SEO is very important to the success of your blog posts. But let's be honest here - you already know that or you wouldn't be here!
My plan for this article was to lay out 5 quick tips for beginner bloggers. We all know that there are some aspects of blogging we should delve a little deeper into and SEO is one of them, but we also have to accept that sometimes, we just need to get a job (or blog post) done. That's where the original idea for this article came about - 5 quick tips that even someone with very little understanding of the nuts and bolts behind a blog could use and implement.
But I ran into a problem. As soon as I started to narrow down the options for the tips, it became completely obvious that I would be bordering on negligent to not put the tips in some kind of context - especially if you're not so familiar with those nuts and bolts. Individual SEO "hacks" won't have any impact if the rest of your SEO is woefully lacking, so do yourself a favor and read your "need to knows" before taking the shortcuts in your "hacks for beginners"!
SEO beginner? You need to know....
Your blog is not an island
Your blog is attached to a website and that website is representing your business. The SEO health of your website will affect your blog and vice versa, so if one is optimized to the hilt and the other is not...well, you're either missing out on some great opportunities or actively damaging your business. And I think we can agree that neither is good.
There are 4 types of SEO
More or less - it depends on how you classify them. There are different approaches, however, and SEO optimization involves all of them. For reference, they are on-page, off-page, domain, and site-wide, and none of them exist in a vacuum. When I say "blog post SEO" it's a bit of a misnomer because all 4 SEO types are involved in all SEO optimization - it's not that there are different types of SEO for blog posts, web pages, and e-commerce stores. Get me?
The ultimate purpose of SEO
SEO (which stands for search engine optimization, by the way) ultimately aims to let Google know that your site/blog post/shop is a good option for people who are searching for certain terms on the internet. I like to think of it as a trail of crumbs, leading Google and, ultimately, the people who are using Google to make decisions to YOUR gingerbread house. If you do it right, Google will follow the (gingerbread) crumbs and arrive at your door. If you have no crumbs, it will be very hard for Google to find the house, and if you leave a trail of gingerbread crumbs, and people arrive at your house to find it is made of concrete, they and Google will be mightily unimpressed.
I have no crumbs!
Well, that's a shame. To be honest, you probably do have crumbs, it's just that you haven't scattered them about the forest in a planned fashion - Google might see some crumbs, but it will be by chance. If you're serious about getting your SEO in check (and if you are hoping to have an online business of any kind, you should be), you're going to have to pay someone to do the job (look for an SEO agency, but beware of sharks!) or put some research in and make improvements yourself, learning little by little.
Bear in mind that SEO isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so learning how to handle it will serve you for years to come. It will also teach you more than a few handy marketing and technical tricks in the meantime.
SEO is bake-from-scratch, not buy
Those breadcrumbs? Yeah, there's some serious time in the kitchen ahead of you. I know, I know, SEO sounds fast. Marketing is hyper-speed and generally, online stuff is instant, if not quicker. But SEO is not. 90% of the work that goes into an optimized site/blog takes time. You can speed it up by planning ahead, learning the ropes or hiring help, but I think you'd agree that this doesn't really make it fast per se - it just sort of speeds up the surroundings.
What takes time? Well, you need to plan the strategy, research your keywords, build relationships with other websites and clients, produce good content consistently, and so on. The good thing is that if you learn about SEO yourself, you'll be doing these things automatically while you work, so the SEO optimization will build up over time with you rarely having to make any special efforts.
I am going to leave you with some reading material to get you started on your journey, and then, will give you a few quick tips. But only a few, mind. The rest of them you'll have to learn yourself (unless you send me gingerbread. If you do that, I'll tell you anything you want to know.)
Start here on your SEO journey
Some helpful links to start you off with your own research....
- Short, unintimidating, great for total beginners
- A reputable, entry-level guide to help with the first steps
- The ultimate classic guide. Still pretty beginner-friendly
- This explains the on-page, off-page divide pretty well
- Some next steps, for when you have more confidence
- For when you're ready to look at SEO as a whole, across your site
- A glossary, in case you come across terms you don't understand (you will!)
Blog post SEO hacks for non-technical bloggers
Ugh, I feel dirty even saying it. But I've warned you, so on I go...
Make sure your blog post is what your audience needs
Ask them. Look at the questions they ask you, online and offline. Hang out in the same online places they hang out, and have a look at the questions they ask there. Get brave and do online research. Look at what blog posts your competitors are producing - have they forgotten something? Missed a point? Gotten something wrong? These are all opportunities you can lever. Try to make what your audience needs and wants a priority. Try NOT to duplicate content that someone else has already done, or done better. Be unique and be excellent. A post that is perfectly tailored to your audience is GOLD in the eyes of Google.
Format your posts
Have a look at this blog post. This is my testing WP site, basically where I show people how not to do things. This post contains some very valuable information (and is very popular in its original home), but once you strip the formatting out, it becomes an unreasonable mess. Google is aware of the formatting you put in, but where it really matters is because when a visitor visits your blog post and sees a mess of words, they are, more than likely, going to leave and look for something better. The act of leaving is a MAJOR red flag for Google - it means, that for whatever reason, offering your blog post as a response to that person's search was a mistake - and it won't do it again.
The moral of the story; format your posts. Go wild with chunking (breaking info up into smaller "chunks"), bullet points, numbers, dividers, headings, sub-headings and anything else you can throw in there to make your post easy to read. Check out this article - it's full of information that will help you, and is beautifully formatted to boot.
Pro tip: not entirely sure how to format your post? Pick an article you do like and copy it to the letter. It's how the internet works!
Keep your images in check
Primarily, make sure they are a good size (not too big!) and add information to the description and alt tags. There's an article here entirely devoted to getting your images right, and another article here, devoted to finding images in the first place!
Tidy up your URL
The URL is the blog post address. the one you see at the top of the page. This post, for example, has the URL "https://www.clockworkblog.com/blog/2017/11/24/blog-seo-for-bloggers". The kind of URL we don't want is "http://www.xxxxxxx.com/blogs/PostView.aspx?pid=4325" or "https://xxxxxxxxx.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/5335/". There are two reasons for that. In the first place, the mysterious numbers tell us nothing about what the post is likely to contain. You can see the URL in a search result, and everyone is much happier with a little extra hint as to what they are clicking on.
Secondly, if you're feeling fancy, you can stick your keyword in there. Keywords will be a topic for another day, but if you already know about them, it's a major place to put one. If you're not familiar with keywords, they're a word or phrase that you think best describes your post. You may do some research to reach that decision, and that is called keyword research.
Link in, link out
In the process of writing your blog post, you might want to direct people to another web page for more information. When you add the link to your post, it's called an external link. Google looks at these links and checks out to where you are linking. If Google thinks highly of the places you are linking to, that reflects well on your post. If Google has no real information about the sites, it's pretty neutral, and if it has a negative opinion of the site (for example, they use disallowed SEO techniques, visitors don't seem to like their content, they have a lot of duplicate content), that will reflect badly on you. So, refer where it makes sense, and always check your link out to make sure it looks good before committing to it in your post.
Pro tip: if you link to external sites in your content, contact them and tell them you have done so as part of the post's promotion. You might make a new contact or get a new social share. In the future, you can work on getting highly-rated places to link to you. This is called link building, and even though it's not difficult, it's probably a lesson for another day.
In themselves, none of these SEO techniques are going to make or break your website. SEO is more about every little helping, so implement the tips, by all means. The important thing to remember, however, is that they will be much more effective if used as part of a larger SEO strategy, one that starts with you learning a thing or two about the concepts behind it. Read one or two of the articles above. Follow SearchEngineLand, Moz, and Hubspot on Facebook, or wherever you consume your content and, slowly but surely, start implementing their recommendations.
You can also download or use a number of handy SEO checklists, to help you implement tips in an organized manner. You won't see results immediately, but with a few months, I guarantee you'll notice an increase in traffic and better-received blog posts. Within reason, try only to implement tips you more or less understand the reasoning behind. It helps avoid digging yourself into holes you can't get out of!
Want to learn more about SEO? If you're in Barcelona on April 4th, 2018, come to my workshop SEO for total beginners, and learn my best (and easiest) tips and tricks!