Note: This article originally appeared on Social Media Examiner. It has been updated to reflect changes that have occurred since it was originally published.
In an earlier article, I talked about the importance of blogging and search engine rankings. A topical blog naturally adds keyword rich posts that increase your chances of rising to the top of the search engine results. However, once you’ve got the blog up and running, the next thing to do is to start optimizing your posts for the search engines. Although SEO can be overwhelming to the newcomer, once you understand a few basic concepts you’ll soon find that it’s really not that difficult.
While many think there is some deep dark secret to SEO, it’s important to understand that the search engines exist to help users find information. They do this by looking at a web page and quickly determining if the page includes the information the user desires. At it’s most basic level, if the web page is a close match, the site returns a high ranking. Once the search engine has found the web page, factors such as quality incoming links affect which site lands at the top of the page.
The first step is to make it easy for the search engines to find you.
Good SEO copy and a search engine optimized website accomplishes three things:
- It is easy for the search engines to read
- It is easy for the target audience to find
- It is easy for the target audience to read
Everything you do to optimize a post or website is based around those three basic concepts. All you’re doing when you optimize a website or blog post for the search engines is making it fit those three criteria.
So with that in mind, here are five simple things you can do to optimize your website or blog posts for the search engines:
1) Start with quality content
The first and most important thing you can do is to write a good, informative post that is accessible, easy to read and appeals to your target audience. In the old days of SEO copy writing, web pages were stuffed with keywords to the point that it hurt the actual content. Aside from the fact that the search engines have caught on to keyword stuffing, readers are going to quickly bounce from a page that doesn’t provide the information they were seeking.
Information of value to the target audience is also much more likely to attract incoming links. When search engines see other websites linking to a web page, especially if it includes relative content, they determine that the web page holds information of value and moves it up the search engine rankings.
SEO starts once you’ve got a solid blog post or web copy.
2) Determine targeted keywords
Think like your target audience. What words will they be using to find this post? Once you’ve written your post, it’s important to decide how you want readers to find you. These search terms are your key words. With a well written post, the primary keywords are often obvious. However, there are a number of tools available to help with keyword research. One of the most interesting tools I’ve found is Google Wheels.
The great thing about Google Wheels is that it gives you an idea of how Google thinks. When you enter a search term, Google returns a “wheel” or web of related terms. You can then click on each of these related terms to create more and more wheels. Using the wheel, you can quickly find related key words that should be included in your post or meta information.
For example, the term, “seo tips” returns a Google Wheel with related terms such as “seo tools,” “meta tags,” and “search engine optimization tips” — all keywords that occur fairly naturally in this very post. With a little revision and by including these terms in the meta title and descriptions (see below), I can easily include these key words in my optimization. When Google sees a related keywords in all the right places, it can easily determine the information on the page improving the chances that the page will receive a higher search engine return.
To find Google Wheels you need to turn off Google Instant which can be found under the settings options on the top right of the Google search page. Once turned off, expand the left-hand column on the main Google search page and look for “Wonder Wheel.”
3) Write strong meta titles and descriptions
Meta titles and descriptions tell both the search engines and the reader what is on the page. The meta title and description are also what shows in the search engine results so it needs to convince readers that they should click through to the website. Good content management systems and and blogging programs include a place for Meta information. In WordPress, premium themes such as Thesis or Studiopress include fields for SEO optimization. You can also use plugins such as the “All in One SEO Pack” which makes it easy to input meta information. Other platforms such as blogger require some basic coding. Whatever platform you use, the meta information is a vital step in optimizing a web page for the search engines.
Good meta descriptions match the content on the page. Primary keywords should appear at the beginning of both the title and description. Title tags are limited to 72 characters and title descriptions approximately 165 chacters. Anything longer will be cut off in the search engine results. While it’s acceptable to use a number of keywords in the meta information (as long as it reads well), don’t overuse terms. Repeat a keyword more than twice and the search engines may actually penalize you for key word stuffing.
4) Analyze and revise
The next step is to analyze your copy, determine which key words are rising to the top and make appropriate revisions. The problem is, it can be hard to tell which words the search engines will recognize as primary keywords. Fortunately, there are a number of tools available that will analyze a web page and show you primary keywords or keyword density.
Most free tools require you to publish the page before you can run an analysis. SEO Centro’s Meta Tag Analyzer provides a detailed analysis of a web page or blog post. It shows the relevance of the meta content to the information on the page, how it will appear in the search engine results and an in-depth key word analysis which includes key word density.
Textalyser.net and Live Keword Analysis allow you to analyze copy and determine selected keyword density before publishing. With both of these tools you’ll need to determine the primary keywords based on the density of the term. When looking at keyword density, it is important to keep the density below about 5%. Any higher and you might be penalized for keyword stuffing.
I personally use Scribe for SEO to analyze a web page or post before publishing. Although a premium tool, Scribe will not only make suggestions for revision, it identifies primary and secondary key words and provides tips for moving alternate key words to the primary position. The latest version of Scribe also includes built in key word research and link building tools.
Once you have a clear picture of how the search engines see your page or posts, you can go back and revise to emphasize or change desired keywords.
5) Internal and External Links
It’s important to include both internal and external links in your post. Internal links help the search engines index your site, identify primary keywords and can increase the page rank of linked pages. When linking to other pages on your site, it’s important to link related keywords instead of terms like “click here.” Linking by keyword tells the search engines that there is related content on the linked page.
For example, note the first sentence of this article, “In an earlier article, I talked about the importance of blogging and search engine rankings.” A common SEO mistake would be to link to the term “article.” However, “article” has little to do with the content on both this page and page to which I’m linking. However, the phrase “blogging and the search engines,” includes key terms important to both articles.
External links or links leading to pages outside of your website do a couple of things. Like internal links, external links help the search engines identify important key words. Even more important, they can help create incoming links from other websites. When you link to another site, the blogger or webmaster will usually see a “trackback” or incoming link. If you offer related content, it’s possible that your colleague might find information of use on your site and in turn, link to one of your articles. Incoming links from relevant and reputable websites are highly valued by the search engines. Actually, they are probably one of the most important factors when determining search engine ranking.
Just like keywords, you don’t want to overuse linking. Too many links and it becomes spam. You also want to be sure that you are linking to quality websites both in the eyes of the search engines and your readers.
6 Optimize the URL
One of the easiest yet most overlooked elements to optimize is the URL. A simple URL which includes a couple of keywords helps the search engine determine what’s on the page. URLs such as www.yoursitename.copm/2010/09/12/post143 tell the search engine very little about the topic at hand. A URL such as www.yoursitename.com/seo_tips not only provides two highly targeted keywords for the search engines, it is much easier for your reader to remember when looking for your article.
A real world example:
An analysis of the text up to this point in the article (using Scribe for SEO) shows the following primary keywords coming out of this article:
Not really the words I wanted to highlight. “The search” comes from my repeated use of the term “the search engines.” I would much rather see a term such as “search engine optimization tips.” It’s important to note that when I ran my analysis, my meta information looked like this:
As you can see in the meta information, I’ve included the term “the search” in both the custom title tag and the meta description. I need to drop “the search” from my meta information so that it reads:
Custom Title Tag – “SEO for Blogs in Six Easy Steps”
Meta Description – “SEO isn’t all that complicated. These six easy tips will help you optimize your blog posts.”
When I run the analysis again, I can see that “SEO” has become my only primary keyword. I’m not quite happy with that as I want “SEO tips” as my primary keyword so I’m going to change my title tag to read, “Six SEO Tips for Blogs” and change “easy” to “tips” in my meta description so that it reads, “SEO isn’t all that Complicated. These six SEO tips will help you optimize your blog posts.” Doing so makes both SEO and SEO Tips primary keywords.
In this case, changing the meta worked because I had already come close to my desired keywords through the natural process of writing on the topic. I could also refine even more by going back to my original article and increasing or decreasing the number of times a keyword is written.
Although SEO may seem overwhelming and it may seem like the rules are always changing, remember what I said at the beginning of this article. A well optimized blog post is easy for the search engines to read, it is easy for the target audience to find and it is easy for the target audience to read. If your blog posts and web pages stay true to these three points, you are already way ahead of the SEO game.
What are your favorite SEO tips? Is there an SEO tool you’ve found valuable in your blogging?