All serious bloggers are interested in building a large community of enthusiastic readers, and this is why SEO is so critical to your success. Without good search visibility, people who are interested in your content, but don’t know you, may never find you.
SEO best practices are primarily driven by Google, and change frequently. This post, which lays out 50 important SEO tips for bloggers, features a lot of links to Google instructional pages. These Google links will enable you to bypass outdated or incorrect SEO advice that unfortunately permeates the web.
Besides being ever changing, SEO is complicated and technical. These 50 tips, while important, just scratch the surface. What tips can you add to the list?
The following five points offer some big picture guidance for your SEO activities. Perhaps a sixth point would be, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Great SEO requires balance: pay equal attention to onsite and offsite optimization opportunities.
- Content quality is your primary onsite SEO consideration.
- For keywords, user intent is a major consideration, since the most valuable traffic to your site comes from users who are interested in doing business.
- Think visibility rather than rankings, because rankings vary from user to user, and users look for search results based on content type (images, news, etc.).
- A steady increase in organic search traffic growth is usually the best indicator of strong SEO.
- For link building, quality is more important than quantity.
Blog post setup
Your blog posts not only have to interest human readers – they also need to be constructed so that Google can find them, read them and appropriately display them in search results. Even brilliant content must be optimized in order to find its largest potential audience.
- The post URL should default to display the post title.
- The post title (H1 tag) should default to be the post Meta title tag.
- The post title should include keywords, preferably at the beginning of the title.
- Post titles should always be unique and relevant to the content.
- WordPress users should use the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin or the All in One SEO Pack.
- Always write a unique and catchy Meta description tag, with a call to action if applicable, for your post, as it will attract more click-throughs.
- Read this page from Google with extreme care for a foundational working knowledge of key SEO content considerations.
- Include prominent social media share buttons in the post template, as social shares are correlated to rankings.
Many blog themes from WordPress and other CMS platforms are SEO-friendly right out of the box—but how you set them up, modify them and maintain them makes a big difference in Google’s ability to find and rank your blog’s content.
- Avoid long blogrolls on the sidebar, because site-wide outbound links can reduce rankings.
- Do not participate in link exchange programs.
- Internally link relevant posts on your blog, but do it selectively.
- Avoid keyword-optimized anchor text for outbound links unless they are extremely relevant and flow naturally within the narrative.
- Use Google Webmaster Tools to identify and fix broken links and other SEO-unfriendly site issues.
- Have your own domain.
- Have all versions of your blog resolve to the www.domain version.
- Use Custom robots.txt to prevent Google from crawling pages you don’t want indexed, such as off-theme content.
- Improve page loading speed by upgrading hosting, clearing your cache, compressing images and other techniques.
Going back five years or so, SEO copywriting involved a lot of precise rules about how and where to display keywords in a blog post. Today, Google is smart enough to interpret a post’s theme and relevance without strict adherence to these rules – which is great news for bloggers who want to focus on human readers!
- Original content generally outranks duplicate content by a wide margin.
- Don’t overuse keywords in post text.
- Keywords in subheads, italics, bold or within ordered and unordered lists have slightly more power than keywords in plain text.
- Word counts aren’t as important as they used to be, but all other things being equal, longer posts rank better than shorter posts.
- Your first SEO priority is to write useful, relevant and authoritative content for human readers, because that is what Google is looking for.
- To develop new post topics and SEO opportunities, review analytics regularly to identify popular new keywords and strategic long tail keywords.
Onsite images and video
Image and video search are segmented search options on Google that can attract a tremendous amount of traffic. If you are in a visual business, such as graphic design, or any type of business where customers may want to view images or video of what you do, then image and video optimization are essential.
- Use relevant keywords in your image’s file name.
- Write descriptive alt text for images in plain sentence format.
- Write useful and interesting image captions, because they keep visitors on your page longer.
- Follow Google Webmaster image publishing guidelines.
- Follow Google Webmaster video best practices.
Traditionally, Google primarily associates content with the site on which it is published. Google Authorship is a fairly new program that associates content with its author. In time, we will probably see high authority authors outrank low authority authors, making it important for bloggers to start participating in Google Authorship program now.
- Actively participate on Google+ and in the Google Authorship program.
- Since original content is immediately indexed and ranked on Google, write original, useful and keyword-rich content on your Google+ posts.
- Link your Google+ profile to all blogs and sites you write for following these instructions.
- Whenever possible, link your guest authors’ Google+ profiles to your blog.
- Use an appealing Google+ headshot, as it will be displayed in Google search results.
When your blog is linked to from high quality, relevant sites, it tells Google your blog’s content is authoritative, meaningful, useful and interesting. Establishing and maintaining a solid link profile is probably the single most important SEO activity you can engage in.
- Guest blog on relevant and authoritative blogs to build inbound links.
- Invite relevant and authoritative bloggers to guest post on your blog, to build social shares and traffic.
- Be ultra-selective in pursuing directory listings, as they are generally not an effective way to build inbound links.
- Avoid building links by publishing content on article banks.
- Avoid building links by publishing non-newsworthy press releases.
- Review your link profile, removing bad links, fixing broken links and updating good links to conform to best practices.
- Optimize your YouTube channel and videos by following these instructions.
SEO agency red flags
Many bloggers partner with SEO agencies or freelancers in order to cover all of the bases noted above. There are a lot of tremendously talented people to choose from – but there are also some that bloggers would be wise to avoid.
- Avoid agencies that promise #1 rankings or tons of free links.
- Avoid agencies that don’t have a documented, transparent description of their methodology.
- Avoid agencies that don’t provide detailed reports of activity and/or results.
- Avoid agencies that won’t provide client referrals.
- Avoid agencies that speak in an overly technical way or have other communication shortcomings.
That was a lot to digest, but when it comes to SEO, it’s still just an appetizer. What SEO tips can you share?
Guest author: Brad Shorr is Director of B2B Marketing for Straight North, an Internet marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. He is an experienced content strategist, respected blogger, and SEO copywriter. Connect with him on Twitter @bradshorr.
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