15 | SEO 101: Basics for Bloggers

Alina Ghost

I’ve been a blogger for nearly as long as I’ve been in SEO.

I’ve had plenty of requests from my blogger friends, from how to start a blog to how to SEO my blog. All of which are really good questions but very intricate also. So, I’ve put together this episode that specifically focuses on things that you, as a blogger, can go back to your site and start doing immediately.

If you’d like me to look at your site for free, email me on seowithmrsghost@gmail.com. Subscribe to my newsletter to receive SEO tips straight into your inbox.

Keyword Research for Bloggers

Use free tools to understand how people are searching for something.

  • Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to look at search volumes and how people type in their query.
  • I’ve mentioned Answer the Public numerous times throughout the podcast. It shows you the questions people ask around your chosen topic and is great for understanding what people might be asking.

When you’ve done your keyword research, this is where you can start using those terms that you’ve found:

  • Title. Optimise your blog posts and category pages with the keywords. This contextualises the page for both the readers and search engines. It also gets highlighted in the search results so someone is more likely to click through to your site.
  • H1, H2. These stand for headers, Header 1 and Header 2 etc. This offers the main topic of your page so by adding this you’re once again contextualising the page to search engines. Headers are also a good way to structure your content to make it more readable. I like to think of headers like subheadings, so Header 1 is a Subtitle and Header 2 and Sub-sub title. One post and page should only have 1 Header 1, whereas you can have multiple Header 2s.
  • Meta description. This shows up in the search result as a snippet under your title but before your URL when someone clicks into your site. Improve the click through rate by adding a call to action as well as the keywords.

My biggest tip is use Yoast SEO. It integrates with the backend of your posts so that you are able to optimise it for SEO and it prompts you with tips when it thinks you’re able to optimise it better!

Tweak what you are already writing about using keyword research in order to appear in the search results. There is no point creating content if nobody is able to find it, right?

Listen to episode 2 for lots more on keyword research and check out my talk with Jon Earnshaw on content cannibalization to understand how best to write posts when you have lots of content.

Categorising your Topics & Navigation

The question on how to categorise a blog comes up a lot and I’m going to try and break it down by looking at the navigation, internal linking and passing authority as well as topic grouping.

  • Navigation. Break down your content into topics so if you’re a lifestyle blogger that covers plenty of things, have a think about grouping those that are similar together. For example you might end up with travel, food, homeware; all in separate categories. Don’t forget to use keyword research to help you name these categories for a bigger chance of showing up in the search results for those topics. However, this can be tricky if you cover only one topic, so for example interiors only, then have a think about how to group your posts that are similar by type of room for example or style. It’s completely up to you but make sure that you have enough posts on your pages when you do this as you don’t want to end up with an empty page!
  • Internal Linking. Your navigation passes authority to the pages that it links to. The homepage is always the most important so lets say it has 100% of authority. If it links to 5 categories then each category page will get 20% of that authority through the links. This offers a structure so that your pages can be identified within that hierarchy by a search engine so that it can surface the right page at the right time when relevant.
  • URLs. Your category titles should be reflected within the URLs. This is user-friendly so that readers can see exactly what they can expect on the page before it even loads and then it’s perfect to contextualise the post for search engine bots also. When it comes to blog posts, it’s worth having a URL structure that follows after your category name. For example: fairytaleprettypicture.co.uk/home-interiors/5-modern-home-colour-scheme-ideas-spring-2018/ so that the post of the title is in the URL but so is the category title.

How to Improve your Site Speed

Two main things that can improve a blog immediately:

  • Caching. This allows for your pages and website to have the information stored so that when a reader is to open your page your content is shown straight away rather than the server needing to go and find that content, which can take a while longer. W3 Total Cache is a great plugin that I use.
  • SEO your images. Lower the resolution of your imagery before uploading it onto your site so that it takes less time to load when the page opens. I use photoshop to do this which allows you to resize the storage of your image but keep the quality. Listen to episode 6 which is all about optimising your imagery.

Episode 9 covers site speed further so check it out.

How often should you post if you have a blog

It really does matter how often you post on your blog. Google is always looking for fresh content, so that it’s relevant today and that it still makes sense in this moment in time.

Firstly, republishing and refreshing old posts is a great way to get a boost in the search results. By keeping content up to date and showing Google that you take care of your posts, you’re more likely to be visible.

When it comes to posting new blog posts, it’s a matter of consistency. Be regular with your posting as you don’t need to post daily – this will not only help your readers know when to come back to your blog to read your new stuff but also it’s ideal for search engines because they also need to know when to spend their time crawling your website.

Imagine how many sites Google has to crawl in a day. There’s only a limited capacity and time that a search engine will offer to look at your content. That’s why when you post regularly that time can be allocated to look at your site, otherwise bots and crawlers might not come back for months if you seem to post once a month but then end up posts two or three in one week… that means that your third posts, lets say, doesn’t get crawled and therefore indexed (stored by Google to be shown in the search results.)

Pagination; a common blog issue

Bloggers often don’t know that there is a problem but from an SEO point of view, blogger websites often create pages that show older blog posts on other pages. So lets take the homepage.com for example that shows 6 latest posts. In order to see the 6 prior to those you click on next page, this creates homepage.com/page2 and so on. The site effectively creates a new URL and new page that shows similar content (as you write new blog posts, your other posts get sent to page 2) and sometimes even duplicate content. This only happens when there is no piece of code that shows the pagination of these pages which is needed to help consolidate page 1, page 2, page 3 etc. In order to show Google that your main page is the homepage (page 1) you need to add this code:

rel=”next” and rel=”prev”  – here is Google’s notes on pagination if you’re interested.

If you don’t know how to add this code yourself to the page, use a plugin. I’ve found the below online but please always make sure to backup your site before using a new plugin.

Social Media tips

Social media increases the chances of your content being crawled much quicker. Twitter is crawled hundreds of times a day so if you tweet out your content then it’s more likely to be looked at and shown on Google faster. All social media links are ‘nofollow’ links that pass no authority directly but it is potentially a ranking factor in a different way which helps your visibility online.

Popularity for example, can be identified by the amount of social media links that you have to a blog post. Daniel Rowles did some tests around how social media affects ranking performance of content. Have a listen to episode 11 on digital marketing where is speaks about how he amplified content via influencers and saw his posts rank highly on Google.

If you’d like to improve your social media for your blog, here are the top 3 people to learn from:

  • Twitter – Jen Thorne from A Beauty Junkie in London. She’s conversational, engaging and popular. She talks not only about her blog posts but day to day life and have an engaging audience. There’s lots to learn from her. She also came onto the podcast in episode 3 to talk about links but as you can tell, I’m a massive fan!
  • PinterestJen Stanbrook has plenty of courses on Pinterest so sign up to her newsletters and have a look at her blog too as she has been writing Love Chic Living for years now and has had plenty of success with it.
  • Instagram – Sara Tasker has one of the most engaged audiences ever seen. Find her via @me_and_orla and listen to her podcast called Hashtag Authentic for plenty of instagram tips and great conversations.

How to get links to my blog

Whether you like it or not, backlinks are still important when it comes to having visibility online. Although they don’t have as much of an impact as they used to about a decade ago it’s still good to have those ‘votes’ (links) to your blog so that Google can determine its popularity.

Having great content and a popular blog allows for those links to come in naturally but when you’re starting out that can be hard so here are a few ways to get links to your blog:

  1. Contribute to websites, online magazines and company articles who are looking for expert advice
  2. Guest posts for your blogger friends, for example if you’re a food blogger then write a unique recipe for thier readers.
  3. Listen to Janet Murray’s Soulful PR podcast. Find out how to make your content stand out, write emails to journalists and get links from high authority websites and online magazines and papers. Get exposure on a big level and thus those very valuable links!

Take it to the next level…

  • Search Console. Integrate this with your site via a tracking code so that you can see what people use to click to your site. You’ll also be able to see crawl rate, site speed and other techy things!
  • Google Analytics. Look at traffic, find out the demographic of your audience and locations. Be in the know of your most popular blog posts or the content that doesn’t get read. This will help you keep track of metrics that are important to you so that you can do something about it, such as refresh it, in order to increase the amount of people reading it or finding it via Google.
  • Get a domain & a good host. Stay away from having a site that ends with blogspot.com or wordpress.com because it doesn’t give you any SEO value. Go back to my first podcast episode if you want to know more. GoDaddy is one place that’s good to buy a domain from. It’s also useful to have a host and a server that you can trust. TSO Host has very good customer service, who haven’t let me down and they migrate your blog content for free if you want to switch to them.
  • Blog SEO Strategy. Set monthly and yearly targets and make these realistic. Have a think about focusing on a couple of areas because it’s difficult to work on everything. Prioritise your time on those specific areas. Use the tools mentioned about to understand your website better and find out what needs to be looked at and worked on to improve your visibility online. Get strategic and find out what changes you do actually make an impact!

Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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