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.