Last week, we talked about Pinterest tips for bloggers (and entrepreneurs) and believe me, Pinterest is definitely one of my favorite sources of traffic. In fact, it’s usually my top source of traffic. Before at Just Another Mom, and since rebranding and moving over to Kori at Home; Pinterest has remained as my top source of traffic. I’m pleased as punch about this but at the same time, I don’t want to rely completely on Pinterest to drive traffic. I’ll talk about some of my other traffic sources later on, but first I want to get to the heart of this post; search engine optimization. Ah yes, good old SEO- my personal favorite source of traffic. But why SEO? I’ll explain that one later too. For now, let’s start talking about how to optimize your posts for search engines.
This post contains affiliate links and while you are under no obligation to use them, by purchasing something through my affiliate link you are supporting this site, thanks!
First, this post assumes two things:
- That you’re using WordPress.org as your blogging platform. Certainly, these techniques could be applied to non-Wordpress blogs but, since that’s the platform I use; I write for that.
- That you’re using the Genesis framework from StudioPress. Certainly there are other frameworks out there, but Genesis has some handy built-in SEO features that I’m going to briefly cover.
So, with that out of the way let’s get to the how and then we’ll talk about the why… because it doesn’t make much sense to talk to you about how to do this without explaining why it’s important. I’ll also show you a few screenshots from Google Analytics using data for this blog which was launched on January 5th.
Above is my general referral traffic and, as you can see, Pinterest is smack dab at the top.
And there’s a general overview of where my traffic is coming from. Pinterest still smack dab at the top. I’d love to get that Google/organic to the top eventually. Just Another Mom, before the rebrand, was:
I’m 15 days in since rebranding and so far, Kori at Home has stayed consistent with Just Another Mom in terms of how people are getting to my site.
So now that I’ve shown you how people are getting to my site, let’s dive in shall we?
To begin, I want to talk briefly about keyword research because yes- that is important when it comes to search engine optimization. A keyword is a word or group of words that you use in your posts. Sounds simple… and it is. When you’re doing keyword research, you’re looking for a phrase or keyword that you want to rank for in the search engines. Meaning this is what you want to become an authority on, according to Google and other search engines, when people are looking for a topic. So it could be something like “how to hatch emus” and ultimately, you’ll want to be on the first page of the search.. and on a side note, I will laugh if I start ranking for that term because this post isn’t about that at all.
Now, where to begin with keyword research?
Really that’s another post in itself, but to keep it brief there are two online tools that I use for finding keywords. For this example, we’ll use the search term “search engine optimization” … which, in reality, is probably something I’ll never rank on the front page of Google for and I’m okay with that.
In the Google AdWords keyword planner, after plugging in your search term, you’ll also receive several related keywords in addition to the keyword that you want to target. Those are called longtail keywords and it’s easier, so to speak, to rank for the longtail keywords than for the actual keyword you’re targeting. In this instance, I can either continue to target search engine optimization or I could go for search engine marketing instead.
In tandem, I also use keywordtool.io as it provides suggestions for other major search engines in addition to Google. Here you’ll also get the suggested longtail keywords.
As I said, keyword research is a post that really deserves to be on its own, but because it’s pertinent to this post; I wanted to at least mention it briefly. So now that we’ve covered at least the bare basics of keyword research (and I do mean basics), let’s move on to the optimization part of using that keyword and continuing with this post as the example.
Above, you’ll see the title area and the URL area. Both of which you can use for keywords and SEO purposes. Eventually, I would edit the URL so it was just optimize your posts for search engines while keeping the title the same.
Now, in the Genesis framework there are built in SEO settings. And really this is more than enough (I’ll explain about this too) when it comes to figuring out what to do. The two parts that you want to pay attention to are: Document Title and Meta Description. Meta keywords really don’t play as much of a role as they used to in search engine optimization. You can also look at the canonical URL and well, if you’re wanting to rank for something then completely leave the noindex, nofollow, and noarchive options alone.
In the Document Title area, you can specify a title that will be different from what’s displayed on your blog. For example, going back to that keyword for “how to hatch emus” your blog post could be titled something along the lines of: Farmer McDonald’s Guide to Hatching Emus. But, in the Document Title, you could use: The Ultimate Guide on How to Hatch Emus. The titles are similar but serve two different purposes. The first title of your post is for your readers and the second title is for the search engines. Plus, adding in something like “Ultimate Guide” really makes it sound like you’re an authority on this topic.
Next, we’ll move on to the meta description. This is what appears underneath your title and URL in the search engine results. Generally speaking, the meta description is 140 words (give or take) and is a brief, but compelling snippet of what your post is about. You’ll want to use your keyword in here as well, so for Farmer McDonald and his emus, we’ll say something along the lines of:
Itching to start your own mob of emus, but don’t know where to start? Come read the ultimate guide on how to hatch emus for all of the tips and tricks you’ll ever need.
Of course, this could be much catchier but I’m not sure how to jazz up a description on how to hatch emus.
So that’s the starting point for how to optimize two parts of your post with just the Genesis framework alone.
But what about SEO plugins? I’m so glad you asked!
For WordPress, there are so many plugins out there for various tasks. Enough that it will make your head spin and here are just a few that you can use for optimizing a WordPress post:
Search Engine Optimization – 411 plugins
SEO – 1,000+ plugins
Meta Description – 763 plugins
Wordpress SEO – 1,000+ plugins
SEO Optimization – 565 plugins
On Site SEO – 1,000+ plugins
Many will recommend All-In-One SEO Pack, Yoast SEO, or SEO by Squirrly. I was a Yoast SEO user myself until I switched to SEO Ultimate. But again, that’s a different story for a different post and it has nothing to do with search engine optimization. I will say that one of the main reasons I stopped using Yoast is because I’m incredibly stubborn and got sick of seeing people saying “go for the green light” as their advice for SEO or as the technique that they were using to optimize for SEO.
Here’s what the SEO Ultimate screen looks like (it sits beneath my Social Warfare plugin that I use for social media sharing):
This is very similar to the built-in settings that Genesis provides except it just provides you with the little blurbs about characters. Easy enough, right? So why do I bother with SEO Ultimate? It has a built in batch editor for editing meta descriptions and titles. And that saves me a ton of time when I finally realize that I need to optimize some of my older posts. I do this every so often, I’ll go back through and change up images for Pinterest and while I’m there, I’ll check the SEO settings.
And if you want to know one of the other reasons I use it?
I’ll be perfectly honest- that green light from Yoast was driving me up the wall. I would get obsessed with it and then in turn, I would get stressed. A blog post should not be stressful. Don’t get me wrong, I think Yoast is a wonderful SEO plugin and it is a great tool. But that’s all plugins are meant to be: tools and guides. Ultimately, it’s based on what you know and how you apply it.
SEO plugins make our lives easier because if we were hand-coding everything, you’d have to go in and change your meta description and title every single time you write a new post. With a plugin, you can easily input this information and voila- title tag and meta description done for you.
So how else do you optimize a post? Well, that goes back to your keyword. Ideally, you want to use your keyword in your post at least twice, if not more. But you also want to take care to not use it too much because then you’re stuffing your post. And yes, Google will pick up on that.
The number of keywords appear on the page, makes a difference to all of the search engine algorithms. They simply pick on the keywords that are most dense in your pages. Of course if you choose very general or highly competitive keywords and keyword phrases you just might end up with a lot of un-targeted traffic.
The places that you want to put your keyword, or a variation of it with your longtail keyword, are as follows:
The html Title tag is a very important element and must include the most important keywords or phrases, which best represent the products or services offered by the web page. It should not contain more than 70 characters, ideally though this may change.
The html meta Description tag is a description of the web page, which will be displayed by the search engine. Make sure it contains keywords phrases. Avoid repeating keywords and bad use of capital letters. It should not contain more than 140 characters.
Keywords in Headings:
Keywords in Headings tags (h1 or h2) will be interpreted by search engines as being an important keyword relevant to the web page, and it should be looked for and indexed by the search engines.
Once in the beginning paragraph of your post and once at the end of your post are what you should be doing, at bare minimum. You can put them elsewhere in your post, but again- be wary of stuffing your post just to get search engine traffic.
Keywords in Alt Tags:
Every html picture “img” tag should contain an ALT tag with an appropriate description as it helps when a page is loading. Google also indexes images, so your image could start ranking as well. Keywords should always be used when appropriate and when I’m using this I do a variation of my meta description.
Keywords in Anchor Tags:
Every html hypertext link “a href ” should contain a TITLE tag with an appropriate description. Keywords should always be used when appropriate.
But why should you care about search engine optimization? And is SEO really that important for bloggers? Well, that also depends on your goals. If you’re in this for fun- great, then SEO really might not mean much to you and that’s fine. But if you’re in this for business or to monetize, than SEO should be on your mind and it should be something that you should care about.
SEO Is a Critical Part of Your Marketing Plan
Creating a highly optimized website or blog can go far in helping you get visitors to your site before you even start creating content. Ensure that you have a plan from the beginning, and that plan will pay off. The entire set-up of your site can be based on good SEO practices. Proper keyword-rich domain name (not quite as important as it used to be), strong keyword page names, well-crafted blog post titles with included keywords and tags are all important to your marketing plan.
SEO Gets Your Blog Noticed
The way SEO works is that when someone goes to a search engine to look for information on your topic or niche they type in a few words (called a keyword phrase). Then the search engine returns results for the search terms that the search engine hopes is high quality, accurate information as close to possible to what the searcher wanted.
SEO Rules Make Content Look Great
Using SEO rules, for both on-page and off-page content, can help your content look great with accurate titles, headers, subtitles and well-formed content that your audience wants to read. Understanding how your audience reads as well as what they want to see, then delivering that in an optimized way, not only delivers but looks great too.
SEO Rules Make Websites Work Better
Having a standard way that websites are set up, with clean code, search terms, alt tags and so forth simply makes your website work faster and better. The entire point of your blog or website is to deliver the right information to the right audience in the best possible way. SEO can help you accomplish that.
SEO Provides a Massive Return on Investment
The great thing about using SEO is that the payoff is large. If you do it correctly, what you do today in terms of SEO will continue to pay off in the future, years down the road.
SEO Identifies a Standard to Meet
Marketing your business truly is as simple as following plan of action that SEO provides. The most important part about SEO is the content, not the code. Yes, your site needs to load quickly, include search terms, alt tags, headers, sub headers, SEO right titles and so forth, but the content in your site is the most important.
SEO Can Assist with Content Creation
Since SEO is all about content; it should be pretty obvious that SEO can also help with creating great content. If you follow SEO rules while creating the content for your audience, the content is more likely to be found, and more likely to be enjoyed by your audience.
SEO Is All about Content and Content Is King
When you hear rumors that SEO is dead, it’s only dead for business owners who have not focused on the importance of providing their audience with good information, content, products and services. Instead, they focused on tricks and then did not deliver awesome content once their audience clicked through to their site.
It’s true that algorithms change, as do SEO practices. The important point to remember is that SEO is not there to trick people into finding your website, blog, products or services. SEO is there to help you serve your audience and provide value to them. If the right audience can’t find you, you won’t be able to do that. If you focus first on providing value, then on using SEO to help you deliver that value, you can’t go wrong.
So does SEO matter? Yes, I believe it does. While you don’t have to optimize every single one of your posts, and you probably shouldn’t if you’re posting every single day or multiple times a day; it’s certainly not something that you should overlook. Taking the time to optimize your posts for search engines will pay off in the long run.
Please join me next Friday when I get into Keyword research and share with you my keyword tracker!
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