If you don’t know what the letters SEO stand for, then you’ve come to the right place. As a blogger, entrepreneur, or someone who wants to say something on the web, you need to know this stuff. BUT – It’s okay if you don’t!
Here’s my basic SEO Tips for bloggers that I’ve learned.
For the record – it’s not as scary as you might think.
In this article, I’m going to give you an overview of terminology, best practices and a list of implementations so you can use this as an all-in-one guide on your SEO journey.
How SEO Works Important Ranking Factors Things to Consider Quick Guide to Blogging SEO Basics
How SEO Works
So – What the heck is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the process of making content or your site as discoverable as possible.
While making your content or site as discoverable as possible, an important point to keep in mind that search engines function with a goal of increasing online visibility – or ranking – in search results. (Don’t worry, this will make more sense as you read on).
Search engines, like Google and Bing, use sophisticated algorithms to determine the rankings of web pages – based on relevance, authority and user experience – to deliver the most useful content to the users.
Important Ranking Factors
As mentioned above, search engines function with a goal of increasing ranking – the 3 most important factors for ranking include relevancy, authority and user experience.
Site Relevance | This is the relevance of your overall website to a particular subject or topic.
Authority | Authority can come from backlinks (# of external links pointing to your website), user-generated signals (reviews, comments), social signals (people talking about your website/brand on social) or expertise in the field (how well you know a particular topic).
User Experience | This relates to technical SEO (including crawling, indexing, rendering, and website architecture) as well as user behaviors on your site.
Things to Consider
Before you start optimizing for search engines, you have to decide what you’re going to write about.
SEO is about narrowing down to a focus, so knowing what words or phrases you want to focus on ahead of time is important. The balancing act is determining words or phrases that are broad enough that people will search for it, but also narrow enough for a chance of getting ranked higher for it.
For example, the term “Photography” is too general. However, “5 Steps to Launching a Photography Business” is much better.
Think about the topic you’re writing about and do some research on it. Yes – I mean Google your particular topic and see what comes up. Another place to look is Pinterest. Pinterest is a search engine as much as it is a social network – There are more than 2 billion searches on Pinterest every month.
A Quick Guide to Blogging SEO Basics
Write a Good, Keyword-Centric Page Title
Your page title should include keywords from your research, and keep in mind that these keywords should be prioritized at the beginning of the title. A page title is NOT a headline (we’ll talk about those shortly). You should also customize your URL for this post to match your title.
Tip: Try to keep it under 60 characters, otherwise search engines will cut it short.
Don’t use all-caps. It’s poor etiquette when it comes to titles/title tags. While searching for keywords, notice that there’s rarely an all-caps title tag ranked on the first page, or even on the second and third page.
Here are the two options I recommend for title formatting:
Sentence case: Capitalize the first letter of the first word
Title case: Capitalize the first letter of most words (e.g., “How to Email like a Pro”)
Links & Backlinks
As mentioned before, links & backlinks are an important factor for your search rank (authority), especially when it’s based on other readers linking to your site. Here are some ways you can improve your authority factor for links:
Link to other articles or content on your site (a.k.a inbound links or “backlinks”)
Link to other helpful articles with your keyword or keyword phrase (as I’ve done in this article).
Ask people to link to you or write great content that will get shared.
Invite someone to guest post on your blog and share the links / ask them to share the link on their own site / social platforms.
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
Once you have a topic that is relevant to your site, then you need to include relevant keywords. One of the hardest parts of SEO is choosing your keywords. Include these keywords in the following places:
In your article
In your site’s and post’s metadata
Tip: Starting off with an attention-grabber like statistics, questions, or stories that include your keyword(s) within the first sentence or paragraph of your blog post.
Make sure you’re writing enough - and frequently.
Make your post the ideal length. According to Buffer, the ideal length of a blog post is 7 minutes, 1,600 words.
“But, Angela! What if all my blog posts are under this? Or over this?”
Don’t fret – Blog posts are editable. Prioritize which posts you want to focus on optimizing for search, especially the ones that are the most relevant. If your post is over, that’s okay! Just make sure it’s not excessive that people don’t want to stay to read.
In addition to post length, make sure you’re posting frequently. Ideally, you’ll post more than once a week and this tells search engines to check on your site more often. By doing this, your pages will likely rank higher over time.
Learn to Pay Attention to Metadata
Metadata is "data that provides information about other data". It’s the stuff on the backend that your users don’t see directly, but the language that search engines see about your content. Include keywords here, as well as your page title and description. Squarespace will do this automatically for SEO Titles, but you’ll have to include your own description, or it will generate one based on search results – which may not be the best option depending on popular keywords and rankings.
Don’t Forget About Images
Images are something often overlooked when it comes to blogging. I don’t mean including images – I mean the information included on the backend.
All the images included on your blog should have a title, alt text and description (also known as metadata). Images are important visually for those reading your blogs – but also use them to your advantage by linking them to other content on your site.
Also keep sharing in mind. I create my images within my blogs to work specifically for Pinterest – as that’s where most of my content is shared socially. However, in Squarespace, there’s also the option to include a “social sharing image” that’s great for other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn if your content is shared via a pasted URL.
Categories should focus on some of those major keywords your blog talks about. Don’t use categories like “uncategorized” (check if this is a default option on your website) but rather name it something like “General” or “Business.”
This helps search engines read your site and see the keywords you’re linking internally.
Use Header Tags Correctly
If you have some rudimentary coding experience, this should familiar to you. If not, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
If your site’s theme has an option for adding or selecting headings or subheads (this is a built-in feature for Squarespace), then it’s easy. If not, all you have to do is add a snippet of code into the HTML section of your article. Here’s an easy-to-understand reference for finding or adding header tags.
Like I mentioned before, social signals (authority) are a contributing factor that affects your SEO. More importantly, shared content via social media gets more attention than if you didn’t share it.
Some of my favorite places to share my blogs are Pinterest (first and foremost) as well and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Consider your audience to determine the best places to share your content.
That was a lot – so let’s start here.
I know this information can be overwhelming when you first start implementing good SEO practices, so let’s start with one thing at a time. The single most important thing you can do is pay attention to writing a good title. One more time for the people in the back:
Write a good title first. To get better at SEO, start with focusing on creating quality content and writing relevant titles with relevant keywords from your research. Make sure your titles sound human and relatable to your audience.
Quality content will organically grab people’s attention and lead to readers sharing your content, which, in turn, will create more links recognized by search engines. Master this – and adding inbound links to your other content – then you can work on the rest.