SEO Blogging Best Practices

22 Nov
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(WARNING! This article is several years old now. The world of SEO changes often. Take this and any other SEO advice with a grain of salt and an eye for the contemporary.) This article assumes your web team has already configured your blog on a good blogging platform like WordPress with all the best SEO plugins installed and configured. It also assumes that you’ve gone through the complex decision of deciding where to put your blog: e.g. mysite.com/blog vs. myblog.com

Let me know if you need help or want further discussion on any of those prerequisites.

SEO Blogging Basics

  • Write often.
  • Know your keywords.
  • Focus all page and post elements.
  • Leverage links.
  • Embrace community.

Content is King

When done well, blogging benefits your brand, customer community and valuable search rankings.

Write well and often. Avoid blogger burnout by using multiple bloggers. Invite guest bloggers who will give you great content and buzz in exchange for a link to their site in the byline. Do whatever it takes to get content flowing regularly. There’s no upper limit to quantity but you want to make sure you’re cranking the quality too.

Your audience is twofold and you should write for both humans and robots. We’ll assume you know how to connect with those humans but the pesky search engine spiders are a little different. If you blog a lot, you don’t need to always pander to the bots. But…

All in-house bloggers should be aware of your SEO campaign’s keywords and should be updated as the list changes. If it’s ever convenient to fit a keyword phrase into your blog post, and it sounds natural, do it.

Page Elements and Agreement

But sometimes you’ll want to take it a step further. The best SEO blog entries have some sense of agreement throughout disparate page elements. These elements are opportunities for us to convey semantic information to Google. Some of these elements:

  • title (appears in the very top left of the browser and often is the top bolded part of the Google search engine result page (SERP) listing)
  • description (not visible on page, but often used by Google in SERP listings, below the title)
  • body content – copy in your paragraphs – the beef
  • Headlines – your primary headline on almost any blog entry is the Blog name. it’s the h1. You then define a headline specific to your entry (h2). And break up your text with tertiary (h3) and sometimes other sub-headlines (h4, h5) These headlines help both humans and robots to better understand what’s important.
  • alt tags – any time you use an image you have the ability to specify an alt tag to tell search engines and accessibility devices (screen readers) some info about the image.
  • page name / entry name / headline / title – in WordPress, the “Enter title here” field is often used to populate several fields including
  • the first, primary headline in your post
  • the page name
  • the page title (see above)

For example in this post:
http://dandreifort.com/2010/10/08/the-fall-of-uncool/
I entered “The Fall of Uncool” into that field.

  • Which was used verbatim as the main headline of the post
  • hyphenated in the page name /the-fall-of-uncool/
  • and prefixed to the blog title to create the title

The Fall of Uncool << Dan Dreifort

  • WordPress SEO plugins like Platinum SEO Pack, allow you to specify unique page  titles, page names, descriptions, etc.  apart from what you enter into the “Enter Title Here” field. You should use these fields to your advantage as specified below.

Titles – Should be no more than 65 characters in length including spaces. Anything more than that and you’ll be wasting energy; Google won’t display >65 characters in the headline of the listing and won’t pay attention to the additional characters for indexing. (Use Title Case for Titles) They’ll often be similar and sometimes even identical to the main headline of your blog post.

Description – Keep them under 165 characters. Use sentence case for descriptions. This is your opportunity to suggest to Google what they should put under the search engine result page (SERP) headline.

Google uses these various bits of info you provide to create an outline of your page and they toss it into the algorithm and do the ranking magic. We don’t want to miss out on these easy opportunities to tell Google what’s what. It’ll become second nature in no time.

Back to the concept of agreement, try to avoid stuffing important SEO keywords in the title, description, alt, etc. while NOT also using the phrase in the plain body content too. Or put positively, if you use a keyword phrase in the title and headline, it should appear at least once in the body too.

Your ideal Keyword Density for a campaign keyphrase should be between 1% and 3%. Don’t go too much higher or you risk retribution. Ideally, at least half of that keyword density will come from your plain sentence/paragraph body text. Err on the side of caution; if you’re copy starts to sound unnatural, don’t fret about low keyword density.

I’ll use another example:

http://dandreifort.com/2010/09/07/wordtracker-kei-fail-wordtracker-alternatives-seo-news/

Take 15 seconds to scan it.

Notice that there’s a theme? (No, it’s not ‘whining’. That’s just the modus operandi, not the theme.) How did you notice the theme? Some will mention the headlines. Some will mention the images and the captions. Others might have scanned the body content. Regardless, it’s easy for both humans AND bots to figure out the big pic of what this article is trying to say. When you google some phrases about this entry, many show up first SERP on Google.

“wordtracker alternatives”

“wordtracker kei”

etc.

What if I’d used the same “Wordtracker” headlines and images but my body text was about something totally different like cooking? While most humans wouldn’t be able to notice the incongruity (or lack of agreement) at first blush, it takes Google a fraction of a second to judge every detail of your content. If you stuff a keyword into important fields like title, headline, alt, etc. but don’t also use it in your body content, Google knows you’re stuffing keywords to try to game the system.

Post tags and categories

Whether or not you choose to make them visible on the page, you have the ability to tag and categorize your posts.

Develop a main taxonomy of your content to establish your main categories. If you start writing about new content, add a new category. A post can be in more than one category. You can leave a post uncategorized but why? Put it where it belongs!

Use several words and concepts to tag your post. A tag is usually a great place for the SEO keyword on which you’ve focused for the post. Choose several tags. There’s no hard upper limit, but use common sense. Don’t overdo it. There are also WordPress plugins that will suggest tags for you.

Linking

Linking to relevant sites can add value to your post. Your readers might benefit, and it lets you tell Google more about your content via association. You can also use linking to help your main (non-blog) site’s SEO.

There are two main elements of a link. The target URL is the page the link points to. The anchor text is the text that is the link. I.e. in the web’s early days webmasters regularly employed “Click Here!” as the anchor text for most links. Click Here tells neither human nor bot anything about the content on the other side of that link. We can do better.

Linking to third-party sites

When you link to a site you’re letting Google’s algorithm know that you’re sort of voting for that site. We can greatly diminish the vote by using a trick called “nofollow”. Nofollow instructs Google that the link is censured and should be ignored vis-à-vis their index.

Unless you’re feeling generous, always specify nofollow and never use an SEO keyphrase as the anchor when you link to a site you don’t control.  The WordPress plugin “nofollow post”  allows you to select “nofollow” when creating a link. (See my earlier post about the best WordPress SEO plugins for more.)

Linking to your own site

Just like linking to your competitors’ sites, but 100% opposite! Always try to use a relevant SEO keyword phrase to link to your own pages. Never use nofollow. Furthermore, you should use Google’s guidance to decide which of your pages gets the incoming link.

First determine which of your pages already ranks best for your keyword phrase.

If you type this into Google

site:dandreifort.com seo

You’ll get a list of the highest ranking dandreifort.com pages for the phrase “seo”

The page on top has the best foothold (highest rank) and is a great candidate for some SEO love.  I.e. the page on top would be the ideal target URL for a link with anchor text “seo”.

Unless it’s your policy to only link to your own site, don’t overdo the links to your own site. Try to link to your own site less than half the time. I.e. for every link in a post to your site you should include at least one nofollow link to different sites. There are arguments for and against excessive self-linking.

Links to your site from third-party sites

Encourage others (readers, friends, etc.) to link to your site. Getting a quality incoming link (“ backlink”) to your site is SEO gold. What is a quality link?

The BEST incoming links:

  • Link from another site to yours
  • Are on a page that has high Google PageRank (PR)
  • …on a page with content closely related to yours
  • …on a page with only a few or no other links to external sites
  • …hosted on a different server, different domain registrar info, etc.
  • Use relevant anchor text (“[good keyword]” vs “Click here!”)
  • without reciprocity (i.e. you don’t link back)

How do we get links?

  • Ask nicely (ultra low success rate)
  • Offer to trade links (also pretty low)
  • Rent them (expensive and frowned upon by Google)
  • Do some press releases (hope for links)
  • Befriend bloggers (hope for links and/or a review)
  • Other networking (hope for / trade for links)
  • Etc.

Syndication and Community

Encourage syndication of your content via RSS. Provide multiple opportunities for readers to subscribe to your RSS feed.

Use a plugin to enable easy liking/sharing of your content on popular social networks.

Enable comments. Always reply to comments. Using keywords in comments is smart too.

Spelling

Last but not least, always run a spell check before publishing!

Dan Dreifort consults on usability and search. Contact him… if you can figure out how!

One Response to “SEO Blogging Best Practices”

  1. Peter Morrison January 6, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    It is great to find others making good posts about a subject that we can never learn too much about. SEO is one of those subjects where many people feel they might know everything, but in reality there is always more to learn. Many thanks for your informative post. I hope that there are many others, who, like me, may have been enriched.

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