12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Better Blogging: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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This article is aimed at those who are already blogging from novice to blogging regular.

Be sure to check out previous posts in this series: Better Blogging: The Beginning, and Better Blogging: Tweaking Firefox.

How do you get found? Search Engines and references. Though links help you, even in Search Engines they give you greater credibility as others link to you, most of the people who link to you are part of a general group of people who are already aware of your presence on the web. Beyond that, you can’t control who links to you.

I’ve been using these tips over the last week and my Search Engine references have shot through the roof. My post on tweaking Firefox was #70 on Google’s main site (not blogsearch) for the term “Tweaking Firefox” within 7 hours of it going up. It was not yet cached by Google. That may not sound that impressive to you, but considering the number of articles on the web about Firefox, it is really pretty good.

A day later, it was #21 on Google’s main site. 48 Hours, and it is #20. BTW, I am not counting sublinks that are indented under parent links.

So let me tell you what I did up front to get it there, and then let me tell you what can happen to improve it even more.

Layering Keywords: slug, tags, categories, names and excerpts

Search Engines look for keywords. The more they appear on a certain page, the higher they get ranked, so putting keywords in the page is essential, but you don’t want simply repeat a word incessantly, because it makes reading your article irritating. If higher readership is your goal, this is unwise.

There is the trick of labeling pictures or links with terms that are searched often (e.g. “NOT Miley Cyrus” if you were trying to get American Tweens to hit your site), which will get you an early boon of hits, but they are going to leave when they arrive to find you don’t have what they were promised, so other than hitting your site for a 3 second stay, you’ve gained nothing. This is not to mention that you will lose credibility with them and likely it will create a backlash effect.

Also, Google will punish you for doing this when they discover it. Obviously, it’s counterproductive.

There are five legitimate ways to insert keywords into your content that catch search engines, but not the ire of the reader or those that run the search engine.

The first way of doing this is the post slug. The post slug is the set of keywords in your article’s web address. The post slug for the Tweaking Firefox post is seen in the picture of the address bar:

Post Slug Screen Capture

The slug part is “better-blogging-tweaking-firefox” as you might have guessed. What you may not know is that you can rewrite the post slug to anything you want, using keywords you think matter and not just as a repeat of the post’s title. You can do that in your WordPress write post page in the place that looks like this:

Post Slug 2 Screen Capture

In the line that reads “Permalink,” click the “Edit” link and you can change the post slug to whatever you want it to be.

You have to have your permalinks set for this style, rather than “basic” permalinks that just calls your post a number. This is what they call a “pretty” permalink. Awww. Isn’t it sweeeet?

WordPress now takes tags. If you want your post to be picked up, tag it, tag your pictures, tag anything and everything you can tag. Alot of people never tag (I used to be one of them) and this is very effective in keeping yourself from being found on the internet, and if not being found is your goal, then you should not tag. You should also probably not put your thoughts (or pictures, videos and other information) on the internet, but keep your thoughts in a nice leatherbound journal beside your bed.

Here’s the tag set I used for Tweaking Firefox.

Tags

Categories were the first way to separate posts from each other and one way to send the message to the search engine that your post has something specific in it. In WordPress, you can post to multiple categories:

Categories

Excerpts are new in the write post page of WordPress 2.5 and at the bottom of the page you can find a box in which you can put an excerpt of your post that would provide a synopsis of the post. You should put an introductory paragraph that is full of keywords:

Excerpt

The best keyword layering option that you have, though, is naming things. You need to name your pictures and you need to name your links. You also need to write out your links. Do this: go back to Tweaking Firefox and find the number of times I wrote the word Firefox. Then start hovering your mouse over the links and read the name that pops up. When you get done, feel free to write the count you get in the comments. I don’t know the number, but I know it is so many, that I don’t want to spend the time counting them. I think this is the most likely reason that my post shot so high so quickly – and it hasn’t been linked to by any sites, either. You should feel free to do so. I’d appreciate it.

[UPDATE!!! – Apparently Google didn’t like that I had it layered that much and has de-linked the post. I have know idea what the tipping point is for them, as all the layers were legitimate, but apparently, quantity, though legitimate, can be overdone. Everyone take a lesson.]

SEO Plugin

WordPress has several plugins available to optimize for Search Engines. I use All in One SEO Pack and it looks like this:

SEO Pack

This plugin re-layers all of this information and feeds it directly to the Search Engines.

Also, you should install Google Sitemaps as a plugin. It creates a sitemap for Google’s “bot” as it crawls your site and it makes it easier to understand the structure of your site and give results that reflect it.

Content: Quality, Diversification

Obviously, good quality content is a must. You need to write well and it needs to be helpful to people. This will create traffic and links, and that will cause the Search Engines to sit up and take notice.

Also, you need to diversify your content. If you make your content specific, then only a small range of people will be looking for what you are writing about. I love what John P. has in his sub-title of One Man’s Blog: Specialization is for insects.

Media Hosting: Your Server, Compression, WP Super Cache

Finally, let me tell you about hosting the media you use on your own server. When you host images or movies on your own server rather than on Flickr or Youtube, when they are found by the search engine, you get the credit and the link. When you host them elsewhere, flickr or Youtube gets credit.

But, did you know that Search Engines evaluate your server’s ability to handle the load? If you have a cheap server, heavy traffic, high load media or any combination of those things, it will cause you to drop in the rankings.

First thing is get a good server and plenty of bandwidth. If you have a cheap package, you are hurting yourself. Look into a server that is fast and will give you all the load you are shooting for.

Next, reduce the load to the best of your ability. Two things that you can do to reduce the load on your server is to compress your pictures and to install the WP Super Cache plugin on your blog. The plugin saves images of your pages for ready pick up and speeds you up considerably.

The other thing you can do is compress your pictures with a freeware program called Faststone. This program is quick and really good. It is also a shell program that will launch a program of your choosing to edit the photograph in a different way, if you want. Well that’s a rabbit we need not chase here.

Anyway, when you save a picture, you can open it in Faststone, click on it, then drop the File menu. Click “save as” and at the bottom right is a button called options. Click it and find a window like this:

Faststone

Notice the original file size and the new file size. Also, realize that the compressed size on the right has been compressed twice – once for the original compression for this screen grab and then I compressed the screen grab to host it here.

Adjust the file size to what you can live with and save it in place of the original or as a duplicate.

This keeps the picture the same size, but keeps it from being a big load, which search engines like. It also gives you a lot of graphics quick so your page loads fast for regular viewing.

Let me give out a few links for this. Mostly, this information came from John Pozadzides’ presentation at Wordcamp this year.

Also, though I have yet to review it, there is another video specifically for SEO by Chris Smith. If I get a chance soon, I may provide a follow up post for this from this video.

Right now, though, I am tired of the late nights, so it may be next week.

For my regular readers, I will try to introduce non-tech things through the middle of the week as well. I may drop a few posts a day for a while to keep certain church members from complaining about the boring tech stuff.

Still, it is my highest hit posting in a loooooong time. And a lot of it from Search Engines.

Better Blogging: Tweaking Firefox

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Firefox is the best internet browser around, but did you know you can tweak it? You can make this browser more efficient and adapt it to your own interests. There are two ways of doing this: Add-ons and Scripts. An add-on is an additional program that gets, wait for it, “added on” to the basic Firefox code. Scripts work within Firefox to cause it to act differently and are more susceptible to malware (malicious software) written by hackers and act like viruses. Avoid these by checking the downloads of the scripts on the download page to make sure plenty of others have gone safely before you.

You can cruise the add on section at Firefox for some that you might enjoy.

Here is a list of the ones that I have installed. Feel free to share with the class some of your favorites.

Adblock Plus :: Firefox Add-ons – Blocks Advertisements in articles and on websites. I never see the dancing mortgage ads at Yahoo anymore. Huzzah!

Auto Copy :: Firefox Add-ons – Automatically copies to the clipboard anything I highlight, saving me extra clips. This plugin is essential to efficiently putting together a “Link Load” post with tons of links to interesting things. It saves 2-3 extra clicks per link, and is used in combination with a couple of other programs for great speediness. Just call me Speedy Gonzalez. Andele!

Better Gmail 2 :: Firefox Add-ons – This add on kicks into gear when you log on to your gmail account. I don’t use gmail that much, but if you do, go to the home page and review the features to see if it’s for you.

CoLT :: Firefox Add-ons – This add on is a power blogging must: Copy Link/Text. When clicking on a link, this add on adds a couple of items to your right click pop up menu: 1) Copy Link Text and 2) Copy Link Text and Location as… The second option has an arrow and gives you several choices. The first choice is “as HTML” which, when selected, will produce a fully formed html coded link in the clipboard and it saves you TONS of time and energy. This is the primary way I was able to produce all of the links that you see in this post in just over five minutes. The typing next to the links, a little longer.

del.icio.us buttons :: Firefox Add-ons – Inserts a button in the toolbar of Firefox that will let you bookmark a page in del.icio.us. If you don’t know what that is, it is a place to store your bookmarks online, so that you can access them anywhere without having to be at YOUR computer.

Digg This! :: Firefox Add-ons – Adds a “Digg This” item to the right click menu so that you can easier submit things to Digg. By the way, if you want to be read, you want to be dug. If you and your friends will start digging each others interesting posts, they will start reaching a much wider audience.

Download Statusbar :: Firefox Add-ons – Replaces the download window with a status bar at the bottom of the page. Easier to keep up with and not as much hassle with a pop up window.

DownThemAll ! :: Firefox Add-ons – Allows you to download multiple files instead of one at a time. Very useful.

Fasterfox :: Firefox Add-ons – Makes Firefox more efficient and helps it to load pages faster. it can do nothing about slow connections, so if you have one, a slow internet is what you will have. If, however, you have a highspeed connection, this plugin makes Firefox seem even faster than you would have guessed.

Forecastfox :: Firefox Add-ons – Puts a radar screen and weather alerts in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, as well as current temps and the forecast for the next two days. Also alerts you to dangerous weather when watches or warnings are released.

Greasemonkey :: Firefox Add-ons – More on this one in the next section, but this plugin allows you to insert scripts.

MinimizeToTray :: Firefox Add-ons – Minimizes Firefox windows to the system tray.

Skype Sidebar :: Firefox Add-ons – If you use Skype to webchat, this gives you some tools in Firefox.

Web Developer :: Firefox Add-ons – Tools for Web Developers.

Now, to the Scripts that you can add.

Greasemonkey refers to the shade tree mechanic who used to lift the hood and tinker with his car to make it just a little faster, just a little better. These scripts are computer programming’s version of folks lifting the hood of Firefox and tinkering with some great help in efficiency and some just fun applications.

First, you have to install the greasemonkey addon, then you can install the scripts. Here are a few that I’ll recommend.

Akismet Auntie Spam for WordPress … If you’ve ever gotten much spam caught in the anti-spam plugin, Akismet for WordPress, you probably have been frustrated while looking for legitimate comments among the pages of spam. This is especially tedious when the spam is several thousand words long with a hundred some odd links to sites hosting medicines without prescription, porn and investments. This script recognizes that you are in Akismet and collapses all the comments into one line entries. You can expand the entry with a click if you think it is legitimate and verify. It collapses pages of spam to 1/10th the size.

WordPress Comment Ninja This script does two things. The first thing it does is allow you to reply to comments from the notification email you get when someone comments on your blog, providing you are reading the comment in Firefox. The second thing it does is to create links to do the same thing from the comment section of wordpress. Although I use Outlook to receive my email for 12 Witnesses, I have used this script to answer comments from within the WordPress.

Amazon – Denver Lookup 1.2.6 When looking at a book on Amazon, this script will form a link under the title that will take you to Denver Library’s information about the book – usually more than what Amazon has to offer.

Google Image Relinker This script will allow you to click on an image from Google Image Search and it will go straight to the image, rather than to the framed version of the original website. This is if you don’t like Greased Lightbox below.

Download YouTube Video III Allows you to do just as it says, download videos from YouTube.

Greased Lightbox (v0.16) Now here’s a great script. When you search for images on Google Image Search and click on one, it will launch the large picture against a black background. You can then navigate VERY QUICKLY through the page with the arrow keys on your keyboard.

Flickr Photo Magnifier Creates bigger pictures from smaller ones on flickr.

Google Doc Download GM Script Allows you to download documents stored on Google Docs, and when combined with “downthemall” allows you to get all your Google Docs quickly, which is handy if others have been editing them.

GZoom Allows you zoom in on Google Maps beyond what you normally could.

Google 100 Instead of 10 results from Google, you get 100 results on a page.

Facebook Auto – Colorizer Colors Facebook pages to blend with the main picture on the page. Somewhat fun.

Facebook Fixer A collection of enhancements for various aspects of Facebook eg. showing bigger profile pictures, making it easier to view albums, showing people’s age and sign, auto-reloading error pages, changing redirecting links to direct links.

Pearl Crescent Page Saver is a free FireFox extension that you can use to capture images of web pages as PNG or JPEG files. You can capture an entire web page or just a portion of it.

Here are a few pages full of other scripts that you can explore for yourself.

25 useful Greasemonkey scripts you should take a look at

This list is in no particular order from best to worse, it’s written just as I’m going through my plugins!

Best of: Greasemonkey Scripts

This post is a compilation of the best and most popular Greasemonkey scripts available to its users, broken down into category for easier reference.

Top 10 Greasemonkey scripts to improve your productivity

“Greasemonkey extension (with the help of Stylish) can do wonders for your productivity”

I got the basic gist of this from the video of Lorelle Van Fossen’s address at Wordcamp 2008, a convention of bloggers who use WordPress listening to the pros talk about specific aspects of blogging and WordPress. If you check out the video (at just about an hour long) you will hear a couple of other things that I will reference in later posts in the Better Blogging series.

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