Whether you are writing personal blog posts or content for your business, one of the largest sources of traffic will be from search engines. This means that you have to understand the rules search engines use to rank your site, particularly Google, since over 60 percent of total internet users go to Google when they want to search for something online.
While understanding and being able to actually use analytics to your benefit can be difficult, Google Adwords Keyword Planner makes it fairly simple to start finding keywords that are relevant to your writing and help boost traffic to your site. Here is some advice to help with search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.
SEO stands for search engine optimization, and is the process of bringing in unpaid, organic traffic to your website. Every search engine ranks websites in their own way, but in general each does so in order to find content that is most relevant to their users.
When you have content on your webpage, search engine’s use web crawlers to check your site for what is and what is not valuable to the user. Typically, this includes indicators like keywords, backlinks, age of the domain, daily traffic, original content, and a bunch of other things that let Google know what you have to offer their users.
While these indicators do and will change depending on the search engine’s algorithms, the important thing to keep in mind is what works and what doesn’t work. In general, things that are bad consist of black-hat techniques that are only trying to fool or con web crawlers into thinking your website is relevant, like keyword stuffing, republishing content that has been published elsewhere without proper attribution, hiding text, and spamming links.
Original content is content that hasn’t been published elsewhere on the web. It is content that you write, or outsource to someone else to write, and is specifically made for your website.
Think of this like writing a paper for school. Republishing someone else’s work is basically copyrighted material that you are claiming is your own. If you don’t give credit where credit is due, meaning properly linking attribution to the original publisher, search engines will punish your website much like your teachers would.
The other side of this is that you want to provide content that solves some sort of problem for the reader. Everything that Google does is based off of the premise that they want to provide relevant and useful content for their users. Your business or blog should be no different. Even news outlets provide a service that attempts solves a reader’s problem - readers want to know about the world and they provide that for them. It should be clear from the very beginning what you have to offer and what problem you are solving your reader, otherwise readers and search engines will find it useless.
The main thing here is write for your reader, not for Google’s crawlers.
Internal links are hyperlinks that direct the user to another source on your own domain. For example, if you have one article about the best types of wine and another article about wine tasting, it might be good to link those articles to each other in a natural way to help direct the reader to another source on your website.
Backlinks are hyperlinks that come from or go to another website. Websites that you link out to should be relevant to your readers so that they can find out more information about the subject you are writing about.
Some basic things to keep in mind:
- Never buy backlinks. Ever. Doing so can get you banned from Google and every other search engine, making your website completely hidden from anyone who is trying to find it.
- Don’t link-spam every word or even every sentence. Use the practice of linking to truly give your reader more resources to learn about the topic.
- Where you are linking to and from matters. If the link is credible in its own right, then they are theoretically going to count for more in search ranking. One good link from an authoritative domain (e.g. .edu, .gov, or high ranking .com) is ten times more valuable than from a bunch low ranking websites.
- Guest post to other quality blogs to gain backlinks.
- Share your content on your social media and ask people to share your content on their website to help optimize your chance of getting backlinks.
- Optimize your website for mobile and desktops to increase sharability.
SEO isn’t just for the surface text, it also matters for things like your title, URL, image alt-tags, and meta description.
For your title and URL, the first thing is to be sure that your readers know what is in the post just from reading the title or looking at your URL. You wouldn’t want to click on a title in Google search that says, “Best SEO practices,” and be sent to an article about, “How to file your taxes.” Pick a title that is relevant to your content and includes one or two keywords.
Image alt-tags are what are included on the website if the pictures won’t load for some reason. It may be miniscule to include keywords describing the image, but it can help web crawlers recognize what the entire post is about, thus helping your SEO efforts.
A meta-description is what is commonly displayed on search results under the title. This is a concise explanation of what the website has to offer before the user actually clicks the link and goes to your site. Be sure these actually do what they are intended to do.
There are many different resources out there that can help you understand and utilize the best SEO practices. Some blogs might even have conflicting opinions. But by far, Moz.org is the best resource for anything SEO related. They have a huge amalgamation of free information for SEO, link building, analytics, social media and content marketing best practices, newsletters, and everything in between. Their blogs are usually fairly easy to understand, even for the absolute beginner. Even if you read just one of their blogs a week, your knowledge and understanding of SEO will increase tenfold.
Also, especially if you are a beginner, read Google’s SEO starter guide. Get familiar with all of the lingo associated with tracking analytics and using Adwords to find the keywords that most relate to your blog. Keep updated on best practices as well by subscribing to relevant newsletters and social media as Google’s algorithms will often change.
Keyword stuffing is the black-hat practice of incorporating keywords or numbers to try and manipulate your site’s ranking in Google search results. Not only is it unappealing to the reader, search engines recognize this as spamming and you can even get banned from showing up in search results, which means your website isn’t indexed and has no SEO value whatsoever. Basically, anything that seems like a scam or too good to be true, probably is.
Google recognizes social media as a big indicator of how a website ranks in the mind of the user. If hundreds of people are liking and sharing your content on Facebook, tweeting it on Twitter, and sharing it with their own social media networks, search engines will recognize your content as authoritative and relevant.
You don’t want to be spamming your social media channels though. Share your content with like-minded companies or individuals, share your content with your friends and family, and promote yourself as having value, rather than a salesman trying to get people to buy something. Research best social media practices online to be sure that you are bringing value to your followers in a meaningful and effective way.
While revamping your website and doing SEO for all of your existing content is a good thing, only doing it once and leaving it might have you becoming irrelevant in the future. Organic search traffic tends to fall on average over time unless you are consistently maintaining your SEO efforts throughout the lifetime of your website or company.
For one, search engines often change their search ranking algorithms, so it is best to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in the industry. Secondly, make sure that the links within your text work every so often as some links can be taken down or moved without an automatic redirect. Third, be sure to update content if it isn’t evergreen - content that relies on a specific time, event, or non-universal truth will quickly become irrelevant if it isn’t updated to reflect any changes. Finally, you don’t want the competition to get a leg-up on your business. If a competitor is consistently providing useful content and you aren’t, search engines will be quick to pick up on who is remaining relevant and who isn’t.
Long-tail keywords are more specific keyword phrases, rather than just the keyword itself, that users might use when searching for content. These phrases are usually three to four words long and are very specific to what you are selling or writing about. Using long-tail keywords helps to find highly-targeted users who are looking for something very specific, and usually ready to buy because they have already done the research to find out as much as they can about the product or service. Long-tail keywords are less expensive, less competitive, and are therefore, easier to rank higher for in search engines.
For example, let’s say you are writing content for your business that offers painting classes in Denver. You don’t want to compete with keywords like ‘painting’, ‘art’, ‘drawing’, etc. With these keywords you are going to be competing with large companies that sell paint and artwork, or drawing books and online classes.
For a small business that offers painting classes in a local area, it is much better to utilize long-tail keywords phrases like ‘painting class’, ‘learn to paint’, ‘beginner painting classes’, etc. While these keyword phrases don’t warrant as many users, the users it does warrant are much closer to hiring you for your services and more likely to click on your link if you are local.
Research keywords through Google AdWords and look at your Google analytics to help you find out which keyword phrases are bringing in users that are buying product and spending the most time on your website. You don’t want to be paying for or using long-tail keywords that aren’t bringing in any traffic. High competition plus low conversion is never a good thing. Long-tail keywords allow you to have low competition plus high conversion.
Optimizing content isn’t just about blog posts, it also includes the other text on your website, including product descriptions, link headlines, meta-descriptions, etc. Any text should be appealing and simple, and abide by the type of style that is most natural to your company’s persona. All of these things should be SEO optimized as well, but the main focus should be on the easy-to-understand element.
You want readers to be able to navigate through your website as effectively as possible, especially when it comes to product descriptions. You don’t want to lose a customer because they don’t understand what they are buying or can’t efficiently find the information they need to click the “checkout” button and buy your product.
Incorporating SEO into your blog posts is imperative for its success. Search engines were created for the purpose of recognizing keywords in content on websites so that users can effectively get what they searched for as fast as possible. Google is by far the largest and most used search engine out there, so it is most important to keep up with SEO best practices as it relates to Google trends. Follow the advice above and start boosting traffic to your blog.
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