Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Using Blogger blog for Search Engine Marketing - A Techical How-To

Blogger has changed for the better - and now you can take advantage of this free platform to get the Google+ leverage in your niche.

Blogger logo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Warning: Extreme Geek Alert

It used to be that Wordpress.com was The Place to be for any promotion, and Blogger was a poor cousin out standing in the snow. Your wordpress sites would rank on page 1 while blogger sites showed up on page 3 or 4 if then.

What a difference time makes.

Wordpress.com was so popular, they cracked down on anything that was an affiliate link or sold anything. So they suspended sites and users in droves, rightly or wrongly, all in an effort to stop spammers from "abusing" their system. Meanwhile, the various Panda changes relegated wordpress to back pages. Apparently their content-police algorithms weren't good enough.

Now, the one difference was if you actually paid WP.com to host your site. Of course, that got you into monthly fees which also drove spammers away. Your site would rank based on quality content, but you couldn't afford more than a few blogs - which was the point.

(Slideshare.net, especially since LinkedIn bought it up, is currently going through a similar problem, and now seems to suspend you for coughing wrong. Lots of other doc-sharing sites, like DocStoc )

Blogger went the other way. Not only do they not care what you promote (except child porn, drugs, etc.) they have improved their backend.

They enabled you to put your blogger blog on a domain for nothing (you just have to provide the domain.) Or you can put it up as a CNAME, meaning it comes out as a subdomain.domain.com instead of [yourblogname].blogspot.com - which means you can now rank for your content without the penalty of being a freebie blog.

Meanwhile, blogger has also update their themes, plus there are tons of places out there which have been busy building custom themes you can install.

There are two things you might want to fix, though:
  • Get your self a new favicon instead of that orange "B" (upload through the layout menu)
  • Change the attribution so it's not broadcast that Blogger is hosting you (see http://www.bloggerbuster.com/2012/05/how-to-control-attribution-gadget-when.html  among many on this subject.)
It's so much better to simply use Blogger's CMS, since you don't have any worries with monthly bandwidth costs (or running out) and you are integrated directly with the Google+ universe - just add the gadgets into the sidebar.

This is so good that I actually took the next step and moved a custom-CMS-based site over to a blogger blog. But without changing my hosting, just the files on it.

It's a bit technical, but I quit programming after I passed my required classes in college - so it's not anything an average Joe or Joleen couldn't figure out.

The reason I went this route was to preserve my existing SEO rankings and have my current site link to my new blogger blog, so that it's a seemless transition (instead of working through getting redirects running right. I also have many CNAMEs and emails based on that domain, so don't want to mess with these.

The ideal is to use the template from Blogger that you like and then set up your existing CMS pages to simply route there.
  1. Copy/paste your existing content over to Blogger posts. (Their pages won't SEO easily, which is one drawback.) Just keep track of the links.
  2. I liked my drop-down menus, so I looked this up - the best one I found was http://xomisse.com/blog/add-drop-menu-can-styled-template-designer/ - since your menus don't change much, this makes your posts into pages for you. Code it once, and update it manually when you need to.
  3. The hardest part is getting the Blogger look and feel. Save your home page (using Firefox "Save Page as..." works) and then split it up into .php pages to replace the existing pages in your CMS. (This is the technical step.) You're going to create your CSS (style sheet) and link it, as well as having php files which sit in your includes directory. Try something like OneFileCMS to show you how simple this can be. (All you are doing is slicing up what you get into the various files you need, placing these files where they are supposed to go and linking them right. Takes time, but a nice skill to learn.)
  4. Then build new php pages for each of the ranking pages, which simply utilize the menu and links you have on your blogger blog.
What happens is the search engines will send someone to your site, and if they click on any other page, they are moved to your new Blogger-based site. And never return.

Yes, you have to watch your links. The whole process is an exacting one. Of course, if you moved your site by cancelling your existing hosting, then you'd be rebuilding your site completely anyway - plus you'd lose your rankings meanwhile.

This technical way of doing it enables a near-seamless transition.

Plus, you get to update your site and site links to make the new pages even better. Too often, we get into the fevered bliss of creating our new content and forget the details of SEOing every possible description and alt-tag with the keywords we want to rank for - now's your chance.

What you end up with is an updated site which now redirects viewers and search engine bots over to your blogger-hosted blog, while cutting your bandwidth and making your content part of the Google+ experience.

If you are happy with your existing CMS, then don't bother. But if you are already itching to try something new and geeky - this is a great project to jump into. (This method will also work to create static php files out of your existing CMS.)

Yes, you can expect some updates as I wrap up my first experiments.

PS. You can also take multiple blogger blogs, give them identical templates and widgets, then link them through the menu bar so they all appear to be the same site. The advantage of this is that as you CNAME all the blogs, they each will be an authority for that particular subject and cross-link into the other blogs - giving them authority. If you use the Zemanta plug-in, it's easy to make related site links to your other blogs as you go. More on this with a later post...

PS2. Ran across this one - you could move your site and domain to a OneFileCMS hosting for $4 a month and 6 domains (according to their promo) - http://www.arvixe.com/OneFileCMS_hosting

[Update: Did this with two sites: Midwest Journal Press and Worstell Farms. Both are now looking better and coming up faster than they did before. Because the page isn't being built on the fly, but is a static page. Creating another style sheet blew it up, so I simply created static header, sidebar, and footer php files. Each web page kept it's original php file-name, but was much smaller - as the stuff which never changed was stripped out into the "includes files." I haven't had a chance to check the analytics yet - but since I was "given the opportunity" to find new hosting (or pay higher than average to keep my current one) - I'll be having to compare from the new hosting.

Bottom line: both of these look better and run faster than the old ones. An improvement I should have done a year or so ago.]

What's next: Probably won't ever build an onsite CMS again. The new hosting says I've go unlimited domains I can set there (and unlimited bandwidth.) All I really need, with Blogger blogs, is the ability to create CNAMEs for them. All the analytics I'll need will be provided by Google - which will allow me to tailor these blogs to what Google says they're ranking me for. Seems like the best of both worlds.

(Still have to do the change-over at this writing, but I should be able to get into it pretty quickly and get it done, as long as I think though all the steps to begin with.)

Hope your sites go as well...
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