This Old Blog

How To Make Your Blog
More Linkable And Search Engine Friendly

Working on Your Blog

With Biz Stone and Eric Case

You're there in the morning and again in the evening. You try to make things look nice so visitors will be impressed and you're even comfortable in your pajamas late at night. Let's face it folks, your blog is your home on the web. The crew of the popular television series This Old House knows that an old home needs a little TLC now and then. Well, we've got our own crew here at Blogger and they also know a thing or two. Move over Norm Abram, Eric Case has a few tricks of the trade to help you get your old blog up to code.

Let's Go On Site

Biz: Eric Case is a Blogger guru — if you've ever written in for help, chances are you've contacted Eric. Hey Eric, how are all those blogs out there looking since we released our new version of Blogger? Are all the vintage bloggers fixed up real good?

Eric: Do you really want me to answer that?

Biz: Is it that bad? Are we talking dry rot? Termites? Are we going to need a whole new foundation?

Eric: No, no. It's nothing like that Bob — I mean Biz. It's just that there are a bunch of adjustments users can make to take advantage of new enhancements. I'm talking about people who already had their blog set up just the way they wanted before we rolled out the new Blogger and all those standards-compliant templates.

Biz: So we're talking about a restoration — a little more curb appeal for a classic blog?

Eric: Better-looking for sure. Also optimized for search engines, more link-friendly, and the bottom line is: they'll get more traffic.

Biz: In this case traffic is a good thing. Okay, let's put our safety goggles on and get to work. Show us what to do, Eric.

Inside Eric's Workshop: Your Template

Getting your old blog up to code involves a bit of template tweaking, but don't worry — it's simple and easy to do. The most critical thing to do is enable Post Pages, which gives each of your blog posts its own web page. This paves the way for other neat stuff like comments and conditional tags, but we'll discuss this in a future episode. It also makes your blog more easily understood by search engines like Google, which will increase your traffic.

Enabling Post Pages

Before enabling Post Pages, you'll need to make sure your blog's Template is using up-to-date Permalink code. To check on this, go to your blog's Template tab and scroll down until you find the section with your Permalink. We want it to look like this (the new code):

<a href="<$BlogItemPermalinkURL$>" title="permanent link">#</a>

But it may look like this (the old code):

<a href="<$BlogItemArchiveFileName$>#<$BlogItemNumber$>">
   <$BlogItemDateTime$>
</a>

Note that the # can be anything you want; you could replace it with the word "Permalink" for example. If you have trouble with this, contact us and we'll give you a hand.

Now that your Permalink code has been updated, go to the Settings tab in Blogger and then click "Archiving." Turn on Post Pages and republish your entire blog. This could take a little while if you have a large blog. Patience, grasshopper.

Making Your Titles "Smarter"

The next new feature to enable on your blog is called "Smart Page Titles." This intelligently creates titles for your various blog pages — "Blog Name" for the index page, "Blog Name: Date" for archive pages, and "Blog Name: Post Title" for Post Pages. Smart Titles make your blog much friendlier to BlogThis! users, better for bookmarking, and more appetizing to search engines because the titles will relate to the content of the individual pages themselves.

Go back to your Template and look for the <title> and </title> tags; these will be within the <head> section at the top of the Template. Delete whatever text is currently between the <title> tags, and paste in this code:

<$BlogPageTitle$>

Save your Template changes, republish your entire blog, then click "View Blog" to see your new page titles in action.

Listing Your Previous Posts

The last feature I'll discuss is our new Previous Posts code, which lists the 10 posts created prior to the one at which you're looking. It'll make more sense if you see it in use:

  1. Tony Pierce's busblog, 2004-06-09: note the "Previously on busblog" section beneath his post.
  2. Tony Pierce's busblog, 2004-06-08: note that the Previous Posts listing has changed...

Some blogs include this list in their sidebars, while others like to include it beneath their posts (like Tony's busblog). This is your call — it pretty much depends on your Template's layout and/or your aesthetic preference.

Including this list is especially useful for visitors from other places on the web — Google search results, links on other blogs, etc. It gives visitors a quick overview of your recent writings, and encourages them to continue browsing through your site. To add the list to your blog, paste this code into the appropriate place in your template:

<BloggerPreviousItems>
   <a href="<$BlogItemPermalinkURL$>">
      <$BlogPreviousItemTitle$>
   </a><br />
</BloggerPreviousItems>

Note that with this incarnation of the code, there'll be a simple line break at the end of each list item. To turn this into an unordered list, use this code instead:

<ul>
<BloggerPreviousItems>
   <li><a href="<$BlogItemPermalinkURL$>">
      <$BlogPreviousItemTitle$>
   </a></li>
</BloggerPreviousItems>
</ul>

Tip: If you're planning to make all three of these adjustments to your blog, save the "republish all" step until after the last one. This is especially useful for users who have a large blog.

Until Next Time

I think I got a piece of blogdust in my eye. Okay, that's enough to keep us busy until the next episode of This Old Blog. This is Biz Stone saying: Always remember to save your current template before any tinkering. Seriously, just copy it out of the form, paste it into some kind of text editor and save it as a text file on your computer. Then you're free to make all the mistakes you want — we can't all be Eric Case.

Eric Case helps make sure Blogger works for you.
Biz Stone works at Google on Blogger and writes books about blogging.
Phillip E. Pascuzzo is a designer and illustrator living in New York.

Published: Monday, June 14, 2004, 10:47