SEO Basics for Bloggers & Beginners (But Not Bots)
Today, kids, we’re talking about the basics of SEO and how they pertain to bloggers, in particular.
This post is part of my search engine optimization series written for humans, not robots (hey, I like robots as much as the next guy, but sometimes you just gotta speak human).
What’s SEO, again?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a popular subject over the past few years.
Marketers and bloggers have realized the value of optimizing a website for search engine visibility.
By creating content that is more easily found via search engines, you end up saving time and money.
SEO allows you to create content that essentially markets itself for free.
If you’re a blogger, businessperson, or someone with something to say on the web, you should know this stuff.
Frankly, it’s not as difficult or intimidating as some would lead you to believe.
I’ve learned a few simple tricks for SEO from people much smarter than me. And I wanted to pass them on.
Because of my lack of technical knowledge, I’ve tried to make these tips as simple as possible — so that other non-geek folk untrained in robot speak like me can still understand it.
Before getting started…
Before you start writing content for search engines, you need to decide: What are you going to write about? You need to choose.
SEO is about having a laser focus, so knowing what term or phrase you want to focus on ahead of time is important. You should choose a term that is broad enough that people will search for it, but narrow so that you have a chance of getting ranked for it.
For example, the term “Internet” is way too general. However, “Ways to Succeed in Launching a Business on the Internet” is a pretty good one.
Once you’ve chosen a term or suite of terms, it’s time to start blogging.
The Basics of SEO for Bloggers
Here is a list of SEO basics — all the essential need-to-know stuff — for bloggers, beginners, and other non-bots:
1. Write a good title
A good page title is your bread-and-butter. It should include your keywords as close to the beginning of the title as possible. (FYI: Your page title isn’t always the same as your headline.)
You can see the page title by looking at the top of your browser window. For instance, You’ll see that mine is: “SEO Basics for Bloggers & Beginners | Goins, Writer” but that I have a slightly different headline.
Try to keep it under 66 characters total, so that it doesn’t get cropped by search engines.
Links are essential to growing your search rank (especially others linking to your site). There are three ways to do this:
- Link out to other helpful articles using anchor text with your keyword or keyword phrase.
- Get other people to link to you, either by asking (don’t be a sleaze) or by writing great content.
- Link to other articles on your site using anchor text (that’s just a fancy word for embedding links directly into text).
3. Mention keywords
Choosing a keyword is one of the hardest parts of SEO. What will your article be about? Once you choose a topic that is hopefully relevant to your site’s topic, then you need to include it in a few other places:
- The page title and headline
- In the URL
- In the body of your article
- In your site’s metadata
Use your keyword within the first paragraph of your blog post. Starting off with a question is a great way to do this without sounding like a robot.
Also, use it a handful of times in the body of your post (but not too much), linking to any relevant resources on your site or others about the topic, using anchor text.
4. Don’t write too little
Make your post the ideal length: 300-500 words.
Going over 500 is fine (unless it means your readers won’t read it, which can increase your bounce rate), but less than 300 isn’t ideal.
In other words, you’re not Seth Godin, and don’t try to be.
5. Focus on frequency
Posting frequently (more than once a week) teaches search engines to come back and check your website more regularly, which will cause your pages to rank more highly over time.
6. Don’t neglect metadata
Meta means “information about information.” It’s the invisible stuff that search engines see about your content that your readers don’t. While this is not as important as text on your site, it is a factor.
Include keywords in your meta tags, as well as your page title and description. Some blog themes already do this for you. If not, find one that does or use a third-party app like a plugin to help you.
A free WordPress plugin that does this quite well is All in One SEO Pack. Or, you could spend the dollars to invest into a product like Scribe SEO, which helps you with metadata, keywords, and all things SEO.
7. Make good use of images
Rename the file name to include your keywords and include them in your image title, alt text, and description (this is also meta data).
Images can also help hold the reader’s interest and can lead them to click other content on your site, as well.
8. Use categories
Intelligently name your categories to focus on major keywords your blog may talk about (e.g. “Stuff” isn’t a great category name). And please rename your “uncategorized” category title to something less lame (e.g. “Miscellaneous” or “General”).
This builds more links to your content on your site and allows search engines to see that you’re linking to keywords on your site.
9. Add header tags
This is a little technical, but not as hard as it sounds.
If your site’s theme has an option for adding headings or subheads (this is a built-in feature for WordPress), then it’s no sweat. If not, all you have to do is add some simple code into the HTML section of your article.
You should use subheads to lead your reader through the article, but also use variations of your keywords in your H1, H2, and H3 tags. (Note: Don’t use the H1 tag in a post if your blog system pulls this from your title.)
10. Get social
While the vote is out on how much links from social networks like Facebook and Twitter affect SEO, it is a factor.
However, the more important reason is that shared content via social media gets attention (and ultimately links) from other bloggers website admins.
I’ve often seen that when one of my posts gets a lot of traction on Twitter, it starts acquiring backlinks within a few days.
Where to start
This can all seem sort of unwieldy. I know. So here’s my recommendation, if you don’t know where to begin:
Write a good title.
If you want to get better at SEO, start by focusing on creating good content and writing relevant titles that don’t sound robotic.
This will lead to people linking to you and sharing your content (which will create more links). Then you can begin to work on the rest of this stuff, which is really the cherry on top compared to good content, great titles, and inbound links.
For more of these tips, check out: The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization.
Any questions? Leave one in the comments.