Search engine optimization (SEO) can seem pretty intimidating at first. However, there are some SEO basics that any blogger can implement that will not only make your posts more search engine friendly, they’ll probably be more reader-friendly. In addition, WordPress looks for similar elements when making post recommendations to users in the WP Reader, so you can get your posts in front of more eyeballs that way.
None of the strategies covered in this post involve changes in what you write. You’re writing for yourself and your readers, not for search engines.
Post titles should reflect what your post is about. The first title that springs to mind for a post may be creative and quirky, which may be appealing for your regular readers, but it’s not necessarily going to do much to help new readers find you. It should be very clear from your title what your post is about, and it should incorporate the keywords you’re using throughout your. You can help your cause even more by using long-tail keywords, which we’ll talk about shortly.
With length, you’re aiming for Goldilocks—not to short, not too long. A plugin will tell you exactly how long it should be, but as a general rule of thumb, in the WP editor for desktop, your title should be about 75-100% of the first line for the title.
If your post makes sense to divide into sections with headings, do it. Using headings helps search engines be clear on what your post is about, and it can make for an easier reading experience. My concentration is crap, so the more text is broken up the easier it is for me to read. Ideally, you would have a heading or subheading at least every 300 words.
Your headings also help search engines understand what your posts are about, so you’ll want them to be descriptive and incorporate your keywords.
You can copy and paste an image into your blog posts, but if you do a couple more steps it makes both search engines and visually impaired readers happier. If you use “add media” to upload it to WordPress, then you can enter an alt text description. Alt text is a description of what’s contained in the image, and for SEO purposes it’s even better if you can work in a couple of words that reflect the main topic of the post.
It’s also helpful if the file name gives some indication of what an image is about. While Pixabay might suggest I download a file as “people-3190181_1920.jpg”, I would save it as “elderly woman.jpg”. This will also help you if you’re trying to search through your image library.
Big images are slow to load, which Google doesn’t like. An image compression plugin can help. When you’re downloading images from sites like Pixabay, choose a smaller size to download. You can find out more about streamlining your images in the post Making the Most of Your WordPress Media Storage Space.
Once you publish a post, its URL has 3 components: your domain name, the date published, and the slug, which is specific to that post. WordPress automatically sets the slug to match your post title, but you can change this in the “more options” section of the post settings.
Search engines like it when a slug is concise and gives a good idea of what the post is about. If you’re using an SEO plugin, such as Yoast, it will give you feedback on the length, but in general you want it to be short and sweet. It should probably involve 5 words or less, and it should reflect what your post is about.
For this post, I stuck with the slug based on the title, so the URL is mentalhealthathome.org/2020/03/15/seo-basics-for-bloggers. Short and to the point.
But if the title of the post was quite wordy, e.g. The Top Ten Search Engine Optimization Strategies You Should Be Using With Your Blog, the automatically generated slug would be really long, and I’d probably cut it down to top-seo-strategies.
The internet is all about interconnectedness, and links are how those connections happen. Here we’ll talk about three different kinds of links, internal, external, and backlinks, that help your blog be connected.
Internal links are those that connect to other posts/pages on your site. They show search engines that different parts of your site are well-connected, and they give readers a chance to check out some of your other content. You can do this by listing a couple of related posts at the end of the post, or you could work it into the main body of the post. I do a lot of internal linking, and I usually just add them into the text where they fit. For example, in the section on post titles, I mentioned long-tail keywords, and created a link to a post I’d previously done on that topic.
Eternal links point to other websites. If you’re mentioning another blogger, include a link to their blog. If you’re using a photo from Pixabay, link to Pixabay, or if you’re mentioning something you found on Wikipedia, link to Wikipedia. It helps to establish to search engines that your blog isn’t alone in the wilderness, and it gives readers a way to look further into things that you’ve mentioned.
And that brings us to backlinks, the links that other people create on their site to connect to your site. These are outside of your direct control, and Google takes them as a sign that other people take your site seriously. Guest blogging can be a good way to get backlinks. This post on Generating Backlinks and Boosting Domain Authority has tips on accumulate more.
Keywords are search terms that people might plug into Google if they were trying to find an article like yours. Keyword research is huge among SEO gurus, but this isn’t something I pay attention to. My focus is on writing naturally, and then tweaking later on as needed. However, it helps to try to include keywords (or at least relevant terms) in your title and your H2 or H3 subheadings.
I find the concept of long-tail keywords useful in choosing post-titles. This is based on the idea that a lot of people don’t just search using a couple of words, they search for a phrase or a question. The more specific you get, the more likely you are to rank higher.
For example, if I do a post and call it Aromatherapy and Mental Health, it’s going to get lost in the millions of other sites that talk about aromatherapy and mental health. However, let’s say my post title is “does ylang ylang help with depression?” No one else is talking about that exact thing. Sure, people aren’t going to search for it as often as they search for aromatherapy & MH, but when they do, I’ll show up on search results page 1, as opposed to 987,654.
By keeping search queries in mind when coming up with post titles, you can make it easier for the people who are looking for your kind of content to find it.
Webmaster tools allow you to see how often your posts are appearing in searches, what search terms are sending people your way, and various other bits of information about how search engines see your sites. To set these up, you’ll need to:
- sign up with Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Center, and Yandex Webmaster
- verify that you own your site, which you can do from your WordPress editing dashboard
- click marketing (in the tools section) and then the traffic tab
- scroll down to site verification services, which includes a link to a WP article explaining how to do the setup
Does any of this matter?
For a lot of people, no, it doesn’t. However, a lot of these things are helpful to your readers, so that’s one reason. If you do want to grow your blog and bring in some traffic from search engines, starting to implement these SEO basics early on can save you a lot of time going back and trying to update things. For me, getting substantial traffic from Google was a long, slow build.
In the grand scheme of things, though, no blogger needs to do any of this. The world is not going to come crashing down just because you have a 2000-word slug. And if you do want to incorporate some SEO strategies, don’t get so caught up in it that the content becomes secondary. Always write what you want to write; that’s what really matters on any blog.