Launching a blog is exciting – but more exciting is seeing people actually reading and responding to your content. To make that happen, however, people need to actually find your content – and, like it or not, SEO is a big part of that.
SEO – short for Search Engine Optimization – done right is like today’s equivalent of a premium Yellow Pages listing… but without an actual assigned cost. There are tons of rules and best practices, all of which aim to enhance content that you generate which in turn boosts your search engine rankings – or in simple terms, helps your content and site to show higher in the search results. The higher your ranking, but better the likelihood of someone visiting your site – especially since approximately 75% of internet users never browse past page one of the search results.
How search engines work in a nutshell
Basically, a search engine is just another type of computer software (more or less) that works to index web pages into a database based on a quick scan of each page’s content. Think of it like speed reading for a specific topic – you quickly scan material after material, looking for specific words to jump out at you. This is like a search engine – only a search engine does digital speed reading… and, of course, is constantly evolving in its abilities.
However, search engines don’t just do it all on their own; they bring in their buddies to help, sending spiders out to crawl the web. Those spiders then consolidate their findings and present it to the search engine to rank and summarize your site, pages, and information – alongside all of the other applicable or relevant sites.
Search engines work off of complex algorithms that are constantly changing – this is why the rules of SEO also constantly change; to keep up. There isn’t necessarily a “how-to” manual that always fits the SEO bill, but there are some rules that have stayed consistent among the change, as well as new rules and tips that have emerged alongside the new algorithm.
SEO is about staying up to date and employing best practices to stay ahead of the competition.
What does this mean to bloggers?
For starters, let’s acknowledge that search engines such as Google (who currently own 67.5% of search market according to recent comScore analysis) are incredibly important in our business since it brings visitors to our blogs. Bolstering Google’s importance is tons of research, including a 2006 Forrester Research study that found that 93 percent of all Internet traffic results from search engines. But – of that 93 percent, only about 75 percent will ever scroll past page one – which means that landing your content and your blog on the first page of the search results is imperative to your success.
This is where SEO comes in.
So we have the what and the why – let’s talk about the how.
Search engines handle unfathomable amounts of data – and while they’re good at digesting the data on their own, SEO ensures that they properly assess your content and index it accordingly. But beyond helping search engines to simply assess what it is that you do, SEO also helps the search engines to assess the quality of your content and your overall relevance to the topic. By using SEO techniques, you are able to essentially give the search engine the cliff notes to your site, highlighting the important pieces of information which in turns secures you a better spot in that search engine’s results listing.
There are hundreds of pieces to search engine algorithm – and, of course, search engines such as Google don’t provide a manual; that would only help people to plug the internet with nonsense and misguided practices. That said, SEO specialists are constantly working to decode the system and find practices that do work to enhance contents’ search listing ranking. Some are more complex than others and some have been around for some time, while others are newer to the rule book. Regardless, all are evolving.
Basic Search Engine Optimizations
SEO is more than just a science subject. Mark Jackson, CEO of Vizion Interactive, once wrote:
Getting creative with SEO is thinking of how a marketing program can encompass social, graphic design, link building, content generation, and PR to drive toward a common goal. Getting creative with SEO is also about reworking a website’s design/code so that usability and accessibility improve, while maintaining brand guidelines and keeping with “look and feel” requirements, yet improving SEO.
Every day, we must get creative in determining how to best target keywords by determining which method of content generation gives us the best chance at gaining a presence in the search engines and – most importantly – engaging our audience.
That said, however, we have few basic guidelines along the way.
Every page has a title and the search engine spiders give weight to them in your “summary.” Use appropriate and relevant keywords in your page titles – doing so, provided that the title is relevant to the content on the actual page, is an SEO plus.
Keywords are an original SEO tactic that remain important today, but not with quite the same priority as given in previous algorithms. That said, they’re still an important part of an overall SEO strategy. Keywords – or key phrases – are a single word or combination of words relevant to your content subject. For example, if you are writing about training puppies, “training puppies” might be an important keyword for your blog. As a best practice, incorporate that keyword at a minimum into the post title and content. Be careful not to oversaturate your piece, however – not only is it annoying to readers; it’s also a demerit with the search engines.
Search engines are consistently placing added weight on referring links from credible websites (as it pertains to determining search ranking). The important word being credible.
Consider guest posting on another blog or site, including a referring link back to your own site. Posting relevant tips or information on community forums or social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, are also ways to direct traffic to your blog from legitimate, credible sites. Know that directional links as a tactic is about quality, not quantity – so getting 50 referring links from redirect pages or small sites with very little traffic or history is not going to do you any good. However, sporadic links from credible websites that are part of a post that provides relevant, valuable information, will positively affect your ranking.
The search engine spiders also take into consideration the links on your actual pages to determine relevancy and applicability to the search term. Again consider keywords* and use them to your advantage. For example, linking the text “click here” is okay, but not going to help you in the SEO arena. Instead, consider linking contextual text, such as “Learn to train puppies” that provides not only a keyword, but context to the topic at hand.
* Note: In the same time, do not overuse the same keywords or keyphrases in your anchor text to avoid search engine penalties.
Another important piece of the SEO puzzle is the freshness of your blog content. Posting (and updating your existing content) consistently helps your blog to be recognized as a more valuable, reputable resource. In contrast, sites with large gaps in activity and posts are often deemed less valuable – and likely have less traffic and repeat visitors to prove it.
Be consistent, be useful, and be engaging.
There are plenty of free analytics programs out there, but Google Analytics is among the most popular. Install it on your site for valuable insight into your traffic and visitors – and also for information that can improve your search rankings. One of the tools within the analytics package shows what people who come to your site through search engines were searching for – and what led them to your site. Repeat terms can be excellent keyword ideas. You will also gain information about referring sites which may provide ideas on where to guest post or on forums and sites with which you could engage and capitalize on an already interested and relevant audience.
Reading the basics is just the beginning. You will need to learn and do a lot more – everything from link building to content development, on-site optimization, and more – in order to success with SEO. Moving on, here’s a list of recommended readings, forums, and blogs to delve in and follow. Have fun!
Readings for Beginners
- MOZ’s SEO Basics – A very comprehensive SEO guide for the newbies.
- Viper Chill WordPress SEO guide – A must read for WordPress beginners.
Blogs and Sites to Follow
- SEO By The Sea – Studies on search engine patterns and other super-awesome tips.
- SEO Articles on Search Engine Watch – Industry news, updates, and latest studies.
- Search Engine Land – The oldest search engine blogs/news site.
- Portent Blog – SEO and Internet marketing in general.
- Blind Five Year Old – Internet marketing blog by AJ Kohn.
- Webmaster World / Google Section – This is where I spent most of my time during my early days.
- Black Hat World – Largest forums where hardcore/black hat SEOs hang out.
Share Your SEO Tips
Have a must-know tip for SEO? Please share it below – with the ever-changing rules of SEO, we’re all in this together.