At least it tripped me up for a while. I felt like I was chasing some SEO phantom and was never really sure what to do first, why it mattered, and how crazy I should get with it.
Because you can get kinda crazy with it.
I know even saying the word SEO can get you all flustered thinking about the magical ways you can poof! get your posts ranked just like that. But there’s really no need to get crazy, unless of course you want to. 🙂
SEO is just a clever way of saying Let’s create engaging, relevant content for our readers. That’s it. Then of course, if we just tweak our awesome content a tiny bit, we make it a whole lost easier for Google to find us.
I like to think of SEO as having 2 parts:
- The non-techie part: creating great content
- The semi-techie part: tweaking your great content for search engines
And the semi-techie part isn’t really that techie, so not to worry. Want I want most for you to get out of this post is that if you’re absolutely insanely determined to get crazy about SEO, get crazy on the non-techie part. That’s what you’re in the business of anyway, right? Creating remarkable content for your audience.
Lucky for you, content is the name of the game for Google and other search engines like Yahoo and Bing. So you’re already halfway to the finish line, clever girl. Plus, once you have a foundation of great content, you can always go back and make your posts SEO-tastic, one semi-techie tweak at a time.
My take on SEO, algorithms, indexing and all that
If you’re curious to know what SEO really means, I’ll take a crack at it but please understand I know only what I need to know. Anything more than that and my creative brain gets a little woozy. Here goes…
Jane is looking for something, say “faded bell bottom jeans” (because she’s so over skinny jeans). She types it into Google’s search bar and hits Enter. What Google is going to do next is crawl and index its pages to see which ones would be most helpful for Jane. Then it’s going to take those pages and present them to Jane in the search results.
Now you’re a fashion blogger and you just happen to know a thing or two about faded bell bottom jeans. You want Google to know that you’ve got bell bottom jeans covered and to include your blog in the search results for Jane.
How do you do it? Basically, you want to use every opportunity you can to tap Google on the shoulder and say “hey this site is about faded bell bottom jeans”.
We’ll get into more on this in the semi-techie part.
First, let’s dive into the non-techie part because this will be intuitive stuff and easy for you to execute, so it’s the perfect place to start. The steps I’m sharing here are interrelated, meaning that the first step flows naturally into the second, and so on. I’m structuring it this way so that you can get your head around what to prioritize when it comes to SEO.
With me? Let’s take a look.
PART ONE: THE NON-TECHIE SEO STUFF
1) Write great content
Can I say this enough, ya think? Creating great content should be the hallmark of your SEO strategy. Write content that engages your readers. Make every post epic. Put your heart and soul into helping your audience, which I’m sure you already do. So we can check the box on this one, awesome blogger.
When you write great content, you’re going to check the box on a few other SEO must-do’s at the same time:
- Write enough content / long enough
- Well-written content
- Include multimedia
- Predominantly text-based
If you forget about the things I listed above and just focus on writing great content, you’re probably going to include 3-4 of these in your post without even realizing it. Let me explain how that’s so:
- Long enough: First off, it’s going to take you some time to create a really valuable post – and by time I mean words. So right there, your post will be long enough.
- Well-written: How can you create a highly valuable post without writing it well? You won’t. Because it’s not going to happen.
- Multimedia: Next, because you’re all about creating remarkable content, you’re going to include multimedia wherever you can. Things like videos, images and anything you can think of to make it easy for your audience to digest your message.
- Text-based: That last one is a no-brainer. Blogging = Writing = Text-based. Done and done.
Check. Check. Check. And check.
See how focusing on just one thing took care of all those others? I’m pointing this out because sometimes we get caught up in minutiae and forget the bigger picture. Let’s go forth and write epic, remarkable posts.
I have just one other thing to say before moving on from this: the most important ingredient to creating truly great content. Is.You. I’ve worked with so many clients over the years who get a little nutty about “differentiating their brand”. What I think they miss, and what we can learn from that, is that brands are built from the inside out. Your brand starts with you.
You know that other bloggers will have covered your topic for sure, so there’s nothing original you can add. Or is there? Hmm…well, you have a relationship with your topic. Maybe you’re BFFs or maybe you’re on your first date together. Either way, that’s the inside scoop your readers want. They want your experiences, your insight, and your thoughts around said topic. And that’s all you, baby!
I’m saying this because, let’s face it, people want more than for you to regurgitate the same content they can find on 20 other blogs. They’re looking for you to help them interpret things and make sense of them. So make sure you’re in each post you write.
With that out of my system…
If by chance you’re wondering how to make your posts even more valuable and useful, there are a few things you can do. I’m sure you have a good idea of your audience and already have a bucket of post ideas. Still, we can all benefit from understanding our readers even more, no? That’s where a little research can be your friend. It’s actually pretty easy to get inside the head of your readers, you just need the right tools to do it.
Spend some time hanging out on the same social media sites where your readers hang out. When you see posts that get shared a lot, you know you’re on to something.
I’ve found Pinterest can be an invaluable resource here. When I first started my blog, my posts were pretty off-target, meaning I was kind of circling around my audience but not quite landing on the sweet spot. I decided to spend some time looking at popular pins around my niche, really trying to understand who my audience was and what they wanted/needed. I recommend doing this kind of research on Pinterest, Instagram, even Facebook and Twitter.
BuzzSumo is another resource where you can find the most shared content around a topic, niche, or even industry. So let’s say you search for the topic “photo effect tutorials”. You’d be able to see which content performed well and where it performed the best – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+.
The idea behind BuzzSumo is to find popular content and then beat ‘em. Write something better, more epic, more detailed. Use more photos, a better design, more points, you get the gist. But I digress, because you’re already doing that :).
BuzzSumo is also useful if you need help finding out where your audience spends their time. When you see posts related to your niche are viral on Twitter or Pinterest, you know that’s where your audience is. Check out this post for more on BuzzSumo.
Google Keyword Planner
Let’s look at another way to research using Google Keyword Planner. Just so you know, this is going to help you with your keywords too, which is one of those semi-techie things I’ll get to next.
For the non-techie part though, the keyword planner is really great for understanding what people are searching for around your topic. Let’s say you know you want to write a post about SEO but aren’t sure which subtopic to focus on. You can use the planner to get some ideas.
What I love about it is that you get back hundreds of other ideas that you can use for future posts too. So in addition to being a powerful keyword research tool, it’s also a great brainstorming tool.
PART TWO: THE SEMI-TECHIE SEO STUFF
2) Use keywords that make sense
You know how we said you want to tap Google on the shoulder? This is where we start tapping…
Let’s say you just used the keyword planner to brainstorm a blog topic. It kinda makes sense to use that keyword throughout your post, right?
For instance, this blog post is about SEO for bloggers, so that’s the keyword I’ll use. And all that really means is that I think that you as a blogger might search for that phrase.
If you’re curious, a keyword is really a phrase and not just one word. Why is it called keyword, you ask, why not keyword phrase? I don’t know. What I do know is that using one word is too broad. If I use the keyword SEO for my post, you can be pretty sure it would be hiding out somewhere on page 357 of search results. You need to be more specific with keywords, so just remember we’re really talking about keyword phrases. With me?
Ok, so now I have my keyword SEO for bloggers, here’s what I’m going to do next (and what you should do with your keywords too). I’m going to strategically add it to my post, in these 7 places:
1) The blog title
If you only have time to change just one thing in your post, make it your blog title. You want to make sure you include your keyword in your blog title and try to keep it under 55 characters. That’s about where Google cuts it off.
2) The meta description
Meta descriptions are less about SEO and more about writing something that will grab people’s attention in the search results so they click through to your post.
But they’re still important and you want to include your keyword here too. Try to keep your meta descriptions at about 160 characters. Google will bold any keywords in your description so they stand out when people search.
3) Throughout the post itself
Sprinkle your keyword a few times throughout your post. Usually in the beginning where you’re introducing your topic and then again at the bottom, you can naturally fit it in. If you can weave it in a few more times in your post, you’re doing great!
4) In headings (or H2 tags)
Headings are your friends. They help to organize your content and make it easy for people to follow along. See how this post has sections with headings? They help you know what I’m about to say, right? They make it easy for you to read and keep track of where you are (at least I hope they do!)
Again, don’t go crazy here, but you wherever you can, try to make your keyword part of your headings too. Don’t force it though. If it works, great. If not, leave it alone. You don’t want to look spammy or start stuffing keywords in there just because… There are plenty of other places to include your keyword.
5) The alt text in images
Yes, it true! People can find your content through an image search. A few years back a fashion designer friend/client told me that people actually found her through the images on her website.
What images are we talking about, and what the heck is alt text?
To start, you know the image you share on social media and on your main blog page? That’s your main blog image. And since you’re an epic blogger you probably have a few images inside your content. Yep, you got it. Keyword there too.
Now for the alt text. Alt text is the text that appears in someone’s browser in case for some reason the image doesn’t load. In WordPress, this is where you can edit it. And while you’re there, add the keyword to the image title too.
If you want to be extra clever for Pinterest, make your alt text something elaborate and descriptive so that when people save your pin, your description is in there.
6) Image names
Same thing for image names. All those images we mentioned above should include your keyword as a part of their name. What I like to do is to use my post title as the name of my main image, and then play around with different versions of the name for any secondary images.
For instance, the alt text for my main post image might be something like:
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And my image name would be:
7) In the post URL
We’re almost there. The last place you want to include your keyword is in the URL of your post (for WordPress, this would be your permalink).
See how the URL for my SEO for bloggers post is conversionminded.com/seo-for-bloggers/, and not some strange set of numbers, like conversionminded.com/2017/5/6/, or even conversionminded.com/p25?. That’s what you want yours to look like.
Note: If you need to change your URL after you publish your post, use this redirection plugin to redirect people to your post’s new home instead of a Page Not Found.
Phew! You made it. Glad we got that out of the way. I bet you’re probably thinking That’s great, Sandra, but how do I get my keyword in all these places?
Stay with me, friend, here’s how:
3) Install the Yoast SEO plugin
You don’t have to remember all of these content tweaks on your own. If you use WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is indispensable. It’s actually the second on my list of blogger plugins that will skyrocket your blog.
Think of Yoast as your SEO detective. Once you install it, you’ll see a section beneath the edit window of every post for you to enter your keyword, create an SEO blog title (which should be just slightly different than the title at the top of your WordPress dashboard), and write a meta description.
From there, the Yoast plugin will prompt you with a list of content checks to help you optimize your post for search. These will include prompts to add the keyword to your content, URL, images, headings, and the other places we covered above.
4) Link to other blog posts
Let’s say you’ve been blogging around a theme for about a month and have a number of related posts. When you start linking to other blog posts, you’re essentially ‘interlinking” these posts to each other.
Links are a big deal to Google. It’s tricky to control external links, meaning links from other sites back to yours, but interlinking is something you can do on your own.
The more you do it, the more you cast a vote for your site’s popularity, so Google will start to pay more attention. Interlinking also helps Google to understand what your post is about. The more it understands your content, the more frequently (and higher) it will start to show it in search results. Interlinking also encourages readers to spend more time on your blog, which Google loves because then it knows that people love your post = relevant.
5) Check your site speed
People like fast sites. And Google does too.
It actually penalizes sites that take a long time to load, meaning that it will not rank you as highly. So site speed is a ranking factor for Google.
So what can you do to make your site faster?
Site speed can open up a whole can of worms, which can get pretty techie. But one thing you can do is to make sure your images are optimized and compressed. I use TinyPNG to reduce the file size of all my images, and I highly recommend trying it out.
6) Social media
Ok, I’m throwing this one in here. Social media doesn’t have much to do with the SEO of your actual blog posts, true. Everything we’ve covered so far has to do with what’s called “on-page SEO”, which is just a cool way of saying it’s all the SEO tweaks you make to your own posts.
Then there’s this thing called “off-page SEO” which is about getting those external links I mentioned earlier plus other things, including bookmarking and social media.
If we just look at social media, Google likes it when you’re active on social media and have a solid following, so much so that it is actually a ranking factor.
I bring it up here because I’ve found social media to be a huge traffic source. So not to get too stressed out, but worth mentioning that while you’re writing great content and making your SEO tweaks to it, why not start building a following? It’s really a win-win… Google will start to see how popular you are, plus you’ll be creating a separate traffic channel for your business. All on your own…