Most blogging experts agree that ignoring SEO is a critical mistake most bloggers can’t afford to make…so here are 5 simple SEO steps to get you started?
It takes just a couple of seconds to come up with a list of lists about blogging mistakes. It seems, on the surface, there’s almost no end to the ways we bloggers can screw up our craft with just only the slightest bit of action (or inaction).
It’s that inaction that can hurt us when it comes to SEO. SEO is one of those blogging terms that everybody tosses around and sometimes it feels like some of them don’t even know what it means and are just saying it because it makes them sound as if they do.
For others, the concept is intimidating.
It doesn’t really have to be.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
In a nutshell, it means taking some steps to make sure your blog’s content ranks high in search results for search engines like Google or Bing.
Think about it: When is the last time you looked up something on Google and then arbitrarily jumped to page 8 in search results? Don’t most of us expect the first, second or third search result that pops up to be the one that will answer our question? I sure do.
That means that as a blogger, I need to work to make sure my content is up high.
There’s just one little glitch: every other blogger wants their content there, too. How many gazillion blogs are there out there? Do the math. It’s not pretty.
Yes, you can get around fussing with SEO if you focus your efforts on social media instead. But this is not at all a practical answer, as Forever Amber points out:
If you ignore SEO, that really just leaves you with social media as a means of promoting your posts – you’re basically restricting your audience to the people who already follow you – or maybe some of the people who follow THEM, if you get lucky, and someone decides to re-tweet you or similar.
Social media is definitely important, but SEO reaches people who may never have heard of you on social media. It also reaches people who aren’t on social media, and yes, believe it or not, there are people who search for content but who do not maintain social media accounts.
Here’s how I do it.
There’s a great plugin for WordPress call Yoast. Some of the bloggers out there are snickering at the moment, but that’s okay.
There are better SEO plugins out there.
There are more complicated SEO plugins out there.
There are expensive SEO plugins out there.
Yoast for WordPress is free. Sorry, but I can’t shell out a monthly fee to every service with its hand out.
Yoast basically works as a scorecard. It forces you to actually think about SEO as you write your post. It asks you to come up with a keyword, the keyword (or keywords) you think the most people would come up with if they were searching for that exact content in a Google search. It then challenges you to make sure those keywords are in a few important spots in the post and gives you a grade (in the form of a green, yellow, orange or red dot) as you go.
I’ve been using it for a few years now, and I’ve had consistent growth in page views during that time.
Is it a coincidence? I don’t think so. Without specific stats in front of me, I genuinely believe that the rate of growth this blog has seen over the past few years wasn’t happening before I started focusing on SEO.
That tells me that ignoring SEO might have stalled or even prevented that growth.
5 simple SEO steps you can use now
1. Make sure your blog is optimized for mobile.
Yes, by now, most blog themes should be designed to be responsive for mobile audiences. Chances are more people are reading your blog on a mobile device than on a traditional desktop or laptop computer. That means your blog design needs to display well for that audience. It’s worth noting that Google penalizes blogs that are not optimized for mobile, which means it could intentionally push your blog down in search results in favor of blogs that are.
2. Think keywords
What words would you use in Google to find the post you’re writing? Brainstorm for a moment. Is there one or two words you’d definitely use? When you come up with those words, make sure they appear, in order, in your headline, your first paragraph and at least one other spot in the copy. Also, make sure the keywords appear in the URL of that post.
The challenge is to craft the post so that the keywords don’t read like keywords. You don’t want your readers to think you’re being mechanical in your writing.
3. Use subheadings.
See that line above this one? That’s a subheading because it’s wrapped around a subheading tag. It looks like a miniature headline, but for the reader, it helps break up what might otherwise be dull looking paragraphs. But placing keywords within those subheadings can help your SEO as well.
4. Shoot for an SEO-friendly article length.
There’s only one concern I have with respect to word count in a blog post: a minimum count. Most SEO authorities tend to agree that 250-300 words should be the least number of words your post should have. Search engines tend to prefer posts at least that long, perhaps because programmers feel super-short posts can’t possibly pack in enough information to be worthwhile.
5. Keep posting.
It may sound simple, but search engines like to see more content being added to sites: it tells them the site is still being updated. Posting regularly alerts the search engines that your site isn’t dead and makes it more valuable.
That’s my list. I recommend an SEO plugin like Yoast because it can definitely get you thinking about SEO. But even without such a plugin, you can still help your blog move up in the ranks!