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Question: How can I optimize my blog for the search engines?
Answer: Two of the most critical ingredients to a well-optimized Web site or blog still remain the title tags and inbound link anchor text.
Proper title tags are critical. These little items reside in the code of your page. Specifically, in the <head> tags, they appear as <title>Your Title Here</title>. Using the correct keywords is important. Tools such as www.keyworddiscovery.com or www.wordtracker.com can help you see how many people have searched for a given phrase, helping you understand which keywords to use. Doing some research upfront will help you understand exactly what users are searching for, and you can slip those keywords into the titles you choose for your articles. Your blogging system—the content management system—will usually pick these up automatically and insert them into your <title> tags. (Common content management systems include Blogger, TypePad and WordPress, though there are and many, many more.)
For those on the WordPress platform, a nifty tool at www.netconcepts.com/seo-title-tag-plugin can help you edit these further. I use it and it works. The tool allows you to manually edit title tags after you’ve created the content. You can select individual pages or articles, and ensure they have perfectly crafted, keyword-rich titles.
Inbound links also affect how high your site or blog ranks in the search engines. The text that is linked to you, referred to as anchor text, is critical in the mix. If you can influence the anchor text readers use when they link to you and guide them in which keywords to use when linking, you can sometimes make a dramatic impact on your overall rankings, with an attendant increase in traffic. Using your keyword research, you can follow up directly with webmasters of sites linking to you to request they use specific keywords in the links pointed to your site. This is a lot of work, and not always easy to accomplish, but can be very worthwhile.
You could also provide link code directly for users to copy and paste if they want to link to your site. By doing this, you enable them to copy and paste the code you showcase on your own site. It makes it easy for them, and you control the words getting linked.
Duane Forrester is a senior program manager at Microsoft Corp., co- chairman of SEMPO’s In-House SEM Committee and the author of “How to Make Money With Your Blog” (McGraw-Hill Cos., 2007).