Blogging, SEO, and Saving Lives

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On a day to day basis, what I do here at DreamWeaver’s Quilts is not going to save anyone’s life directly, I know that. But today, I want to share a story with you about how I saved a life through this blog. In March, 2008, I took Shadow and Patches (for new readers: these are the family cats) to have their vaccinations. When I got them home, Shadow was presenting odd symptoms that eventually led me to believe he was having a severe reaction to the vaccinations. I rushed him to the vet, and she confirmed that yes, he was going into anaphylactic shock because of the vaccinations, and if I had not taken him back for emergency treatment, he would have died.

shadowcattreebox

Bear with me, I know you’re wondering where I’m going with this. After Shadow recovered, I wrote about this on my blog, as I often do when it’s something like this that I think people should know about. Over the next few months, I noticed that that blog post was receiving many hits from search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN. People were searching for “cat reactions to vaccinations”, “severe cat reaction shots” and other similar phrases. I edited the post, and added the following in bold lettering at the top:

NOTE: If you have found this post through a search for “cat reactions to vaccinations” or something similar, STOP!

If your cat (or dog) is experiencing any of the following symptoms after a vaccination, take your pet back to the vet IMMEDIATELY:

* vomiting
* diarrhea
* whitish or pale gums in the mouth
* facial swelling or hives
* rapid or difficult breathing
* restlessness or difficulty settling down

The above symptoms may mean that your pet is going in to anaphylactic shock and needs IMMEDIATE medical attention to survive!

Severe reactions to vaccinations can be life threatening and are a medical emergency! Don’t wait and wonder, have your pet checked by a veterinarian ASAP!

I wanted people to have the most important information that they needed to save their pet’s life if necessary without having to read through my entire story of Shadow’s reaction. Even the few minutes it could take to read the whole post could make a difference to their pet. This morning, I received a comment on that blog post from Ann:

You saved my cat’s life tonight. At 16 months, he had his leukemia, rabies, and distemper shots today at 3:45 pm. When I got home by 4:45, he was howling, agitated, and puffy around the eyes. I googled “cat reactions to shots” and found your site. After reading the symptoms, I took him to a 24 hour emergency vet by 6:45 pm, where he was diagnosed as being in anaphylactic shock. Fortunately he’s going to be okay. I go back and pick him up in a couple of hours. I cannot thank you enough.

I feel sure that Ann isn’t the only one who has had a similar experience with their pet who has found my blog post, though she is the only one to let me know about it. So, aside from the warm fuzzy feelings I got from hearing that Ann’s cat is going to be okay, and knowing that I helped make that happen just a little bit, what’s my point here?

I shared this story with you to show you how it highlights and applies to SEO. SEO means Search Engine Optimization, and it’s a fancy Web development term for the things you do that make your site attractive to and readable by search engine robots, and how the things you do affect your site’s placement in search results on search websites like Google.

I’m going to preface this next bit with a disclaimer: I’m not an SEO expert. I’m a quilter, and I am a Web designer/developer, and I’ve had a blog online for the last 3+ years, and I watch where my visitors come from and my stats and I pay attention to details. That’s where I’m coming from with this. SEO is a huge subject and the professionals get paid the big bucks to be experts at it. However, what I’m going to tell you is based on my experience with this blog and a few others, but this is really just the tip of the iceberg.

When Google looks at your site, what does it see? Google is looking for your content, but you have to present the content in a way that makes it easy for Google to see what your site is about so that it knows what to do with that information, and how to feed information about your site to Google searchers. Most of this “presentation” goes on behind the scenes automatically, powered by your blogging platform, whether it’s WordPress, WordPress.com, Blogger, TypePad or what have you. But some of the presentation can be controlled, and should be controlled, by you. If you want your site to come up well placed in a search for “machine quilting tutorial,” not only should you be talking about machine quilting inside the body of the post, but putting “machine quilting tutorial” in the title is a smart move too.

Sure, the people that I call “viral visitors” are great; these are the people who follow a link to your blog from another blog, or a website where your blog is listed. These are great visitors because they’re targeted, and what that means is that it’s likely that they’ll at least stick around to read a bit of what you have to say because it’s likely that they’re quilters or crafters, and if your blog has been recommended by someone they already read, the interest level is already higher than average.

But if you’re trying to grow your readership, there is absolutely nothing wrong (and everything right!) with planning ahead when you title your posts, so that you’re giving Google the means to find you and drive targeted traffic to you. Some of those Googlers (most, to be honest) click once, look at that one page, and leave (for the deeply interested, that ratio of people who leave immediately to those who stick around for a few more page views is called a bounce rate) but some of them do stick around and become regular readers. I realize that some of you are not “trying to grow your readership” necessarily, but those of you who are, or who are using your blog as a platform to grow your business, whether it’s on Etsy, eBay, in a brick and mortar shop or online store, or if you’re a freelance quilter/teacher/artist, should be listening closely here.

Here’s the point of it all, right here: The most important part of your blog post is the title. Let me say that again: The most important part of your blog post is the title.

The title should relate to the content of the post, obviously, and be interesting to people so they will want to read the post (think about your regular readers and what they see in their RSS reader…). But you should also give serious thought to your titles and craft them in such a way that you describe what’s in the post using words that you think people would type into a search engine if they were looking for the information in that post. If your post title says “Nothing much going on here today” what kind of traffic do you think you’ll get from Google? “Nothing much.” On the other hand, if your post title says “Severe cat reactions to vaccinations” what do you think you’ll get from Google? Targeted searchers who are looking for information about what? “Severe cat reactions to vaccinations.”

Obviously, my blog isn’t usually about pets, it’s about quilting. I could give you any number of other examples of this “Post Title/SEO relationship” from this blog that are quilting related, but the most notable example is when you do a search for Bernina 8 Series. Go ahead, click on the link, take a look, and then come back here. What is the number 3 result for Bernina 8 Series on Google, coming in right under the Bernina company? None other than my own post from last year that I wrote right after the big Bernina 8 Series launch. That one post has been read literally thousands of times, just because there are words in the post title that are the exact words that huge numbers of people have been searching for since last July. Some of those searchers have visited again and become regular readers because they found my blog through a search engine because of that post.

Bottom line: if you’re blogging about quilting and want more visitors to your blog, title your posts appropriately. Don’t expect to get targeted visitors who are quilters if your post titles say “Dinner with the Family” or “Weekend Fun” (or “Severe cat reactions to vaccinations” 😉 ). Do put yourself in a searching frame of mind, and think about what you’re trying to say with your post, and what words you would type into a search box if you yourself were looking for the information in your post. Put Google to work for you!

P.S. As I said above, this is really just the tip of a very large SEO iceberg and there are many little icebergs around it. I will be talking more about blogging in a lecture/workshop for AQS at Des Moines in October. For more info about Blogging for Quilters, see the Workshops page, or the Registration page at AQS.

Nadine Quilting smiley from myemoticons.com

12 thoughts on “Blogging, SEO, and Saving Lives

  1. I really need to get myself to Des Moines.. and I promise not to heckle from the background! :)

    Great to hear back from Ann. It’s nice when people reach out like that.

    • I’d LOVE to meet up with you in Des Moines, Michele. Do it! (but keep that promise! 😉 )

      Yes, it is great that Ann let me know about her cat. I was so glad to hear that he’s going to be okay.

  2. What an interesting post. I have certainly learnt a great deal more about Blogs today! I am not using my own Blog to promote myself, but it would be interesting to make it more intersting to write as well as read.
    So glad to hear that the two cats are both well.

  3. Thanks for the vaccination info – I have two cats myself and did not know about this.
    SEO is really interesting and useful and a lot can be done quite easily. Good of you to bring it up!
    Happy quilting!

  4. Pingback: P O V – Point Of View » Blog Archive » Severe cat reactions to vaccinations

  5. Hi Didi! SOme questions…do you think it would be smart of me to go back and change as many of my post titles as I can? I wouldn’t mind doing it as I get the chance but if it’s not worth it or would mess things up (for example: say someone has a page of mine saved in their favorites or a link to a certain post on their blog, will a new title mess that up?)And I don’t remember you mentioning tags. Do they make a difference? I never put tags on my posts. I meant to thank you also for the serger email and again for the pdf. I will get you the other one soon:)Jen

    • Hi Jennifer! No, don’t go back and change anything, for exactly the reasons you stated. Just think about great titles going forward!

      About tags: that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms that could be an entire article on its own, but yes, your posts should always have tags. The short version: Categories are like the table of contents on your blog and tags are like an index. You should have more tags than categories.

      Maybe that will help a little until I get time to put a post together about that!

  6. Wow Nadine!
    I’m a very casual blogger but I usually think about my titles in terms of something clever rather than direct. Good point about the search engines not responding to, for instance, “The C Word”, but if I had titled the post, Navy Medicine and Cancer, and actually included more information it might have been useful for others rather than the beginning of an online journal that my husband totally freaked out about even though I tried to keep it vague as to his personal details.
    At any rate, something else to think about, I’m planning to step up my blogging soon and I’ll have to rethink my title strategy. Thanks!
    Lauren
    (BTW I found your blog when searching “price Bernina 820″

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