A Simple Guide to SEO for your Blog
Okay you guys, I've got a confession to make. I don't really worry about SEO. If, at this stage, you think: 'Why the holy crap are you telling us to worry about it then?' I totally get it. It directly contravenes my obsession with not telling you to follow any kind of prescriptive rule-based advice and, honestly, it's not my favourite topic to talk about either.
But it's a question I get asked a lot, and it's one I know is on the mind of many a blogger, especially when you're starting out. So while I'm at the stage where I don't focus on it all that much that's probably because I kind of did my time, as it were.
And, full disclosure there's a whole heap of simple things you can do to up your SEO game so you also don't have to think about it too much.
I've also created a hand one-pager for you to print out -- a checklist you can use to make sure you're ticking off SEO best practice. If you want this, keep reading, or Pin this post to read later OR get it right now over HERE.
What is SEO?
Let's start with the basics. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation is simple the technique used to make your website more visible to the world. Bots periodically crawl your blog's sitemap to see what's new, and the Google algorithm decides what queries your content is answering, and therefore where it 'ranks' for certain keywords.
SEO is about showing the search engines that your content is worth seeing, that it's relevant. And this doesn't have to be anything more complicated than following some simple best practice. It certainly doesn't have to mean writing content so filled with keywords none of the sentences make any sense anymore.
It's about writing the content you wanna write anyway, for real people (not Googlebots) but with some jazzy icing and a little glitter added to it, ya know?
As with anything there are stacks of shady tactics offering to boost your SEO, get your 'ranking' up etc etc but DON'T DO IT. If it seems too good to be true it probably is, so take the high road and don't partake in the tomfoolery -- Google is an all-seeing, omnipotent force that'll reign down on you with all it's force if you betray it. Hyperbole NECESSARY.
Think of your cornerstone content as the pillars of your website. What you want to be known for.
WHO are you writing for? And what is your blog's main topics? I write about travel, pregnancy, and blogging. You might be a lifestyle blogger writing about slow living, interiors, and fashion.
OR you might be harder to define, which is totally okay (remember what I said about not needing a 'niche'?)
As long as you're pretty clear about who you're writing your content for, you're golden. Because your content will be answering a question your audience would ask Google, thus making it immediately relevant.
I was at an SEO talk at a conference last year where I was genuinely shocked at how many bloggers weren't aware of the most powerful keyword research tool alive. The keyword planner by Google (obvs, they are literally website-God).
The keyword planner, found here, is a free tool where you can plug in a keyword or two to see how often it (and any related keywords) are searched for in Google. Research GOLD for your blog posts. So, if you are planning a post on your trip to the seaside in England, you might type in: seaside trip UK....or something similar.
This will give you an ugly looking page of results. What do you do with this? READ ON.
Back in the days I was on Snapchat, I shared a couple of sneaky tutorials to this, and I always got a huge response from people grateful to have been given the 'idiot's guide' to it. Like most things interwebs related, it's got a bad habit of seeming overly complex. And the fact it's not setup for bloggers, and for companies to utilise for advertising streams makes it a bit scary at first.
So, I went ahead and did another sneaky tutorial on Instagram Live. If you want to see another one, shout!
Blog Post Basics
- Make sure your keyword is in your URL & Title.
- Utilise your meta description to add your keyword & a more enticing description for Google.
- Add your keyword to image title, and alt-tags. (Alt-tags should be a description of the image.....eg happy girl standing on beach in Santorini, Greece)
- Include internal links to your own relevant posts.
Download the Yoast SEO Plugin
This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to implement best SEO practice properly. Once downloaded, use this tutorial to get yourself set up.
You'll also notice a new traffic light system in every blog post, on the right where you press publish you'll see two ratings: one for your 'SEO' and one for 'Readability'. Try not to get too bogged down with these two factors, but ideally, you want SEO to be green. If it isn't, head to the main widget underneath your blog post to delve into the reasons why and fix them.
I NEVER worry about the readability to be totally honest, because that is such a style dependent thing. Having said that, it's good to get into a habit of using H1, H2 or H3 tags to split up your post if you, like me, have a tendency to be a touch wordy.
Best Practice After Posting
Make your content shareable
This might not seem like an obvious SEO 'tactic' but a way to build authority (see below) and get your content ranking is to make it shareable. I don't mean write viral, click-baity stuff by the way....
In fact I'm not talking about writing any specific type of content at all, because by now you'll be nailing your cornerstone content and writing exactly what you want, and what your audience wants to read, right? RIGHT. You got this.
No, I'm talking about making sure whatever you do write is easily shareable. Make sure you have social sharing buttons within your blog posts (if you use Wordpress, head to Jetpack and use those, or download a plugin). Utilise Pinterest and make sure you have a Pinnable image within each post.
And it goes without saying you should share it yourself! Be proud of what you've created and tweet it out! More than once too. There are loads of social media scheduling tools out there to help you find the best times and ways to do this, but even if you start off doing it manually it's better than nothing.
Hmmmm this is a tricky one, but I know it's important for both gaining traffic to your blog and building authority with Google. And it makes sense right? If another good quality blog in the same market/niche as you links to your site it tells Google it's worth reading, it's got 'authority'.
BUT to kinda game this, people leave comments on your blog with links to their website. Which isn't a shady tactic at all, it's just......well, hard work. I think things have changed a lot over the past couple of years, and blog commenting and 'linkies' (where you'd essentially join a group of bloggers at a set time to share posts, whereby you all comment on each other's and vice versa) aren't as commonplace as they once were.
That being said, it's a nice bonus if you plan to comment on a post anyway. And honestly? It doesn't fuss me at all if people leave comments purely to boost their own authority/traffic. I don't think it's spammy.
A Word On Domain authority
Okay, people get really hung up on this, and I think it's because it's yet another number quoted to prove success. I'm XYZ, award-winning crumpet blogger with a domain authority of 75. SNORE. The number is made up of a few things (shock, an algorithm is involved) all pointing towards how authoritative your website is (and social media profiles, too).
All the things you'll implement after reading this blog post will help you get a better DA eventually, but other things matter too - how old your blog is, how popular, and how big.
Ultimately, every single one of these tips will do nothing if your content is a pile of crap.
But if your content is awesome, then it's worth making sure you check in with Google Webmaster Tools to see whether you have any crawl issues (basically where Google's crawled your site and found a dodgy url).
If you want your own checklist to make sure you don't miss a thing before and after you publish a blog post, head on over here to download your FREE copy!