So You Want to Blog? – Part III: SEO

So You Want to Blog? – Part III: SEO

I’m trying to do this blogging series in the order that a new blogger would have to consider.  Part I was about getting started and choosing a blogging platform.  Part II was all about layout, but today’s Part III is unique in it’s something that both new bloggers should think about before they start and current bloggers can benefit from.

SEO stands for search engine optimization, otherwise known as how high your blog ranks on Google.  If you do not care about visitor numbers or you want to remain private, you can pretty much skip this entire post.  However, if you do want lots of people to find and read your blog… SEO is extremely important.

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How important?  It’s the #2 way I get blog traffic to my site.  Well over 10,000 visits in 2015 so far.

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Okay, so SEO is important… but how do you go about getting organic traffic from Google?  First, you need to know how Google “reads” your page for search results.  What I’m outlining here is a very simplified explanation.  People devote their entire careers to this stuff, so I’m just touching the surface.

Optimizing a page for SEO means that you are optimizing a certain string of keywords.  For an example, we’ll say I’m going to make a new blog that I want to have the #1 placement on Google when someone searches “Thoroughbred Rescue Blog.”

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The first and most important area to embed your keywords is your domain name or web address.  This means that you need to pick the most general but appropriate keyword for your blog and incorporate that into your domain name.  This is why I say that bloggers should think about SEO before they start blogging!  I didn’t, and my domain name gives me 0 credit for “horse blog” and instead a lot of credit for moving to Texas.

So for our example, a great domain name for SEO would be www.thoroughbredrescueblog.com or www.tbrescueblog.com.  Literally our entire keyword is the domain, which tells Google “Wow this site really knows a lot about being a Thoroughbred rescue blog.

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Don’t despair if you already have a domain name that isn’t SEO optimized, like I do.  There are other ways to get SEO keywords into your blog posts.

The next most important after domain is your site title tag.  This is the HTML snippet that doesn’t show up on the page, but instead in the tab in a browser and the name of your result on Google.  My site title for this blog is “She Moved to Texas | Life & Horses in the Lone Star State”… which is not a very well optimized title!

To make an optimized SEO title, you need to incorporate your keyword string + your blog name in the title.  So for our example, some good titles would be…

  • New Strides! A Thoroughbred Rescue Blog
  • Rescuing Thoroughbreds | A Horse Blog

Now before you think, “Hey!  I should just put ALL THE KEYWORDS in my title for the best SEO” remember that Google only pays attention to 50-60 characters.  Ideally you want your page/site title to be under 55 characters.

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Next, it’s best to optimize your page headers.  HTML gurus will know that sites typically have an H1, H2, H3 tag in the code which prioritizes your text headers by order of importance.  Google reads these, and thinks that whatever text is in your page headers must be pretty important for the content of the page.

Bloggers need not worry if you’re not techy, because the title of your blog post is almost always an H1 or H2.  So if you’re blogging about a topic you want to SEO, make your post title very descriptive.  I do this a lot with my blogging.  On days where I don’t care about Google traffic or the post is personal, my titles are more obscure.  On posts that are informative or ones where I want to generate a lot of traffic, I will specifically spell things out like “You Know You’re a Horse Person When” or “DIY – How to Crochet Your Own Fly Bonnet“.

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Finally, try to embed keywords in the actual blog post itself.  You don’t want to say “thoroughbred rescue blog” every other word, but make sure you actually name what you’re talking about if you want the page to have good search results.  I don’t typically concentrate too much on this, mainly because this is a personal blog and we tend to organically talk about the subject of our blog posts!

That covers the things you can do on your blog to improve SEO, but the other half is what you do outside of it!  That’s probably the most complicated part of search optimization, so I’m going to very briefly bullet point out good things to do to improve your domain authority and how Google sees your site.

  • Encourage shares on social media.  Facebook likes, Pins and Tweets all tell Google that your site is legit and people enjoy reading it… which means higher results
  • Get others to link to your site.  Again, this improves your Domain authority.  For bloggers, a great way is having your friends add you to their blog roll and link to your blog if they reference you in posts
  • Comment on other blogs and leave your web address!  When you leave a comment on other blogs, you’re basically creating a link back to your own blog which is super important.
  • Learn more about whatever analytics you have for your site to track your success.  With my self-hosted WordPress, I use Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics.

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I hope this helps some who have questions about SEO!  I anticipate questions from those who are interested, so feel free to fire them at me in the comments.

18 thoughts on “So You Want to Blog? – Part III: SEO

    1. You want your key words to be how people find your blog. When I decide to go after a key word, I typically…

      a) Make sure it is very closely related to the type of blog post you are writing
      b) Go for something that is searched for often (you can find this out through Google tools) yet doesn’t have a ton of competition

  1. Excellent post! Thought I would throw in my own two cents since I do SEO for a living (although wish I rode horses for a living!).
    1 – Be careful having an EMD (Exact match domain) to your keywords. There are now Google updates that penalize for this. In the old days this was definitely good to do but now a days keyworded domains don’t matter as much because its more about the SEO quality of the content on the site.
    2 – Blog Comments are good but again be careful. You would want to go and leave a ton of comments on unrelated blogs or that can look like spam and unfortunately those can lead to a penalty from the Penquin update. It’s best to just leave your URL when commenting on blogs related to yours. If you commenting on blogs that would be a little far fetched.
    The sucky thing about SEO is it changes daily. So what works today might not tomorrow or next week. Which as a note – there is a new mobile update happening on April 21st and any sites not mobile friendly won’t rank as well and therefore could lose traffic! So make sure you check your site is mobile friendly. And as a side note – research Google Panda, Penguin and Mobile Algorithms. This will definitely give you an idea of what NOT to do. 🙂
    Great post tho! You have an excellent way of explaining things. My company has an open SEO position (wink wink) but you’d have to move back to NC (I know you’re dying to do that).

    1. Whoops – Above for #2 should say “You wouldn’t want to go”.. and the last sentence should say “If you commenting on blogs that would be a little far fetched, don’t leave it. Just leave your email and name.”

    2. I’d move back to NC in a heart beat, but lots of other factors 🙂 Thanks for your additions! SEO is so complicated and constantly a fine line between doing enough and doing too much.

  2. This is all great advice, thank you! You may already be planning a post on this – but I would love some advice on easy ways to share your blog through social media. I have a twitter account and hootsuite account for the blog that have yet to be used cause I am kind of clueless. I’ve been manually posting to facebook because that seems to help the post reach people (it started hiding/burying my posts shared automatically through Networked Blogs). I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

  3. Great post! =) Also, for people who really want their blog to get “big” (and monetize), I believe you can hire pro SEO techs to review and optimize your code.

  4. Super informative!! I frequently feel like some kind of SEO idiot and it’s really hard to find posts like this- that are explanatory and informative without being like “PAY US TO OPTIMIZE YOU!!!”

  5. Since Google changes algorithms for SEO regularly, unless you are in the business and you want to revamp and customize your site, your best bet is just to write good content and not worry about the rest. SEO is much more sophisticated than it used to be and it’s not as easy to “stack the deck” in your favor.

    For those of you still worrying, Google is about to change it’s algorithm and rumor is that sites that are not responsive will be penalized (number of heard is they will fall 35% in search results). So make sure you choose a platform/template that accommodates mobile devices.

    1. Currently that responsive change is only for mobile traffic, although with Google there’s no telling when that will change.

      I think for blogging you can employ some basic SEO techniques as explained about without necessarily stacking the deck. For example, writing title about making bonnets that says “How to Make Horse Bonnets” is going to be better than writing a post title like “My Saturday Craft!” as far as SEO goes.

  6. Thanks for the great post!When I search my blog’s name, The Aspiring Equestrian, it comes up first, but I’m not sure about other key words.

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