Basic Blogging SEO: 5 Tips from a Pro
Most bloggers have no idea what SEO really is or how to do it. It sounds techy & intimidating, to say the least. Heck, I got my first job in SEO before I even fully understood what it was. Then I worked for a few years in the industry, and just recently started blogging again.
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What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Mastering SEO techniques is a great way to grow your blog outside of social media promotions and email marketing.
Here are my top 5 SEO tips for bloggers:
1. Set Up Google Analytics if You Haven’t Already
If you are trying to grow your blog without a good analytic reporting system, you are shooting in the dark. Did more people visit the site this month than last month? Where did the traffic come from?
In order to grow your blog with SEO, you need to be able to answer those sorts of questions, and Google Analytics is the simplest and most accurate system that I have found to do this. (Need help getting started? Check out the Beginners Guide to Setting Up Google Analytics)
When you have Google Analytics installed, there are a few reports that will be immensely helpful in understanding your blog growth in general, and any impact that your SEO efforts may have had.
In analytics, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
This will give you detailed information on the different channels that people use to reach your website. If you already have web traffic from organic search, you can click on “Organic” in the table, and it will give you a further breakdown of that traffic.
Below that in the left-hand navigation, you will see “Search Engine Optimization”. This section also provides immensely insightful reports. In order to use these reports, you will have to set up your website through the Google Search Console as well.
2. Expand Your Definition of “Search Engine”
A lot of times we get stuck thinking that Google is the only search engine. This is far from true.
There are also search engines like Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. But if that’s where your definition of “Search Engine” ends, you’re missing out on a lot of traffic opportunities.
Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine? You heard me right. Not Bing. Not Yahoo. YouTube.
When you think outside of the box to other websites that use search – YouTube and Pinterest being key examples, you find that you think differently about optimization.
So How Do You Optimize for These Types of Platforms?
Think about how users search, how the engine provides relevant results, and how you can put your website content at the forefront of the results.
For example, if you make YouTube videos, make sure that your profile is filled out completely,that you link to your website wherever it’s appropriate, and that you include relevant keywords in the titles and descriptions of your videos.
It’s similar with Pinterest. We might feel inspired to come up with cute and creative board names, (like “XOXO” for a board about modern romance and dating advice), but in this creative process we need to consider how people are searching to find what we’re posting. Chances are they’re using terms like “dating tips”, not “XOXO”, so if you have set up your boards without keyword-rich names, people will be unable to find it.
Always be sure to include relevant keywords in the board titles, board descriptions, and pin descriptions. When you are pinning from your own website, make sure to link it to the most relevant landing page not only for the purpose of user experience but because this is also a factor that the Pinterest search engine uses in determining the relevance of your pins.
3. Understand That Blog Comments Aren’t Always SEO-Friendly
In multiple different blog groups I have seen people say things along the lines of “let’s start a comment thread because comments help your SEO!”
Not only do comments lack any positive impact on SEO, they can actually have a negative impact on SEO.
A long time ago, comment spamming was a very popular SEO technique because you could leave do-follow links on other websites, and as most of us know, having links to your website can be a positive indicator to search engines.
Because people began abusing this tactic, Google started recognizing excessive comment links as spam, so now having a high volume of comments with links to irrelevant web pages can be harmful both to the blog as well as the website that the comment links to.
Does this mean you should turn off or avoid comments altogether?
Absolutely not! Unless you are getting a high volume of spam comments, don’t worry about it. However it is not a positive tactic that will benefit your SEO either, so do not “trade” comments or encourage people to leave comments unless they are truly engaged with your content.
(Note: Most blog comment systems and plugins automatically make links within the comments nofollow, but there is still a risk that your page will be seen as spammy if you have hundreds of irrelevant links on each post.)
4. Don’t Try to “Trick” Google
Let’s be honest, Google is smarter than any of us. Google has the power of thousands of brilliant, well-paid engineers and computer scientists behind its algorithm.
Do you have the power of thousands of engineers and scientists behind your blog? Then let’s just assume we can’t trick Google.
There will always be loopholes in the Google webmaster guidelines, and there will always be slippery, tricky ways to manipulate search rankings, but Google will catch up to your tricks and your site’s ability to rank may be permanently impaired….and no one wants that!
Don’t try to buy or sell links, even if you think you can get away with it. Don’t accept free products or offerings in exchange for do-follow links. Don’t create secret blog networks with your blogging friends and create a web of links.
Google will catch up to you, and your site will be punished.
5. Optimize Your Pages that Already Rank
One of the best and easiest ways to improve your search engine traffic is by optimizing the pages that already show up in search results. This content is likely already well-established and well-reputed, all you have to do is learn how to “pitch” it better to searchers.
Log into Google Analytics, go to your Acquisition reports, go to Search Engine Optimization, and click Landing Pages.
If you have your website set up through the Google Search Console, you will be able to see every page that has been seen in search engine results, how many people saw your page, and how many people clicked through to your website. In the righthand column, Google will calculate the percentage of people who clicked through.
You should try to get your click-through rate as high as possible. Begin by making a list of pages with a CTR (Click Through Rate) of 5% or less. (*Note: my website is less than two months old, and it takes a while for SEO to work so my organic traffic is still very low.)
So how do you improve click through rate?
When someone does a search, Google presents them with a set of information for each website: the page title, the URL, and the meta description. These are snippets of code that the user will not see when they visit your website. You can either create them in the code of your website, or you can use a plugin like Yoast to make it easier.
One of the myths of SEO is that you need to stuff the title and description of your page with all of the keywords you want to rank for. This is a misconception that will damage your site and destroy your click-through rate.
Instead, think of the title and meta description as your page’s “elevator pitch”. Try to limit your title to 40-70 characters, and your meta description to 120-200 characters. That’s all the space you have to convince readers that your article is the one they want to read!
Here are a few tips to make your title and description more enticing:
● Keep them within the recommended character counts
● Include relevant keywords to let the user know what the page is about
● Include a strong call-to-action like, “Learn more about…” or “Discover why…”
Take Advantage of SEO. SEO has a lot to do with looking at numbers and analyzing results, but don’t let it intimidate you. Basic SEO does not require you to be able to read or write HTML code or any programming language, and having even the most basic understanding of SEO will help you rank in search engines and create a flow of visitors to your site without any deliberate promotion.