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Search Engine Supplement: Search Optimization, Blogs and RSS Feeds: A Magical Combination

The major search engines – Google, in particular – seem to love blogs, which are the personal or professional diaries that number in the millions online. Search engines favor blogs because they are so richly interlinked (indeed, it’s part of blogging etiquette to credit your sources with a link), and links weigh very heavily in search engines’ algorithms.

Webfeeds – XML files containing a list of late-breaking content items – also have a positive effect on search rankings by encouraging additional inbound linking. These could be blog posts, news headlines, new or best-selling products, clearance items, etc.

A feed will be in either the Really Simple Syndication standard or the ATOM standard and typically contains information such as titles, descriptions, Web addresses and publication dates.

By providing one or more feeds on your Web site, you can get syndicated onto other sites that wish to use your content to augment their own. This will result in deep links into your pages of late-breaking content. For example, Slashdot.org has news headlines and associated links syndicated onto numerous other Web sites, including Nanodot.org.

What is it about links that make them so crucial to search engine optimization? From the engines’ perspective, links connote importance. In a way, a link acts like a vote. A Web site with few inbound links won’t appear to the search engines to be worthy of a top ranking for any popular search keywords.

Not all links are created equal, either. A link from Jim-Bob’s personal home page won’t benefit nearly as much as a link from CNN.com. Furthermore, the anchor (i.e., underlined) text in links gets special consideration by the search engines: the keywords in that anchor text are associated with the page that is linked to. That’s why a search for “miserable failure” returns such politically charged results, even though the words “miserable” and “failure” appear nowhere on the HTML of those top-ranking pages.

Two great ways to acquire links with keyword-rich anchor text are blogging and syndicating your content through Webfeeds. It starts with naming your blog with your targeted keywords. Incorporating keywords into the titles of your blog posts and the titles of your RSS items also will yield a rankings benefit.

Over time, the major engines are going to use Webfeed technology in more sophisticated ways. Yahoo currently offers a Web-based aggregator called My Yahoo that you can add RSS feeds to with one click, using the “Add to My Yahoo” link that appears in some listings in the Yahoo search results.

MSN Search lets you subscribe to search results as RSS feeds. Some specialized feed search engines like Technorati, Feedster and PubSub let you subscribe to an RSS feed of search results that pull data from an index of Webfeeds, but I’m confident the major engines will offer the same sort of functionality.

For more articles from The Direct Marketer’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Marketing, visit http://www.dmnews.com/cgi-bin/artcategory.cgi?category_id=22

A PDF of the guide is available at: http://www.dmnews.com/pdffiles/semguide.pdf

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