With all the hoopla surrounding social media, Facebook’s IPO, LinkedIn’s growth, and Pinterest’s phenomenal explosion as a social media force to be reckoned with, it’s easy to forget that the humble blog is still one of the best social media tools out there, particularly from an SEO perspective. It’s more than just the [very important!] fact that your blog will give you the fresh, regularly updated content that search engines crave and reward — it also provides your social media efforts with a powerful platform from which to launch vibrant campaigns. After all, if you don’t have content to promote about your business — and no, your product catalog and coupons are not content — then chances are, you’re just promoting other people’s content, and thus other people’s brands.
So short of hiring an expensive (like us!) SEO agency to help you optimize your blog, what are some things you can do to raise your blog posts’ visibility and improve your SEO? Well, I’m glad you asked.
- First, make sure that you actually own your blog platform. If your corporate blog is on a free blogging platform like Blogger.com, WordPress.com, or Typepad.com, you’re doing yourself a serious disservice. (And please don’t say that Seth Godin does it. Unless you actually are Seth Godin, that’s not a good excuse.) By not hosting your own blog on your own site, you’re limited on what you can actually do, SEO-wise, to your blog. You can’t install awesome plugins like Yoast or All-in-One-SEO-Pack. You can’t access the source code. You can’t adjust the layout. See where this is going? The all-powerful, all-knowing WordPress blogging software is free, so why not bite the bullet now and move your blog to its own home, right on your site? You will never, ever regret it.
- Add meta data. In brief, meta data is essentially the information search engines look for to determine how to index your site or website page. Think of it as the equivalent of the Author, Book Title, and Subject in the old-fashioned library card catalog. The most critical meta data for the average blogger include your Title Tag and Meta Description. If you run a wedding planning business and your company name is Cindy’s Wonderful Weddings, you might be tempted to use that as your blog’s Title Tag, and to write something like this for the Description: “Cindy’s Wonderful Weddings will help you make your wedding dreams come true!” This gives search engines very little information, however, on whether or not you’re the best match for someone looking for a wedding planner. If I’m a bride-to-be looking for a wedding planner, I’m probably not going to type Make my wedding dreams come true into Google. Rather, I’ll probably write something like, Dallas wedding planner or even best Dallas wedding planner. Believe it or not, as smart as Google’s engineers are, its search engine isn’t smart enough to assume that what I’m really looking for is Make my wedding dreams come true. (Not yet, anyway). So as you write your blog posts, make sure that each one has a meta description that accurately describes exactly what it is that you’re writing about, using the right keywords that people use to find your service. If you’re not sure what keywords you should use, check out Google’s Keyword Tool. It’ll let you know how popular your selected keywords are and even make suggestions on others you should consider. By the way, if you’re on a self-hosted WordPress blog, plugins such as Yoast give you numerous, user-friendly options to tweak your site’s meta data in seconds, without having to touch a line of code.
- Add images with alt-text. As much as possible, include images in your blog post that reflect its topic. Use Google Images to find the right picture, but make sure that the pics you select are Creative Commons-licensed so that you don’t run afoul of copyright laws. To be on the safe side, use Flickr.com to find good pics. When you do your search, click on Advanced Search and check the box that asks if you want to find only Creative Commons-licensed images. Be sure that you provide the appropriate attribution in your post for the picture. Once you add the image, include the alt-text, which is a bit like the meta data of the image. Since search engines can’t “read” graphics, the alt-text is what it will look for when determining what your post is about. Both WordPress and Blogger allow you to add or edit alt-text in your images in the pop-up window when you upload your pictures.
This should get you off to a good start in your blog’s SEO efforts. In my next post, I’ll discuss header tags, keyword optimization, permalinks, and social media. Stay tuned!