It’s time for part five of my series for new bloggers. By now, you should have everything in place and maybe published a couple of posts too. As I mentioned last time, another important consideration is getting to grips with SEO – or search engine optimisation to use its full name.
If you’re completely new to SEO, it’s basically all about boosting your blog’s chances of appearing in search engines. Now don’t fret – you don’t have to be a coding whizz to do it. In its most basic form, it’s a fairly logical process and one that I’ve always thought of as pretty intuitive.
Of course, search engine algorithms change and there are numerous factors that contribute to search results but much of the advice from this post I wrote seven years ago still applies. Here are some more SEO tips to get you started.
Choose your keyword
Despite its name, a keyword can actually be a few words. Think of it as how you would summarise the topic of your blog post in as few words as possible. Also, consider the search terms that the people you want to read your post might be using.
My keyword for this post is ‘getting to grips with SEO’. You’ll see that it appears in the title, the URL, the meta description – that’s the sentence or two that appears below the title in search engine results – and two or three times in my post. This is, of course, intentional as it tells search engines the keyword I want my post to be found for.
Look at layout
Make sure your copy is free of spelling and grammatical errors and at least 300 words long. Also, keep in mind that search engines will go through your content in a way not entirely dissimilar to human readers. That is to say that smaller chunks are better.
Use headings like I have here. For the record, I’ve used ‘Heading 2’ or <h2> in WordPress. If possible, use your keyword or things that could be considered as variations of it in them.
It’s also important to include links in your posts. Both to good-quality external sites and to your own work. This shows search engines the kind of content your post is related to as well as increasing your own site traffic.
You will also need to get links to your blog from other sites. A great way to get started with this is to comment on other people’s blogs. Most of the time, you’ll be able to add a link to your comment and name.
Optimise images too
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that SEO is just for text. But search engines index everything including pictures. Your blogging platform should enable you to add alt descriptions to pictures so make sure you add your keyword to these too.
Using alt descriptions is vital. They help people who use screen readers due to visual impairment by describing what pictures are of. Secondly, search engines read them when looking for images. I get a fair bit of traffic from Google image search, so it’s worth taking time to write good alt descriptions for both of these reasons.
There are, of course, various tools you can use to check your SEO. As far as I’m concerned, the best by far is Yoast. Available as a free plugin for WordPress, it allows you to input your keyword before evaluating your copy for SEO.
It uses a traffic light system to show how effective your post is likely to be, so is easy to follow. It also reports back on how easy your copy is to read.
SEO is a massive subject and I’m only skimming the surface with this introduction to it. Other things you may want to consider though include buying an SSL certificate, making sure your site loads quickly and getting lots of social media traffic and interaction.
You can usually buy SSL certificates from your hosting provider. Once installed, your site URL will begin with ‘https’ rather than just ‘http’. Basically, this tells search engines that your site is secure and gives it a boost in search results.
To get an idea of how quickly your blog loads – as well as suggestions for improvement – I recommend using this free test on Pingdom.
That’s it for getting to grips with SEO. Having mentioned a couple of tools here, I’m going to look specifically at some more handy WordPress plugins next time.