Successful Blogging: Is It About Content or Just Presentation?

How many blogging tips have you learned since you started on this journey of blogging? 

How many more do you think you really need to become successful as a blogger?

Have any idea?

Whatever your answer maybe one thing that is sure is the more tips and strategies on successful blogging you know and the more of them you put to work, the more successful you’ll be when the chips are down! I believe that is why you see more of successful blogging tips being written about on blogs these days. Now, in this article I want to share with you a few tips that have helped me, and I’m sure will also help you succeed with your blogging adventure.

If you’re just starting out blogging or you’re working on building that much coveted successful bloggers status, one thing that you might be struggling with right now could be choosing between creating content or working on your blog’s presentation. I know this because as a blogger I faced this dilemma  for a long time.

During this period, I tried resolving whether to concentrate on content or to spend more time on presentation. Of course, it is a fact that we have very little time every day and I wanted to make the available time as productive as possible. And so I spent time in taking this decision. After a long time however, I was able to finally reach a conclusion and here it goes.

1. Your Blog Should Be Attractive And User Friendly

I think you have to start at the beginning. What do visitors see when they first visit your blog? I for one want to see uncluttered, minimalistic look. One thing is for certain. People want to see pleasing layout and soothing colors. Garish and bright front may look good on a Las Vegas gambling spot but is a big no-no for a blog. What’s the point in having great content if you scare off guys in the first instance?

User interaction and navigation is a huge thing and there are tons and tons of instruction manuals which talk about it. After spending days and months pouring over such documents I have reached a final conclusion – Keep it simple. Your blog must not distract from your blog’s purpose. It should tell visitors what to expect right at the outset. To begin with, your website name or domain should be self-explanatory. The blog title should be succinct and clear. The layout must be smart.

2. WordPress Is A Great Blogging Platform

I have been there and have done it. Let me tell you one thing – don’t waste your time experimenting on different platforms. I have nothing against Blogger or Tumblr or SquareSpace or Posterous. I have tried them all and finally reached the conclusion that WordPress is best. It has everything for everyone. There are free themes for amateurs and premium themes for professionals. Actually free themes are also quite nice and can be used by pros. Premium themes cost less than the cost of a single lunch. WordPress is easy to install, pretty easy to learn and you can be up and going in a couple of hours.

3. Content Is King

Once you have put together the ingredients, it’s time to cook a nice good blog. You must, absolutely must, provide excellent content to visitors. There are no two ways to this part of the deal. I have visited sites which are insipid and tasteless. I have never gone back again. Your blog should be buzzing, happening and good to taste. The meal you cook up for visitors must not only be visually appealing but also good to taste – flavor, garnishing and finish – everything must be appetizing. If you offer visitors a great post they will come back again and again.

Conclusion

You need both – looks and content. One without the other will make it an incomplete meal. With WordPress you can create the right look. Content, of course, is a different animal altogether.  You have to tame this animal if you want to be a successful blogger. The best way is to write about stuff which you are passionate about. Think clearly- write clearly – add value.

Over to you: Between creating content and presentation which one will you choose? Let us know your reasons in the comments below.

How to Enhance Your WordPress SEO Elements with Plugins

This is part 2 of our WordPress SEO series. In part 1 we dealt with how you can correct WordPress default settings so as to gain more seo power with the search engines. You are advised to read it for better understanding.

So, on to part 2,

Do you know what essentials to concentrate on when it comes to wordpress seo?

Or,  do you know that the search engines are not so intelligent as to figure out what your blog content is about and that they need your assistance to do that?

What about this …

Do you know it’s what the search engines understand about your blog content that will determine where they rank it in the SERPs?

If you’ve not known any of these basic facts then you’ll need to read the next paragraph carefully because it is important if you want to optimize your blog for the search engines.

Your blog’s title, description meta tag, content, keyword density and links form the essential SEO elements which the search engine spiders focus on when they crawl your blog. It is the information they gather from these elements that they use when they index your blog.

That is worth noting because it should form the bedrock of your wordpress seo.

Whenever someone request information through a search, the search engines check the keyword phrases used against the information indexed and then returns the pages that best agree with those keyword phrases. Because of this, it’s important that you focus on these elements no matter the niche you’re targeting.

And so, in this article I want to present to you some  wordpress plugins that will help you deliver your content to the search engines in a way that will make it much easier for them to read it, understand it, digest it and then rank your blog well.

WordPress SEO – Using the Right Plugins

There are presently over 15,000 plugins that will help you do almost anything you can imagine with your wordpress blog. Most of these plugins are built to enhance particular operations of wordpress. One of such area is wordpres SEO.  We know search engines have a special favor for blogs because they are frequently updated and have lots of relevant content. But as we have said, wordpress default settings sucks when it comes to SEO. The use of these pugins therefore is to garner some more love from the search engines for your blog.

To help you digest this article much better I’ve laid it out under 3 major subheadings. These are:

1. Operation Related WordPress SEO

2. On-Page WordPress SEO, and

3. Link building WordPress SEO

For each of these areas you’ll be presented with various options of plugins that will enhance your work.

So let’s begin.

Operation Related WordPress SEO

One very important element Google uses in ranking sites is the site’s loading time. The reasoning for Google is that a slow loading blog is poor in terms of site usability. Some of the things Google takes into consideration here is the bounce rate and repeat visitors. Where the bounce rate is high and the number of repeat visitors is low, Google reasons that something is wrong with that site. It is a wise thing therefore to work on reducing your blog’s load time.

Unfortunately, most of the content in your blog contribute to this problem. For example if your blog has been online for some time chances are that it has acquired a huge load of pages, images, flash, videos and javascripts. Now, these have their good uses but they, nevertheless, have negative effects on your blog’s load time. But there are few things you can do to correct this.

Here are 2 suggestions on reducing your blog’s load time:

1. Use Cache To Retrieve Information

Most of the data that tend to slow down your blog like images and javascripts are data that are not dynamic. That is, they do not change quickly. The best way to ensure that this type of data do not constitute a problem to your blog is to implement cache. Caching is a simple way of calling data from a ready storage (cache). This way, resources are not wasted to generate it every time the same information is needed. By simply using cache you make the retrieving of information quicker.

There are various ways of implementing cache in your blog but the easiest way, and of course the wisest if you know nothing about coding like me, is to use plugins.

Here is a list of a few you would want to check out:

WP Super Cache – Many bloggers tell of how wonderful this one is but I’ve never had any success with it! I tried implementing it a couple of times but each time it changed the blog’s appearance. This to me was not good enough. However, like I’ve said, many bloggers have some very good words about it. My only advice is, use with care and ensure you get good guidance unless you know what you’re doing.

W3 Total Cache – This is a newer alternative to WP Super Cache. In fact, it is presently rated far above all others.  But unfortunately again, my experience with it is nothing different. Ok, maybe I’ve problems with the settings and nothing stops you from checking it out.

Quick cache – This is the one I’ve found to work without any problem so far. If you’re technically challenged like me, then I advise you go for this one.

FV Gravatar Cache – Every WordPress blog today uses gravatars in the comments. Unfortunately, gravatars are not very good when it comes to site optimization because every gravatar image is a new HTTP requests (a page with 100 comments would have 100 additional HTTP requests. Funny right, but the trut is that while you’re working to have more comments on your blog, you’re unknowingly working against your blog’s SEO?). Ok, that was on a lighter mood. But nevertheless, gravatars are a big problem. But Cache Gravatars will give you the power to cache all gravatars locally thereby reducing their load time.

WP Smush.it! – Ok, this one is not a cache. Its work is to optimize your images, by reduce the image file sizes thereby improving performance. If you use graphics a lot, like I use on this blog, then WP smush.it is the plugin for you. On your first install, this plugin will automatically optimize every image in your images folder. Subsequently, every image you add to a post will be automatically optimized once you publish the post.

2. Optimize Your Blog’s Database

Most times the cause of a slow loading blog is not the size of the pages or images but the database tables. To overcome this problem the database tables should be optimized from time to time. The following are some of the plugins I have found useful for repairing and optimizing your blog’s database:

WP-DBManager – this plugin actually has different functionalities. It has a database backup, database repair, etc. With WP-DBManager you simply schedule and forget, and the plugin will take care of all the work automatically. It is a plugin that every blog must have.

WP-Optimize – This is database cleanup and optimization tool. Some of the things you can do with this plugin is removing post revisions (one big culprit of a bloated database), comments in the spam queue and un-approved comments with just a few clicks. Additionally you can use it to rename any username to another username with ease. For example: If you want to rename default ‘admin’ username to ‘someothername’ the plugin will do it for you.

TentBlogger Optimize WordPress Database – This is another simple one to implement for optimizing your blog’s database. As seen on the plugin’s page, the goal of this plugin is to be the easiest and most intuitive optimization process for your blog. It simply optimizes your WordPress MySQL database with a click of a button and then lets you get back to writing! It’s intuitive! It’ll let you know if you need a “tune up” by giving you a message that you should optimize. If not then you can just get back to writing!

On-Page WordPress SEO

The importance of using your target keyword phrase in your title tag is a search engine optimization strategy that everyone agrees on.  It is one way of telling the search engines what your content is really about. Of course many bloggers will want you to believe that simply creating and publishing content is enough to rank high on the search engines but that is not really true. Whenever someone makes a search on the search engines, they want to know what your page is about before returning it in the SERPs. To know this they check your page title slug, the headline and the content against the keyword phrase the searcher is using.

For example, I did a search with the keyword phrase “make money blogging” and here’s what the search engines returned. Note the titles and the descriptions.

The first one is actually an ad so we are not taking that into consideration. But note carefully the ones I’ve marked as #1 and #2. Look at the titles and the descriptions. Now take a look at #3 and #4.

If you are the one searching for information on “make money blogging” which of these ones will you click on? Is it the one ranking #1 or #2? Or will you go for #3 or #4?   You may want to give your answer in your comments below!

But for clarity sake, that graphic tells us one thing, leaving the search engines to determine what they should index for your article is a gamble you must not take. This is because what the searcher sees in the SERP will determine to a great deal the traffic that will come to your blog. It doesn’t matter its position in the SERPs.

The purpose of the following plugins therefore is to help you “instruct” the search engines on what to focus their attention on once they are on your blog and then index what you want. Used effectively these plugins will guide the search engine spiders to pay special attention to your blog titles, descriptions, links and tags.

SEO Slug – In part 1 we learnt how to enabled custom permalinks using your post name (title) as the slug. As much as that helps in creating SEO friendly URLs, there is however another flaw in WordPress that this plugin takse care of. WordPress is built to take the whole title of a post as you entered it and simply add dashes between the words to create the permalinks. Unfortunately the search engines hate this with a passion! They prefer something short with your keyword phrase contained in it. What this plugin does therefore is to strip common words like “what”, “you” or “can” out of your post slug to make it more search-engine-friendly.

NOTE: I must say that I prefer using the url shortener on the writing pane to do this. For one it gives me the power to choose what I want to put in the post slug and again it’s a way of using less plugins thereby reducing the load. However, if you feel you don’t have the pleasure of handcrafting your post slug, then using this plugin is a good decision.

For example, I’ve shortened this post slug from:

http://webincomejournal.com/3178/wordpress-seo-part-2-enhancing-your-blog’s-essential-seo-elements-with-plugins.html

to:

http://webincomejournal.com/3178/wordpress-seo-using-plugins.html

Cool right?

All-In-One SEO Pack – This one, as the name implies, is truly an all-in-one solution to most of the problems of WordPress’s on-page SEO. Most of what you need for an optimized blog is packed in this one. With it you will be able to put your post and page titles before the blog name which is good for SEO.  For your blog home page you will be able to choose a title tag, description, and target keywords. This is very important because the home page usually hold different posts targeting different keyword phrases. Left for the search engines they will simply pick whatever comes handy and most times that will not be what you want! Just as we have seen in the graphic above.

Again using this plugin you can actually choose a different title for your human readers and another one for the search engines.

For example this article is titled: “Wordpress SEO Part 2: Enhancing Your Blog’s Essential SEO Elements with Plugins!” but for the search engines I’ve used, “Wordpress SEO: Optimize Your Blog like the Pros Using Plugins!

You can check that by simply looking at your browser’s title bar. Read this post how I did that.

Here are some alternatives to All-In-One SEO Pack:

WordPress SEO by Yoast
Ultimate SEO
Platinum SEO Pack
HeadSpace

NOTE: Recently I started using WordPress SEO by Yoast and have found it to be a great plugin. Apart from the above mentioned features in All-In-One SEO Pack there is a powerful feature that I’ll be writing about in a later post. If you’ve not used this one before you’ll do yourself a lot of good if you’ll try it out!

SEO Friendly images – One powerful on-page SEO tactic that is very important is using the ALT and TITLE tag for your images. Why you should do this is because the search engines cannot read the images on your pages. The only way you can tell them what the images are is using the ALT and TITLE tags. This plugin saves you the time of manually adding a title and alt every time you add a new image. Besides, once you activate it, it will automatically optimize all the images on your blog.

Link Building WordPress SEO

Another crucial element in search engine optimization is link building. This consists both off-site links pointing to your blog from other blogs and on-site links linking your blog posts one with another. Indeed most times the off-site links cannot be controlled by you. But you can take full control of the internal links structure which will impact positively on the rankings of your blog.

The good thing is that there are some plugins that, when used, will effectively funnel link juice within your blog thereby giving your interior pages the ranking juice needed to get on page one of the search engines.

Here are a few:

Internal Link Building – As the name suggest, this plugin allows you to maximize the internal contextual anchor text links, which are incredibly powerful. It also has the options of using a variety of anchor text. To use simply go to “settings” and then add the keywords and the post slug you want to link within your blog. This is really great for SEO.

An alternative to internal link building is SEO smart links which will automatically link keywords and phrases in your posts and comments with corresponding posts, pages, categories and tags on your blog.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) – This one is quite common on blogs and that is because of its usefulness. Its purpose is to display at the end of a post a number of relevant posts that are related to the current one. Doing this leads to visitors reading more of your content thereby staying longer on your site.

All Category SEO Updater – This one works in tandem with All In One SEO to deliver high quality SEO for your main category pages. With it you’ll be able to further customize category pages as well as additional SEO function.

One big alternative to this one is TentBlogger SEO Categories which optimizes your permalink structure at the category level to make them as functional (and pretty) as possible for both your users and the search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) that index your content!

How about off-line links?

As I mentioned, the off-site links cannot really be controlled by you but there are a few things you can do to have some good links pointing back to your blog. With the popularity of social media you can actually use these to put your blog content out there increasing the chances of your content being noticed. If this is done well and the right buzz is created about it in the social media sites, it can help your blog’s rankings. (If you want a software that can help you easily do this, then check out the Magic Submitter. It’s a powerful tool for building one way links using the social media sites.)

Here are some plugins that will help you get your content out there:

BWP Google XML Sitemaps – This is a powerful plugin I discovered recently. A few weeks ago I had problems with Google XML Sitemaps. In my search for an alternative I came across this one and now nothing is going to make me go back to Google XML Sitemaps! Get the details and download here.

cbnet Ping Optimizer – This is another critical plugin you should install as it corrects another of wordpress’ default problems. . Every time you edit a post WordPress by default sends a message to your ping lists. Unfortunately this can label you as a spammer if not done well. So it’s either you take control or you run into problems. This plugin will help you out.

WP OnlyWire Auto Poster – This plugin will syndicate your blog posts to over 20 social networking sites simultaneously using the OnlyWire infrastructre when you publish a post. It is indeed an automated way of increasing your blog traffic overnight.

Read this post to discover how OnlyWire auto poster works.

Now, a Word of Warning!

Before rounding off this article it is important to sound this note of warning. As you’ve seen in this article your blog load time is very important seo-wise. Too much of plugins can cause more harm than good!  Instead of using too many plugins a wiser option is to get a search engine optimized wordpress theme like the Genesis Framework. With Genesis Framework most of the functionalities of these plugins are already built in making their use unnecessary.

Conclusion: This list of wordpress SEO plugins is by no means exhaustive. You can use the 3 subheadings laid out in this article to search for more. Indeed the list may be overwhelming but once you’ve mastered how to use them you’ll be able to better present your content to the search engines. Using these plugins will truly improve your wordpress blog’s seo potentialities making your content more visible which could lead to more traffic from the search engines.

Oh, before you go on to post your comment, don’t you think this is worth sharing? Just want to say you can encourage us if you’ll only help promote it by sharing with your friends. Better, linking to it will be greatly appreciated! 🙂

A Belated but Must-Be-Done Announcement of the Top Commentators for the Month of May!

First, I must apologize to every one of you, especially those who are the top commentators for the month of May, for staying away for this past few weeks without a word. I’m really sorry. Though it was meant for good, but I realize that I should have put in a word, at least, to let you know what was happening. I do hope you’ll find a place in your heart to forgive me!

Well, my “sabbatical” was to fix a few things that have been bedeviling this blog for some time now. As you are quite aware I had to pull down the whole structure and set it up again sometime ago.

But unfortunately, since then I have been receiving emails from some of you on how you are finding it difficult in publishing your comments. Besides, I also observed that many of the comments held for moderation are sometimes multiples of the same comment, a clear indication that the comment was posted a number of times. It was to correct this problem therefore that gave rise to my “sabbatical”.

This past couple of weeks I had to once again do some “dismantling” and restructuring trying to figure out what was really wrong. I have tried a couple other themes in trying to pinpoint where the problem is coming from. But so far it does appear that the problem is not with the current theme so I’ve restored it back.

For now I wouldn’t say all is well. What I’m doing right now is still a test. I’ll be grateful therefore if you will report any problems encountered (if there is any) whenever you’re posting your comment. One thing I know is that problems are not meant to break us but to make us stronger. We may be knocked down but we will never accept any knockout! We know where we’re going and therefore nothing will stop us. I believe this problem is here to bring out the best in us.

And so, I must appreciate you for being there for us even when I’ve not posted any article for the past couple of weeks or so, which is unusual. I call on your therefore to keep your comments coming they are a big encouragement.

Top Commentators for the Month of May:

And now, let the drums roll for our top commentators for the past month:

1. Christopher of The TechnologyBloggers.org:

Apparently Christopher is taking the top position for the third consecutive month! I truly admire Christopher for his dedication to this blog. He has not only proved to be a reader of this blog but also a friend in that he is always quick to shoot me an email whenever he discovers anything not working the way it should. I have said some good words about technologybloggers.org and why you should join the community of bloggers there. Read that post to know more. But today I want to point you to an article Christopher wrote recently that every blogger should read. It’s about reputation and your blog’s success. You should read it right away.

And,

2. Andrew Walker of YouLoveCoupons.com:

Andrew Walker was able to edge out some other promising contenders for the second position. Some Andrew come on the scene he has shown that his intention is to hit the top. Well, though he couldn’t clinch the top position, but he was able to get the second! And what is Andrew offering you. He wants to help you save some money. I’m sure you do your shopping online, right? Of course, who doesn’t these days! Ok, how about saving some money when you do your shopping, great right? If you love that then you should visit http://www.youlovecoupons.com/ today for their Discount Coupon Codes and Promotional Vouchers that will help you save money when you do your online shopping!  I think doing that is a wise decision both as an individual and a business because every dollar saved will turn out to put some more power into your pockets!

We congratulate Christopher and Andrew we look forward to see more of you here. Our gratitude also goes to everyone else. We appreciate your contributions to the success of this top commentators’ rewards package. Accept our warmest thanks!

Please Read This Very Carefully: I’m considering modifying the rules of the game. I will make this known at the end of June. For this reason there will not be any top commentators’ announcement at the end of June. This is (1) to compensate for the lost time in this month and (2) to formerly commence the new commentators’ rewards package in the month of July. Please do bear with me and watch out for the new rules.

Remember, I want you to post your comments and let me know if you still have any problems. And if you think there is anything that can be added to the top commentators’ rules to make the whole experience a fulfilling one for all of us, simply post it in your comments below.