Meta tags are the secrets behind quick searches
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
A blog? It's easy. Here's how, Part 2

March 18, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright 2007, The Post-Standard

   You can't surf the Web without tripping over a blog. You'll even come across search engines designed only for blogs, such as Google's own site, http://blogsearch.google.com.
   Last week I explained how to create a blog using Blogger, one of the best free blogging sites. You can find that article at the Technofile site, which has online versions of my articles. Go to the main site at www.technofileonline.com or the article itself at www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec031107.html. You'll need to keep the previous article handy if you haven't yet created your blog. Follow the step-by-step instructions.
   If you've already made your blog on Blogger, follow along this week while I step you through two necessary functions -- changing, or editing, your blog, and adding special words or phrases to make your blog easier for others to find.
   Ready? Log onto your personal blog. If you've logged on properly onto Blogger (and Google, which runs Blogger), you should be able to open your blog in your browser and see if just as others see it -- with one exception: You should notice a tiny pencil icon near the bottom of the main window. The icon is a perfect symbol for the editing function. (Trivia fans might want to note that the world's first personal-computer word processor was called Electric Pencil. I'm reminded of it every time I see that pencil.)
   Click the pencil icon. The Blogger window will change to an editing screen. At the top, you'll see three tabs -- "Posting," where you can change the current blog post; "Settings," where you change many of the ways your blog works, and "Template," where you can add a page element, revise or add a short bio (about yourself, of course!) or preview what you've done so far.
   Go back to the "Settings" tab for a moment to look at more of Blogger's features. Under the three main tabs are eight mini-tabs. They're pretty much self-explanatory -- spend some time with them to get used to the concepts -- but the one you might find handiest is labeled "Email." It allows you to update your blog by merely sending an e-mail to the address of your choice.
   (Take it from someone who's been creating and editing Web pages for more than a decade: Being able to update your blog by doing nothing more than sending an e-mail is the cat's knees. Or the bee's meow. You know what I mean.)
   Let's back up a little.
   When you click the pencil icon, the first window Blogger shows you will be the "Posting" window, using the "Edit Posts" mini-tab. At the bottom right is a very important text-entry form. It's called "Labels for this post."
   Don't let the term "labels" mislead you. To Blogger they might be labels, but to everyone else -- and, most importantly, to all the search engines -- they are meta tags.
   Meta tags -- "meta" is a geek term for data that holds a description, and a tag is a word or short phrase -- are the secrets behind quick searches via Google and other search engines. It's true that Google and the others can search without meta tags, but tags are a huge help -- especially when you want to call attention to subjects that aren't obvious in your blog.
   For example, suppose you're writing a blog about apple pies. You'd want to make sure that the word PIE is a meta tag, or label. And the two words APPLE PIE. And PIE RECIPE. And such words as FLOUR, EGGS, SHORTENING and, well, CINNAMON. (You can tell I like Apple pies.)
   Or suppose you have a blog full of pictures of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Pictures are not easy to index, but meta tags -- those labels -- are a cinch. Just make labels such as HOG, HARLEY, STURGIS and CHOPPER. (You can tell I like motorcycles, too -- and you get an extra point if you know what the reference to Sturgis means.)
   Are you catching on? Just put tags in the "Labels for this post" field that match the subject matter in your blog. Put a comma and a space in between items. Don't use UPPER CASE like this -- I did it just to make the labels stand out.
   One more thing. Remember to update your labels if you add other subjects to your blog. The search engines will update their listings, too.
   Oh, and Sturgis? It's the place in South Dakota where Harley riders have a gettogether every year.