You have some ideas for a blog, perhaps you are already creating one, but there is little point in doing so if nobody is going to read it. However relevant and interesting your blog might be, if few people ever discover it, then even fewer people will read it. To increase the visibility of your blog to its potential audience of people who search for related information using search engines and social media, you will need to optimise and promote it. SEO, or search engine optimisation, is all about increasing your blog’s visibility to search engines such as Google and improving its ranking in the search engine results. There are several ways of achieving this, but there are also potential pitfalls that must be avoided. Here we provide some guidelines that will help you achieve these goals and increase your audience.
The value of keywords has changed in line with the increasing sophistication of the Google search algorithm. In the past SEO was all about finding the right keywords and stuffing them into your blogs and metadata, but try to do that nowadays and not only won’t it work, there is a strong possibility you will be penalised. While keyword stuffing is no longer acceptable, the proper use of keywords will help you rise in the search engine rankings; you just need to use them in the right places and in the right quantities.
Nowadays when people search on Google, the search engine attempts to discover what the searcher is really looking for. This semantic search is able to essentially rephrase the search query and, as well as looking for exact matches to the search terms, it also looks at synonyms and other related words. Rather than making keyword research a thing of the past, this means that keyword research is even more important than it used to be. To cover every base, your blog article should not use only the primary keywords and phrases, but also those that are related to them.
To show how this works, let’s assume you are writing a blog about “Driving in Winter”. We can use one of the many keyword research tools that are available on the web to discover what people who are interested in this topic are really searching for; in other words, to understand your readers.
The Google Keyword Planner tool shows the following results for the main keywords and related phrases:
Average number of searches per month
|Driving in winter||70|
|Winter driving safely||480|
|Driving in snow||1,600|
|Best cars for snow||1,000|
|Driving in snow an ice||170|
This is just a small sample of the many results the tool generated, but as you can see it is easy to discover the kind of topics your potential readers might be interested in.
Google Trends is another useful tool. It provides real time data on what people are search for right now, including trends over time and by geographical region. Used in conjunction with Google Keyword Planner it is potentially a powerful resource for really homing in on those important keywords.
The results from your keyword research provide an indication of the kinds of words and phrases you might use in your blog article, but it important to only use them if they are appropriate to the subject material and they flow with the text. Keywords should never read as if they are obviously keywords that you have artificially inserted into the text. One of the most important things to take away from this is: Write for human beings, not for search engines.
Even more important than this is to ensure that all your content is unique. If Google discovers identical content, you will quickly descend in the rankings and you risk being penalised. Writing unique content doesn’t mean taking existing content and changing a few words around; it really does need to be unique and provide your readership with true value.
Your content must grab the attention of your visitors. In our modern world of small attention spans, you literally have just a few seconds in which to engage your reader; if you fail to do you will inevitably lose him. We call it the bounce rate, and it’s important to focus on minimising it.
Title tags inform search engines and social media about the content of your blog post. It is crucial for both SEO and your reader and it is how your post will be shown in search engine results. It is also likely to be used by external websites and social media that links to your article. Some important points about title tags include:
- Keep the entire title to a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 65 characters including spaces.
- Always put the brand at the end of the Title tag.
- Try not to use the exact same TITLE tag as the Blog heading
- Ensure the Title Tag contains the primary keywords, preferably close to the beginning of the title.
- Ensure the Title tag is unique and attention grabbing.
Meta description tags provide search engines and human readers with a summary of the content of your blog. While the meta description no longer impacts significantly on your search engine ranking, it is still potentially useful for SEO. For instance, Google and other search engines may or may not use it in the search engine results, or it might use just a part of it; there are no hard and fast rules, though typically Google might use the first 20 or so words and mash these with other content to create its own snippet. Some pointers are:
- Ensure you have included a Meta Description tag. If you don’t then Google will display a snippet that it creates from the first paragraph in your blog.
- Keep to a maximum of 150 characters including spaces; anything longer than that and Google will clip it. We also recommend a minimum of 50 ch
- While Google states that it doesn’t use the meta description to rank the webpage, it does no harm to reference the primary keywords towards the start of the description. However always target it for a human reader, not for a search engine.
- Try to make the start of the sentence as appealing as possible to encourage people to click on it (as sometimes not the entire Meta Description tag gets displayed on Google). Improving Click-Though Rate (CTR) sends positive signals to Google thus helping improve rankings.
- Ensure Meta Description is unique. It should also provide an accurate overview of the content; never try to fool the reader.
H1 & H2 HTML Headings
The h1 and h2 HTML headings are used to structure your blog. The h1 tag is generally used for the title, and for section headings you should use the h2 tag. Using these tags properly will improve your visitors’ experience of your blog and improve your SEO.
- Ensure each page has a Page Title which is enclosed within an H1 tag
- Ensure the H1 title is not identical to the <Title> tag.
- Try to use a keyword in the title
- A page must only ever have 1 H1 tag; if you use more than one you are likely to create confusion amongst your readers and raise suspicion within the search engine that you are trying to spam multiple keywords.
As mentioned, it’s usually good practice to split blogs into appropriate sections, with each section heading within an h2 tag.
- Ensure each section title is closed within an H2 tag
- You may have multiple H2 tags on a page
- If possible, try avoid using H2 tags for generic keywords such as “Conclusion” but instead make them more relevant to the topic i.e. “Precautions to take when driving in the winter”
- Don’t stuff them with keywords
Images used properly are an important aspect of your SEO as well as your user’s experience; in fact, we recommend that you use at least one image for every blog post you create. Ideally the title of the image should match that of your blog.
- Each blog/post should have a minimum of 1 image/multimedia file
- Aim to keep all images below 100KB in file size; anything longer and you risk long download times, which will cause your visitors to lose patience and leave.
- Ensure every image has an “ALT” tag. This is important for SEO as it tells search engines about the image.
- The contents of the image tag should:
- Describe the purpose of the image.
- Contain all or part of your primary keywords, not necessarily in the same order.
- Avoid using Generic filenames such as “image1.jpg” as many other sites may be using the same automatically generated filename; it doesn’t convey any information regarding the content. Try to keep the filename short but meaningful, and separate keywords using a hyphen.
Internal links are links from your current post to other pages on the website, and they should form a key part of your SEO strategy. They may be navigation links or links within the content of the blog. In addition to providing information for your readers, they also show search engines what related content is important. For example, if your blog is about Driving in Winter, and you have additional content on another post relating to Winter Tyres, then showing a link to that page will improve your ranking for those keywords.
- For every set of “up to” 500 words on a page, check if you are able to put an internal hyperlink to an existing page, whether it’s another blog, or a relevant page on the website (for example, if the blog is about BMW’s and we have a page on BMW’s, then link to it.
- When hyperlinking, use a mixture of existing words within the body of the text, as well as hyperlinks as the anchor text. You don’t necessarily have to have the whole primary keyword hyperlinked.
External Links point to domains outside the current website. Search engines use external links as an indicator of the importance of the website to which the link points, but as creating links through link farms and similar practices, artificial links are now heavily penalised. You should be careful when using them; they must be honest and accurate and genuinely useful to your readers.
- Unless you are deliberately building links to promote an external website, any link which is external to the website, must contain a “nofollow” tag. This will ensure any reputation the page has gained does not get passed onto the external website. The HTML format for this is as follows:
- <a href=”http://www.externalwebsiteexample.com” rel=”nofollow”>your text</a>
Promoting & Referencing a Blog
To maximise you impact and following on social networks you will need to take some proactive steps to promote your blog. Just relying on search engines is finding it is likely to consign it to the lower end of search engine rankings. These are a few tips that will help.
- You do not necessarily need to promote every one of your blogs as this could get interpreted as spamming. Set yourself a schedule or criteria: for example, you might only promote blogs twice per month and the blogs that you promote will be those that are of particularly good value/usefulness and have quality text.
- Reference the blog on Social media.
- Schedule a date when we can reference the blog again, after a few months which will encourage the blog to be re-visited/crawled by search engines.
- Find other third party blogs/forums/discussions where you may find a topic which discusses your latest or previous blogs that you can reference. Be careful to ensure you abide by the third party blogs guidelines.
- Ensure where ever you promote your own blog or article, has a relevant and related page/topic of discussion.
There is a correlation between the length of a blog and where it appears in Google’s search rankings. Longer content also achieves more inbound links, so these two effects are probably related. Longer posts also gain more social shares. While there are no hard and fast rules, our suggestions are:
- For a general blog, aim to have in the region of 500 words.
- For a comprehensive researched blog, aim to have in the region of around 1,200 words.
As we have already said, blogs should be written for end-user experience and not for search engines. These guidelines are not intended for any form of over optimisation of the website, but are there to get the most of what we are investing in.
- Structure – it is important to have an attention grabbing headline or title. This should be followed by a short paragraph that introduced the topic and informs your reader what to expect. Subsequent text should expand on this using a clear structure and h2 tags as described above. Finally, you should end with a conclusion and, if appropriate, a definite call to action.
- Ensure that the grammar, spelling and syntax is perfect; spell and grammar checker can help you there, but don’t rely on them. Always proof read you blog and preferably get somebody else to do so.
- Check your readability statistics including the Flesch-Kincaid using Microsoft Word or similar tools. Avoid over-long sentences and too much jargon.
Blog microdata is an important aspect of SEO: it is included to help search engines classify your blog. The standard microdata vocabulary is called schema markup and is recognised by all the main search engines. While you can add many things about your blog using schema, some of the more important items are:
- Ensure each posts contains micro data for the author
- Include when the post was last updated
- Consider adding important information about yourself including how you may be contacted
There are millions of blogs that are posted on a daily basis; so you need to ensure that you stand out from the crowd.
- Aim to make posts more authorative to make them stand out more, as opposed to writing general posts which blend in with a million others.
- Theme your posts so that the posts complement and other offline and online work that may going on. For example, seasonal campaigns, work that your SEO team may be working on, current theme of paid search campaigns, video campaigns that may be currently being worked on and so on.
- Above all, be original and entertaining; give your readers content that they will enjoy and share.
These tips will help you write better blogs and get better search engine rankings, but don’t expect miracles and instant results; you need patience and dedication.