Up until recently I worked in the SEO team at a top search marketing agency, so learned about optimising websites and blogs from the best of the best. The great thing about that is I’ve been able to take away loads of great tips that I can implement on my own blog and share with friends.
When you’re a blogger, you might think of SEO and think of outreach people at agencies, trying to get you to link to them. The reason they do that is to improve their client’s search visibility and get more (hopefully relevant) traffic. But what I’m writing about today is how to do that for your own blog. How do you make your blog stand out from the rest, rank in search engines and get you more traffic or enquiries?
SEO is a complicated game and it’s forever changing, so this only touches upon some of its elements. I specialised in web content so I’ll focuses on some of the simple and more essential things you can do to optimise the content on your own blog (or ‘on page SEO’). Without optimisation, readers are unlikely to even find your content!
One thing that’s important to mention first is that when it comes to website content, quality definitely wins over quantity. Don’t write something for the sake of it, really make sure you have something useful, interesting and of value to say. Provide your reader with value. That way, after optimising for search engines you’ll naturally get traffic and links as people share your posts with their friends.
This is the most obvious place to start really – doing research to figure out which keywords you should be aiming to rank for. Start by making a list of some relevant keywords yourself and then you can use tools to expand upon your list. The Google Keyword Planner is a fantastic *free* tool you can use to find new keyword ideas and it also gives you monthly search volumes. So once you have a large list of keywords you can filter through them to find the ones which have the highest search volume, and so could deliver the most traffic to your blog.
This process will help you to decide which keywords your blog should be targeting as well as providing you with some new ideas for blog posts.
Once you’ve got your keyword list, you now need to use them to optimise your site. You want to strategically include the keywords in important places throughout your blog but without keyword stuffing (cramming in so many that it looks unnatural and spammy). Remember that your blog is being read by humans as well as search engines. So it needs to look natural.
Don’t let your list of keywords cloud your judgement and writing ability. I find it easier to just write something and then look back over it to see where I can make some natural word swaps or adjustments, or else if you;re trying to get certain keywords in a sentence as you’re writing it, it affects the way in which you write and it can appear stinted.
Search engines read page code from top to bottom so it’s more important to get mentions of your keywords in places at the top of the page. So the first, most important thing to optimise is the page title, which comes in the form of a title tag. It should be a concise and straight forward, simple description of what’s on the page. It was originally thought that Google used a character count to decide how much of a title to display, but we now know that they are measured in pixels. As a rough guide, stick to about 70 characters to avoid your title being truncated in search results.
Make sure the URL represents what the page has to offer too: it should be descriptive and make the page’s topic obvious. If possible, include your primary keyword for the page in the URL.
Anchor text is really important too. When linking internally (i.e. if you’re linking from one page on your blog to another), make your anchor text keyword rich so that search engines know exactly what your link is pointing to. (This isn’t necessarily the rule when linking externally as keyword rich anchor text is often heavily over saturated, but when linking within your own blog it’s fine). So if you’re linking to a page about espadrilles, use that keyword (or a variant) in your anchor text.
You also want to include keywords (if possible and they can fall naturally) in your header tags (H1, H2, H3 etc) and a couple of times sprinkled throughout the body copy.
Finally, there’s the meta description. Although this is not used by Google in optimisation or to rank the page, it will be used as the description in the search engine results. So it’s important that it’s descriptive as it will affect whether people click on the link to your page or not.
Search engines can’t read pictures, so it’s important that you tell search engines what the pictures show. You can do this by optimising the file name and using alt tags.
Before you upload your image file, give it a descriptive name rather than leaving it as whatever gobbledegook your camera calls it. Make sure the file sizes are not too big, as this will slow down the page load time which gives a poor user experience and so will negatively affect your site in the eyes of Google. The easiest way to do this is by using the ‘Save for web’ option in Photoshop or by using a free photo editing service like PicMonkey.
The alt tag is used to describe an image, so if it doesn’t load properly (or a visually impaired person is on your page) they’ll still knows what the image represents. Try to mention the topic without keyword stuffing.
Like images, Google cannot read video so has no idea what’s happening in the file. So you need to make sure that when you upload your video to a hosting service like Google, you properly optimise the text to explain what the video represents.
You should also optimise your YouTube channel for YouTube’s internal search feature.
Video titles should be descriptive and catchy but concise. In the description, explain exactly what the video is and include a link to your blog. Tag the video with relevant keywords and choose the most appropriate category.
It’s worth considering typing out the video transcript in your blog post alongside the embedded video. Once again, Google cannot read videos so the only way to tell it what’s in the video is to write it all out.
There’s much more to content optimisation but these are some of the basic (‘checklist’ if you will) and simple points to incorporate into all the content that you produce on your blog. If you optimise everything, people will find your blog!