SEO is a must for bloggers – just as it’s a must for corporate webmasters. Here are the 10 basic SEO rules you should implement to kick-start the search engine optimization of your blog:
- Title: Your title should contain the main keyword, and it’s recommended that you place it in the very beginning of the title. If your keyword is sand, for example, you’d like to have a title like this: Sand’s golden shine, instead of The golden shine of sand. Also, you have to keep your titles short, under 60 characters, to avoid them being cut in the view in search results. Last but not least, aim for intriguing titles that will make people want more. Using questions or announcing lists of sorts has proved to be quite effective.
- First paragraph: Always include keywords in your first paragraph – and again – try to drag them so close to the beginning as possible. This is an additional way to signal the importance of a keyword.
- Text optimization: No matter whether we’re talking about a post or a page on your blog, you should be writing with SEO in mind. This means that you should consciously choose the words and expressions you use in order to highlight your main keywords for this particular part of your blog. While you shouldn’t exaggerate and use keywords in every sentence, you should try to include them 6-7 times for a text of about 500 words. It’s quite a good idea to use two or more – whenever possible – synonyms of the main keyword in order to make it crystal clear for search engines what the text is about. Be aware though, that stuffing your pages with keywords can have the opposite effect if user friendliness, readability or the meaning of your content is affected.
- SEO title: If you’re using a SEO plugin, as for example All in One SEO Pack or SEO by Yoast, you have the opportunity to overwrite the way your titles are shown in search results. It’s a very good idea to use this option to get the intriguing headlines which otherwise simply don’t look good as a page title. The rule for up to 60 characters still applies, as does the rule for placing keywords in the beginning or as close to it as possible.
- Meta description: Meta description is quite important. Usually, themes support a snippet option which, though, often can be overlooked by search engines. Therefore it’s a good idea to use the meta description field to tell search engines and social media how you’d like your content to be presented. At some point the rumor was that Google was dropping these custom meta descriptions and using a snippet view instead in which the search term’s use on the page was shown. Today, however, Google uses meta descriptions again – maybe realizing that these search-term-related snippets didn’t deliver better user experience. If you conduct a search today, the only instances where you’ll see some random pieces of text including your search term, are those where web pages don’t have meta descriptions. Be aware that if your WordPress theme doesn’t support meta descriptions, you have to add that functionality – as well as meta keywords and SEO title – by installing a plugin similar to the ones mentioned above.
- Meta keywords: Here it’s where it gets confusing. Out there the rumor has it both that keywords don’t matter any more and that besides your regular keywords, you need to also implement special Google News targeted keywords to make it possible for your content to appear in news search. Whether keywords still have the same importance for Google, might not be completely clear but what is certain is, that including meta keywords doesn’t harm your SEO standing. In fact, the recommendation is to provide meta keywords as a part of optimizing your content. Remember that Google is only one search engine out of many out there – no matter how big they are on your local market – meaning that you should be serving other search engines as well in order to keep receiving traffic from them. Best practice is to include your main keyword, as well as synonyms and phrases expected to be used in search queries.
- ALT tags: Whenever adding an image or other type of media to your pages or posts, it’s considered a good practice to add ALT tags. Such ALT tags not only enable search engines to “read” your pictures, but also help internet users with screen readers understand your content. Including the ALT tags makes therefore your images more user friendly and helps drive traffic from image search to your blog.
- Media: Using only text or only images/videos isn’t an optimal strategy. From a SEO and user experience point of view it’s important that you mix different media types on your pages. You basically convince search engines that your content is more relevant when you have multiple elements on a page focusing on the same topic (signalled by keywords in text, ALT tags, links, and meta descriptions). In the same time your content gets more user friendly by communicating your points to blog visitors via their preferred media – some like reading, others watching video. The fact that you give visitors what they want means that they’ll likely come back increasing the traffic to your blog and indirectly telling search engines that your content is worth their time.
- Speed: Your pages might look very cool when stuffed with plugins, animations, java, etc., however, all those cool addons cause them to load slowly. Today internet users are getting increasingly inpatient with slow websites which means that so is Google. Your rankings can really get hurt by slowly loading pages and visitors bouncing all the time because of that. Therefore it’s important that you clean your pages, as much as possible, from plugins, java, and excessive code to increase loading speed. If you absolutely need a widget, for example, best practice is to place it under the separator line (the part of the page which visitors have to scroll down to see).
- Social sharing: Social signals are somewhat important for your SEO – somewhat because search engines only partially map social activity on for example social media platforms or enabled by plugins on your pages. They are though still something you have to work on as social shares can benefit your blog’s ranking by boosting traffic and providing additional backlinks. Place therefore visible and appealing social sharing buttons. Make it more exciting for people to share your content by implementing ready-to-tweet chunks of text, ready-to-pin images, and ready-to-share videos. Additionally, consider whether it makes sense to work on your own social media pages to distribute and promote your blog’s content.
It’s important to mention that most of the search engine optimization practices listed here can’t be applied to a blog hosted for free on WordPress.com. The reason is that the online version of WordPress doesn’t allow you for such customizations, as adding an ALT tag to images for example, and doesn’t allow you to install SEO or other plugins either.
This results in even lower visibility of such blogs, which are already hit hard by the fact that they only exist as subdomains and not stand-alone domains.