You’re not alone when you don’t know what to do with SEO for your blog! SEO actually stands for “search engine optimization” and can refer to either the techniques or the people who do this work. Search engines can send serious traffic if you’re doing SEO for your blog correctly. If you’re not, it can mean not even showing up for your own name! SEO can be really inaccessible for those starting out so don’t worry if a lot of the technical stuff is way over your head. I started out that way too and now help bloggers & creatives improve their SEO.
Understanding how search engines work is the best starting point. Search engines use a set of rules, or algorithm, to rank websites to find the most relevant and informative sites. Think of Google as your friend who has impeccable taste and knows exactly what you want! Google aims at giving these personalized results as a friend might so no two Google search results will be exactly the same.
Search engines’ “brains” are huge but can’t contain everything — there is a functional limit to data storage space. Google has to be selective about what it saves. Indexing is the process where Google sends out “crawlers” or “spiders” to inspect websites. The more rules a site meets, the better Google views the page, and the more memory is devoted to it. Search engines only save bits of information — just enough to know if the page is the best thing to give back for a search query. The more SEO friendly you can make your website, the more Google will give it love.
Basic SEO Ranking Factors
So what exactly do search engines look for? Google, for instance, uses 200 ranking factors, ranging from grammatical errors to the age of the domain. Some factors are inside the website, called on-page SEO, and some are outside the website, called off-page SEO.
On-Page SEO Factors
What a search engine finds on your site is just the beginning of the factors. What’s important to know is that search engines are looking for well-written, relevant, informative content that answers the searches people run. Content is the bread and butter of SEO and without it, SEO isn’t as successful. Search engines look for websites that have original content that is regularly updated on websites that use modern design standards with functional ease.
If you’ve ever tried to jump into the rabbit hole that is SEO for your blog, keyword targeting is likely the thing you’ve heard about. Since search engines save little information, they look for repeated words on a page. These keywords tell search engines what a site is about quickly and easily, sort of like when you skim an article. Using strategy for keyword selection and implementation is important to get the most traction for your content. The code behind the way information is presented also plays a role, especially when it comes to keywords, such as using them in titles and header tags.
Design and functionality also play a big role in on-page SEO for your blog. If your page has errors or doesn’t have the user in mind, it can act as a negative for your website. Errors like 404s and bad redirects can also cause all kinds of negative SEO issues — but that’s getting into the very technical side of SEO. What you need to know is that you should fix issues immediately and always design with the user in mind to make your website easy and accessible.
Off-Page SEO Factors
You know those popular blogs that get all the attention and seem to dominate search results? Popularity and SEO go hand in hand. Search engines look for votes of confidence from others because they are machines and aren’t infallible. The human touch of saying “Hey, this is great” is a huge factor in SEO for your blog. Experts believe that off-page SEO, especially links from other websites, is the most important part of SEO.
Social signals, like tweets and shares, are also important. But the most impact comes from links to your website from other places on the internet. The more love those sites get from search engines, the more love will trickle down to your website from those links. The best thing you can do for your blog is to get links from other influencers in your niche.
Think of it this way: if every link is a vote of confidence in a website, the more confidence a website has, the better it will meet the needs of searchers, and the more search engines will save it and give it back as a search result. SEO is a popularity contest but it’s one that you can win with enough strategy, patience, and persistence!
There are other off-page factors, like click through rates on your search results and mentions in the press, but those don’t have as much as an impact. If you’re going to focus on off-page SEO for your blog, work on getting links from other websites to your best content.
This is just the barebones start of SEO for your website. SEO can be a tricky thing to master and I don’t even anoint myself with an expert title, even though I’ve been working in SEO for over two years. If you’re looking for more resources, a great place to start is the Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It’s an exceptionally accessible ebook about SEO that spells it out in easy-to-understand chapters. You can also subscribe to my blog where I write about SEO for bloggers and other actionable content marketing techniques the pros use.