Originally published on July 3, 2018. Updated on May 15, 2020.
The world of SEO can be complicated. It’s always changing, so it’s easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed, because strategy can evolve just as you feel like you’re getting the hang of it. That said, SEO (a common acronym for the practice of “search engine optimization”) is a core component of every successful digital marketing strategy. It makes you searchable, meaning customers will look to you for information when they need your products and services, which drives traffic to your website and ultimately generates leads.
Before we get into some specific tips to improve your blog, let’s first touch on the technical side of SEO. According to Webopedia, it means this:
Search engine optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the number of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) – including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.
While not an exhaustive list by any means, today’s blog is going to focus on some of the strategies, techniques, and tactics to improve the ranking of your blog and therefore your website. We’ll run you through the essentials of keywords, backlinks, headings and sub-headings, metadata and images. Ready? Let’s dive in.
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Tip 1: Focus on incorporating long-tail keywords in all of the content published on your website.
What does that mean? Keywords are the search terms people are likely to type into Google when they’re looking for an answer to something. A long-tail keyword is searchable phrase, for example, “what does SEO mean,” “SEO strategy for beginners,” or “how to use SEO on my website.” All of these phrases use the keyword “SEO,” but they also specifically target probable search phrases. Getting this right can go a long way toward increasing your changes of showing up at the top of the results page, because it targets a niche search.
Narrowing the focus of your search terms mean you won’t have to compete against as many other websites to catch Google’s attention. Take the examples below for example – there is a difference of 958,620,000 search results between the two! Your likelihood of being in the first couple of pages in the search results are significantly better when you use long-tail keywords, because these answer specific questions.
The key to using these in practice is to remember that less is more. That might sound strange, since we’re trying to convince Google that your content is the perfect match for the search query, but it’s really important not to just stuff your webpages and blog posts full of keywords at the expense of readability. The Google algorithm, in its current form, is designed to scan the internet for quality content. Google’s business model relies on its ability to find the best information on the website to answer your questions, which is why readability matters.
Try to focus on 1-2 long-tail keywords per blog, and naturally work them into the blog where it makes sense and fits with the flow. It is effective to use them multiple times in each blog, but again, don’t over-use them. It will make your content seem inauthentic and unhelpful, which could put it at the bottom of the pile.
Tip 2: Link to your own webpages and blog posts when you publish new content.
Backlinks open the door to the SEO chamber of secrets. Their definition is pretty straightforward: they are incoming hyperlinks from one web page to another. The more backlinks you have, the more “popular” your site is, and SEO bots will judge this favorably, because they’re programmed to assume that page is an authority on whatever topic it’s about, and increase its ranking.
The easiest way to start is by back-linking your own content, to boost your own digital ecosystem (see what we did with the “read more” link above?). However, backlinks from other people’s websites are even more authoritative – it’s like being vetted by a third-party. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to do this, other than to publish great content that other people find interesting and valuable and ensure you’re constantly networking (both online and offline) with other reputable businesses in your industry. For example:
- Identify leaders in your industry or niche.
- Subscribe to their blogs and follow them on social media.
- Start a relationship by leaving thoughtful comments on their posts.
- Share their posts and link to their blogs when relevant in your blogs.
- Ask to be a guest blogger on their website, with a link back to your website in your bio.
- As you build the relationship, you can ask them to backlink to your content in other blogs.
- This process will get easier and more backlinks will follow over time.
It’s important to mention here that you should never buy backlinks. You may see articles or receive comments from services offering to backlink to your website for a price, but search engine operators are aware of this and the algorithms they design do not look favorably upon mountains of links from dodgy websites. In fact, it may even lead to your website being black-listed. Quality links from reputable sites are worth the investment of time.
Read more: How to create a show-stopping SEO strategy
Tip 3: Use long-tail keywords in your headings and keep them short and simple.
Headings are a great way to incorporate keywords in a natural way, because they’ll introduce the topic, as well as all the related sub-topics, you’ll cover on your webpage or in your blog post. The trick is to keep them short, simple and clear. Ideally, you want to keep your title to about 65 characters and use a subtitle in the first line of your blog if you want to enhance or build on the title its self. Also, make sure to remove any “extra” words like a, an, the, etc. from the permalink.
Create headlines that grab people’s attention by making them interesting and distinct. The word “awesome” in the sample above is a great example, because it adds a flash of personality. Remember, headings need to stand out among a lot of titles all competing for the same views.
Tip 4: Don’t forget metadata! This is a really easy win when it comes to adding SEO.
Metadata, also known as meta descriptions, refers to the snippet of information that represents your webpage on search engines. Typically, it includes a short heading and an excerpt that give a searcher a quick overview of the content within to help them decide whether to click or not.
If you don’t fill it out, Google will usually just pull the headline and first few lines of text from your article. However, optimizing your metadata is a sure-fire way to boost your SEO. It’s a great way to reinforce keywords, so make sure you include one in the heading and one in the article, because this will ensure the algorithm recognizes what your article is about. It also provides an opportunity to make most of the space you’re given to ensure your webpage or post sounds absolutely irresistible.
Tip 5: Search engines can’t see images, so fill out the alt-text descriptions of pictures.
This is another really easy way to pump up your SEO, because search engines primarily analyze text. Every time you upload an image, there will be a box that pops up with space to add a title or caption, and most importantly, an alt-text description. Here’s an example of what that looks like.
When you take the time to put descriptions in this space – especially descriptions that include your keywords – you give the search engine context, so it can understand the context of the image to the blog. That helps it sort and rank the image, which is another simple way to boost your ranking.
Other quick tips
Tip 6: Make sure your website is well-organized and fast-loading.
There is a lot of information available online about optimizing your site, so we won’t go into all of it here. However, once your webpage or blog post ranks on Google, and you capture the attention of passing internet users, it’s critical to ensure your website works well.
Once people click a link, you only have a few seconds to capture their interest. If all that precious time is spend waiting for your page to load, you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll click away and look elsewhere. Make sure the virtual nuts and bolts of your site are well-maintained and that everything is running as it should so that your page springs up and gives them the answers they need.
It’s also critical to ensure your template is responsive, meaning it can be viewed seamlessly on phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Modern internet users won’t waste time zooming in and out to read all the tiny words on the page; again, they’ll click away and look elsewhere.
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