By ProBlogger SEO Expert Jim Stewart of StewArt Media.
Search Engine Optimisation. Just reading that phrase can make some bloggers break into cold sweats. You know how to blog, and you know you have to incorporate SEO in your pages somehow to be successful, but the technical aspects of SEO are daunting, at best.
This is the first part of a three-part series on the What, How and Why of SEO and how it relates to your blog. Use these pieces to learn the cornerstones of search engine optimisation and you’ll be better able to use SEO to improve your blog.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is a way of crafting your blog that focuses on growing your search engine results organically. In other words, it’s a method of writing and building web pages that allows them to rise in the Google rankings, instead of attracting traffic through paid ads. It’s not a way to cheat or game the system. It’s the best way to create your pages to deliver a great user experience, both to your readers and to search engines.
Writing great content with relevant information gives your users what they want. Creating clear information that Google can understand gives it the same thing. The more concise information Google can find on your page, the more it will reward you with higher rankings.
What Does Google Want?
Google’s search algorithm is secret and constantly in a state of flux, but we can figure out elements of it by seeing what has worked for other sites similar to your own. In general, search engines want to refer searchers to sites that are the most relevant to their search requests. It can be determined in many ways, all of which warrant your attention.
- Content: Is the information on all your pages relevant to the search keywords? What about the titles and image descriptions?
- Performance: Does your site load quickly? Are your images optimised? Do your links all work correctly?
- Authority: Do other respected sites consider your blog good enough to link to?
- User Experience: Is the site easy to navigate? Are there dead links? How long does the average user stay on your page?
All of these factors combine into what Google and other search engines consider a good blog, one worthy of a high ranking in their search engine pages. The higher your site ranks on this list of positive factors, the closer your site will get to that coveted number one position.
What SEO is Not
Too often, people try to game the system, piling on more and more SEO-friendly details in an effort to get a higher search engine ranking. The result is often worse than if they do nothing at all. Google’s search algorithm is very sophisticated; it can’t be lured by cheap tricks. Well, not in the long run, anyway.
More often, bad SEO is a matter of bloggers thinking, “more is better.” If one item works, why not five of the same kind? It’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s a quick way to sink your blog’s rankings. Some more items to stay away from:
- Buying links: Having good, solid links to relevant sites will always boost your rankings, but you can’t buy that kind of respect. Stay away from sellers offering to raise your rank by selling you dozens of links. More likely than not, they’re links to sites that have nothing to do with your niche, which is a black mark in Google’s view.
- Keyword stuffing: Using a keyword naturally in a blog post is one of the key ways for you to rank that post in Google. The key is to do it delicately. Always use the phrase without forcing it into the sentence, and don’t over-use the phrase in any post. As a good rule of thumb, if you read the post and the phrase is easily noticed among all the other writing, you’re using it too much.
- Overall bad user experience: Approach your blog page with a fresh eye occasionally. Do you have ads lining both sides of your page? Do they compete with the blog post for space? Is it tough for readers to find anything? Check your bounce rate. If 80 percent or more of people who click on your blog leave within 5 seconds, there’s something wrong that needs to be rectified.
Think of SEO as the recipe for the best way to create your blog pages. It tells you the ingredients to add to the mix and the techniques to use when preparing them. After that, it’s up to you to create your own dish for readers and search engines to experience. The closer you follow the recipe, the better your results will be.
Jim Stewart, CEO of StewArt Media, is a recognised digital marketing expert. Jim is ProBlogger’s SEO expert and will share his vast SEO knowledge to equip you with the systems and skills to optimise and monetise your blog using tried and tested techniques. What Jim doesn’t know about SEO and blogging isn’t worth knowing.