SEO is an important part of blogging and gaining more traffic. Here’s a simple guide on what SEO is, what it can do for you, and how to use it.
One of the most confusing things about blogging is SEO. The way people talk about it, you’d think it was all obvious. But when I newbie blogger, even the “simple” SEO guides confused me.
It doesn’t help that it’s a constantly changing beast.
First, rest assured that if you don’t “get” SEO immediately, you’re not going to tank. It’s important for long-term results, but the best you can do is make sure your content is up to snuff first. Ranking high in search engines isn’t going to get you anywhere if no one wants to read your blog once they get to it.
But if you feel like you’re ready to jump in and try to figure out this SEO thing, read on!
Photo courtesy of picjumbo_com.
SEO Made Easy: What It Is and How To Use It
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It controls where you appear in search engines.
For instance, if you search for “make a guitar shelf,” my blog is one of the first in the list. That’s due to SEO. Your goal is to be on the first page of Google, because most people don’t search beyond that.
How do I use SEO?
To take advantage of SEO, you have to choose your keywords well.
What are keywords?
Keywords are the main words in the post. They’re the words people will search for when they’re looking for your post.
Example: in my post How to Make the World’s Easiest Peaches and Cream Pie, the keywords are “peaches and cream pie.” (The rest is there for clickability, which is a whole other beast.)
How do I use keywords?
First, you have to figure out what the best keywords for your post are. You want keywords that other people are searching for. But you want those keywords to have as little competition as possible. Easier said than done. Some people use plugins like WordPress Keyword Suggest. Some people use Google Keyword Planner or Google Trends.
Once you have your keyword, you’ll want to make sure it shows up in these areas:
- The title. Obviously, it should be part of your post’s title.
- The beginning of the post. You want the keywords to show up in the first 30 characters of the post. I also bold the keywords.
- A header tag. Header tags are the big, bolded words in this post you see before each section (like in this post!). You change the header tag by clicking on the “Paragraph” drop down box in WordPress. I usually go with header 1, 2, or 3.
- The slug. This is what appears after the www.yourblog.com/ part of the URL. For instance, the URL for this post is www.diybudgetgirl.com/easy-seo. Which means the slug is easy-seo.
- Images. There are two places your keywords should go in the images–the title and the alt text. For the title, you’ll add the keywords when you save the image. For the alt text, you’ll edit the photo in WordPress.
- The body of the post. There is a certain ratio of keywords-to-total-words you’re supposed to achieve. The keywords need to show up throughout a certain percentage of the post. That ratio keeps people from trying to spam those keywords. You can’t just write, “Screw Flanders” over and over again to manipulate the system. This is also why longer posts tend to get better SEO. I can never remember what the ratio is, but I use a plugin that checks it for me. (We’ll get to that in a moment.)
Unfortunately, there are other things that affect your SEO. And you have a little less control over them.
- The popularity of your blog. The more people who link to your post, share your post on social media, and comment on your post, the better your SEO will be. Google sees that and says, “Lots of people find this post useful! It must be important!”
- Deep linking your posts. This means linking to other relevant posts that you’ve written on your own blog. You also want the words you linked to contain the keywords. The best way to do this is by using the title of the post.
- Posts from other blogs. They must also be relevant to your own post. I wrote about this in 5 Reasons You Should Link Back to Other Bloggers.
That’s a lot to remember!
Without a plugin, you have to remember what to do before you hit “Publish.” You can use something like Sand In My Toe’s SEO Checklist Before You Publish a Blog Post to help.
But plugins DO exist!
If you want to make your life easier, plugins are great! I like WordPress SEO by Yoast. It shows you what you need to fix without you having to guess. Also, under the “publish” box on the right side of the post editor, it shows you if your SEO or readability need work. (Readability is also important. People won’t comment or share if they can’t understand you! I wrote about this in How to Make People Want to Read Your Blog.)
It also lets you have more than one title. Do you want a more clickable title for social media? But you want an SEO-friendly title for Google? Yoast SEO lets you easily do both.
SEO doesn’t have to be overwhelming!
Now that I’ve been using good SEO practices for a while, the most difficult part is figuring out which keywords to concentrate on.
There is also debate about whether or not SEO will remain relevant. Google is getting smarter. It’s figuring out how to separate popular bloggers with content scrapers (bots or people who steal your content and then spam the SEO on it). It’s understanding organic conversations. Maybe one day SEO will be a thing of the past.