When I decided to turn my blog into a full-time job a few years ago, I knew I had to increase its exposure. Search engine optimisation, also known as SEO, was the most useful way to do it. This meant using a range of tactics to get my blog ranked higher on Google’s search result pages and bring more people onto the site.
The blogging world is bigger than ever and, with so much competition, I know how hard it can be to persuade people to read yours. That’s why I wanted to share some of the strategies I’ve been following for some time now. SEO can be a very complicated concept so I’m only going to cover the basics, but hopefully these will help give your own blog a much-needed boost!
1. Find and use relevant keywords
Keywords—words and phrases that relate to the subject of your blog—are the backbone of all SEO efforts. This makes it more likely that someone will come across it when they type these words into search engines. I’d recommend Google’s Keyword Planner to help you find the keywords which are most relevant to your blog—it’s simple to use and gives you data from the main search engine you want to target. You should keep your focus on longer keywords of three words or more, instead of general ones, like ‘food recipes’. Shorter keywords and phrases will leave you struggling you against some pretty big players in the game who are difficult to compete with.
Once you have your keywords, you need to include them in your posts, headlines, sub-headings, metadata (the title and description of your site that shows up on search engines), and URLs. But make sure you keep everything looking natural—don’t awkwardly stuff them into headlines or sentences where they look forced or don’t make sense. All of this could look spammy, which Google is getting increasingly wise to. If you’re caught out doing this, your website may be punished by being pushed lower down the search results—not ideal!
Finally, don’t target the same keywords on different pages. This puts them in competition with each other—known in the biz as keyword cannibalisation. Since Google will only rank one page of your site for any given keyword, you won’t be able to drive traffic to all the other pages which use it, so be careful.
2. Make your posts SEO-friendly
Aside from keywords, there are other ways to optimise your blog posts—or in other words, make them SEO-friendly. One is to have great titles. Make sure they all include a natural-sounding keyword and are interesting enough that people will actually click—Sharethrough’s Headline Analyzer is a useful tool which lets you know if you’re doing a good job. The same logic applies to your subheadings and meta descriptions too.
Next, make sure your URLs are clear and friendly, as people are less likely to click on anything difficult to read and understand. You might decide to use the article’s full title—for instance, if your headline is ‘25 unique kitchen design trends’, your URL ending would be: /25-unique-kitchen-design-trends/. Otherwise, you could use a shorter URL like: /unique-kitchen-design/. Both work!
3. Get other websites to link to your blog
Known as link building, getting other websites to link back to yours is another essential SEO tip. Links from other sites are like votes of confidence in Google’s eyes and can boost your site’s search rankings as a result. Building relationships with other bloggers can help with link building, as you can exchange links by mentioning each other’s sites in your posts. You could also offer to write a guest post on another website and include a link to your blog.
You have to do this transparently, though—Google will know if you’re just posting links in a comments section, for instance. It’s also important that you obtain links from blogs which post content within your niche so that it doesn’t look unnatural. If you’re a fashion blogger, look towards other fashion blogs or at least sites that curate couture-based content. Exchanging links or guest posting on a tech website, for instance, may look spammy, depending on the context. James Barber, Head of Strategy at London based SEO agency Go Up, suggests considering the value that your link contributes to the linking site itself. He explains: “If you have thorough justification for your link, you’ll be more likely to generate referral traffic.”
4. Have a design that your users love
A great blog design makes for great user experience. 86% of people are unlikely to return to websites they don’t like, so a bad design could cost you a lot of potential readers. It also helps Google make sense of your site, making it much more likely to achieve a higher ranking.
My top tip is to keep it simple so that your visitors are to find every page on your blog if they wanted to. You should also make sure everything is consistent when it comes to features like format, structure, and graphics. It’s vital that you think about how your blog looks on a phone as well as a laptop because 52% of all internet traffic now comes from mobiles. This is why Google displays mobile-friendly pages first. Shane Barker has plenty of ideas if you’re keen to improve your blog design.
5. Keep blogging
Finally, the simplest bit of SEO advice is to simply keep on blogging! Producing fresh content on a regular basis will help you gain exposure, as Google really values this. The more often you update your site, the more frequently Google will visit it, which boosts your chances of better rankings. Users always want up-to-date content that answers their questions, so make sure your blog caters to those needs.
It’s also important that you update your old content so that it stays relevant. The more people that click through to your content, the more likely Google will consider it high quality, and boost your rankings as a reward for your efforts!