Originally published 7 August 2012 on SHAH WHARTON’s blog
The SEO-Savvy Blogger
By Kelley Harrell
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the task of making your web presence more visible in search engine results. The general guidelines that apply for “good” SEO in a website are the same for a blog; however, tailoring a blog for optimized reach has a slightly different focus than a general website. Your website is largely a static entity through which you convey what you want readers to know about you and your work. Blogs have a totally other function, which is to engage readers in discourse. Blogs are about forming relationships, building readership.
When most people think of SEO, they immediately think of coding, algorithms, all things techie that attract search engines. In truth, there is another vital component to SEO, which is: people. While the underlying structure of your blog plays a role in gaining both search engine results and readers, the bottom line is that blogs are meant to stimulate dialogue between parties. For this reason, the classic components of SEO, content and navigation, are most important.
Luckily we have great out-of-the-box content managers for blog platforms, such as Blogger and WordPress. They take the navigation concern off our plates from the beginning by automatically generating and formatting links, pages, and posts in a logical fashion. Still, that we don’t have to worry about how to set it up only places greater emphasis on what we have to say and how we say it. Specifically, how you name elements of your blog is important. Some of these elements are visible to readers and some aren’t. Rest assured, they are all important to search engines. Make sure that your title, links, keywords, descriptions, headers, and subheaders, and even images maintain a cohesive representation of what your blog is about.
Ideal blog optimization means that you tailor not just how your site is seen in search engine results, but how every post is seen. In order to do this, you need to be able to control the elements of each page. I’m a WordPress girl, and I rely heavily on the plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast to prompt me to enter meta data (the aforementioned hidden hooks) for each page. I’m not certain if there is a Blogger equivalent, though I highly recommend researching options to Blogger… bloggers.
A hand dandy plugin will prompt you to enter meta data, but it doesn’t give you parameters for what is “good” meta data. The easiest way to achieve solid, cohesive SEO for your blog is through redundancy. This means you need to repeat identifying information in every post. I know that seems nightmarish busy work, but once you find a rhythm in composing posts with this style in mind, you begin to get a feel for how to do it. Likewise, once you’ve tried a few methods, you see which ones work and those that don’t.
As well, not all of your readers are going to follow your blog. Some will just pop by to read a specific post, then buzz off. You have to make sure that each blog entry contains what you need them to know about you and your work. The best SEO hooks for you to convey these details are:
- Site and blog titles. We learned in English classes that the end of a sentence carries emphasis. In SEO titles, the beginning carries emphasis. What you want readers to know most needs to be said first. Hence, “Jane Doe, Author” is a stronger title than “Author of amazing urban fantasy, Jane Doe.” Likewise, for blog titles, “Gaming SEO” is a stronger title then “How to Game SEO to Your Benefit.” Titles are visible to readers, though in search results are limited to around 72 characters. So be brief, or be truncated.
- Site and blog descriptions. Restate your name and your most prominent book title(s) in all site descriptions. In terms of SEO, see them as a conjoined entity, such that you qualify everything with, “Jane Doe, author of ‘That Awesome Book,’” … For each blog description, formulate something along the lines of, ” “Jane Doe, author of ‘That Awesome Book,’ shares commentary on [blog subject].” These are visible to readers only in search results.
- Keywords/tags that clarify your genre, publisher, or other relevant info that connects you to your work, thus gives you name recognition. In other words, everything you just said in your title and description(s), say it again in your keywords, for every post, as well as keywords specific to the theme of that post. Depending on your blog’s theme, these may be visible to readers, and are used by some search engines to direct readers to your blog.
- Headings and subheadings. These are not a requirement, though if you use them, make them descriptively active. For instance, to feature various genres you’ve published, “Publications” won’t get you as far as “Jane Doe’s Urban Fantasy Publications.” Think smart and keep it in the context and voice of your site. These are visible to your readers.
- Images. Search engines can’t “see” images. Rather, they rely on descriptive text around them for reference. Tags called “alt” and “title” should be filled out, such as, “Jane Doe, author of ‘That Awesome Book,’ presents [topic of your blog post and image].” The “alt” tag provides a brief description to readers whose browsers or cell phones don’t support images; thus, it should be kept short and may be visible to readers. The ‘title’ tag generates a mouseover description for readers, thus it can go into more detail than the “alt” tag, and is visible to readers.
Search engine crawlers (yes, they really are called that) are constantly scurrying around, accumulating data from websites, determining how they are indexed, thus where they fall in search results. If you don’t feed them the aforementioned data on each post, these crawlers either skip pages of your site completely, or they assume relevant information about your site and save that data to servers. Using algorithms, they determine what is important about your content. If they don’t identify your content properly, what readers have to type into search engines to find you can become quite complicated. The likelihood of crawlers correctly interpreting what you want the digital world to know about you is slim, so don’t leave room for guess work.
It sounds like a lot, I know, though if you’re up for getting more traffic–which means wooing more readers–learning the basic ropes of SEO is not only doable, it’s to your benefit.
Kelley Harrell is author of the newly re-released Gift of the Dreamtime, and an all-around SEO fanatic. Confer with her on techie solutions at kelleyharrell.com
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