In a continuation of my SEO for the Everyday Blogger series, I’ve compiled a list of 5 easy to understand, actionable items bloggers should do to begin optimizing their site for search engines. First, let’s review just a bit.
One method of increasing traffic to your site is through search engine optimization. Millions (that’s 5+ zeros) of searches are performed every month on popular sites like Google, Bing and Yahoo (the ‘Big 3’). If even a small portion of those users, hungry for quality content, were to locate your site, can you imagine the traffic possibilities? There are a few basic principles that need to be understood by any blog webmaster to begin down the path of understanding SEO for blogs.
Five Keys to SEO for Bloggers
The intention of this article is to get bloggers started on the basics of SEO. In my first article we learned about the 3 basic types of traffic – Direct, Referral and Search Engine (aka ‘organic’). This article contains 5 actionable items that all bloggers can do TODAY that will improve your SEO. Trust me, other bloggers have done these and seen an improvement in their search engine traffic. Don’t just take my word for it, check out their testimonials here. Some of you may want some more ‘meat’ on your SEO articles – those are coming up soon, so just be patient! My next two articles will cover On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO. These two articles give a bit more detail about the two primary types of search engine optimization and I strongly encourage you to read them. They’re not so detailed or technical that they are over the heads of beginning bloggers but also provide enough information to get more seasoned bloggers thinking about their optimization strategies.
Because this is intended to be an introductory article in SEO and to get those brain juices flowing, I am going to break blog SEO down to the most useable level possible for the non-career blogger. Below is my top 5 list of things you can do RIGHT NOW to begin optimizing your site for search engines.
#5 – Install an SEO Plugin
Unfortunately, I’m going to have to touch briefly on blogging platforms for just a moment because not all blogs use the same blog platform. The majority of bloggers seem to have chosen Blogger, WordPress or TypePad, however, plugins operate differently (or, not at all) depending on your platform of choice. My blog is a WordPress site hosted on BlueHost servers. Hosting your own instance of WordPress seems to be a very popular configuration and offers much in the way of flexibility and free plugins.
Blogger, WordPress and TypePad appear to offer the use of plugins to augment baseline functionality, however, depending on your platform, plugins may or may not be supported. I strongly encourage you to research the use of plugins for your blog site.
My personal favorite SEO plugin is All in One SEO, a free plugin for optimizing your WordPress site. Some themes like StudioPress already come with SEO options installed as well. If this is the case with your site I recommend you learn how to use and take advantage of those features; no need to install another SEO plugin, though.
#4 – Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is a free service from Google that provides webmasters with resources and statistics from their site that will give them more power and control over their site’s presence in not only Google but other search engines as well. Yahoo and Bing have services that perform similar functions on their search engines known as Site Explorer and Webmaster Tools, respectively.
Google Webmaster Tools allows a site administrator to view invaluable data including:
- Search Queries – Webmaster Tools provides you with the number of times your site has been listed for a query in the specified time frame and the number of clicks received.
- Crawl Errors – If Google’s bots aren’t able to crawl certain parts of your website, those errors will be displayed allowing you to potentially correct the error and get more of your content listed with Google (indexed).
List of Links – Who is linking to your site? Google will show you a break down of which sites are pointing to your site, what page they’re pointing to and what text is being linked.
- Significant Keywords – This list is quite important! Google will show you which keywords are used most frequently in your existing site. You can use this list to shape the future of your content so you know what to write more (or less) about in the future. See #2 below ‘Choose Your Keywords’ for more on this topic.
- Submit a Sitemap – If your site’s content isn’t known (Indexed) by a search engine there’s no way it will display in search results. One way to get more of your content indexed is to provide search engines with a ‘map’ of your site. That way, the crawler bots know exactly what your site looks like and how to get to each page of content.
#3 – Examine Your Page Indexing
If a search engine doesn’t know about your content pages then how can it display them in search results? Well, it can’t! A priority for all bloggers should be to ensure as many of their content pages are indexed by the major search engines as possible. Here’s a little trick to see how many of your pages are indexed by Google.
Go to google.com and type in the following…
Make sure you don’t include the ‘http://www’, just your main site name and your .com, .net, .org or other extension.
Click ‘Search’ and Google will show you each and every page indexed by the search engine. Google displays 10 results per page, so if there are 6 pages that means there’s somewhere between 50 and 60 pages of content indexed for your site. If the number seems low, you may want to take other measures to get your content indexed (see Webmaster Tools above).
#2 – Choose Your Keywords
Ah, keywords. They’re the life-blood of search engines and ‘organic’ search engine traffic. But what keywords best apply to your site and its content? What you think should be your keywords may not match what words show up on your website the most. I strongly encourage you to use Google Webmaster Tools keyword tracker function to examine the words used most frequently on your site. While keywords shouldn’t drive your content, they can guide your content to an extent. For example, if you think you would like to rank on the first page for the keyword phrase ‘mom blog’ then ‘mom’ and ‘blog’ better be pretty high on your keyword tracker or the chances of you ranking for that term will be very low.
#1 – Network! (Backlinks)
Blogging is a unique community when it comes to building links between sites. Bloggers often encourage the exchange of links, especially when the sites are related, relevant and/or interesting to the site owner. Building links between your site and other sites can only be done by networking and exploring other sites. Read their content, comment on other sites’ posts and introduce yourself. Maybe eventually you can even offer to guest post or ask other bloggers to be a guest contributor on your site. Building links (backlinks) from other sites to yours will not only improve your referral traffic but will also build up your Page Ranking, which is one of the many factors used in determining a page’s rank in search results.