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SEO for Blogs – A Starter

In a perfect world, your well-written, useful and refreshingly original blog would rank well in search engine results just because it’s good. But that’s not reality. Great content is the foundation of a good blog, but it doesn't guarantee high rankings. There are some search engine optimization (SEO) things you simply must do to increase the chances that your blog will be found – and read.

Before we get to how you should SEO your blog, remember that your first and primary goal should be to create the most informational blog in your industry. Keep things simple, and make your goal to have first-rate, original and useful content on specific topics with the best, most current advice and information. You could have the best SEO, but your content is junk no visitor will ever return. You must fill it with great content that is helpful to your demographic. Once you have started down that road, there are a number of things you can do to increase your visibility.

Basic On Page Needs

Much of on-page work revolves around utilizing keywords intelligently – the best keywords, in the right places, done the right way. The first order of business is to do comprehensive keyword research to select strong keywords to begin with.

Good keywords are not just about what searchers type most often in the search box – you need to have a full understanding of what they are truly looking for. You have to understand their intent and their real end-sum desires. Integrate this better market understanding into your keyword research.

Then analyze the search engine results pages (SERPS). If there is information out there similar to yours, what keywords find it? Look at your competitors – what keywords are they targeting, and how successful are their efforts. Where are they doing right and wrong? When your run searches on your chosen keywords, what results come up and why?

Once you have developed the optimal keyword list, you want to use these keywords in a number of different, interrelated ways on the page. At minimum that they should be in the:

  • title of the post
  • title tag (if different from the title of the post)
  • heading tags (not just h1, either)
  • internal linking
  • links to the post’s permanent link
  • outbound links
  • URL
  • alt tags

Keywords also need to be sprinkled throughout the copy. “Salted” – not too much, not too little, and in the right places. Make sure you main keywords are in the first few sentences. Don’t overdo it by cramming in the same term(s) again and again. Be wise, use related and relevant keywords to break things up and give Google and the other search engines the variety that they expect from normal, organic, real-world communication.

Your SEO will have the best chance for success if it is balanced, realistic and natural. None of your strategies overrules the need for good, useful, original content that people will read and recommend. Natural, intelligent keyword usage in your content will guide the search engines; quality useable information in the content will encourage people to link to you, tremendously boosting your SEO efforts. Never kill good content by keyword spamming. Readers won’t like it and won’t return, other sites won’t link to it, and both of those will doom your efforts. Respect all readers and make them partners, not targets of clever schemes. Readers are not pawns to move around a chessboard—it is much better that you consider them your advertising department.

Link Love

Among the most important factors affecting your SEO results is the number and quality of links that point to your blog. The better your content, the more people will reference it. Google essentially looks at inbound links as “votes” for the value of your blog and its individual posts – if you have a lot of quality links, your content must be good, thus they should move it up the results.

So generally speaking, the more people that link to your blog the better. That being said, higher quality links help more. The more powerful the site linking to you is, the better (i.e., links from the Wall Street Journal are better than links from some random hobby site). The more relevant the site (and page) linking to you is to your topic, the better. Links with good, relevant anchor text – especially when they occur inside the body text of the page that’s linking to you – are better. Get all the above and you’re golden. Or at least the link is.

Just recognizing a good link doesn't get the job done – you have to have a link strategy. The best strategy by far is putting your energy into creating useful, first-rate content that people will read, use, link to, and recommend to others. You can contact people for links, use link-building programs and services, or even (gasp!) buy some, but the best approach is still to build inbound links the old fashioned way – by earning them with good content.

To give your linking efforts a jump-start, you can notify other bloggers and site hosts that you’ve written something they or their readers may find useful. Sometimes people that would like your content don’t know you exist. Do NOT ask them for a link – just let them know about the post(s). Don’t spam them, just send a nice note making them aware of content they may like. Make each note custom. People can tell when you have written a template you are sending to many people.

You can still get some mileage out of directory submissions, but confine it to the quality directories like Best of the Web and avoid the overused, “spammy” ones ignored by the search engines. A good rule – if the directory offers free listings, run away.

Link out. Yes, I said it. Although linking out to external sites carries the risk of steering people away, the benefits of being associated with high-level content should outweigh any negatives. Would you really expect others to link to you if you don’t link to anyone else? Are you really a good authority if you don’t reference anyone else’s good information? Link out usefully and shrewdly, and don’t overdo it. As always, moderation works best, and make sure you are linking to solid, reputable sites and content.

Internal Linking Strategy

A comprehensive internal linking strategy is hugely beneficial, yet often underutilized. It helps the bots easily navigate your site, makes it easier for readers to find what they want, and is significant for SEO. No-brainer.

Yes, group your posts into categories so that it strengthens topical authority and relevancy by grouping related articles together, but that is just the beginning.

If in one post you reference a concept covered in another post, link to that other post – and do it from within the text, using the best anchor text possible. Each post should have a list of related posts. This will help guide the reader to related information, and the related posts’ titles contain keywords (right?), giving you good anchor text there as well.

Don’t use the default links “Next Post” and “Previous Post,” instead substituting the actual titles of the next and previous posts. This again gives you an opportunity to have relevant keywords in anchor text. For the same reason do not use the defaults “Read more…” or “Continue reading…” to link to a post’s permalink page. Again use the title of the post (for instance “SEO for Blogs continued…”)

Of course, every page should have links to your homepage and a sitemap, so every page on your site can be reached in just one or two clicks.

Content Considerations

Now, about that “great content,” there are a few ways to make sure you are creating it the right way. A post should only cover one topic. If you cover more than one topic in a post, the search engines don’t know which to rank you for. If your topic is long and involved, break it up into a series with each subtopic getting its own post. Again, don’t keyword spam. Focus on making your point, not on keyword placement. If you make your point eloquently, the keywords will find their way into the right place. Don’t try to stick a keyword in every or every other sentence. If you find yourself having to do that, maybe you are not covering the topic in adequate detail.

Most importantly, update often. This does not mean changing already-published posts, but writing new ones consistently. Publishing content regularly is incredibly undervalued. Search engines love new content, so the more frequently you post the more frequently they will return. This simultaneously gives you more indexed pages faster, more opportunities for the bots to follow your well laid out links, and more chances the search engines to see what great content you have.

Tying It Together

Now that you know that great content is the genesis for so many good SEO factors, have learned a few ways to get the word out and are starting to think strategically, just what amount is the “right” amount?

If your content is good, then more is better. The more good content you have on a subject, the more the search engines will see you as an authority on that subject. The operative word is “good.” Don’t write useless drek just to fill space. It won’t strengthen your content foundation – on the contrary, it will dilute its focus and authority. Authority is like respect – it is built up by repeated quality. Publish good useful content daily, and in time you will have a foundation of authority.

Don’t be in a hurry, and don’t look for shortcuts. Your blog is about quality and balance – conceiving it, writing it, promoting it, optimizing it for search engines and all the rest. You will make mistakes and make progress just as in any other enterprise, so the main thing is to keep learning, keep trying, and keep track of what you’re doing. Once you start seeing certain actions creating certain results, you are on your way to developing your own, customized method for developing and implementing the best search engine optimization for your blog.

On To Part Four >

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