This is part 5 of our series on Dominating Google’s Universal Search results. Today’s focus is Google’s Blog Search. Given the dynamic nature of frequently updated blogs and the sheer number of them (95.9 million according to Technorati), crawling, indexing and ranking them alongside general web results, video, image, news and various other channels is a monumental task.
The good news for site owners and online marketers is that the new Universal Search opens the door for blogs to gain more real estate search results page. While nobody knows exactly what factors (also called “signals”) and weighting Google’s blog search engine uses, it is safe to assume that there are two primary factors when ranking blog results for a given keyword. The first is a relevance score for a particular post. The second is a quality score for the entire blog or site. We will examine the most likely indicators of each and offer some tips on how to maximize your blog’s visibility.
Blog Post Relevance
- Keyword use in the meta data – Utilize Title, Description and Keywords tags for each post. Don’t stuff them with every variation of your keywords that you can think of. Rather, lead with your keyword phrase and keep the tags succinct.
- Keyword density – The ratio of keywords to all other text on a page. KW density above 4-5% in paragraph form might be deemed suspicious because it is not generally representative of normal conversation or writing styles
- Tag and content hierarchy – Break up your post with keyword-rich tags (<h1>, <h2>, etc) and semantic markup (<strong>, <em>).
- Popularity – Can be determined by number of RSS feed subscribers. Google has many ways to determine a blog’s popularity if they so choose: Google Reader, Google Toolbar, Google Analytics and their recent acquisition of Feedburner. Make sure to prominently display your RSS feeds and encourage your readers to subscribe.
- Implied Popularity – These factors may be out of your control but important to note. Factors may include click-through-rates in search results pages or time spent on a particular blog. Spend a little extra time writing catchy titles, descriptions and lead-in paragraphs to improve your “stickiness”. Another indicator of implied popularity is appearing in other blogs’ blogrolls. Many blogs keep a running list of links to related bloggers and having your blog on those lists can imply popularity.
- Categories – Many blogging platforms allow bloggers to categorize posts into thematically grouped categories or tags. Create categories for each of the high-level keywords you are optimizing for. Use ’em, but don’t abuse ’em.
- PageRank – Similar to regular web pages, blog posts can accumulate PageRank. Often touted as the end-all-be-all of SEO, it is just one of the signals used by Google to determine rankings. It is primarily based on the quality and quantity of links pointing to a blog or post.
Potential Negative Quality Signals – As with any mathematically-based algorithm, spammers with a profit motive will try to manipulate the output (rankings, in this case). Search engines are on the lookout for patterns that could indicate automated blog posts or other spam tactics designed to game the system. The most common signals of negative quality are:
- Frequency of new posts – Google Blog Search is on the lookout for patterns such as regular intervals between posts or multiple posts in short bursts.
- RSS Feed manipulation – Multiple feeds with identical content or mismatched feeds (feed content does not match the original post).
- Word association – Word groupings commonly associated with spammers such as “Nigerian bank transfer” can trigger spam filters and result in negative quality scores.
- Link distribution – Most blogs link out to multiple pages when referencing other sources so posts with many links to a single site or page might be considered spammy.
- Ads in a blog – Google Blog Search algorithms might penalize a blog that is overly monetized (multiple Adsense blocks and/or excessive affiliate linking). A few well placed, relevant ad units are certainly acceptable, but don’t overdue it.
These factors are probably just a short list of signals used to rank blog pages in the Universal Search results, but if you incorporate optimization of these elements and usability best practices into your content, you will be many steps ahead of the competition.
Hat-tip to Bill Slawski of SEO By The Sea for his in-depth reporting on Google patent applications. His attention to detail and interpretation skills fueled most of this post.
Updated list of categories covered:
7/31 – Google Maps
8/1 – Google News
8/2 – Youtube Video
8/3 – Google Images
8/6 – Google Blog Search
8/8 – Google Base
8/9 – Google Books
8/10 – Google Groups
8/13 – Google Code Search
Any others I’m missing? Leave a comment. Thanks!