Toolbox Blog: resources, tips, tricks & info for creative professionals

Posts Tagged ‘blog’

February 19th, 2009

Optimizing Your Blog for Search Engines

Everyone wants to be heard, chances are it was one of the reasons you started blogging in the first place.  A lot of beginner bloggers seem to have the “If you build it, they will come” mentality, and this just isn’t the case.   The sheer amount of blogs that exist today ensure that you will have to go above and beyond to attract readers.  This is where SEO comes into play.

Let’s assume that you are relatively passionate about your blog’s topic – which means that you are producing quality content on a pretty regular basis.  Great, that’s step one – here are a few extra things you should be changing to make the most of the search engine traffic.

Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

The terms may not be familiar, but you already know what these are…you see them every single time you do a search!


Title Tags should be short and sweet, they should be unique and include the main keywords you want to rank for.  For a blog, the Title Tag is usually the post’s title, but you can tweak it by going into the page’s code and looking for these tags: <title> </title>.  If you use Wordpress these are located in your Header file.  The Meta Description is just a short sentence that describes what the page or post is about.  Again, it wouldn’t hurt to stick in a keyword or two and it should be kept short, under 30 words or so.  You can write unique Meta Descriptions for each post, but to save time using the first sentence or two of the post can be a good starting point.  Wordpress even has a plugin that will do the job for you: Head META Description.


It is good to link out to other resources and blogs.  You’ll provide added value to the readers you have, and by linking out you’ll increase the chances that other bloggers and websites will link to you as well.  You should also be creating internal links – this means linking to other posts on your blog or pages on your website within the post you are writing.  Use your main keywords as anchor text in those links and it will help those pages rank for the specific keywords you are targeting.  Having quality links to both your own content and outside pages is important, just be careful not to over do it.  Having too many links on a page will look unnatural and ’spammy’.


People use the search engines to look for images as well as web pages.  If your blog uses pictures often it’s a good idea to optimize them as well.  First of all, give your images names that mean something when you save them – for example, SummerHouseFront.jpg instead of image13.jpg or the date.  You should also use alt tags to give the image a short description (ex. alt=”Summer House”) and long description tags for more detail (ex. longdesc=”Summer House on Lake Michigan viewed from the beach”)  This will help the search engines determine which keywords your images are most related to.

Final Tips

Being aware of the search engine optimization strategies used for blogs can lead to much higher referral traffic from Google, Yahoo and other search engines.  If you use Wordpress download the All In One SEO Pack wordpress plugin, it does a good job of optimizing your content and avoiding duplicate content.  Finally, be patient!  It can be a slow process and take weeks (perhaps months if your blog is new) to see increases in search engine traffic. Trust us – it’ll pay off eventually.

December 3rd, 2008

Stop Spreading Lists Over Mulitple Pages!

It’s been out for a while now, but this morning I was all excited to go check out what considers the 50 best websites of 2008.  I’m greeted by the headline “The Best in the Online World” and, with building anticipation, I click enter…only to realize that in order to see these 50 sites I will have to click through 51 pages.  Putting aside the fact that this math doesn’t seem to work out right, I’m immediately put off and slightly annoyed.

And I know I can’t be the only one to feel this way.

Now I have to read a paragraph, and wait for my browser to load, read a paragraph, wait, etc. It’s a definite time killer, and more likely than not my browser will crash at some point down the list.  Plus it makes browsing over the list quickly impossible.  I realize that I will miss the witty commentary about each site – but sometimes I just want a quick glance over.

This trend has gotten so bad that people on social bookmarking sites like Digg have started to post the actual list in the comments section – with captions like “save your time, here’s the list:” or “great list, but takes forever to load – here it is:” or they get annoyed too and take this route:

Now, I’m not talking about 50 item lists spread over 3 or 4 pages, that is completely reasonable – it actually decreases loading time of the page and browsing the list is still a valid option.  Its the 1:1 ratio of item to page that is the problem.

In theory I understand the reasoning behind the decision.  You stand to bring in more advertising revenue by placing different ads on each page, and they may get a boost in the search engines because each page is getting lots of traffic.  But these “benefits” come at the cost of usability and in my opinion no site should be willing to sacrifice that.

October 28th, 2008

To Blog or Not to Blog?

Let’s be honest…blogging is hard.  In fact, Michael Parsons touts it as the “hand-to-hand combat of the writing world”.  Creating and maintaining a successful blog is a huge undertaking, and those that are really successful at it put forth great amounts of effort.  They eat, they sleep, and they blog.

The blogosphere really is another world, with it’s own set of rules and etiquette that you’ll need to learn.  You should set aside time to read other people’s blogs, and try to establish relationships with other bloggers.  Learn when to comment, when to post your own content, and when to link to other blogs.  Staying up to date can quickly turn into a full time job if you let it, so here are a few tips to help:

  1. Write about something you like and write often.  Seems like common sense, but readers will know if you aren’t sincere and you’ll build up loyal readership faster by making new content available regularly.
  2. Stay well-informed.  Get your facts straight and be aware of what others are writing about the same topic.  Readers will nail you to the proverbial wall for obvious duplicate posts or not fact checking first.
  3. Promote your blog.  Readers will not be magically drawn to your site so you’ll need to do some grunt work, especially in the beginning.  Ping, use trackbacks, and leave comments on other relavent blog posts to let others know what you are up to.  Use gimmicks, wit, a specific tagline – anything to get noticed, the internet is a black hole of information that is easy to get lost in.  Lastly, make use of social bookmarking and article submission sites by submitting one of your better posts once in a while to reel in new visitors.
  4. Don’t just blog for the sake of blogging.  Have an opinion or something useful/interesting to say or no one will pay attention
  5. Have thick skin.  Readers will leave harsh comments, its part of the game.  Respond (tactfully) if you must and then move on.  If it bothers you, use comment moderation to weed out the particularly hurtful ones.
  6. Hang in there.  It will get easier.  Most bloggers who get discouraged and quit do it in the first few months.  Building an audience takes time, and it doesn’t really matter how many people you are reaching as long as that number keeps growing.  The older your blog gets the more credibility it will earn.

It’s hard, and its not for everyone – but blogging can be very rewarding.  Adding a blog is a great way to make sure your site has fresh content, you’ll get your point across to lots of people, and hopefully you’ll have fun and gain satisfaction from sharing information with others and participating in online communitites.

September 30th, 2008

Review my site…please? Best Places for a Free Website Review

There are companies out there who will gladly bring a critical eye and professionally review your website…for a fee. A few design agencies price this service upwards of $1500 but some as low as $250, and you generally get what you pay for. Many give you a written report, an SEO suggestion and some sort of follow up meeting with them. Great if you’ve got the means, but not exactly within the budget of an amateur web designer or someone looking to get started. Let’s assume you’re looking for some honest feedback or advice. Where do you go?

Option #1 Forums

The first answer shouted out by the google search “review my website” is a forum. Proceed with caution my friends. Unless you are already an established member of said forum, your innocent request for guidance may be interpreted by other members as “spammy”. Don’t get me wrong, forums can be a great (did I mention 100% free) place to get a wide range of opinions and tips for your site. But only as long as you play by the rules, and even then some forums are more welcoming than others. Follow some general rules and you should be OK:

  1. Take a second and read the forum rules/guidelines. They may have a minimum number of posts needed before you get access to certain areas or would be able to post a link to your site for review purposes.
  2. If there is a minimum post requirement don’t DON’T cruise around the forum for 10 minutes and leave 15 random posts in your wake. If you establish yourself as a legitimate member first people will be more likely to take an honest look at your site when you do post it. This may take a few days or even a few weeks, look for threads where you can contribute something valuable, or bring a different perspective to the discussion.
  3. Post your site for review once and only once, and make sure its in the appropriate category.

Some forums are more likely to constructively review your site than others. The ones listed here are good to try, but beware the ’spam’ label…it will get you booted at them all.

Young Entrepreneur Forum Forum
Site Owner’s Forum SEO Refugee Forum
Digital Point Forum

Option #2 Gallery Sites

Another completely free option is submitting to a few of the countless gallery sites out there. There are literally hundreds that take submissions. You may not get a plethora of constructive feedback from this method, but people leave comments here and there and getting selected is a good indicator that your site is on the right track.

DesignShack CSS Vault Style Gala
CSScilp The Daily Slurp Web Design File
CSS Import CSS Reboot

Option #3 Cozy Up to a Blogger

Reach out to a blogger for a review. It can be mutually beneficial, you get a trained eye to critique your site, and the blogger gets a great post out of it. When you are looking for a blogger to send your review request to make sure you actually read through a few of their more recent posts to make sure the relationship will be a good fit. You’ll get a feel for what kind of topics pique their interest and their opinions on issues, you don’t want to send a website about great leather and fur products to an animal rights blogger, for example.

Do your research first, then send out an email to the individual blogger you’d like to review your site – an email sent out to thousands of bloggers is too general to be taken seriously by any of them. Your email should do a few basic things: Introduce yourself and explain your website, show some respect by detailing why exactly a review of your site might turn into a good post for their specific audience, and give them all the information they could possible want or need about your website. If you don’t hear back its fine to send a follow up email – but only one! If you do hear back make sure to keep in contact with the blogger throughout the review and afterwards. A blogger may gear his review to appeal to the audience, so ask him for private feedback as well…you may learn more. Last but not least, don’t get mad if the review isn’t great. When you get a blog review its public and there’s an inherent risk that you could get some bad publicity out of the deal. You’ll make it worse by getting angry or lashing out in retaliation, so take the hit and ask the blogger how you could have done better.

Several bloggers have really embraced this method. Jackie Baker has started Site Clinic, a weekly column-style blog that takes submissions and chooses one each week to write an in-depth review on.

Option #4 Do it Yourself

So what if you’re not an expert, there are plenty of tools out there to test the quality of your website for you. Here are a few good ones:

  • The Trifecta Tool Set – measures the overall strength of your site number of links, number of times your brand is mentioned on the web, and the amount of traffic your site receives
  • W3C Markup Validation – checks the validity of the code on your site
  • Website Grader – measures the marketing effectiveness of your site
  • SEO Scores – analysis of SEO tools/keywords

September 19th, 2008

Some Exciting News

We’ve got a big announcement this week: AgencyTool is going international!  Because of the number of inquiries we have gotten and the amount of traffic we have been seeing, AT has decided to launch an ‘International’ category in our directory!  Check it out…

As for the Dashboard we’ve got some great updates there as well.  We’ve added a link to the great SEO blog Search Engine Land as well as an article: 13 ways to Determine Link Quality.  There are also 2 new options for e-commerce processors listed; CommerceGate and

A great resource on creating your own custom 404 pages has been added from skidzopedia and we’ve got a great new tool for organizing and editing screenshots called FireShot.

That’s just a bit of what’s been added -  make sure to check the Dashboard so you don’t miss anything.

August 22nd, 2008

Dashboard Updates For the Week of 8/18

All in all another exciting week for our Web Design Dashboard!

We’ve added Cymbolism, a really unique and creative color tool that asks users what color they think of when presented with different words.  The site’s goal is to make it simpler for designers to choose the best colors to use for a desired emotional effect.  Definitely worth a look!

We’ve also got a new web developer toolbar for Firefox and CMS from Scratch, a free solution that allows designers to give their customers a web site they can edit themselves.

Last but not least is Blog Perfume, a WordPress related site with themes, plugins, and great blogging resources.

As always, keep the suggestions coming and we’ll try to post as many as we can!

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ABOUT AGENCYTOOL At its core, AgencyTool exists to serve as a resource for creative agencies, whether they be into web design, print, advertising or anything else. Here on the AgencyTool Blog you'll find a mish-mosh of resources and thoughts that we think are worth sharing.

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