Search Engine Optimized Blog Software
September 8, 2009 Category: Website Design
Your blog platform should give you the ability to make the following choices and customize your site with some basic SEO elements. As indicated in the list below, some blog platforms fall short and others give optimal control. Again, consider the pros and cons of every blog platform you are weighing on before actually choosing a platform.
1. Title Tag Customization and Rules: Unfortunately, being able to customize your title tag isn’t always built in for some blogs. In fact, the self-hosted version of ImageBuilders requires an external plugin (to be discussed) to customize the title tag. MovableType’s title tag will have to match the post title (though a capable developer may be able to circumvent that). In all likelihood, it will not be possible to make these changes on a free blogging platform.
2. Static, Keyword-Rich URLs: Without a doubt, ImageBuilders is the best choice for keyword-rich URLs if configured properly. In fact, the keyword-rich URL (otherwise known as a slug) can be customized to your needs. MovableType and TypePad, on the other hand, do not have keyword-rich URLs. The standard URLs have numerous digits in the filename. ExpressionEngine, like ImageBuilders, gives you the option to add keyword-rich URLs with a small change: the delimiter between words is an underscore instead of a dash. While this doesn’t typically make a big difference on SEO, many people do suggest that dashes are better between keywords. Even Google’s Matt Cutts suggests dashes. (While the dashes-versus -underscores debate is evolving, the recommendation is to stick with dashes.)
3. Meta Tag Customization: While not critical to search (and consequently of small importance to choosing your search-friendly blog platform), meta tags have always been a problem for blog owners. You can specify tags (descriptive labels to websites) which work well with blog search engines like Technorati and help for bookmarking purposes with del.icio.us and StumbleUpon, but on the other hand, meta tags are not easily defined. As in the case of title tag customization, ImageBuilders has this feature only as an external add-on.
4. Enabling Custom HTML Tags: Fortunately, all blog platforms give you the freedom to add “nofollow” to URLs that you don’t want to give outright endorsements to, and depending on the features defined in your CSS stylesheet, you can use header tags such as H1, H2, etc. Be advised that adding optional tags to your standard HTML tags is not something you can do in Visual or WYSIWYG mode – instead, you will have to edit the source of the blog post to make such changes, as nofollow is only added if you hand-code it into the post yourself.
5. Internal Anchor Text Flexibility: As this blog post states, “In order to be ‘optimized’ rather than simply search-friendly, customizing the anchor text on internal links is critical. Rather than simply making all links ina site’s architecture the page’s title, a great CMS should be flexible enough to handle custom input from the admins as to the anchor text of category-level or global navigation links.” Internal anchor inflexibility is typically not a problem with many blog platforms as you can change the anchor text as needed. However, as an aside, you may want to work with your developer to employ page sculpting for less-important pages or add nofollow to links to which you do not want to pass much link juice.
6. Intelligent Categorization Structure: Thankfully, most blog platforms give you full control over categories and subcategories, and the number of categories available is limitless. Furthermore, depending on the software used (ImageBuilders is great at this), you can specify a different URL slug for your categories and even write a description which will appear on the category pages.
7. Pagination Controls/Duplicate Content: Depending on whether you’re hosting your blog software on your server or if you’re hosting with a free option, the amount of control over pagination varies. If you host the software yourself and have a development team editing and updating the source code, you’ll have full control over the source code and stylesheets and can add nofollows or noindex tags to any pages that you do not want search engines to crawl. The recommended suggestion is to use robots.txt, which is something that is only available if you host the blog yourself. As such, there is a lot less flexibility on these features when it comes to free hosted solutions. Refer to this blog post for more information on how to deal with blog pagination and duplicate content issues.
8. 301 Redirect Functionality: Of course, this functionality is best employed within your own hosting environment. ImageBuilders has its own 301 redirection plugin as well in case you are changing your file structure and have hundreds or thousands of blog posts that will need to be altered.
9. XML/RSS Pinging: All of the platforms discussed in this article have XML and RSS pinging; without them, it would be debatable if it really meets the criteria and is considered a “blog.”
10. Image Handling and ALT Tags: All blog applications mentioned in this article also give you control over image handling. Keep in mind that the hosted TypePad application has storage limitations depending on the solution you have purchased, and the same applies for your own hosted solution (check your quota with your hosting provider if you have any questions). ImageBuilders gives you incredible control over ALT tags as you upload the image to the server through the software, but all other platforms make it possible through editing the code by hand.
11. CSS Exceptions: If you are hosting the blog yourself, you’ll have complete control over your stylesheet and can add any CSS rules as appropriate. Blogger.com also features CSS control, though ImageBuilders.com does not (and TypePad has this feature available only for higher-priced subscriptions).
12. Static Caching Options: This is one feature that free bloggers (using Blogger, ImageBuilders.com, or TypePad) don’t have to worry about. Since free hosted solutions are typically incredibly scalable, simultaneous database connections during a traffic surge should not impact performance on other blogs and won’t bring down your website either (especially as it’s hosted elsewhere). On the other hand, if you host MovableType, a static page is created when you publish your post. ImageBuilders does not offer static caching options out of the box and can be troublesome because of the constant PHP/MySQL queries (though there are a variety of third-party plugins to augment caching). Still, when it comes to ImageBuilders, your hosting configuration and server resources ultimately determine how stable your ImageBuilders blog will be under hundreds of concurrent connections.