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In this article by Herbert-Jan van Dinther, we will learn how to set up a blog within Joomla! and show you the external tools that you need to use to get the most out of your blogging efforts. You will read more about the importance of blogging and commenting systems, along with how to implement solutions that make Joomla! an even better blogging tool.
In this article, we will deal with:
- How is blogging good for SEO?
- Setting up Joomla! as a blog
Blogging is a great way to get more traffic to your site and communicate with the community interested in the same topics as you.
Search engines such as Yahoo! and Google love blogs because of the fact that articles written in blogs are mostly up-to-date and they get the information about the update of a blog really fast using RSS Feeds and Pings. Articles posted on a blog with these two options in place can get into the search engine indexes within hours, sometimes even minutes.
How is blogging good for SEO?
Using a blog has some advantages that fair really well if you want to have more visibility in the search engines. We will be looking at some of those advantages and how they can affect your search engine rankings. I am not saying blogging is easy, but it is very rewarding.
Creating fresh content
Creating short articles about your favorite topic and publishing them on a regular basis is the best way to get into the search engine results pages faster. The number one thing about blogging is that you can write long articles or short articles. The combination of the two different formats won't break the flow of your site, unlike a normal web site, where you mostly write articles that are built with a certain length. You can also state an opinion about things that are going on in your community and write news items. All that in one web site without worrying too much about how to structure all the information.
A structure is needed for SEO and Joomla! will force you to use the structure you have chosen for your site. Using Joomla! as a blog will make it easier for you as you will be using the categories created in advance to hold that information for you.
Google and blog indexing
If you set up a blog and start using the sites and services we will be looking at, like FeedBurner and Technorati, you will notice that the major search engines also use these services to index blog sites and find new posts really fast. Now Google even owns FeedBurner! You will not only syndicate your articles using options such as RSS Feeds, but you will also push your articles through Technorati, the number one site to show your blog to bloggers.
Google has a special tool with some basic categorization in place for searching blogs; you can find it at http://blogsearch.google.com.
One good thing about this blog search tools is that it will show you how "old" a blog post is. For example, under the title you will see a statement such as 10 hours ago just to prove how fast you can get an article indexed from a blog.
Setting up Joomla! as a blog
Joomla! was not built to be a blog in its basic form, unlike WordPress. However, Joomla! has a built-in layout function called Blog layout that can be used for sections and categories. RSS Feeds are also built in, but we need to put an extra component in place to get a commenting system. First things first, let's set up the basic structure of your Joomla! based blog.
How to structure your blog section
The first thing you need to do is to come up with a section name for your blog.
You already have an extended keywords list, so it should not be difficult to set up a blog. In my example site I have set up a Section called Garden Pools Blog and the Alias I want to use is garden-pools.
This alias is going to be included in the SEF URL and contains some of the keywords I want to target with the blog.
Once that is ready, you need to create the main categories, which of course will be the main topics of your blog section.
Choosing your blog categories
Again you need to find the right keywords to put into your category names. The best thing you can do now is to focus on the topic you want to blog about. It is really essential that you think about these categories and name them the right way, or you will get into trouble later on. Once you know about the SEF URLs, you might find yourself in trouble if you have the same category names as in the main site.
In my category for this blog I have used the category name Water Gardens, depending on my choice of URL construction in the sh404SEF component. It is possible that I may not use the same category name for the main topics of my site.
If I were to use the same category name they both would get the URL http://www.cblandscapegardening/water-gardens/, leaving one of the categories not reachable. One workaround would be to change the alias of one of the categories, but that would still leave a duplicate title on your site which you would need to change. Google would show it as a possible duplicate title in its webmaster content analysis. You can prevent this by choosing your categories wisely.
Therefore, it is important to think about these URL structures, when you start naming and creating the blog categories.
Stay focused and limit yourself
If you start naming the categories make sure you stay on the same blog topic and keep the terms as relevant as possible. Don't create too many categories as you are going to create a separate menu for the blog. Too many categories will fill your menu with a long list of topics, and the visitors will not be able to choose from this long list. It is also not a pretty sight to have such a long list in your sidebar.
Limiting yourself to a smaller section of categories, which you want to connect your articles to, will help you to stay more relevant to the topic of your choice.
Creating a blog menu
Once you have set up your categories, it's time to create your blog menu.
Start with creating a new menu and call it whatever you want to, give it a title like The Garden Blog as in my example site. To set this feature go to your administrator panel and choose Menus | Main Menu from the menu bar at the top. After that choose New.
Make it short and to the point so that it is really easy to find it on your site. Go to the Extensions menu, choose Module Manager, and Publish the module in the location you want it to show on your site.
The first thing you should do is create a link to the section in which you are going to put your blog posts, and change the Parameters(Basic) to match the layout you want:
- #Leading is set to 1, which means one full length article to start with
- #Intro is set the 6, so you have the introduction text (that is the text before the "read more" link) from six articles, getting a total of seven on the blog page
- Columns is set to 1 to get a complete overview of the articles in a listing that is not broken into two columns after the first Intro article
- #Links this is the number of links with the title of older articles that don't show on the blog page anymore
After setting the Parameters(Basic) you need to set the Parameters(Advanced) as well:
- Change the Category Order to Order and the Primary Order to Most recent first.
- Make sure you have the Show a Feed Link set to Yes—only for this menu item. This option is set so that we can get a full RSS Feed over all the blog categories
For a blog, you need to change some of the settings in the Parameters(Component):
- For a blog you need to Show the Author Name, the Created Date and Time, the Show Navigation, and the Read more... Link
- The Article Rating/Voting depends on you, for me its set to off, as I don't like the dotted rating icons.
The commenting system will give your visitors the ability to share their thoughts about your article, rather than just rate them, unlike the rating system. You will learn more about such a commenting system later in this article.
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Why use a Full Text instead of Intro Text feed
For each feed item show is the last option you need to know in the Parameters(Component). It is for you to set whether you want your RSS feed to include articles as Full Text or just the Intro Text. If you go for Intro Text, only the beginning of your article will be shown in the RSS Feed, with a link to the complete article. Full Text will show the complete article in your RSS Feed.
The choice between these two is a difficult one. With an Intro Text feed you will achieve two things:
- More page visits on your site, as people need to go to your article page to read the complete article
- If your feed is scraped and is shown on a different web site than yours, visitors to that site will need to go to your site as well, so you still get the page views
If you choose Full Text, the scrapers will love you, but also your RSS Feed readers!
Google and other search engines know that the scraped content comes from your site, so you don't have to worry about it.
However, your subscribers, subscribe to your feed because they want to read your articles in a simple and easy way. For most of them it means reading in their preferred feed reader, along with other RSS Feeds of their interest.
What would you do if you had the choice between a click through to the web site or reading the full feed in you reader? In my opinion the best way to go is to use a Full Text feed, as it will give you more readers in the long run.
Separator and blog categories
To separate blog categories from the complete overview, place a separator just below the section link. Simply choose the option Separator in the new menu item and give it a title. I just named it "Blog categories". Now start adding the menu links to the different categories using the Category Blog Layout option.
Make sure you change the menu parameters to match the ones you set previously in the section links. That way you will ensure a standard layout for every category in your blog section.
One of the most important features of a blog is the commenting system, where visitors can respond to the articles posted on the blog. Comments can be a direct response to a post, questions, or additional information that can help others who read the article.
Joomla! at its core doesn't have a commenting system, with anti-spam features in place, so we need to look for third parties to provide this feature. You can choose from several components and plugins to get a commenting system in place. There are commercial ones such as JomComment and JXtended Comments, and free components such as !JoomlaComment, MXComment, and yvComment. Of the commercial ones the JomComment seems to be the most widely used, and of the free ones for Joomla 1.5 yvComment seems to be the most popular.
Why comments are important
From an SEO point of view, commenting is very good, as people will create extra content for your page with their comments. Those comments are mostly on the site's topic, so without writing the content yourself, your page content will grow. But it has another benefit, and that is the interaction with your visitors.
Interaction with your visitors
If you respond to the comments of your visitors in a respectful way and engage in the discussions, people are likely come back to your site to read your responses to questions.
They will eventually start asking questions and tell other people where to go to get answers to their questions. It will give you the possibility to get word of mouth advertisements that will increase the number of visitors to your site. They will share links on those articles and discussions, which leads to more incoming links to your site. As you can see, interacting with your visitors is really good for your Search Engine Optimization efforts.
However, there are people who will use your commenting system to spam your site with their own links and that is something we want to avoid. Therefore, a good anti-spam system and comment moderation facility needs to be in the system as well.
I am going to show you how to implement a third-party service that does all that and more. It is called Disqus and it's a free service.
Installation and configuration of the Disqus plugin
Disqus is not a component that you install on your Joomla! site, it is a free service provided by www.disqus.com.
To be able to use this service you have to get a free account on www.disqus.com.
Setting up your commenting service on Disqus
To get your configuration set up, log in to Disqus.
Once you are logged in look at the top right menu, there you will see small link that says Add a Website, and that is exactly what you want to do.
These steps are really simple—the first line is the URL of your site, the second is a description to identify the site in your administration and moderation panel.
You will need the Short name later on, make sure it is short and simple without spacing. You can even choose to remove any hyphens or underscores as well. The next thing you need is to choose your platform.
Joomla! is not included in this short list, so move to the option other platforms. In the list that follows you see a link called Joomla, following this link will take you to the sitewww.joomlaworks.gr.
Find the plugin DISQUS comment system for Joomla!.
Download and install this plugin, it is also free. Install the plugin like any other plugin and we can get into the configuration of this plugin. The configuration of the plugin is really simple, but make sure you have the correct Short name for Disqus at hand.
Change the content of the field Your DISQUS subdomain to the Short name. Your subdomain should be something like Short name.disqus.com.
After you enable the plugin you are ready to moderate the comments and trackbacks received through the Disqus web site. If you look at the pages on your site you will see that the comment feature is now in place and integrated into the site.
Disqus has the following advantages over comment components:
- Very good anti spam database that filters spam directly at the source
- Easy moderation panel
Can be used for different web sites and still have one moderation panel for all those sites
- It has a trackback system in place that most of the Joomla! comment components don't have
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Limitations of Disqus
Are there any drawbacks of using this system? Yes, there are:
- You don't have control over the content of the comments like the real Joomla! comment components.
- The data is not stored in your database, but is with Disqus. If this service stops in the future, you could lose all your comments.
- You are also relying on servers that are not under your control, so if they have an outage it could hurt your site because of long loading time.
- You cannot limit commenting to one section of your site, so if you want to limit comments to the blog section only, you will notice that you cannot do that.
This commenting system is for your whole site, so please be aware of that. This means, not only your blog has the possibility to receive comments, but all the other articles on your web site will receive comments as well!
Putting your RSS Feeds to work
Now that we have the blog and the commenting system in place, it is time to focus on your RSS Feed(s).
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and it simply means that the content of your site can be viewed easily using a RSS reader. More important is the fact that people can subscribe to your RSS Feed and get the new articles delivered to their reader or mailbox.
Search engines are looking at these feeds as well and they take them into their index really fast. You saw how fast you can get indexed in the blog search of Google. The only way it will happen that fast is, if you provide them with a sitemap and a RSS Feed. First you need to activate the RSS Feed option for the blog on your Joomla! site. To do that go to the Module Manager section in the Extensions menu and add a new module.
Do not choose the Feed Display module, choose the Syndicate module!
With a syndication module you are going to publish your content, with an RSS Feed module you are getting the feed from another site. Configure and publish the module to be active for the blog overview menu item only. For best results set Format on the right side to Atom 1.0.
On the blog overview page you now see a small icon
Click on that Feed Entries link and copy the URL it goes to so that you can use it later when you are going to improve your RSS Feed to have the best possible effects for Search Engine Optimization.
In this article we covered the advantages of blogging for SEO, setting up Joomla! as a blog, and commenting.
We learnt about:
- How is blogging good for SEO?
- Setting up Joomla! as a blog
About the Author :
Herbert-Jan van Dinther has been building and optimizing web sites for search engines for over 10 years. He is the author of several Joomla! SEO information web sites like http://www.pathos-seo.com and http://www.hummerbie.com and author of The Little Joomla SEO Book, which has helped numerous people in improving their web site. He also blogs about Joomla! and SEO, on blog.hummerbie.com which is recommend reading by Steve Burge from Alledia.com. He combines his knowledge of Open Source Content management systems like Joomla!, WordPress, and Drupal, and Search Engine Optimization into high ranking web sites on several topics.
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