Help me fix my blog- 19 SEO elements to tick the boxes and change awful into awesome.
What can I do that will help me fix my blog? I can take a good look at my search engine optimization and turn an awful mess into something awesome and you can too. Many blogs these days are created using WordPress and this post is designed with this in mind.
In my posts Why do blogs fail? and I need help to fix my blog, I took a hard look at my presentation, branding, the first impression I gave, determined my audience and considered my attitude to content creation and promotion. Now I need to look at how to become visible to the search engines.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO is the process of creating elements within our website that will help the search engine spiders understand our content, show that we are providing lots of new and relevant information and help them to find that we are trustworthy and authoritative. Search Engine Optimization will help us to attract visitors who use the search bar to discover information or to find answers to their questions.
Unfortunately, the search engines do not tell us exactly what steps to take, but it is safe to say that they are looking for the most authoritative site that answers the question the searcher has entered or provides the information requested in the most thorough manner.
What is a bounce rate?
When a user clicks onto our website they have three choices. Firstly they can hit to exit and ‘bounce’ back immediately secondly, they can stay and read and then exit (still a bounce but they have spent some time on the website) or thirdly they can read and then continue to read either other pages on our website or follow links to another website.
A high bounce rate can be for two reasons. The first is that they don’t like what they see and bounce immediately and the second is that their question has been answered or their problem solved. This is where the second element, time on the website, goes hand in hand with a bounce rate. It is reasonable to have a high bounce rate if the time-on-page is not short. In some circumstances, when Voice answers a question, the answer may not require a long time to be spent.
This is where the search engine takes the user’s next action into account. Do they read the post and return to search and make another website selection or do they ask the question in another way to discover more? The user’s next action gives the search engines an idea of whether the information was helpful and very informative or whether it may have been lacking without letting the user know what the next step should be.
What are the principles of search engine optimization?
I believe there are three basic principles we need to keep in mind when creating any content. They form the framework of a successful website and are the reason to apply SEO tactics.
- No matter what you do, you must do so with good user experience in mind.
- Content must be structured so that it can be found and is liked by the search engines and users alike.
- All content needs to be highly informative and helpful.
Unfortunately many beginners, myself included, do not have these principles in mind. Making money is often the main focus when creating a blog or website.
Creating a good and helpful website creates wealth. Money may be created later as a by-product of that wealth. This, I believe, happens because we apply the above three principles correctly.
Although we tend to think of wealth as relating to having a lot of money or assets, according to The Cambridge English Dictionary the noun wealth also means “a large amount of something good”.
If we create a wealth of knowledge and help within our website, we can build trust and earn an income as a result of this wealth, along with a lot of hard work over a period of time.
What SEO tactics can help our website be seen and liked by the search engines and users?
- The website needs to have a good visual presentation.
- The website needs to load quickly.
- Mobile users need to be considered.
- Content needs to be very informative.
- We need to understand what users want to know and write accordingly.
- Content needs to be easily read and understood with correct spelling and grammar.
- The content needs to guide users to more relevant information or advise of the next step to take.
- We must cater to the avid reader and the casual skimmer.
- Content needs to be structured so that it flows like the chapters of a book.
- We must ensure the content is kept fresh and accurate as times change.
- People need to respond to the content and share it with others and we need to interact with our readers.
- The website needs to be secure and comply with legal requirements.
- Our website and content need to be discovered by the search engines.
- We need to tick some boxes that help to show we are providing content that is worthy of promoting to a user.
- We must take steps to become authoritative and build trust.
The website needs to have a good visual presentation.
Making a good first impression is important and so is having a clean and tidy layout. If pop-ups are used they need to help our readers and not keep bothering them. Pop-ups should be kept to a minimum. I covered this point in my post why do blogs fail?
The website needs to load quickly.
Load speed is important as many users will not hang around long if a website takes forever to load. Many factors come into play that can affect the load speed including plugin selection and ensuring that plugins complement each other and the website theme. There are steps we can take to improve our load times such as optimizing our images and using plugins that load them when a user scrolls, not when the website first loads.
Mobile users need to be considered.
We need to have mobile-friendly themes and plugins and ensure that our images are well placed so that they are not too close together and the surrounding text is displayed correctly.
Content needs to be very informative.
Our content needs to answer the exact inquiry of the user. It should also answer any other related questions that the user may need to know including the next steps to take.
The content should eliminate the need to go back to the search bar and retype the same keyword, or very similar wording, as the answer is unclear.
Where practical, use How To instructions with images rather than ‘telling’ how to do something. This improves user experience and may eliminate the need to seek visual instructions from another website.
Posts need to be the right length to answer the question or solve the problem without repeating information or adding fluff to increase word count. Some topics may require shorter posts and others an extensive one. It is a matter of the right balance depending on the topic.
Many people will promote having a lengthy post arguing that it will answer every question and more. However, I find as a user that if the post is too long it becomes boring and uninformative and I go back and search for another shorter explanation. Some topics or questions don’t require the user to read a novel-sized blog post with a hundred links. Think about user experience.
The content needs to be 100% relevant to the title of the post.
We need to understand what users want to know and write accordingly.
In order to build a successful blog we first need to understand what our audience needs to know. We need to discover which words are being spoken or typed into search. This process is called keyword research.
A keyword can be one or two words or even a sentence. If you are unsure about keyword research you can find more information on my earlier posts.
What is a keyword? talks about where to look for and how to discover lots of keywords so that you can have your own keyword treasure chest.
What is keyword research? talks about how we use the keywords we have found.
As a keyword relates exactly to what a user needs information on, we need the search engines to understand that our content matches these keywords in order to help in the categorization process. In order to do this, there are some steps that we can take to assist the process. These steps are covered later in the tick-the-box section of this post.
Images can be used to break up our content so that it does not look like a block of text. It helps with presentation and is easy on the eye. Infographics can highlight the points of lists and can make the content easy to share with others, and in particular on social media.
Some people prefer to see rather than read and video and images can help these people You can add some video on particular points, or even speak the whole post with your headers as the visual pointers in a PowerPoint presentation or as part of a YouTube channel that complements your website.
The content itself needs to have good grammar and correct spelling while answering the searcher’s inquiry. Even if keyword research shows good results for ‘build blog make money’, we should consider phrases such as ‘build a blog to make money’.
The content needs to guide users to more relevant information or advise of the next step to take.
Content needs to guide users to other relevant information. Where practical, we can use external links to guide readers to other information that they may require or link to other resources. This gives your website authority and lets your reader know that you have researched your information and creates trust.
However, too many links can be confusing so ensure that you link to the source but add an explanation so the reader does not need to leave your site unnecessarily. Use these links simply to cite your references and explain the message you are trying to point out.
Internal links to related content or to help the reader take the next step keeps your website content interlinked and can help keep the reader on your website longer. This shows the search engines that users will spend time on your website and helps it understand that your content is good.
We must cater to the avid reader and the casual skimmer.
Many people don’t have all day to read a 10,000-word post. They will scan the headlines and get the main points, stopping to read short paragraphs where relevant. Headlines and a table of contents can be beneficial to these people. Although they may not spend a lot of time on the site, if they do not immediately search for the same keyword then the user experience will still be positive.
Content needs to be structured so that it flows like the chapters of a book.
Creating content structure is difficult for those of us who do not have fantastic writing skills. However, it is important that we have an introduction, body of content and conclusion. It is advisable at the conclusion of the post to let your reader know what steps they should take next.
This could be a call to action to download or purchase a product, to read another helpful blog post, or maybe share the post on social media.
In order to create chapters, we need to think about the question or problem we are solving, answer it in the introduction and ensure that the body of content covers the who, what, where, when, why, how together with how much, of the topic.
We must ensure the content is kept fresh and accurate as times change.
Whilst accuracy is always important, we need to continually refresh older content as times change. The search engines like to see that old content is being updated on a regular basis. This could be as simple as rewording some text and adding new images. It may also mean removing or redirecting content that is no longer accurate.
When updating information we need to ensure that all links are working and that the information that is linked to remains accurate and relevant.
As the internet has matured many tactics applied in the past are no longer supported and we must ensure that all links are to good quality content by today’s definition.
People need to respond to the content and share it with others and we need to interact with our readers.
The search engines like to see that readers interact with websites. This can be through leaving comments and it is very important that all comments are responded to. Comments can increase the length of our post, therefore, increasing overall quality. There are many ways to get comments, including simply asking for them within your content.
The sharing of your content within social media by yourself and others will also let the search engines know that your content is liked and shareworthy. Social media can be a tool to get traffic to your website.
The website needs to be secure and comply with legal requirements.
Today’s website needs to be secure. https: is now not only a requirement of websites such as banks where consumer information may be recorded but expected good practice for everyone. http: sites come up with ‘not secure’ in the Google Chrome browser, this action can put off users who are not aware of why the site is rated not secure.
If your hosting does not automatically provide this then you need to pay extra to get this or find a plugin to assist you.
With general opinions and affiliate links, it is recommended that you also have an on-page disclosure. Opinions including health & finance should also state your qualifications or lack thereof. You need to identify whether you are talking from personal experience or making a recommendation and whether you have professional qualifications to do so.
Our website and content need to be discovered by the search engines.
In order to let the search engines know our website is live we give them a site-map. This is usually part of the SEO plugin and once set up, it is added to Google Search Console. Google then knows and will regularly check for variations within the site-map, so it knows that more content has been added. Likewise, Bing (and therefore Yahoo) has Webmaster Tools and you add your site-map here as well.
The final step is then to verify your site in each. This is done by obtaining a code and placing it within your SEO plugin or website.
How do the search engines find our content?
The search engines have data spiders, which are bots that crawl the web looking at content and working out how to categorize it when adding it to the database. This database is the library that makes up the world wide web.
When they find something new they crawl over the information and try to work out which micro category to add it to. In the process of evaluating the quality of the content, the spiders look for signals within and this is often referred to as ticking the boxes.
What else can we do to bring attention to our new content?
There are other things that we can do once our post is live to let the search engine and potential readers know that we have the information that they are looking for.
Each time we add new content, or substantially revise existing content we can manually submit the new content via Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Manually adding simply means that the new content will be found a lot quicker. Within Google search console it is through the URL inspection tab and within Bing Webmaster Tools in the configure my site tab is a submit URL’s section.
Share the post to our social media pages. This needs to be done carefully so that we do not look spammy. If we have been engaging with our followers then we can share and ask for feedback. We do need to let people know how the post can help them.
We should pin a range of unique pins within our Pinterest profile. You do need to have different titles and descriptions and different images although the content that is being linked to is the same page or post. You can also schedule further pins over a period of a couple of weeks.
We need to tick some boxes that help to show we are providing content that is worthy of promoting to a user.
These are some simple inclusions that the search engine spiders will look for.
- Your keyword (what the post is about and the searcher is looking for) should be in the blog title (and permalink). If it is a long keyword, then at least have a shorter version in the title and permalink.
- Repeat the keyword in the H1 (first) heading at the top of the post and expand on it to make the headline interesting. This must make sense and must be what your content is then about.
- You can repeat the keyword a couple of times within the post – if it makes sense to do so. It has to be 100% relevant. You should not just keep adding it.
- If the keyword is a question, then make sure that you answer the question immediately then go on the explain.
- The keyword should be in an H2 heading within the post, where it makes sense to do so. The content below must relate exactly to the keyword sentence or question.
- H2 and H3 headings should be placed within the post.
- The keyword can be added to the alt-tag in any images as long as it matches what the image is about. It is advisable to use a differently worded version of your keyword and related keywords within the alt-tags.
- Have descriptions in your image information.
- Your keyword should be in the Meta Title and Meta Description. Add your keyword in such a way that it makes sense and lets your reader know what the content is about. It is not about placement but about enticing the reader to click and go to your website and find the answer to their inquiry. The Meta title and description can be found on your blog post within the SEO plugin section. To Make It Stand Out, It Is Recommended That You Camel Toe Both The Meta Title And Meta Description.
- Add tags to describe the content. You can add the keyword in the tag if it is topic related. You can add a short or related keyword with the tags. Tags are designed to describe the content and should not be used to keyword stuff your content.
- Excerpt. If your theme allows an excerpt then add the keyword here and use a unique description to entice a reader to click and read further.
- At least one external link to an authority website.
- Some internal links where it makes sense to do so to send readers to further information within your site.
- Newly uploaded images (complete with alt-tags and description). If the post has been updated, update the images.
- If linking to an affiliate, an on-page disclaimer.
- Categories. The categories you use will be helpful for the spiders as well.
- Spelling and grammar. The spiders are trying to understand the content and it needs to make sense.
- Links are working. If they follow a link, they need to know that it will go to a website and not a 404 page.
- The page or post must work on desktop and on mobile.
There are steps that we can take to make ourselves look authoritative and increase the value of our website in the eyes of the search engines.
One way is to build valuable links. Linking back to your site or post from various platforms helps build links. Social media and forums where you can have a link in the bio are easy ways. Where you are helpful, you may be able to link to your website or post within the forum and from posts within social media.
If you have a YouTube channel, then you can link your videos to your website and add links in the description. Also when you reach a certain maturity point, you will have a discussion tab within YouTube that allows you to have written content.
Good comments on websites within your own niche can often lead the website owner to mention you and link back to your website. You should not, however, leave links to your website within comments.
Don’t forget the offline community to build trust. If you can help the online community, then you can help the offline community. When people search for your website by name, it shows the search engine that you are a person of authority and people are looking for you.
Business cards, leaflets, advertising and even talking to people and referring them to your blog, if you think it may help them, are all external methods of gaining traction to your blog and building authority.
You may join local clubs that relate to your niche where people are looking for information and you can give them your website.
There are many factors that come into play in creating quality content that the search engines will like and users find helpful.
Building an authoritative and trustworthy website takes time and work but if we are continually thinking about providing the best experience for the user then we are likely to get there in the long run.
We should keep in mind that many people who are on page one for the most popular keywords have been in the industry for many years, often 10 to 15. This could be you in another 10 years or so. Don’t expect to just write a few posts and hit the top of the tree.