In my last post, I covered such scintillating SEO topics as alt-txt, meta data, and the importance of self-hosting your blog. All of these elements are fairly basic, and you may have already implemented them on your blog, but it never hurts to check your meta data and alt tags, for example, every now and then to make sure that the keywords you’re selecting are still relevant to folks searching for your site and services.
Even More SEO Goodies
Other, fundamental elements you must have in order for your blog to boost your site’s SEO include:
• Header tags. Header tags are so critical to SEO, and yet so few blogs and websites take advantage of them. (Confession: Even I sometimes forget to add them in the rush to get a post or other content out.) Headers are, of course, emphasized text that identifies sections of the content.
So, for example, a subtitle like the one above (Even More SEO Goodies) is a header tag (h3). WordPress makes is super-easy to insert header tags, e.g., the title of each blog post is automatically assigned an h1 tag.
If you’re not sure if your blog platform (Typepad, Blogger, etc.) is assigning header tags to your content, you can easily find out by checking the source code of your page. On Chrome, simply click on the wrench-looking button on the top-right corner of the screen, select Tools, then click on View Source. A new window will pop up that will show you the HTML source code of the page. Click CTRL-F (or Command-F for you Mac users) and enter any of the header tags (h1, h2, etc.) in the text field. Your browser should quickly find your header tags for you.
If you don’t find any, add some. If your blog has a dashboard with an interface similar to Word like WordPress does, chances are you can simply choose the formatting from a dropdown menu. If not, you’ll need to add the tags yourself in the source code.
Don’t know how to manually code header tags into your site? Again, it’s super-easy, and you won’t have to take a six-week course on HTML to DIY-it. Next week I’ll write a step-by-step tutorial on how to manually code header tags to your blog.
• Keyword Optimization. Back in the early days of the web, when search engine optimization was still in its infancy, keyword optimization was all the rage among knowledgeable webmasters. They would figure out what keywords folks would most commonly type into search engines to find what they’re looking for, and then cram them all into either the content itself or the source code.
This resulted in a massive number of blogs with content that made absolutely no sense whatsoever to its readers, although many webmasters were usually careful to only add the keywords to a less prominent part of the site, e.g., the footer. More common, however, was the inclusion of hundreds of keywords into the site’s meta data.
Search engines figured out pretty quickly that that not only resulted in skewed and irrelevant results, it also cluttered up the web with spammy sites. A few years ago, Google publicly announced that meta keywords would no longer be factored into its ranking algorithm, and that sites filled with endless strings of keywords (known as keyword stuffing) would find their rankings degraded. Egregious violations would be removed from the index altogether – the death knell to a site.
You still see a lot of sites violating Google’s express ban on keyword stuffing, but if you want to keep your site clean and not waste your time on pointless optimization exercises, use keyword optimization judiciously. I’ve already mentioned Google’s Keyword Tool, a great way to find little-known (“niche”) keywords with great traffic but little competition in your industry.
Take the keywords you’ve found on the Keyword Tool and integrate them logically into your meta description and title tag, if possible, and then on your blog posts. If you’re a dance studio in Charleston, one of your choice keyword phrases might be dance studio in Charleston. Don’t throw that into your footer, however. Write a 300-word description on your home page that includes those keywords:
Jane Doe’s Studio is a world-class dance studio in Charleston. We specialize in teaching older adults with little or no dance experience how to perform both classic and modern dance, from jazz to the waltz, and from the rhumba to the Macarena. Etc. etc. etc.
Again, don’t go overboard. Select a few good keywords and write your content around them. The more often you write on your blog, the more often your keywords will show up in search engines, and the more traffic you’ll have.
• Permalinks. Too many blog posts have URLs with the following structure: http://www.mycompanyblog.com/?p=125. Can you guess what’s wrong with this?
Since a blog is essentially a website that’s updated frequently, each post is basically a web page. Each post thus has its own unique URL identifying its location (or address) on the Internet. Search engines factor URLs very prominently in their algorithms, so you need to make sure that your URL identifies what your post or page is about. The example above tells Google nothing about the post, for example, other than the fact that its post ID# is 125.
Contrast that with the URL of this post: http://www.bluevolcanomedia.com/2012/07/09/seo-for-blogging-what-you-need-to-know-part-2. That tells Google that, hey, this post is about SEO for blogging! And it indexes the page accordingly.
WordPress allows users the option of deciding how they want their permalinks to look, but unfortunately the default end string is simply the post ID. You can create custom links, and the best of all possible worlds would be for you to structure it by the post name/title, i.e., www.yourcompanyname.com/check-out-our-June-sale-on-widgets.
Try and keep your permalinks as concise as possible because some sites, forums, and email programs may truncate them, leading visitors to an error page.
Why SEO Matters
So maybe by now you’re probably thinking, Uhm, does this really matter? Should I really care? Can’t I just write blog posts and be done with them? Absolutely. If you write killer content, publish several times a week, and promote your blog everywhere, you stand a good chance of drawing plenty of organic traffic from search engines without ever having to even learn what SEO stands for.
If, however, you publish less frequently, have days when you think your content could be better – still useful, but maybe could be better – and you just don’t have time to aggressively promote your blog through social media, email marketing, and the like, then you really need to consider doing at least basic SEO on your blog to help it along in the race for search engine rankings. The tips I mention here may sound a little daunting and technical, but they’re really not, and once you’ve mastered them, they’ll be second-nature to you in no time.
What About Social Media?
Social media is the killer SEO app. In my next post, I’ll cover how social media will boost your SEO efforts, and why you can’t ignore it any longer.