SEO is the art (or science) of crafting a blog post so that it’s more likely to appear in search engine results. There are ways to try and game the system but many of those can get you blacklisted instead of highly ranked. Plus search engines, Google especially, change their search algorithms on a regular basis. So instead of being sneaky, just follow these tips and you’ll see that your posts are getting found more often.
In general, to help with your post’s SEO, think about these two questions:
1. What would someone Google to find my post?
2. What would someone who is unfamiliar with this topic Google to find my post?
First, Google prefers fresh content that is published with regularity. You don’t have to post every day but don’t let weeks and weeks go by without a post. Or, if you can only post one day a week, try and pick a day and stick to it.
Headlines should be very literal otherwise people won’t be able to find your post when searching. Headlines should be at least 40 characters. Do not include ellipses, semicolons, parentheses, *, # or other punctuation in the middle of the headline, although you can use them at the very end of the headline if necessary. The only punctuation you can use in the middle of a headline is a colon. If you use other special characters it stops the Google web crawler at the special character and then Google doesn’t know what to do with the post and won’t rank it.
Remember to edit your URL (aka “slug”) before you post! Cut out extraneous articles. For example, “the” and “and” are called “stop words.” Similar to special characters, Google will stop at the stop words and not know how to rank your post. Double check that possessive words didn’t become plural and change the meaning of the word (example: “Kate Middleton’s” becoming “kate-middletons”. No one is searching for Kate Middletons since that’s not her name).
Google needs at least 2-3 sentences at the beginning of the post to crawl so that it can index and rank it correctly. If you start a blog post with one sentence and then a paragraph break Google doesn’t know what to do with that, either. And by the way, the ideal post length is 300 words minimum.
Don’t forget to fill in the alt text field for photos so that they can also be indexed and people searching for them will find your blog. If you’re not sure how to fill in the alt text field on your particular blog platform try Googling it. I’m sure someone else has had the same question. Also make sure your images have descriptive file names, preferably with hyphens or underscores between words. No, I don’t know why. Just trust me on this.
Finally, if you are self-hosted and are using WordPress.org as your blogging platform I highly recommend you install the Yoast plug-in. Yoast allows you to fill in several fields and then it gives you a red, yellow or green light for how well your post has been optimized for search engines. It also gives you tips on what you could do differently to increase your SEO score. ChicagoNow has a great tutorial on Yoast which is where I learned about it. Yoast does NOT tell you which keywords to use, although it can suggest some. But it will tell you if you’ve checked all the right spots to make your post rank more highly for people searching for the keyword you’ve chosen.
Now, go out and get found!
Disclaimer: I am not an SEO expert, but as part of running my Eri-thon blog on the ChicagoNow platform and attending Social Media Week I’ve been able to learn from some great resources about all things blogging. And one of those things is Search Engine Optimization or SEO.