If you want to make your blog stand out online, learning the ins and outs of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is non-negotiable.
Every piece of your blog content contributes to your overall SEO score. Content is king, which is why blogging and SEO go hand-in-hand.
SEO can involve complex site restructuring and many businesses enlist a professional SEO service, but it can be implemented by any blog administrator with enough know-how. This is an idiot’s guide to blogging and SEO practice. Learn the many facets of what goes into your blog’s SEO score, and how to improve it.
Dummies Guide to Blogging and SEO
Starting a blog is easy, but getting subscribers is hard. The way to get organic blog subscribers is to show up on search engine results.
SEO is the practice of finding ways to improve your blog’s search engine ranking. It includes your website metrics, user statistics, but most of all, content publication.
The media you feature on your blog is the biggest contributor to your SEO score. Media, including video, audio, text, image, etc. all goes into how Google ranks your site. The better your SEO score, the closer to the top Google places your website in a user’s search results.
The difference between good SEO and great SEO is a vast landscape. Good SEO means that your blog pops up on Google when you search for it by name. Great SEO means that your blog pops up when you search for any number of keywords that relate to the content of your site.
The end goal of any SEO strategy is to increase the viewership and site conversions on your blog. And, the only way to reach a wide audience is to create content that appeals. This way, when someone types in keywords that relate to your post, it shows up in their search results.
What are Keywords?
A keyword is a string of words that are searched for on a search engine, such as Google. If the title of a blog article is “Best Soccer Balls”, the SEO keywords may be Best, Soccer, and Balls.
If your blog is about outdoors sporting equipment, your blog’s home pages must be optimized for those exact words.
If a user searches, for “the best soccer balls” Google looks for posts and websites that feature those keywords.
Every page featured on your blog needs from one to five keywords, depending on the total word count of the page. For blog posts, you must carefully search for keywords and implement them in the correct places throughout your content.
Keywords are the key for search engines to find and rank relevant online content. Almost every other aspect of SEO is reliant on the quality of your blog’s keyword optimization. When you write your blog content, be sure to base it off of relevant keywords.
On-Site and Off-Site SEO
Search engine optimization is split into two distinct parts: on-site and off-site. Think of the “site” as your blog’s website.
“On-site” SEO is in reference to the optimization practices that can be implemented from a website’s origin platform. Put another way: On-site SEO is the stuff that can be done solely from your website. Onsite SEO includes:
- Blogs and other posts
- Meta titles/descriptions
- URL structure
- speed and safety metrics
- Internal links (crosslinks)
This is in contrast to “off-site” SEO. Off-site SEO refers to optimizations for your site that are done from a separate website, other than your own. Off-site SEO refers to the optimization of:
- Backlinks to your site on other sites
- Social media shares and traffic
- Domain authority
Both onsite and offsite SEO are crucially important to your website’s performance. Together, they provide a vehicle with which your content travels over the internet.
Off-site SEO is anything that you do not have direct access to. This includes any links to your content on other sites, social media shares, backlinks, and your domain authority.
On-Site SEO Best Practices
On-site pertains to everything that the administrator of your blog has access to. The best practices of o-site SEO practice include:
Put Cross-Links in Blog Content
A cross-link goes to another piece of your own content. It travels your user to another part of your blog which contains relevant information. Cross-links do not take the user away from your blog so they interact more with your content.
Unknown to many WordPress site administrators, URLs are vitally important to your sites SEO. URLs are the first thing that a search engine sees, and they inform it as to the content and relevancy of your WordPress site.
Customize Your URLs
Make sure your URLs are readable and clear, for humans, as well as algorithms. A search engine reads text from left to right, and, assumes that the word order of a URL is indicative of each word’s value.
For this reason, it is very important to customize your URLs instead of using the automatic, dynamically generated URLs. Remember that search engines are like people. If your URL has a bunch of random characters which make no sense, it will be just as confusing to a search engine.
URL Content Organization
All of your website’s content is not created equal, and there is some strategy to getting it right. In your URL, organize your content with the most prominent keywords nearest to your site name.
For example, when a URL reads “yourdomain.com/what-we-sell,” a search engine determines the most valuable information to be the words which it reads first: “yourdomain.” So, the URL’s second-most-important text must be “what-we-sell.”
Do Not Use Any CAPITALS in URLs
To be honest, the exact reasoning eludes us, but, one thing is unmistakably clear: Capitals in your URL will lower your SEO score. So, don’t use capital letters in any of your URLs, just to be on the safe side.
Use Hyphens Instead of Underscores
Hyphens are a literary tool, but underscores are not. In a URL, search engines read hyphens as space. The algorithm is designed to understand a hyphen, not underscores
Underscores confuse the search engine and lower your SEO score.
Add AMP and Mobile Page URLs to Your SiteMap
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. When using a mobile device, search engines guide users to AMP web content before any other. It is an open source platform initiative that is working to create web content that limits the amount of data being requested by a mobile user.
When using a mobile device AMP content is shown as a carousel. You have seen these carousels sitting just above your Google search results, and, they are shown before any other content. These are AMPs.
Block Unsafe URLs with Robots.txt
Robots or bots are the labor workers of the internet. They do the tasks that are simply infeasible for humans. This can include sifting through all of Google’s content to properly score each sites SEO.
These robots are called many names, like spiders and crawlers. This is because these robots have many arms, so they touch a lot of web content at once.
Some robots, work for the good guys, like Google. If it weren’t for these robots, Google would have no idea what kind of content was stored in its library.
Some robots, work for the bad guys, like hackers. These robots crawl across the web, recording up other users personal information.
Search engines favor websites that have protection against bad robots. Google can see whether your blogging site is vulnerable to bad robots, or whether you have protection.
Robots.txt acts like a basic robot virus protection for your blog. It lets the good robots in and keeps the bad robots out.
Canonicalize (Standardize/Normalize) Your URLs
Search Engines see www, https, non-www, etc. as separate websites. If you have multiple domains that direct to a single site Google flags them as duplications. Canonicalizing your URLs tells the search engine that a single URL represents the master copy of a webpage.
Use a “rel=canonical” tag to specify your sites preferred domain. This will prevent search engines from perceiving your other URLs as duplications.
301 Redirect for Broken URLs
If a search engine sees your sites URLs when they are broken, it lowers your SEO score. Once your website is published online, search engines will see if your site goes down for any reason.
Google doesn’t want to send people to sites with broken pages, so it is important to implement a 301 Redirect. When you change a pages URL, inform the search engines, by implementing a 301 redirect on the old URL.
Off-Site SEO Best Practices
If you are using a WordPress site for your blog, Yoast SEO is a must-have plugin. It guides you through all of your on-site optimizations. But off-site SEO can involve some creative strategy. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
Domain Authority and Online Directories
Your domain authority is contingent on the length of time you have owned your domain. If Google sees that your domain has had four owners in as many years, it lowers your SEO score. The longer you own your domain, the more reputable it is.
A great way to establish reputability with your website or blog is to join online directories. Sign up for a Google My Business account, as well as other top directories. This helps your SEO score and off-site visibility.
Social Media and Backlinks
A backlink is another website on the internet that links to your web resources. They are references made to your content, elsewhere online. These can include online directories, links in others social media posts, and links in other bloggers posts.
Backlinks are scored on how reputable the source is. Huffington Post or the New York Times is a very high-quality backlink. But to get the Huffington Post to link to your website is difficult.
An option for generating backlinks is to hire an SEO service. Professional SEO agencies pull resources together from their myriad clients to establish beneficial quality backlinks.
The most economical option is quid-pro-quo. Develop mutually beneficial backlink partnerships with complementary businesses. They can be local businesses or online.
Your SEO rank is affected by the quality of your backlinks. A good backlink is from a site that is reputable, relevant, and reliable. A bad backlink is from a website that is unknown, outdated or redirected.
SEO is a practice, so complacency is the enemy of bloggers. Consistency, relevance, and appeal are necessary to ensure search engines rank you highly.
If you can follow this guide to blogging and SEO resources, you will see an immediate improvement in your blogs search engine ranking.