When I first began blogging, I had a very vague idea of what search engine optimization was. In J-school, strategic communications and digital audience analytics classes skimmed over the basics of search engine optimization. However, I never thought about it in the capacity that I do now. Since beginning my blog, it has become a more apparent, integral part of the editing, publishing and distributing elements of my writing process. It has now become a part of my routine, and it should be a part of yours, too!
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On Pinterest, search engine optimization is all the hoot. You can’t get past a blogging checklist without having it detail the importance of optimizing your content. To be honest, this post won’t be particularly helpful to you if you aren’t a blogger or digital producer, but I’m hoping that if you are: it’ll be extremely useful. Search engine optimization can drastically increase your post performance and analytics, so it’s important (and actually, integral) to abide by the “rules” of search engine optimization in order for your content to be found.
What is search engine optimization?
Let’s start off by defining what search engine optimization is. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the act of making your web pages and blog posts easier for search engines to read. We’re optimizing our posts so that they rank higher on search engine page results, or SERP.
Think about when you search for, let’s say… a chiropractic clinic near you. You want something that’s not too far of a drive, but you also want somewhere with great reviews. What shows up when you Google “chiropractic clinic near me?”
Now, let’s dissect this a little bit. The first three posts have green links with the word “Ad” in them, meaning they paid Google to have those top three spots. This is extremely important because not many consumers scroll past the first page of the results. According to Junto, 75% of consumers never go to the next page of search results. So, chances are, you’re picking a chiropractic clinic out of that first page, and so is everyone else. Companies know that, which is why they spend top dollar to be the first company you see when you search.
If you’re not paying for that top spot, you’re going to have to use SEO to compete with the millions of other results that pop up on the SERP. How does Google even decide how to rank us? They use data and code to fill out an algorithm that determines where our content is placed.
These are ranked based on a Google algorithm. In fact, all search engines have different algorithms to determine what content they pull to show you. They use a combination of several different factors to determine exactly where your link will sit amongst the millions of others. These factors can be things like your site’s loading speed, image sizes, how many clicks you get per link or even if your sentences are run-ons or not.
For all businesses, blogs or creators with websites, it’s extremely important to appear on those first few pages of content so that they have a chance to be seen. After all, over 90 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine. So, it’s imperative we utilize this tool to get our content to the people who want to see it!
Why you should care about Search Engine Optimization
If I haven’t made my case enough, let’s detail why you should care about search engine optimization as a content creator or blogger. If you care about your content exposure and readership, you inherently care about your SEO rankings. You may rely heavily on social media to share your posts, like Pinterest or Instagram (or rarely, Facebook). It may fare well for you to just stick to that, and that’s totally fine! This method particularly works well for beauty and fashion bloggers.
But if you’re trying to answer specific questions for your audience, if you’re trying to reach users searching for a solution to their problems, then you should pay more attention to the way your content pops up in SERP. Think about it… if you post a blog post on how to optimize your posts for search engine algorithms, yes, you may get some reads here and there from your social media following. But how many people actually want you to solve that problem for them? What are the odds they were searching for that problem then scrolled past your post randomly? Probably not high.
So, let’s make sure you’re being seen by those people that want you to solve their problem.
10 Ways to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Posts
- Do not use long, complex sentences
- Optimize your headings
- Do not put too much text in one section (more than 300 words)
- Use internal links
- Write a meta description for your post (include keyword)
- Include your keyword throughout your post
- Name your images before uploading them
- Include your keyword in at least 30% of the image titles of the images in the post
- Categorize your post
- Make sure your site loads quickly
Tools for Search Engine Optimization
You may be thinking… all of that sounds like a lot of work. Lucky for us, there are plugins that help you with SEO! The great part about SEO is: it’s not a secret. Because so many content creators, web developers and companies know of the importance of SEO results, there are a ton of tools on the market to help you ensure your content is optimized for SERP.
WORDPRESS SEO BY YOAST
Yoast SEO is the best I’ve used (if you’re a WordPress user). This plugin is SO GREAT because it allows you to see your “Readability Analysis” while you’re writing and before you publish. Yoast SEO also gives you specific ways to improve your writing to make it search engine friendly.
For example, when I first started blogging, I was surprised at just how many of my posts were coming up as having a very poor readability (the red score). I’m a journalism major, and writing is what I do best. How can I have a low readability score?
Search engines don’t want long, poetic sentences that are complex. Short is best, meaning anywhere under 20 words per sentence. I was getting marked down for having such long sentences with complex clauses and heavy descriptors, which is just how I write. Turns out, it’s not ideal for search engines and readers! So, I have to do heavy editing every single time I write a post to ensure my posts aren’t too long and are simple enough to be recognized by search engines.
Just take a look at my readability score right now, as I’m writing this post. There are several things I’ll have to go back and edit once I’m finished with all of this. You can click on the eye icon on the far right and the plugin will highlight all of these instances in your post! How cool is that?
I would heavily recommend installing the Yoast plugin (there’s a free and a premium version) to view your post’s readability score before you hit publish. You can also change what your social media sharing links look like, the meta descriptions and your keywords through this plugin, which is absolutely amazing. Use this plugin every single time you post!
Another plugin that I’ve heard is similar is SmartCrawl SEO, but I haven’t tried that one out yet. Should I? Let me know!
SMUSH IMAGE COMPRESSION AND OPTIMIZATION
Smush automatically optimizes your image sizes to ensure they’re not clogging up your posts, which in turn, allows your site to load faster. I had no idea before blogging that site speed plays into your SEO “score,” but it makes sense! How many times have you clicked off of a webpage because it was taking way too long to load?
Smush also allows you to enable something called “lazy loader.” Lazy loading means your images won’t load until your reader will actually see them. This can ensure too many files aren’t being called at once, allowing your site to load faster.
While writing your post, you need to strategically choose a keyword to define your post. This is, in essence, the “slug” of your post. What is your post mainly about? You can kind of think of keywords as the main hashtags for your blog post. But, instead of linking it to an “Explore Page” on Instagram, it tells search engines where to categorize your post.
Yoast SEO allows you to program a keyword, then informs you whether or not that keyword is effective for SEO. Keywords should be strategically chosen and implemented throughout your post. They should appear in multiple places like your post title, the meta description, alt tags and headings. This allows you to tell Google just how much information you are offering readers compared to others.
There really is no better way to do research on trends and searched topics than through Google. So, let’s head over to Google Trends to do a bit of research.
Google Trends allows you to see what’s “trending” in popularity in the United States or around the globe. What is the nation talking about today? What is the world talking about today? This is especially helpful if you’re looking at blogging or posting about current events. Or, if you’re looking for something to post about, this could be a good place to start; what are people looking up right now? What do people want to know?
Let’s say I want “SEO” to be the keyword for this post. Seems like it would be pretty effective, seeing as how this is the main topic of this post. I’ll have it in my title, it’ll have heavy density in the body of my blog and I’ll probably put it in my meta description. So, I type in “SEO” to the Google Trends search bar.
Okay, Google gives me an “interest over time” graphic. So, for “SEO,” I can see that people are consistently interested in this topic. It probably makes for a good blog post, since people seem to be continuously searching about it on Google.
Alright, so let’s scroll down now. Google gives me “related topics” and “related queries” to SEO.
Hmm. I see a lot of non-search engine optimization results coming up, including “Park Min-Young – South Korean actress,” “Seo Kang-joon – South Korean actor,” “Sep Taiji and Boys – Musical group,” and so on. There is almost nothing about search engine optimization coming up, other than “Insignia SEO – Internet marketing service in Australia.”
For some additional analytics information, I can see that New York, Kansas, Oregon, DC and California are the places in which “SEO” is being searched the most in the United States. However, on the global scale, I can see that it’s being searched the most in Vietnam, St. Helena, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia. After a quick Google search, I know now that “Seo” is a royal Korean family name, and it’s quite common in Asia.
So, what I’m trying to get at here is… if I want people who are interested in search engine optimization to see my post on search engine optimization, I need to choose a different keyword. If a user types in “seo,” the chances of them finding my article is low.
Comparing two or more different keyword options
Google Trends has an incredible way to compare two different keywords to ensure you’re using the best one for your post. Let’s compare between “SEO” and “Search Engine Optimization” to see which one is better for this post.
Okay, although we can see now that “SEO” is significantly more popular than the term “Search Engine Optimization” according to Google, but that makes sense. “SEO” is a common name and is a part of several different “queries,” so don’t be too worried about the numbers. However, we’re really interested in seeing what the related topics are for “search engine optimization.” Is it pulling more information related to what we want?
Well, this is good! We can see topics like “Search Engine Optimization Definition,” “Google Adwords,” and “Google Search Engine Optimization” are all related to “search engine optimization,” which tells us we’re in a better place for the audience we want. We also see related queries like “seo search engine optimization,” “google search engine optimization,” “what is search engine optimization” and “search engine optimization definition.” This is a great place to get your heading titles and plan out your content!”
The queries and related topics are closer to what we want. So, this is a better keyword for us to use than “SEO.” You may have seen me use these exact terms throughout my blog post. My friends, that was no accident. This allows me to tell Google “hey look, I’m answering those questions for readers. Send them to me.” Sneaky, huh?
Perhaps you didn’t notice, but I used “search engine optimization” a lot where I previously had “SEO” before editing. This is because, after doing this keyword research, I realized I needed to change those acronyms to the full word for optimization. Yet again, very sneaky, right?
This is Yoast SEO’s rating of my “focus keyword.” I need to go back and change all of those red markers now to ensure my keyword is optimized for my webpage.
Ahhh, that’s better.
I already talked about Smush, which compresses the size of your images to ensure a faster load time for your site. Now, let’s talk about “alt tags” and image titles!
Alt descriptions are important because they basically tell the search engine what your photo is, since it can’t see it (well, not yet, anyway. That’s coming in the future, I’m sure). Alt descriptions are also important for users that cannot see images. Alt descriptions also load when your image isn’t available to let the user know what they would see if everything were working properly.
It’s important to fill out your alt descriptions with your keywords! This is another way to optimize your images. It takes a while, but it’s worth it!
Include your keywords into your image titles. This tells the search engine that you have supplemental information for your readers! You don’t need to be overly descriptive with this. Just remember that anything is better than “IMG_2837” or “Screen_Shot_829348.” Those auto-generated titles are not helpful to your SEO results.
What am I missing?
I’d love to learn as much as I can about search engine optimization and all of the tools out there available to creators. What applications do you use? Do you have questions about anything? Let me know! I also have some content detailing how to begin a blog if you’re interested.