Ranking well in search engines and getting indexed is not rocket science…even though many seem to think blog SEO is a black art.
This week, I published a review on Bike198 that got indexed in Google and ranked on the 1st page within 20 minutes of hitting the publish button. Do I have your attention now? Let’s get started…
A Common Misconception In Blog SEO
There is a common misconception within the SEO community. Everyone seems to think that if you just to the technical side of SEO (titles, meta descriptions, etc.)…you will rank well and that’s the end of it. Ever wonder why the same people that spew this crap can’t seem to even get their own sites to rank well?
It’s because they have ignored the biggest contributing factor to SEO.
The greatest asset you have against your competition in regards to ranking well in Google and other search engines is amazing content. I know…you are sick of hearing the crap about “content is king” and how many times you should be posting a week…so let’s break it down into terms that actually make sense and does not have a bunch of tag lines attached that cheapen up the process. Then…we can take a look at the technical side of SEO to make sure you have everything setup correctly to insure greatest possible success…
Let’s Get Your Articles On The 1st Page Of Google
All SEO starts and ends with incredible content. The ultimate goal of Google and other search engines is to have the best content up front for their audience. They are not looking for the best optimized pages or the article that has the most keywords stuffed in it. Their algorithms search out content that is the most valuable to their customers…people like you and me. Think about it this way…if you were to search for “Audi R8 Review” in Bing and the first 5 results were nothing but keyword stuffed pages and then you headed over to Google and the first 5 results were Car and Driver, Auto Weekly and other industry rags…which search engine would you use the next time?
In the search engine world…usage is king. They need their results to be the most valuable to get repeat users. This does not equal subpar content that just seems to have all of the technical stuff in place.
To this day…there are certain things that ultimately decide your fate in search engines that has not changed in years. Most importantly…quality links back to your content. Now, how do you get people to link to what you have to say? You publish articles that are worth linking to! It really is that simple.
So…as you can see…all of the weight is on the content and the value it provides to the reader. As you publish quality content, you get links and clicks that increase your worth to search engines so your content continues to climb.
The Second Part of the Search Engine Equation
Now, all of this is great, but at the end of the day your content has to get spidered. How often your content gets spidered and indexed is a direct result of your publishing schedule. Google and other search engines spider and cache pages on a regular basis, but to save on processing time (which equals money), the search engines keep track of how regularly your site is publishing new content. By doing this, they are able to save money on their end while still picking up your articles.
There really is no secret number to how often you should be publishing articles. On Bike198, I publish four to five articles a week. Due to the consistency of my articles over the course of time, search engines visit my site several times a day, so when a new article goes live…it is picked up quickly.
The key here is to publish articles as regularly as you can while still keeping quality up.
If you have a relitively new site (under a year), be prepared to not rank incredibly well for at least a year. It takes time to build up links and search engines tend to hold you down for awhile until they figure out if you are credible or not. There are exceptions to that rule, but generally it is pretty accurate.
So you have great content…it is getting published consistently…you are starting to get links…let’s take a look at the tech side of the equation…
The Technical Side Of SEO For Blogs
There are a couple of tools that I mention here that I personally use (and many that I paid for). While these free and paid options are my picks that I have personally tested, there are other options out there that probably work pretty well.
First, if you are not using Firebug and Yoast’s Firefox plugin that turns off personalized search…you need to start to immediately. Firebug will allow you to see your webpage code and Yoast’s Firefox plugin allows you to see how you are ranking in Google with the personalized search turned off. In case you didn’t already know…you will probably rank really well when signed into GMail or any other Google app due to the fact that it pays attention to where you visit the most. You need to see where you rank with those options turned off.
General Good Practice Article SEO
There are several things you should be doing with the publish of every article on your blog.
- Interlinking Your Articles – On every article you publish, you should be linking up past articles within your content when it is relevant. This is a great way to get search engines to follow those links and keep old articles fresh. It also exposes your readership to articles they may have not seen in the past that they can then share and link to. M
- Manually Entering In Meta Information – Did you know that the automatic meta description function of SEO plugins like All In One SEO basically just pick up the first 160 characters of your article? Knowing that…how many times have you started your articles with that in mind? How boring would the beginning of all of your articles be if you did it on all of them? For this reason…you should be manually writing all of your titles and meta descriptions regardless of which SEO plugin you use for WordPress. I have had the best luck recently with Yoast’s new SEO plugin for WordPress. It actually lets me see how my article will look in Google on the draft page before I hit publish. It also does a lot of other things that are just good practice.
- Create Attention Grabbing Headlines – There is a natural want to make bland titles that have the specific keywords for good rankings. However, if your title is so boring that no one clicks on it, you will start to move down the rankings. You need to write relevant, attention grabbing headlines that invite clicks. As you get more clicks…you will move up.
- Create Easy To Read Articles – To appeal to the widest audience, you should be writing about at a middle school to lower high school level. You should also be using your H1, H2, H3 tags to create headlines that have relevant keywords and break up the article into understandable chunks. Search engines weight these lines heavier to get an idea of what it is you are talking about and it helps your readers digest the content.
- Keyword Density – In the old days, you could stuff a bunch of keywords in the footer of a site the same color of the background and rank well. The days have changed and the search engines are much smarter. Remember…they are looking for quality content. Personally, I use Scribe to tell me how I am doing on keyword density and general SEO on my articles. It has served me well so far and most of my Bike198 articles hit the first page pretty quickly. I am sure there are other free options out there…but the consistency and quality has shown results for me as I do not want to read through articles and start counting words and links.
- Encourage Social Media Sharing – Find out what your users are sharing with and encourage it by placing share buttons at the top and bottom of your articles. No matter what…have at least Facebook and Twitter (if your audience actually uses it). Search engines are starting to look at how many times you are linked up in social media outlets to find out what people are reading. By encouraging this behavior, you are not only getting more eyes in front of your content…but you are going to rank well.
- Research Long Tail Keywords – Unless you are already the leader in your niche, you are not going to rank well for your one or two keyword combinations. To rank well in the early going, you need to research long tail keyword combos (3 to 6 word strings) that you can have better success with. As you build up credible results in those strings, you will naturally start ranking better for the higher competing keywords. I use Market Samurai to do all of my research for content based long tail keywords. It has been a fantastic tool that gives me solid results.
- Watch Your Searches – Within Google Analytics, you should be watching two things that will give you article ideas that you can rank well for. The first, the keywords your readers are using that are making them land on your pages and…the second, what they are searching for on your site through the site search box (you can set this up easily in analytics and they even tell you how). If you are not have not written anything on these terms…you should be.
Good Practice Blog SEO
While those are great things to do in your articles…what should you be doing on your blog?
- Speed Things Up – Recently, Google introduced page load speed into their search algorithm. The downside to that…most blogger’s websites are incredibly slow. Install W3 Total Cache and use it. It will help your pages load faster by caching your site on your server. The #1 main reason that a lot of blogs load slowly outside of caching is images. Your images on your blog should be no bigger than 1024 pixels on the long end and no more than 130k at the highest. There are blogs I visit on a daily basis that are loading several MB of images on a single article. If it takes more than 10 seconds to load that article…it will get pushed down to the bottom. Check the sizes of your images before posting.
- Clean Up Your Sidebar and Plugins – I have said this about a million times, but only put things in your sidebar that 75% of your users actually need. Your floating tag cloud (while you think it looks cool) only distracts from your content, causes your pages to load slower and messes up your code. You have to resist the urge to install every single plugin you find as it drastically alters your blog negatively and you ultimately do not need it.
- Double Check Your Blog’s Code – There has been a recent trend of including SEO within themes and theme frameworks. I hate this idea. If you want to change themes in the future all of the work you did to make sure your meta information was correct goes out the window. With some themes, if you use a plugin for SEO, you get duplicate meta tags in your code. This is a bad thing. Use Firebug to make sure you do not have duplicated meta descriptions and meta tags. If you do…remove them from your theme or find someone who can.
- General Search Engine Maintenance – Make sure you have a sitemap plugin installed (like XML Sitepmaps) and submit those sitemaps to the search engines. You also need to need to sign up for a Google Webmaster account and watch your page load speed and errors. Any of those concerns should be fixed immediately.
- “NoFollow” Any Irrelevant Pages – Do you really want your admin links or date archives to carry pagerank or would you rather have that filtered to the homepage? That’s what I thought…so why are you letting search engines follow these links and…worst yet…index these pages? Date based archives are nothing but duplicate content of the homepage and you are discounting yourself if you are letting them be archived. How many times have you search for content that was published in June of 2009? I use the Yoast SEO plugin to accomplish this task as well…
- Avoid Duplicate Content Between Tags and Categories – Do not use the same terms in your tags as your categories. You end up duplicating archives that way. Think of your categories as top level terms and tags secondary terms.
- Have A Memorable Brand and Logo – By having a unique and memorable brand, you are able to stay at the forefront of readers minds and increase the likelihood that they will come back to your content. If you have a boring, keyword stuffed, bland brand name and an even worse logo, all of the work you do to separate yourself from the spammers. While it is nice to have keywords within your domain name, the fact that it is interesting and memorable is far more important.
- Get Reliable, Fast Hosting – While the attractive prices of some of the shared hosting services out there is attractive, if your site is slow loading or down…search engines aren’t going to have much to do with you. About the best deal I have found out there is HostGator for beginning bloggers. I use a much more expensive option…but it is faster and more reliable with extreme backups. Use what is in your budget but make sure they are credible.
Set, Forget and Test Your Search Engine Optimization
Much of the technical side of blog SEO is a set and forget process…or at least just a maintenance checklist before you publish an article. The hard part of SEO is the actual work…the content. Without content that people actually want to read and spread…you are just applying technical SEO to junk…and junk will not perform well.
When I consult companies on their SEO, the first thing we look at is content and how we can attract new customers while increasing their relevant indexed pages in search engines. In the blogging world…you should not treat your blog any differently than that. SEO is not a black art…it is just one that many people don’t understand because they get stuck on the technical side of things instead of focusing on creating content that people actually want to read.
When you do this…over time…over and over again…results come. There is no secret key or black magic trick. Just solid foundations with quality content and that will never change.
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