One of the hardest things for new bloggers to get their head around is the sheer size of the internet. There are more than 4.5 billion pages on the internet. And in nearly all cases, the site owners hope to rank on Google. That is why you have to carry out good SEO on your blog posts.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It basically means that you create your blog posts and web pages in a way that will help your chances of being found in a Google search.
Good SEO is a mix of techniques you can use to optimise your website to help your chances of appearing highly placed in search results. Some of these are “big picture” and involve you doing things that affect your site as a whole. Many, though, are smaller. In fact, you can help the chances of Google finding you merely by writing in Google’s preferred way.
Of course, once your site grows and you become more serious about improving your SEO, some specialist programs and apps can help you in your mission. I particularly love working with the SEO software provided by Moz. Early in my days of reinventing myself online I was taken aside and taught how to use Moz Pro. There is a cost involved, however, so it is probably not suitable for a beginning blogger, but I highly recommend Moz Pro once your site starts to grow.
If you are writing posts for a WordPress site, then I also recommend that you install the Yoast SEO plug-in. This adds a section to each blog post you create, telling you how good your SEO is. It basically rates your SEO with a series of traffic lights. The more green traffic lights you have, the better. More importantly, it gives you precise suggestions on what you can do to improve the SEO on any particular post or page. It added a second section in a recent update, where it also checks your post’s readability, and again it makes suggestions if it feels you need to make improvements.
If you have installed the new Gutenberg plugin to your WordPress site, meaning you write your posts in modules, then you will be pleased to know that recent versions of Yoast support the new style.
SEO is Constantly Changing
Before I get down to talking about some of the steps you should take for good SEO, I should mention that the preferred practices of SEO are changing all the time. Google, Bing and the other search engines are continually modifying the way they do things. This means that you need to keep up-to-date with what the search engines consider to be good SEO practice. Some of the SEO activities you may read about in older articles and books are out of date now, and can actually harm your chances of ranking in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Google has made it clear that it aims to provide an excellent browsing experience for its users. Therefore it continually alters its algorithm to try and enhance that experience. Bloggers and website owners need to modify their practices to keep up with search engine changes.
Focus on Keywords When You Choose Your Blog Topic
There are literally billions of different phrases that people search for in Google. However, only a fraction of these will be relevant to your blog.
Keywords are the phrases that people use when they do a search. High-level keywords consist of only one or two words. For instance, people may do a high-level search for “coaching”. The problem is that Google brings up an extraordinary number of search results for high-level terms. Google NZ, for instance, brings up 1,210,000,000 results for the keyword term “coaching”. I wouldn’t reach the end of that list if I spent the rest of my life going through the results!
It makes more sense to narrow down your selection. For instance, if I searched for “life coaching” the number drops to a still sizeable 269,000,000 results. If I become more specific in my query, however, the numbers fall. “Life coaching NZ” brings 8,780,000 results, and “life coaching Waikato” gives 555,000 results.
A more specific keyword term is called a long-tailed keyword. Ideally, you should target each of your blog posts at a different long-tailed keyword.
Don’t get too tied up on keywords though. There was a time when you wrote a separate post for every minor variation on a keyword term. Nowadays, Google is smart. It can tell the general theme of your post, and it can recognise relevant keyword terms.
Nonetheless, it is still a good idea to target specific keywords with each post. You can get more targeted in selecting keywords as your blog grows.
Also, you should only focus once on any keyword term. If you try to chase the same keywords multiple times, you will cannibalise your own content and harm your chances of ranking.
Yeast provides a good list of tools you can use to help you with your SEO research, particularly once you can afford to pay for a few tools.
Create an Interesting Title That Includes Your Main Keyword Term
Writing a headline for a blog post can be a challenging job in itself. One of the best tools to help you come up with ideas is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
If you are writing for a WordPress blog, then your post title will automatically also be your H1 headline.
One point you need to be aware of. Search engines put more weight on the early words in your heading. This means that you should ideally put your keywords near the start of your heading.
Alright, you might get a better headline by putting the keywords towards the end, So the critical thing to avoid is starting every headline with your blog name. Some WordPress sites automatically set up their headings to all begin with the site name. This will not help you. If you really want to use the site name in a heading, put it at the end of your headings.
Your Yoast plug-in can help you here and will tell you if you forget to include your keyword term in a suitable place.
Write Metadata for Your Post
Yoast now includes a Snippet preview section. This allows you to optimise the metadata for each post. This includes your heading, your post URL, and the words that you want to show under the heading when it appears in the results of a Google search.
If you don’t optimise this, WordPress will take its own metadata, based on the first section of your post. This may not be ideal though, and it makes sense to override this with your preferred text. You should include your keyword term somewhere in your metadata description.
You can only use so many characters before Google truncates it, so you should modify your text so it remains visible in a search result.
Use a Clear Structure as Your Write Your Post
The structure of your post is significant for SEO. Google’s spiders and AI have to be able to tell what your post is about.
However, Google is far more intelligent than it used to be. It rewards posts that provide value to human readers, not computers.
In the old days, using keywords was a mathematical exercise. You had to use them exactly right, and they had to take up a certain percentage of your article.
Nowadays Google is far more concerned that your post reads naturally. It is also better at understanding what you have written about.
So when it comes to writing your post, just write it in the most informative way possible. Write grammatically correct and don’t try to force in phrases or keywords.
Ideally, you should use your keyword term in your first paragraph, and then use it naturally after that. At the same time use variations of it and synonyms, where they feel appropriate.
Once you have written your post and put it into the backend of your site you can check Yoast for both its SEO and its Readability. Yoast has two green lights overall – one for SEO and the other for Readability. Ideally, you want these both green. You might get away with an orange Readability light if you write for a specialised audience, for instance, if you write your blog post for a B2B audience, or if you target senior managers.
If you don’t manage to get your green lights, you can then check Yoast’s suggestions for how you can improve things.
It Takes Time For Posts to Succeed in the Search Engines
Remember you are competing with millions of other sites. Even if you use perfect SEO, and receiving Yoast green lights on every post, you are unlikely to shoot up Google’s rankings straightway. Many other sites will also have good SEO.
However, if you are consistent with the SEO on each post, as well as carrying out more general SEO processes like building links and speeding up your site, you should notice an improvement to your rankings over time.
Remember, however, that search engines are like being on a moving ocean. Your rankings are likely to go up and down all the time. Often this will be because of actions made on other sites, not your own. Never be lulled in by ads from so-called SEO professionals promising that they will get you to Number 1 in Google in a short time. That promise is not possible, even in you do everything right. SEO is a long-term game, and you need to be consistently playing it.