Aside from spending a lot of time at the hospital last week, over the weekend I spent my Saturday at Bloggy Bootcamp hosted by SITS Girls. By lunchtime I felt like I had gotten my money’s worth ($125). And by the end of the day, my head was whirling with information, new relationships, and then, there was a cocktail party to go to! Aside from all the education, it was also nice to be in a room full of women and NOT be talking about breastfeeding and potty training.
When I was telling Toyin about it, I told him I felt like I’d just had a semester’s worth of classes crammed into one day. It was an incredible experience for many reasons, one of them being the knowledge that blogging is still highly uncharted territory in the world of communication and media influence.
There’s no telling where the blogosphere will go in the future and I’m excited to be a part of it.
The information shared by six speakers, along with host/organizer Tiffany Romero was so much I worried that I would get home and forget some very important things.
There’s no way I can go over all of the speakers for the day, but the two sessions I found the most informative, because they spoke to my personal needs, were Tip Junkie’s Laurie Turk, who spoke on organization and Angela England from The Untrained Housewife, who spoke on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Organize your time
The first tip from the Tip Junkie was, get your schedule organized. Set a time to write every day. And secondly, when sitting down to work, do the most important task first. It seems, given my background in journalism that this would be common sense. But it’s been a few years since I was ruled by the world of time clocks instead of child clocks. Child clocks are way less forgiving, and they give you way less time to screw around.
In any case it was nice to hear that I’m not the only person who logs on to Facebook before writing a blog post only to find an hour later, I’ve wasted all my work time looking through baby photos and commenting on my friends’ kids’ bowel functions for the day. Don’t get me wrong. That stuff IS important. But Laurie says, get the big stuff out of the way first, so you can play and not feel guilty about it later.
The Tip Junkie had lots of other great advice for would-be professional bloggers.
Schedule your blog posts for the same time every day. This keeps you on a schedule and it helps your readers know when you’ll have new posts. (Clearly, I don’t do this. I need some serious help in this department!)
Set an alarm for when online time is done. When you’re working against a clock, you’re more likely to get your important tasks done.
And the Tip Junkie didn’t stop there. She had lots of other great tips for making your online presence more organized. Laurie suggests doing these things to your front page:
- Declutter your sidebar.
- Use a profile picture, of yourself, not a cupcake.
- Make sure you have an RSS feed available for your readers. (Yippee! I have that.)
- Put up links for your social bookmarks. Have at least three. The most obvious are Twitter and Facebook. Pick one more and you’re good to go.
- Have a search bar. (Score two for me!)
- If you have sponsors, put them underneath your own stuff. It’s your blog. Make sure you are the top dawg y’all.
These weren’t the only tips the Tip Junkie had for us, that was just the tip of the organizational iceberg.
Humanizing SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
The other topic I found unbelievably informative was on SEO. This talk was given by Angela England from The Untrained Housewife. For months now, SEO has been somewhat of a mystery to me. I’d Google it and come up with vague articles about metrics and keyword searches. I’d ask Toyin to explain it to me and he’d start droning about metrics and keyword searches and my eyes would glaze over. I just didn’t get it.
I understood the concept. Google uses certain keywords to rank web pages in order and the higher your page ranks, the more likely you are to get found.
Then Angela explained it in human terms, while offering practical tips for increasing your rankings.
Google is like a very, very literal child. It doesn’t get witty titles. It doesn’t understand sarcasm or metaphors. It understands words and you must use enough of them, in the right places, and with their actual meanings to make Google understand what the heck you are talking about.
Here are some solid and practical tips from The Untrained Housewife for making our blogs more SEO friendly.
- Make your titles more active, more literal. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s really boring. But if you want to rank higher in Google, you’ve gotta make the title say what the article is really about.
- Use bold subheads. See, how I did that up there? Looks like I’ve already learned a couple of things.
- Cut out fluff. Focus on the topic, don’t meander. That kind of sucks because one of the things I like about blogging is that I was able to meander more than when I used to write news articles. Ah well. Maybe one day we’ll create a more user friendly Google robot.
Here’s an article written by Angela on one of her other sites, about SEO. It’s a briefer version of what we learned at Bloggy Bootcamp.
I’m going to just go ahead and say here that I’m a little embarrassed about not understanding this stuff sooner, because, quite frankly, these are pretty standard journalism rules too. Make it simple and make it obvious. And use lots of words that describe what you are talking about. It all seems so clear now.
More SEO tips
- Fix your permalink structure to ensure that your URLs reflect the post name. This is an easy to fix setting in WordPress under settings and then permalink.
- Crossposting is highly valuable, which is why guest posting is a valuable tool for bloggers, not only for new readership, but for higher search rankings.
- Use keywords in your photo descriptions.
- And finally, my new favorite blogging tool, the Google Keyword Tool. This is a free tool that lets you put in a word and it will tell you how much it gets searched, other similar search words and the competition rate for those search terms. I’m in love with it already. I feel like a dork for not knowing about this because I’m pretty certain that Toyin has told me about it before. But what the heck, now that I’m a little more tech savvy, maybe I won’t glaze over when he starts talking about metrics and blah, blah, blah.
I’ll have to just start tuning myself out I guess.