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. You can help your cause even more by using long-tail keywords – that is, basing the title on a specific phrase or question you night put into Google if you were trying to find a post like yours. The more specific you get, the fewer other websites you’d be competing with to show up in search results.
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.
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”.
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 like Yoast it will give you feedback on the length, but in general you want it to be short and sweet.
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 sweet.
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, especially if you’re doing a post for one of the big, well-known sites like The Mighty.
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.
If you do any reading about SEO you’ll probably come across the idea of longtail keywords. Let’s say you wanted to find out if breathing increases your risk for cancer. If you search for the terms breathing and cancer, you’ll get a ton of results. But let’s say instead you entered “does breathing increase cancer risk”, you’ll get a lot fewer results. If I had a post with a heading that matched your search term, my post would rank high in the search results. Personally, I don’t care too much about this, and I’m more interested in writing what feels natural to write.
There are a number of tools available that can give you feedback on aspects of your site that are good and those that could use some improvement. A few I’ve tried are:
- Ahrefs backlink checker: shows you which sites have links to yours; Ahrefs also does an extensive site audit to identify problems on your site
- Check My Links: a Google Chrome extension that checks all the links on a loaded page to see that they’re working
- Internet Marketing Ninjas: checks for broken links on up to 1000 pages on your site
- Moz’s link explorer: shows backlinks to your site
- Neil Patel’s SEO analyzer: gives you feedback on a number of SEO areas
- SEMRush: gives site audit feedback and info about backlinks
- SEObility: a free site audit tool to check your technical SEO
Some of what these tools tell you to change will be things you’ve never heard of and/or don’t have any power to change, and that’s fine. Take anything they have to tell you that’s useful, and ignore the rest.
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.