“What are the first steps to optimizing my blog for searches?” – question submitted by @monedays using the #pbquestions hashtag on Twitter.
Much has been written on the topic of search engine optimization for bloggers – but let me give you a few basic first steps:
1. Content is King
The quality of the posts you write is the single most important factor when it comes to Search Optimization on a Blog. I suspect others will argue differently but as I look at my own blogs success in the search engines I’d say that this has been the number one factor.
Quality content that helps people will quite often draw a reader to want to share what they’ve written – of course they do this by passing on the link to your post and often they’ll do it in a way that helps your search rankings (on their own blog for example).
2. Anticipate What People Will be Searching For
Every time you write a post you should be automatically be considering what words people might be putting into search engines to find that type of information. Once you know what kinds of words they’re using you’re in a great position to position yourself for that search.
3. Titles Titles Titles
There are a number of things to keep in mind when it comes to titles. Google pays particular attention to titles – so make sure you get them right:
- first make sure that the way you set your blog up puts the title of your post in the ‘title tags’ on the back end of your blog. This is really important.
- if you’re just looking from an SEO perspective don’t include your blog name in the title tags of single posts. This dilutes your keywords. Of course if you’re looking more at branding including your blog’s name in the title tags might be worth doing.
- next – include the keywords that you identified in point #2 in your post title
- also, keep in mind that the words you use at the start of a title tend to carry more weight than words you use later in your title
4. Keywords in other parts of your post
Use the keywords you identified in point #2 within your post also. If you want Google to rank you for a term or phrase you need to use that term or phrase. Use it in sub headings in your post (use h tags where you can), use it in the content itself, use the words in the alt tags of images etc. Don’t go over the topic but do use the words where you can naturally in the post.
5. Link to Your Own Posts
Don’t over do this one but while links from other sites are a great way to increase your blog’s rankings so are links from your blog. Interlink your posts to share where readers can find more information on your topic (where relevant) but also consider linking to key posts on your blog from other places on the blog (sidebar, front page etc).
6. Links from Outside Your Blog
Links from other sites to yours are key in SEO but they can be hard to get. Start to linking to your blog from other sites that you have or are active on. Some (like on Twitter) won’t count for anything much as they have no-follow tags but they are all potential ways for people to access your site and some will help with SEO.
Don’t become obsessed with getting links – rather become obsessed about writing great content and the links will generally come in time. However if you’ve written a great post that you think will be relevant to another blog don’t be afraid to let that blogger or website owner know about it – they could just link up.
Also – take note of the type of posts that you write that do well at getting other sites to link to you. You can learn a lot about generating linkable content by doing so and might just develop a technique that will work again and again.
I don’t tend to do much to the back end of my blog to alter things like meta tags – but there are some good plugins around if you’re using WordPress that can help with some of this and that may give you a small edge. Check out 9 SEO plugins that every WordPress Blog Should have for some suggestions on this.
8. Readers Begat Readers
This isn’t an SEO technique as such but it plays a part. The more readers you have the more likely your blog is to be found by other readers. There’s a certain ‘snowballing’ thing that happens on a site over time – as you get readers quite often momentum grows as those readers pass on your site to others in their network. They link to you, they bookmark you, they tweet about you, they email friends about you, they blog about you, they suggest your site in recommendation engines….
Not all of this counts with SEO but some does and the accumulation of it over time all certainly helps to grow both organic and search traffic. I guess what I’m saying is to get readers any way you can – don’t just focus upon ‘SEO’ as such. It all counts.
My Hunch with SEO
Before I share my hunch…. let me say that I’m not an SEO and this could be completely wrong…. but it’s a hunch that I’ve had for a while now.
I’ve been doing this blogging thing for almost 7 years now and from what I can see the tweaks that many bloggers do on their blogs to optimize it seem to be having less and less impact on the rankings of blogs. Don’t get me wrong – I stand by the above tips completely and would do them as a common sense bare minimum – but from where I sit Google seem to be in the business of finding the best information that they can for their users. They don’t always get it right but I think they do a pretty good job.
As a blogger your job should be to provide the best information that you can.
It strikes me that Google have an ever increasing way of working out if your information is good. It’s not just about what keywords you have or how many links that you get – but these days they own Feedburner (know how many people subscribe to your blog and what links people are clicking on), they own Google Reader (again giving them all kinds of great data), they own Gmail, Google Analytics, YouTube etc…..
Now they may or may not use all the data in their ranking of sites but they certainly could know a lot about your blog and the posts you write. There’s also been increasing talk over the last 6 months or so about how easy it’d be for search engines to start generating data on what content is being shared in social networks and bookmarking sites.
My hunch is that many traditional SEO methods are less important (NOT irrelevant though) and that other factors are increasingly going to come into play. I’m sure that some will work out ways to manipulate this (SEO 2.0?) but increasingly the way to get ranked high in Google will be that you just need to keep producing great content and making sure that it’s sneezed out to your network.
Help this process along by giving your readers way to share your content (and seed it to social networks) as well as to become subscribers.