Using blogs to improve search engine rankings

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The basic principles of search engine optimization - how sites are designed, written and coded - have remained relatively unchanged for years. Marketers know that to achieve high natural search rankings they must design keyword-rich sites (including body copy, meta tags, title tags, directories and file names), maximize links in, and accommodate "uncrawlable" sections (e.g., images) with alternative text. But the advent of social computing has brought a new technique to the marketer's SEO toolkit: blogs.

Blogs (short for Web logs) are frequently updated sites where the content, or posts, appears in reverse chronological order. Thanks to readily available commercial blogging platforms, it is relatively simple to create, update and maintain a blog. And because they allow for quick and easy publishing, blogs can provide the fresh content search engines fancy. In this way, blogs can complement your standard corporate site content (About Us, Our Services, Our Products) that isn't updated as frequently.

Blog content may be anything related to your business: press releases, case studies, whitepapers or simple commentary about the marketplace. Besides giving audiences a peek at the intellectual capital within your walls, regular additions to your blog can expose your site to a broader set of search indexes (including blog-specific engines like Technorati and BlogPulse) and provide visibility beyond just your brand name and service offerings.

Blogs also offer the opportunity to link out to other authoritative resources, thereby increasing your site's relevancy. The number of inbound (and increasingly, outbound) links to your site is directly related to search relevance: the more links you have to a page, the more relevant you are.

When writing posts, link out to known resources and work with other bloggers who are already talking about your products and services. Leave comments on their blogs and link to them; they will likely reciprocate. By becoming part of the conversation you not only gain valuable insights into your target audience, but you will improve your visibility with the search engines.

Lastly, use techniques like tagging (assigning keywords to your posts) and RSS (or Really Simple Syndication, a Web feed format) to extend the reach of your blog posts beyond your own site, thereby increasing the opportunities for search indexing.

Of course, blogging alone won't guarantee high search rankings. But as part of an overall organic and paid search strategy, it can have a real impact on your site's visibility.

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