Six tips for great SEO: #Twespians bloggers’ seminar (part 2 of 4)

Continuing my series of short notes from last night’s Twespians bloggers’ seminar, following on from part 1 posted last night.  As I said in my previous post, the second session overlapped with the first in a lot of ways, but it’s all worth considering for bloggers, whether you’re writing about theatre or not. As before, the notes are generally from the speaker, with my own additions in italics.

Six tips for great SEO (@shadowdaddy)

SEO is about building readership, allowing new readers to find your content more easily by making your site show up higher in search engine results. It helps you avoid blogging into a vacuum.

The keys to SEO are:

  • Quality content
  • Inbound links
  • A good site structure (which common blog platforms help with)
  • Building a buzz – blogs are inherently social in nature, and about creating a conversation

Quality content is vital. There’s a reason why it’s top of the list above – all the semantic HTML in the world won’t help you if your content is rubbish. You’ll attract occasional visitors, but the only way they’ll stick around is if they enjoy reading your blog.

  • Traffic for blogs is cyclical, especially if you’re talking about current issues or reviewing shows. You will need to keep creating content to build an audience
  • Reviews of touring shows can retain interest longer term than shorter ones

Any incentive for bloggers to talk about regional and touring theatre is okay in my book. You’ll also find that long running West End shows can also generate traffic, but you’ll be competing against many, many other content sources.

  • Conversion for commercial websites = revenue. Conversion for bloggers = more readers & comments + status in a wider context. Both can lead to money w/ advertising, etc. in the long run

Tip 1: Get the tech right

  • This includes the right HTML metadata, from page title and descriptions, to well structured URLs and good links
  • Most blogging platforms go a long way to doing the heavy lifting for you
  • The words that are clickable in your links count for a lot. Making “Read my review of [title of show]” works far better than “click here”
  • When displaying page titles in search results, Google truncates them after 67 characters. So keep them short and to the point (and, if possible, put your site name at the end of your title rathe than the beginning)
  • Link back from your new blog posts to relevant old ones. Helps search engines traverse your blog and indicates that your older content is still relevant. Link out to other people as much as you can, too — they’ll be able to tell, and hopefully link back. And it builds out your network
  • Be careful with tagging your posts. Can be very useful, but make sure that clickable tag links lead to archives of your content rather than aggregated content from other users of your hosted platform (e.g., WordPress.com)
  • Some hosting platforms ‘fix’ problems that you need to be aware of if you’re self-hosting – e.g., if example.com, www.example.com and www.example.com/index.html display the same content under three URLs, search engines won’t know which to consider the real one

Tip 2: Get in early

  • The most contentious area when it comes to blogging about theatre getting your review up early (especially before the main print publications) can get you high traffic levels, but there are ethical issues re. press nights, etc.
  • People will disagree about whether the print critics should have gone en masse to review Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark even though its press night had been pushed back again
  • One possibility which can provide a better traffic/ethical balance:
    1. Write a preview post with some information (e.g., casting news, etc)
    2. Once you’ve seen the show, write a quick review ASAP
    3. Update with a full, considered review
    4. Make sure that your older posts get updated with a link to your most up-to-date review

Tip 3: Create controversy

  • Strong opinions get people talking (e.g., the West End Whingers)

This isn’t really SEO, although if people start linking to your coverage then those inbound links will help you. Writing deliberately provocative posts purely as ‘link bait’ can damage your personal brand, so be careful

Tip 4: Create longer-life topics based on reader research

  • Think outside just reviewing
  • Google’s AdWords keyword adviser and Search Insights tools can help show you what sort of phrases people are using to search for content in your field. These should inspire you to think about areas where you can provide useful information

Tip 5: Promote it

  • Think about auto-posting to Facebook, Twitter, Posterous, Tumblr, etc.
  • Provide tools to help your readers promote your content to their friends, e.g., Tweet Button, Facebook Like button.
  • FB’s Like button has just changed to give you greater control over how your posts appear on people’s walls. Greg Finn’s optimisation tips at SearchEngineLand can be useful here (expect to see blog Facebook button plugins updated to make this easier for non-techies)

Tip 6: Analyse your readers’ habits

  • Hosted platforms offer some analytics, and/or you can use Google Analytics
  • Can show you what keywords people are using to find you, what pages are providing the interest, etc.
  • Google’s webmaster tools will also help – can show you how your site places in the searches people are using

All of this is important, but it should be your guide, not keep you on a leash. Write about what interests you, and worry less about your readers want to read — but keep an eye on which terminology you use that can make your content easier to find

Coming in Part 3, Laura Tosney’s common sense ‘code of honour’ for theatre bloggers, and in Part 4, blogging for profit…

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Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.