SEO Starter Guide: 10 Blogging Best Practices
Last updated: May 20th, 2014
If you clicked on the link to this article, it is most likely that your understanding of SEO doesn’t extend much farther beyond the fact that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. However, you shouldn’t feel discouraged, because that is exactly how I felt just a couple of weeks back.
While SEO might seem like an alien term, it is definitely not a topic that you should be intimidated of. Hopefully, by the end of this post you will have a far better understanding of what SEO is, with the knowledge to apply your skills in both the real world and also the world wide web. The 10 tips listed below in this post are the most commonly discussed and used methods to easily optimize your company’s organic ranking. They are incredibly basic, yet fundamental, best practices that every business who wants to be successful in the world of digital marketing should know. In fact, these tips are so simple to follow along that often many SEO specialists forget to put them to use.
What is a blog? Why is a blog good for business, and how are they related to SEO?
A blog is a collection of articles providing helpful, valuable, and educational content to draw and attract visitors. A blog is great for businesses because it allows for a company to attract not just general web traffic, but qualified web traffic. These qualified visitors who are actively seeking information with a specific problem in mind, are more likely to turn into leads or customers. Blogs are also great for SEO, because they boost organic traffic by simply containing the relevant and educative content that customers are seeking. Remember, when customers are searching the internet, they are always looking to either do, fulfill a task; know, learn something they have a question about; or go, visit a page that they are attempting to find through search.
In order to improve your website’s organic traffic on search engine results pages (SERPs), here are 10 basic best practices to follow:
1) Quality over quantity …
If you have been doing SEO for a while, the phrase “content is king” has most likely turned into a cliché by now. However, if you are just starting out, this phrase is something that should be ingrained into your memory. Content is the single most important factor
in SEO. Always remember that you are building your content and site for the user, not the search engine. When creating content, keep the 80/20 rule in mind at all times – 80% of your content should be helpful and educative, while the other 20% can be greater related to product and company promotion.
It is important for your content to be informative, compelling, and high-quality, so that when users search (whether it is to do, know, or go), they are able to find content that poses as a solution to their challenge or question. However, you’re not just writing content for any and all users, you should be writing content for qualified users that fit your company’s buyer persona(s). Using a similar language as your buyer persona(s) will result in a greater chance of visitor-to-lead conversions, because searchers who land on your website will understand that your offerings are a solution to their search query.
2) … But quantity still matters
In the first best practice I quickly discussed the importance of remarkable content. While great content still remains the number one priority, it is also important to remember that you shouldn’t just post well – post often. Hubspot, an inbound marketing software platform, gives a great response to the question: “how often should I post?”, with the answer “post as often as you want to be found”. It is extremely important to be consistent in publishing content so that your blog or website is always associated with containing fresh content.
The more recent and relevant your content is, the more it will appeal to both searchers and search engines. However, it is easy to over-saturate your blog thinking that the more you post, the higher you will rank. If this is your current state of mind, you are deeply mistaken. Content frequency is important, but quality ALWAYS reigns over quantity. Don’t attempt to write three posts a day if you know that your content will not fulfill its potential. Instead, consider writing three blog posts a week to meet both requirements of providing great content, but also on a regular basis.
3) The right words are key
Another reason why content is so important, is because your content contains the keywords that you want your company to rank for in search. As a business, you want your company website to pull top rank for the most desired keywords relative to your services or products. Think about what your customers are searching for when you want them to land on your site; these search words are the keywords in which you want to rank for. When writing your content, it helps to make a keyword list that you can enter into tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner to double check and ensure they are the most-trafficked keywords that relate to you.
4) Less is more
While great content is a top priority, it is also crucial to keep your site clean. The great content on your site will not matter if the site’s organization makes it impossible to read, and the navigation makes it impossible to find. Use menus and links that are concise and to the point to keep all of your navigation where the user can quickly find it. Use simple menus and links that won’t detract from the core of your site – its’ content. Don’t go overboard when it comes to internal linking within your own site; the faster it is for visitors to find what they’re looking for the more satisfied they will be with their experience. The combination of great content, and site organization/navigation will provide for the ultimate user experience.
5) Keep URLs short and sweet
A great URL structure comprises of a brand related domain name, and categories that are concise and contain keywords if possible. If an URL has multiple keywords due to the page content, these keywords should be separated by hyphens. While a website domain extension is required, it can also be optimized depending on your business type. The .com extension is most popular worldwide; however, if you have a specific business type that targets only local customers, using a specific domain extension (such as .ca) may prove better results.
6) Make the most of your meta-tags
Meta tags are HTML attributes located between the open and closing head tags in the coding of a document. The only two meta-tags you really need to know for now are (1) the title tag (2) the meta-description.
Here’s a code example of how the two meta-tags should look like:
(1) As mentioned in the code example, the title tag is not truly a meta tag. If we’re going to get technical, a meta tag is an optional page descriptor, where as the title tag is a required page element. They most commonly appear at the top of a browser, in browser tabs, and as your linked content title in search results pages. Title text should be brief, but descriptive, and accurately describe the page’s content so that searchers will be satisfied when clicking on a link relating to their query. Inserting relative keywords within the text might also help search engines to better understand your site. A general rule to follow is that the text should be no longer than 70 characters or 512 pixels in length.
(2) Meta-description tags are not as important to search engine rankings; however, they are very important in gaining user click-through from SERPs. Meta-descriptions will help your site most in attracting visitors by providing compelling previews of your page. The description will help the visitor to determine if your content is worth visiting. They comprise of short paragraphs, which should range from 150-160 characters in length. Just like title tags, It is important that meta-descriptions are interesting, accurate, and also unique to help the search engine distinguish one page or post from another.
7) Put a face to the name
Google Authorship is a simple step that can have quite a big impact on how your company ranks in search results. Authorship is simply the combination of the author’s photo and their byline that appears next to search results on pages.
“Google+ is the identity platform (which is why your Google+ ID is a long string of numbers, not unlike your Social Security or driver’s license number) … and now authorship markup is the digital signature.” Demian Farnworth, Copyblogger
Authorship adds value by putting a face to your work, allowing you to connect with readers on a more personalized level to greater build your network. Not only does authorship instantly connect readers with your Google+ profile, it also helps your content stand out on a page full of plain text. As a result of increased visibility, you will benefit by receiving higher click-through-rates and page views. Authorship simultaneously improves rank while branding yourself as a respected writer in your field, to truly become an authoritative figure in search results.
8) A picture is worth a thousand words (or 1-4)
It is easy for humans to see an image and comprehend exactly what it means, but it isn’t as simple for search engines. This is where image alt-text come into play. Alt-text is an HTML element that provides search engines with specific alternative text to help them understand elements that cannot be rendered (such as images). The text that appears when your mouse scrolls over an image (as pictured above) is how an alt-text will appear to you. Depending on the type of image and the context of the article, the text can vary in length. It can be used as an additional way of telling Google the topic of your page; however, as you should with your overall web content, avoid key stuffing in alt-text as well. Alt-text is also great because your image will appear in search results, even when users are not looking for your content. For example, your content about SEO contains a picture of the twitter logo; users searching for only the twitter logo might stumble upon your image, ultimately linking them to your site. The coding for alt-text can be personally entered, but depending on the blogging platform you use, there is often a pre-made field to enter alt-text when uploading images.
9) Sharing is Caring
The power of social media is increasing at a rapid and steady pace in the changing scape of marketing. Just think, according to the six degrees of separation theory, we are able to interact with anybody on this planet in less than six people. Now, all six of these interactions can probably occur without the need for face-to-face interaction, all thanks to the power of social media networking. Your business will have a much larger audience reach by sharing content through social media networks, because visitors interested in your content will most likely re-share it to their own personal networks. As a result, not only will you drive more traffic to your site, you will also create more awareness surrounding your content as a trustworthy source.
Despite the increased interaction through screens, there still remains a need to converse on a highly personal level. Users interacting with your company on the web don’t want to feel as if they are interacting with a robot. Instead, users want to feel as if their needs actually matter, and that someone (preferable a human) actually cares. Interact with your customers by asking questions and listening. What are they looking for from you? Do they have advice on how you can improve their experience? Don’t be afraid to respond to negative feedback, because it simply means there is something to be improved upon.
10) Treat others the way you want to be treated
Social sharing not only involves the use of social media, but it also involves receiving inbound links from other websites and online sources. In order to receive inbound links, you must participate in active outbound linking to other sites and sources so they will share the love and link back. Treat others the way you want to be treated – if you want other sources to link to you, you must actively link to them as well. Inbound and outbound linking are not so much about improving ranking as they are about allowing users to discover your content elsewhere on the Web, increasing your overall search engine visibility.
When attempting to improve organic search results for your site, it helps to keep the overall goal of a user friendly experience in mind. Even if your current SEO methods are proving positive results, you should always be analyzing your data to see what can be improved, because nothing is ever perfect.
SEO is constantly changing, and because of this it is required that you be quick on your feet to adapt alongside. The main goal for your company’s online presence should always focus on becoming increasingly efficient, effective, and educational, to provide the best results for your current and prospective clients.
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