Monthly Archives: May 2012

Titles and keywords

It has become obvious to me that I need to write an article about the importance of keywords in blog post titles. Two day ago I elaborated about the general use of key words in blog posts. While doing that I came across the fact that keywords in the title of your blog post have an important function.

Well guess what! After that bit of information I have changed the title of that particular article three times while it was already published. It even woke me up in the middle of the night. The final title is ‘Keywords, SEO and competence’ because that is what the article is about.

The importance of blog post titles

There are a couple of rules when it comes to post titles. I have touched some basics  in a previous blog post, but there is lot more to it. I mentioned the relevance of the title to the article, the use of keywords in your title and its length. Pretty straightforward stuff. This time I like to explore the issue a little further and look into the importance of your title when it comes to search engines. In other words what are the best title and keywords to use in order to be found?

If you write about a certain topic it seems logical to let the title reflect the content of your article – either literally or metaphorically. Even more so it is desirable to choose keywords for your post title that not only reflect your content but at the same time are terms that people put in search engines to find information. Anticipating what words your readers and followers use for their search and using those words in your title and blog post is crucial for your post to be ‘visible’ and consequently climb the rankings.

Keywords, anticipation and perception

This is not as easy as it sounds. We all perceive things in different ways and use different ways to describe experiences. That’s why languages can be so rich in their vocabulary. For any word you can find several others that describe in similar ways the issue you read or write about – let alone all the words that come into existence with the emergence of new trends and technologies.

So how to know what to put in search engines if there are so many ways to describe the same thing. Furthermore how to know what words your target audience would use to search the net. And we should not forget to mention what words Google likes to search for. It’s a science in itself!

In sum,  you want to write a blog post. Your aim and purpose is to express yourself and to get an audience. Your main goal is to please the reader and not the search engine. But in order for your reader to find you, you’ll have to use words that are ‘liked’ by the search engines.  The perfect blog post title should therefore have it all! It should ideally be interesting, original, being full of inspiration and creating different perspectives while containing those keywords that actually will be ‘Googled’ by your readers in order to find you.

My immediate question is the following:

‘Is there a magic formula to ‘find out’ what keywords to use?

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Keywords, SEO and competence

As I am now well and truly on the road to SEO ‘perfection’ I feel that something has shifted. It is a little bit as the psychological Learning Model of Competence. There are four stages for learning a new skill being:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

The state of ‘Conscious Incompetence’

Before I started blogging I was more or less unaware of search engine optimisation and was blissfully ‘unconsciously incompetent’. After dabbling a bit with websites and my current blog I became aware that SEO is a factor to consider and I became ‘consciously incompetent’. After establishing a need for SEO mastery I am now attempting to become ‘consciously competent’ and hopefully will achieve in the near future the level of ‘unconscious competence’.

A quick recap regarding SEO. In some of my previous posts I have talked about the important of the quality of your content is and the use of social media to spread the word. So what’s the next important thing?

Keywords and their use

What is exactly a keyword? A keyword is a word that helps you find information about a topic. It opens the door to useful resources. Keywords have been around long before the age of the internet. They are an essential part of any language and were originally used to support the writer’s reasoning, the composition of an article and the readers’ comprehension of a topic.

The use of keywords for the purpose of SEO has diffused this meaning somehow and many online writers use keywords for the sake of being found. This is largely due to search engines such as Google who identifies certain words in a text and compares them to a larger list of words – a so-called reference corpus. The result may be that an article can be found but not that it necessarily is of a high standard.

The trick is to use key words in your articles and blogs in such a way that they appear to be a natural part of the flow while functionally supporting the meaning of your text. The latter is important as they should describe your topic in such a way that your potential readers can ‘anticipate’ them and use them in search engines to find your article.

To turn this around, you as a writer will have to ‘anticipate’ what people may be looking for. You will have to be able to come up with words that people put in search engines to find the information that is useful to them – in other words, to find your article! You will have to assess your readers’ needs, tailor your information including keywords to those needs and position yourself in such a way that you and your blog can be found.

Sounds easy? Well it’s not! And the proof is the amount of sites that are not on the first page. It is a competitive business out there and only the best get to the top. Furthermore I am still not convinced that it is possible to be at the top without paying for it, but I’ll keep on searching for answers.

Great information you may think, but how do I decide what keywords to choose? Well my next article will be exactly about that!

SEO tactics, tips and guides

When you Google Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and blogging you can choose from the ‘Most Effective 21 Tactics’, the ‘Best 8 First Steps” or the 6 Hottest SEO Tips’ and offcourse there is the ‘Guide to’ ….

Which one to choose? Or should I go for all of them? I suppose I will have to sift through everything to find the most effective but also the easiest to understand and the most accessible techniques. I am looking forward to the challenge. I will say upfront that I am not researching the methods that cost money at this stage. That will be my last resort when nothing else works.

It’s all about content!

When scanning over the articles I am attracted to an article of Problogger and its writer Darren Browse. I have read his blog and his book Problogger and I think it is a great help for serious bloggers. Darren Rowse reckons that the most important factor for SEO is writing great content. As a fact this may be debatable but looking at his personal experience he states that this factor has contributed hugely to his online success.

This one appeals to me because I believe that great articles will attract readers. It won’t happen overnight but bit by bit. Readers who like your article hopefully pass it on, like it or share it. The good old snow ball effect!

Rowse has several other tips but he finishes his article with his ‘hunch’ regarding content. He suggests ‘writing the best information that you can come up with’. According to him that is what Google appreciates the most and searches for. Most tips for SEO optimisation that can be found on line are considered the minimum effort that every blogger should put in in order to climb the rankings. Bottom line is still the quality of your content.

What to do with great content?

Okay, you have written a great article and published it on your blog. The following questions come to mind ‘How can someone find you?’ and ‘What do you need to do so Google and your readers knows that you are there?’

Social networks are great tools to spread the word. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are perfect for sharing your content. Once you have written and published your post, seed it to the social networks so your readers, friends and contacts can pass it on. The more readers you have the more it can be passed on through their networks. Logical but effective. Not fast but a gradual growth with a potential snowball effect.

So far this is all relatively logical – yet there may be many blogs that do not take the above into consideration. The point is to create interest for your blog because of your content and not only because of your skilled application of keywords, h-tags and meta-links. They have a purpose but will eventually lose their effect if your content is not up to scratch.

There is not much new to this but it is important enough to emphasise and dedicate a post to. More to come!

Discovering, writing and believing!

Every time when you publish an article in WordPress, there is a little saying in the side column. This one below took my fancy:

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe” (Gustave Flaubert).

I like writing, I like researching a topic and I like sharing my enthusiasm about something with others. I would make a good reviewer because I like to spread the news about good things. Unfortunately I can’t keep quiet about bad things either – I am therefore also a great whinger – a quality that may annoy some, but I feel that certain things need to be said and known so there is scope for improvement.

I generally believe in good standards and I honestly feel that people should not be able to get away with shoddy methods. Many do though! I don’t like it and I will very likely object. In the past I may have objected too harsh but I am practising the art of more gentle criticism and I get good results. And I am not the only one! Apparently an unhappy customer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience and 13% dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 people! Only 4-6 people get to hear about a positive experience.

Social media have impacted these figures more than anything and word of mouth has been called ‘world of mouth’ as about a third of people who have experienced bad service will share it on the internet. The average reach of social media is 45 people. Pretty powerful stuff!

What do I believe in?

Aiming for high standards has to do with what I believe in. I believe that you have to give it your best otherwise do not bother. I try to write my blog posts in such a way that it is a pleasure to read them. I aim for interesting content that is new and not repeating itself and I attempt to achieve a professional image.

Since I have been blogging I have learned many new things but I also feel that the boundaries of the ‘blogosphere’ expand with every little bit of knowledge I acquire. A couple of weeks ago I almost felt overwhelmed by the extent of things I did not know. Is that what Flaubert means by his saying? Am I on the way to discovery when it comes to blogging? Is it more than sheer knowledge that makes a believable writer?

I suppose I am discovering what there is to know about blogging but more importantly I am finding out what are my beliefs regarding this topic. According to Flaubert I will have acquired the art of writing once I have become aware of my discoveries and know how to internalise them.

Complicated stuff? Surely, but also intriguing and I will continue to have a go at it. The topic that is ‘hot’ for me at the moment is SEO as mentioned in my most recent post. I need to learn about SEO in order to believe in it and consequently write about it. A worthy goal and I think my confidence may sky rocket after I know enough about SEO to feel confident enough to start educating others.

What a vicious circle and catch 22!

 


The road to SEO perfection

Looking at the type of comments I got on past posts about ranking and Search Engine Optimisation, I have to draw the conclusion that I do not know much about these topics. To be honest, so far I have written all my posts out of interest and I have never thought much about how to increase my traffic and readership. It is not that I am not interested; it is more the result of a lack of time. Furthermore so far it hasn’t really mattered that much to me.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy writing about my chosen topics and I am really flattered when people read my posts. However I don’t expect it as I have not yet committed to wanting to improve my ranking. I don’t know what to make out of it to be honest. First of all I am not sure whether it is possible to climb the ‘ranking ladder’ without paying for it.  I really know too little about it to have an educated opinion about it. If, and that is – if at all, I am interested in paying to get my blog higher in the rankings I feel I will have to educate myself first.

So far I have had a variety of comments about SEO. Some were helpful, informative and thought provoking while others were awkward, intrusive, belittling or condescending. I still have all of them and I like to evaluate them a little more to see which one could hold value for me and which ones are ready for dismissal.

So maybe in a month or so I know exactly what needs to be done, what keywords to use and whether they are supposed to be bold, Italics or a different colour. Interesting challenge… Some comments I received were about things I never heard of such as ‘H tags’. What on earth are they? I have read quite a bit about blogging, may not understand all of it, and there are obvious words and terms out here that are totally new to me.

Specialist or novice?

That makes it even more challenging. One thing I have noticed – it seems that many people who have a website or blog seem to know about SEO or ‘pretend’ to do so. When I get a comment with a link to a site that supposedly can assist me, it would be interesting to see where these sites are actually ranking. Their credibility would increase enormously if they have been able to reach the first page.

For now I accept defeat that I am a novice when it comes to SEO. Fortunately I have never pretended to be an expert on the topic and I won’t advice others until I am. Unless I manage to find my way to the top I keep on searching, filtering and sifting through the countless sites full of well-meant advice. Only then when I have mastered the art of successful SEO I will start telling others what may help.

Hope you stay with me!

Has blogging got a future?

“Is Blogging dead?”

A serious question raised some time ago by American Internet entrepreneur and blogger Jason Calacanis. Calacanis says it quite frankly during an interview last year: “There are a lot of stupid people out there ….and stupid people shouldn’t write”. He feels that the blogging system has to change to stop the above group from writing. I honestly thought we lived in a society with freedom of expression.

I have written about blogging and expertise in the past and a question that comes to my mind is the following? How important is it to ‘know’ about the topic you blog about? And if it is important to be knowledgeable or even an expert how “extensive” should your expertise be?

An answer to this question goes back to the essence of what a blog is and why people blog. There are many different types of blogs. Some are informative, some are educational and some are just fun. Deep down it does not matter – point is that anyone can start a blog and use it to publish his or her thoughts. People have a voice and a blog is a means to express that voice.

Our motives to blog

It is not hard to start a blog but publishing a blog does not mean that anyone reads it. Even that may not be important to some people especially if they write for family and friends. For the entrepreneurs amongst you this may be slightly a different scenario. Your audience is more important and the size of your readership could make your blog a success or not. But does no readership mean the blog is a failure?

If I have a look at my own blog, things seem to have changed. I started ‘Blogexercise’ for myself to dabble at blogging and to learn all aspects while engaging in the blogging activity. A great opportunity I still think! Initially I did not think too much about readers and the blog was no more than a mode of expressing myself and my thoughts.

Then however, I started to get comments and followers. Feels great by the way! I am by no means an expert in blogging as yet but I am on my way to becoming knowledgeable. So by now you could say that readership could have more impact. Well in a certain way it does but it still has no influence on me writing posts and researching the world of blogging. I still go my own way and occasionally take some comments in mind and combine them with my content.

That makes it more interesting and I am somehow addressing issues that others may have regarding blogging. And that is what experts do, don’t they? So my question is the following: ‘what is against that’? Why does Jason Calacanis have such an outspoken opinion about large amounts of bloggers being too stupid to say something worthwhile’?

Calacanis reckons that nobody cares for insignificant news anymore – if you blog you will have to be an expert otherwise nobody cares. That may be, but such a view could also lead to missing out on opportunities and not having a go at something. After all Jason Calacanis must once have been a new kid on the block just as many novice ‘stupid’ bloggers out there.

Just to get a perspective….

Designing my blog

I have met twice with my web designer and during the second meeting I realised – and so did she- that she may not be able to achieve what I have in mind. I am confident about her technical skills to build my blog but I was less certain about her skill regarding its appearance. I think she did have the same feeling.

A long time ago I studied Graphic Design at Art School in the Netherlands. This is before the computer era and doing graphic design was ‘slightly’ different than it is now. Creating a flyer or brochure was done with the so-called ‘collage’ method. You had to type, write, draw and cut every part of your design and consequently stick them on a piece of paper until you had a satisfying composition.

I told my web designer about this old fashioned method. Instead of laughing it off she thought it might help me to do just that with my ideas regarding the looks of my blog. I thought about that for a while but dismissed this option. Cause – lack of time. Instead I headed to the lady who has designed some stuff for me in the past. We met over a coffee, brainstormed and discussed my blog and the look on her face was telling me that she was on the way to create something cool.

She created an eye catching logo for a business I started some time ago. The business is called ‘Easy Done Services’ and my blog will take on part of that name as well – EasyDone Gourmet and Style.  With a couple of changes we will be able to use the logo for my blog. We also talked about some cool images for the side bar and the header of the blog. I can’t wait to see what she will come up with. So far she has never disappointed me and I am not surprised as she is very talented. She just did the graphics for a website of a major company in Australia.

Once she has created the ‘looks’ of my blog, it can hopefully be build. My aim is to have it up and running by July 2012. At the beginning of July I will be travelling to Europe for 5 weeks and it would be great if I could start blogging while I am there. After all the blog is about gourmet and style and what could be better than starting to discuss these topics from a French, Spanish and Belgium perspective? These countries offer so much when it comes to gastronomy and design, and there will be so much to write about.

Blogexercise may change slightly change as I will write EasyDone Gourmet & Style from a different platform. I suppose that change will be a whole new world in itself and I certainly will have a whole array of new topics to write or ‘rant’ about.  Think of domain, self-hosting, setting up the blog, in sum being much more technically challenged than with WordPress.com as my platform.

Challenging? Sure, but also inspiring, motivating, exciting and hopefully above all fun!

Too busy to blog

Another month has gone by and I feel busy – almost too busy to write regular for my blog. I have a number of projects on the go and feel slightly pressured. Fortunately I am a faithtful person and once I have committed to something I stick at it. So my blog won’t stop or be neglected but I may have to moderate the amount of postings.

I wonder why it is so hard to continue things that we start or to prioritise in the most effective way. Like everybody else I live in a house that needs maintaining, cleaning and organising, meals need to be cooked and shopping has to be done. Whether I like it or not these things do seem to demand more priority. Otherwise things get out of order, become unorganised or just don’t function. One of my daughters does not agree with this point of view and does not understand why I feel the need to attend to above chores. Could she have a point?

Priorities, duties – do we have a choice?

Unfortunately I have standards and our life would fall to bits if I would not see to them – something my daughter does not realise although she thinks she does. She may need a reality check and share a house with a very neat and organised person! Because of these rather demanding chores though, things I like to do are under pressure. And one of these things happens to be blogging.

Last night I read an article about the world’s most famous blogger. It is not only the most famous, but also the most successful and very likely the most popular blogger – Perez Hilton. He must have been one of the first professional bloggers around. He chose a topic that most people are intrigued by whether they like to admit it or not. The topic is celebrities and all their where-a-bouts.

Some make it happen

Perez Hilton makes it his job to find every newsworthy piece of information about famous people and blog about it. One thing in this article struck with me and that is that he spends almost 16 hours per day on his blog. He has to force himself to sleep for more than 4-5 hours. I immediately felt a whinger as I certainly don’t spend 16 hours per day on my blog. I don’t even spend 16 hours per day working at least not in an earned capacity.

Even with that amount of hours spent on the blog it still took him more than a year before he started earning money from his blog. And that was with the help of mainstream media who helped him promoting his blog as they were intrigued by this new way of distributing information.

Perez Hilton was lucky to be one of the first ones to blog about celebrities and it attracted a lot of media attention. He is aware that he had a ‘bit of luck’ but he reckons that the key to his success is sheer hard work. And to be honest the 16 hours and the nine million views per day speak for themselves! He loves what he does and he loves working for himself.

Slightly frustrating because it makes me wonder how long it will take me to get my blog from the ground. I will be able to spend a substantial amount of hours less than him and the time of ‘luck’ has been and gone. It has all been done before and most blogs get ‘lost’ in the enormous amount of blogging activity out there. It takes a serious ‘thinking out of the square’ to get your blog up to the top. I believe that it is possible though and what matters most is the belief that you can create great content. Then you may have to put in the hard yards.

A great challenge but I do wonder who does Perez Hilton’s cleaning, sorting and organising.