SEO Search: Using Google to Find Basic Search Engine Optimization Secrets
“People fear what they don’t understand.” – Andrew Smith
SEO can look scary to a new blogger if they don’t know what it means or how it works.
I know how you feel. Although I have a bit of knowledge about this topic, I am by no means an expert. I’m still learning about SEO and probably always will, because things can change quickly in the SEO field.
Like you, I’m still looking for answers. Solid answers that are up to speed. So, I’m going to blog about this as I search for answers because this topic is something new bloggers should know about. I know some of you already want to learn more.
That’s a good thing. Because putting some time and attention to your blog’s SEO helps you get more visitors, readers, subscribers and/or customers.
So far I’ve learned some things about SEO from a group of great people I follow on social media. These are folks who are “SEO Experts. ” People who make a living helping bloggers and businesses with “search.”
One of them is Eric Enge, who I’ve been been following on Google Plus. He is considered an SEO expert by many, and is the CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, a digital marketing agency that offers SEO services among others.
The other day I messaged Eric and asked, “Why should new bloggers care about search engine optimization?” He answered:
As for your question, the one sentence response to why bloggers should care about SEO is that it can bring them a lot of traffic to their site.
But, let’s go a little deeper than that! Organic search traffic is still the largest driver of traffic for the great majority of web sites. For a new blog, following some basic SEO guidelines can help you tap into that traffic potential. You can read about potential guidelines here.
However, you should never let the pursuit of SEO traffic become more important than your overall content quality. Many of the organic search visitors that come to your site will never have been there before. You want to give them a reason to come back!
SEO…Search…Whatever You Call It
People are now referring to SEO as just “Search.” I read somewhere that this trend to get away from the term SEO is because there’s a negative stigma surrounding the SEO business and people are trying to distance themselves.
Is that a red flag? Well, yeah. Not against the practice of SEO, just a few of the practioners. There have been a handful of unscrupulous SEO practices going on. People who do this are sometimes called “Black Hat SEO”. Those who do SEO the right way are known as “White Hat SEO”, and someone who mixes a little of the both together is called “Grey Hat.” So, you do need to be careful about where you get your SEO information, and be REALLY careful who you hire for SEO services.
There are plenty of good people making an honest living in “Search.” I’m following some folks on social media (mainly Google+) who are great human beings AND SEO “experts” and they do appear to be helping people get better results with their websites along with helping people like me get our brains wrapped around SEO.
Two years ago I didn’t know anything about SEO and didn’t realize the benefits a blogger can reap if they will just pay attention to some of these SEO details.
So before I dive into SEO, there is one thing I’ve learned over the past two years: Factoring SEO into your blogging strategy is good, as long as you don’t make it your top priority. What I mean is you can easily spend way too much time on SEO, when you should be focusing more on other things (like producing fantastic content, connecting with real people, etc.)
I think it was blogger extraordinaire John Chow who said, “People first. Google second.”
Someone else recently made this great point: Search engine bots don’t have credit cards.
Still confused? That’s okay. I’m going to go searching for answers. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
Naturally, I’ll be using a search engine along our quest. Mostly Google. Maybe one or two others for fun.
Let’s go searching for search.
I thought it would be good to start by finding a great definition of search engine optimization. So after searching “what does seo mean” I found SERP I found:
Here’s a clear, simple definition I found on the search results pages from Webopedia.com :
“SEO is short for search engine optimization or search engine optimizer.
Search engine optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) — including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.
SEO helps to ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be found by the search engine.
It is common practice for Internet users to not click through pages and pages of search results, so where a site ranks in a search is essential for directing more traffic toward the site. The higher a website naturally ranks in organic results of a search, the greater the chance that that site will be visited by a user.
SEO is typically a set of “white hat” best practices that webmasters and Web content producers follow to help them achieve a better ranking in search engine results.”
Let’s just roll with defining some more SEO terms I found on this Webopedia page…
Here are some additional links to other pages that define some SEO terms you should be familiar with.
Getting familiar with these common SEO terms should be helpful for you as you build your blog.
OPTIMIZATION: How and Why
The term “optimization” is another buzz word around blogging and websites. At the top of this search result page, Google makes prominent a definition of optimization:
Okay, so if optimization is a process of modifying your blog to help it achieve better results in organic search, let’s now look at some blog “changes” (modifications) a new blogger can make on their own.
I did a search on “blog optimizations” and checked out the first link at the top of the results. Right here…
This link took me to one of my favorite websites for blogging and online marketing tips called Unbounce.com. I scrolled down their blog and quickly found this gem of a blog post called A 38 Point Blog Optimization Checklist to Jump Start Your Lead Generation that happens to be written by an online connection I made last year. Her name is Henneke and she’s quite the blogger and online marketer.
Her blog optimizations go beyond specific SEO optimizations, so you really should read the entire piece when you get a chance. To stay on topic here, I want to focus on her article section where she lists 13 SEO optimizations you can make to help you get more search traffic to your blog. These 13 search optimizations are…
Polish and Edit Your Headlines – Your headlines are important to gaining more traffic. That’s why I just revised this article’s headline for the seventeenth time.
Use Numbers or Power Words – Henneke writes “Attract attention by using numbers or power words (such as “seductive” or “stinky”) in your headlines. Emotional, sensory and unusual words attract more attention than standard phrases.” Another good reminder to keep revising my headline…she challenged me to go farther with it.
Consider testing your headlines on Twitter – Although I often do write multiple headlines for the same article on Twitter, I haven’t been taking a close look at the numbers. If you want to try this A/B testing on Twitter (like I do), here’s an article that explains how to do it.
Make sure your key phrase is in the first 55 characters of the headline because titles get cut off past that point in search engine listings.
Create Meta descriptions that seduce people searching for your information. The meta description is the descriptive blurb that describes your blog post in the search results. Here is an example:
Implement categories to help organize your content and make it easier to find.
Include internal links to your old blog posts in your new blog posts. This “optimizes” your blog posts. To help you find other keyword related blog posts on your site or any other site, just put into Google first your site name then add the keyword or phrase in quotes, like this: site: buildyourownblog.net “blogging tips” and you’ll find each page on the site that has the phrase.
Adjust your title tags/permalinks to the newest SERP design with Google: Moz has a title tag tool to help you.
Your images can help significantly boost traffic when you optimize them correctly. This article explains how.
Use the correct image size in your social media profile pics and cover photos. Not doing this turns off potential blog readers who find you through search looking, well, amateurish.
Make sure social sharing buttons are available with each blog post. How many buttons for different social media platforms you offer is your choice. I took Neil’s advice and use three (Facebook, Twitter and Google+).
Turn off negative social proof until it becomes positive. Everyone starts a new blog with 0 followers, right? So, if your blog post shares are low and not yet where you want it to be, you can conceal those numbers until your social proof is at a respectable level.
Write with Sound Bites to Jolt Readers awake. Long sentence after long sentence puts readers to sleep. Bite them with short sentences that convey your message in a few words. Henneke is a master at this and she has some tips on sound bites.
There you have it. 13 blog post optimizations you can make to boost your SEO. All of these done consistently will bring significant results to your blog traffic.
What Are Tags and How Can They Help My Blog
To help with this one, I’m going to break down the search into two parts:
Take a look at the first page of the SERP here and see if you notice anything…
Notice how there are no recent results in this SERP…that’s because most seo experts are not spending as much time on tags as they used to…Oh sure, you can still use them. Probably a good idea. Can’t hurt. It’s just that blog tags are not what they used to be—they should not be overused like they were in the past. Blog tags are now considered optional.
You can see WordPress still ranks first on defining blog tags. Here’s what the definition is on the WordPress.com site…
“Tags provide a useful way to group related posts together and to quickly tell readers what a post is about. Tags also make it easier for people to find your content. Tags are similar to, but more specific than, categories. The use of tags is completely optional.
For more information on the differences between tags and categories please check out this support doc.
Depending on the theme and widgets you have activated, tags can be displayed at the top or bottom of posts, on the individual post view, and/or in the sidebar. You can assign multiple tags per post.”
Here is where you can see the tags on my blog own blog posts:
So having a few tags can help your SEO, but only by relating the blog post to other blog posts in your archive. For example, whenever I write anything about branding in the future, I can use these tags (blog branding, branding) to help them rank in search results collectively. That’s why you don’t want to use too many tags. Keeps things orderly, and having too many doesn’t provide any SEO benefit anyway.
Yoast does provide a tag optimizer if you are interested. I haven’t used it. So I’m not endorsing it. Just pointing it out. I do like the Yoast SEO tool and know Yoast is generally a good source of help.
Now let’s continue on to another SEO Seduction known as keywords.
Keywords ~ Keyword Research ~ Keyword Research Tool
On my blog post Follow the Keywords–They Lead to Your Blog Niche and Your Success there’s a solid definition for “Keywords”…
A keyword, in the context of search engine optimization, is a particular word or phrase that describes the contents of a Web page. Keywords are intended to act as shortcuts that sum up an entire page. Keywords form part of a Web page’s metadata and help search engines match a page to with an appropriate search query. The role of keywords was once very central to the function of search engines. Search engines could crawl sites and, if the keywords were accurate, serve those sites up as search results. However, people began abusing the keyword metadata in an attempt to show up higher in searches, and even to rank in completely unrelated searches. For this reason, the importance of keywords in search engine optimization has been greatly reduced. Keywords are arguably still an important factor, but they are not the only factor in SEO. [found on Technopedia]
I’ve been around the blogosphere long enough to remember the former dark age when the internet was littered with horrible looking websites full of copy that didn’t even make much sense because keywords were intentionally stuffed all over the place. It was so ridiculous. Here is an examples of what keyword stuffing looks like. If someone advises you to do this, run away. Unless you want Google to banish your blog from search results and turn off most visitors to your blog.
Keyword Stuffing Example
My blog posts tend to be on the lower end of the keyword count. Frequently that’s what my Yoast SEO plugin tells me in the page analysis. I could probably include more keywords and still be in good shape for Google searches, but as a writer I cringe when keywords get used too often, so I tend to focus the most on the keyword placement in my headline, and then write using the keywords like I would in a normal conversation. This way you don’t need to worry about being penalized for using keywords too much.
The key is to sprinkle the primary keyword in your headline into the body copy, only not too much that it reads awkward.
Even a new blogger can normally recognize when a blog post or web page has too many keywords…when it reads unnaturally.
So you want to consider your keywords, use them wisely (meaning not frequently.)
Because keywords do matter, don’t get me wrong…Keywords can make or break your blog.
How to Use Keywords in Your Blog
First thing to do is some keyword research…
Doing a Google search on “how to do keyword research” will lead you to some good sources. I’m a fan of Hub Spot, and the description of the link above sounded perfect, so I clicked on the one pointed out and found a helpful information for keyword research that’s great for newbies. Here’s my take on Hub Spot’s How to Do Keyword Research: a Beginners Guide
Rachel Sprung gives a simple 5 step exercise that I recommend all bloggers, both new and not-so-new, follow because this will be good for your SEO.
Let’s go through them…
Steps to Doing Keyword Research
1. List out important topics related to your blog
She describes these terms as “generic buckets” (you’ll see why in a minute). These are terms you want to rank high on when folks use them in search engines.
You want to come up with 5 to 10 of these topics that you’ll be “filling up” later in this process.
As a blogger, think about the topics you blog about the most. If you are blogging for business, these topics should directly connect with what you are selling.
For example, my website sells blogs, so my general buckets could be “blogging,” “content marketing,” “SEO,” “WordPress,” and “web hosting.”
2. Take each topic bucket and fill them up with keywords.
This is where you identify the keywords you think potential customers (or readers) will be using while searching online for these terms. These include “keyword phrases” so don’t think only one word here.
For example, with the term “web hosting”, some keyword/key phrases could include…
- How to find a domain name
- how to find a good domain registrar
- What’s a solid hosting plan look like
- picking the best suffix for your domain
- how to register a domain name
- types of web hosting
You want to end up with a bucket full of key phrases or keywords that you think people searching your blog niche will type into Google. You do this with each bucket. If you’re blogging for a company and you are finding it challenging to come up with many different terms, you can go visit a coworker in sales or customer service and ask them what key terms or phrases stand out.
3. Be sure to have a good mix of long-tail and short keywords per each bucket.
First, you may not know the difference between a short and long-tail keyword, so let’s review the terms…
Short keyword – Typically one or two keywords that cover a wide audience. For instance, “blogging, car reviews, or casserole recipes” are all examples of short keywords. These keywords offer broad results, typically higher levels of traffic, and benefit your site ranking.
Long-tail keywords – Normally three words or longer, these longer search phrases will naturally attract a more specific audience. Examples of long-tail keywords include “Blogging for a real estate business”, “Ford Focus Reviews” and “Easy tuna casserole recipes.”
Since people use both short and long-tail keywords when searching online, you should include a solid balance of both in your SEO strategy.
People do use short keywords more often, so this makes it much more competitive in the search results. Think about it. Which keyword do you think you’ll rank higher with? “Blogging” or “Blogging for a real estate business”?
If you said “blogging”, that’s correct.
The term “blogging” may reach more people in search, but with that increased traffic comes higher bounce rates and a lower quality of visitors who will do whatever you want them to do on your blog–like read more than one page, order your product, etc. If your blog focuses on how blogging can help realtors, then the long-tail “Blogging for a real estate business” will reach less but bring in much higher quality of prospects/readers to your site.
Make sense so far?
Before moving to step 4, here’s a trick to finding more long-tail keywords to fill your bucket.
Google makes a great research tool in more ways than one. Simply go to Google, put in a keyword, click Google Search, and then scroll down to the bottom of the search results page.
You will see “Searches related to….” and then your keyword. In this example, these were found when I searched “casserole recipes”.
You will find some good ideas for long-tail keywords you can use later on in your blogging.
But wait! There’s more!
Google one of these long-tails you find in “Searches related to..” and then you’ll get even more ideas on additional keywords. (For example, if I Google “vegetarian casserole recipes” I then find at the bottom of the first page some new long-tail keyword possibilities like “vegetarian pasta casserole recipes,” “vegetarian mexican casserole recipes,” and “vegetarian tator tot casserole.” All of these could eventually lead to some great blog posts.
But to make sure, you’ll want to do the next step…
4. See how competitors are ranking for these keywords.
If you’re simply blogging for fun, competition can just be a blog in your niche. Although you may not care to compare yourself to other blogs, you can learn some helpful tips by taking a close look at what they’re doing.
Keep in mind, just because another blog uses a certain keyword doesn’t mean you have to as well. You may find they are already using some of the same keywords you are. In those cases, you will want to make adjustments to rank higher than they are.
When you find keywords your competitor is not using, these can serve you well. You can “take control” on these terms, so-to-speak.
Some terms will be easy to rank with. Others will be a dog fight. Having a balance of both is optimal for short term and long term success.
5. These 2 free Google tools will help you reduce your list to the best keywords.
Ever hear of Google’s Keyword Planner? Its free and easy to use. Combine this with another tool called Google Trends and you’ll be set. (You will need to create an account with Google Adwords to use Keyword Planner but you won’t need to create any ads.)
With the Keyword Planner, you can see how much search volume keywords are getting along with projections on traffic estimates for keywords you’re thinking of using.
Although Keyword Planner may not be the most functional tool for this, it is free and you know what you’re getting with Google. That’s why Google Trends makes a nice compliment to help connect some dots.
Using Keyword Planner enables you to scrutinize any keywords that aren’t delivering enough search volume or too much volume that’s not the right audience. Periodically checking this will help your blog stay on top of the right mix of keywords. But before you give up on a keyword, check it out in Google Trends to see if the keyword has a bright future.
If your list is simply overloaded with too many keywords, Google Trends can also help you decide what “fat” to trim off your list so it is more manageable.
Do These Steps Above and You’ll Find an Awesomesauce List of Keywords for Your Blog
Now that we have covered the basics on keywords, let’s take a look at another facet to SEO. Words (the copy on your website) definitely hold much value when it comes to optimizing your blog for search. Yet, did you know your blog design also plays a part?
SEO Design Basics
Your design elements play a big role in helping (or not helping) people find your blog through organic search.
Aside from things like color palettes and fonts, here are the design basics that directly affect your SEO. Putting some time into these can help your website search results a lot, so be sure to look these over…
Crucial for SEO success, the title tag is like a blog post title in that it tells people what the document is about–be it a website page or a blog post.
Title tags are not the same as a blog post title/headline…these tags show up in three places normally…
1. Title Tags show up in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) like this:
2. Title tags show up in your Browser, both as tabs and somewhere in the “chrome” of your browser. Like this:
3. Title tags are also important because they show up when your blog pages or posts are shared on other websites. Here’s an example on Facebook:
What’s the Best Length for Title Tags?
You don’t want to go too long. With Google, only the first 50-60 characters in your title tag show up, or whatever you can fit into a 512 pixel display. Your best bet is to shoot for 55 characters or less. This way, your title will display in Google properly 9 out of 10 times. You should know that a search engine can display your title any way they choose. Most people though use Google or Bing, so I wouldn’t worry about the others at this point.
Paying attention to your title tags’ length is one optimization you can make to boost your SEO. Here are a few other ways to optimize your title tags:
Ways to Optimize Your Title Tags
Leverage your blog brand – Go ahead and put your blog name in the title tag. Where you decide to place it depends on the strength of your brand name and the relevancy of the keyword in your title tag. In my examples you see I use the brand name first (in most of them.) This is because my brand is well known in the blog building niche. Starting out, you may want to place your keywords in the front of the title tag until you grow an audience. I put my brand name at the front of the title tag for my home page like this:
Favor Your Keywords – you don’t want to neglect your keywords by leaving them at the end of the title tags. The closer to the front you can place your primary key word, the better SEO boost you will find. This page right here you are reading is a good example of this….here’s what the title tag looks like for this page:
Notice how I placed the two main keywords right up front. This will greatly help people who are looking for information on “SEO” or “Search” to find it. On a blog post page like this, placing the main keyword up front should work best for SEO.
Write Easy-to-Read, Compelling Title Tags – You want to create emotionally charged title tag that draw in more readers. This also needs to be written so the reader flows with it and doesn’t trip up or get bored. Think about your brand voice here. First impressions matter.
So along with title tags, there’s another way to make your blog design friendlier with search engines…something called the “no follow.”
If you want to use a few links on any of your website pages, that’s still okay thanks to a handy little tag you can insert into any link you choose. Just type what’s called the “No Follow” tag into the link. It looks like this:
<a title=”article” href=”https://www.helpscout.net/blog/psychology-of-color/” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>article</a>
What this tag does is it let’s the search engines know that this site we have linked to does not represent the brand/personality/editorial content of your blog. This tag takes the “link juice” out of the link so that the search engines don’t directly connect your website with the one you have linked to. So they have less “seo mojo” but are just as helpful to the reader of your blog. Your readers don’t notice or even care whether a link has rel=”nofollow” or not.
Why You Should View Nofollow Links as a Good Thing
Despite not having the juice of their link counterparts, you should use them freely and see them as just another form of link in your overall link network. Having a large amount of inbound nofollow links tends to improve a website’s ranking, so use them whenever you’re not sure if the site you are linking to would benefit you or not.
The nofollow helps protect your website when a website you link to gets penalized by a search engine like Google.
Wrapping Up This SEO Search
The topic of SEO runs deep, and despite this massively helpful blog post that covers a ton of the basics, there’s still more to SEO we could talk about.
Be watching for some additional posts on SEO, served in small portions.
There is enough here though to help your blog get off to a good start with the search engines out there. Search Engines are your friend, so you’ll want to use these tips here so your blog will work harmoniously with the tools people use to find stuff on the internet, like Google or Bing.
What are your thoughts or questions on SEO? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.