Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

SEO Basics for Bloggers & Beginners (But Not Bots)

SEO Basics for Bloggers

Photo credit: David DeHetre (Creative Commons)

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.

2. Link-build

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).

Inbound links (or “backlinks“) are the most important, but all are helpful. A great strategy for building links (other than writing killer content) is guest posting.

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.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Perfect balance of simple, without being condescending. I’ve found that most articles about SEO are one or the other. Just another reason you’re one of my faves, Jeff.

    • Thanks, Tony! I was nervous to write this, and, in fact, just updated it to be more thorough. I appreciate your encouragement. This isn’t an easy subject to tackle. I want to be comprehensive without getting too technical. Hope I did.

  • Al Pittampalli

    Great post, Jeff. I find that some focus on SEO too much at sacrifice to the content, but your post seems to strike the right posture.  

    • Thanks, Al. I agree, but what I’d like to contend is that you can do both — write great content and pay attention to SEO.

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  • Dohertyjf

    Hi Jeff, first time reader, but I’m a professional SEO. Are you saying that outbound links from your site are helpful for your site’s rankings? Nothing has been found to support this, and actually, if you’re linking to a competitor using anchor text with keywords that you want to rank for…well, that’s actually helping THEM and not you. They may be willing to link back to you in an article or two of theirs, but I doubt you’ll get a keyword anchor text out of it.

    Just wanted to clear that up. Otherwise, I generally agree with your tips!

    • Hi, thanks for the comment. I actually AM saying that. I’ve found that when I like to other quality resources, using anchor text, that page on my site tends to attract more readers.

      Part of it is organic — when you link to others, they link back to you. But the other part is that when you link to others, search engines (as far as I understand) “see” your site/page as an authority on that particular keyword (if you’re linking to a good resource). That’s what I’ve always heard, any way.

      I respect your disagreement and admit that I could be wrong, but in my experience link generosity wins.

      For more on that, read this: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/03/21/do-outbound-links-matter-for-seo-and-more/

      • Dohertyjf

        Hey Jeff –

        Thanks for the response, and I partially agree with you. I fully agree that link generosity reciprocates itself a lot (I link liberally from my site), but the part I take issue with is the “use anchor text with your keyword.” Once again, this really only applies with competitors and such, but in those cases it is quite unwise. I find that linking witht the article name or even simply “find it here” does the trick just as well.

        Authority is built in so many ways, including engaging in dialogue like this and building relationships. I think linking out can help (and we’re both saying this), but I still think that linking out using anchor text for what they’re maybe trying to rank for is not the wisest way to go.

        I’d also like to apologize for my first comments on your blog to be in disagreement! You seem to have some really good and helpful stuff on this site. I’ll stop through from time to time!

        • Thanks. The distinction is paradigm. I don’t really have competitors — only collaborators.

          That said, I can understand why it might be different for businesses.

          And good catch about keywords — I was thinking about that loosely.

          Most of my anchor text links are pretty organic. Using the article title is totally fine (I don’t like using “here” as anchor text though — seems like a waste.)

  • Haha I really abuse #4. Sometimes it’ll be 9 days before I update again. Oh well. Guess I better not rely on Google for my traffic. 😀

    But seriously, the whole concept of anchor text was something I hadn’t understood until recently. When you want to rank for a term, link to target page using optimized anchor text. I’m probably the last dude to figure this out, but it’s pretty neat!

    • You mean #5 (frequency)?  I like your focus on quality, Martyn — that goes a long way. 

      I agree about anchor text. It was an epiphany to me when I learned about the importance of using anchor text, versus just using “click here” as a click cue.

      • Oh you’re right – I meant #5.

        But speaking of #4, are you saying that Seth Godin doesn’t worry about SEO that much? I guess he’s so big it doesn’t matter. That’s interesting. 

        • I’m saying having shorter articles can hurt SEO.

          • Haha right. Let’s not get too edgy here. :-) #myfault


            Martyn Chamberlin
            twohourblogger.com

  • Anonymous

    This was a great blog even for a inconsistent blogger like me

  • Thank you so much for this helpful information. I love the suggestion of changing the uncategorized category name to something less lame. Ha! I just took out all the posts that were marked uncategorized by accident and the posts that were left had a theme. The new category name is now “Making You Laugh.” Sa-weet! :)

    • Nice. Even better would be to choose a keyword that has to do with your site’s main topic.

  • Great stuff as always Jeff.
    Good reminder to get back to having good SEO practices

  • This is extremely helpful for beginners. I’m going to pass it on to help other bloggers.

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting this. It can definitely get over technical very quickly. 

  • Alex Delaiglesia
  • Anonymous

    I’ve just started blogging (www.andyfalconer.net) and this really useful – and in plain English! Thank you. More to think about than I realised.

    • You’re welcome, Andy. Glad it was helpful.

  • Thanks, Jeff! This was very helpful. I want to reinforce your idea of the importance of your title. The highest viewed posts on my blog have been the ones with the intriguing titles (I Hate the Proverbs 31 Woman).

    Honestly, I’ve pretty much ignored SEO for the past two years, because I wasn’t interested in monetizing my blog and thought it wasn’t important. I do want people to read my blog though, and your tips will definitely help that to grow. :)

    • Thanks, Melissa. It’s not about money; it’s about your message. And you’re right – writing good titles is the key. Then everything else just really enforces it.

      In addition, I’ve found that spending extra time on the content (making it just a little better) causes people to link to your posts. Sometimes, the difference between a mediocre post and a really excellent one is 30 minutes or editing.

  • Anonymous

    Jeff, your posts are money! Thanks for the help.
    I’ve never really considered myself a writer even though I do enjoy doing it
    and I guess a songwriter is a writer too.
    But not giving my blog much focus until the beginning of this year, most of your
    posts are exactly what I need to hear and read.
    Thanks for your help man.

    keep up the great work

    • Thanks! I like being money. Wish I had what I was… :(

      And songwriters are totally writers! I’m both.

  • Michelle Woodman

    Thank you for this article, Jeff!  I had been ignoring (to be honest) the whole SEO thing as I was finding it a bit overwhelming.  But your article has done a great job of breaking things down into manageable chunks.  So thanks again!

    • You’re welcome, Michelle. Simple steps can go a long way.

  • Michelle Woodman

    Thank you for this article, Jeff!  I had been ignoring (to be honest) the whole SEO thing as I was finding it a bit overwhelming.  But your article has done a great job of breaking things down into manageable chunks.  So thanks again!

  • OMG!! This is simple enough that I can do it! LOL!! Some guy wanted to charge me over $1,000 for his SEO package. Not saying it wasn’t worth it, but I’ll take my chances and actually write some good stuff. Thanks :) 

    • Yeah, you can do a lot of this stuff on your own.

  • Jeff…I’m not sure I completely understand the meaning of “anchor text”.  I even read the Wikipedia defintion and I’m still a bit confused.  Is anchor text something like embedding a url into a phrase/word rather than just saying go here to read more?

    I really want to improve in the SEO dept, so this was good for me.  Although, I admit I’m seriously overwhelmed by all of this info since I know nothing about SEO except for maybe what the acronym stands for.  Thanks for writing this, Jeff!

    • Yes that’s exactly right. Feel to ask more questions!

    • yes, anchor text is clickable text. some of clickable text will contribute “keywords” that maybe lead your text appear in SERP. It’s going better rather than you just put “click here” or “read more” 😀

  • Jamss Cls

    OMG!! This is simple enough that I can do it! LOL!! Some guy wanted to charge me over $1,000 for his SEO package. 
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  • J. R.

    Another great article, Jeff.  Thanks!  I am still fuzzy on how to get backlinks though.  Are backlinks from other people linking to your post?

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  • Louise

    Hi Jeff, great blog post!

    I recently referred to it in an article of my own, why don’t you check it out?

    http://www.aptitude.co.uk/blog/how-to-establish-an-online-presence-for-your-start-up-1-1/

  • Rudy

    Thank you, man. This is really good and really easy to understand.

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  • I have read every article that you posted links to in the post! You’re awesome, this helped me understand SEO a lot more than any of the other articles that I have read about the subject. I am with you on the fact that it needed to be “dumbed down a bit” for us less technical folk! Thank you again for posting this and I will be sure to send others that have have questions about SEO to you!

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