Blogging Tip – Know What People Are Looking For With Search Meter

One of the big tips that so-called “Blogging Gurus” are fond of giving is that you should write posts that address what your readers are looking for.  What they seldom, if ever, address is just how exactly it is that you’re supposed to know what people are looking for on your blog.

It used to be that comments that people leave on your posts was a good way to get an idea of what people are interested in but these days comment spam is rampant, more comments are worth only the time it takes to delete them because more often than not it’s just used as an excuse to get a link to their site.

One good way is to pay attention to your site statistics and keep track of which posts get the most views.  The more people read something (especially if they leave real comments), the more you can consider the topic of that post to be something that you should consider writing more about.

I have found however that there’s one really excellent way to know what visitors to your blog are looking for.  It’s a WordPress plugin called “Search Meter“.

This little gem sits there quietly in the background and keeps track of what terms people use when they use your blog’s search function.

Not only does it put a widget on your dashboard that gives a quick listing of “Searches in the Last 7 Days”, it can also give you a list of the searches people have done in the last 30 days.

In both cases it shows how many times each keyword was used and how many results were found that match.

However I think that one of the absolute best features is the “Unsuccessful search summary”.

This is a list of searches that people have done on your blog that had zero results.  If you think about it, this is a gold mine of things to write about.  If you look at unsuccessful searches and find that the term “blue widgets” was used 83 times with zero results then you might be well advised to write something about blue widgets.

It’s a great way to find out not only what people are interested in but also what they are looking for and not finding.

It’s not an ultimate solution but it does give you a bit of valuable insight and can be a very useful tool in your blog.

Search Meter can be found here http://thunderguy.com/semicolon/wordpress/search-meter-wordpress-plugin/

Blogging Tip – Regular Posting

In spite of what you might think based on looking at the scarcity of new content posted on this blog I’ve known about this rule for a very long time.  In fact, it’s one of the first ones that I learned so many years ago when I started blogging.

Writing new posts on a regular basis is important.  When search engine spiders crawl your site and discover new content on a regular basis this is good.  It lets them (the search engines) know that your site isn’t a static thing that lies forgotten.

Another thing about regular new posts is that it’s extremely important to readers.  You know, that most important thing about a blog, the people you want to reach with your content?  If they stop seeing new content appear then sooner or later they’re going to stop looking.

Now it’s obvious that I’ve been guilty of ignoring that rule on this blog for way too long.  This is why I’m going to start making a point of writing *something* new on this blog every week.  It won’t necessarily always be about blogging or SEO but that’s ok, I stated from the very start that this blog would be about many different things.

As of today, there will be a new post on this blog each and every Thursday.  No doubt some of them will introduce new categories as I like to be free to write about whatever is on my mind at the time.

Now if this were a blog that is intended specifically to cover just Blogging and SEO topics then it would be important that every post be about those topics however while it is true that there is practically no end of things to write about those topics, that’s not always the thing that I’m going to be able to write about.  Sometimes other things are far more forward in my mind and that means I’ll be writing about those things instead.

Yeah, I know, that makes me a bit A.D.D. doesn’t it?  That’s ok, variety is the spice of life isn’t it?  (Or was that Garlic?)

Edit: While I am committing to a post every Thursday from here out, that should not be taken to mean that I’ll only be posting on Thursdays.  If I think of something I want to write about and have the time, there will be additional posts between Thursdays.  This is one of those things that I feel I shouldn’t have to say but will regret it if I don’t.  Sometimes people take the internet too literally.

Solution To Youtube’s Copyright Problem

YouTube has a problem.  Their Content-ID system makes it possible for practically anyone to claim copyrighted material and earn money by having advertising run on the claimed videos.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly that those who own the rights to content have the right to protect those rights.  They’ve got every right in the world to make claims on YouTube videos that use their content without permission.

There are a lot of people, myself included, who make videos that use only royalty free creative commons licensed music.  Yet the music in these videos is all too frequently claimed by organizations that do not own the rights to that music.

This has a particularly bad effect on YouTube partners.  People who spend a lot of time making videos and fully expect to be able to monetize them.  These people make it a point to only use music that they have rights to use.

Part of the problem is that the Content-ID system is flawed.  There are entirely too many false positives.  Music, video segments, and sometimes sound effects or background noise, are identified as being some copyrighted content.

Another part of the problem is that virtually anyone can arrange to have music and video content automatically claimed even though they do not own the rights to it.  This represents a loss of income to YouTube partners like myself because when a copyright claim is made on a video the partner cannot monetize it until that claim is successfully disputed.

This is particularly bad because for most videos, 90% or more of the views that it will ever have normally happen within 48 hours of it being uploaded.  Being able to monetize it a few days or even as much as 30 days later means the partner has lost whatever money they would have earned in that time.

YouTube needs to do two things.

1.  Content-ID needs to become much more accurate than it is now.  False positives need to become exceedingly rare.

2.  Before anyone is permitted to make copyright claims on something, they should be required to prove that they actually own the rights to do so.  Also, when somebody disputes the copyright claim, that dispute needs to be addressed quickly.  Ideally within one day or less.

In addition to that, when a claim is released the advertising earnings that accumulate between the time a claim is made and the claim being released needs to be given to the up-loader so that they don’t lose out on income that, had the system worked right in the first place, they would have been entitled to.

YouTube up-loaders need to do two things.

1.  DON’T USE COPYRIGHTED CONTENT! Make absolutely certain that you have rights to use whatever video and music content that is in your video.  This must include the right to use it for commercial purposes.  The royalty free Creative Commons attribution 3.0 license is best.

2.  When a copyright claim appears on one of your videos and you are CERTAIN that you have the needed rights, DISPUTE THAT CLAIM!! Frequently this will mean including a statement like the following example.

I created this video and own all the rights to it.

The claimed content “bogus claim symphony” is NOT used in this video.
The music used is:
“Motivator” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/mp3-royaltyfree/Motivator.mp3
license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Don’t take bogus copyright claims lying down.  Dispute them.  If you keep track of what content you use and what license applies to it then filing a dispute will only take a minute or two.

Saving Ideas With Drafts

If you’re anything like me you get inspiration from all manner of things throughout the day that leave you thinking “I ought to write a blog post about that”.  The thing is however that often when I sit down to actually DO the writing I was thinking about earlier I find that I’m stuck.

Frequently it’s because I don’t remember the website where I saw something that inspired me or the exact bit of text that I wanted to talk about (even if I don’t quote it).

Fortunately there’s something in WordPress blogs that can help.  If you log into your dashboard and click “Settings” and then “writing”, you’ll find a section of that page that talks about “Press This”.  It’s a “bookmarklet” that you can click and drag onto your bookmarks.

To use it, when you find something on a web page that you want to refer to in a blog post, Just highlight the part of the text you’re interested in and click your “Press This” bookmarklet.

It will copy the stuff you highlighted and a popup will appear with it pasted into a edit post form.  It will include a link to the page you copied it from and the post title will be set to the title of the page in question.  From there you can jot down a few quick notes and then hit “Save Draft”.

This will save that post as a draft that you can go back to later when you’ve time to flesh it out into a full post.

The way I do it is to open the draft in one tab and then in a second tab, write the new post.  Once I’m done and the new post is published, I’ll then go back to the draft tab and click “Move to trash” because it’s not needed any more.

Granted, this only works for when you’re online, you’ll still be well advised to keep a pen & paper handy for saving ideas that happen when you’re away from the computer (or use some smartphone app).

I was reminded of this trick only recently when I was wanting to save something I wanted to write about and make sure it would be in a place I’d find it.  Doing this puts it in the best place… right on the blog I’m going to write it in.

This trick can be especially handy if you connect to your blog from more than one computer.

The End Of A Long Hiatus

Yeah, I know, It’s been over a year since I last took the time to sit down and write something here.  There are a lot of reasons why this is however I’m not going to go into them because I doubt that anyone really wants to know all those oh so gory details.  Suffice it to say that I’ve been busy with a number of things that had to take priority.

Oh I suppose that I could have taken a few minutes here and there to write something however it wouldn’t have been very good or focused because my mind was on other things.

You see, When I started this blog project, I decided that this blog would stand on it’s content and only on it’s content.  I would not use it for writing the kind of inane nonsense posts that exist only to serve as a poor excuse to include a link that I’ve been paid to place.  I’ve written thousands of such posts on other blogs and I don’t think I actually like any of them.  Few, if any, of them have any real meaningful content.

It’s true that I wanted this blog to generate an income but that was never intended to be it’s primary focus.  The purpose of this blog is to be a place where I write actual real content, be it about blogging, SEO, my opinions about whatever topic interests me at the moment and so on.

Since I have managed to write myself into the subject of “paid blogging” and the paid links that it is inevitably all about, I’ll say something about it.

DON’T

Seriously.  Don’t get sucked into it.  I once let myself believe it was the way to go and while I made a little money from it, I also dragged several otherwise good blogs down into the mud where they now get less than 50 page views per month and almost no advertising clicks.

There are plenty of companies that will pay a blogger anywhere from fifty cents to five or even ten dollars to write posts that exist specifically for the purpose of including a link to an advertiser’s web site.

They do this to generate traffic to their sites and to gain better rankings in the search engines.  For most blogs participating in this kind of work, they’re only looking for links that search engine spiders will follow back to their sites and improve rankings.  This is because most blogs, unless they actually get several tens of thousands of views per month, simply cannot generate enough traffic to be worth spending money on.  They will however be more than happy to spend five bucks on a link that gets included in a post.

However while five bucks here and there is welcome (I know *I* welcome it quite a bit), the end result is that sooner or later (usually sooner) the search engines, Google in particular, will notice the trend of links and before you realize it your blog is penalized.

Suddenly your blog loses ranking in search which means that you’ll get less and less traffic from search engines.  This is when you discover that people using search engines to look for content about the topic you write about were a major portion of the traffic coming to your blog.  It’s also the lion’s share of the people that end up clicking on your advertisements.

Your page rank drops to zero which means that fewer sites will be at all interested in linking to you because in spite of the fact that pagerank is not nearly as important as some would have you believe even these days, many still use it as a measure of whether a site is worth linking to.

Instead of making the mistake that I made and going down the road of paid links, concentrate instead on writing the best content you can.  Be informative, be entertaining, and visitors and advertising clicks will take care of themselves.

If I had done this from the beginning then those blogs would now be generating a decent income, at least $300 to $400 per month and I would not have the financial problems that I do now.

Learn from my mistake.  Don’t do this to yourself and your blogs.

I’m Looking Forward To The Next Penguin Update

Over the course of the last month there has been a lot of talk in SEO circles about changes that Google has made to their algorithms lately. Changes that first started having a major impact with the Panda update.

Those changes became more of a factor when the first update to Panda was implemented some time later. Websites that had previously ranked high both in terms of toolbar pagerank and their position in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) suddenly didn’t rank nearly so well. In fact, many of them dropped to the lowest depths of ranking and were suddenly absent from SERPs.

Things began to settle down after a while as the usual thing happened. SEO experts figured out how the changes work (well mostly, Google holds their system a closely guarded secret and nobody else *really* knows exactly how it works) and made changes to the way they did things.

A lot of SEO’s even managed to figure out ways that would help a site recover from the losses inflicted by Panda. Things stayed like this for a while and people started to relax again.

Then Penguin was implemented.

The changes that came with Penguin were even more severe, causing even greater changes in the SERPs for a larger number of websites. Webmasters and SEO’s were suddenly in a panic. A lot of the work that they had spent so much time doing was suddenly being recognized by Google’s algorithm as web spam and the offending pages were losing both toolbar pagerank and SERPs positions.

Once again it took only a few weeks for SEO experts to figure out changes to make in the way they do things and what they advise people to do in order to counter the effects of those losses.

More recently SEO circles have been buzzing like mad. Some are quoting statements by Google’s Matt Cutts about an upcoming update to Penguin. He’s been quoted as saying “You don’t want the next Penguin update”. I would include a link to an example here but I’ve misplaced my notes, just Google that quote and you’ll find plenty of them.

Then about a week and a half ago I read an article on SEO by the Sea that discussed the details of one of Google’s recent patents. It is, to say the least, an interesting read.

So why am I looking forward to the next Penguin update when many SEO’s and most webmasters are practically crapping their pants over it?

Because these updates have done me nothing but good.

I have several websites and blogs. They have all been pagerank zero and at the bottom of the SERPs for most of the time since the great “Google Slap” in the fall of 2007. When Panda was implemented that started to change and when Penguin appeared things changed even more.

How do things stand now?

Out of five blogs and two websites, all of which were pagerank zero for years, four blogs are now showing pagerank 1, the two websites are now pagerank 2 for the first time since the “slap”.

I have to say here that this blog is not included in those results because it’s actually fairly new and has never had pagerank or decent SERPs position before. It’s going to change for the better though, I am certain of that.

When I read that article about the Google patent and what it implies for SEO and then read the patent itself I started seeing that my blogs and websites stand to benefit considerably from the next Penguin update.

Why?

Because I don’t engage in webspam. I don’t use keyword stuffing, I try hard not to link to “bad neighborhoods” or questionable sites and if I’m not sure or just don’t have time to check them then I use rel=”nofollow” on the link to disavow myself from whatever might be on the other end that I don’t know about.

I don’t go building dozens or hundreds or thousands of links per day, week, month, whatever. I do occasionally work on building links but for the most part I don’t have time to devote to that, therefore I rely on links that are created by people who read my content and like it enough to link to it.

The one single thing I concentrate on the most is in creating good content. When I write I am usually doing one of two basic things.

1. Trying to be informative in articles such as this one or in reviews or articles expressing my opinion of something or someone.

2. Articles in which I am trying to be entertaining. I write short stories of various flavors and I’ve been told by some that I’m pretty good. I also make videos that I upload to Youtube and then embed in blog posts. Since the videos themselves cover a variety of genres then the posts in which they are embedded also cover some variety.

I do vary how I embed the posts. Most often I’ll just include a short blurb of text about the video and then embed it. Other times I’ll have somewhat more to say about it before I place the embed code.

The only really consistent thing I do about link building is that I usually tweet my blog posts, occasionally including a link to them on Facebook.

Other than that I might use a link to a post in a comment on another blog but that’s rare, I don’t often have time to read other blogs, never mind doing so for the express purpose of building links. If I comment at all it’s because I actually have something to say. The link part of it, nofollow or not, is just a bit of extra something.

A new update to Penguin? Bring it on!!

When it hits I’m going to sit back and watch the web spammers tumble like a house of cards while my sites, built on a solid foundation of actual real content, stand rock solid and rise above the heights the web spammers once commanded.

This thing is going to be nothing but win for me.

Forget About Keyword Research

For years now, SEO experts have been advising people about the many things that you can do to improve your position in the search engine result pages.  They have and still do preach the doctrine of incoming links, of using H1, H2, Etc. tags.  They encourage people to use images with keywords in the alt tags, page titles, blog post titles, urls, filenames, image names, in the anchor text of links and of course, in the text of your web page or blog post.

There have been countless articles and blog posts written about the subject of keyword research, the fine art of finding out which keywords are the best ones to focus on to be seen by search engines as more relevant and thus score higher in the results pages.

There are dozens of tools you can use to find keywords related to any niche you happen to be working in.  Many of them are even good.

However I’m here today to tell you that the best thing you can do about keyword research is to forget about it.

That’s right, FORGET ABOUT KEYWORD RESEARCH!

You see, in today’s post panda, post penguin world things have changed.  Yes, it’s still valuable to do keyword research.  It can help you a lot however the recent changes to the algorithms used by Google (and other search engines, Google isn’t *quite* the only game in town, just mostly) mean that when you’re doing SEO on your sites and articles you have to be careful not to go too far.

What am I talking about?

“Over Optimization”.  A page that has been optimized to the n’th degree is no longer something you should strive for.  Since the Panda and Penguin updates one of the signals that Google is using in their effort to spot and devalue webspam is overly optimized pages.  It’s a sign that more effort was put into making the site look good to search engines than in making the site useful to human visitors.

Instead of spending so much time and money on SEO and keyword research it is much more important to make sure that your site provides something that real human visitors are looking for.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; “focus first on the people who come to your site and exactly what it is they’re looking for.  Give them that and the SEO will pretty much take care of itself.”

Yes, keyword research is still important.  Just remember that your customers, the human visitors to your site, the ones that are the reason it’s there, must come first.

SEO Is Not The Main Thing You Should Be Doing

I first started using the internet back in 1995 when the “World Wide Web” was still fairly new.  In 1997 I wrote my first extremely crude HTML page and so my first website was born.

In the years since then I spent a lot of time learning to write better HTML code which made my websites look better.  Though there was precious little in the way of traffic.  In those early days getting thirty or forty visitors to the page over the course of a week was cause for celebration.  It was around then that I first saw the term “Search Engine Optimization” commonly abbreviated SEO.

It didn’t take long to realize that this field held the promise of actually getting serious amounts of traffic to the websites that I had built for myself and my wife.  Note: Those websites were not commercial in nature so it wasn’t a matter of earning money.

I spent a lot of time combing search engines for clues about how to optimize websites to be search engine friendly and ways to increase the number of ways that search engines would index a website.

Back in those days a lot of people used “doorway pages” These were specially crafted web pages that focused on one particular keyword.  The keyword was used in the meta description and keyword elements and in pretty much every link on the page.  Images used that keyword in the alt tag.  Some even went so far as to name the image files with the keyword and variations of it.

Those pages were not built for people.  They were made specifically to give search engines yet another way to find your site.  Webmasters would spend hours generating huge lists of keywords related to a website and then use software to build a doorway page for each and every one of them, often building literally thousands of doorway pages.

In addition to this, the science (or art, depending on who you asked) of SEO also expanded to the actual website content.  Experts determined by experimentation just how many times a keyword should be used in a page and even how much text should be on the page.

Importance was given to various ways text and especially keywords were used.  Some were to be in bold type, some italicized, some underlined.  The main keyword should appear in the page title, meta keywords and description, in H1 and H2 tags, as well as bolded, italicized and so on.

While doing all of this you were told that you should use a certain “keyword density”.  Which meant that all the appearances of the keyword should be a set percentage of the number of words on the page.  Experts often disagreed on what was considered the right percentage but it was usually a good idea to shoot for about three to four percent.

In all of this more and more websites were written in ways that made them intended more for the search engines than for human visitors.  Pages would be written specifically for search engines to find and crawl.  Many webmasters would even go so far as to use “Cloaking”.  This meant that they had their website set up to give search engines one version of a page and human visitors would get a different one.

All of these tactics and more are referred to as “On Page” SEO.  They’re all about the various things that you can do on your own pages to make them more appealing to search engines.  “Off Page SEO” involves things you can do, mostly involving link building in one form or another.

Some tactics are considered a good idea, others not so good, and then there’s tactics (like cloaking for example) that Search engines have a special dislike for.

At some point somebody labeled these using something from old westerns.  You could always tell who the good guys were because they wore white hats.  The bad guys wore black hats.  Thus you have “Black Hat SEO” and “White Hat SEO”.

Then there’s people that didn’t quite fit into either category.  Often using some of both kinds of techniques but not ever going totally Black Hat.  Of course when you mix white and black, you get grey. (those weren’t in the old westerns of course).

Over the years I spent a lot of time learning SEO tactics of all flavors, trying them out and using things that seemed to work.  I once had a thousand doorway pages for a site.  Then I read about changes that Google made to their algorithms that made doorway pages suddenly a bad idea and those thousand pages got deleted.

I have finally come to the conclusion that people like Google’s Matt Cutts are absolutely right when they advise people that they should write their web pages and most importantly, the text content on those pages (be it a blog, a commercial site, or whatever) specifically for their human visitors.

Even years later, in today’s wake of the now infamous Panda and Penguin changes to Google’s algorithm, many people still seem to put a lot of emphasis on SEO.  Just today I saw that no less than six different people had written advice that you should put a lot of importance on SEO because good SEO is vital to a site being successful.

The thing is, while I agree that a certain amount of attention does need to be paid to doing SEO for your website or blog, it is NOT where you should put the lion’s share of your time and effort.

Instead you should focus more than anything else on producing content that gives visitors to your site something that they are looking for.  Solve a problem, answer a question, entertain, advise.  I believe that this is the best SEO you can possibly do.

When people go to a web page or blog they are looking for one of those things.  If you can give it to them then the chances of them coming back skyrocket.  It also increases the chance that not only will they come back, they’ll tell others about your site.  If they have a website or blog of their own, they might even link to your site from theirs.

I saw a statement somebody wrote recently that I can say is dead wrong.  They said that “content is not king”.  They’re wrong.  If the content of your site is something I’m looking for then great.  If it’s not then I am outta there just as fast as I can click the “close tab” button.

This post is an example of what I’m talking about.  I wrote it without even so much as the first thought of what keywords I should use, what should be the main keyword and so on.  I didn’t spend even so much as one minute tweaking it for SEO.

I wrote it with you the visitor in mind.  I hope to convince you that while SEO is important, you need to put that on the back burner and focus first on the people who come to your site and exactly what it is they’re looking for.  Give them that and the SEO will pretty much take care of itself.

Blog Layout Tip 3, Tags And Categories

When I first started blogging back in 2007 it was considered a good practice to use tags on your blog posts.  One would uses as many tags as possible (while keeping them relevant to the content of course).  The idea was that these tags provided that many more avenues by which readers or people using search engines could find your content.

The same strategy was also applied to categories.  You would add each post to as many relevant categories ad you felt comfortable with.  Three to six or more categories per post were common and the number of tags would often go even higher.

Then both the categories and tags would be listed in the sidebar which would of course, appear site-wide.

Things have changed over the years.  Today, given the Panda and Penguin updates as well as plain old concerns over duplicate content, these old tactics aren’t such a good idea anymore.

The main reason is the duplicate content issue.  Each tag and category added to a post creates an additional url path by which it can be found.  Using canonical urls helps by identifying which one is the actual permalink to the article itself however all those other paths that lead to it are still a problem.  Essentially you’re creating duplicates of your own content.

This is why when I started this blog I decided that I would not use tags at all.  No tags in posts cuts drastically the number of urls that lead to an individual post.  No tags also means there is no reason to take up space in my sidebar with displaying a tag cloud.

Another thing I decided is that while I would use categories to group related posts somewhat I would not use more than one category per post.  I simply decided that each category would be broad enough to cover a wide range of sub-topics.  This way I will also keep the number of categories to an absolute minimum.

Thirdly, in order to prevent search engines from seeing those categories as duplicate content, I decided that category links would all have rel=”nofollow” on them.

Search engines will still be able to spider all of my content but between the use of canonical urls and adding nofollow to categories I insure that I’m not inadvertently duplicating myself.  This also makes for what I believe is a cleaner sidebar.

A fourth thing is that I decided not to add a calendar widget.  Again this is because the archive links in the calendar provide yet another route to each post.  This eliminates more duplication and also frees up more sidebar space.

Blogging Security Tip – Changing Passwords

One of the plugins I use on my WordPress blogs is called “Google Analyticator”.  It Adds the necessary JavaScript code to enable Google’s Analytics.  It also adds a dashboard widget that shows you information about your traffic stats over the past 30 days.

Information such as the number of unique visits and page loads.  It also shows you the top five referring sites, the top five search queries used to find your blog in Google search and the top five pages loaded.

I logged in to one of these blogs this morning and found something interesting in that information.  The admin log in page for that blog was the number three most popular page.

Since my settings ignore MY visits it can only mean that somebody has been trying to log into that blog.  By definition that would be somebody who has no business doing so.

This brings me to the point of this post.

In spite of the fact that I use cryptographically “strong” passphrases I decided that this information meant that it was time to change it.  The new passphrase is now twice as long as the old one.

The point is that you should periodically change passwords / passphrases if only to make it as difficult as possible for those who would log in to your blog’s admin panel.  Once there they could do literally anything with it, including lock you out of your own blog.

When was the last time you changed your passphrase or password?  How long is it?  I recommend no less than twelve characters with a mix of letters, numbers and punctuation marks.  Don’t make it easy for ‘em.  NEVER use names, dates, places or any word you could find in a dictionary.