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Search Engine Optimization tips for Blogger Templates (Part 1)

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Search Engine Optimization tips for Blogger TemplatesThese days, there is much discussion of how blog content can be optimized for search engines in order to receive better rankings. But have you considered how your blog template can be optimized too?

There are many themes available for WordPress users which are intrinsically styled for SEO. Unfortunately for those who use Google Blogger, such resources are few and far between.

Over a short series of three posts, I’ll share some of the tricks I’ve discovered which you could use to optimize your Blogger templates for search engine spiders, and achieve better rankings in search results.

In this part, I’m going to start from the top by explaining how your blog’s URL, title and meta tags can be easily optimized with a little thought and some slight changes to your Blogger template code. I’ll also explain how your blog’s title can be best optimized, even when using an image in place of the title and description text.

URLs, Title and Meta Tags

These are often considered the three most important components of search engine optimization, and can be easily optimized for Blogger powered blogs.

Your Blog’s URL

Whether you are posting on a BlogSpot subdomain (e.g: yourblog.blogspot.com), or have chosen to use the custom domain feature (e.g: www.yourblog.com), the URL of your site should reflect the content of your blog.

Choose your blog’s URL wisely, and if possible ensure this contains a keyword or two which is relevant to your content. If you are writing about cats, for example, a URL such as “thedogsdinner.blogspot.com” will do you no favors with Google, whereas a URL like “thecatswhiskers.blogspot.com” almost certainly would 🙂

The Title Tag

The <title> tag is a very important feature of any website, and is displayed most in search engine results.

In Blogger templates, a title tag is generated for each page of your blog (including the main, archive and post pages), which differs depending on the actual title of the page.

The title tag is called in your template like this:

<title><data:blog.pageTitle/></title>

Your home page will only feature the actual title of your blog, whereas post pages will feature your blog title, plus the title of your blog post.

When writing titles for your posts, you should bear this in mind to ensure your titles are keyword rich which will help your posts be indexed more easily by search engines. Try to place the most important keywords close to the beginning of the title, as many search engines limit the number of characters which are used in titles, both in their listings and in search results.

If you don’t mind hacking your template a little, you could even choose to display the title of your blog post before the blog title in post pages. This technique would ensure that keywords in your post titles would be indexed much more easily, and can result in far better search rankings for your posts. For this, you should read Widget Based’s post: Changing the Blogger Title Tag for full instructions and the appropriate code to use.

Please note: For some reason, Blogger does not now support the hack I mentioned above. If you have already used this method in your template, this will continue to work for you. However, you will not be able to edit your blog’s template while this is still in place and may well get an error message explaining that a <b:section> is not permitted within the <head> tags. I can only assume that Blogger have somehow changed the way templates are parsed, and will be sure to update this section if I can discover an alternative method.

Meta Description and Keywords Tags

Many SEO experts argue that meta description and keywords tags are being depreciated in search engine results. Google for example, generally ignores the meta description tag and generates it’s own description. However, many search engines do still make use of these tags so it can be useful to include them anyway.

Meta description and keyword tags are not automatically generated for Blogger templates. Since we have full access to the HTML markup of our Blogger templates, we can add these manually below the title tags.

One important consideration you should understand before adding meta description and keyword tags is that search engines look for different descriptions and keywords for each page of your site. If you simply add these to your template in the commonly accepted form, the same content will be distributed across all pages of your site, which search engines may well regard as spam.

So here’s the trick: only use these meta tags for your home (main) page!

This is easily achieved by wrapping your meta description and keywords in conditional tags which will then only appear on your main page.

For example, if I was writing a blog about cute cats, I could include meta description and keyword tags like this:

<title><data:blog.pageTitle/></title>
<b:if cond=’data:blog.pageType == “index”‘>
<meta content=’Cute cats and fluffy kittens for feline friends.’ name=’description’/>
<meta content=’cute, cat, kitten, fluffy, feline’ name=’keywords’/>
</b:if>

The parts highlighted in bold are those tags which prevent the data between them from being generated for the item and archive pages, so you can be sure not to spam search engines with repeated descriptions and keywords for your blog.

The example above could be used as a basis for adding your own meta description and keywords, by simply changing the values to those which are better suited to your blog.

Optimizing your blog’s title heading

Headings offer search engine spiders useful references about your content when indexing your site. You will probably be aware of the hierarchy of heading tags, which ranges from <H1> through to <H6>. Of these, the <H1> tag is considered the most important. In Blogger templates, the H1 tag would usually contain the title of your blog.

Blogger allows us to upload an image to the header section, which can either be used as a background image, or instead of the regular title and description text.

Those who choose to use an image instead of the title and description will not have the H1 heading tag present in their template. So if your blog title uses keywords which would be relevant to search engine results, you would be missing out on an important factor of SEO!

Luckily, this can be easily remedied! Provided you are using an image instead of the title and description in your template, here is how you can solve this dilemma:

  1. Go to the Layout>Edit HTML section of your Blogger dashboard, and ensure you have checked the “Expand widget templates” box.
  2. Look for the styling code for the H1 heading in the <b:skin> portion of your template. This may look something like this, though there are variations across different templates:

    #header h1 {
    margin:5px 20px;
    padding:45px 20px .25em 10px;
    line-height:1.2em;
    text-transform:uppercase;
    letter-spacing:.2em;
    font: $pagetitlefont;
    }

  3. Within this portion of code, you need to add the following line:

    display: none;

    Here is how this could appear when added to the style declaration above:

    #header h1 {
    margin:5px 20px;
    padding:45px 20px .25em 10px;
    line-height:1.2em;
    text-transform:uppercase;
    letter-spacing:.2em;
    font: $pagetitlefont;
    display: none;
    }

  4. Next, you will need to add the <h1> heading tags within the header widget. For this, you will need to locate the following section of code:

    <b:if cond=’data:useImage’>
    <b:if cond=’data:imagePlacement == “REPLACE”‘>
    <!–Show just the image, no text–>
    <div id=’header-inner’>
    <h1>Your Blog Title</h1><a expr:href=’data:blog.homepageUrl’ style=’display: block’>
    <img expr:alt=’data:title’ expr:height=’data:height’ expr:id=’data:widget.instanceId + “_headerimg”‘ expr:src=’data:sourceUrl’ expr:width=’data:width’ style=’display: block’/>
    </a>
    </div>
    <b:else/>

    You’ll notice that I’ve added the H1 heading (highlighted in bold) where it should appear in the template code. As we have set the style of the H1 heading to “display: none;”, this ensures that the H1 heading is present in the HTML markup of your blog pages, but that the title itself is not visible to the casual viewer.

This technique ensures that your blog’s title will still be indexed as effectively as if you had used the image as a background instead. Furthermore, by adding this H1 heading manually, you could even expand on your title slightly with a short description which contains keywords relevant to your blog content.

Note: if you use an image as the background to the title and description, or do not use an image in your header at all, you don’t need to worry about this issue, as the H1 heading will already be present in the mark-up of your pages!

Allow search engines to find your blog!

Finally (and most importantly!) you should ensure that search engines are able to crawl and index your blog.

The easiest way to check this is to look in the settings of the Settings>Basic section of your Blogger dashboard. Close to the bottom of the page is an option to “Let search engines find your blog”. You must set this to “Yes” if you want your site to be crawled and indexed by search engines.

If you have mistakenly set this to “No”, Blogger will add a “NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW” meta tag to your blog mark-up, like this:

<meta content=’NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW’ name=’robots’/>

Such a tag will prevent search engine spiders from ever indexing your site.

This may seem obvious to most of you, though you’d be surprised how many people have not checked this setting!

Further resources

Here are some useful sites you may like to refer to for further information about the tips suggested in this post:

In the next installment of this mini-series, I’ll explain how all of the links in your Blogger template (including those contained in widgets) can be optimized for search engines and better rankings.

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Amanda is a freelance blogger and web/blog designer. She writes about Blogger at www.BloggerBuster.com and maintains several other blogs on various subjects.

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7 Habits That Can Make You a More Efficient Blogger

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Starting a blog is exciting, whether you’re using it as an extension to promote your current business or you’re just trying to maintain the blog as a personal endeavor. In any case, part of your success will depend on your ability to write new blog posts at an efficient rate; if you aren’t producing new blog posts fast enough, your audience could lose interest in your content. Similarly, if it takes you too long to write a new blog post, your profitability is going to decrease.

The solution is to focus on improving your efficiency as a blogger, so you can accomplish more in less time and end up with more raw content as a result.  

The Best Habits to Improve Your Efficiency

These are some of the best habits to improve your efficiency as a blogger:

  1. Dress professionally. If you’re working from home or blogging in your free time, you’ll be tempted to wear the most comfortable clothes and lounge in the living room while writing. But if you want to be successful and work efficiently, it’s much better to dress professionally and establish a professional work area. The idea is to treat your blog work like it’s your job. You’ll take your work more seriously, and you’ll be less inclined to follow distractions. It may also change how you think about your work and how you approach problem-solving.
  2. Practice good hygiene. While you’re at it, make sure to practice good hygiene—especially if blogging is your full-time job. The most obvious habit here is to shower regularly, but you’ll also want to keep your clothes clean, take good care of your environment, or as 14K Gold Teeth suggests, clean accessories like custom gold grillz. You’ll feel more professional in your environment and will have less clutter to distract you.
  3. Stick to a routine. Routines are vital for improving your efficiency. They help you establish consistent processes, which you can follow to save time and refine your habits. They give you something predictable to work with, so you aren’t scrambling to figure out what to work on next. They also reinforce your most productive habits, so you can continue working without thinking too much about it—in other words, they’re procrastination-busters.
  4. Set a strict schedule. While you’re developing your routine, try to create and stick to a strict schedule. For example, you might set a timer for one hour to read the latest news, a half hour designated to preparing an outline, and another hour to finish your full first draft. These temporal limitations help you avoid Parkinson’s law, which states that the amount of time it takes to do a task will swell to fill whatever amount of time is allotted to it; in other words, the tighter you set your timetables, the more efficiently you’ll be motivated to work.
  5. Keep an editorial calendar. Create a high-level editorial calendar as early as possible, and stick to it the best you can. This will help you ensure your high-level goals and priorities never fall out of your sight, and make sure you never run out of work. Set target dates for drafting and publication, so you’re always working toward something, and jot down your new topic ideas whenever you get them.
  6. Stay organized. This should go without saying, but the vast majority of new bloggers suffer from not being organized. They read new material that could serve as inspiration for a new post, but lose the original article. They set goals for themselves, but forget them or change them too frequently for them to take effect. Create a system for taking notes and keeping track of your high-level priorities, and stick to it.
  7. Keep reading on a regular basis. Reading is one of the best ways to consistently and reliably improve your writing, so make time for it in your schedule. Reading work like yours can help you generate new ideas, improve your vocabulary, and increase your fluency, so you can write faster.

Learning and Improving

It’s a good idea to track your time while working on blog-related tasks. It will allow you to gather data on your productivity habits, and ideally, see how they improve over time. If there’s a particular task that takes up a disproportionate amount of your time, you can drop it or focus specifically on improving it. If you notice a strategy is making you more efficient in one or more areas, you can use it more frequently or apply it to different areas.

In any case, the real secret to becoming a more efficient blogger is committing to improve over time. Pay attention to how your habits develop, and continually refine your approach.

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Oh, Now I Get It! How to Explain Complex Topics to Your Audience

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Technical writers have a great number of skills, but perhaps the most important is the ability to adapt your language to the level of comprehension your audience has. A highly technical and complex article can overwhelm readers or even bore them.

“But it’s impossible to delight my readers and keep them engaged when I’m talking about the

IEEE 802.11ac principle of broadband technology,” We hear you cry. And, we get it. Turning a technical article into a sexy piece of content can feel like a daunting task, but it’s not mission impossible.

Here are a few content creation tips that will help you explain complex topics to your audience in a delightful manner.

Imagine That You Are Explaining the Subject to a Non-Tech-Savvy Friend

One of the most important things when creating technical content for a more broad audience is consistency. So, as much as possible try to use the same tone, level of knowledge, complexity of vocabulary, and so on. The easiest way to calibrate your writing style is to imagine that you are writing for a friend or a relative that has nothing to do with your area of expertise.

Imagine you are trying to explain a particularly complex topic to them, in a friendly and light discussion. How would you approach the subject? What elements you think would bore or frustrate them?

What helps you in the real world is adapting your style and vocabulary to the other person’s knowledge. You know that you don’t have to explain what an Internet browser does, but you might have to tell them more about the coding behind it when discussing responsive web design, for instance. Use common words and keep them engaged with a lighter, friendly style.

Adapt Your Vocabulary and Structure

Let’s take a look at how you can flip your technical writing to be more approachable. First of all: use concepts that your audience is familiar with or at least has a general idea about them.

A good start is to check what search words visitors use when browsing your website. You will identify commonly used terms that are related to the technology that interests them. Use those keywords yourself to keep visitors on your page.

Also, be careful about the structure of the text when writing online, especially when you are trying to explain something complex. Make sure to split your text into readable chunks. You can also help the reader understand the subject better by using titles and subtitles to separate the main ideas of your article.

Build up the Knowledge of Your Audience, from General to Detailed

Once you have established a common language and vocabulary between you and your target audience, start methodically presenting your topic, from general level information to more detailed aspects. Applying this rule will help you readers understand the topic better without wasting too much time. Online readers tend to ignore content that is, irrelevant or hard to understand.

While it is important to get the basics straight before getting deeper into your subject, make sure to summarize the purpose of your article at the very beginning, as it will let your audience know what they will learn about after going through it.

Use Style Tools That Help Your Audience Relate to the Topic

The fun part of writing about technical topics for a general audience is getting creative with it. Because you can’t use the “boring,” “stiff” technical jargon, you must come up with expressive comparisons, examples, and analogies. You can even evoke anecdotal evidence to support the facts since they are highly relevant for many of the users.

Helping them relate to the topic you are writing about is the key to grabbing their attention. Use day to day examples for the systems and processes you are describing, or mention the best-known similar thing. Give them examples of possible situations when they can come across the topic you are writing about and enable them to talk about it themselves.

Ultimately, is all about correctly identifying the level of knowledge your audience has. Encourage them to comment and ask any questions and keep the conversations alive.

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IT Management Solutions: What is the Key to Improving Employee Efficiency?

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There are many ways you can improve your employees’ efficiency. From decluttering the workspace to encouraging a stress-free environment, there is a whole range of things you can do to make your work life run smoother. One such technique you need to adopt for your company is an IT management solution.

What Does It Do?

An IT management solution such as SysAid takes all of the day-to-day programs that a business will use and consolidates them into one easy-to-use package. Every employee should be able to log on and complete all their work without having to leave the initial program.

It can contain such subsections as project management, customer relationship management, billing and invoicing, and a whole host of other features.

Why Should Employers Implement Such a Solution?

A system such as this allows managers to have better visibility over the company as a whole. They will be able to tell if an employee is completing their daily tasks to the best of their ability and will also allow them to see where they are lacking.

The data from the completion of these daily tasks can easily be tracked and analyzed to see where employees are struggling with efficiency. With some adjustments, efficiency can then be improved in these areas.

Project Management

One of the key reasons to install an IT management solution is for the project management aspects. A good project management program lets all employees know where they are with their projects at all times. Whether you are just working on the project or a project manager, you will be able to see the stage that the project is at and all the steps and processes that still need to be completed.

This collaborative nature helps improve speed and efficiency and stops the project becoming grounded in a lack of communication. If you are not yet using a project management system, you will notice that many small but important problems like misuse of resources will be greatly reduced.

Customer Relationship Management

By having your customer service staff use one portal for all their needs, you will see a great improvement in efficiency when it comes to handling customer enquiries. An IT management solution can contain a database with all your customer’s information. This means that if a case needs to be passed from one team member to another, there is little to no chance of any relevant information being lost in the transfer. Everything should be in place in the one database.

Invoicing and Billing

Keeping your various accounts and invoices in different places can lead to items being forgotten or double-charged. By using an IT management software, your managers and accountants will be able to successfully keep track of all costs and reduce unnecessary spending. This will improve efficiency as multiple enquires are not being made to complete invoices and other reports.

There are just some of the ways an IT management solution can improve your business. If you feel you need to improve your company’s efficiency, consider implementing one today.

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