As I go deeper into the rabbit hole of web publishing, past the point where writing online is something I do ‘on the side,’ I’m starting to appreciate the profession of publishing like a boss.

When I look back at some of my earlier posts, and earlier gigs on Elance (when I was freelancing) – I cringe. Really wince and want to deny it was me.

What was I thinking?

Self Portrait Web Publishing

[A]nd really it all boils down to understanding what makes for a good user experience (which, thanks to Panda, is an increasing signal of good SEO: provide a better user experience, lower bounce rates and you’ll do better in the rankings).

If you want a quick guide on how proper formatting can help improve user experience, check out Ann Smarty’s post on the matter (Ann Smarty of My Blog Guest of course, among other projects): read Ann’s Blog Formatting Guidelines post.

In that post she covers what she expects of guest bloggers and it’s a solid place to start if web publishing is something you still haven’t mastered (I got a lot out of the post and I’ve been doing this long enough to know better).

Simple Details Make All the Difference

It’s the little things that count.

Things like realizing that people may be browsing on their iPod or iPhone, for example – and on small screens like that, you don’t want to read the U.S. Tax Code: so one of the most basic rules -

Break up those Texan-sized blobs of text you call paragraphs.

Unless you’re a descendant to Melville and are writing about Ahab’s travels after the great whale in modern language, or you’re trying to put Tolstoy to shame: smaller paragraphs work much better.

So do headlines by the way.

People do this thing called “skim reading,” and it’s not related to skim milk – it’s entirely different. Headlines in proper H1, H2 and H3 tags are good for search engine optimization, too…so stick that in your bonnet.

And if you’re wearing a bonnet, by the way – I need a wagon wheel by next Tuesday if you can for the Pilgrims and “Native American” play I’m starring in…

And of course I’m kidding. But really: why are you rockin’ a bonnet?

Which brings me to my next point:

Try to Stay on Point

Bouncing all over the place is great if you’re made of rubber and you’re round, orange and in the NBA. Otherwise you’d do your readers and those fancy pants search bots a ginormous favor if you keep your context pretty tight.

Just do the opposite of what I’m doing in this post.

Honestly, though, it’s easier to rank a website if you pay attention to relevance.

To get technical on you for a second, try to keep the categories tight to the meaning of the posts in them – it makes ranking much easier in the long run.

Don’t use this website as an example for good on-page SEO, use my book instead: Duct Tape SEO – I’ve learned a lot since beginning this blog – but tight semantics will pay off in spades.

Over time, if you have enough posts on your ‘champion’ topics, you’ll find you can rank much easier from simply publishing and internally linking using proper and varied anchor texts (for this I strongly suggest SEO Ultimate – astounding free plugin for WordPress).

Use Images and Videos

Assuming you’re going to read Ann’s post (linked above) on blog formatting – and I do suggest you do so since I’m letting her post cover the formatting part – try to use images and videos.

This doesn’t have to be hard: if you’re an affiliate marketer, simply ask your affiliate manager if he or she can give you some images to use.

Take their stock images and ask if you can make derivatives – then go to Sumo Paint or Pixlr if you need to and edit the images (MicroSoft Paint, GIMP and a host of other free tools work wonders if you don’t have Photoshop).

The point here is that you do want to have originals or at least unique images when possible. You can do the same for Fotolia stock photos, or some from the Flickr Creative Commons (just read the permissions).

One last tip on using photos though – try to “smush” them if you’re on WordPress…I don’t use CSS Sprites but if you know how, that’s a great way to speed up your page loading times if you use images.

To keep it simple, I use WordPress to publish and just use the WP Smush.it plugin. It takes my JPEG files and a Yahoo! Smush.it API thingy and compresses the images.

The end result is that images are faster loading.

There are much more advanced ways to do this, though…which is my next point.

Faster Loading Times

I dunno about you, but I can’t hardly wait for a 3-minute egg these days, much less a 10-second page to load.

It feels like an eternity, those 10 seconds…and Google has said that page loading times are now a ranking factor (yay! yet another thing to worry about!).

My solution? Use a Content Delivery Network like MaxCDN. Don’t ask me how it works: it’s all above my head, I just know they’re really affordable, I’m using them to speed up my sites for Black Friday and I’ll report how it goes after the holiday craziness.

Basically they speed up your content delivery. I’m sure there’s a page on their site that explains the technical side of things, but I have a horror story to tell you.

Last year during the Black Friday rush, I was not with HostGator but with someone else, I changed to HostGator especially because of this outage…

Before noon I had made nearly $1,000 – just under that actually, not by much though. I was pumped.

Then my sites all crashed: all of them…for like 8 hours or so.

Apparently my server didn’t like all that traffic. Right now I’m counting on MaxCDN to help alleviate that stress.

If not, then by Cyber Monday I’ll install another solution and see how that goes (Black Friday is the 4th Friday of November every year, Cyber Monday is the following Monday: both are HUGE for businesses).

Just to be clear: for my own business, I’m not using MaxCDN for ranking as much as I am to ensure my sites are fast-loading during peak traffic spikes, which I expect soon.

The end of the story is that I (and you) need to be thinking about improving user experience – not only for a rankings boost, but to make more sales.

Funny thing: you don’t make a lot of sales if your sites crash. Found that out last year and wanted to strangle my web server.

Make it Easy to Socially Share

This goes without saying, I think, but I’ll say it anyway. If you want more Tweets, more Facebook Likes and Shares – or just more visitors and more business, you owe it to yourself to make sharing easy to do.

The three I’d suggest as a must-have: the Google +1, Twitter, Facebook Likes/Shares…

StumbleUpon is a good one but the traffic is usually just “stumbling” along and not targeted (but I do love you Stumblers!). LinkedIn makes sense if you’re using your site to gain professional leads, otherwise “meh.”

The 3 big dogs are sufficient, but hey: if you have others you want to use, grab something like the Get Social plugin (free for WP) or somethin’ like it.

I’d recommend you focus on the 3 I recommend at minimum – tons of plugins to make this a no-brainer.

This is also why I love the CommentLuv Premium plugin (which is officially on sale again now): it does increase your social activity on the big 3 social media platforms.

Whatever your methods, making social sharing easy to do is going to bring in more traffic and possibly improve your rankings. Take the few minutes and install the big 3, unless you hate succeeding or something.

Better yet, install CommentLuv Premium and fight spam while making it easier to share for your blog commentators (read my review of the plugin for more details).

What Are You Doing for User Experience?

That’s just a brief snapshot of what I’m doing. Your turn – anything I missed? (No doubt!) Fill me in.

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