Sep 9 2010

SEO for Beer Bloggers Part 2: Images and Hyperlinks

In my previous SEO tips for beer bloggers post, I talked a little bit about choosing keywords, title tags and meta descriptions.  In taking a few more baby steps, I wanted to quickly hit upon Meta Keywords, Images and Hyperlinks.

Meta Keywords

This is going to be short and sweet: meta keywords are useless. Don’t waste your time filling them out or even thinking about them. None of the major search engines use meta keywords as a factor in ranking, and any engine that might use them is not worth worrying about.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the category tags and keywords that are used to fit all your posts into tag categories and to populate keyword clouds. Those are completely different and worth filling out with a few important keywords in order for your plug-ins to create indexable tag pages. But if you see a meta keyword field (usually right after the title and meta description fields), just leave it alone and spend more time enjoying a beer.

Images

Bloggers often forget that their pictures and images are indexable, as well. (For example, this image search for beer glasses) The problem is that it’s really difficult for a search engine to rank them. A spider can’t “see” these images and distinguish which one is the best match for a query. So search engines depend on the information we can give them.

Descriptive File Names: Let’s say you are reviewing a Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière, and you’ve taken a beautiful picture of the bottle and the glass you’ve poured it into.  When you save that picture, use a descriptive file name. Instead of saving it as image1.jpg, name it jolly-pumpkin-bam-biere.jpg. That clearly conveys to the search engine that words you would like associated with your image.

Alt Text: When you add an image to your site, you also should use Alt Text to label your images. This alt attribute describes the image to the search engines and the text only appears to the user when their cursor hovers over the image. As an added advantage, it helps users with a vision impairment, or if they are searching the web with images disabled, understand what the image is if they cannot see it. This a simple tag they can be associated with your images through you HTML, or it will often be a field you fill out when uploading images to your blog.

Here’s an example of an optimized image:

Fooled You - It's Actually La Roja

Hyperlinks

The quality of the links you have pointing to your site is a huge factor in the how important the search engines think your site is.  Hyperlinks are, also, huge levers in helping search engines understand the keywords you want to be indexed on your pages.  Obtaining those links, in good or bad ways, is a whole ‘nother post and a trickier topic. Right now I want to address the importance of linking and the words you use in your hyperlinks.

Make Sure There Are Links to All of Your Pages: This is something that gets overlooked by webmasters. When a spider comes to crawl your site, it has to be able to access all of your pages by clicking on links on your site. It cannot type a query into your search box, and it can only navigate your site like you would without a keyboard. If a spider cannot find a page on your site by simply clicking around, that page will not exist in search engine results pages (SERPs).  Make sure you are linking to your most important pages from your homepage. I can address XML sitemaps in the next post, which can help here, too.

Descriptive Keywords in your Hyperlinks: When someone links to your website with a hyperlink, they are effectively casting a vote to tell the search engines that you have a trustworthy and valid site. In addition, the keywords they use in the hyperlink will be associated with your site. (For additional reading, you can look into Google Bombing, as well.)

So, if they link to your review of Bam Biere by making the hyperlink “Look at this really cool review!”, you can thank them for the link and the traffic that comes to your site through it, but they didn’t help you as much as they could have. Having the words “really” and “cool” and “look” are not things that a user will be typing into a search engine and expecting to find your post.  If that person had linked to your post with “check out this amazing Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Bière review”, you would have been passed all that good link juice and your post would be associated with the keywords “Jolly Pumpkin”, “Bam Bière” and “review”. All of which are fantastic and relevant keywords.

Make sure you are using descriptive and keyword-centric hyperlinks when you are linking to other pages on your site (like I did in the first paragraph of this blog post), and be a awesome SEO net-citizen by linking to other sites with well thought out hyperlinks.  If you can get other sites to link to you with great hyperlinks, that helps but I wouldn’t hand them the words. If every single hyperlink leading to your site is exactly the same, it will eventually look suspicious to the search engines. Google values diversity, so “Bam Bière review” and “review of the Bam Bière” and “reviewing the JP Bam Bière” are much more valuable than three links that all say “awesome Bam Bière review”. You don’t always have a lot of control in how people link to you but, in this case, that can be a good thing.

That was Part 2 for SEO for bloggers. Let me know if this one is helpful, too. And, if you have any specific questions, you can send those my way, too, for a future post.

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Aug 27 2010

SEO for Beer Bloggers

So search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the many internet marketing things I do for a living, but I don’t let it get into my beer world. I have a blog (you’re reading it right now!) that I am really terrible at updating with any sort of frequency, but I’m not looking to make money or a name for myself with it. It is just for shits and giggles, and for friends and fellow homebrewers who might take an interest in a batch that I’ve recently done.  I’m not mixing business and pleasure.

Having said that, I know there are people out there who want to be found in the search results pages (SERPs), and I’d be doing my fellow beer geeks a disservice if I didn’t share a little knowledge about playing the Google game. And yes, for the rest of this post I will only mention Google. It is still, and will be  for a long time, the 800 million pound gorilla that you need to concern yourself with, and Bing and Yahoo always comply and follow their lead.

And is there a difference between SEO for bloggers and SEO for Beer Bloggers? No, but I like beer bloggers. They are good people. So this is for them.

From a very, very high level, I’ll hit on two easy topics. If there is interest, I can do a few more of these.

1) Using the “Right” Keywords and Making Content “You” Care About

2) <title> tags and Meta Descriptions

Using the “Right” Keywords and Making Content “You” Care About

Businesses spend lots of time figuring out the right keywords for their pages, but they always forget the most important part: use the words that people actually type. Pretty freaking simple, huh? The thing is, you need to look at that during the editing part of blog writing.

If you are writing a post just to pop up in search engine results pages, you will probably not succeed. The topic has to be something that you find interesting. It could be a great question that a friend has asked you that your readers might be curious about, as well. If you find it interesting, then other people will, too, and they will be searching for it.

Write the post and then go back through and look for the big idea and keywords to surface. Think to yourself, “What would I type in a search engine to find this post?” When you have that search phrase, look through the article to see if you have used that phrase and those words.  If you haven’t, then you have a problem that you need to edit yourself though. If you, the author, can’t type a fairly general query and find your own article in the SERPs, there’s reason to think that your readers will either.

Write about a topic that interests you. Something you will have a legitimate amount of energy behind.  Then figure out how to tweak it for search.

<title> tags and Meta Descriptions

The <title> tag is how you are labeling your pages for your readers and for Google. The title tag appears in the blue field above your web browser tool bars. It is also the bold, clickable link for the page in SERPs.

Think of this as making a blatant suggestion to Google as to what the page is about and what keywords you would like the page to rank for. The field is only 65 characters long (including spaces), so make sure all of your words will fit. Also, Google gives more weight to the words in that field from left to right. So put the important words to the far left. In my example above, Rate Beer would be better off putting “Rate Beer” on the far left.

But you don’t need the name of your site in every title tag on your site. Put the name of your blog in the homepage title tag, because that is the place you want users to land when they look for you by name, but you are wasting it on other pages. So, if you have written an article about “The Best Beers from Stone”, DO NOT make your title tag “Your Blog – The Best Beers from Stone.” If you have the space, “The Best Beers from Stone – Your Blog” is just fine.

The title tag should be what the post is about and full the appropriate keywords.  Don’t write a title tag like I would the title of a magazine article.  If I opened up a magazine and there was an article titled, “The Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen”, I would read that. But, on the web, no one types the query “what is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen” into Google. That title tag is doing nothing to help the post rank in SERPs so it can be found by readers in search engines.

The title tag is a very significant factor for your blog post to do well in SERPs, but it should be readable and not a spammy bunch of keywords crammed together.

If you want to convince someone to click on your result, the right field to use is the meta description.  The meta description field will not affect your rankings in anyway, but the words in that 165 character field (including spaces) is the reason why a reader might chose your site over another.

Think of this field as pure marketing. This is where you tell them that they are a click away from the coolest thing they’ve ever seen. A well written meta description adds to the “clickability” of your page.  In the example above, Rate Beer has a compelling meta description. Sell your post to the searchers out there.

How do you change your title tags and meta descriptions? It depends on your platform.  It is simple to do as you are creating a post with WordPress and an SEO plug-in. (I use WordPress and All in One SEO Pack) Unfortunately, you’ll have to poke around and find out how to get to your own.

Is this helpful? I can do a few more of these if there is interest. Just let me know and give me some feedback.

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