I have seen a lot of bloggers tweeting and asking questions on Facebook recently relating to SEO and maximising the traffic they receive from the search engines. Having worked in this space I thought I could provide some tips and advice which would help bloggers with the basics of SEO and how to structure their blog to maximum effect. I’ll try and make this as digestible as possible, but before I begin, here is the main point….
When the search engines view your website, they do not see what you see. They see the html code which is read by a web browser to render the page. This means that just because you see something and it is easy to understand, it may be different to the search engine. Most blogging platforms are pretty well set up for SEO but there are a number of rules you should try and follow.
Think about what people will search for
One of the first things to consider when writing your blog is to consider what people may search for which you think it would be useful for them to come across your post. If it is a product review, naming the post Review of Product X is more beneficial than Yesterday I Did a Review. Even though the content of the post may be the same, nobody is going to search for a generic review, somebody may be searching for reviews about a particular product.
Of course I do not mean you alter your overall content or include unnecessary keywords to try and shoehorn them into posts, but by changing wording slightly of what you are writing you can associate a page with a particular topic in the eyes of the search engines.
Ensure your headings and titles are marked as such
Html has a heirarchy of tags to indicate the different elements on a page. The main heading is the H1, the secondary heading H2 and so on depending on how it is structured. As a result these are judged in descending order of importance when determining what the page is about. For a blogger you should make you post title is marked as a H1 and any sub-headings are marked as H2. This is probably as deep as you need to go.
To check this open a post in a web browser. Right click the post title and select ‘view page source’. If the post title is enclosed in H1 tags then you are fine, if not you should amend you theme code.
Format your URLs
Adding keywords to your page/post URLs is another pointer to the search engines to indicate what the page is about. The first part of the URL will be your domain www.yourdomain.com/ but everything after the / is customisable. Use a plugin such as Smart Slug an you will be able to customise these when you create a new post. The easiest thing to use is you post title with any unnecessary words removed (such as of, if, what, and) so it contains the main words the post is about. You should separate the words using a hyphen (-).
So your post ‘The Best Video Camera For Vloggers’ would reside at the page www.yourdomain.com/best-video-camera-vloggers.
As a fallback, if you don’t want to write them all yourself, then go to settings>permalinks and select the below option:
Avoid duplicate content
Search engines do not like duplicate content, i.e. multiple pages with the same content or pieces of the same content. You may not think this is an issue on a blog but it can easily occur for a number of reasons. Most notably:
- A homepage showing truncated blog posts with each blog post also appearing on its own page
- A post appearing on its own page as well as on a page found via the category it sits in
- Posts residing in multiple categories meaning they can be found at multiple URLs
- Post available via search boxes as well as at the original location
There are a number of ways to sort this but the simple steps to take to avoid it becoming such as issue are:
- Only add a post to one category
- Don’t have post excerpts on your blog homepage, have the full post or just links to the post
- If sent copy about a product by a PR company then always rewrite it
- Using an SEO plugin then select to deindex you category pages
Add meta data to every page & post
The main meta data you need to consider are your post title and page description. This is what will appear in the search engine listings. Your page title should be similar to the post but include any key phrases you would like to appear for. Make it readable though! The description won’t impact you actual position in the listings but people will read it so should be a brief synopsis of the post.
Make you images readable
Over the years the search engines have got better at reading content held in images, but they are still not perfect. So in order to make it easier for them there are two things you should do:
- Name the image after its content: So rather than img12345 call it the name of the product in the picture or objects it contains
- add an alt tag. This is a description of the image that wont be seen by the reader but sits in the page html. Again it should be descriptive of the image contents.
Links matter, but only if they’re real
Aside from the actual content of a page, the search engines use links from other websites as a measure of importance or a vote for the authority of your post. So if you can write something which is a reference point for other websites and blogs then that will be great and help your SEO significantly.
What you shouldn’t do however is try and manipulate this. The search engines have got very adept at devaluing any links they think are false. I wouldn’t recommend getting involved in any link exchanges or incentivised link schemes. Write good content, promote it, and hope people pick it up as a reference point.
Just keep blogging!
Bloggers can get to caught up in SEO issues in my opinion. If you write frequently and write about useful and interesting topics, you should do OK. Search engines like sites that regularly add content so will come back frequently to see what you are writing about. Do this, and follow the above tips and you wont be going too far wrong!