Blogging tips: simple SEO for bloggers

A cheeky cocktail with Laura discussing the ins and outs of domain authority inspired me to write up this post. There's a whole load of stuff you can do to help optimise your blog for search engines that it can sometimes be a bit of a minefield knowing where to start.

My day job involves managing the website for a large, multinational company, so SEO is one thing we have to pay close attention to. I've pulled out a few of my key tips for optimising your blog but if there's anything else you've got questions on or would like ro see covered, please just let me know!

Keywords are the basis for virtually all SEO work as they identify which words you’re trying to optimise your page for. Keywords and phrases are the terms that you’d expect someone to enter into Google to find your piece of content. They are page specific, and for the most part, you will only ever need to have one or two key phrases per page.

Most of the time, your keywords will be quite obvious – if you’re writing a review of a specific product (a Nivea Lip Butter review for example) then the keyword/phrase will probably be ‘Nivea Lip Butter review’. If you’re writing a roundup style post, ‘5 of the best budget mascaras’, then your keyword/phrase is ‘best budget mascaras’.

Because of the high competition for single words, most SEOs will use short key phrases to help target their content as the competition for the same terms is much lower. Aim for two to three words per phrase.

If you know your audience, and are writing content targeted to that audience, finding the correct keywords should hopefully be pretty easy.

Where to place your keywords:
Google will look at several places to try to identify what your page is about. The URL is a key one, so always make sure your key phrase forms part of the URL (this is automatically created by your post title in Blogger, however you can customise this using the ‘permalink’ section on the right-hand side of each post).

Wherever possible, also use the key phrase in the post title – this helps to re-enforce the message. It’s usually coded in to your template to be the H1 tag (aka Heading 1) which is a primary source of information for Google.

Then, use it sparingly throughout the blog post content itself. Ideally this would be somewhere in your first paragraph of text and then maybe two other times throughout a decent length piece. Add it where it’s relevant – you don’t want it to look spammy – decently written content should take priority.

Meta Descriptions:
Writing a decent Meta Description is a bit of an art form but is a great way to try and boost your ranking for a particular page.

The Meta Description is the piece of text that you see underneath a link when you do a Google search. It’s limited to 155 characters, should hold your page keywords and essentially be the ‘marketing text’ for that particular page. Ideally it should also contain a call to action, such as ‘find out more’ to entice the reader to click through onto your page.

You can add this in to Blogger posts via the ‘search description' field. If you don’t add a custom one, Google will generate one for you, usually from the first paragraph of your copy.

Meta Description example:
Screenshot of a meta title and meta description example
Keyword tools:
If you want to get REALLY into your keyword research, there are a few things you can do. First, Google the term you plan to use as your key phrase for the blog post. This will give you an idea of other sites you might be competing against and whether or not you need to tailor/adapt your key phrase a little.

Google Trends is also great for looking at rough search volumes for your particular key phrase – again, if no-one seems to be hunting for it, then maybe it’s better to adjust it for something similar that is more popular.

Domain authority
Domain authority (DA) is essentially a measure of how authoritative Google believes your site to be on a scale of 1-99 (99 being the best). You can check your domain authority via: https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/ which gets updated every few months.

There are a whole load of things that can affect your DA – how long you’ve had the domain for, the number of quality links that are coming into your site, whether the site is seen as spammy, for example.

Many SEO agencies will look at DA as a measure when choosing bloggers to work with for certain campaigns, so it’s definitely beneficial to be aware of what yours is and take steps to try to improve it. Many stick to bloggers with a DA of 20+, but this tends to vary from agency to agency.

The first step to building your DA is to buy your own domain. If your current blog url reads something like: myblogisawesome.blogspot.co.uk then you don’t own your domain and all authority associated with your blog actually belongs to Blogger (if you check your DA via the site above and get a result of 90-something, it’s almost definitely going to be because you don’t have your own domain and it’s actually showing Blogger’s DA rating).

You can purchase your own domain from about £10 per year via a site like Go Daddy, which is very simple to do.

Once you have your own domain, look for quality opportunities for links to your blog. If a brand has featured you on their website/blog for example, ask if they would mind linking back to your site.

Leaving links on other blogs (via the comments) is also another way to help increase your link profile, however please always be respectful to the blogger – we all know how much a good comment means, so make it something worthwhile and include one link (no more) if you choose to.

Linking internally and externally
As well as links into your site, the way YOU choose to link can have a positive impact on your overall SEO ranking. Google likes sites that are helpful, so only link where it’s really relevant and always, always, always try to link on relevant keywords rather than on something like ‘read more here’.

Linking to external sites is helpful for showing readers relevant articles or places they can buy certain products, but if the product has been sent to you as a PR sample, or part of a paid campaign, these should be marked as No Follow (more on that in a minute).

Wherever possible, link out on the keywords that match the web page you’ll be linking to. For example, if you’re sending the link to the Boots website for a Max Factor False Lash Effect Mascara, you’d ideally link on the words ‘Max Factor False Lash Effect Mascara’ within your blog post. This helps Google identify where you’re sending people – linking on ‘my favourite mascara’ isn’t as helpful and doesn’t signpost things as well.

You should also link to other posts within your own blog wherever possible (and relevant) as this helps to keep people within your own site and shows that you’re authoritative across different subjects. Again, link on keyword specific phrases if you can (e.g. ‘My New York Haul’ would link to a post on my New York haul) as this helps to indicate the content people can expect to find on the next page and will keep your bounce rates low.  

Follow vs no follow links
There are two types of links – Follow and No Follow.

Follow links tell Google that you really trust this site and you’re happy to pass on your website’s authority to it. It means that they will pay attention to this link and potentially use it when calculating which websites they should be showing in the search results for certain keywords.

No Follow indicates to Google that while you’re happy to link to the website, you’d rather not pass on your own domain authority to it. It also means that they won’t pay any attention to this link when calculating their search results. It can also indicate a paid for link. Google recently updated their guidelines to include product samples within this – it doesn’t want companies to be able to skew the search results by sending out hundreds of products, each of which then generate links in blog posts in a close period of time. So for any PR samples you receive or paid for content, ALL links should be marked as No Follow.

To make a link a No Follow, there’s a box you can tick when adding your link called ‘Add rel=’nofollow’ attribute’ which will then add the right piece of code to your link for you.

There’s a whole section of Google related to image searches, ironic considering that Google can’t actually see your pictures, only the text associated with them.

It’s really important to name your images. Don’t just leave them as the default number code (e.g. DSC001258) that your camera gives it. Re-name it to something keyword friendly that describes the image. Be specific – if you’re showing swatches of something, make sure you name it that. Or if it’s a shot of the packaging, then use that phrase. For example ‘YSL Rouge Volupte Shine Lipsticks new spring shades swatches on pale skin’.

When you upload them to your blog, ALWAYS make sure you give them an Alt Tag – this is what Google uses to understand what your image is of. Be literal, it should be a text description of what the image shows, ideally in around 10 words or less.

Alt Tags are also used by those with sight difficulties that use screen reading software that will read out the description of your image. I use this as my sense check for Alt Tags – does it describe my picture well enough that someone who can’t see it could get a decent idea of what it’s of? If you don’t add Alt Tags, you can be penalised by Google, so it’s well worth taking a few minutes to complete this.

Go social
More and more, social media is playing a part in the Google algorithm. It’s very much a guess and see effort at the moment, but content that gets shared on social in a big way is more likely to have a positive impact on your search profile. It’s not an exact science, just something to be aware of. Make your content easy to share by adding the Pinterest button to your blog, share blog post links across your social channels and try to create content that you think others might like to share.

Webmaster Tools
These are probably something for another post (this one is pretty long as it is!) as this is great for anyone looking to get more involved in the technical side of SEO and the more complex stuff. Webmaster Tools is another Google platform that allows you to check the overall health of your website, look for things like broken links, how your site appears to Google Bots and if there are any issues that need fixing. It will also tell you how you can fix them, so it’s a really useful to spend a few hours/days with.

It’s free to set up your account – if you already have Google Analytics installed then you will just need to link the accounts together and you’ll be good to go!

Apologies for the massive essay – thank you for reading if you made it all the way to the end! And if you have any questions/other things you’d like me to cover, please just let me know in the comments.


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