Have you seen the acronym SEO floating around the internet and not really known what it means? I certainly have. When looking at taking blogging more seriously I knew I had to find out the more technical side of things, and look more at how I was writing rather than what.
The main thing that kept popping up during my research of SEO was that the number one rule is to always write what you and your readers want. In basic terms write what humans will respond to, not what robots (Search engines (for example Google)) will respond to.
These ‘Robots’ do these 2 things to determine whether a website, document or PDF etc. is relevant to what the user has searched for.
- Crawling & Indexing – looking through billions of documents on the World Wide Web
- Providing Answers – Finding answers to the users queries by ranking the most relevant pages.
A nice simple way to understand this is:
The World Wide Web is like the London Underground, and each stop is a unique document stored on servers around the world known as the World Wide Web. The search engine for instance Google needs a way to ‘crawl’ these documents (tube stops) to find the most relevant way to get to your destination (desired answer/webpage) and this is how they do this..
The search engine is clever in that it will find all relevant documents for what you have searched within seconds, it then ranks them in order of popularity. So if you want to get mathematical, Relevance X Popularity = Higher rankings on the results tab (AKA the process SEO is supposed to influence). How many times can you say you’ve gone further than page 3 on Google search? This is why SEO is important. People want things instantly, if Google takes longer that 5 seconds to respond to you it’s frustrating, I’ve been there! I want it all now and I want it to be right!
If you can remember using a search engine back in the day you’ll remember it was slow, not very accurate and nowhere near as smart as it is today.
In October 2011 American’s conducted over 20.3 billion searches, 13.4 billion of these were through Google. This was in just one month! Sorry for the old data that’s just all I could find. I Googled to see what today’s stats are like and in America there are roughly 105 billion Google Searches in a month, that’s not even including other search engines!
I found a couple of interesting reasons for why and how search engines can fail to find all relevant and popular information. For example if someone has written a blog post about a food cooling unit, when the really mean fridge people who are using search engines may never find that post. This example falls under the Uncommon Term Fault. Another thing to bear in mind is the location of your target audience, or even your biggest audience. As crazy as it sounds silly things as the spelling of colour could affect your traffic. You may be based in the UK but most of your traffic may be coming from America so if they’re searching for ‘color’ they may not find your site. This problem for matching queries to content is called Language and Internationalization Subtleties. Search engines are rubbish at reading/completing/understanding online forms, so if one is required to access your website, you’re basically hiding it under a big invisibility cloak. Another thing to bear in mind is the hidden HTML text hidden behind images. If your blog post’s content is heavily revolved around images its worth checking that the HTML text includes some kind of descriptive words as to what it actually is. This way when someone is Googling Panda’s doing cute things if you have an image of this with the HTML text correct then the user & search engine will find them! Otherwise they may get lost in the beautiful thing that is the World Wide Web.
Keyword usage is the be all and end all of SEO. If the keywords aren’t visible, no one will find your site. Keywords dominate the internet. As simple and obvious as that sounds you’ve got to be smart with your keywords. If you want the internet to see a picture of your dog, writing ‘dog’ is going to get it lot in tons of thousands, even millions of pictures of people’s dogs doing cute things. Speaking of which look what I did to Bertie today. However one thing to note is that putting the word ‘dog’ in the text of the image means you at least have a chance of being seen.
You need to be careful to not use too many keywords, and to not put irrelevant ones in your post. This will only ‘clog up’ the search engine when they’re trying to search through your text. Also if someone searched for something and they did land on your site, do you think they’d be happy to see your latest ‘OOTD’ when you tagged ‘cake’ ? No they would not.
Here are some recommendations about inputting the correct amount of keywords into your site.
- Mention the keyword at least once in your title. Ideally this works best if it is at the beginning of the title.
- Make sure that you mention the main keyword at the top of the site page as well.
- Use the keyword, or variations at least two or three times throughout the text content.
- Try and input it into the ALT Attribute* of 1 image on your page. This is beneficial as it helps text search engines but also image searched, which can really boost your hits.
- Put it in your URL
- At least once in the META description tag.
Title tags should be descriptive of the content to follow, as well as accurate and concise. This is crucial for both the Human and the Robot (Search Engine) trying to find what your page has to offer. Make sure your title tag isn’t too long as you will only see around 70 characters of the title tag (roughly). If you are promoting a brand make sure you include it in the title page. I like to put it at the end of the post. If anything it helps the brand, but it also helps you because fans of the brand may be searching for it and your site may come up as a suggestion because of it. Winners all round! Your title tag should reach out to the user on a personal and emotional level. They need to engage with your brand, find out who you are and what you’re about this is where SEO is more for humans than Robots. SEO isn’t all about knowing how to write and what to put where, it’s also about making sure your users have the best experience on your site and in turn get a good impression of your brand.
Meta tags – These scared me, I didn’t know what they were or what they wanted. I’ve now learned that these basically are fuel for the little bit of text under the link on the search engines. Nothing to be scared about after all. If your meta tags makes sense and are relevant to your site then you’ve ticked that box off. If your site doesn’t use meta tags, or they aren’t done correctly and the search engine can’t create a short description then it will pick and choose from your site from pages that target multiple keywords. There are a couple more details on this which I’m going to quickly touch on just because I don’t plan on doing a lot more of the technical side of things with blogging until I’ve got a better understanding and can share my hints and tips, rather than those I have found online. Heres some quick bullet points on Meta Tags.
- Follow/Nofollow links, this is basically the search engines finding out whether you are using NoFollow links. If you are it means that the search engines will disregard the links on the page for discovery, therefore they will be viewed as HTML and not as actual links.
- No Archive is a meta tag used to stop the search engines creating a cached version of your site and storing it. I know a bit about this because at my work the sites are blocked, but if you view it through the cached option you bypass the security. Not sure how but you can, ironically my boss showed me how to do this.
- No Snippet this tells the search engine not to display any extra information about your site other than the page title and URL.
If you think you’re being smart by posting the exact same thing multiple times on your blog, then you are not. The search engine is smarter than you. It know’s what you’ve done, you’re only cheating yourself. For example if a shop had a sale on and they copied the same sales banner 3 times, they’re basically diluting the original image and making it weaker.
Know what keywords to use and why. Like I said before, if the keyword is relevant to your blog, the person that lands on your site because of this keyword and is satisfied, then chances are you’ve chosen the right one. Like anything it’s always good to look at the competition and see what they’re doing. Obviously in the blogging world it’s slightly different as I would hope people don’t view each other as competition but more than that of a support structure. But for the purposes of corporate SEO you need to check out the competition. It’s rule number 1 with anything in business, are you one step ahead? Are they? Only one way to find out.. (no not fight) go check them out!
Sticking with the corporate world, I have read that you can manipulate traffic through Google AdWords. Now I’m not an expert in the field, merely reading a case study, however it says that if you find an exact match to your keyword, you can point the traffic in your direction. I assume its like sponsored posts on Google? (Don’t quote me on this, this is just one case study on the internet). Google AdWords is pretty much an online thesaurus for finding more popular and relevant keywords to what you are writing about.
Keyword research resources include Google AdWords (mentioned above), Google Trends and Microsoft Bing Ads Intelligence. I haven’t personally used any of these before, but it is something I’m going to look into. Growing traffic, as much as I hate to admit it is something that really excites me. Seeing something you’ve made grow beyond anything you ever imagined is like a dream. I like to think I’m not too bothered by my stats but in reality I am happy when a post does well compared to when it’s a bit of a flop. I’m sure there are tons of other sites out there that can help with keyword research this is just the ones I’ve come across in my research.
Different types of links include natural links, such as the URL at the top of this post. Manual links which are created by filling out an online form for a submission, also Self-Created links these can be as simple as leaving a comment on someone else page. By doing this you have made your own link.
I could go into so much detail with this but I think over 2000 words for one night is enough. I wanted to show you that it’s not all as daunting as it seems, and the reality of it is quite straight forward. That is of course once you’ve worked your head around the jargon. Imaging not having a clue about what I’ve just wrote about and me telling you, there are these really smart robots who can think about what you want and provide you with relevant and popular information about things you want to know, places you want to see, or people you’ve never met, terrifying right?
I hope this post has helped clear your mind about what is actually going on behind the scenes of blog posts. If you have any questions for me let me know and I’ll try my hardest to help, if not I can put you in the direction of someone who can.
Until next time, much love xx
*Alt Attribute definition according to Google: The alt attribute ( Anchor text ) is used in HTML and XHTML documents to specify alternative text (alt text) that is to be rendered when the element to which it is applied cannot be rendered.