SEO (search engine optimization) is a subject that keeps bloggers up at night…when it really shouldn’t. As Google and other popular search engines continue to tweak their algorithms to provide more accurate results for their searching public, there are still core SEO values that you need to adhere to as a blogger and – the rest – you need to forget. SEO can become an obsession for a blogger and also become the blogger’s downfall when search engine results are weighed heavier than unique and consistent content.
So…what do you need to do to make sure your WordPress blog is setup properly so you can forget about the little changes and still see fantastic search engine results?
The SEO Basics That Never Change
First, what are the aspects of SEO that have the greatest impact and never change? Pagerank? Keyword heavy articles? Some magic plugin?
Did you pick none of the above?
Here are the following aspect of SEO that are never (and I use that word strongly) going to change.
- Clean/Spider Friendly Code
- Quality Link Backs from Other Blogs/Websites
- Regularly Updated, Unique Content
What many bloggers fail to realize in their quest for the top blog on Google is that the functions behind blogging that make it so interactive also make it one of the most search engine friendly mediums on the Internet. The same things you do to generate a large subscriber count can also bring you the greatest results in search engine traffic. Have you ever wondered why the blogs with the largest subscriber count get the top spot for high competing keywords? It is not because they hired some SEO firm to rewrite all of their content with the guarantee of top placement, it is not because they bought links on other blogs and it was not because they know something you don’t.
The largest subscribed blogs on the net get the top placement because they focused on creating unique content that connected with people. As a side note, they cleaned up code and made sure they had certain tools in place to make sure their unique content was easily spider-able. So…lets take each of the 3 items above and break them down so your blog can see the same success in search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Clean/Spider Friendly Code for Your Blog
There are some technical aspects to blogging that you need to have setup correctly so the search engine spiders can find your content, figure out what your content is about and find you targeted readers that are looking for what you are saying. To accomplish this, we are going to use several tools that make your life much easier in the SEO optimization world.
A word about WordPress themes – One of the selling features of premium themes over the free ones you can find in various directories…is that…typically…premium themes have a better code structure that improves page load times and improve a spiders ability to find the information it needs to properly index your site. While there are free themes that accomplish this, I have found that a premium theme or a custom designed theme by an experienced designer does a much better job at this. To find a WordPress theme that fits these needs…check out this article on choosing a WordPress theme for your blog.
To handle the technical side of SEO for your blog, we are going to install several plugins that take care of most of the job for you automatically and configure WordPress correctly.
First…let’s make sure you have WordPress configured correctly for optimal search engine results.
Permalinks – There is some debate on permalink structure, but most SEO experts and successful bloggers will agree the following structure – http://www.yourblog.com/post-name/ – works the best for keyword rich, spiderable urls. Under the permalinks setting under you settings tab in WordPress, click on custom and fill in the black with this /%postname%/.
Warning: If you have already been blogging for sometime and are just now changing to this url structure, make sure you have Platinum SEO Pack or Redirection installed to redirect your old url permalink structure to the new format. Otherwise, when readers click on the old links, they will not get to the proper article on your blog.
Platinum SEO Pack Plugin – To insure your blog has the correct code and roadmap for search engine spiders, install the Platinum SEO pack plugin. This plugin is much like the All-In-One SEO plugin, but it will automatically handle the URL redirect that was warned about above.
Configuring the Platinum SEO Pack Plugin – Here are the following settings that should be used in the plugins administration panel.
Choosing Your Own Keyword Descriptions vs. Automatic via Plugin – Personally, I always recommend choosing your own article meta keywords and description in the drafting phase of your article. While you can let the plugin do this work for you, it will not always pick the best description, so – by writing your own, catchy, keyword driven description – you can catch the search engine visitors eyes while also providing the search engines with valuable information about your article. There are some themes on the market that have fields for these items built into their functionality (ex. Thesis), but I would recommend using the plugins (All-In-One or Platinum SEO) fields in case you want to change themes at a future date. The less you rely on a design…the better for future expansion and changes.
Firefox Internet Browser – As a blogger, if you are not using Firefox…you need to start today. Firefox has a ton of addon’s that benefit bloggers and designers, but there is one feature that you are going to use right away to insure your code is clean and setup correctly. Once you install Firefox and you have all of your SEO settings in place, go to your homepage. Click on the menu item View and then click on Page Source. The window that pops up is the code that generates your website. For SEO, you are looking for 3 distinct items:
<meta name="title" content= <meta name="keywords" content= <meta name="description" content=
You want to make sure that what you typed in your fields is showing up correctly on the homepage (uses the settings within the plugin) and on the article page (what you type in the fields). What else are you looking for in the source code? You need to make sure each of these items are only listed once.
Like I mentioned before, there are WordPress themes that have some of this functionality built in, and if you have those fields filled out in your theme and in the plugin, these meta tags are going to show up twice with different contents. That is bad…if you see this meta tags listed twice, go back into your theme and delete the entries (make sure the fields are blank) and properly fill out the information in the plugin. After you are complete and have saved your settings, go back and repeat this process to make sure everything for your SEO is clean, not duplicated and defined properly on both your blog’s homepage and article page.
SEO Hint – This same process you use to make sure your blog is clean for search engine optimization purposes is another way you can spy on your blog’s competition. Want to know which keywords other blogger’s successful articles are using? Hit up page source and you can see for yourself…
Sitemaps – Sitemaps provide search engine spiders with a roadmap to navigate your content. Luckily, there is a WordPress plugin that will handle the generation and submission process for you. Download and install the XML-Sitemap plugin in your plugin directory and activate. This plugin will do everything for you as you sit back and generate more content on your blog. I would also highly recommend setting up Webmaster Tools in Google and the other search engines for your domain. These tools will allow you to see if you are being spidered correctly and provide you with the necessary information to diagnose any possible errors.
Linking Within Posts – It is always good practice – as a blogger – to link back to previous posts in your articles to provide readers with relevant content related to that article that you have written previously. The side effect to that value is that you are providing the search engine spiders with another outlet to find older content. By linking back, you are telling the spider to find your older content through a more recent article.
Quality Link Backs from Other Blogs/Websites
The emphasis on this section is going to be QUALITY link-backs. As a blogger, you will get offered to to link exchanges on a regular basis. Unfortunately, 99.9% of the link exchanges are not a good idea. For one, reciprocal links (like link exchanges) do not carry much weight for SEO purposes. If you want to link back to a blog that you like or your friend runs, great…have at it. But you are not going to see much SEO value out of that link.
Quality Link Backs are obtained through several outlets, but I will cover the ones you should be concerned with as a blogger.
- Guest posts on other blogs – By guest posting on other blogs, you are creating target traffic to your blog, but you are also getting a quality, one-way link from a prominent blog in your niche. This form of one-way linking is the most powerful for SEO purposes.
- Link-Bait/Pilar Content – Did you write an in-depth article that was unique and got a lot of traffic? Chances are…other bloggers are going to appreciate the work you have put into creating this fine blog article masterpiece and link back to it to share that content with others. Again, this link-bait content attracts one-way linking back to your blog.
- Controversial Topics – Another way of increasing the urge to link to your blog is to have a defined opinion about something related to your blogging topic. By putting your opinion out there, you are encouraging others to add their own opinion by spreading yours.
- Sharing the Love – Linking out to other blogs on the net without asking for anything in return is another popular way of gaining one-way inbound links. While this is not a guaranteed solution, it does seem to work well over time. The trick is to link out to relevant content as a resource to your readers without expecting a link-back. If you are just linking out hoping for something in return…you are wasting your time.
- Get The News Before The Major Publications – As a small (or even large) blogger, you can launch the news faster than big publications. If something hits your niche blog topic and you are able to break the news first, that will encourage everyone to link to your article over the other sites that are late to the party.
As you can probably notice by this list, all of the items that encourage quality link-backs from other blogs and websites are also things you should be doing to increase your readership and grow value to your blog. As a side effect to writing this unique, relevant content, you get valuable SEO assets that help you rank higher in search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Regularly Updated, Unique Content – SEO Gold
The aspect of blogging that builds a community around the words in your articles is also one of the driving forces behind search engine optimization. By providing regularly updated, unique content, your blog is highly regarded in the eyes of search engines. One of the main reasons that large corporations are adding blogs to their sites is for this exact reason! Search engines LOVE unique, up-to-date content. Put it this way…when you search for terms on Google, do you want an article to hit #1 that is 7 years old and outdated? Of course you wouldn’t. So Google (and other search engines) are striving to output the most up-to-date relevant content possible to their users.
Blogs are the biggest asset when it comes to live content and multimedia and that is why (when updated regularly) a blog is spidered much more frequently than a static web page. Try to pick a posting schedule and stick to it. If you are going to post 3 times a week…great! If you want to post once a day…even better in my eyes. The trick is to pick a schedule you can work with and work that schedule. Your readers going to become depend upon that schedule as much as you are and search engines are going to eat up your unique content.
Final Notes On Wordress SEO for Bloggers
There is a lot of obsession with keyword density and that perfect blog structure that will bring you SEO gold. In all reality, there are several tips you can adhere to that will accomplish the result you are after as a blogger. To summarize up this article on WordPress SEO for bloggers, let’s hit the main points so you can get back to generating unique content on your blog.
Write for the Reader First…Search Engine Second – When you are drafting a blog article, write for your readers first. After you are done with the drafting process, go back and take a look over the article to see if there are way to insert unique keyword strings without ruining the flow. Afterall, you are trying to build a long-lasting community…not just a top spot on Google. For the best results, it is better to insert unique keyword combinations and not the same keyword string repeated over and over again. This is better for SEO and readability of your blog.
Title Tags – As you separate your article into readable sections with title tags (h2/h3/etc.), include keyword combinations within these tags. Search engine spiders put a little bit more weight on the text contained within these tags as they spider your content.
Images – If you are including images in your blog posts (which I highly suggest), make sure you fill out the required fields for the “alt” and “title” text. These keyword descriptions are going to add valuable keywords to your article (that can’t be seen by the reader), but they will also help you in image search results for increased traffic to your blog.
Bold and Italics – While seen as a good practice for SEO purposes in your blog, this is one I do not use very often. Search engine spiders put a little bit more weight on bold and italicized words over regular text, so – by bolding keyword strings like Search Engine Optimization for Blogs, you are showing Google and other search engines which words you deem more important. However, there are some bloggers that take this tip over the top and it ends up taking away from their content.
So…there you have it! The stupid simple guide to search engine optimization for bloggers. Keep to these tips and tricks and you too can see a top spot in Google, Yahoo or Bing and start to see your blog grow exponentially with new visitors and subscribers. Most important thing to take from this article…keep the unique content flowing.