SEO 101: Making Your Content Discoverable

From the archives…

This is part two of my three part series from my BlogHer 2007 session. You can also read the intro, part one on relevance, or part three on crawlability.

Search engines can’t list your site in results if they don’t know about it. So how can you let them know your site is out there, among the millions of others? Links! Search engines access pages on the web and follow links to other pages. This actually makes things really easy for you, because you want links anyway so that visitors on other sites can learn about your site.

Basic rules for links from other sites

  • Join communities you’re interested in, comment on other blogs, jump into conversations and let others know your site is out there. If they’re interested in what you have to say, they’ll check out your site and link to you if it’s relevant to their readers.
  • Get your site noticed on social media sites and get involved in social conversations.
  • Don’t get caught up in crazy link exchange schemes. Links should be relevant to visitors. If you get an email from a plumbing site saying that he’ll link to your knitting site if you’ll link to him and you’re pretty sure his plumbing clients are more looking for information on clogged drains than yarn, back away slowly.Why? Well, links are important to search engines for several reasons. One is that they let search engines know your pages exist. But they also help search engines know how popular your pages are. Some sites try to exploit this and figure that if they can get a whole bunch of links, search engines will think they’ve got popular pages. But search engines obviously want to know a page is actually popular. That other sites are linking to it naturally because it’s valuable and relevant, not because some deal has been made to artificially send links around. So, be very wary of offers to exchange links or to sell you a bunch. Search engines are on to that..Want to know who’s linking to you? Just hop over to Google Search Console Search Traffic > Links to Your Site.

Basic rules for internal links
Once a search engine knows about your site’s home page, you can provide an internal link structure to the rest of the pages of your site. You don’t need other sites to link in to every page for you. So, what’s the best way to make sure you’ve got a good internal structure?

  • Provide clear top-level navigation. This is generally easy with blogging software. For instance, provide links to major categories and archives. If your site includes pages other than blog posts, provide a link to an HTML site map that then links to the other sections of your site.
  • Make sure your navigation links are in HTML, and not in Flash or Javascript. Search engines have trouble extracting links from anything other than HTML.
  • Use absolute rather than relative links.
  • Use descriptive anchor text. Anchor text is the underlined text in a link. Help search engines know what the page you’re linking to is about.

Submitting an XML Sitemap
Another way to let search engines know about the pages of your site is to submit an XML Sitemap. Sound complicated? It’s not. You can simply submit your RSS feed!

If you can edit your site’s robots.txt file, you can simply add the path to your RSS feed, like this:


However, not all blogging platforms let you edit your robots.txt file. If you can’t edit it or aren’t sure how, you can still submit manually to Google and Bing.

Once the search engines know your site exists, they’ve got to be able to get to your content. Which means it’s time for part three: crawlability.

14 thoughts on “SEO 101: Making Your Content Discoverable

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  • qwerty

    Why would absolute links be better than relative? Sure, if you move a page, you won’t have to change your links on that page (although you’d still have to change the links to that page), but in my experience, as long as a link correctly points to a document, it’ll do the job.

    My personal preference is to make my links relative to the root of the site, but again, I don’t understand why it makes a difference to a user-agent.

    In fact, we had a thread at the HR forum about this subject about a week ago, and I made it very clear that I didn’t think it made a difference, so if I’m wrong, I’m going to need you to educate me.

  • Vanessa

    Two reasons why it’s better to use absolute links, particularly with blogs, are to help search engines with canonicalization of your domain and to ensure all links point back to your site when your posts get erm, scraped syndicated.

  • Larry Hosken

    I tried searching the web for [rockin penguins] and found out that the sites that already rank high for this phrase aren’t even about penguins that rock. One is a forum about music that was active briefly in the year 2005. The other… appears to be a writers’ forum. I wonder how these folks might feel about a link exchange. Something relevant. Like, they could say “Welcome to the Rockin Penguin Forums, where we discuss all kinds of music! (If you wanted actual rockin penguins, you might like _rockin-penguins.com_).” And then you could provide a link back to them. “If you’re not interested in penguins who rock, but would enjoy penguin-themed music conversation mostly in 2005, you might enjoy _rockinpenguins.proboard70.com_.”

  • DennisG

    Love these three posts about The Power of Search.
    Small thing to ad: Typepad also has a automatic sitemap generator.

  • Jordan Kasteler

    Vanessa, might want to fix that hyper-link. It’s missing URL characters. Also, could you provide more info on internal linking? Is there a right and wrong way to go about cross-linking (referencing) other pages of content on your site. (aside from relevant anchor text). I ask this due to Bruce Clay’s series on Siloing.

  • Vanessa

    Ah, but see. The site is called sk*rt, but its url is I know, perhaps they should rethink that.

    Regarding internal linking, the most important thing is just to ensure that every page on the site is found through at least one link. I don’t know that themes/silos are necessarily that important. In my experience, search engines evaluate each page individually, and you don’t dilute anything by not organizing things into particular categories. I personally haven’t seen evidence that search engines classify pages in groupings like this — which is not to say they do or don’t, I just haven’t seen it.

    My experience has been that if you have 10 pages on your site, all about the same topic, but those pages are scattered in various directories and randomly linked, those pages are just as likely to rank for the topic as they would if they were all grouped into one directory and linked categorically together. The important things seem to primarily be things like keywords on the page, anchor text, and relevant links.

  • Vanessa

    Dennis, good to know! Thanks!

  • Jordan Kasteler

    Vanessa, thank you for your clarification on silos. The hyperlink still is broken though. It wasn’t the naming of their site it’s the “http://www.” is actually “htp:/ww.”

  • Vanessa


    Funny. The link worked for me and misled me into thinking all was good. Thanks!

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  • Ash

    I have another perspective to this story. Check this out

    I hope it will help.


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