Blogger U: SEO 101

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We’re kicking off your Hump Day with a great Blogger U post from Sarah at Back Home Blue on SEO. Let’s check it out!

I didn’t know much about search engine optimization (SEO) until I landed a job with a marketing agency that specialized in SEO and paid media a couple years ago. To me, it was no more than a vocabulary word from one of my college textbooks I needed to learn long enough to pass an exam. As it turns out, SEO is really important for any website.

So, what is SEO? I like Search Engine Land’s definition: “the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.” Sounds fancy, right? SEO is just that– a collection of techniques and tactics you can use to improve where your website and its pages/posts appear in search results.

The thing about SEO is that no method is exactly right. Doing A, B, and C doesn’t guarantee you a number one ranking in search results. Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have search algorithms– factors they look for when determining when and where pages appear in their search results– and each algorithm is different. Google’s algorithm, for instance, has more than 200 factors total and changes frequently.

While SEO can be a little overwhelming, here are 5 SEO first steps you can take as a blogger to improve your search rankings.

1. Keywords. Each post and each page of your blog should have an associated keyword phrase. Think of keywords as a theme, if you will. They will be found in the title and in the content, as well as in the meta description (more on that in a minute). Stay clear of generic, one word phrases. Words like “cat” or “haircut” are incredibly saturated, making it difficult for your posts using those keywords to appear in search results.

Instead, choose long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are 3-5 word keyword phrases such as “costumes for cats” or “medium length haircuts.” Whatever keyword phrase you choose for a post or page, make sure to keep the words in that specific order throughout. Stick with “costumes for cats” instead of “cat costumes,” for example. You could, however, say “dog costumes for cats.” Since “costumes for cats” is still in that phrase, your keywords are intact.

2. Post Titles. Your post titles should reflect your keywords. Again, keep the keywords in order. A great SEO-friendly blog post title would be “How To Style Medium Length Haircuts.” The title of your blog is known as an H1 tag, a factor Google looks at heavily when crawling a page. The post title can often appear in your title tag (the name of your page that appears in your browser tab) unless you change it to something else (again, more in a minute).

3. Content. Bringing those keywords back yet again– make sure your keywords appear in your content. You don’t want to over do it, writing “costumes for cats” every other sentence (that is called “keyword stuffing” and can actually cause Google to put a strike against you) but use it where it sounds natural. I try to use my keyword phrase 2-3 times in a post. Sometimes I only get it in there once, others I’m able to work it in quite a lot. Just write in a natural sounding voice.

4. Links. Links are good– and bad. Once upon a time, the more links, especially inbound links (links from another website pointing at your content) the better. Google has since changed directions. If your links are good and valid– links to other posts on your site, links to relevant articles and information– then well done. If they are spammy links– links that are broken, links that go to spam sites– Google will dock your site in search rankings. In short, make sure the links you place in your post are good, creditable links.

5. Plugins. I have been on WordPress for well over a year now and personally, find it the favorable platform for SEO. WordPress has some great plugins that make SEO easy. (Note: this applies to self-hosted versions of WordPress, or WordPress.org.)

I highly recommend Yoast for SEO. Once your post is written, scroll down to the plugin and fill in the blanks. This is where you can edit your SEO title (your title tag and how your posts show up in search results!) and your meta description (a short summary that tells Google what your post is about). Be mindful of the character limits. If you go long, Google cuts you off in search results, which can get awkward.

SEO can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Search Engine Land and Moz are both great places to learn more about SEO. And, of course, you can always message me with any questions!

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Sarah blogs at Back Home Blue and is an ambassador of The Blogger Collective.

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