6 Ways to Optimize Your Blog for Search Engines
Would you like some tips to help your blog appear for specific keywords? If so, keep reading…
Why Search Matters for Blogs
In an earlier article, I talked about the importance of blogging and search engine rankings. However, once you’ve got the blog up and running, the next thing to do is to start optimizing your posts for the search engines. Although search engine optimization (SEO) can be overwhelming to the newcomer, once you understand a few basic concepts, you’ll soon find it’s really not that difficult.
Good SEO copy and a search engine–optimized website accomplish three things:
- They’re easy for the search engines to read
- They’re easy for the target audience to find
- They’re easy for people to read
Everything you do to optimize a post is based around those three basic concepts.
So with that in mind, here are six things you can do to optimize your website or blog posts for the search engines:
#1: Start With Quality Content
The first and most important thing you can do is to write a good, informative post that is accessible, easy to read and appeals to your target audience. In the old days of SEO copywriting, web pages were stuffed with keywords to the point that it hurt the actual content. Aside from the fact that the search engines have caught on to keyword stuffing, readers are going to quickly bounce from a page that doesn’t provide the information they were seeking.
Information of value is also much more likely to attract incoming links. When search engines see other websites linking to a web page, especially if it includes relative content, they determine that the web page holds information of value and move it up the rankings.
SEO starts once you’ve got a solid blog post.
#2: Determine Targeted Keywords
Think like your target audience. Which words will they use to find your post? Once you’ve written your post, it’s important to decide how you want readers to find you. These search terms are your keywords. With a well-written post, the primary keywords are often obvious.
However, there are a number of tools available to help with keyword research. One of the most interesting tools I’ve found is Google Wheels.
The great thing about Google Wheels is that it gives you an idea of how Google thinks. When you enter a search term, Google returns a “wheel” or web of related terms. You can then click on each of these related terms to create more wheels. Using the wheel, you can quickly find related keywords that should be included in your post or meta information.
For example, the phrase “SEO tips” returns a Google Wheel with related phrases such as “SEO tools,” “meta tags,” and “search engine optimization tips” — all keywords that occur fairly naturally in this very post.
With a little revision and by including these terms in the meta title and descriptions (see below), you can include these keywords in your optimization. When Google sees related keywords in all the right places, it can easily determine the information on the page, thus improving the chances that the page will receive a higher search engine return.
#3: Write Strong Meta Titles and Descriptions
Meta titles and descriptions tell both the search engines and the reader what’s on the page. The meta title and description also show in the search engine results, so they need to convince readers to click through to the website. Good content management systems and blogging programs include a place for meta information.
In WordPress, premium themes such as Thesis or Studiopress include fields to directly enter the meta titles, description and tags. You can also use plugins such as the All in One SEO Pack, which adds meta fields. Other platforms such as Blogger require some basic coding. Whichever platform you use, the meta information is a vital step in optimizing a web page for the search engines.
Good meta descriptions match the content on the page. Primary keywords should appear at the beginning of both the title and description. Title tags are limited to 72 characters and title descriptions approximately 165 characters. Anything longer will be cut off in the search engine results. While it’s acceptable to use a number of keywords in the meta information (as long as it reads well), don’t overuse terms. Repeat a keyword more than twice and the search engines may actually penalize you for keyword stuffing.
While the general consensus is that Google no longer looks at the meta tags, other search engines might. It can’t hurt to add a few keywords to the meta tags. Focus on the primary keywords and don’t overdo it. Five or six of the keywords recommended by the Google Wheel would serve well for meta tags.
#4: Analyze and Revise
The next step is to analyze your copy, determine which keywords are rising to the top and make appropriate revisions. The problem is it can be hard to tell which words the search engines will recognize as primary keywords. Fortunately, there are a number of tools available to analyze a web page and show you primary keywords or keyword density.
Most free tools require you to publish the page before you can run an analysis. SEOCentro’s Meta Tag Analyzer provides a detailed analysis of a web page or blog post. It shows the relevance of the meta content to the information on the page, how it will appear in the search engine results and an in-depth keyword analysis including keyword density.
Textalyser.net and Live allow you to analyze copy and determine selected keyword density before publishing. With both of these tools, you’ll need to determine the primary keywords based on the density of the term. When looking at keyword density, it’s important to keep it below about 5%. Any higher and you might be penalized for keyword stuffing.
I personally use Scribe for SEO to analyze a web page or post before publishing. Although a premium tool, Scribe will not only makes suggestions for revision, it identifies primary and secondary keywords and provides tips for moving alternate keywords to the primary position. The latest version of Scribe also includes built-in keyword research and link-building tools.
Once you have a clear picture of how the search engines see your page or post, you can go back and revise to emphasize or change desired keywords.
#5: Internal and External Links
It’s important to include both internal and external links in your post. Internal links help the search engines index your site, identify primary keywords and can increase the page rank of linked pages. When linking to other pages on your site, it’s important to link related keywords instead of phrases like “click here.” Linking by keyword tells the search engines that there’s related content on the linked page.
For example, near the beginning of this article: “In an earlier article, I talked about the importance of blogging and search engine rankings.” A common SEO mistake would be to link to the term “article.” “Article” has little to do with the content on both this page and page to which I’m linking. However, the phrase “blogging and the search engines” includes keywords important to both articles.
External links or links leading to pages outside your website do a couple of things. Like internal links, external links help the search engines identify important keywords. Even more important, they can help create incoming links from other websites. When you link to another site, the blogger or webmaster will usually see a “trackback” or incoming link. If you offer related content, it’s possible that your colleague might find information of use on your site, and in turn, link to one of your articles. Incoming links from relevant and reputable websites are highly valued by the search engines. Actually, they’re probably one of the most important factors when determining search engine ranking.
Just like keywords, you don’t want to overuse linking. Too many links and it becomes spam. You also want to be sure that you’re linking to quality websites both in the eyes of the search engines and your readers.
#6: Optimize the URL
One of the easiest yet most overlooked elements to optimize is the URL. A simple URL that includes a couple of keywords helps the search engine determine what’s on the page.
- URLs such as “www.yoursitename.copm/2010/09/12/post143″ tell the search engine very little about the topic at hand.
- A URL such as “www.yoursitename.com/seo_tips” not only provides two highly targeted keywords for the search engines, it’s much easier for your reader to remember when looking for your article.
A real-world example:
An analysis of the text up to this point in this article (using Scribe for SEO) shows the following primary keywords:
- the search
Not really the words I wanted to highlight. “The search” comes from my repeated use of the phrase “the search engines.” I would much rather see “search engine optimization tips.” It’s important to note that when I ran my analysis, my meta information looked like this:
As you can see in the meta information, I’ve included the phrase “the search” in both the custom title tag and the meta description. I need to drop “the search” from my meta information so that it reads:
Custom Title Tag – “SEO for Blogs in Six Easy Steps”
Meta Description – “SEO isn’t all that complicated. These six easy tips will help you optimize your blog posts.”
I also went back and revised the copy so that I had fewer uses of the phrase “the search engines.”
When I run the analysis again, I can see that “SEO” has become my only primary keyword. I’m not quite happy with that, though; I want “SEO tips” as my primary keyword, so I’m going to change my title tag to read, “Six SEO Tips for Blogs” and delete “easy” from my meta description so that it reads, “SEO isn’t all that complicated. These six SEO tips will help you optimize your blog posts.”
This slight change is enough to make both “SEO” and “SEO tips” primary keywords.
In this case, changing the meta worked because I had already come close to my desired keywords through the natural process of writing on the topic. I could also refine even more by going back to my original article and increasing or decreasing the number of times a keyword is written or possibly highlighting selected keywords using bold text.
Although SEO may seem overwhelming and it may seem like the rules are always changing, remember what I said at the beginning of this article.
- An optimized blog post is easy for the search engines to read,
- It’s easy for the target audience to find and
- It’s easy for the target audience to read.
If your blog posts and web pages stay true to these three points, you’re already way ahead of the SEO game.
What are your favorite SEO tips? Is there an SEO tool you’ve found valuable in your blogging? Leave your comments in the box below.
Jim Lodico is a copywriter and marketing consultant specializing in creating powerful content and teaching businesses how to use blogs. You can follow him on Twitter @jlcommunication. Other posts by Jim Lodico »