This is a post by ProBlogger's SEO expert, Jim Stewart.
Many bloggers start a blog with gusto, rushing to establish a blogging website and share their opinions and knowledge with the world. They choose a popular platform to build on, select an attractive theme with all the bells and whistles, sign up for hosting that appears value for money, before finally writing awesome content and waiting for the audience to explode and their rankings to rocket.
Then reality often sets in.
They slave away for months with much optimism only to find themselves languishing in the dark recesses of page two (or worse) on Google, while their competition revels in the attention lavished on those that sit comfortably in the top three spots on page one.
So what went wrong?
Well it’s often because they’ve built their blogging site on foundations made of sand; unstable foundations that are at the mercy of Google’s ever-changing algorithms, ones that can transform ranking stability into ranking free fall in the blink of an eye.
So what can you do to avoid the pitfalls when establishing your blog? Well, there are tried and trusted strategies to building a blog that can create robust SEO for future growth. These strategies should be the cornerstones of any new blog, ones that will create and maintain a strong foundation that will withstand and protect your blog from the fickle nature of Google updates.
1. Content Management System
Choosing the correct Content Management System (CMS) is imperative. I cannot recommend WordPress highly enough. Its popularity is such that it reportedly powers over 22% of all websites and is a widely used CMS blogging platform for good reason.
Wix vs WordPress
WordPress is an open-source program that offers you the freedom and flexibility to customise your site to your liking while leaving you room to grow, there are thousands of free and paid plugins, and best of all it contains an in-built blogging platform.
Simplicity is the name of the game with WordPress. It is easy to download and install and just as easy to operate. WordPress also utilises search engine friendly code that not only makes it appealing to Google, but also easy to adjust your SEO with a multitude of plugins.
The admin control panel makes it easy to maintain updates and backups for both plugins and themes and can manage many media platforms, perfect for promoting your brand.
2. Yoast SEO
There are many useful plugins for WordPress but few more important than Yoast SEO. You could spend countless precious hours poring over your site, making adjustments and monitoring results. Yoast SEO will save you that time.
It is arguably the most important, not to mention effective, tool your site can wield. Yoast streamlines your site’s SEO functions via one easy to use control panel where you can follow recommendations to effect real change to your SEO. Yoast SEO is not a one-size-fits-all plugin, and therefore will need some customisation to suit your individual site needs. Never fear though, as the process is simple using the inbuilt dashboard.
Once set up, Yoast SEO can be commanded to check each of your blog posts for SEO friendliness and report back using a sequence of coloured dots, green for good and red for, well, not so good! Yoast offers the ability to focus on areas of your site where SEO improvements are needed the most and can yield fantastic results when fine-tuned. (If you need help installing and setting up Yoast SEO, we have a comprehensive breakdown here.)
Spend some time selecting your hosting solution. A poor choice, often based on price, can have a detrimental effect on your blogging site, whereas a fast hosting solution can result in huge increases in traffic. If you heed my advice and build your blog using WordPress then it is advisable to have your site hosted by a WordPress specialist.
For that, WP Engine (aff) is unbeatable. They are a dedicated WordPress host with satisfied customers in over 120 countries. Being an open source program, WordPress can be susceptible to certain flaws, such as security. That is why WP Engine is the trusted hosting name for the platform. Their custom designed architecture delivers a seamless and smooth running website that will grow with your blog.
Others benefits include superb customer service, all-important backups, high-level security, and a unique front-end that can help your site run up to six times faster. Site speed cannot be overstated as it contributes heavily towards a great user experience, one that Google values and can help your rankings. An optimal load time is under 0.5 seconds. A fast Domain Name System (DNS) lookup is also important. This system translates an easily remembered domain name into an IP address used for communication between computers. This conversion process takes time, so the faster your DNS, the better value for your blog.
There’s a great thrill when it comes time to selecting a theme for your blog. WordPress has a theme for every blog, from photography to eCommerce and there’s sure to be one perfect for you. These themes require no coding experience, as most include a control panel where you can customise colours, layouts, background images and the like.
While there are thousands of free and paid templates to choose from, you should not select one on design alone. Behind the theme are codes and architecture that will affect your SEO. Select a template that uses heading tags properly and not for aesthetics, otherwise you may be unwittingly harming your SEO.
An SEO Friendly Structure
No matter what other website owners are saying, SEO still is, and will remain, a very important element for the whole “getting popular on the internet” thing.
An SEO friendly theme is a really valuable asset. If you’re planning on doing any kind of SEO work around your site, then such a theme is essential. And even if you don’t have time for SEO, an SEO friendly theme can do a surprisingly big part of the work for you anyway.
Good SEO always starts with getting the basic characteristics of your site just right. Only then you can tackle link-building and other off-page SEO tasks.
How can you find out whether a theme is SEO friendly or not? Unfortunately, you can’t know for sure until you start working with a given theme. However, there are still some things to look for when you’re playing with a theme’s live demo, or analyzing the screenshots of a theme.
- Is there the ability to set the titles and descriptions for every post and page individually (including the homepage)?
- Does the theme use <H> headings?
- Are the categories and tags visible?
- Is the layout clean and simple?
- Does the theme support major SEO plugins?
Some of these factors can be seen when you’re looking at a theme, while others are simply listed in the promotional materials of the theme. Make sure to pay attention to these considerations, though. The more SEO features a theme has, the better.
I’m a firm believer that brand is a ranking factor for Google. By that I mean that Google admits popularity is a ranking factor, saying, “URLs that are more popular on the Internet tend to be crawled more often to keep them fresher in our index.”
Build your brand. Gone are the days of focusing on building backlinks. Increasing your audience will in turn increase your brand popularity, sending the Googlebot crawling your way more often and increasing rankings in the process. If your brand becomes synonymous with a product or service then Google will trust you and direct traffic your way.
You must also focus on building your brand and growing your audience outside of Google. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter will all contribute to your brand’s authority in the marketplace and will help drive rankings.
These five factors are prerequisites for building a healthy, stable, and durable blogging site. Rush in and sign up for items based on price, appearance or convenience and your blog will stagnate and possibly die. Get them right and you will have a stable platform that is flexible enough to grow with your blog and take advantage of Google updates long into the future.