My favorite genealogy resource is my blog, Cow Hampshire. It is not just a place where I write and share genealogy and history stories about New Hampshire. My blog is a place where I gather new information from guests who comment. My blog is also the medium where I can acknowledge other bloggers, and share resources with them–from genealogy research sites to collections of copyright-free graphics and primary documents.
A genealogy blog is much like a picnic–you bring the basket full of goodies, spread the blanket, and people arrive anxious to feast on your knowledge, right? This premise isn’t true at all, but there are simple things you can do to attract and engage more readers. It only takes ten changes or additions to what you probably do now, to better promote your blog, and attract your audience, like ants. In this case, you want the uninvited guests along with the invited.
I avoid marketing terms and internet geek-speak in the following guidelines. You don’t need to be a business major to save your blog from oblivion.
The following guidelines address the needs of Genealogy Bloggers who do not sell anything and want to increase their readership. The for-profit blogger or website would, however, also benefit from following these same suggestions. I do not promote any specific product or service, and if I mention any here, it is because I use them myself and find them of value.
Most of your blog visitors arrive on your blog after they type in a question or keyword into a search engine prompt, and have a results list to choose from. Now it makes complete sense, that improving your blog’s search engine performance is the most important action you can take. Where your blog listing shows up on that first Google “results” page often decides whether someone reads your story or reads someone else’s instead.
Not everyone reading your blog is going to be a researcher. They won’t spend a great deal of time looking at every search engine result. So you want your blog to show up in the top 7, and even better in the first 3. Follow these guidelines and you will be on your way to the top.
—TOP TEN WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR GENEALOGY BLOG—
1. LINKS AND BACKLINKS. There are no stunts, no smoke, no mirrors that work better than links. The number of links (URLS) TO your blog gives you big points, and a higher standing from search engines. These links can be from websites or other blogs. A rapidly growing resource has been those using social media to read and SHARE blogs, such as FaceBook and Twitter. Family History groups are thriving on both sites as a result.
2. QUALITY with UNIQUE CONTENT. It is perfectly fine to be inspired by someone’s post and write your own. It is not fine to copy the article or re-post it in its entirety even with credit (one exception is if you have written permission). Google prefers fresh, brand new information that people like to read. Posting 1 article per week is good, 2 is great and 3 or more is amazing. More is better. Consider quality over quantity–unique and relevant material always. If you don’t have enough time to write your own content, consider adding a guest blogger. If you are concerned about your writing skills, Grammarly can be very helpful.
3. MAGIC NUMBER IS 250. Posts that are 250 words or more will rank better in the search engines and appear higher. Try to include 2-3 mentions of the keywords you are targeting for that story, but not too many more times. The search engine bots are smart and will spot a word spam cheater and your ‘rank’ will drop, not rise in the search results. So before you write your story, type the major words/keywords you want to convey, and use them in the body of your story.
4. PUSH MY SOCIAL MEDIA BUTTON. Social media ‘buttons’ allow your visitors to share your blog content with interested friends and family. Facebook and Twitter buttons are a must on your blog. Besides those two, I include the button options for Email, Print, Pocket and Flipboard (the latter being my latest social media test area). To this listing of buttons, add your favorite social media. [Editor’s Note: I like Pocket because it an app used by smartphone users to save stories to read later]. You have just made your blog more interactive.
5. GAIN EMAIL DEVOTEES. Most readers are not going to visit your blog every day. They lead busy lives and have other things to do. Give your followers an email option, so they will be notified when you next post a story. Make it easy to sign up, and also to remove them from that list.
6. KEYWORD & TITLE POWER. “Captain John Smith’s Monument on Star Island,” is a better title than “Old Sailor Buried off Coast.” Consider what words people might use to search for your story, and incorporate those words in your title, category and keyword options. Google likes when you do this. Make sure that your photographs or graphics have ALT information, embedded information or captions to identify them.
7. COMMENTS PLEASE. Make sure that visitors to your blog have an EASY way to leave a comment. If they have to join something to comment, they probably won’t. If your blog post itself asks a question or seeks help with a problem, it will increase the likelihood of someone adding a comment. When you COMMENT on other people’s blogs with a link back to your own blog URL to encourage cross-commenting. DO moderate your posts. Adult words that show up on your site will cause problems (see #8).
8. IT IS ABOUT THE NAME, WHAT? If your blog already has a well-established title, then by all means, keep it. If not, then seriously consider using a title specific to your blog goals and audience. The WORDS in your blog’s name, along with your blog description and story title will all factor into how high on the Google results page your blog listing will end up. There are two types of words to avoid at all costs in your story titles: stop words and filter words. Stop words are “adult” words, while filter words are “a, about, an, and, are, as, at, be, by, from, how, I, in, is, it, of, on, or, that, the, this, to, was, we, who, what, when, where, which, will, with, and www. Google may block your post because of the first option (adult words), and will just pass over the filter words when indexing.
9. BE RESPONSIVE. A “responsive” blog is one that it can be easily viewed, read, and interacted with on a smartphone or tablet. 68% of Americans Have smartphones; 45% have tablet computers [Pew research]. Blogger has a built in option to show you how your blog will look on a smartphone. There are many responsive WordPress templates, and plug-ins for some old templates if you don’t want to change. To see if your blog is responsive, and how it looks on a variety of monitors, tablets, and smartphones, type in your blog URL at Screenfly and choose the smartphone or tablet of your choice.
10. KEEP BLOGGING. Don’t give up if you don’t get the results you want immediately. You have lots of competition, and often persistence wins. Good content over time will push you higher in the search engine rankings, place you better in the search results, will engage your readers in conversation, and create loyal fans who will return, bringing friends with them.
[Editor’s additional note: I have been researching genealogy for over 35 years. I have been a genealogy blogger for 10 years. With all this experience, I am still learning, and I hope you are too. If you feel that I have missed an essential point, or you have an idea for better blogging, I would be honored if you would share it in the comments. Please also join my email listing, from the bottom right-hand column of this blog.]
P.S. This blog post was written as a story as part of The August 2016 Genealogy Blog Potluck Picnic! It is also a great example of #1 in my guidelines, about links and backlinks.