Most bloggers don’t start out with knowledge of SEO. They then get overwhelmed when they are first presented with the concept, and some decide to ignore it completely. But learning the basics about SEO – what it is, why and how to utilize it – will help grow your blog and the number of people it reaches. This section will explain all of those benefits and how you should use SEO to get more traffic to your blog. And don’t worry… it’s really not that hard.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Basically that means tweaking your blog so that it will rank better when people use search engines like Google. Google and other search engines have very advanced programming that produces search results, but it is widely accepted that several factors both on your blog page and off it contribute to improved search rankings. Basic SEO focuses on improving a few of these factors to dramatically increase your ranking in the search engines.
The goal for SEO usually is ranking number 1 or at least on the first page for certain keywords that people are searching for. It also usually means focusing on improving your rankings in Google since the majority of online searches originate there. If you do well with Google you will usually do well with the other search engines like Yahoo and Bing. When you rank well in the search engines for keywords you get more visitors to your blog.
Why does SEO Matter?
You might be wondering why SEO matters at all. Some popular health bloggers don’t focus on SEO at all and still do very well because of their social community building skills. For the rest of us it takes some additional work to build a popular blog and part of the work includes improving your blog’s SEO so people can find you through the search engines as well as building community via social methods.
Ranking well in the search engines is part of growing your blog. You might think that search engine traffic isn’t the good kind of traffic – it shows up and leaves. You might think it’s not as valuable as the social traffic that you grow from the methods discussed in the previous section. But in reality a lot of search engine traffic sticks around on your site and reads your blog posts. They might become a lurker. They might become a subscriber. They might become a regular commenter. You never know what someone will become when they visit your site. SEO is important because it gets people to your blog.
Matt from No Meat Athlete and Health Blog Helper is one health blogger who has focused on using SEO on his blogs and seen the results pay off.
Search engines have been a huge source of my blog’s traffic in its first year, with over 50% of visitors arriving at my blog that way. When search traffic is really flowing, that’s a lot of fun, because you get the idea that it’s really happening “while you sleep,” as they say. Google and the other search sites are changing their algorithms all the time though, and there have been times when my search traffic has plummeted (or jumped) as a result. So it’s an unstable source of traffic that will never replace building a community of devoted readers.
I attribute my success with search engine traffic to two things: writing about things that people are searching for, and tweaking the content for search engines. You never want to write for search engines, because if your readers don’t care about it, it’s not worth it. But when you find a topic that your readers will be interested in and it’s something that lots of people are searching for, that’s when the most successful posts result.
Matt has seen in his experience that search engines can bring traffic to a health blog. I’ve noticed the same things with my blog. About 1/3 of my traffic regularly comes from search engines – and they spend quite a bit of time on my site. That is because I chose the keywords I wanted to rank for and those keywords are ones that lead people to my blog with the desire to read my kind of content. When you use SEO to rank for topics your blog is really about you will get more visitors who will spend time on your site and become regular readers. SEO isn’t scary and it isn’t something you should be afraid of doing – it helps you get more visitors, readers, comments, and more. It brings you all the things we want as bloggers.
SEO Ranking Factors
Despite all the people online who are “SEO experts” and will try to sell you the secrets, the basics are quite easy. It’s not rocket science. There are a few things you need to know and keep in mind while working on your blog that will help improve your standings to get more people to your blog.
So what factors determine how you rank in the search results? There are hundreds of factors that go in to how you rank, but the obsession with SEO shouldn’t overrule your natural blogging voice. Instead focus on these few SEO values for good search engine results and continue to write your blog in your unique voice.
Clean spider friendly code: A blog with clean code allows the search engine spiders to easily find your blog content, decide what it is about, and then send you targeted readers to that content. Making sure the technical aspects of your blog are set up: like having a sitemap, a good permalink structure, and otherwise having your blog set up for the search engines.
Regularly updated unique content: Much of what you do as a blogger automatically makes Google love your blog. Google loves the kind of unique content that you are creating every time you write a new post. By regularly updating your blog on a consistent schedule you are providing search engines with more content to use.
Keywords: Keywords are the specific words people type into Google during a search. They are the same “keywords” that when used on your blog result in Google placing your blog in the results for that search. Keywords can be one word or a phrase of several words. Examples would be “recipes” or “healthy living” or “pilates for weight loss.”
Quality backlinks: Backlinks simply are what links to your blog are called. Every time another blogger or website owner links to you that creates a backlink to your blog. Google values these links highly in their algorithm and sites with more backlinks rank higher in the search results. Every time you receive a backlink it increases your blog’s authority and tells the search engines that people like and use your content.
Those are the main SEO factors that you can easily affect yourself for better search engine rankings. There are hundreds of others, some known and some unknown (Google likes to keep its secrets), but these are the basics you can focus on to make a difference with your blog. These can be broken down further and placed into to two categories you can work on: on site optimization and external optimization.
You could read for ages on SEO and what works and what doesn’t. The basics don’t really ever change but Google constantly updates it’s algorithm. This sometimes means SEO tactics that once worked well no longer work. The following books and websites will help you get a better grasp on SEO and how it can improve your blog.
moz.com is a great website with a ton of content about SEO and inbound marketing.
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