SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is one of those mysterious areas of knowledge – like setting up a website – that people like to keep to themselves. If you’ve been involved at all with a website or blog, you will know that people tend to almost prey on newbies, offering to increase their SEO if they work with this or that company.
The impetus for this post came from offering some help to a community organisation I’m helping out with. They don’t have the money to spend on expensive consultancy, so I’ve put together this guide for them – and you – to help clarify the myths and provide you with some advice to help you build good SEO.
What is SEO / search engine optimisation?
SEO means making sure that search engines like Google and Bing find your content and present it to people who are searching near the top of the results (just below the adverts).
Although they obviously work for a profit and want to make people advertise with them, the search engines do want to get reliable, decent and useful information to their users – otherwise those users will go elsewhere. They go to a lot of trouble to weed out spammy and dodgy sites that will put users off and don’t provide useful and relevant information (if every search you did on Google only gave you results on how to improve your SEO, when you wanted to know about Halloween outfits for dogs, you’d soon get bored and use a different search engine).
Therefore, we need to make sure our blogs and websites have the right information and content that will prove to Google that we’re legitimate sites full of useful content that it’s good to show their users.
There are various technical and writing related ways to do this and I’m going to cover the simple ones that you can do with, for example, a free WordPress.com website or blog and no coding skills.
I’ll note here that there are more detailed and technical things that you can do, to do with the coding of the actual site – this will however give you some simple tools that I’ve used to get good viewing figures and good SEO.
You want people to read your stuff, right? Well, although many people will find your content, services, products, etc. through social media, recommendations, blog readers, etc., the majority will find you through search engines.
Have a look at the statistics pictured. This was on a day when I published an article that was shared quite a lot on social media. Where did I get all my hits from? Search engines. So it’s really important to make sure that when people search for keywords to do with my blogs in the search engines, they find my blogs and find their way to me, so they can buy my services / be helped by my informative posts / buy my books.
How do I improve and maintain my SEO?
1. Publish useful, relevant, original and “natural” content
This is my number one top tip. The search engines are always looking for ways to stop people gaming the system and this is a clear example – we’ve all found websites which just have lists of keywords, etc.
I’ve got good results from the fact that the text on this site is useful, it’s relevant, as in it fits in to various categories and has information on those categories (Word, business, social media, etc.), it’s original (all written by me) and it’s written in natural language that looks like it’s been written by a human, not a robot or machine translator or spammer. This will always outweigh everything else.
2. Publish content regularly
Search engines like material that’s updated regularly, as it’s indicative that the site is still live and up to date. Try to post at least once, if not twice a week – it doesn’t have to be massive long articles, but something twice a week is better than five posts in one week then none for a month.
3. Use keywords wisely
There are some “rules” about the keywords that you want to use to attract readers. Here are the ones that have worked well for me, as far as I can tell:
- Place the keyword / phrase in the title of the piece – so, here I have used “Increase your blog or website’s SEO” in the title.This automatically adds is to the “metadata”, in this case the URL of the piece. There is more you can do with metadata which is outside the range of this article.
- Place it in an H1 or H2 level heading – here, I’ve used it in top-level headings.
- Use it in the description of an image – the image above has the words “increase SEO” in the description field.
- Use it early on in the text and in the final paragraph.
- Scatter it throughout the text – but NATURALLY. A good aim is to have the keyword / phrase represent no more or less than 5% of the whole of the text (so if your text is 100 words long, you need the keyword to appear around five times.
4. Use questions in the title and headings
Many people search using questions these days – have a look at your statistics if you can and see how many question phrases appear.
So, use questions in your title (this one doesn’t have a question, but many of my blog posts do), and in your headings. These may well echo the exact phrases that people use to search, boosting you higher in the results.
5. Use categories and tags or whatever your blogging platform offers
Categories, tags, whatever your blogging platform calls them, will be searched by search engines, increase the validity of your site and improve your SEO. Use them wisely, using general (reading, writing) and specific (WordPress, copyediting) ones to help your visibility and to help your readers navigate around your site and stay on the site for a longer time.
6. Make judicious and careful use of backlinks
Search engines like to know that a site is reputable and well-respected by peers. Therefore, they put a high premium on the sites that link into your website or blog (i.e. they include your URL / website address on their own site). Of course, a good way to build these is to reference other well-known and well-respected blogs and websites on yours.
However, this is a tricky area that is used very heavily by spammers, too. So here are some dos and don’ts:
- Place guest posts on other people’s blogs that are relevant and useful to both your audiences. You should be given the opportunity to include a link back to your website.
- Offer people in your industry guest posts on your blog (or run interviews with them, etc.) and ask them to link back to the piece on their social media and website.
- Get yourself in well-renowned and useful / appropriate listings – for example I’m in a Find a Proofreader listing and one for a professional discussion list I belong to.
- Carefully comment on relevant articles and blog posts, with a relevant and useful comment. As an example of another blog, I comment on book bloggers’ review posts if I’ve read the book or have something to say about the book they’ve read, and include the URL of my own book review blog in the URL field. That way, a network of links builds up.
- Use whatever reblogging facility you have on your platform (WordPress has a reblog button) to share interesting and relevant content on your blog (I don’t do this myself, but I’ve been reblogged a lot). This will publish a snippet of your blog and a link on the reblogger’s own page and direct readers to you and reassure the search engines that your content is useful.
- Publicise your blog posts on social media (you can do this automatically) to increase the number of places your web address will appear.
- Randomly ask to place guest posts on unconnected blogs – you might well get accepted but it’s not going to do you much good long-term.
- Accept random and unconnected pieces to place on your blog, even if they say they’ll pay you – it’s not worth it long-term, as your readership will suspect it and anyone visiting your website for Dallas real estate and finding the rest of your articles are about crocheting will not stick around.
- Put random comments full of your own links on people’s blogs that are not in any way connected with yours. Again, some might let these through (I delete any comments like this on my blogs) but it’s not going to look great, as many people will spot what you’re doing and it’s artificial, not natural, so may well harm you in the future.
- Copy other people’s blog posts wholesale and paste them onto your site – search engines take a dim view of exactly duplicated content and will tend to push both examples right down the results screen. If you want to share something, share a snippet and a link to the rest of the content on the site where it was originally posted
- Sign up with a company that offers to increase your SEO without checking very carefully whether they do this kind of thing – many of the rogue random comments and links I get on here obviously come from third parties unscrupulously throwing their customer’s URL all over the Internet
These dos and don’ts are to do with being decent, honourable and ethical. I’ve done it this way, and my blog is pretty successful. I will probably write about this in greater depth, but this should help as a handy guide.
OK, that’s six things that you can do with your next blog post to help improve your website or blog’s SEO or search engine optimisation. This article itself has been optimised following my rules, and I hope you can pick out what I’ve done now. Do let me know if you have questions or comments using the comments option below, and please share using the share buttons if you’ve found this post useful.
Other useful posts on this site
Reciprocity and Social Media – how to negotiate social media kindly and politely
10 reasons to start a blog – why you should do it now!
WordPress 1 – the basics – joining and setting up a blog (links to all the other WordPress tutorials)