Tumblr SEO: An Internet Marketers Guide to Owning Tumblr

tumblr seo guide part I

An Intro to Tumblr SEO

Hello there to our loyal followers and new fans alike.  Today we will be talking about the wonderful world of Tumblr.  According to Mashable, Tumblr has grown over the past 12 months by over 900%.
Now by internet standards, that is not unheard of, however when we found out that there are more Tumblr users than WordPress users (WordPress.com users, not the actual server platform) we decided that we should really pay more attention to this.

In our world, the internet marketing world,  Tumblr is a bit more controversial.  Some say that Tumblr is “bad” for SEO.  While I don’t agree with that statement at all, I will say that it is much less configurable than a WordPress blog or other similar blogging platforms, which brings me to my next point: don’t think of it as a blogging platform, think of it as a massive network of creative and intelligent individuals that love to read and share creativity.  This might be art, fashion, technology, adult, etc – but mainly you will find super-niche markets that you won’t find anywhere else, so don’t exclude your niche yet.

Fact: as of this date, there have been over 20 BILLION Tumblr posts made, and there over 50,000 posts per minute being made on the Tumblr network.  I’m just going to stop right there with the numbers, its big.

There are billions of Tumblr Posts and growing Image by © Louie Psihoyos/CORBIS

Here at Elite Strategies, we’ve always given the majority of our customers a solid dose of Tumblr whenever we embark upon an SEO or social media campaign. Sometimes it may be more modest than others, but we include it in our content marketing strategy at least 8/10 times.  Tumblr can be a great way to attract a niche audience and following, particularly if you are in an interesting niche, but really it could be anything.  We even have an example of a local pest control company that has quite the Tumblr following.

Getting Started with Tumblr SEO

First rule of Tumblr: don’t talk about Tumblr.  (Ok, that’s actually not the first rule of Tumblr.)

The real first rule of Tumblr is: do not treat it as a blog. This is not a place to “post articles.”  Get the word “article” out of your head right now! Later on down the road when you learn the real meaning of a Tumblr blog you will   Also, do not spell it “Tumbler” like the glass or acrobatics individual.

We are not going to insult you by walking you step by step creating a Tumblr account.  Go to tumblr.com and register.  It has always been my theory that it is better to register for properties with the @domain that you are marketing, but do what feels good.  Next, pick a Tumblr name that is fun and cool.  Unfortunately Elite Strategies did not follow that advice, we chose to take the vanilla branding route instead and just chose our name.  If the name of your company is “Bill’s Screws & Fasteners” Maybe choose – tumblr.com/bills-screwed-fasteners or something fun that will stick with people.

Next you need to get inside the mind of Tumblr followers.  They are not Facebook followers, nor are they Twitter people.  They are kind of a hybrid individual crossbred somewhere between an Instagram user and a freelance blogger.  They are very temperamental and can be very quick to make a decision.  So go over to Tumblr and before you start building (it’s not all about you, ok?) – go to the search box and find some Tumblrs that you like.

Get Inside the Minds of Tumblr Users

Get Inside the Minds of Tumblr Users

Don’t just click through and mindlessly follow people, similarly to when you sign up for Twitter and they make you follow 20 people.  Follow people that generally look relevant to your interests. Take notes along the way.

tumblr seo

This image is currently trending on Tumblr – do your images look like these?

Note the black border of the image, the focused photography, and the implied struggle between the insects: it’s cool.  Now it is your turn to be cool.

If you don’t know what cool is, you can check out the top 12 Tumblr blogs of 2012.  If you haven’t been Tumbling that long this might take a little time to absorb, either way take some time to check out.  Follow up with a trip to Know Your Meme, which every social media expert needs to have a thorough knowledge of.  Researching memes will almost certainly trace back to a reddit thread, a Tumblr page or some forum known for meming.

Whatever you do, don’t just start chucking up images that you snap on your phone.  This isn’t your normal blog, and it’s definitely not a Facebook Page.  You want people to be able to browse your Tumblr and get stuck because they are captivated by the amazing content there.  Feel free to use other peoples pictures, graphs, movies etc, as long as you give credit where it is due.  Your Tumblr is a culmination of information that you’ve collected as well as posted yourself.

This isn’t Facebook: you don’t post the first thing that comes to your mind.  Ask yourself the question: will everyone who reads my Tumblr stop and say, “Wow, that is interesting – maybe I’ll share that!”  If you answered no to that, then find some better content.

 

A Few Ideas for Tumblr Content for Off-Niches

Here, I will get you started with a few ideas:

Service Industries:

  • Fun photos from your company/community
  • Graphics/howtos of funny things that happened on a job
  • Playful photos of things happened on a job
  • A graph on why you need your service
  • A howto video relating to your industry

Retail Industries

  • A wonderfully curated image of your front-end
  • An infographic of why your product rocks
  • Pictures of funny people using your product
  • Graphics with statistics about your product

Get the idea?  Funny pictures of your cat and or dog will also be great.  Dogs do very well on Tumblr but cat CTR’s have been through the roof in the last quarter of 2012.

tumblr cat pics

Cat Pics: check.

Don’t make your Tumblr blog like Pinterest or all “picture-checker-boardy,” while some do you don’t want photos to be the sole focus of your blog.  Create a familiar environment for people who might happen to stumble across your Tumblr (intentional rhyme).  Go with the normal style of top to bottom post style, but keep the graphics to a minimum.  Don’t make too many ancillary pages either, you want people to stay on the blog portion of your page not off on other pages.  This isn’t a website.  I do advocate a contact us page but that’s about it.

As much as I’ve hated it in the past, you will want to put Disqus on your theme.  This will allow basically anyone to interact with your Tumblr without having an account first.

Who’s Doing it Right

There are a ton of Tumblr’s out there that are just failing to get the point.  Then there are others that are spot on.  The Boston Globe’s Tumblr is a fantastic example of how to market your Tumblr Properly. Taken from their Tumblr about page:

This isn’t about breaking news in Boston (check us on @bostonupdate on Twitter).  It’s not about the important capital-J journalism of those daily printed pieces of paper (and soon to be website) called The Boston Globe.  But it is about the world we live in, often (but not exclusively) filtered by the reporters, photojournalists, reviewers, web producers at the Globe and boston.com.

They keep their Tumblr very image-oriented and focus on stories that appeal to the Tumblr demographic.

tumblr obama

Screenshot of a recent Boston Globe Tumblr post

Turn something boring into a fun idea

Pew Internet is a data research company that collects research and studies how American’s use technology in their daily lives. (sound boring?)  They take this stale-sounding topic and turn it into something interesting by Tumbling about this data, by using graphical reports.  Even people who aren’t interested in research/data will stop and look at these reports:

Pew Internet: you’re doing it right.

Tumblr Tags and On-Page SEO Considerations

Ok now for the fun SEO part.  There are basically 3 ways (basically – not only) that people will come across your Tumblr: search engine, Tumblr search, or a link from you or another 3rd party.  You want to be sure to optimize your Tumblr page as well as each post you make, and that includes links, pictures, videos, and text.

For the purpose of this article, we are going to talk about the second way people will find you – through Tumblr search.  This is where optimizing your blog will come into play.  There is one thing you always need to remember when optimizing for Tumblr: they keep things extremely simple with their algorithm.  They rely on popularity and tagging to rank you internally.

Tag your posts with relevant tags.  Think of general words to describe your post and categories that it fits into, and then tag appropriately.  I do about 3-5 tags per post all of the time.  Sometimes it is fun to throw a tag in there but be sure not to confuse the Tumblr mods/algorithm (note: not sure if there is a manual tag review, citation needed)  So make sure you tag.

Tagging will allow the Tumblr spiders to group your page appropriately, and with the correct group of people as well.

More On-Page SEO Tips for Tumblr

If you are an insane on-page SEO wizard and you feel the need to get into editing the title tags of your pages (and blog posts) go ahead.

There a new way to promote your post and that is with the promote check box next to the publish icon.  This will allow you to highlight your post at the top of your followers for a period of time.  Obviously the more followers the more effective this will be, so this is just another reason to gain a lot of followers.

Always create custom post URLS, as with regular on-page SEO it will help your SEO game a lot.  Same with photos, the alt and description boxes are there for a reason.  No, its not so people can check, it is so Tumblr can categorize your blog!

Want to check for other people who like things a lot (hmmmm why would you need this?) Try throwing this Tumblr footprint into Google:

site:tumblr.com "liked this"

From there you can leverage those Tumblr users to your advantage if you can get crafty.

If you’ve managed to get this far, then you are doing pretty well.  In part 2 of this guide we’ll talk more about creating a Tumblr XML sitemap and submitting it to Google Webmaster Tools.

Moar Tumblr SEO Tips

I used Tumblr for 3 months before I started to really dive into the back end of it, once I started seeing 14 year old boys ranking for their targeted keywords (with absolutely no know-how), I started to look into this a wee bit more.

Homepage Title and Description Tag

Ok so one of the easiest ways to do this is through the “customize” tab on your Tumblr back end.  Once there, look for the section labeled title/description.

tumblr title tag and meta description

The Tumblr Backend Makes it Really Easy to Meta Describe and Title Your Tumblr

Remember to throw in the keywords you are targeting, or branding.  Stick with a standard length title tag and meta description, don’t go outside of those parameters.  If you have inner-Tumblr pages you can workaround those as well but you’ll have to dive in a little deeper to edit those.

Tip for newbies: your Title and Meta Description is what will show up when doing a Google search.  Remember not to put anything terrible in there because it may take up to a few months for this to update (worst case.)

Next, dive into the “edit HTML” section of your Tumblr blog under the customization tab. You’ve gotta know your way around HTML/CSS at the very least in order to make these changes.  Here you will want to make sure that things such as H1 tags are in place.  Specifically, be sure that all post titles are given an H1 tag, which has historically been great for SEO.  You will need to look for line(s) of code that have this snippett:

{block:Text}

and stick an h1 tag in there any way you can.  You may have to go into the CSS if your size is something weird, which most themes these days might be the case.

A Quick Tumblr Title Tag Hack

A lot of times out of the box, Tumblr doesn’t have title tags configured properly for Google search.  By default, the <tumblr title> is set before the <post title>.  Don’t worry, this little trick will fix this right up.

<title>{block:PostSummary}{PostSummary} – {/block:PostSummary}{Title}</title>

Building Links to Your Tumblr

We couldn’t get through a guide about Tumblr and SEO without mentioning links, could we?

The general rule of thumb when considering linking is to create content that is so good that your readers will want to share your content.

The easiest way to get more links from tumblr.com is to have your content re-shared.  Many Tumblr authors do this by simply asking to do so below their posts by saying something like “re-share this post for good karma” or something of that nature.  While this sounds a little like begging, if it is executed properly it can work.

Outside of Tumblr is a totally different world.  There are a number of different options for creating more exposure for your Tumblr in other social media sites.  Many Tumblr authors have created Pinterest boards for their Tumblr accounts.  We’ve found Pinterest to be very synonymous to Tumblr, in the fact that both sites are image centered.

In addition to Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter are both viable options to share you content in an effort to gain links.

Another way to get your content out there and gain back links to your Tumblr is to email people in your niche and ask them to collaborate.  This can be in the form of an interview, guest post, or just a simple link drop/mention on their blog.

The possibilities are endless, use your imagination and creativity and always think about what the other website has to gain by mentioning you.

Wrap Up

Here is the thing people, unless you are in the possession of a very cool concept, and extremely artistic individual, or have a very interesting and hip product or service, chances are your blog is not going to go viral.  That is ok, the goal of every baseball game is not to hit a grand slam every time you go up to bat.

Make your posts meaningful at all costs and rich with texts and photos whenever possible.

Once you get situated with Tumblr, there are a plethora of tactics that you can do to create an influx of PR juice to you, and your site.

Finally, make sure that you follow the same standards that you would for your website.  Specifically, be sure that you aren’t violating any of the Google Webmaster Tools Guidelines such as using automated link building or link spamming.  This could land your Tumblr site in jeopardy.

check out part II
Patrick Coombe
Patrick Coombe is the founder and CEO of Elite Strategies Llc. Patrick takes a hands on approach to managing Elite Strategies and loves to get involved with technical projects relating to clients inbound marketing neeeds.
Patrick Coombe
Patrick Coombe
  1 COMMENT
Blog SEO Social Media Tumblr
  • Written by: Tman

    one of the best posts on Tumblr SEO on the web, thanks bro.

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