Most people will probably discover your bog through a search engine. Yes, I’m talking about SEO – three letters that can set bloggers trembling with fear. But how do you make sure that search engines find your blog, especially given SEO itself appears like a minefield to many and is incredibly competitive?
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the acronym SEO.
Here are a few SEO basics:
- It stands for Search Engine Optimization.
- Ranking refers to your position in a list of searched results.
- SEO is competitive, but you should aim to try to have your blog in the first ten results. People click on the first ten links more often than the ones lower down.
- To achieve this optimization, you write, code and design your blog in a way that search engines rank as high.
- SEO is a powerful tool to help people discover your blog.
- SEO should always begin with great content!
There is a plethora of information about using SEO, what I am offering is a brief and basic overview to help get your head around it all and to get you started. But my key advice is KISS (keep it simple stupid!) …And try not to get overwhelmed by it all. Read as much or as little as you like; as I said, there’s plenty out there. Start small and build your knowledge of how to optimize your blog for search engines – don’t try to do it all at once and don’t expect to take a #1 ranking overnight!
What do search engines search for?
The answer is a whole stack of stuff, some of which is:
- Repeated keywords
- Phrases of 3, 4, 5 keywords
- Keywords in boldface
- Keywords in headlines
- Keywords in links
- Keywords in bullet points
- Keywords in italics
How do search engines work?
- Search engines match these keywords to searches
- Search engines rank sites based on things like how many other sites link to a page – because this helps create context.
- Keywords are triggered by HTML code, eg: <H1> topline headline; <H2>, <H3>, <H4> subheadings; <strong> bold text; <em> italicised text; <a href> links; <ul> bulleted lists, and <ol> numbered lists – so formatting is important!
How do you achieve optimization?
- Make it really obvious what the content of your blog is about.
- Write original, valuable, appealing content that is succinct and understandable to your readers AND search engines.
- Work out what people are searching for then embed these keywords in your content: especially in the title, headings, links, metadata, image tags.
- Limit titles/headlines to 65 descriptive characters, fill the title with keywords, and use these keywords in your blog. (Sticking to 65 characters will prevent your title from being truncated.)
- Metatags: meta keywords: your 3-5 keywords; meta description: 250 character text to describe your content – include your top 3-5 keywords.
- Use alternative text (alt text) to describe images on included in your blog – this way, the description will appear if the image does not and can help search engines find your blog when people limit their search to images.
- Use original, unique alt text descriptions that are one short phrase or sentence long that includes keywords and fits the image.
- Place links in the body of your blog: external and/or internal links.
- Embed links: eg, select relevant text then link this to relevant websites.
- Link to pages with similar topics (Note: too many links will devalue a page).
- Always notify people when you link to their site.
- Select the best keywords.
- Give each blog entry a title, topic, headings.
- Use keywords in your introduction, middle, and conclusion.
- Include keywords above the fold (the top part of your page that people see when searching).
- Use keywords in bullet and number lists.
- Make sure the keywords you use are relevant and relate to your content.
- Search engines look for exact matches so if someone is searching for fiction, they will not be matched with creative writing.
- Check the traffic to your site and optimize blog entries that get the most traffic.
- Submit your blog to directories, like the Yahoo! Directory
Select keywords and produce a keyword list:
- Use tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool – type in your keyword to find hundreds of related keywords
- Only use keywords that are relevant to your content
- Think about what keywords your audience is most likely to type those into search boxes.
- If you have a small site, you will probably have fewer links pointing to it, so use longer keyword phrases, so for example instead of just cookbook, use bean cookbook.
- Small variations make a big difference: novel, story, fiction, book, creative writing
- Find high volume, low difficulty keywords
- Combine high and low volume keywords in a phrase
- Use only keyword phrases that you can repeat three to five times in your blog.
- Once you have a list of viable keywords, enter these into search engines. Delete any that come up with extremely competitive sites.
I know there are a lot of resources out there to help you learn and become better at SEO. I am no expert. I have learnt by reading, researching and trial and error…and I continue to learn how to optimize my own blog for search engines. Here are a few resources to get you going:
Finally, remember: never sacrifice readability and quality, well-written content for search engine optimization. Consider SEO as being there to help readers find your blog – a happy side-effect can be increased traffic to your site!
Photo credit: Blogging