SEO; three letters which strike fear into the heart of the uninitiated. It’s a dark art, a magic Harry Potter hasn’t even mastered. One which invokes the machinations of Google, be it page rank, publisher tools or algorithms. It is as if the name of he who must not be named is mentioned.
For no good reason, either. SEO is the blogger’s friend as well as their most useful tool. When you read about the term SEO, Google dominates the conversation. It’s easy to forget a key fundamental: the principles of SEO help create great content.
That’s the tenet underpinning the whole concept: great posts receive higher rankings and receive more traffic. Even for those who write just for fun, obeying the principles of SEO is good practice. They form good writing habits, which you can carry offline.
I know this makes it sound as if SEO is one stage shy of winning a Nobel prize; it’s good but not that good. So, let’s take an in-depth look at why bloggers need SEO.
Your Brand Benefits
I know what you’re thinking: I don’t have a brand! Well, whichever way you look at it, if you have a blog, you have a brand, even if you’re not selling products. You’ve got your own URL, you’ve got an avatar, logo, and tagline; your web presence is noted by that avatar or logo.
You’ve already built a solid reputation for content and you care what people think of your site.
Congratulations! You’ve ticked every box marketers look at, whether they work for Proctor & Gamble or Fred’s Gardening Services.
You are officially a brand! Now it’s time to nourish your brand and SEO is the five-a-day you need.
Your Users Benefit
Ultimately, visitors, be they readers or consumers, come to your site and they are the prime reason for its’ existence.
SEO drives traffic to your site with Google’s algorithms picking up on your posts because of content, backlinks, and yes, black magic.
Only Google really knows what is in the algorithm and every time someone figures out a principal part of it, the Silicon Valley whizzes change it to make that part less relevant.
Social Media is the Crown Prince of SEO
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. For maximum benefit, you must have an account on all three. Two of the three is good and one the bare minimum. None? You really are the hermit on the hilltop, aren’t you?
Don’t think you can buy your way to success though. If Google’s spiders, web crawlers and other devilish cohorts find out you have caused your own spike in traffic through retweets, favorites and likes, they remove that from your page ranking calculation. Expelliartum!
Social media highlights why great content is king. Sharing a post is second nature when people enjoy what you produce. Bear that in mind; make your posts social media friendly.
Make Your Site Responsive
Google’s page rankings prioritize mobile-friendly sites to reflect the increasing use of smartphones to search for information.
There’s no excuse in this era for a site to not follow responsive design principles. Responsive design ensures that your site is optimized for whatever hardware is accessing it. After all, what’s great content if your audience can’t access it properly.
Keep Everything Natural
Keywords are the words in your post most responsible for driving traffic. Make sure you know what the keywords in your niche are before you write your post. Search for it, noting down the kinds of answers you get when you try variants of the keywords you want to use.
There are some fundamentals which need to be observed religiously if your keyword usage is to be effective:
- It’s got to be in the title.
- The URL of the blog post must contain it.
- Make sure you use the keyword(s) early in the first paragraph of the post
- Repeat the keyword(s) around 4 – 5 times per 1000 words. Scale it down if you are using shorter word counts.
- Using video or images? Keywords in the file name and alt name are important attributes.
- Complete the meta title and meta description, using the keyword(s) in both.
These steps improve your chances of reaching the audience you desire.
Get the Right Tools for the Job
Google – I did promise earlier it would feature prominently in any discussion on SEO – provides a suite of tools which help with measuring the effectiveness of your strategy.
But before you get that far, there are plugins which can guide you through what can be a minefield. Yoast SEO is a popular addition to many WordPress-based sites, but there are others as well such as All-In-One. Each addresses the subject in a different way but all focus on keyword count, readability of the post, and most of the factors we previously discussed.
Once you’ve run the scans and resolved the problems, all that remains is to press ‘publish’. At that point, Google steps in to help you measure your work.
Organic traffic is the holy grail of SEO. The more organic traffic driven to the site, the better the site SEO. Google Analytics is your friend for this task. Organic traffic is just one way of cutting the information. Google Analytics can also help you analyze other key metrics, such as bounce rate.
Google Search console will highlight the search terms being used to bring visitors to your site. This is a useful step in the monitoring process, as it helps you see whether your keyword is relevant in driving traffic.
The final Google check is perhaps the most straightforward: perform a search on your keyword! If your site is ranked on the result pages, the hard work is paying off. And if it isn’t, the positive outlook is that your keyword parameters received a positive shift: you know what isn’t working!
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, using SEO hands you one thread of knowledge every blogger needs: you understand what your audience wants. Armed with that, the sky is the limit.