October 5, 2012
This coming Saturday, I will be covering SEO tips for bloggers at the Mitten Moms conference in Petoskey, MI. What a great subject! But also… what a BIG subject. I’ll only have a limited amount of time, so here are the key strategies that will be most important for me to cover.
This article already assumes that you plan to have excellent blog content with a unique angle that provides useful content to users (and/or Moms). Once you’ve got that, then you can start to optimize it – and that’s where this blog post comes in.
1. Choose a search-friendly and flexible blogging platform, so you never have to switch again.
My first preference is a WordPress.org self-hosted website that you have full control over. (Disclaimer: this is what I personally have the most experience with.) WordPress.com takes a close second, but it doesn’t have quite as much flexibility. Tumblr is also a popular new platform to consider, however, the general consensus is that it’s not as search-friendly by default and takes a little bit more work to get it that way.
The other type of blog platform that I have more client experience with is Typepad, which I would warn all users from as much as possible because once you create your Typepad blog, you can never move it anywhere else.
2. Embrace Google Analytics
Install Google Analytics on your blog. It’s an amazing tool, and can help you learn so much about where your visitors are coming from and what they do on your blog once they get there. If you are looking to sell advertising on your blog, you’ll also depend on GA to help demonstrate value to potential advertisers in terms of # of visits, average time on site, and # of pages per visit.
3. Leverage Bing and Google Webmaster Tools
Google and Bing Webmaster Tools offer fantastic resources to learn more about your website interacts with search engines, and get feedback on how to improve your indexing health:
4. Hand-Write Your Title Tags & Meta Description Tags
Your blog platform should either already have a way for you to write custom tags, or you should be able to install a plug in – such as WordPress’ All In One SEO Pack – to help make this easy:
5. Create an XML Sitemap
An XML Sitemap should live at www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml, and provide a convenient list of all pages on your website for search-engine spiders to crawl. Most blogging platforms have plugins that can handle this, such as the XML Sitemap Generator for WordPress. Here’s an example of FINE’s XML sitemap:
6. Research Terms & Trends
Why should researching keywords or search trends matter to you? Well – if you blog about trending topics or popular keywords, then there’s a chance you can harness some of that traffic.
Enter almost any term into the Google External Keyword Tool, and you’ll receive a convenient list of related terms with estimated search volumes.
In the above example, I entered in “Mommy Blog” and selected “Exact Match” (which means related terms returned by Google’s tool will show search numbers that match the term exactly, with no other related terms in the query). This already starts to give us valuable insights into the search landscape around Mommy Blogs.
Use keyword tools to discover QUALIFIERS. Obviously, getting traffic or positioning on “Mommy Blog” alone is going to be a pretty tall order. Not only that, but “Mommy Blog”, in and of itself, is way too broad of a term – the traffic isn’t going to be that qualified. So instead, think about descriptive qualifiers you can work into your content to attract more search engine traffic. For Sommer, she might be interested in concepts like:
- Start a mommy blog
- Starting a mommy blog
- How to start a mommy blog
- Mommy blog sites
- How to start a mom blog
- Mommy blogging
- Top/Best/(Most) Popular/New
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Your own keyword referrals in Google Analytics are another good place to search for terms that you could increase positions and visibility on. The goal is is to harness the LONG TAIL of search traffic, which can lead to much more traffic overall than focusing on a small group of head terms only. According to Google:
- 20% of searches each day are brand-new
- 70% of all search queries have no exact-match keyword
- 54.5% of all search queries include more than 3 keywords
Google Trends is another amazing tool that can help you do everything from predict seasonal traffic patterns in advance, to learning more about what everyone – including Moms and Dads – are searching for right now.
7. Keep Your Keyword List On Hand
Unless you are actively thinking about keywords at the same time you write every blog post, the concept of the long tail may fall by the way side. If you have time to come up with a solid list of terms, then print them out and tack it to the bulletin board above your desk. Or keep the spreadsheet open and close at hand when you write posts.
Even if you seriously don’t have time to research keywords in advance, you can still take an extra five minutes to sprinkle keyword love into every blog post before you hit publish:
- Do a few searches in the Google External Keyword tool
- Write a Title Tag that gently incorporates terms
- Write a Description Tag that appeals to users
- Make simple edits to website copy to incorporate terms. You only need to say a term once or twice. Users shouldn’t even be able to tell you sprinkled in some keyword love, but search engines will be able to.
8. Use Authorship Markup
Authorship tags display an Google+ Image next to your blog content in SERPs.
You first need to have a Google+ profile to do this, and then link between your profile and your blog in order to connect the two.
9. URL Structure & Permalink Settings
Ensure that your URL structure uses keywords to build pages, instead of dynamic variables such as www.yourmommyblog.com/?p=123. WordPress sites can easily fix this in the Permalink Settings:
If possible, do not include any other information in your blog posts URLs other than the name of the post. Don’t include the date or category information. In the above screenshot, you can see that I’ve selected the “Post Name” option to build URLs. Not only can this cause posts to be too long, but if you assign your post to more than one category, then you split domain authority between several different URLs.
10. Cultivate High-Quality Incoming Links
You can have a search-friendly blog with amazing content, but even that isn’t enough unless other relevant, high-quality websites are linking to you. Why? Because one important way that search engines evaluate a site is by looking at who links to you. If you don’t have incoming links from other relevant, trusted websites, you may not position as high because your site isn’t as authoritative.
Linkbuilding is not about quantity – it’s about quality. Other bloggers at this conference have already spoken about Online PR and other tactics that will help you establish rewarding online relationships with other mommy bloggers, informational sites, news outlets and more. Also see the resources section below for links to helpful articles about linkbuilding strategy.
11. Bonus Tip: Be Careful Who You Link To
Have you ever received an email from someone asking you to do a link exchange, or link to their website for money? Be careful!
Only link out to websites whose content you vouch for. Don’t attempt to manipulate search engines by engaging in linking networks, or selling links on your website. If you do sell advertising on your website, be sure to honestly disclose the links for your users, and place a “rel=nofollow” tag on all outgoing links. “Nofollow” provides a way for webmasters to tell search engines “don’t follow this specific link” in the event that someone paid you to put it on your website.
Selling advertising on your site is a great idea! Most banner advertising or affiliate networks already have taken Google guidelines into account. I encourage you to monetize your blogs in any way you can. However, just be sure you’re doing this in an ethical fashion that doesn’t violate search engine guidelines. Also ensure that if you’ve enabled commenting, that all of your blog comments are nofollowed (this protects you from people abusing blog commenting).
And feel free to link out to as many sites as you want without using nofollow tags as part of your normal, editorial process in linking to helpful resources online. Case in point? All of the websites I link to below are clean links that don’t use any nofollow tags.
RESOURCES & LINKS
SEOBook: 101 Ways to Improve Link Popularity
SEOMoz – The Professional Guide to Link Building
TopRank – 25 Blog Link Building Tactics
My BlogGuest – Guest Blogging Opportunities
About NoFollow Tags
Written by Sarah Mackenzie