Sure, you’ve heard a lot about SEO. And there are thousands of pages on the Web about search engine optimization purportedly aimed at those of us that aren’t obsessed with Panda, Penguin or DuckDuckGo. But if you don’t have time to wade through that 68-page SEO for Beginners PDF, here are five tips to help you make sure your blog post gets the visibility on search it so richly deserves.
1. Start with a question
Search engines answer questions — they’re really answer engines. So as you think about a title for your post, start with the questions your content will answer. Those are the questions and terms that people will search on. Let’s say your post is about backing up social media account data. Your questions (and search queries) would likely include:
Brainstorming key questions will help you shape your post title and the amazing content therein.
2. Create a Killer Title
You’re saying to yourself: “Thanks, Captain Obvious.” But we can’t emphasize standout titles enough. If it seems natural, include a keyword from your questions above, but don’t “stuff” your title with keywords. Make sure your title is unique—search engines don’t like duplicates. You know what to do: search on your title before you fully commit by publishing it broadly. If you see other posts or articles with the same (or a similar) title, try using your second or third title choice or changing up your topic word choice.
Blog post titles are so crucial because you have just a few seconds to engage your reader—they can click away at any time. Looking for new ways to grab a reader’s attention? Start with something unexpected. Try pairing your topic with something incongruent¬: Puppies and Big Data, anyone? Zombies and Figure Skating? You get the idea.
Looking for other ways to mix up your title? Try the Content Idea Generator.
And check out this post about creating irresistible blog titles.
3. More Shares = Better Search Rankings
A high number of likes, shares, Tweets and Plus Ones creates a high mass of what are called social signals—when someone clicks the Facebook “like” button on a Web page or blog post, that’s a social signal. Content that is shared frequently correlates with good search rankings. In fact, social signals have become one of the top SEO ranking factors. So firstly, make sure your blog has social sharing badges or buttons highly visible on each post. You should also share your post—Tweet it and post it on Facebook and LinkedIn, too.
There are millions of blog posts published each month—48 million posts are published on WordPress.com alone. So how do you create a great post that cuts through the noise and inspires people to share it? This is where quality and significance matter. We can’t tell you what to write about, but quality content that stands out in some way ranks higher in search. Your content should be well-written, informative, entertaining, and maybe even a bit weird. Or better yet—all of the above.
4. Break it Up: H2s, Pictures and More
Reading online is a lot different than reading a book or magazine. Your eyes get more tired and, frankly, it’s really easy to click on over to something else the second a reader gets bored. Keep them interested by breaking up your text—each paragraph should be no more than five lines long. Insert subheadings so readers can scan really easily. Use bulleted lists, pictures, and video to add even more visual interest to the page.
What does this have to do with SEO? When you code your subheadings as “h2” headers, search engines know that information is more important than the rest of the text on the page. Pictures and video are great to look at and if you use your meta data correctly (see below), they are a great way to convey even more information to the bots crawling your page.
Side note: copyright matters and it’s really easy for the people who own an image to find out if you are using it without paying for it or providing proper attribution. Save yourself a headache (and cash) by making sure the pictures you use are your own, licensed under Creative Commons (and properly attributed), or that you’ve paid for them.
5. Meta Data Matters: the Blank Sheet of Paper Test
Meta data is like a special language that the search engines speak. It’s a way to mark up your posts with all kinds of information that readers don’t have to look at. And all meta data should pass the blank sheet of paper test. That means if you saw the meta data on a blank sheet of paper, you would know exactly what it meant—it can stand on its own without additional context.
But you don’t have to learn the special search engine language, if you’re using WordPress, there are plugins that can help you.
For example, Yoast offers a WordPress SEO Plugin which adds a widget at the bottom of your draft screen where you input the keyword you want to rank for, the title you want search engines to see, and a meta description (a paragraph that explains what the post is about and that will show up in your search engine results). Once you’ve entered all this information, a little button shows green, yellow, or red to see how well your post is optimized for search engines. And it will give you recommendations on how to rank better.
The plugin is actually pretty powerful and you can do a lot more with it, but if you never explore beyond that widget, you’re still doing a lot to help yourself.
Search engines don’t see pictures (yet), they see words. So other important meta data to include on your posts and pages is the alternative text (also called “alt text”) you input when you upload a picture. You’ve probably seen the field in WordPress and it looked complicated so you ignored it (lots of people do). Put yourself ahead of the competition by adding a few words in that alt text field that describe the picture fully. Remember you’re not keyword stuffing, but the image you chose relates to your text, right? Give yourself a leg up in ranking by translating your pictures into words using that alt text box.
Shortest SEO guide ever, right? Do you have a quick tip to rank well? Share it!
Sandra LeDuc is director of content and Isla McKetta is a senior content strategist at Portent Interactive. Portent helps companies increase significance and rankings by making them relevant online.