Nowadays most blogs get the majority of their visitors from social media channels, which alone can drive thousands of hits every month. In fact, social platforms like Twitter are now so popular they are effectively search engines of their own.
And yet, optimising your site for Google can attract drive tons of relevant traffic for the long term, without any additional effort on your part. Here are 5 easy ways you can make your blog more SEO friendly.
1. Use meta titles well
Meta titles are the most important ranking factor on a page. It’s one of the main attributes Google look at to understand what your content is about, so you should use them wisely. The meta title appears in search snippets, and should not be confused with an H1 tag, which appears at the top of text content on a post. On most templates, the H1 you choose automatically becomes the meta title also.
That’s fine, but bear in mind your title should be something people are likely to search for. For instance, a review post with an opinionated title such as ‘X product is rubbish’ is unlikely to rank. Instead, it should be something along the lines of ‘X product review’. You should consider the H1 and titles are separate elements which can be used to target different terms, and make sure your title is SEO friendly.
2. Optimise images
If you post lots of high quality original images, you might be missing out on visits from Google Images. Optimising images is pretty straight forward too, as there are two elements you should look out for: the original file name and image alt text.
The filename gives Google clues about the subject of an image. You should aim to provide a brief but accurate description via the filename. When you save an image, ensure the file name isn’t just a list of random letters and numbers. It should briefly explain what the images is. For instance:
Good file name:
Bad file name:
Similarly, since Google bots can only read text content and not images, the alt text tag serves to describe the image. For the human eye, alt text displays when an image can’t load up properly. It’s also useful very useful to visually-impaired searchers. From Google’s perspective, it is the only direct explanation of an image. So make sure it’s accurate. You can read more about image optimisation here.
3. Create a sitemap
Sitemaps provide search engines with a map of your site, so they can understand the structure better and hence crawl and index your content more effectively. It sounds pretty daunting and technical, but there are plenty of free plugins you can download to generate a Google Sitemap for you, such as Google Sitemaps Generator for WordPress.
Sitemaps provides a full list of your posts, pages and archived content. This is a super easy and efficient step to increase your ranking chances without having to write a single post.
4. Build relevant links
Backlinks, when another website links back towards your site, are a key part of SEO. You should see a link back as a vote of confidence. The more links you get from relevant and reputable sites, the stronger your site’s SEO authority becomes. Unlike votes though, not all backlinks are equal and a single link from a very strong website can be super effective. Here are a few things to know about links:
- Never buy links: Google regularly penalizes sites which pay for links. These are usually easy to spot for search engines, as spammy sites which allow you to pay for links often link out to thousands if not millions of irrelevant, often low quality sites. Stay away from that.
- Get links from high quality sites: this is the most important aspect of link building. A single link from a site with high SEO visibility, a popular social following and a strong backlink profile itself can boost SEO significantly. Links from .edu or .gov sites for instance are very good. Authoritative sites within your niche are the Holy Grail.
- Note although sharing your content on social media channels doesn’t count as linking per se, it helps build up your content’s quality metrics and can lead to more people coming across your site, increasing your chance of gaining links naturally
- While the ideal way to build backlinks is to just write content everyone loves and refers to, it’s rarely how links come about. I wrote a blog post on how to build links to your site a while back, you can check it out for inspiration.
- Anchor text is important: that is the words used within the actual link. This should be relevant and keyword rich. Note: exact match anchor text, which refers to the practice of using just one keyword you wish to rank for in your link, can be seen as bad SEO practice. Your anchor text should be a fairly long and explicit description of what the hyperlink points towards.
5. Do keyword research
Last but not least, do a bit of keyword research. There are 3 key variables you should look out for when choosing keywords you want to rank for: competition, search volumes and content requirements. Assessing competition for a term can be as simple as Googling it yourself, looking at which domains rank and whether you could indeed outrank them. If your page 1 results are dominated by authoritative websites such as news sites and massive publications such as TimeOut or Mashable, you might want to reconsider your targets.
Search volume is the amount of times a term is searched for each month. You can get that data from Google Keyword Planner. Of course, the more popular a term the more competitive results tend to be. A key aspect of research is finding the right balance between optimising your blog for popular terms, but also target words you have a chance to appear for. Often, you’re better off targeting keywords with just a few hundred searches or less, as they make for more achievable targets.
Finally, content requirements is simply to consider how you would optimise for a target term. Is this a keyword you already have a page for? Or do you need to create a new post to optimise?