Aleks pointed me to this dead-serious tutorial from www.usa.gov. Among the amusing bits:
“Blogs require talented writers, as blogs are just another form of writing. You can’t have a good blog without a good writer, with knowledgeable opinions or information.”
“How often will it be updated? The latest best practice shows that when a blog is first posted, it should be updated every day for the first 30 days (to establish a consistent relationship with the search engines). After the initial 30 days, it should be updated at least 2-3 times a week to stay high in the rankings.”
“Avoid slang and arcane terms, unless you define them.”
“Never use “click here” or similar terms.”
“Read your link aloud–is it easy to enunciate?”
And, my favorite:
“Choose words that have as few syllables as possible.”
On the upside, I learned that Montgomery County, MD, Division of Solid Waste has a blog titled “Talkin’ Trash.” Quite a bit snappier than “Statistical modeling, causal inference, and social science,” I gotta say.
P.S. To be serious for a moment, I think they could’ve replaced most of their guidelines by a single bit of writing advice I once heard:
Tell ’em what they don’t already know.
Seems like pretty decent advice, to be honest.
OK, since you (implicitly) asked, here are my point-by-point criticisms:
1. I disagree that blogs "require" talented writers. If you have something important to say, talented writing is an extra, not a necessity. Obviously you don't want the writing to be unreadable, but it's enough to get your meaning across.
2. I strongly object to the advice needed to "stay high in the rankings." For one thing, most blogs won't be "high in the rankings"; it's the nature of such rankings that most of us will be low–especially given that it's natural to compare ourselves with higher-ranked entities. Beyond this, why press people to update every day if they have nothing to say?
3. I'm as much of a fan of good writing as anyone, but why burden people with this sort of picky advice. With millions of blogs, why not encourage people in their slanginess, unpronounceable links, and multisyllabic words? I don't see what's gained by stylistic standardization.
4. The advice to "Never use 'click here'" is fine but oddly specific given the generality of most of the rest of the advice on the page.
In summary, much of this reminded me of the worst of high school English, this time for the purpose of the illusory goal of staying "high in the rankings." I'd rather just tell people to express themselves and share information, while being aware of the risks involved in expressing oneself publicly.
Great timing — my mom's in town, a former high school and college English teacher with an Ed.D. specifically on writing. She had the same reaction as Andrew to my high-school English "education".
The fact that they used "enunciate" rather than the simpler "pronounce" indicates they can't even follow their own advice w.r.t. jargon! Can I add the advice "please don't use a thesaurus"?
I love the idea of government as SEO (search engine optimizer — it's a big business reverse engineering search engines).
Google's putting blogs very high in their search results, partly due to recency but partly due to their proper use of page titles and top-level headings, which Google loves. The other search engines haven't copied them this time. For instance, my blog is the first hit for (aka the Chinese restaurant process) on Google, number 14 on Yahoo!, but not even in the top 50 on MSN.
Great timing — my mom's in town, a former high school and college English teacher whose Ed.D. dissertation was about writing. She felt the same way about my school English "education" as Andrew does about the government's blogging advice.
The fact that the advice used "enunciate" rather than the simpler "pronounce" indicates they can't even follow their own advice w.r.t. jargon! Can I add the advice "please don't use a thesaurus"?
I love the idea of government as SEO (search engine optimization — it's a big business reverse engineering search engines).
Google's ranking blogs very high in their organic search results, partly due to recency but partly due to their proper use of page titles and top-level headings, which Google loves. The other search engines haven't copied them this time. For instance, my blog is the first hit for (aka the Chinese restaurant process) on Google, number 14 on Yahoo!, but not even in the top 50 on MSN.
I have to admit that from the perspective of SEO that post frequency does leave an indelible impression on search engine user agents.
I deliberately created a website using virtual theming (a linking tactic which reinforces itself)added 95 articles 1 post per day for 45 days, then staggered the rest at 2-3 day intervals and I can validate that the site now outranks seasoned authority sites that have a 8-9 year advantage in the SERPs.
The site has less than 200 inbound links and yet ranks for more than 2700 keywords. So, the moral of the store is, post frequency even as a stand alone metric can developer a powerhouse domain.
Keep in mind that quality is imperative and the distinguishing mark of which pages and / or sites gain a higher organic position.
Search engines can read to as they parse, dissect and determine term weights and relevance. In other words, they can determine based on the context of the keywords present, the modifiers and the context and proximity of the language used what degree of academic prowess is being demonstrated.
If the text is full of stop words (as implied above) the relevance score is diminished.
Yet on the other hand, if the content is impeccable and manages to age, have related or similar content within the site (to tweak the global term weights)as well as augmented by peer review from other authoritative sources, the search engine rankings are a mere byproduct.
Trust and Authority produce rankings, but the content determines the context of (a) the keywords and (b) the audience it attracts…