A few months ago, I wrote a quick tweet with 10 very easy steps to help bloggers improve their website’s SEO performance. Safe to say it did rather well, with many of you asking me to go into more detail on the various steps as well as cover off some more complex details that require explanation. So, today I want to run through these 10 SEO tips for bloggers with more information and advice included, help translate some of the jargon you may here on a day-to-day basis and what to avoid as you begin to grow your SEO practices for the site.
Note: It’s important to remember that good SEO takes time and is a long-term strategy. It can take months or even years to get right so be patient with it. Your hard work will pay off.
1. Don’t Stuff Keywords/Tags
So one of the most commonly used terms in SEO is “keywords”, this refers to words or phrases that you want your site to rank highly in Google’s organic results (organic = non-ad results on Google search page). This has been, and continues to be, the way many review SEO performance. However, over the past 6-7 years, Google has moved away from people targeting keywords to improve their site’s rankings, and instead aims to promote sites that are authorities on specific topics. This is mainly because users search in more intelligent ways than we used to, with mobile search, personalised results based on past behaviour and more advanced algorithms, we now expect search engines to interpret our intent, rather than just the words we type.
So, when it comes to keyword performance there is a lot of old advice that says repeating the same keyword in multiple articles helps your site rank higher for those terms (also known as “keyword stuffing). However, search engines caught onto this and penalise people who do this by knocking down their site (this was part of an update called Panda which hit sites who used low quality, keyword heavy content to rank). What they now look for is relevant content around topics that answer the queries those keywords represent.
For example, if you want to rank for “best suits for men”, the best way would be to create content about styles, fits, designs and outfits using suits for men using language that answers those terms. High quality content that contributes to is likely to help you much more than stuffing keywords into every post.
2. Remove Intrusive Interstitials
Ok, so more technical jargon but bear with me here. An “interstitial” is a pop-up or sign on your website which automatically appears and asks you to input details (usually a newsletter sign-up or subscribe form). Following an update a few months back, Google came out and said that website using this tactic would be penalised as it detracts from a user’s journey within your site (i.e. “intrusive”).
This comes as part of Google’s move towards a “mobile-first” approach to judging websites, as mobile search is growing at a spectacular rate whilst desktop is stagnating. If you want to get an idea of what makes an interstitial “intrusive” there’s a great article from Search Engine Journal on “What Counts As An Intrusive Interstitial”.
3. Add A No-Follow Plugin To Your Site
Most bloggers will partake in paid/sponsored post campaigns at some point and this is absolutely fine, you are allowed to make money from something you enjoy doing. However, it is against Google’s guidelines (as well as Trading Standards) for any link you include in a post to a “follow” link… JARGON BREAK!
A “follow” link is one that Google passes “link juice” through, which contributes to domain authority (index from 1-100 of how “strong” your site is), paying for links like this is against their guidelines and can result in penalties.
A “no-follow” link adds HTML around the link to tell Google not to give a boost to domain authority, if content is sponsored then all links should be “no-follow” and it is illegal for a brand to demand otherwise.
All caught up? Good! So, you can enter this HTML manually which takes forever, or you can install a no-follow plugin on your site to help make all links (unless otherwise specified within the plugin) no-follow. Easy, simple and will keep you and your site out of Google’s bad books.
4. Add Image Alt Tags To All Your Photos
Most bloggers use photos in their posts as visual aids or as part of their content, however search engines are still pretty bad at actually reading images and, as such, need as much help as possible. So, an easy way of doing this is by adding an “alt tag” or “alt text”. This tells Google what the image is basically about/showing to help it index it and show it in image search results. I tend to use my title/headline in these but keep it to around 5-7 words max. You’ll find your images can contribute a fair amount to your site’s performance and also drive substantial traffic.
5. Verify Your Site on “Search Console”
This should be a really easy way to get a LOT more information on the way Google sees your site and how it performs on a day-to-day basis. Firstly, you’ll need a gmail address that you own and that is exclusively used for your blog. Next you need to do the following:
- Go to Google Search Console
- Add your site and verify you are the owner (there are a few ways of doing this)
- Request Google crawl your site under “Fetch as Google”
- Request a full “Fetch and Render” to ensure all content is covered
- Wait and watch the data roll in over the next 5 or 6 days
This will give you everything from impressions (how many times your site has been seen in search), clicks (how many clicks have come through search) and crawl errors (when Google hasn’t been able to properly see something on your site). ALL of this data is useful so get stuck in and start familiarising yourself with it. The more you use it, the easier it will be.
6. Find Others Using Your Images
In Chrome you can search for images by right clicking them and asking Google to search for them. If it finds any that are identical or similar it will serve them back to you in results. From there you can identify websites who might be using your content and ask them for image credit (i.e. say that the image is yours and link back to you) or asks that they remove it. Remember, you own your images so if you find others using them on their website you can ask them to properly credit it.
7. Monitor Google Algorithm Changes
Google is constantly changing its algorithm to stop people abusing their systems, as a result you (as a website owner) have to keep yourself informed of these updates. There are a few great places to keep an eye on this and I’ve included them below:
Subscribe to these sites and keep a close eye on them, if you spot a change in your organic traffic go and see if there has been an update and what it is changing. You never know when common practice can become blacklisted.
8. Submit Your Sitemap in Google Search Console
Your sitemap is basically a directory of all of the pages in your site and a simple breakdown of the structure of the site as a whole. Submitting it helps Google to spot changes on your site and more quickly add them to search. Your sitemap is usually found under yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or something similar. If you don’t have one, add a plugin that creates one and then submit that.
9. Pay Attention To Your Meta Data
Ah! More jargon. Ok, so meta data is all the parts of your post that Google shows in a search result. This means, the headline, the URL and that little description box underneath. Getting these right and relevant is a SUPER effective way of boosting your website’s SEO performance. So, when writing your post make sure to write these yourself and adhere to best practices. Keep them the right length (but not too short), relevant to your article and with the best information you can put in them. Yoast SEO and Jetpack SEO are great little plugins that can help with this in a very user-friendly way.
10. NEVER engage in link schemes, bots or other spam
I get several 100 emails a week in my spam about SEO practices that guarantee page 1 positions for my keywords and “white hat” (i.e. legal for Google) schemes that promise amazing results. Be warned, these will cause you a lot of grief as Google are hot on these after their most punishing, yet cutely named, update Penguin. This was designed to severely penalise any websites buying links or using bought links with punishing drops in rankings (which sent some websites under) and were incredibly difficult to come back from.
If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Focus on good content, good user experience and attention to detail. These kinds of schemes will only hurt you in the long run and may finish off your blog for good.
So that covers off my guide folks! Remember to keep in mind that SEO is about making something as friendly to the user as possible. If you’re ever concerned about your user experience (UX) remember:
UX is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not very good.
If you have any questions at all, please leave them in the comments below or ask me on Twitter. Best of luck in your SEO journey and I hope to see many more of you in the top pages of Google soon.