Welcome to Blogiful Day 3! Today’s topic is a big one. A topic that I’m not even an expert at (although my colleague is since I work in Marketing).
Despite that, I’m going to try and explain the wonders of SEO as simply as I can. In understandable English, without all the jargon – in the context that you guys are bloggers (experts don’t shoot me).
Don’t worry if you’re scared of technical things, because most of the important parts of SEO are not technical at all (and you might already be doing them too!)
It is, unfortunately, another technical subject that makes it less accessible unless you self-host your own blog so please be aware of that.
So, What Is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.
I know! That acronym breakdown doesn’t really help you understand it, which is why I’m here. Let’s get a cute scenario going on ~
I am a HUGE fan of *example book* and I really want to read someone else’s review. This time, imma just skip looking at reviews on Goodreads and search the book up on Google.
typing in: example book by example author book review
That cats got some mad skills – but anyway, what shows up?
A huge long list of people who have reviewed the book on their respective blogs or websites. Now, what SEO is, is basically how Google determines what goes on this list when someone searches it up. It is Optimising your blog for the Search Engine (Google).
Being able to optimise your blog’s SEO means that your blog posts show up higher on a search page for the relevant topics you blog about.
It not only means that your blog is more visible to the search engine/Google’s capabilities but that your blog is also more visible to others who may not be part of communities like Goodreads or other social media to find your blog (without paid advertising/organically).
Okay, So How Does One Optimise?
Well, things can get complicated.
To avoid this, I’m going to cut it up into two parts: for people who don’t self-host a WordPress blog and for people who do self-host. Spoiler: it’s more complicated for self-hosting blogs but also more effective.
First, to give you a bit of background on how SEO is effective, it’s important to know how Google works. I learnt it through an analogy of spiders – Google employs many, many spiders that crawl through the internet and notes down every webpage on every website, as fast and as accurately as it can. Then the Google algorithm sorts the data from all the websites and uses it to make sure that when someone searches something, that they’re getting the best possible, relevant result.
Therefore, to make your blog visible, it’s about showing and proving that your blog should rank well on search listings because it is relevant.
I’ll be using the following holy grail pyramid of SEO to explain tips.
For non-self-hosters, you can only basically go up to the ‘Keyword optimized’ section of the pyramid, and for self-hosters, you can reach to the top of the pyramid with the help of a plugin.
SEO 101: For Non-Self-Hosted Blogs
The first step (at the bottom of the pyramid) is to allow Google’s little spiders to crawl (find) and index (note down) your blog’s content.
The best way to do this is to create an account and add your site to the Google Search Console. This is the place where you tell Google,
‘hey, I’ve got a blog, get your spiders on it!‘
Once your site is added, those spiders start to crawl and your pages get noted down. The search console is also where you can see some data, such as, what people searched on Google before they clicked on your blog’s book review or discussion post.
The process of adding a site can be a little complicated and I am not fluent enough to be able to explain it so here is a really helpful link that shows you how to add your WordPress site step-by-step. Whether you self-host or not; this is important and the first step of blog optimisation.
Once you’ve got your site up there, the next two steps on the pyramid are actually the easiest!
It’s about writing relevant content and using the correct keywords. If you want to be found for a book review, you actually write a review of the book and mention that you are reviewing the book.
Use keywords – words that people would use to search for the post.
Search words tend to be short and to the point; people don’t search:
“novel analysis of example author’s writing in her debut example book”
They would simply search for:
“example book example author book review”
What’s awesome to see is that most blogs do this already! A lot of the blogs I follow myself write relevant blog posts! They don’t need to add in more keywords because their stuff is relevant but most important, it is valuable. You might have heard that just having a certain keyword 50 times in a post will help your blog post rank better but Google is smarter than that; its spiders note down whether your content is valuable too.
Some Extra Tips
Keep your blog post titles on the shorter side
Short and relevant is better when it comes to titles – and I personally suck at doing this. Having longer titles means, not only that the search engine might think half of what you’re talking about isn’t relevant because it doesn’t just state the main idea of your post – but, that if people do see your blog post on their search list, they won’t be able to read the whole title. i.e. “Reviewing One of My Favourite Books – Example Book By…” is all they’ll see. Which can be a bit click-baitey or people might not think it’s the right book because in that case, they can’t read the author’s name either.
Make Your Images SEO-Friendly
Making your images SEO-friendly means adding a caption and naming your image in that box called ‘alt’. This isn’t just for accessibility reasons but also means if your image is taking forever to load, people can read what the image is about and what the image is.
Use Those WordPress Headings!
The headings in WordPress (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3) aren’t just there to give you sizes of headings but also state the hierarchy and level of depth in your blog post. Utilising the Heading 1 is probably the most important though because it is the main bit that states ‘this is the title of this blog post’.
Since most posts have a header widget in WordPress themes, to make sure you use that Heading 1 tag without looking repetitive. You can create the Heading 1 but with a small piece of HTML code – to make this second title
1. small, (like 5 pixels small) and
2. white; so it’s basically invisible unless someone is selecting the piece of text to copy it.
That piece of code you can insert at the top of your blog post:
<h1 style=”color:white; font-size: 5px;”>Blog Post Title 2 </h1>
If anyone ever has any issues, feel free to let me know or google and learn more about HTML for your blog! You can also find the post on Blog Coding 101 I wrote in last year’s Blogiful event right here.
SEO 101: For Self-Hosted Blogs
When you’re self-hosted; after adding your site to the Google Search Console, you can be slightly lazy like I am and just get a plugin.
Yoast SEO Plugin: *angels singing*. This plugin isn’t amazing but it does a whole lot. It basically takes you through most of the important steps in the higher level of the Moz pyramid by giving you tips based on its analysis of your content. It automatically optimises your site as best as possible based on how you set it up, and you can even alter how your blog title and description looks on Google with it (I don’t but you go ahead! Again – I’m guilty of being lazy with my blog’s SEO.)
There are many other SEO plugins but this one seems to be the best I’m aware of for WordPress.
I swear, there’s literally a plugin for almost everything on WordPress. Some super-useful plugins I personally use and would recommend are:
Autoptimize & LiteSpeed Cache – these are plugins that work to increase your blog’s page speed. One of the things Google looks at is how long it takes for your blog to load. There are many factors for why your blog might be slow and these plugins basically try to get rid of all the background code clutter you’re not aware of that makes it harder for the internet to load your site.
You can test how fast your blog loads using Google’s Page Speed Insights. Mine used to be alright until I added my accessibility plugin – because beware! Too many plugins can make your site slower.
Smush – Smush does exactly what it says, it smushes things! More specifically it reduces how big your images are, because the bigger and more high quality the photos on your site are, the slower your blog is.
One Last Tip For ALL: LINKS
aka the biggest SEO joke at work
Note: It’s not a joke like it’s stupid, but a joke as in I’m constantly hearing sniggers about my colleagues ‘farming’ links all day. Anyway, moving on!
Last and not least, one of the ways Google sees that your content is valuable is if it’s worthy of sharing. So if your blog post is linked on other blogs or websites, if other posts you’ve written are linked in your blog posts – there are links everywhere! And Google loves it. This is for self-hosted and non-self-hosted blogs btw.
It is, albeit, more complicated than that but it means that you should strive to share your content on other places online and help other bloggers out by sharing their blog post links on yours (something I’m aiming to do more of in 2020!).
SEO seems like it’s super complicated – and it still does to me at times – but it’s all in an effort for your content to be more visible and easily found by other book lovers and bloggers and readers online.
And with that, I think we have now come to the end of this HUGE blogiful post. If I managed to keep your attention up to this point, THANKS! I really hope it was helpful to your bloggy aspirations.
If you guys want to learn more about SEO, you can do so from the best source on the internet, the beginner’s guide on Moz.com.
Let Kat and I know on Twitter or Instagram or in the comments if you have any questions – oh and don’t forget out BLOG DESIGN GIVEAWAY!
Stay tuned for Blogiful day 4,