

I love getting comments on my blog posts, don’t you? I think most bloggers do. The measure and quality of your comments are a pretty good sign that your writing is engaging – and we all want to be engaging, right? Search engine optimisation can help!

Intelligent, relevant, and constructive comments provoke more intelligent, relevant, and constructive comments, which generate more ideas for thought-provoking blog posts, which generate even more great comments! It’s a virtuous cycle! Hurrah!

Getting more comments, however, depends somewhat on getting traffic to visit your blog. There are many ways to get more traffic to your blog, in this series of posts however, I’ll describe how to optimise your posts so that people using search engines might find them more easily. All  the information I present here will be relevant to your own blog, but I’ll be using examples from iRez to illustrate my points.

First, I’ll give you a very brief overview of the current impact that search is having on iRez. Next, I’ll share how we can use this information to better optimise your blog posts for search engines like Google.

How search works

To understand search engine optimisation, you need to first understand how search works. This video succinctly illustrates how search engines work. And no, Matt is not showing you how big the fish he caught was… (extra points awarded for anyone who can tell me how fast a cheetah runs though)

Matt takes just over 3 minutes to explain how Google works. His points are important to understand the data I’m about to share and what I’m suggesting you do in Part 2. So, if you were a naughty little blogger and skipped it just to continue reading my invigorating prose, then go back and press that play button… don’t worry, I’ll wait.

How many visitors does iRez get from search now?

A pie chart showing Traffic sources for iRez up to 01-11-2012 - clearly indicating a case for search engine optimisation

Traffic sources for iRez for October 2012

So the short answer is, not many. And, definitely less than it could be getting. The chart to the right shows the proportion of search visits to iRez, compared to non-search sources like referral traffic (people linking in from other websites), direct traffic (people typing in the domain name or using a bookmark), and campaigns (people visiting from paid links). A blog of this nature, with so much quality content that should have interest to so many, should really be getting a lot more search traffic relative to the other sources. There is therefore, a real need for search optimisation here.

If you want to get statistics like this your own blog you might find it quite tricky, because you’ll need an analytics package, like Google Analytics. And for that, you’ll need the self-hosted version of WordPress. WordPress Stats, however, does offer some limited information about this too.

The importance of keywords in search engine optimisation

Remember in the video when Matt is trying to figure out how fast a cheetah can run and types in his search: “cheetah running speed”? That’s a really important part!

It’s important because Google uses those keywords to sift through the billion pages in its index to serve up the most relevant pages for those keywords to people conducting searches. The same thing might happen if someone types in “second life” or “virtual worlds”. I’d hope that iRez has a chance of appearing in those results! But it won’t, unless Google decides that your blog post has something to do with “second life” or “virtual worlds”.

So what does Google think iRez is about?

Let’s take a look:

A chart showing Top 10 Keywords for iRez up to 01-11-2012 showing the effects of a lack of search engine optimisation

Top 10 Keywords for iRez up for October 2012

Uh… that’s pretty tragic to be honest. I mean, nothing against Norman Cousins as I’m sure he’s a very nice fellow, but honestly, that’s not what iRez is about! At least they got the “gamification”, “hipihi” and “osgrid” stuff in there. But where’s “Second Life”? Where’s “Virtual Worlds”? Where’s “Virtual Reality”? Where’s “Virtual Identity”?

I got this information from Google Webmaster Tools. Again, you’ll need to own your domain and likely run a self-hosted version of WordPress to get analytics like these. The Query is what a searcher typed into the search engine. Impressions are the number of times pages from your site appeared in search results. Average top positions means the average top position of your site on the search results page for that query.

What keywords should iRez be targeting with search engine optimisation?

Before we start discussing keyword optimisation, let’s be clear: we’re writing for people, not for search engines. In the end, people use search engines, and people tend to be smart. Search engines spiders, however, are pretty dumb little programs, so we’ve got to spoon feed them sometimes.

When you consider all the keywords that iRez should actually be ranking for, the list might look a bit like this:

A chart showing the Top 20 keywords that I just thought of for iRez, by global search volume. These keywords could be used in search engine optimisation

The Top 20 keywords that I just thought of for iRez, by global search volume

I made this list using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, which is available to everyone. The tool gave me 100 additional keyword ideas to start a list from – which I’ll save as a Google Spreadsheet for you to use in my next post (so you’d better read it!) Importantly, the number of searches in this list should not be taken literally. Rather, they should be taken relatively. For example, people search for “minecraft” for 100,000 more often than they search for “hipihi”

Wow! 101,000,000 global searches for “minecraft”! 5,000,000 searches for “Second Life”! 550,000 global searches for “Virtual Worlds”! Surely we should be getting a slice of that those pies?

Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking: if we just add the word “minecraft” to every post, we’ll be rich! Or, famous at least. Well, Google spiders are dumb, but not that dumb. First, if the words you focus your post around are irrelevant to the subject of your post (keyword stuffing), you may get caught out by Google spam filters. But mainly, you’ll have very high bounce rates (the number of people visiting your post and bouncing off it immediately) because it has nothing to do with what you promised. Again, we’re writing for people, not search engines.

In my next post about Search Engine Optimisation, I’ll share the top things you need to remember to optimise your post using the information we’ve discovered here. And if that wasn’t cool enough, I’m going to be using an actual iRez post as an example! If you have anything to add, just leave me a comment (cause remember, I love comments!)

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GuestYordie Sands

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Second Life avatar, entrepreneur, club owner, and social media socialiser. I photograph, film and write about the virtual experience: sex and relationships, virtual community, music, art and Second Life.
  • http://yordiesands.blogspot.com/ Yordie Sands

    Excellent post Becky! Each time I learn something new about SEO, I feel so much dumber than I was before.

    I still can’t fathom how iRez ends up with such a screwy batch of keywords. How can iRez not showup with “Second Life”? I wonder if they filter out our usage of the word? Maybe the engines are seeing SL as “second life” and therefore not a keyword at all. Maybe the engines see iRez as dealing with different subject matter?

    You mention Google Adwords; maybe it would help categorize iRez it there were a bunch of ad keywords?

    My blog has a doozie search term, according to Alexa, “i just notest this morning”. Nowhere in my blog is the word “Notest”, go figure.

    You’ve stimulated my interest bigtime!

    • Canary Beck

      Thank Yordie. It can be a bit of a dry subject, and many might even feel that SEO flies in the face of creativity, but it’s an important part of the work involved in being a blogger that wants to get a message out into the world.

      Vanessa put it very well the other day: Writing a post is like writing a good letter, SEO is like putting that letter into an envelope, addressing it, and putting a stamp on it, then walking to the post office and posting it. I like that, because it rings true. Writing is half the work, getting that message out into the world is the other half.

      • http://yordiesands.blogspot.com/ Yordie Sands

        Luv the analogy… and if you don’t do your SEO, the letter sits unread. I know a lot of people struggle with the notion of self-promotion (i sure did) but once you break through that it becomes almost like a game. I think my photos became so widespread is because I stumbled into some Google bug that gave them additional attention.

    • Canary Beck

      One of the keywords that Google Webmaster Tools is bringing up is
      “life”. I can only imagine that it’s taking that from all of the
      instances of “Second Life” on the site, but is for some reason dropping
      off the “Second”, which clearly reduces the specificity massively. I’m
      not sure how we’d get around that at the moment, but I might look into
      it.

      Webmaster Tools provides another list, called Content Keywords. The
      Content Keywords page lists the most significant keywords and their
      variants Google found when crawling your site. The top 20 content
      keywords for iRez are (in order of significance):

      1. life (2 variants)

      2. art (4 variants)

      3. news (3 variants)

      4. virtual (2 variants)

      5. blaylock (3 variants)

      6. posts (5 variants)

      7. world (5 variants)

      8. vaneeesa (2 variants)

      9. reality (2 variants)

      10. identity (2 variants)

      11. yordie (3 variants)

      12. sands (3 variants)

      13. avatar (3 variants)

      14. photo (3 variants)

      15. culture (3 variants)

      16. gamification (5 variants)

      17. burn2

      18. performance (3 variants)

      19. sunday (3 variants)

      20. blog (7 variants)

      As you can see, “life” is at the top. When I looked further to see a
      smapling of the pages on which this term appears, I get this:

      Google found the keyword life and its variants on these top pages:

      Top URLs

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/2012/07/31/my-second-life-romance-part-2/

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/2012/07/22/vb39-pink-blue/

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/2012/08/22/from-digital-resident-to-digital-citizen-in-second-life/

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/category/virtual-worlds/second-life/

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/2012/08/13/my-second-life-romance-part-3/

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/2012/08/22/from-digital-residency-to-digital-citizenship/comment-page-1/

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/sitemap/

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/2012/09/21/their-world-their-imagination-the-second-life-of-linden-labs/

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/2012/08/17/with-this-ring-exploring-second-life-weddings/

      http://vaneeesa.wpengine.com/portfolio/

      Clearly, adding the word “Second Life” to the page titles is working,
      if not getting the most accurate results. Perhaps it’s a matter of time
      and critical mass?

      In regards to Google Adwords, there’s no evidence to suggest that
      having a paid search campaign would assist in the organic spidering of
      the site sponsoring the campaign. In fact, Google strongly asserts the
      opposite, that paid search does not influence how well the site is
      ranked organically in any way. I know that having paid search tends to
      improve the click-through on organic (unpaid) links showing up in search
      results, but that’s a whole other issue.

      • http://yordiesands.blogspot.com/ Yordie Sands

        I think “blaylock” is a non-traditional spelling (usually, “blalock”) and that adds to it as a key word. And perhaps the reason my name is a keyword is because of the connection with all my photos (i’ll bet all the photo tagging I do has helped). I can’t explain why “sands” is one though, or “sunday”. These are fascinating results.

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