SEO and PR can often overwhelm even the most seasoned of bloggers. Why do some blogs rank higher than others in Google, and how can it be done for your own blog? Today we welcome back Nic Tuxford, senior SEO specialist at digital marketing agency Exposure Ninja, to share the secrets to great SEO for bloggers.
The Beginner’s Guide to SEO For Bloggers
The thing about search engine optimisation (SEO) is that it’s not the reason why many bloggers started blogging (unless, of course, your blog is actually about SEO). As a result, it’s hard for many bloggers to get passionate about SEO and, when you’re not passionate about something, then you’re less inclined to invest time in it.
For too many bloggers, SEO is just a tool that they use reluctantly. Just as businesses apply health and safety rules to their business after the fact because it’s what they are “supposed to do”, so too, do bloggers spend time doing SEO. It’s a chore, it’s an admin task, it’s something that they’re “supposed to do”.
This is a bad way to look at SEO for bloggers. Sure, some tasks related to SEO will seem quite dull, but it’s important to keep in mind the overall goal. At its heart, SEO is just about making your blog more appealing: to search engine bots, to readers, and to yourself. Think of SEO like redecorating your house. You want your house to look as awesome as possible, and you have a passion for the overall design that you’re going for, so it’s important to remember that when you’re spending hours on the phone to your electrician.
Audit Your Site
Before you start any SEO work, you need to take an honest look at your site. No site is perfect, and no matter how many readers compliment you on it, there’s always room for improvement. Ask an honest friend, family member, or fellow blogger to give you a critique of your site. Even better try a free SEO review from a digital marketing agency like Exposure Ninja. Whilst it can be tough hearing criticism of your pride and joy, you’ll benefit from this in the long run.
An SEO friendly blog should be optimised for mobile usage (mobile responsive), it should be free from broken internal links, it should have an optimised site speed, and a good bounce rate. You can check for many of these issues using this fantastic free site audit tool from Raven Tools.
Optimise For Strong Keywords (But Don’t Over-Optimise)!
I will never stop singing the praises of WordPress plugin Yoast. If you self-host a WordPress blog, then install it right now! The benefit of using this plugin is that it gives you step-by-step targets to properly optimise each blog post for your target keyword.
How do I choose my keywords?
With strong keyword research, that’s how! You’ll want to start with a list of generic long-tailed keywords that are appropriate to your site’s niche. These need to be specific and relevant to your ideal reader.
A recipe blogger might think, “OK, I want to rank for the term recipe”. However, unless BBC Good Food, Jamie Oliver, and All Recipes go out of business, said blogger is going to have a tough time. This is where things like Keyword Tool can help. You simply enter your starting point (“recipe”) and it will produce a selection of long-tailed keywords that you will have a better chance of ranking for.
Once you find a keyword you like, you can go one step further and enter it into Moz Keyword Explorer to get the difficulty, opportunity, and potential for that keyword, as well as further suggestions for keywords you could target too. Bear in mind, you can only search two terms per day with the free account.
Sadly Google Keyword Planner no longer provides the free search volume data it used to without an AdWords campaign. There are some paid tools that give search volume data, but to date, no free alternative has been found to get bulk keyword volumes. The good news is that Google still has some great free tools that are highly useful for SEO for bloggers.
Google Trends to the rescue
Google Trends is my favourite of these tools and perfect for SEO for bloggers. If you have a few terms you’re considering using in a blog post, you can compare them in Google Trends and it will show you people’s interest in them over time. So let’s say our example recipe blogger is considering targeting “chicken recipes” and “beef recipes”. Type both into Google Trends and you’ll see that “chicken recipes” generates far more interest than beef recipes. You shouldn’t stop there, though. Go back to your keyword tool and enter “chicken recipes”. Now you’ll start to hit gold.
The first term that came up for me was “chicken recipes for kids” I can put this into Google Trends, and compare it to “beef recipes for kids” and “vegetarian recipes for kids”. You’ll see that chicken gets the most interest — then vegetarian and then beef. The interest seems to peek at the start of the year. This is probably due to all of those diets people decide to start in January. So, to get the best possible results, jump on the “new year, new me” bandwagon and publish your chicken recipes for kids at the start of the year!
Don’t forget to look at the related queries too. As of January 2017, interest in chicken crock pot recipes is rising by 250%. This is another potential opportunity. But don’t forget to research each new term fully. If the competition for a keyword is incredibly high, then you’ll never reach first page of Google for it.
Post Good, SEO-Friendly Content Frequently
Google loves fresh, well-optimised content. You should aim to post at least two new blog posts a week. Each post should be over 600 words long, optimised for a strong target long-tailed keyword, and feature a call to action (CTA) for the reader.
What is the call to action and why should I use one?
A call to action is an imperative sentence that tells your reader to do something. Let’s say your blog is about pets and you’ve written a post all about dog training:
“Do you want to hear more about dog training? Sign up to our mailing list”
“What are your thoughts on dog training? Any tips I forgot to mention? Comment below!”
“Check out my other post about dog training”
“Download my FREE dog training guide”
“Sign up to my dog training webinar”
The aim of the call to action is to keep people on your site. Whether that’s through offering them something for free or encouraging them to buy something from you. Whatever it takes, give people a reason to stay on your website.
Don’t forget internal linking
Internal linking is not only a great way to keep readers on your site, but it’s also great for SEO. When you write a new blog post, link back to old posts that are relevant to the new topic using well-optimised anchor text. Get out of the habit of hyperlinking “read more” or “here” and get your link into the organic text.
Linking externally, while not having a direct impact on your rankings, can also get your site noticed by PR companies. Just remember to set any external link to “open in a new tab” to prevent an increase in bounce rate.
Strong Meta Titles and Descriptions Are Important
Every blog post and page on your site should have a strong meta title tag and description. There are several good reasons for this, and not all of those reasons are directly related to SEO.
The Title Tag
Your title should contain your target keyword and your description should entice readers to click on your search engine result. Think of it as a digital “advert” for your site. It’s good practice to try and get your blog name in there too:
Title including keyword | Blog name
This isn’t just good for SEO. It’s good for branding and it helps you to write better. Whether it’s a blog post or an entire book, the skill of a great writer is being able to summarise the core idea behind their writing in one sentence or phrase. Title tags force you do this.
At Exposure Ninja we’re big advocates of getting a unique selling point into your meta description. So if you have a giveaway on your blog you should get the word “WIN” as close to the start of your description as is natural. Make that description stand out.
If you are using Yoast to enter your title tag and description, you’ll get a warning if the description is too short or long. However our rule of thumb is around 65 characters for a title tag and 155 characters for a description.
Offsite SEO For Bloggers
One of my biggest pet hates is seeing SEO guides advising bloggers to spam comment as a means to improving SEO. By all means, comment on a blog post you enjoyed reading, and link to your own site too, but please don’t waste valuable time commenting on 50 odd blogs a day.
At Exposure Ninja we value three sources of back links:
- High authority directories
- Video sharing sites
- Guest posts on similar niche sites
As a blogger, it is unlikely you’ll have a business address, and so your directory listing opportunities may be limited. However, you should ensure you get a brand page on Google My Business, a Facebook page, and some of the recommended directories for bloggers.
If you enjoy vlogging, then you probably have a YouTube account. Don’t forget other video sharing sites though. Daily Motion, Wistia, and Flickr all provide opportunities to share videos each with a back link to your site on the account description and in the video description.
Finally, the most valuable link opportunities come via guest posting. You can start small, posting on a fellow blogger’s site, and eventually try pitching ideas to larger publications and online magazines. Vicki, for example, has featured in some huge publications such as Red and the StyleCaster through hard work and persistence. I would recommend aiming to write at least one guest blog post per month to increase your organic back link profile.
What About Social Media?
It’s still not clear whether there is a link between social shares and SEO for bloggers. Google says no, but studies have shown correlations between highly shared online content and search engine rankings. Given that social shares will inevitably increase traffic to your site, it’s certainly a good idea to embrace social media.
No-one uses Google+, but Google would rather that you at least pretend you care and there are signals that Google+ does impact SEO. So get a Google+ page and share every post you publish on there. Try to connect with people in your niche as Google sees this as an endorsement by those in your circle.
Yes, the algorithms may drive you mad, but Facebook still remains one of the most popular social media channels. Share 3-4 times a day on your Facebook page. One post should promote your latest piece and the remaining posts should be discussions or links to external content of interest to your readers. Facebook is also a great place to share your video content.
Not as popular as Facebook, Twitter is still a great way to reach out to a wider audience who perhaps aren’t following you. Use popular hashtags, or reach out to accounts who share posts from bloggers, to increase your followers. You need to post more often on Twitter to get your message seen. Don’t be too self-promotional. Join in discussions, and retweet the content of other bloggers. And don’t forget to follow some SEO and digital marketing specialists like myself!
I’ll confess; I’ve added Pinterest because I’m obsessed with it! It’s almost a cross between a social media site and a search engine. It’s a visual tool, so you’ll need to ensure you have great graphics to share. One of my favourite pinning tools is the infographic. You can design a simple infographic using a tool like Canva and share it on Pinterest. At Exposure Ninja, we’ve seen some great results from a good infographic digital PR strategy!
Nic Tuxford is a senior SEO specialist for digital marketing agency Exposure Ninja. For more in-depth information on digital marketing read Exposure Ninja’s “How to Get to the Top of Google” written by Head Ninja Tim Kitchen.
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