How To Optimize Your Blog For The Search Engines – SEO For Bloggers

February 4, 2013

Are you trying to get lots of traffic to your blog?

Have you tried all of those “interesting” Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques that the “guru's” teach?

From Pandas to Penguins and all the other beastly changes that Google has been making, SEO is one of those things that can make bloggers tremble in their boots.

People who once had flourishing online businesses have lost EVERYTHING overnight. Whenever there's a new update, there always seems to be a flurry of panic around the interwebs.

Google's algorithm changes are so unpredictable that many influential marketers are even saying things like SEO is Dead!

My question is simple – If SEO is dead, why is Google sending me tens of thousands of visitors every month?

To take it one step further – why does it seem that with each and every update, Google sends me more and more traffic? Doesn't seem like death to me.

The SEO That IS Dead

SEO conceptEarly in the days of SEO, things were pretty simple. If you wanted to rank high in Google all you had to do was a few simple things:

  • Get an exact match domain with your main keywords. If you wanted to rank for “Become A Blogger”, get the domain becomeablogger.com (sorry, I already have it)
  • Add a few seemingly relevant articles to your site/blog
  • Get links back to your site with your keywords as anchor text. In other words, you would try to get a bunch of links that look like this – Become A Blogger.

The concept was pretty simple, the more back links you get from other sites with the right anchor text (especially high authority sites), the more Google recognized you as relevant to the keyword phrase you were targeting.

It kinda makes sense. Each link is kind of like a vote of approval. The more votes you get, the higher you rank.

Here's the problem – human nature being the way it is, the more people realized how the system worked, the more people started gaming the system. Instead of focusing on creating high quality, relevant content that helps people, they started doing what they knew would get them to rank highly, without any care for value.

If I'm an affiliate marketer and I want to make a lot of money with affiliate marketing, all I needed to do was put a site up there with my affiliate links all over, go on a backlinking campaign to drive a ton of links to my site and watch my bank account grow and grow. A beautiful thing. Or is it?

You see – what ended up happening is that a bunch of crappy sites started showing up in the search results and the experience for the end user (you and I) was really deteriorating.

Google had to do Something. And they sure did!

How Google Makes Money

Hey, did you know that Google makes money? No seriously! They do. In fact, they make A LOT of money. And how do they make money? Advertising. But it involves more than just that.

Search (2)Google's main product (or the thing we know Google most for) is their search engine. People go to Google to search for EVERYTHING. If I want to know how to bake a pie, what do I do? I go to google and search for “How to bake a pie”.

The result should be a list of websites that show me exactly how to bake a pie. The more relevant those results, the more likely I am to use Google search in the future.

Now, when I get my great and relevant results to start my awesome pie baking journey, I also become a target for something else – Pie ads. Yes, people sell pies, and baking supplies, ingredients for pies, and maybe even the perfect pie oven (pardon my ignorance), and those people spend money with Google to get their awesome products and services in front of the unsuspecting pie searchers like myself.

What happens if the search results become less and less relevant to what I'm actually searching for? I become less and less likely to use Google search and less and less likely to see those great ads. The result is that Google makes less and less money, and Google no like less and less money.

Take home lesson ==> Google likes money. Nah, I'm just kidding. The take home lesson is that Google needs to make sure that it serves the most relevant content to their users. And you know what – Google is getting MUCH better at that, to the dismay of sleazy internet marketers. Yayyy for us, boo for them.

Now That You Know

Ok, so now you know what Google wants to accomplish. How do you respond? By studying the heck out of SEO to make sure you get every i dotted and T crossed? Maybe! I choose a different route.

QualityKeeping in mind that the end user experience is of utmost importance to Google, it should also be of utmost importance to you and I as bloggers. So before I get into some of the nuts and bolts of SEO, I need to cover the foundational stuff. As you blog, make sure to:

  • Create HIGH QUALITY content. It's time for us to step up our game when it comes to our blogs. This is serious stuff. We're trying to build an audience and establish ourselves as authorities in our niche. This is no longer as easy as it used to be and that's a fact. You want to make sure to be creating Content that makes you go Ooooo <== Click Here To Tweet that. It's that good!
  • Make sure your content is focused and relevant. Become A Blogger is about blogging, so I want all of my content to be centered around that main topic. Yes, I may deviate slightly (because I'm just that kind of guy), but I want almost ALL my articles to enhance the experience of my target audience, which are beginning/intermediate bloggers who want to create content, inspire others and change the world while building their online businesses.

The Nuts And Bolts Of SEO

I'm gonna be 100% honest – I don't get fully into the ALL the nuts and bolts of SEO. Why? Because I don't believe that I need to. BUT there are some really basic things that as bloggers, we need to be aware of and practicing regularly when it comes to the content that we put out there.

Make Sure The Technical Details Are Taken Care Of

Ok, this will be the most technical part of this post, and it really won't be very technical. Here goes . . . ready to put on your tech glasses? . . . lets do it!

There are a few simple steps that you can take to help Google know EXACTLY what your content is about. The key is this – the MORE info you can give Google, the better. When it comes to blogging (specifically with WordPress), there are two main things I tell people to do.

1. Choose the correct Permalink settings. A Permalink refers to the URL that points to a specific page/post on your site/blog. The last thing you want is for your permalink to be something like www.yourblog.com/?p=168. That tells Google absolutely nothing about what's on that specific page. Instead, you want it to be something like www.yourblog.com/how-to-choose-the-right-permalink-settings/.

If you look at the second option, you see that even in that direct URL (permalink), Google is getting some information about the content of that page. With wordpress, this is EASY to do. All you have to do is log into your Admin Area, click on the “Settings” tab and then go to “Permalink” and choose ANYTHING that gives the post name in the URL (which in the settings will be sample-post) as shown below (you can choose any of the ones in the red boxes:

NewImage

2. Make Sure Google gets the right Meta Data. Ok, we're gonna get even more geeky. When Google's awesome bots go out and crawl your blog to see what's there, they don't see this beautifully design website. Sorry to burst your bubble. All they see is a bunch of HTML code. Here's some of what this blog looks like to Google.

HTML Code

Isn't it Beautiful? Yeah, I know. I spent so much on my custom blog design and this is the result – at least in Google's eyes. Now, what you may not notice is that my HTML code is set up in a way that Google likes. It gives Google what it needs. You want to make sure that you are doing the same thing and there are two ways to do that (without going into too much technical details):

  • Installing a premium theme with SEO features. I use Woothemes for almost everything I do online (I also use Elegant Themes). In fact, the theme I use here at Become A Blogger is actually a modified Woothemes theme. Those themes have all of the SEO features built in so that I don't have to worry about it. Yes, you can get a free theme, but this is one of the benefits of spending a few bucks on a quality theme.
  • Using a SEO plugin like All-in-one-SEO. Lets say you don't have the money for a premium theme. It's all good. All is not lost. You can install a plugin like All In One SEO and that'll take care of all the details for you.
That's AS techy as I will get here. By doing this, you are taking care of most of the technical aspects that you need to take care of and that will put you ahead of MANY other bloggers out there. Yep, you're welcome!

Be Very Descriptive (and shallow) With Titles

This is the biggest mistake I see people make when it comes to SEO. For example, I could have tried to be somewhat deep with this article and called it “It's not True” referring to the fact that SEO is not really dead. Yes, that might do great for curiosity. Someone might look at it and say to themselves – “Hmm, I wonder what's true” and end up clicking on the link to read the content.

Headline

However, that tells Google and any other search engine ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about what the post is actually about. Instead, I chose “How To Optimize Your Blog For The Search Engines – SEO For Bloggers“. If you read that title and are unsure about what this post is about, then you shouldn't be blogging. Just kidding, but you get the point (and I'm not really kidding).

STOP making posts/videos entitled “Video 1”, or “My first post”. Instead, be simple enough that people (and Google) knows exactly what your post is about just from reading the titles. That way, Google knows what to index your posts and pages as.

Here are some other good examples of post titles:

  • How To Study For Your Biology Classes
  • Top 5 Ways To Get A Girlfriend
  • Why Young People Are Leaving The Church

Do you have any doubt as to what I'm covering in those posts? Nope, and neither does Google.

Highlight The Important Stuff

One of the best habits to have when writing blog posts is to break up your content into different sections with headers that let people know what the sections are about. This not only makes your written content MUCH easier for your audience to consume, but it also has another great side effect – It lets Google know what some of the “subtopics” are in your blog posts.

When Google's bots scans this post, it will EASILY know that I'm addressing the statement that “SEO is Dead” and talking about “The Nuts And Bolts Of SEO”, and all the other things. Even the text that I make bold gives information to Google that there's significance there.

Google can then do all kinds of calculations with its ever so elusive algorithm and determine the gist of who should see your blog posts when they do a specific search.

Link To Relevant Content

If I'm writing a blog post and I mention something about the fact that you should start a blog, I would link to another post on my blog where I give reasons why you should start a blog. In fact, I just did it above (in case you didn't see that, read the last sentence and you'll see that I linked to one of my other articles). When Google's bots scans this post, it will see that link and follow it to my other post.

This is a beautiful thing, because the more I link to relevant content within my posts, the better of a picture I give Google about the types of topics my blog covers. And once again, the MORE information I can give to Google, the better. Are you seeing a trend here? You should be by now!

What About Keyword Research

keywordsKeyword research is great. Why? Because it gives you concrete information about what people are searching for and how many people are searching for it. It tells you whether a certain keyword phrase is valuable enough to try to rank for and how difficult it is.

If I were to do keyword research for all of my posts, I would probably have more traffic. BUT, for me it's a question of time. Keyword research takes a significant amount of time, even if you use a tool like Market Samurai, which is what I've used extensively in the past when I have done my own keyword research.

What I find is this – If I stay in tuned with my target audience, I have a good idea of what they are searching for. So, I just create what I think they are looking for, or what I hear them asking for over and over. That's my keyword research, and so far, it has done pretty well.

So, no – I'm not knocking Keyword Research. I just know that it's not where I want to spend the bulk of my time. I want to take that time and invest it into Creating Content that Inspires Others, so that I can Change The World, while building a successful online business.

What About Backlinks?

Backlinking has always been a hot topic. Since Backlinks is a significant part of Algorithm, people have gone to the extent of creating software to automatically generate backlinks.

I've always stayed away from ALLLLL of that stuff. Why? Simple!

Why do people link to other sites (generally speaking)? They link to sites because the sites offer some kind of value. So, I focus on creating Valuable (and hopefully unique) content. What does that do? It increases the probability of people linking back to my blog. Sometimes, I contact other blog/website owners and intentionally ask them for a backlink – a process I detail in my podcast episode about How I Get Over 50,000 Monthly Visitors To My Blog Using Free Traffic Sources.

Bonus Tip – Get On Google Plus

Google PlusI don't know if you noticed this, but Google is getting more social. They've realized that if they are to continue showing relevant information to us Googlers, they need to start using more social information. The fact is – if you're a trusted friend of mine and I know that you are into photography, I'm more likely to take your advice.

One of the main Goals of Google Plus is to give Google that level of social data so that it can taylor my search results more to what I'm looking for and how I'm influenced by my social circles (and yes, I do know that this is a gross oversimplification of what they are actually doing, but it makes sense).

Whether you like Google Plus or not, it is a force that I believe is here to stay and will be playing an increasing roll in our search results.

So, as a content creator, I would encourage you to get on Google Plus.

Further Study

Ok, ok – I know that navigating this whole blogging thing can be a challenge. Really, I know it can. I've been blogging since 2008 and I've had ups and downs. Fortunately, the ups FAR OUTWEIGH the downs, and as a result of everything I've gone through, I've learnt A LOT about what it takes to be a successful blogger.

One of my main missions is to help others get their blogs up and running and to help them avoid many of the pitfalls that so many bloggers make. It feeds into my mission of “Changing the world One Blog At A Time”.

This is why I created my Become A Blogger Premium Course. It's a 9 module course where we not only teach you how to do all of the SEO stuff I wrote about in the post, but I also teach you how to create the right kind of content, drive targeted traffic to your blog, make great videos, podcasts AND how to turn it into a business.

So if you're interested in taking your blogging to the next level, I'd encourage you to sign up for the course if you haven't done so already.

Click Here To Sign Up For Become A Blogger Premium

Your Comments

So, I have ONE question for you. After reading this entire post, what is the ONE point that stands out to you the most? Was there something that really resonated with you? Let me know in the comments below.

Related Posts

22 Comments

  • RebootAuthentic says:

    Great stuff as usual, Leslie.
     
    I’m currently learning a bit more about keyword research and using Market Samurai. It’s an interesting process. 
     
    So here’s something I’m milling around in my mind – and I’d love to hear your take on it. Obviously a descriptive keyword based headline is better for SEO. I understand that much 🙂
     
    But for those of us who are not yet established – we try to use interesting or eye-catching headlines to attract new people. In other words, you (Leslie) have a big following and a reputation for quality content. If I see a post from Become A Blogger, I’m not too concerned about the headline because I know it’s likely going to be really good. I just open it.
     
    On the other hand, if I see a post from Joe Schmoe who I have never heard of and the headline doesn’t catch my eye, I’m probably not giving it a second look.
     
    How would you suggest an up-and-comer treat headlines? Target keywords or be eye-catching. I know “both” would be ideal…but which would you lean toward in the beginning?
     
    Thanks Leslie!

    • @RebootAuthentic That’s a great question Gary.
       
      My answer to that is that it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your posts. There definitely is a place for creative, eye-catching titles. However, for a Long-term SEO strategy, the method I recommend works better.
       
      As an example, when I first started my Biology blog, I wanted to get ranked in the search engines. If you look back on my post titles, you won’t find ONE creative title in there. The result – I’m ranking for exactly what I want to rank for.
       
      However, there are many other sites that do creative titles and are very successful. I think it also has to do with your traffic sources. If you’re using more Social Media to drive traffic, it isn’t AS necessary for the titles to have a ton of SEO value. You want to catch people’s attention. How do you do that? Probably not with an SEO-optimized title, but with one that stands out.
       
      Another example – I remember that when I first started out with this blog, I had a post entitled “Don’t read this or you’ll make more money”. I also have one called “Making money online SUCKS”. For those, I was going more catching attention than SEO.
       
      So, you need to think about where your traffic is coming from and what you are trying to accomplish, and you need to balance that with the fact that you want to be building more traffic from the search engine over time. Balance is KEY!
       
      Hope that helps!

    • RebootAuthentic says:

      @Leslie Samuel It does help. A lot.
      Thanks very much, Leslie!

    • @RebootAuthentic You are very much welcome 🙂

    • Allen Maddox says:

      Leslie, thanks for explaining SEO so clearly. I think I understand a little better where I need to focus for now. I’ve been trying to be cleaver with blog titles. I need to think SEO for titles and subtitles.
      I have trouble with keyword search. Part of that is I don’t know what keywords are being used. As with other industries or topics, those on the inside may not use terms and words that people on the outside use to search with. Are there tools for finding out what your keywords are?

    • Hi Allen,

      What your keywords are is a decision you make initially based on knowing your topic and understanding your audience. What’s your blog about? That gives you an idea of your starting keywords. From there you can simply use the Google Keyword Tool to see what people are looking for in your niche. For example, for my biology blog, I would just put in Biology, or high school biology, or the circulatory system, etc. Then, Google would give me some ideas for other keywords that people are looking for.

      Hope that helps!

  • drnicki says:

    Thanks Leslie,
     
    What stands out the most for me is the reminder to be descriptive with my titles. I can lean toward poetic/creative/clever and that is a good thing. Your reminder encourages me to find balance between the two – integrating colorful and visual words with a concrete, clear and concise meaning. I like it 🙂 Fine-tuning. The place where beauty meets focus and grounding.

  • Tommy Koo says:

    Thank you very much Leslie,
     
    SEO is not dead and I absolutely agree with your points. Google is a responsible search engine because they make sure the only the most relevant content is presented to their users. I think you have pointed out two things in this post. First, it is quality content that will get a blog ranks higher because it keeps visitors stay longer on the blog. Second, linking our blog post from one to another within our blog, let google knows even more of what our blog is about. 
     
    Thanks for the sharing!

  • javinpaul says:

    Thanks Leslie for this nice post. I come to know about from SPI blog and I must say you got an amazing blog too.

  • len says:

    Great article, boy, I have so much to learn about SEO, but nice post Leslie.  I am focusing now on keywords for my blog posts – I try to focus on one thing at a time as I educate myself on various SEO topics.

    • Glad to help out. Yes, SEO can be a complicated topic and there’s always something to learn. It’s definitely best to focus on one thing at a time as you build.

  • Slander says:

    You should take part in a contest for one of the best websites online. I’m going to recommend this web site!

  • John Cena says:

    Hey thanks for sharing this informative post with us. Actually i am new to SEO and have a lot to learn. Your post is truly a guide for me. I appreciate your efforts and looking for your some more posts.
    Keep sharing!

  • LapCool.info says:

    good post.It’s very use full

  • Spook SEO says:

    Hi Leslie!

    You got a very interesting post here. I must say that this is one of the best articles I have read today. Anyway, I tend to agree with you that we should make sure that our content is focused and relevant. We should make it to the point that our content is centered around that main topic.

  • sapamoments says:

    This infomations very useful | thank so much

  • >
    31 Shares
    Share17
    Tweet11
    Pin2
    Share1