Search Engine Optimization tips for Blogger Templates (Part 1)

Search Engine Optimization tips for Blogger TemplatesThese days, there is much discussion of how blog content can be optimized for search engines in order to receive better rankings. But have you considered how your blog template can be optimized too?

There are many themes available for WordPress users which are intrinsically styled for SEO. Unfortunately for those who use Google Blogger, such resources are few and far between.

Over a short series of three posts, I’ll share some of the tricks I’ve discovered which you could use to optimize your Blogger templates for search engine spiders, and achieve better rankings in search results.

In this part, I’m going to start from the top by explaining how your blog’s URL, title and meta tags can be easily optimized with a little thought and some slight changes to your Blogger template code. I’ll also explain how your blog’s title can be best optimized, even when using an image in place of the title and description text.

URLs, Title and Meta Tags

These are often considered the three most important components of search engine optimization, and can be easily optimized for Blogger powered blogs.

Your Blog’s URL

Whether you are posting on a BlogSpot subdomain (e.g: yourblog.blogspot.com), or have chosen to use the custom domain feature (e.g: www.yourblog.com), the URL of your site should reflect the content of your blog.

Choose your blog’s URL wisely, and if possible ensure this contains a keyword or two which is relevant to your content. If you are writing about cats, for example, a URL such as “thedogsdinner.blogspot.com” will do you no favors with Google, whereas a URL like “thecatswhiskers.blogspot.com” almost certainly would ๐Ÿ™‚

The Title Tag

The <title> tag is a very important feature of any website, and is displayed most in search engine results.

In Blogger templates, a title tag is generated for each page of your blog (including the main, archive and post pages), which differs depending on the actual title of the page.

The title tag is called in your template like this:

<title><data:blog.pageTitle/></title>

Your home page will only feature the actual title of your blog, whereas post pages will feature your blog title, plus the title of your blog post.

When writing titles for your posts, you should bear this in mind to ensure your titles are keyword rich which will help your posts be indexed more easily by search engines. Try to place the most important keywords close to the beginning of the title, as many search engines limit the number of characters which are used in titles, both in their listings and in search results.

If you don’t mind hacking your template a little, you could even choose to display the title of your blog post before the blog title in post pages. This technique would ensure that keywords in your post titles would be indexed much more easily, and can result in far better search rankings for your posts. For this, you should read Widget Based’s post: Changing the Blogger Title Tag for full instructions and the appropriate code to use.

Please note: For some reason, Blogger does not now support the hack I mentioned above. If you have already used this method in your template, this will continue to work for you. However, you will not be able to edit your blog’s template while this is still in place and may well get an error message explaining that a <b:section> is not permitted within the <head> tags. I can only assume that Blogger have somehow changed the way templates are parsed, and will be sure to update this section if I can discover an alternative method.

Meta Description and Keywords Tags

Many SEO experts argue that meta description and keywords tags are being depreciated in search engine results. Google for example, generally ignores the meta description tag and generates it’s own description. However, many search engines do still make use of these tags so it can be useful to include them anyway.

Meta description and keyword tags are not automatically generated for Blogger templates. Since we have full access to the HTML markup of our Blogger templates, we can add these manually below the title tags.

One important consideration you should understand before adding meta description and keyword tags is that search engines look for different descriptions and keywords for each page of your site. If you simply add these to your template in the commonly accepted form, the same content will be distributed across all pages of your site, which search engines may well regard as spam.

So here’s the trick: only use these meta tags for your home (main) page!

This is easily achieved by wrapping your meta description and keywords in conditional tags which will then only appear on your main page.

For example, if I was writing a blog about cute cats, I could include meta description and keyword tags like this:

<title><data:blog.pageTitle/></title>
<b:if cond=’data:blog.pageType == “index”‘>
<meta content=’Cute cats and fluffy kittens for feline friends.’ name=’description’/>
<meta content=’cute, cat, kitten, fluffy, feline’ name=’keywords’/>
</b:if>

The parts highlighted in bold are those tags which prevent the data between them from being generated for the item and archive pages, so you can be sure not to spam search engines with repeated descriptions and keywords for your blog.

The example above could be used as a basis for adding your own meta description and keywords, by simply changing the values to those which are better suited to your blog.

Optimizing your blog’s title heading

Headings offer search engine spiders useful references about your content when indexing your site. You will probably be aware of the hierarchy of heading tags, which ranges from <H1> through to <H6>. Of these, the <H1> tag is considered the most important. In Blogger templates, the H1 tag would usually contain the title of your blog.

Blogger allows us to upload an image to the header section, which can either be used as a background image, or instead of the regular title and description text.

Those who choose to use an image instead of the title and description will not have the H1 heading tag present in their template. So if your blog title uses keywords which would be relevant to search engine results, you would be missing out on an important factor of SEO!

Luckily, this can be easily remedied! Provided you are using an image instead of the title and description in your template, here is how you can solve this dilemma:

  1. Go to the Layout>Edit HTML section of your Blogger dashboard, and ensure you have checked the “Expand widget templates” box.
  2. Look for the styling code for the H1 heading in the <b:skin> portion of your template. This may look something like this, though there are variations across different templates:

    #header h1 {
    margin:5px 20px;
    padding:45px 20px .25em 10px;
    line-height:1.2em;
    text-transform:uppercase;
    letter-spacing:.2em;
    font: $pagetitlefont;
    }

  3. Within this portion of code, you need to add the following line:

    display: none;

    Here is how this could appear when added to the style declaration above:

    #header h1 {
    margin:5px 20px;
    padding:45px 20px .25em 10px;
    line-height:1.2em;
    text-transform:uppercase;
    letter-spacing:.2em;
    font: $pagetitlefont;
    display: none;
    }

  4. Next, you will need to add the <h1> heading tags within the header widget. For this, you will need to locate the following section of code:

    <b:if cond=’data:useImage’>
    <b:if cond=’data:imagePlacement == “REPLACE”‘>
    <!–Show just the image, no text–>
    <div id=’header-inner’>
    <h1>Your Blog Title</h1><a expr:href=’data:blog.homepageUrl’ style=’display: block’>
    <img expr:alt=’data:title’ expr:height=’data:height’ expr:id=’data:widget.instanceId + “_headerimg”‘ expr:src=’data:sourceUrl’ expr:width=’data:width’ style=’display: block’/>
    </a>
    </div>
    <b:else/>

    You’ll notice that I’ve added the H1 heading (highlighted in bold) where it should appear in the template code. As we have set the style of the H1 heading to “display: none;”, this ensures that the H1 heading is present in the HTML markup of your blog pages, but that the title itself is not visible to the casual viewer.

This technique ensures that your blog’s title will still be indexed as effectively as if you had used the image as a background instead. Furthermore, by adding this H1 heading manually, you could even expand on your title slightly with a short description which contains keywords relevant to your blog content.

Note: if you use an image as the background to the title and description, or do not use an image in your header at all, you don’t need to worry about this issue, as the H1 heading will already be present in the mark-up of your pages!

Allow search engines to find your blog!

Finally (and most importantly!) you should ensure that search engines are able to crawl and index your blog.

The easiest way to check this is to look in the settings of the Settings>Basic section of your Blogger dashboard. Close to the bottom of the page is an option to “Let search engines find your blog”. You must set this to “Yes” if you want your site to be crawled and indexed by search engines.

If you have mistakenly set this to “No”, Blogger will add a “NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW” meta tag to your blog mark-up, like this:

<meta content=’NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW’ name=’robots’/>

Such a tag will prevent search engine spiders from ever indexing your site.

This may seem obvious to most of you, though you’d be surprised how many people have not checked this setting!

Further resources

Here are some useful sites you may like to refer to for further information about the tips suggested in this post:

In the next installment of this mini-series, I’ll explain how all of the links in your Blogger template (including those contained in widgets) can be optimized for search engines and better rankings.

Disclosure: In full disclosure, it is safe to assume that the site owner is benefiting financially or otherwise from everything you click on, read, or look at while on my website. This is not to say that is the case with all content, as all publications on the site are original and written to provide value and references to our audience.

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