If your blog is something more than a hobby – if you want it to be a go-to source for information and/or a viable source of income – you have to understand the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). And you need to know how to optimize your blog so that it is one of the top results in an organic (that is, unpaid) search.
Knowing SEO only makes sense; after all, with over 164 million blogs on the Internet, a blogger needs every legitimate tool available to stand out from everyone else. And in this era of jam-packed schedules and short attention spans, few people performing an online search will have the time or patience to dig through dozens or hundreds of pages of search results to find your blog. The typical user won’t go past the first page or two of results.
Much of the conversation and information about SEO centers around search engine giant Google, but it’s not the only search engine available (see the section below). For most of this article we’ll be focusing on Google.
An ever-changing milieu
The problem with SEO, as many bloggers and webmasters over the years have learned to their dismay, is that the rules keep changing, particularly with Google. Google is constantly working to preserve and improve the integrity of organic search so that when people search for information, they get real information and not just ads or completely unrelated content.
One big challenge that Google (as well as many a frustrated searcher) has faced is that many less-than-honest content providers try to “game” the search engines so that their sites will come up in unrelated searches. They do this by many means, such as unscrupulous use of keywords. For instance, if a company accused of scamming customers wants to thwart people who are searching for information about whether or not the company is a scam, they may post articles that contain the word “scam” in the title and in many places in the body of the text. And of course the article will be all about how that company is not in fact a scam.
This type of manipulation is one reason that Google developers are obliged to continually change Google’s algorithms – the computer programs that refine the search results. Google is also constantly working to refine their product and make their search more powerful and useful. Whatever their reasons may be for the latest change du jour, the end result for the honest blogger trying to figure out SEO is somewhat akin to the enchanted staircases in the Harry Potter stories. The stairways are continually changing position, so one has to be very careful when using them.
The main point to keep in mind is that effective SEO guidelines change fairly frequently, so advice given years ago is not necessarily valid any more.
What you can do to optimize your blog right now
The good news is that you can still take steps on your own to optimize your blog. Here are some of the things you can do – and, just as important, avoid doing – to ensure that your blog is optimized for Google for 2014… at least until and unless they radically change the rules again.
- 1. Provide fresh and substantial content on a consistent basis. You may have heard the saying, “Content is king.” That’s truer now than ever. You can’t just get by with flinging words up into the blogosphere and hoping that keywords, links and backlinks (see items below) will do the rest. Creating duplicate content – the same posts over and over, with just a few minor changes – won’t work either. Google is wise to all of this trickery. If you don’t have something original and engaging to say, find something – there’s a whole universe of things to write about! – or consider another activity besides blogging.
- 2. Know how to use (and not use) keywords. Not long ago, many bloggers and webmasters used keywords pretty indiscriminately to drive traffic to the site in question, with little regard for the actual value their articles provided. Articles and posts were often so dense in certain keywords that they sounded repetitious and ridiculous, and some were all but unreadable. That won’t work any more, which is good news for those of us who still care about good writing. Keywords are still important but the guidelines have changed several times over the years. Here is a primer on keywords; although originally published in January 2013, it still has valid information.
- 3. Know how to use links and backlinks. A backlink is an incoming hyperlink from one web page or site to another – from your perspective, it’s when another webmaster or blogger links to your blog. The conventional wisdom is that the more other web sites link to yours, the more popular it is and the better it will rank in search. With that in mind, many less than scrupulous webmasters and bloggers have done everything they could to take advantage, such as buying links, exchanging links, and using “link farms.” Well, Google got wise to this too, and these days, Google and other search engines and websites flag link farms. But never fear; there are legit ways to build links, among them, content (yes, it’s still king!), judicious use of keywords, use of social media, and inclusion of high-quality infographics. Here’s more information about natural ways to build links for seo in 2014.
- 4. Keep your site technically optimized. Technical optimization of your blog is important because search engines need to be able to find and index your content in order to rank it. Even if you’ve been careful about content, keywords and links, your ranking can suffer if your site isn’t properly configured. Here is some basic information about technical SEO issues.
The bottom line is that it’s crucial for serious bloggers to keep up with SEO guidelines. For more information about Google’s new algorithm, “Hummingbird,” see these articles:
For more information about SEO – and some of the things you need to know if you are thinking about hiring an SEO expert – read Google’s own SEO tips in its Webmaster Tools section.
About the Author
This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from Freepeoplesearch.org, a people finder site. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.