Blogger (Blogspot) New XML Template SEO Checklist

Blogger’s New XML template (also known as Beta) is the modern day standard for the Blogger publishing platform. This free blog publishing software is hosted and owned by Google. If you’re using the new template and would like to see your blog perform better in the search engines, keep reading.

Due to the popularity of Blogspot/Blogger for hosting blogs (particularly among small bloggers, students and even corporate and professional people that still use Google Blogger as their blog publishing solution), there is an increasing demand to optimize the new XML template for search engine optimization, particularly targeting Google.

This tutorial focuses on SEO for the New XML template (Beta). Those who use the classic template can read this tutorial: http://www.seochat.com/c/a/Search-Engine-Optimization-Help/Blogspot-SEO-Checklist-The-Practical-Way-to-Improve-Rankings/

How to determine if you are using Classic or New(Beta) XML template

Some bloggers (mostly those that are not technically inclined) are confused as to whether their blog uses the Classic or New (Beta) XML template. Before you can proceed with the onsite SEO work on your Google Blogger-hosted blogs, you need to ensure, for purposes of this tutorial, that you are using the New (Beta) XML template.

Take the following steps:

Step 1: Go to Google Blogger and log in: http://www.blogger.com/

Step 2: What you will see next is your dashboard that contains your blogs. Under “Manage Blogs” you will see the list of your blogs. Below are the criteria which you will use to find out if your blog uses the Classic or New (Beta) XML-based template:

  • If it uses “Layout” then it is using the New Beta (XML) Google Blogger template.
  • If it uses “Template” then it is using the Google Classic Blogger Templates.

See below (encircled in a dotted red box) for where you can look to find these “Templates” or “Layouts” in your Google Blogger Dashboard.

For example in the screen shot above, “Web Kits and other pr...” blog uses the New Blogger XML template (because it uses “Layout”) while the other blog “Classic” uses Google Blogger Classic (because it uses “Template”).

If your blog uses the (New) XML based blogger templates, then you can implement the suggestions stated in this tutorial.

The first thing you need to tweak is the blog post title tags. You need to ensure that you are using unique title tags, and those keywords should be prominent in the post title.

Unfortunately, the default Google Blogger XML template title tags are not SEO friendly. Let me explain with an example. Say that your exact post title (containing your targeted keywords) is "7 Proven Ways to Lose Weight" and your blog’s name is "Eternal Health Blog." An “unoptimized” title tag will look like this:

Eternal Health Blog: 7 Proven ways to lose weight

The bad thing about having your post title tag look like that is that the keywords you’re targeting with your post title come at the end and are not prominent.  According to SEOMOZ’s 2009 survey on the most important search engine ranking factors ( http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors#ranking-factors): “Keyword Use as the First Word(s) of the Title Tag” has 63% importance among the on-page ranking factors.

It is important that your targeted keywords are prominent in the post title. To optimize the title tag, the post title should be: 7 Proven ways to lose weight

The above information discusses the rule for changing titles in the post. But how about the blog’s front page? Of course, the title tag in the front page is customized on the front page’s targeted keywords, which are NOT the same as those in the posts. By default, the Google Blogger XML template uses the blog name as the front page title if these are not customized by the user.

For best SEO results, you need to adopt an SEO-friendly title for your blog’s front page, rather than just using the blogger’s default front page title.

How about the archives? Archive titles by default are labeled, for example:

Eternal Health Blog: March 2010

The above naming convention dilutes the name of your blog, and it’s much worse if you use the name of your blog as the front page title (which is given by default).

The recommended naming convention for the archive should be as simple as:

March 2010 | Archives

This basically tells the readers two things: first, the month of the posts; second, that they are visiting the blog archives.

So how do you tweak default Blogger title tags to become SEO friendly? Follow the simple procedure below:

Step 1: Log in to your Google Blogger account.

Step 2: Once you are logged in, what you will see is the Dashboard that shows the list of your blogs. Choose which blogs you want to work with and then click the “Layout” link.

Step 3: What you see next is “Add and Arrange Page elements.” In the header navigation menu shown, look for “Edit HTML” and click that link.

Step 4: Okay, after your click the “Edit HTML” link, you will then see the source code of your Blogger XML template. Look for the default title tag code (this is the default Blogger title tag code):

<title><data:blog.pageTitle/></title>

And ENTIRELY replace that code with:

<b:if cond=’data:blog.pageType == &quot;item&quot;’>

<title><data:blog.pageName/></title>

</b:if>

<b:if cond=’data:blog.url == &quot;http://replacethiswithyourownblogspoturl.blogspot.com/&quot;’>

<title>This is the front page title tag, replace it with yours</title>

</b:if>

<b:if cond=’data:blog.pageType == &quot;archive&quot;’>

<title><data:blog.pageName/> | Archives</title>

</b:if>

So for example if you have the following blog information:

Front page URL: http://eternalhealth.blogspot.com/

Front page title tag: Eternal Health Techniques | Revealed after 50 years of study

The modified title tag code will be:

<b:if cond=’data:blog.pageType == &quot;item&quot;’>

<title><data:blog.pageName/></title>

</b:if>

<b:if cond=’data:blog.url == &quot;http://eternalhealth.blogspot.com/&quot;’>

<title>Eternal Health Techniques | Revealed after 50 years of study</title>

</b:if>

<b:if cond=’data:blog.pageType == &quot;archive&quot;’>

<title><data:blog.pageName/> | Archives</title>

</b:if>

Below is how your code looks after being added to the Blogger source code (Edit HTML) (inside the dotted line):

 

What’s special about archives? Archives should not be indexed, but are useful as a guide for readers to navigate to older posts right there in your blog (but not in the search index). My personal choice is that blogger archives should not be indexable.

However, with the way the blogger structures its content, if you block archives (that means making them uncrawlable and unindexable) using: <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">,  then in the long run, it could introduce some crawlability issues, particularly with your old posts.

This means that the only way Googlebot could penetrate deeper with your older posts (which can still be valuable, especially if they receive new comments) is through archives. But since it is tagged with <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">, Googlebot won’t follow the links, which are crucial for crawling.

Therefore the recommended solution is to use:

<meta content=’NOINDEX’ name=’ROBOTS’/>

This tag will still allow Googlebot to crawl the links in the archive pages to fetch updated older posts, while it prevents archived pages from showing in the search engine index.

So how can you implement it with the Blogger XML template source code? You can use Google’s specialized layout tags, and follow the procedure below:

Step 1: Log in to your Google Blogger account.

Step 2: Click the “Layout” link of your selected blog.

Step 3: Click “Edit HTML.” You will then be presented with a source code.

Step 4: Find the <head> tag in the source code. Just below that tag, paste the code below:

<b:if cond=’data:blog.pageType == &quot;archive&quot;’>

 

<meta content=’NOINDEX’ name=’ROBOTS’/>

 

</b:if>

Below is the sample screen shot (inside the dotted line) of the implementation in the Blogger source code:

 

Okay, this is an easier tweak. You must ensure that:

1. You are using a blogger theme for which the post titles in the archives are using hyperlinks pointing to the specific blogger post URL. This must be true not only in archives, but also in the Blogger front page. See example screen shot below:

2. Use the same blog title name as your Blogger front page title tag. This helps to associate the targeted keywords with the internal links.

You can tweak this using the following procedure:

Step 1: Log in to your Blogger account.

Step 2: In the dashboard, select a blog to tweak and click the “Settings” link. 

Step 3: Under the “Title” field, enter your front page title tag (the one you were using in the previous title tag tweaks).

For example, the previous front page title uses:  Eternal Health Techniques | Revealed after 50 years of study

See below for the screen shot. The front page title tag is also used as the overall blog title name under Blogger settings:

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