A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to send a client a detailed email offering practical advice to getting search engine optimization (SEO) value out of my client’s blogging efforts. Rather than burdening my client with the technical aspects of SEO, I shared a day-to-day, practical list of actions the client could take to increase traffic through web searches.
The list below has been generalized for wider application. Additional suggestions are welcome. Google is used in this discussion as a representative of all internet search engines.
Google really likes new content. Fresh blog posts and web pages filled with keywords have a great ability to attract Google’s attention. In the early days of launching our blog, we should publish as often as is practical and sustainable. Once a week is a good target. Such a pace can, in a sense, entice Google to recognize our website as a reliable provider of content on our focus topic. Breaking down longer posts into several posts is one way to help us post frequently, running the article as a series rather than as a single post.
Writing for keywords
When writing blog posts, it’s important to include instances of our keywords — words which we want Google to associate with our blog when they are searched for on Google. Of course, some of that will come naturally as we write about our focus area. Still it’s important to use our selected keywords as often as is practicable. Although we definitely want to write for humans – which means that our content must be intelligent and coherent – packing a post with keywords will certainly help improve the search-engine friendliness of the posts.
Use headings and subheadings
The use of heading tags (<h1>, <h2> and <h3>) is important from an SEO standpoint. In addition to providing structure to our posts, they also serve to present the post to Google in an outline format. Well … that might not be the best way to phrase it, but the use of heading tags allows search engines to know more about the content in our blog posts. From a readability standpoint, they also allow humans to more easily scan through the post.
Include internal links and hyperlink titles
This section was added on 30 Sep. 2011 as a result of feedback that I received from Alex Walker (@AlexatSage). I am grateful for his readership of my blog, and more importantly, for his valuable contributions.
To encourage our readers to flip through more than just one post on our blog, let’s be sure to include internal links within each post. Look for ways to link to other, related posts on our site. This will make it easier for visitors to our site to casually work their way through our content. Moreover, if we do consistently blog on a specific topic, linking articles will assist our readers in obtaining a more comprehensive understanding of our focus area.
Another technical tip is to use title tags in our hyperlinks. Title tags in hyperlinks add a little more information about where a link will lead. They possess SEO value and can be helpful when adding internal links to our blog posts. They are very easy to add (especially when using blogging software like WordPress), so it won’t take much to go that extra step.
Comment on other blogs
Blogs are about conversation, and bloggers love it when someone new leaves a comment on their blog. They will definitely respond at the very least by checking out our own blog and possibly even leave comments on our site. That’s great from both the SEO and web traffic levels standpoints. Google also likes posts which have lots of on-going comments. We should aim to comment on other blogs at least two or three times a week in the first several months of launching our blog. The comments that we leave don’t need to be long, but they should show that we’ve read the post and have something to say. That ‘something’ can definitely be a well-worded thank you.
Get out there and tweet
In addition to leaving comments on the blogs of people writing on our areas of interest, it’s also helpful to make connections with people via Twitter. This can be done by following those who attention we wish to attract, or simply by retweeting some of their posts. Another helpful approach is to reply to their tweets with our own thoughts. That can be done via the 140 character limit in Twitter or by sharing a link to a web site or blog … perhaps even to our own blog posts on the topic.
Tell people about it!
Let’s not forget the value of straight-up self promotion. Don’t be afraid to email friends and colleagues about our blog, particularly if a specific post might be of interest to them. Ask some of them to share their thoughts and feedback as comments. Print business cards which include our blog address and share them with everyone. Add our blog address to our email signature.
In it for the long haul
I’ll conclude by suggesting that driving traffic to a website in an organic way – no advertising – takes a lot of effort and at least several months. The rewards of achieving sustainable traffic levels are certainly enjoyable, but they only come with effort.
16 thoughts on “A Blogger’s Approach to SEO”
I confess I’m surprised at how often I find myself reading and commenting upon someone’s blog… often for months on end… and never seeing any sort of reply, much less an exchange of comments.
Maybe I’m just crazy for thinking it’s appropriate to reply to folks, at least on occasion, as opposed to acting as if they don’t exist, especially after they’ve taken the time to read one’s blog.
That’s something I like about CMD: you guys get involved in comments. Not always, but enough to let we commentators know you’re reading our stuff and glad we come round.
You raise a good point: blogs and the comments that follow really are about conversation. The best way to get real value from a blog is to engage with readers and particularly, with those who leave comments.
As for chickenmonkeydog.com, I am very grateful for your comments and engagement. I make a point of responding to comments there when I have something particular to add.
Great article – I launched my photobrapgy blog 7 months agao and the impact of frequent bloging, thinking about keywords and the self promotion have meant a fantastic increase in SEO rankings.
Great post! Agreed about the promotion piece. It’s definitely important to let people know you are blogging and to drive people to it as much as possible. Facebook and LinkedIn are other great outlets where you can provide links to your blog to increase its exposure. In addition, you can reach out to other bloggers to become a guest blogger on their site or simply ask them to provide a link to your blog from their site. Happy blogging!
Thanks for adding to the conversation. Insightful ideas for increasing exposure for our blog: Facebook, LinkedIn and other blogs … brilliant!
Can you unpack the section about using key words.
– How do you know what keywords to use?
– What tools can help you determine what keywords have the most value (e.g., google keyword)
– How important are key words relative to other SEO strategies?
The most respected blogger in personal finance is a guy named J.D. Roth. J.D. writes the Get Rich Slowly blog that brings in about 250,000 readers a month. He says don’t worry about SEO and instead focus on writing great content (http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2008/11/16/practice-passion-and-patience-the-secrets-to-successful-blogs/)
We are all short on time. What do you think about J.D.’s perspective on how to maximize your efforts?
@ JP Adams,
Great questions! Thanks for pushing this conversation into challenging corners.
The keywords that we should use are those from which we want to be found in Google searches. If we want people to find us when they Google “hospitals northwest Philadelphia”, then we need to use those words and, combinations and variations of those words in our posts. We need to create content that focuses on and about “hospitals northwest Philadelphia”.
As for tools, Google has a keyword tool as part of its AdWords offering. It’s free and is a good place to start. Google’s tool does a decent job presenting possiblities, although I’d suggest that we only write about the topics that interest us. For example, if you’re not interested in jobs at hospitals in NorthWest Philadelphia, then there is no need to worry about including them in your content.
Keywords are only one part of an SEO strategy. Heading tags matter. Meta description tags matter. The formatting of URLs matters. The code that delivers the page to browser matters. I’m not convinced that one is more important that the other. Consider which is more important: the hammer, the nail or the board? You can’t really build a house without all three.
In thinking about JD Roth’s approach, how do you argue with a guy that gets 250,000 readers per month? That said, I would suggest that writing great content will naturally include a good many instances of keywords. By focussing on crafting quality written content, we will write keyword-saturated content. In a sense, write well and keywords will follow.
Your last point is a good one that I haven’t heard too often. Well crafted content by nature contains many of the necessary keywords.
That point should be made more often.
As a tidbit, this is the best post I have read on how to make money with your blog: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/05/how-to-make-money-from-your-blog/
But does it become a problem when many/most bloggers begin to use SEO practices? Suddenly the very thing which made some stand out (in searches) means no one stands out and everyone’s back to square one.
I think that plays rather well back into Mr. Roth’s approach, as pointed out by JP Adams, that it’s content which can bring the folks in, but it’s definitely content which keeps them there.
When considering keywords for a blog, it’s important to differentiate the purpose of the individual post. For someone like J.D. Roth who writes on the same topic over a great period of time, then keyword considerations are of less value. I’d suggest that he is not looking for SEO-specific traction out of any one post, but rather, considers each post to add to his overall delivery of topic-focussed content. (Of course, I don’t know J.D. Roth, and can’t really know what he may be thinking, but it seems to me that this approach would make sense for someone in his position.)
For a person like me, who blogs on a greater variety of topics (with an admittedly softer voice, i.e., I have fewer readers than J.D. Roth), then SEO is much more important. I need to focus on the keywords if I want my particular article to get any traction from Google search results.
Both J.D. Roth and I need to create quality content if we want to maintain or grow our readership, but certainly our focus or emphasis on keywords is bound to be different.
Thanks for the kind words! More importantly, thanks for confirming that my suggested approach does, in fact, bear some value and is likely to produce the desired results.
P.S. Apologies for the delay in posting your comment — my spam filter did not like the inclusion of your URL.
P.P.S. I did like the inclusion of your URL. Great pics!
I know that this post will be just like any others first few comments about how insightful and great this post is, but we just really do agree with your great ideas here Liam Dempey. So hopefully I could read some more that could help SEO.
I added a new section to this post about internal links and hyperlink titles.
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