Blogging and Writing

SEO Chat for Non-Beginners

blogging word cloud

If you don’t know and/or don’t care what search engine optimization (SEO) is, this post will probably be boring and irrelevant, so feel free to give it a pass. But if you have been working on boosting your SEO, read on, and let’s chat about what’s working and not working.

Post length

Longer is better, right? I’m generally not a long post writer. I’m typically anywhere between 500 and 800, because I just don’t have that much to say on any single topic. Looking at my posts that are getting Google traffic, length doesn’t seem to be strongly correlated. My static pages tend to be much longer but don’t get much love from Google. Then again, they’re also more broadly focused than posts are, so I’m sure that’s also a factor too in the lack of love.

Post title and SEO title

I often try and think in terms of long-tail keywords with my post titles, and that approach has worked well. The search queries that are getting people to my blog are often written as phrases or questions, and it seems to work well if I try to mirror that in my titles.

The Yoast plugin counts the number of characters in your SEO title to determine whether the length is appropriate or not, but the SEO audit tools I use (and Google, I believe) count the title width in pixels. I’ve realized that SEO titles that are towards the long end of the green bar in Yoast are usually flagged as too long in the site audits.

Headings

I’m not great at this. I’m not sure if it’s that my writing style isn’t conducive to using headings, or maybe I just don’t think that way. I typically write first and then add headings after. Sometimes, headings just feel too awkward, so I’ll leave them out and then go back and add them later after most of my readers have already seen the post. I could do better at shoving my keyword into my headers, but I don’t like to do it when it feels forced.

Keywords

I’ve known bloggers who really made an effort with keyword research, but then got burnt out because they were taking it too seriously and it interfered with the fun of blogging. My own approach is to write first and then think a bit about a keyword afterwards. Keyword research makes sense to me if a blog is primarily for business, but if it’s primarily for writing and perhaps a bit of business on the side, I figure there are better ways to spend your time.

Linky business

Right from the beginning, I’ve done a lot of internal linking. My niche is pretty conducive to that, and my what is… posts in particular are linked up the wazoo. I add links as I write, but then once a week I’ll go back to older stuff and link it to the past week’s worth of content.

I check for broken links every few weeks. I don’t have a single free tool that does it all for me, so I use a combination. The Check My Links Chrome plugin is handy for fast on-page checks of my really link-heavy pages, and then catch the rest through a combination of what Internet Marketing Ninjas‘ link checker and my site audits tell me. I fix my 404 errors, but when I’ve got some time on my hands, I fix my external 301 errors as well. I have no idea if there’s any benefit to that other than giving a user who clicks on it a slightly faster journey, but I do it anyway.

Images

I almost always remember to enter alt text for images, but WP has a tendency to spontaneously delete them. Or it will keep them in the media library, but not for the image block in a post. It happens often enough that I now go through my new images once a week to make sure the alt text is till there. It’s a huge waste of time that would be entirely unnecessary if WordPress actually worked(gasp!).

One thing that makes it harder to check for missing alt text on your images is that Gravatars don’t have alt text. The SEObility site audit, for example, lists all those Gravatars as missing alt text, so I have to hunt through to find my own images. A semi-useful Chrome plugin called SEOQuake will tell you if you have any images on a page that are missing alt text.

My graphics are usually created with Pinterest in mind, and they’re usually more text than pictures, which translates well into alt text. I find that quite a few of my graphics show up in Google image searches, perhaps because my alt text is pretty matchy matchy with my post titles.

Plugins

Yoast is my SEO plugin of choice. I pay attention to the SEO settings and don’t take the readability all that seriously. I used to ignore it entirely, but I’ve started paying some attention to it. Its imaginary target reader is at a lower reading level than my blog’s readers, and I’m not going to dumb down my language just for a readability score. My sentences are always too long, and I’ve been using more semicolons to get around that. I very rarely used them before, but since I started paying a bit of attention to the readability score, they’ve been making a more regular appearance.

The WP-Optimize plugin cleans up my databases and compresses my images. I run it every couple of weeks and then leave it deactivated the rest of the time.

For structured data, I use both Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP and Yoast a little bit, but it’s not something I’ve put a lot of time or effort into. Most of what I do isn’t structured dagta-appropriate anyway. I use Google Search Console’s data highligher to help it recognize what the different pieces are in my book reviews.

Site Audit Tools

Ahrefs site audit tool lets you do 2 free site audits per month. The free account signup is hella hard to find on their site, but you can do it via their webmaster tools page. You’ll have to verify ownership of your site, which you can do by linking to your Google Search Console account or by adding an html tag on your site.

I also use Seobility‘s site audit. They have a page limit, but they allow you to repeat it once a day. It only takes about half an hour to run.

Both of these tools look at the nuts and bolts of your site, like links, headings, meta descriptions, and that kind of thing. They can help you keep your site neat and tidy and operating smoothly. I use both tools because the free versions won’t cover your whole site if it’s big.

Speed

To check page speed, the main tool I use is Google’s PageSpeed Insights although I’ll sometimes take a peek at GTmetrix as well. I don’t necessarily get a lot of usable information from either of these, because there’s only so much I have control over. My mobile score always sucks, but that appears to be the fault of my theme.

Sometimes I’ll be able to identify large cumulate layout shifts because my theme is starting to display the page one way, and then it’s shifting to the way the page is supposed to display. Sometimes I can get around this by adding some “!important” in my custom CSS, which seems to prevent the theme from trying to do its own thing. One thing I can’t control, though, is the WordPress follow-me button. It does a shape-shifting dance before finally settling down. I gave up trying to control it and just moved it below the fold on my sidebar instead.


Okay, so that’s me and what I do with my site. Now over to youβ€”what does your SEO strategy look like?

Blogging Toolbox

The Blogging Toolbox has tips and tools that are relevant and useful for the average blogger.

21 thoughts on “SEO Chat for Non-Beginners”

  1. Oh wow! You do a lot of SEO. Thank you for the tools you explained, like Yoast. I notice that my recent traffic from Google search has increased. It may just be a timing thing; but I have been paying more attention to tags in my posts. Thank you for a great share, Ashley Leia πŸ‘πŸ‘

  2. I always enjoy your informative posts! I’m not too fussed about stats, but it’s fun to see my follower count rise, and of course I want my posts to be easy to read and not a burden. Given that, I try not to go over 500 words or so and I’ve mostly quit using “creative spelling,” which probably helps searchers get to me as well. I’ve also updated my tags to be more general.

    1. I’ve never been able to get a sense of how much of a difference tags and categories make. Iy seems clear they make a difference, but I’m not sure how big or small that difference is.

  3. I love when you write posts like this! You’re so helpful. I just tried Seobility for the first time. A lot of what came up I can’t do much about, but a couple of things I can.

  4. One thing about SEO on the WordPress.com variant, as opposed to .org, is that you need to pay a bit more for a better subscription to have access to plugins and analytics tools, and that’s the sole reason why I’ve forgone SEO for my personal blog, lol. Anyway, thanks for this post! It was super informative.

    1. Yeah, there are definitely limitations without access to plugins, but there’s still a fair bit that can be done like using things like headings, image alt text, and linking.

  5. Oh my word Ashley. I just visited SEObility and it terrified the life out of me – it’s showing hundreds of error, many that I don’t understand now and I never will. I’m not even going to bother with any of the others as it’s too scary πŸ™

    Well done to you if you are able to use the info from these sites πŸ™‚

    1. There are a number of things SEObility picks up are things inherent to WP that can’t be changed. It takes a bit of poking around to see what you can change and what you can’t. Generally anything where it’s showing hundreds of errors are things it doesn’t like about WP, not things you can fix.

      1. Thanks for the further explanation Ashley. I’m sure there’s lots of bloggers like me out there, who are not particularly tech-savvy and easily confused by it all πŸ˜‰

  6. Oh my word. Tried some of the links but the results were too scary – and I wouldn’t know how fix any problems anyway πŸ™ Well done to you if you’re able to use the information from these links.

Leave a Reply