SEO might seem like a foreign concept to you if you dedicate your time to building a fanbase, improving your blog and enjoying the ride, but I bet you’ve heard about it.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and refers to a lot of methods, all with the same goals: to boost traffic and improve keyword rankings for your site’s content. This can be as complicated as you let it become, but it should be an integral part of your strategy in 2018 when considering how to grow your blog.

SEO can apply to you improving the coverage on your blogs so that more people see them, but it also impacts things like the user experience on your site. To truly optimise your blog, there are numerous technical aspects you need to consider. This guide aims to provide actionable tips for you to improve your blog as well as answer a few FAQs that I’ve found on Reddit and other blogging forums.

Define your audience

Before you can write content, optimise a blog and drive traffic you need to ensure everything is written with an audience in mind. Well written content will help users engage with your site further, and with this in mind, you can then analyse the landscape you’re trying to fit yourself into.

Research your competitors

Now you’ve got a better idea of your audience, you should be aware of who you’re going up against in your blogging vertical. Competitors can also help you down the line to promote your blog and develop relationships, so think of them as future friends rather than enemies. When looking at competitor’s blogs and posts, see how they’re structured. The blogs that are ranking for the terms you’re searching for relevant to your blog are clearly doing something right. Notice the terms they use in the title tag, the headings on their page and even if some terms seem slightly out of place they will indicate what keywords are being targeted.

Titles and meta descriptions for blogging

If you don’t know what titles and meta descriptions are, take a look at the screenshot of a typical Google search result below.. The title is the blue text and the meta description is the longer text below the URL. You can customize these on your site and the title is a key place for you to optimise with a relevant keyword.

Keyword research for bloggers

Keyword research could have an entire series of blog posts but for blogging there are a few things you can do to boost your chances of ranking content for the right phrases. For a good introduction to keyword research check out this guide from ahrefs, which is a tool that many SEOs use. If you’re looking for a free and easy keyword suggestion tool, you could try Ubersuggest, Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner and KW Finder. With regards to blogging, the following are a few tips to improve your keyword research process.

  • Keep it refined – Trying to target lots of keywords in one blog post is futile.
  • Niche is always best – Larger blogs and higher authority publications will have the higher volume keywords covered, so aim for the lower volume, highly targeted keywords. This will also keep your content focused.
  • You can do it better – Don’t be put off if other blogs have already created targeted content around a keyword you wanted to target You may be able to provide much better content!

SEO considerations for blog posts

At this point, you should have a good idea of what the competitor landscape looks like and certain relevant keywords you can implement into your next piece of content. The following elements are crucial to the initial keyword targeting for a blog.

  • Page Title
  • Headings (with appropriate HTML heading tags)
  • Use the headings to break the content apart and make it easy to read
  • Meta description (is important for encouraging click through to your blog)
  • Using the keyword within the copy
  • Ensure it reads well for the user
  • Use relevant synonyms and collocations related to your keyword
  • Link to other relevant blogs and pages on your site

How to use headings in blog posts?

Headings need to have the appropriate heading tags to fully have SEO benefit. In the HTML you would use <h1></h1> to wrap around the primary heading of the page and <h2></h2> for the subheadings, with <h3></h3> for subheadings of the H2 and so forth. This is a heading hierarchy and when used correctly helps users and search engines understand your content far easier. You don’t necessarily have to put the HTML tags in, you can highlight the headings and use the drop-down in the text editor and select which heading you would need.

Link building for bloggers

If you’re researching SEO, you’ve probably heard that links are a key factor for helping to increase your rankings. Whilst the general concept is true, there is much to consider. Whatever you do, don’t buy ‘link packages’ from individuals claiming to help boost your SEO efforts – it will eventually be penalised by search engines.

How do I build links to my blog naturally?

There is so much at play when discussing link building, but the following are a few methods you can utilise to develop your blog’s backlink profile.

  • Guest post on other relevant blogs
  • Set up an alumni profile for your educational institution
  • Provide comments and expertise to journalists by monitoring the #journorequest and #prrequest hashtag on Twitter!
  • Naturally earn backlinks by creating link-worthy content, especially when it is unique among the blogs in your niche

Do links in comments help your SEO?

Nope, they won’t be helping your search rankings as the links will be ‘nofollowed’ meaning search engines won’t count them as a signal towards a website. They may, however, drive traffic to your site if someone wanted to check out your blog, especially if you’re helping to build relevant blogger relationships.

What is considered a ‘bad’ link for my blog?

Spammy websites that offer no value to anyone or websites that link to your blog completely randomly and irrelevantly are often going to be the ones you want to avoid getting. If you find yourself at a point where your website is getting a lot of these negative links you can use the disavow tool on Google’s Search Console to indicate that you do not want these associated with your blog.

Does the length of a blog post matter for SEO?

It does in that search engines will deem your content to be ‘thin’ if it isn’t long enough. This doesn’t mean you should stuff a blog for the sake of increasing the content, but you should develop it with new angles and valuable content. Longer content (1000+ words) often delves more in-depth into a topic area and Google deems this to be more valuable!

Should I use meta keywords on my blog?

They used to be relevant but they aren’t going to help your blog in terms of rankings anymore. Many bloggers had read such advice on outdated forums and article, so be sure not to plan these in your strategy!

Will hosting affect my blog’s SEO?

Yes, hosting will affect your rankings if the servers are causing your page to have a slow speed. Pagespeed is a key ranking signal to Google, therefore if your server is throttling your site, you may need to upgrade your hosting package. Check out reviews and recommendations, the Webhosting Subreddit has some genuine advice, just watch out for those biased sales comments. If you’re hosting through WordPress themselves for example, this shouldn’t be an issue, but you should definitely investigate page speed with whoever you’re choosing to host your blog.

Will social media improve my blog’s SEO?

Publishing posts and links on social media don’t directly improve the optimisation of your content. Some people have been misinformed that posting links across social media will increase the authority of your site, but this is sadly not true. It will, however, help to drive traffic to your blog which is always good for growing your audience.

What SEO plugins should I use for my blog?

For editing XML sitemaps, Robots.txt files, titles and meta descriptions, we recommend the free plugin Yoast SEO for WordPress blogs.

What is an XML sitemap?

An XML sitemap acts as a list for Google to view and index. Google will not necessarily automatically index the pages in this list, although it does allow you to offer up what should be key pages you want individuals to find through searching in Google. You submit this list through Google’s Search Console.

What is a Robots.txt file?

A robots.txt file is a directive for search engines when they crawl your website. In this you can ‘disallow’ pages, for example you wouldn’t want Google to index your WordPress login page so you set it to be ignored or disallowed in the file. Check out how other blogs similar to yours have set their file by going to www.blogname.com/robots.txt.

Does the design of my blog affect my rankings?

Google crawlers (the robots that analyse your site) don’t see websites as humans do, so the pretty designs aren’t going to positively affect a ‘design score’ or anything of the sort. However, if your design involves a lot of widgets and images that take a long time to load, this will affect your rankings, negatively. It comes back to the key factor of page speed which requires you to optimise images to combat any large files slowing your site down!

Can affiliate and sponsor links affect my blog’s SEO?

Any affiliate links should be marked with a ‘nofollow’ tag in the HTML to indicate to search engines that this link is biased due to you receiving payment to place the link. This is best practice for SEO and should be a part of your overall blogging guidelines.

Should I change my blog from http to https?

Definitely! This is especially true if you are processing user information like emails and payment information. Your rankings will see some boost from changing to https too, it’s better for users and search engines alike.

Got any more blogging and SEO questions? I’m available over at @DriscollDigital if you want to chat, feel free to @ me.

George Driscoll

Digital PR Specialist

Digital PR Specialist specialising in creative copy, unconventional campaigns, and data-led stories for a wide range of publications and industries. Outside of work, I'll be watching Netflix, the latest films, or avidly defending the DC Cinematic Universe. #ReleaseTheSnyderCut

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