An expert’s guide to SEO and blogging
Terms like SEO and DA are mentioned a lot in blogging, and so I thought I’d put together a (hopefully!) helpful guide…
Is SEO something you think about when you’re blogging? I have a pretty good understanding of SEO thanks to working as a website editor for so long, but I never really applied it to my blog.
My husband has worked in SEO for over six years, most recently as an SEO Account Director at a large agency (so I feel completely justified in calling him an expert). This week I got frustrated when my DA (domain authority) dropped, so I asked Sam what I’d done wrong.
He gave me some really helpful advice, and then the lovely Abbey suggested I ask him a bit more about SEO and blogging to share on my blog. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and luckily Sam was happy to share 🙂
This is a pretty long post, so if you’re short on time, you can jump to the sections you want to know more about!
Briefly, what is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It is the process of optimising your website for users and Google, with the aim of ranking as high as possible for search queries in Organic Search.
How do you define a well-optimised site?
From technical ‘under the bonnet’ aspects such as page speed, internal linking between pages and Google crawl optimisation, to ‘Onsite’ aspects such as regularly updated, engaging content and overall user experience (UX). There are lots of tweaks you can make which vary in importance.
In more simple terms, if you make your website easy to use and engage with for users, it’s a safe bet Google will consider your site well optimised.
How does SEO and blogging work? How important is SEO?
First and foremost, write for your audience, NOT for SEO purposes. Increasingly, Google is paying attention to UX metrics (dwell time on page, next page visit, bounce rate) to determine the quality and associated rankings of a website. Next, SEO is NOT about cramming keyword ‘x’ into a article ‘y’ amount of times. Instead, write naturally. Google has specific algorithms which look into ‘low quality content’, so if you try to optimise a content piece too specifically by keyword stuffing, you’ll eventually be found out.
Instead, my approach would be to choose your topic you would like to talk about, and then use Google’s Keyword Planner to look at the search volumes for keywords associated with that particular content theme. Then, in addition to being a bit smarter with your use of (key)words you use in your content piece, you may also become aware of other sub-themes and (key) words associated with your content topic, which might warrant it’s own content piece, if the search volume and differing content theme demands it. Don’t overuse your keywords, it’s okay to use synonyms.
My DA has dropped, why could that be? Is it common for DA to fluctuate?
Your Domain Authority, or DA is a measure of the power of a domain name, a ranking score between 0-100. Minor DA fluctuations are common. You have to remember the speed and frequency Google indexes the web these days. The rough rule is, the more your site/blog is updated, the more Google will crawl your site (in search for the new content you’ve uploaded), and the more liable your site is for fluctuation. If Google is used to crawling your site at ‘x’ frequency because of the regularity of your blog posts, and suddenly your upload regularity drops off, you can then expect Google to stop crawling your site as often and equally your DA will be hit.
Other areas which impact DA include, quality of external backlinks, internal linking between pages on the site (ideally, the whole of your site should be structured in a logical hierachy – homepage at the top, top tier categories on the level below, and so on, with internal links joining all of your pages up, both for Google and for the user to help them navigate your site.)
Another thing to be a little wary of is your ratio of inbound/outbound links. If you link to a far larger proportion of websites compared to the volume of sites which link to you, your site may get classified as a spammy site. A few years back Google launched a massive crackdown on penalising sites who primary reason for existence was to pass link equity to other sites. Even if this isn’t your aim, be careful as you may still be qualified this way.
Improving the quality/volume of external backlinks – If a site with a high DA links to you (and it’s a follow link), your site will benefit from ‘link equity’ which is passed from the other site. Think of it as a vote of confidence. If a popular, high DA influencer links to YOUR site, then it’s a big thing.
Fine tuning your internal linking – As mentioned in previous answer, from a reader perspective you’ll want to include internal links in your content/on your page to the reader can easily stay on your site. But also, from a Google perspective, it used internal links as a gateway to travel around your site. The easier it is for Google to travel around and index your site, encountering no ‘dead-ends’ (404 pages) or internal linking loops (page ‘a’ only links to page ‘b’ which only links to page ‘a’), the better.
Lastly, as mentioned before, UX metrics are critical in Google’s measure of your DA. What will Google give a higher DA to? A site where users spend a lot amount of time reading and engaging with the interesting and amazing content OR a site where users bounce off after 6 seconds because your content didn’t engage/satisfy the search intent? Its easy. You should strip things back and always think of your audience.
This is a tricky area. For established websites/blogs, I would say advertising isn’t harmful and quite a nice way of bloggers collaborating and sharing audiences. But my assumption here would be a link would be part of the bargain, which doesn’t really do much in terms of DA. Instead the benefit would be UX based, with the idea of the guest blogger/advertiser ‘tapping into’ the original blogger’s audience. If the original blogger harnesses a solid, engaged readership and the guest blogger/advertiser have done their homework and are confident original bloggers readers will love guest blogger’s site too, then you could expect a new wave of engaged readers coming to your site too. The more they read, the longer they spend on your site, your UX signals will improve, which is good for DA.
For less established blogs with smaller audiences, for reasons above, it wouldn’t be harmful, but I’m not sure if much benefit will be felt.
Keywords are essentially queries which users type into Google when they are searching for something. Going out for dinner on Friday night – “Restaurants in London” might be the keywords they use to search, for example. For bloggers, it’s about creating content to match the intent of searchers. It’s no good trying to be visible for a keyword, if you don’t sufficiently work on the content which will be served to the user if they click on your search result. They’ll just leave your site and your overall site performance will be harmed. Always think from the perspective of the user.
How do I find out what keywords I should be using for a post?
Yoast is good. As is Google Keyword Planner. MOZ’s suite of tools are good too, but can be expensive.
Most have been answered above. With regards to image optimisation, there is something called an image ‘alt’ tag, which is your opportunity to optimise your image. Google can’t yet crawl an image and understand what it is. Instead, it’s up to you, to label it accordingly – make sure you keep it simple and descriptive of what the image actually is.
Of course, there is then Meta optimisation:
Page Titles – these are a ranking factor. For bloggers, typically the Page Title would mirror the title of your blog post, which ideally should include at least 1 of your core keywords in.
Meta Description – NOT a ranking factor, but instead is the chunk of text which appears under your Page Title and URL in Google search listings. The idea here is to write up to 158 characters on what that page is about, but be enticing. This is your chance for you to reach out and sell the content of your webpage.
URLs – a minor ranking factor. Try and incorporate the title of your blog post into the URL, rather than the URL being a load of letters and numbers. For example, /best-tacos-in-london/ is a lot better as a URL than /67492%3762£$
Can SEO be spammy? Can you overdo keywords?
Yep, absolutely, as discussed above.
Follow links pass the equity from Website ‘A’ to Website ‘B’.
For example, if the BBC website links to samsblog.co.uk with a follow link, that is huge. A site with a DA 100 linking to you means you’ll get the hefty link equity harnessed from a high DA site.
NoFollow links DO NOT pass any of the equity over. NoFollow links are widely used as they do not run the risk of being put under investigation from Google. Remember what I said earlier, on Google cracking down on bloggers abusing the process of backlinking. NoFollow links are the risk-free way of linking out to wherever you want to. As you aren’t passing equity, these links are more likely to be classed as ‘genuine’ and not simply for SEO purposes.
I hope you found that helpful! If there is anything else you’d like to know about SEO, let me know and I’m sure Sam will be happy to answer your questions!