Writing for SEO i.e. to help Google find your blog

Dr Melissa Terras

Audio and video podcasts are available of Dr Melissa Terras presenting “Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it?”

In this post in the Writing series we look at how you can use some Search Engine Optimisation techniques – that’s “SEO” – to make sure people searching Google find your blog.

Writing to help Google find your blog

  1. Focus on 1 topic per post, put this keyword in the post as follows:
  2. Build links to a post (or your blog) to help it rank better – build your online presence!

If you want to know more about how blogging and tweeting can help your academic project or your research check our other posts in this blog, like “What to blog about” and especially follow some of the references like Dr Melissa Terras, UCL, who for example talks about Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it? The Verdict. (Also available as audio or video podcasts podcasts in the University of Oxford Engage series.)

This post about writing to help Google find your blog was inspired by a presentation about “Help Google work out what each page is about” from http://oxforddigitalmarketing.co.uk.


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Protecting your blog from spam comments

If you blog you want comments for conversation with your readers, feedback on your work or to receive suggestions for improvement. You can set comments to be made anonymously, but in general it is best to have people who want to contribute comments to identify themselves.

There will be comments from unknown sources which are out of context or raise concern about their genuineness. These “spam comments” might be approved by you as the ‘Blog moderator’ and therefore appear on your blog.

The spammer is promoting links via comments on various blog postings. They don’t care who the blogger is. The spammers are hoping that you may approve all the comments in one go.

the WordPress dashboard showing comments

You can see comments by clicking on the menu in the left-hand of your WordPress dashboard

In the dashboard (above) you will see the genuine comments mixed with the spam. You can also filter by the categories shown in the top navigation menu of the comments in the dashboard.

To avoid your blog being overrun in this way:

  1. Don’t approve a comment which is out of context with the post
  2. When approving a comment check if it has any Web link associated to it, but be very careful of clicking on any link you are suspicious of
  3. Check the sender’s name, anonymous, unusual email address, is the sender’s name hyperlinked. Check all of these for authenticity.
  4. Check if the comment is being made on a recent post, or an older one.
  5. Ask your blog readers to report comments for spam or if they are offensive

Here’s a real comment:

“I was recommended this blog by my teacher. Its amazing! Thanks!”

This information seems to be of little threat. However the settings of your blog may mean that if you allow a username to comment once, then their comments are not moderated, i.e. the blog moderator does not have a chance to check it for its authenticity.

As the moderator of a blog you can set WordPress to notify you by email when comments are received. Be prepared for many spam messages! In particular you should always use the dashboard to actually work with comments. Although you can click links to approve comments from your email, it is only in the dashboard that you’ll see all the information WordPress can show you about the comment/commenter.

We have more suggestions for securing your blog.

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Assign different roles to people who contribute to your blog

To ensure you may always have control of your blog you should assign roles carefully to the people who write for you:

  • contributor
  • author
  • editor
  • admin

They all have different levels of access to your blog.

If the primary admin changes job or is otherwise unavailable, you will still want to have access to the page. And anyone can have their WordPress account compromised. You might get hacked, and it is easy to forget your login – then blogs under your control are in jeopardy. Therefore you should give more than one person admin rights.

If possible you should require all require all admins to have 2-factor authentication (sometimes called login approval or verification) enabled on their WordPress account. This requires users to enter a code they receive via text message if WordPress doesn’t recognise the device they are logging in from. So, even if a hacker obtains their password, they still wouldn’t be able to access their WordPress account (and your blog) without the code.

We have more suggestions for securing your blog.

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Don’t feed the trolls!

In a previous post we mentioned Dr Melissa Terras’ excellent presentation about ‘Is blogging and tweeting… worth it?’ – in the same presentation Melissa very openly and honestly examined her experience of the nastier side to having an online presence.

Dr Melissa Terras

Audio and video podcasts are available of Dr Melissa Terras presenting “Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it?”

What can go wrong?

Blogging about an academic study should provoke discussion with comments on your blog, and (as we wrote in a previous post) you have a responsibility to label your tolerance and response to negative comments. Dr Melissa Terras, UCL speaks about Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it? The Verdict. (Also available as audio or video podcasts podcasts in the University of Oxford Engage series.)

When Melissa became the subject of inappropriate comments and other activity designed to rubbish her reputation she found it hard to cope. Reflecting back Melissa has a number of suggestions for how to react:

  • Don’t feed the trolls!
  • If you know someone who is behaving badly: tell them.
  • Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so for you.

This is part of the first series of posts about securing your blog.

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This is a basic blog post

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Be consistent and be persistent

Don’t lose interested readers because you did not post for a long while, and don’t change the subject of your blog all of a sudden.

If you’re finding it hard to post frequently then look at similar blogs or Tweets in your subject – which are getting the most responses? Consider responding to their post on your blog as the foundation for your next post.

What about scheduling a particular topic? For example “it’s Thursday it’s four 0’clock so let’s write a brief behind-the-scenes-in-the-laboratory with an interesting photo”. In this way you’ll build a series which readers should want to come back to every few weeks.

Look through your draft posts – remember, right at the beginning of this series we recommend you write a lot of these drafts – is there anything there worth writing up? Maybe a new Twitter conversation has sparked something you have already started to write about? Re-visit our post about “What to blog about?”, maybe some of the experts have a recommendation you can add to your work-flow?

Your audience won’t grow overnight. However if you continue to add content regularly – notice I don’t say frequently – and you follow some of the techniques outlined in this series about how to write for your blog, and you promote your blog (our next series of posts) then you should see an increase in your figures.

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Proofread what you’ve written

You can project a professional voice with your authority on a subject, and write engagingly about it, but this is undermined by poor presentation such as broken links and typos. Re-read what you’ve written and prof-read sorry – proof-read and correct typos – but especially re-read for “meaning”. Look at those headings do they accurately lead the reader to the content. Having written your post, is this really what you planned to write?


Press the PREVIEW button and see what your post really looks like.

Edit blog screen with PREVIEW buttons

Click either of the PREVIEW buttons to see what your post will look like

A preview view of a blog post

Clicking the PREVIEW button will open a new tab/window with your post

In addition to meaning – have you made it easy for the reader to latch on to your argument? At this stage I like to think like an old-style journalist: “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Tell ’em. Then tell ’em what you just told ’em”. Try to add a couple of sentences to explain at the top and the tail, to help the reader know if this blog is worth spending their precious time on. Then, check, have you emphasised the key points – don’t highlight everything but maybe there is one key sentence you should write in bold, or from which to make a block quote.

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Add meaningful categories – but just a few

You should think about the keywords people will search for this topic and include these in your title and in your post – so that they find your blog. Then to tag your post, add meaningful “categories” or keywords – but no more than one or two. All of this will add to your SEO (search engine optimisation).

This actually helps to discipline you to focus a blog post – maybe if you need more than three or four categories to describe it then what you need to do is divide this complex topic into more than one post?

TIP: divide a long post into many smaller posts

For example, this series of posts about how to write for your blog originated as a behemoth of a post on another blog. By separating the long post into many smaller posts on this blog we hope to make the message easier to read.

And what about Tags? …for another blog post – watch this place!

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Link to posts in your blog

You shouldn’t force the reader to use the “search” functionality to find a blog post you refer to, just link to it in your post. Make it easy for them to find the rest of your interesting work. This also allows search engines to understand your content better. And if you read an interesting post on someone else’ site, link to it, refer to it in your post.

TIP: Link to previous posts on your blog, and to others

This is part of the first series of posts about how to write for your blog.

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