Thursday, March 6, 2008

Planting a Blog Tree

Not long ago, a common linking strategy for search engine optimization was to build many blogs all linked to each other. It worked for a short time, however, as it usually happens, Google got smart in fairly short order.
SEO Hint #8 -- Build a tree out of multiple blogs all on the same topic. Your primary blog should be your most general, secondary and tertiary blogs should become increasingly niche focused. Link them in a tree design rather than in a web design to focus reader and search engine attention on the primary blog.
At that time, incoming links added page rank, and outgoing links had no negative effect. So bloggers would create networks of literally hundreds of garbage websites all linking to each other. The topics didn't matter.

Two things changed. First, Google created a system where incoming links improve page rank and outgoing links depreciate page rank. That helped, however then bloggers simply created hundreds of websites and had them all linked to a single website. That primary website would have little or no outgoing links. The effect was that the primary website rocketed to the top of the search engines supported by hundreds of garbage websites.

The second change, Google took out the trash. Those garbage websites, many of them with bogus text cut-and-paste from others or generated by "typing monkey" software or punished when Google introduced context-based linking algorithms.

Essentially what this means is that if your website has outgoing links to similar websites with similar topics, both of you benefit. If your website has incoming links with similar topics, both of you benefit. The recipient of the link benefits more than the website offering the link. The exact benefit is unclear, but the page rank of the linking page has strong influence.

Additionally, Google has developed a quality writing filter. It tries to identify garbage paragraphs and sentences fragments. Additionally, it tries to identify plagiarized works or websites that rely heavily on sample text.

It's still a great idea to build multiple blogs, but rather than linking many unrelated blogs, it's a much better idea to build blogs on the same topic with varying degrees of specialization. Additionally, you need to link them properly.

Example: In this example we are building a primary blog on the general topic of "animals". We want to create a blog that's highly recognized by search engines, as well as readers, as a top quality general site about animals.

The image above is known as a mind map. I recommend that you create a mind map if you intend to use this strategy. It helps to flesh out your tree ahead of time, which can be invaluable.

Here are the rules. Each label stands for a website. On this map there are a total of 18 blogs.

Each website links to websites in three tiers only:
  1. The parent tier
  2. The sibling tier
  3. The child tier
The main website will link to the three secondary website only. It doesn't have a parent website or any siblings. It has three children; mammals, fish, and reptiles.

The next tier, labeled as group #1, will each link to its parent as well is to each other. Additionally they were linked to their children, however not the children of their siblings.

Each tertiary group, labeled as groups #2 through #4, link within their own group. Additionally, each of them link up to their parents.

Group #5 links only to its parent group, dogs and to its sibling. The blog about dogs links down to its children.

Notice each tier gets gradually more specific.

Writing for 18 blogs may seem like a mountain, however it's not. Let's say for example you write an article about beagles for your primary blog about animals. The article is about 1000 words. Now you will write a 500 word summary of the article and post it in your blog about mammals. Make sure that you change the content significantly. Link to this entry to the post in your primary blog. Next write a brief summary of the second post and put it in the blog about dogs, and link it to the blog about mammals. Finally, write another post in the blog about beagles, and link it to the dog blog.

In this case you have a short article about beagles on a website that's highly focused on the breed. Hopefully the search engine has already recognized that this highly specific site is on the topic of beagles. Since the article was short and contains a link to search engine follows the links upward until it reaches the highly detailed information rich article about beagles within the main animal blog. This individual post becomes a highly ranked post on a topic of beagles.

The idea is to create lots of individual posts that get a very high search engine rank on the same website. As a result the generalist website becomes well regarded with the search engines, and ultimately with readers.

One of the best examples of this is WebMD. It has a wealth of solid articles about individual health topics. While it's the generalist website, and probably doesn't have the depth of information about some of the topics that a specialist site might, you'll still find it has a high page rank on just about every topic related to health. The reason is that hundreds of blogs and websites have links to individual articles on very specific subjects.

You'll find that using this technique will not only enhance your website, but you may be lucky and find that one of your specialist sites also generates tremendous prestige within its niche. Just because it's a tertiary site doesn't mean that people won't read it if it contains quality information. If you find that one of your tertiary sites is becoming popular, began to write for this site then summarize and link in the opposite direction.

You don't need to cover every topic completely. Obviously the dog blog will probably have lots of articles about breeds besides beagles and poodles. The main animal blog will have articles about crabs, birds, and amphibians, but you don't necessarily need to create three more trees of blogs, although you can.

If you'd like to know how easy it is to create secondary and tertiary blogs, all you have to do is look at the category tags of your blog. Each of the top 10 tags could become their own blog.

I'm beginning to put this into practice with this blog. I started a blog specifically about SEO Hints. This article contains hint #8, and eight articles is a good start for a specialist blog.

By the way, planting a blog tree won't save the environment. Sorry.
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