The ultimate beginner's guide to helping your blog and content rank in search engines
The world of SEO can be a big black hole for many bloggers, especially if they don’t have a background in web development or a basic understanding of SEO best practices when they enter the blogosphere.
Whether you are a blogger or marketer, this beginners guide to SEO will help you next time you write content for your website to ensure it is searchable and crawlable once it is published on the world wide web.
Here are 10 SEO tips for bloggers:
You probably already know that using keywords in your content is the easiest way to increase your search rankings. However, keywords must be used naturally or the big, bad wolf (Google or whatever search engine you use) will penalize you and your SEO efforts.
Before you write your content, do some keyword research (I use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner) on the words or phrases that relate best to your content. For example, for this blog post, my keywords could be “SEO,” “SEO for bloggers,” “SEO tips,” “SEO best practices” and/or “a beginner’s guide to SEO.” Once you have made a list of potential keywords, find the search volume for each and you can also enter them into a Google search to see how many results are returned for that specific word or phrase to understand how competitive your keywords are.
Once you have your keywords, use them naturally as you develop your content to ensure they are present throughout and help your content rank for the relevant keywords. Note: just because you have used the keywords, that doesn’t mean you will rank on the first page, or the tenth page, but it will help and is an important habit to get into.
The meta description is the snippet that summarizes a page of content on the internet and is usually 150-160 characters long. Manually entering a unique meta description for every blog post is important for your on-page SEO and is an opportunity to insert targeted keywords to help your content display in search engines.
As meta descriptions are displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs), it is an opportunity for webmasters to give people an idea of what their content is about and what can be expected when consumed. It’s a means to advertise what your content is about and why it adds value to the reader in an effort to get them to visit your website. An effective meta description will also increase your click-through rate and will drive more traffic to your website from search engines. You can see where the meta description is positioned in the image below.
To optimize your meta descriptions, use action-oriented language (learn, buy, etc.), clearly outline your value proposition, keep them short and stay within the character limit and be articulate.
Image alt tags
When you upload or insert an image into your blog post, it’s important to change the alt tags and description to optimize your images for search engine visibility. Instead of leaving the file name as the standard combination of letters and numbers from your camera (e.g. IMG000010203.jpg), it’s better to change the file name to a description of the photo (e.g. woman-typing-on-laptop.jpg or coffee-at-starbucks.jpg). This will help your image display in search engine image results, associate your content with relevant keywords and ultimately direct users to your content.
Search engines crawl websites and text but they can’t crawl imagery, so it’s important to use your alt tags as it adds text to your imagery, making them crawlable and indexable. This is especially important if your content is image-based like a lot of fashion, food and travel blogs.
Place keywords in your heading tags
While you probably use heading tags to format your content and highlight key sections aesthetically, it’s important to know that heading tags (H1 to H6) are part of the HTML coding of a web page and they carry a lot of weight. Search engines pay special attention to headings in content as they give an indication of what the content is about, so if you can naturally include your keyword/s in your heading then do it! However, you should never keyword stuff your content or litter it with keywords that don’t make sense in context, as that will eventually have a negative impact on your SEO.
Search-friendly URL structure
What do we mean by search-friendly URL structures? Basically, customize every blog post URL to your keyword, the title of your article or something that is readable and relates to the content in the blog post. For example, consider the URL’s below for a blog post on the best places to eat breakfast in Brisbane.
The first URL gives users an indication of what the blog post is likely to be about, confirms the link is a relevant result, includes keywords for better search results, and it uses hyphens to separate words rather than underscores. Plus, it looks a lot nicer than the second one.
When your URL structure is optimized for SEO, it can help your content rank higher and it will be readable by people you want to click on your content from SERPs.
Build a glowing backlink profile
Backlinks are links that point to your website that are hosted on an external site (e.g. another blog, website or directory). Building a profile of good backlinks for your blog is important because it increases your domain authority (a score developed by Moz that determines how well you will rank on search engines) and ultimately helps your blog rank higher and become more authoritative. You can acquire backlinks by guest posting on other websites and blogs, or earn them naturally via PR and marketing activities. You can read more about building a backlink profile in our blog post about backlinking and why it is important.
Follow vs. no follow links
If you are a blogger actively working with brands to create and share content, you will have likely encountered a request to include follow links as part of the collaboration. A follow link passes on authority and SEO benefit from one website to the next and essentially tells search engines to follow the link. Of course, this brought about an era of paid links in an effort to boost SEO, which Google does not like nor allow. So, one of Google’s policies urges bloggers and webmasters to use “nofollow” links when content is sponsored or payment has been made as part of a collaboration to ensure the links do not influence search results (you can read more about follow and nofollow links here). To know whether your default is “follow” or “nofollow” links on your blog, right-click on a link and click “inspect,” if there is a “nofollow” tag in the code, then your links are “nofollow.”
Make use of categories and tag fields
Depending on your backend and hosting platform, you should be able to select a category and/or enter suitable tags for each blog post to help increase visibility and add more keywords to your content. This is also important if you cover a number of topics on your blog (fashion, parenting, baking, finance, traveling in Europe) or if content is outdated quickly as you can optimize the category page as the primary landing page.
Don’t publish duplicate content
Duplicate content is a big no-no when it comes to SEO best practices. That means every page on your blog/website needs to be unique and nothing can be copied and reused on another page.That also means that you shouldn’t allow anyone to republish your work in full, nor should you publish a guest post that is hosted on another website. Instead, you should write a summary of the original piece and link back to it from your own website (you can see how we did this for our guest post on the Outbrain blog here).
Give users a good onsite experience
While page views are not a raw ranking factor, they are an engagement metric that many believe make up Google’s algorithm to reward content that is popular, relevant, trusted and provides a good experience for visitors (you can read more about the theory of correlation over causation on the Moz blog here).
So, how can you give users a good experience when they land on your blog or website? Make your content engaging and informative, deliver what you promise, add value and be an authority on the topic. When you do this, your bounce rate lowers, your time on site increases, users consume more of your content and search engines see that your site fulfilled the search request.
So there you have it, 10 SEO tips for bloggers to optimize your content, help it rank higher in search engines and drive more users to your platform. You don't need to know the ins and outs of HTML and web design, you just need to know where to start to make your blog posts more seo friendly.
If you have a quick SEO tip to share with bloggers and marketers alike, leave a comment below and share with our community.