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January 12, 2012

Perfect Ways to Improve Your Blog to Next Level

What does it take to move your blog up to the next level? Obviously you need a regular supply of useful content to attract readers and keep your audience happy, but here are a few extra tips on increasing interest in your blog in 2012.
1. Stop Auto-Posting
It is important that your blog has a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a Google Plus page, but unless you publish a dozen stories a day, avoid auto-posting to these channels. There are several tools that can update your Facebook page or send a tweet the moment you publish a new story, but the audience engagement level will be much higher, especially on Facebook, if you craft these messages manually instead of resorting to the help of a bot.
Lifehacker, for instance, is a pretty busy site, but it doesn’t employ bots to populate itsFacebook page – every single share or status update is written by one of the site’s editors, which helps push up engagement levels.
2. Use Fewer Ads
Revenue from online advertising is the lifeline of most small blogs, but try maintaining a balance here because too many ads are likely to repel visitors. The organic traffic originating from search engines is always welcome but the goal should be to convert that casual visitor into a return visitor, so you therefore need to offer a good reading experience on every page of your blog. Also, avoid using video ads that auto-play as they might embarrass people who are visiting your blog from an office computer.
GigaOm, The Verge and the WSJ’s AllThingsD are good examples of blogs that mix great design and non-intrusive advertising.
3. Master Google Custom Search
Internal search logs (what users type in your site’s search box) are a good indicator of topics that people are looking for on your site. The search box on your site is probably powered by Google Custom Search, but look beyond the default options and consider adding Promotions, Refinements and Synonyms to provide even more accurate and relevant search results. Google Custom Search also provides Auto-completions so your readers can type queries faster by using fewer characters.
The Custom Search Blog discusses each of these features in detail.
4. Minimize the Panda Impact
Google made some important changes to its search algorithms last year to keep “content farms” out of the search results pages, and that change had a big impact on small blogs as well. While the basic rules of SEO haven’t changed (see the SEO Handbook written by Google), here are a few things that may help improve your website’s  ranking in 2012.
a.     Remove pages with thin content because they could negatively affect your entire site.
b.     If you accept user-generated content on your site (like an online forum), move it to a separate sub-domain.
c.      Use larger images in your blog posts as the size of images is now a ranking signal in Image Search.
d.     Check your Google Analytics reports to discover pages that have a high bounce rate and analyze why people aren’t finding them useful. Search engines like pages that search users find useful, so it is important to fix pages that have a high bounce rate.
e.      Work on improving the loading time of your site because people don’t want to wait on the web. Page load time is also a factor in search rankings.
f.     Enable Social Tracking in Google Analytics to learn what content of yours is popular on social networks. While this is not officially confirmed, some search experts say Google could be using social sharing signals in search rankings.
5. Explore Additional Mediums
RSS feeds and email newsletters are the two most popular ways to distribute a blog, but now is a good time to explore other avenues as well. That’s because the use of RSS readers has declined in recent years and most people don’t want to subscribe to another mailing list just to follow a blog. Here are few things you could experiment with:
a.     Create mobile apps for your blog. Anyone with decent knowledge of programming can create blog apps using free tools like PhoneGap and jQuery Mobile.
b.     Distribute some of your long-form content as an eBook that people can download and print or read offline. Web18’s offers a free eBook of their popular posts every week.
c.      In addition to having a fan page for your blog on Facebook, also open your personal profile to subscribers because the engagement levels are much higher for content shared on a Facebook profile page than on a fan page.
d.     Create browser extensions for your blog as some of your regular readers may visit more often if you offer them easy access tools.
e.      Publish an OpenSearch plugin as that will help people search your blog from within their browser search boxes. OpenSearch is a simple text file (here’s an example) that you can even create inside Notepad.
f.       Launch a video channel and apply to become a YouTube partner. YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google, so you’d be missing out on a large audience if you don’t put videos on YouTube.
g.     Use additional distribution channels like Slideshare, Tumblr, Flickr and Scribd to expand the reach of your blog. You can publish original pictures, documents and slides to these channels and, in the long run, these shares will indirectly help in the growth of your blog.

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