First of all, what exactly is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. As bloggers we want to optimize our blogs for search engines to find our content because it can result in traffic coming to our blogs. And page views are a good thing, right?
I’m taking a whole class on SEO right now and there’s no way I can give you everything you need to know about SEO in one short blog post. But what I can do is present some “Good SEO Practices” that you can easily incorporate on your blog without being super techie. It’ll be like an SEO for Dummies Crash Course. Only really basic. And not the cool kind of basic, either. (That’s a thing, right?)
Then later on, when you’re finding your feet as a blogger and ready to dive into really learning SEO, I highly recommend Tabitha Philen’s SEO Class!
Before you do anything else…
Get the Yoast SEO Plugin!
If you are on WordPress.org go posthaste and install the Yoast SEO plugin if you don’t already have it. This will add a box to your editor screen within any blog post or page on your blog. It looks like this:
What does Yoast SEO do? It gives you a checklist to work through. (And I’ve got a few things to work through on that post!)
Let’s work through that list really quickly!
First, before you do anything else, fill in your keyword or keyword phrase.
Second…the snippet. The snippet preview is what will show if somebody is to see this in their search engine results. You’ll see the current title (which you can change to display differently on social media), the snippet (which you can and should edit), a place for the focus keyword to go and a content analysis.
Third…the content analysis. It gives you suggestions on how to optimize your blog posts to be found by search engines. The little light in the upper left corner of the box will display red, orange or green depending on your compliance with the items on the checklist. And the plugin then gives you ideas on how to improve the SEO for that post or page.
Green is the color you’re going for!
Remember, though…this is a checklist provided by a plugin. This is not some magical Google trick. You typing your keyword into that box doesn’t tell Google “Hey! This is my keyword! Find me!” Man, I wish it did! What it does show you is how well Google will be able to find your keyword phrase. If you spend some time working through this checklist and turning all (or even most!) of the little items on the list to a green light, then your post will most likely do much better in search engine results, especially if you’ve chosen your keyword phrase well.
There’s a second tab that was just recently added that will help you make your blog post more readable. It shows you what percentage of your post is written in passive voice and more. If you’re struggling with that and need some editing help, then you can check out this post on how to edit your blog posts.
For every page on your blog and every blog post you write, you need to have the keyword for that particular piece in mind and incorporate it throughout the body of the piece, into your graphics and your title and metadata (You can do that in the Yoast SEO box!). And it doesn’t need to be just one word. It can (and should!) be a phrase– what is called a Long Tail Key Word. Basically, if you were to go to Google to find a recipe, you wouldn’t type in “Recipe” because the results would be way too broad. Instead you might type in “Chicken and Rice Crock Pot Recipe”. Recipe is so generic that it won’t help you find what you’re looking for. Plus there are 297,583,675,299 results for recipe. (I made that up, but you get the idea!)
So how do you decide on a keyword?
Your keyword needs to be relevant to the content you are trying to optimize. If someone typed in your keyword, would the content on your blog be exactly what they are looking for? Because it should be!
One way you can search for how effective a keyword will be is to use Google Adwords. When creating your account it will ask for credit card information but unless you run an ad campaign you won’t be charged. The keyword planner tool is free. Want to dive into this awesome resource? Here’s a good source for getting started: Keyword Planner. Or if you have Yoast SEO installed you can simply use the menu option like this, then choose one of those three options and go to town to figure out a good keyword:
Remember that you want the keyword to be balanced between being well-searched and not overly used. What would you expect to search on Google to find the blog post you are trying to optimize for SEO? Take that and then tweak it. Then you either need be a little more or a little less specific depending on what your research tells you.
Now. Who is just sitting there with your eyes crossing and your brain melting? If you just aren’t even ready to think about all of that planning, then just use your common sense to pick a long-tail keyword and put keyword research on your list to learn later. That is okay. Then proceed to the next step.
7 Non-Techie Ways You Can Optimize a Blog Post
How about a few key ways to get that keyword to stand out to the search engines?
- Include the keyword in your title.
- Include the keyword in your URL.
- Include the keyword in the first paragraph of your page or blog post if at all possible. Sometimes this won’t work for you, especially if you’re a storyteller trying to set the stage for your reader. And that’s okay.
- Try and repeat that keyword at least a couple more times throughout the body of the post.
- Include the keyword in the metadata snippet. This is the description for your post that will appear in the search engine results.(You can edit this in the Yoast SEO Plugin Box.)
- Include the keyword in the titles of your photos that will appear in that post.
- Include the keyword in the alternative text of your photos that will appear in your post. (Just click the photo and edit it. The screen that pops up will allow you to edit the alt text.)
In other words, saturate your post with that keyword as much as you possibly can. But make sure it doesn’t read like a spam blast for your readers. Because it needs to sound natural and conversational.
Why is SEO so important?!
Is it really worth taking the time to do all this stuff?
Can I rely on SEO for my blog traffic?
These are all good questions! So let’s tackle them individually really quickly.
- Why is SEO so important? If you’ve been blogging for even a few months you’ll have noticed that social media is a very fickle friend. With algorithms that are constantly changing or being added, we as bloggers are always pivoting and running to catch up. That’s not going to change. Building up some good SEO on your site is a way to counter-balance those changes.
- Is it really worth taking the time to do all this SEO stuff? Absolutely! Getting a good foothold with search engines, along with building an email list, is a very important way to establish a steady way to connect your content with the people who want it. Once your site starts showing up in search engine results regularly you’ll begin to see a steadier amount of page views on your site and blog posts that will bring you regular traffic over long periods of time. Following through with each little step will quickly become a routine part of editing your content. If you want people to read it, you take the time necessary to make sure they can find it. The end.
- Can I rely solely on SEO for my blog traffic? Why would you? Search engine optimization is one piece of the marketing pie. And guess what, building up a strong social media presence with your content helps the search engines to know that your content is engaging and important. So no. Don’t rely on search engines as your only way to get your blog posts out there into the great wide web. If you love something enough to write it and edit it, then you should love it enough to promote it as well.
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