The abbreviation ‘SEO’ (Search Engine Optimization) can be rather daunting for most and many bloggers haven’t learnt enough about this fascinating topic or know how it can help them advance in their blogging endeavors.
For those relatively new to the term, SEO comprises on-site SEO (changes you make on your own blog/site) as well as off-site SEO (links back to your site from other sites that work towards improving your page views).
According to Hongkiat, SEO has 5 different areas of research:
- Keyword Research
- Search Engine-Friendly Website Development
- On-Page SEO
- Off-Page SEO/Link Building
- Analytics – to better understand your SEO
This blog post, however, won’t delve into the above five areas in much depth. It rather aims to introduce you to the very basics of these areas with a focus on some quick, easy and free things that you can do to improve the visibility of your blog within hours.
1. Keyword Research Tips
Keyword research means getting inside the minds of your readers or potential customers to understand the phrases or keywords they use in Google when in need of specific information or products.
Keywords are thus fundamental to use when you want your information to be found by readers. To give you an idea, this blog post was initially called The Beginner’s Guide to SEO for Blogging, but after a bit of keyword research using the Soovle tool, I quickly realized that the most popular search phrase is in fact ‘seo for bloggers’. But that phrase didn’t really convey anything about the post being geared towards beginners specifically. However, Soovle provided me with another option for a phrase, which was definitely more appropriate: SEO guide for bloggers. So I used this as the title for this blog post instead.
Soovle is a great tool for those who just want the basics and for those who are a little unsure when it comes to titles or keywords for a blog post. The tool allows you to search for a phrase in the centre block and as you type, a list of options is made available to you on a variety of search engines (including Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Bing etc.). If you press enter or the ‘Soovle’ button you’ll be taken directly to Google and you’ll see examples of sites using that specific keyword or phrase or something similar to it.
If you don’t see any results while typing in the Soovle block it means that this is not a popular phrase and you may need to rework your phrase it until you see a list as such below.
Übersuggest is another basic tool for those new to keyword research. Übersuggest works together with Google Suggest and a few other tools to bring you the best keyword matches. Once you’ve typed in your keyword or phrase on the site, you’ll obtain a list that looks like the following:
You can then click on each entry for further search terms that you can utilize in your blog post or even just for blog post ideas i.e. I clicked on the first entry that said seo for bloggers and this is what popped up:
These are some great ideas for blog posts and keywords. So for example, in addition to the more general search phrase ‘seo for bloggers’, I’m provided with another 10 variations of user queries to work with. The phrases that would best suit this blog post and that I could use are as follows:
- simple seo for bloggers
- free seo for bloggers
- seo guide for bloggers
- seo tips for bloggers
Next, explore Google Adwords. You have to sign up for an account to use this tool and if you have a Gmail account already you can easily do it. Once you’ve logged in to Google Adwords, type in your keyword phrase and search.
Make sure you’ve clicked on the ‘Keyword Ideas’ tab to get the results. You can filter by broad, exact match or phrases on the left-hand side. Once you’ve clicked search you’ll also be able to see the competition ranking for the phrase/keyword (how popular it is in Google), the number of global monthly searches as well as local monthly searches.
What’s great is that once you have this information you can compare this to another phrase/keyword and then see which ones are the best to use in your blog post. Keywords that are considered medium or high in terms of competition may be more difficult to rank for, so it’s best that you opt for a keyword whose competition is lower as this will enable you to rank more easily especially if you are new to SEO and blogging.
You can also click on each individual result in Google Adwords (shown by a blue hyperlink) for more specific keywords attributed to a particular phrase.
2. Using Keywords in Your Blog Post
Now that you’ve conducted your research and have a good understanding of the keywords you would like to target, you’ll need to place these in your blog post.
It is recommended that you use your keywords in the page title and near the start of the page. Then you will also need to use a couple of varied keywords in your actual blog post in a very natural manner. Don’t over do it because Google will pick this up.
Also make sure that the URL of your blog post has the keyword or phrase in it. You can also use keywords in sub-headings, which may form part of the blog post.
And lastly, another place where you can use keywords is when uploading photos to your blog post – save the name of the photos using a keyword too.
Ultimately, keywords can help people find your content but it’s the actual content that needs to sell your blog and that content should be absolutely fantastic! So at the end of the day aim to write for your reader first and then write for the search engines by utilizing keywords.
3. Go With What’s Trending
Want to see how popular a particular topic is in Google? Try searching for any phrase in Google Trends. I searched for numerous phrases including SEO for Bloggers and this very interesting graph came up. The SEO for Bloggers search term has seen quite a decline in January but in September last year the graph peaked at 100. This graph could perhaps indicate the number of people who became more interested in SEO especially towards the middle/end of last year when Google rolled out numerous Panda updates and refreshes which affected bloggers and webmasters the world over.
What’s great about Google Trends is that you can select a region whose data you are keen to see. You can also search using specific dates or the months of a particular year – this is great for seeing long term patterns which may arise over time i.e. your topic may have gained or lost popularity in recent months so it’s good to know whether people are searching for this phrase or not. You can also search by category for more specific search results.
What I love about Google Trends is that you can see what is currently trending (only in the USA, India, Japan and Singapore though). But it is nonetheless interesting to see what the majority of people are search for and reading.
You can either go the straight and narrow road with extensive keyword research or alternatively, you can go with what will spread like wildfire and go viral. The art of persuasion coupled with controversy has brought many a visitor to a site so it really depends on what your intention is.
4. Go Social
Blog posts that can easily be shared are ones that have the potential to perform. Take for example this blog post from Mashable. Directly below the heading is a set of social media sharing buttons. This compels people to share the post even before they have started reading it! This also shows why a compelling and persuasive title can go a long way and can help people spread the word with ease. The more people who share and distribute your content, the more Google will trust your content and this will potentially help you rank. So ensure you have those social media sharing buttons on every post!
And then let readers comment at the end:
Just make sure your blog allows for the easiest way possible to leave a comment. You don’t want people to have to login – it should be as simple as them clicking a button to choose the platform from which they wish to comment and then commenting.
Commenting on blogs that you like may also help people to read your comments and follow through to your own blog and perhaps even sign up. So the more valuable comments you make on other peoples’ blogs, the more visibility you can gain.
5. Link Out to Others
If you haven’t installed Zemanta on your blog then you are seriously missing out. Zemanta helps you link out to other bloggers – there’s a great feature you can use once you’ve typed your post – it allows you to add links to similar blog posts from other bloggers. In this way you’re acknowledging other great content but also building a relationship with bloggers who may be in the same niche as you.
Furthermore, Zemanta works really well when installed with Wordpress and you can even add photos to your blog post directly from the Creative Commons too. This saves you a lot of time scouring the web for photos that aren’t copyrighted and that are freely available for you to use.
These are just a few of Zemanta’s features – you need to explore this amazing tool for yourself.
6. Optimise Your Title Tags, H1 and Meta-Descriptions
As mentioned, it’s best to use your main keyword in your title tag or as close as possible to it. The title tag is the most important part of ranking in Google. It is a persuasive sentence that compels people to click immediately when they see it in the Google search results.
Read this post How to Write Catchy Product Descriptions for an E-Commerce Site – scroll down to the heading that says ‘Create Concrete Title Tags’. Even though this post is geared towards e-commerce sites, you’ll learn exactly where the title tag appears and understand its importance for websites within Google. This post will also show you some concrete examples of how title tags and meta-descriptions look on Google.
7. Create Categories Using Keywords
Structure your blog in such a way that you use main keywords as categories.
8. Strive for Multimedia Posts
Posts that have videos and high-quality images are generally ones that succeed. However, you’ll need to ensure that your posts still have 400 words minimum for Google to be happy – so we recommend that you intersperse your images and videos with text. Mix things up and make it as exciting as possible.
9. Put Your Best Posts Up Front
Showcase those posts that have done well or that received a large number of page views up front – nothing like a little brag from the onset that will compel people to view those posts!
10. Think Out of the Box
The most creative of bloggers know that in order to attract attention you need to really think out of the box and find unique ways to obtain followers and page views.
Guest posting on popular blogs, data visualizations and social media sharing are just some of the ways in which you can attract valuable attention and also use your blog to showcase your talent.
Take a look at one of my favourite bloggers - John Cooper of Point Blank SEO. John’s blog has some fabulous ideas for those new to link building/off-site SEO and these tips (when applied dedicatedly) will help attract more and more people to your blog or site.
What tips do you have for those bloggers who are new to SEO? How would you add to this Guide to SEO for Bloggers? Tell us in the comment section below. We are keen to hear from you.