It’s About the SEO, Stupid.
When we set up blogs, it’s because we have something to say. But more than that, I think it’s because we want to be heard. “Listen to me,” we shout into cyberspace, “My opinions are worth your time.”
Some blogs spend a lot of energy shouting about their blogs on Twitter, and in blogging forums. That’s great – but you’re shouting at other bloggers most of the time. If you want to be heard (and read) by people who don’t write blogs (and realistically, that’s at least 99 percent of the world) then you need to understand SEO.
Search engine optimisation means organising your content in a way that makes it easy for people to find that content using search engines. It can all seem a bit geeky and there’s something a bit uncool about admitting we want a larger audience (“Oh, I’m just doing it for the creative outlet,” you say. “Really? I’m doing it for shallow fame and the validation of strangers,” I reply.)
Let’s Begin at the Beginning
Imagine your perfect visitor landing on your website, after finding you through Google. What did they type into the search box to find you?
Those things your visitors put into Google are known as your keywords and phrases. You might have some global keywords that describe your entire blog, like Midland Mums or Cooking with Kids. You might also have keywords for specific posts, such as ‘birthday parties’ or ‘smartphone’.
The interesting thing with keywords is that some words are searched for more than others. And it’s not always easy to guess which keywords will bring you hundreds of new visitors, and which will bring nothing but tumbleweed.
There’s a fairly simple way to find out how often a keyword is searched for on Google Adwords. Just enter your possible keywords and it will give you details of how many times that term is searched for globally and locally. This can help you quickly identify the most popular, relevant keyword.
When you have chosen a keyword, you want to get the best from it – and that means using it in the right places on your blog (or post), and with the right frequency. As a rule of thumb, using keywords near the start of your blog posts is a good idea. If you use a keyword in a post title, try and use the keyword near the start of the title. Use the key word within the post in headings, and image tags and file names, if possible.
If you’re search-optimising a blog post, then try and use the keyword or phrase at least three times in the post, and definitely use it in the first sentence. Don’t over-use the phrase though – you’re likely to be flagged as spam.
Using links to boost SEO
Let’s assume we are creating content that we want to optimise for the key phrase ‘best Christmas movies’. We have identified it’s a good key phrase, and we’ve inserted it into the post URL, the header, sub-headings and image tags. We’ve included it in the text of the post, and in the excerpt.
We can boost the SEO value of the post by linking to it from elsewhere in the blog, or on forums, or other websites. Crucially, whatever link you create should use the key phrase as the link anchor text. Rather than a link saying ‘click HERE for the best Christmas movies’ you should say ‘Click for Best Christmas Movies’
Within a single blog, you can adopt what’s known as ‘link clusters’. So when you write your post about the ’10 Best Ribena Adverts’ and want to attract people searching for ‘Ribena’, make a point of going through your archives and adding links to that post. Each link should use anchor text that incorporates the key word ‘Ribena’. Every time you write a post in future about soft drinks, remember to link back to that great post you wrote about Ribena.
Isn’t this just a lot of hard work?
When you read this kind of post, you might think to yourself, “It’s a bit like hard work, isn’t it? I get loads of traffic from Stumble Upon and Twitter.”
Sure, but those people are just browsing for content. That’s great and all, but how much cooler to have visitors who are actively LOOKING for the stuff you’re writing about? And how great would it be to get new readers for just a minute of extra time spent composing your blog post?
I don’t search-optimise every blog post I write. Just those that I think will be useful to a wider audience, and might help me get new readers. And for those posts, I would say this very basic SEO stuff takes no more than a minute or two, but will result in additional traffic on the blog for weeks and months to come.