A guide to SEO and blogging

An Expert’s Guide to SEO and Blogging

Is SEO something you think about when you’re blogging? Terms like SEO and DA are mentioned a lot in blogging, and 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 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!

How can I improve my DA?
Is blog advertising beneficial?
What are keywords?
How can I optimise my blog?
Follow/NoFollow links

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?

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.

How can I improve my DA?

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.

Do you think advertising on other people’s blogs is helpful for DA?

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.

What are keywords?

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.

How can I optimise my blog?

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.

Are Follow/NoFollow links important?

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!

  • The Creators Tribe

    Thank you for the tips! As a new blogger I’m still struggling a bit with the SEO, but overall I think I’m starting to get the hang of it 🙂

  • ♕connor

    So happy i found this post, this is exactly what i’m after! I want to increase my DA in 2018 and this is going to help me understand it so much more! Thank you!

  • This is a bloody brilliant post! It has dispelled a lot of the preconceptions that I previously had about optimising my blog posts for SEO. I thought that it was all about the keywords and I was very worried that because I don’t have a plug-in such as Yoast, my blog would be suffering as a result, but to hear that it is instead the quality/relevance of the post and the user experience on my site that aids my DA score is very heartening! I definitely now need to work on my bounce rate and keeping people engaged on my site to a sufficient degree that they stick around for more than just one click. Using the ‘alt’ image tagging is something that I forget to do so often, so this has given me the kick that I need to really ensure that I get it right for every single post! Sam has done a brilliant job of answering these questions so clearly, I’m so delighted that you decided to share this!

    Who needs an Instagram boyfriend when you’ve got an SEO husband, eh?!

    Abbey xxx

    • Totally Abbey. I’m literally just keep on top of posting let alone finding time to look at my SEO which I know needs attention. I have been starting to use the Alt tag for my photos, but whether that’s had and effect I don’t know. I know I also need to improve my DA score. Short of being linked to a high traffic site I think I need to keep on tweaking my blog to improve it. Good luck on your blog Abbey and this has been a very helpful post xx

  • This is such a great post! I know very little about SEO (just what our blog tells me) and I have always wanted to learn more so that i could improve the blog. I have never used Google Keyword planner but should defo do! Always wanted to try but never did! Silly me. This interview will really help! thanks! also, we should decide on a day for that blogger date! xx corinne

  • This is such a helpful post! Now I work in web content I know how important SEO for any brand so it’s great you’ve shared your knowledge to help others!

    I will definitely bookmark this for when I need a recap 🙂

  • Rebecca’s Reviews

    Really useful post, thank you for posting it! I’m definitely more clued up on SEO now and have wanted to find an easy to read post for a while! xx.

    Rebecca | http://www.rebeccasreviews.com

  • Food & Baker

    Omg this is such a great post, I have saved this into my bookmarks because I definitely want to have a proper read of it over and over to make sure I haven’t missed any important statements but I am sure to keep this in mind to improve our DA and understand SEO! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Jessica & James | http://www.foodandbaker.co.uk / http://www.foodandbakertravels.co.uk

  • This is super helpful! Thanks so much for sharing. I often wondered why I wasn’t getting much search engine traffic from my keywords but maybe I’ve been too spammy with them! This is good to know! Thank you! <3

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

  • This is such a brilliant bloody post!! Thank you so much, Im definitely bookmarking this you angel! xx

  • Simply Stacey

    Oh my days this is an excellent post! So helpful and professional. Thankyou for the advice. I will certainly try your tips xx

    Stacey | SimplyStacey.co.uk

  • bryony

    This is so helpful, I’ve only recently gone self hosted so my DA is stuck on 1. I feel like I now understand a bit more about what DA is and how it changes, thank you!!x

  • This was SUCH a helpful post! Thank you so much for posting this I’ve been so confused about SEO and DA.

    Beckie // The Pale Tails

  • Yas! I needed this post right now! There is so much on here that I have needed over the past few months so thank you! I loved this!

    Fix Me In Forty Five – A Mental Health Blog

    xx

  • This is such a great, informative post. I’ve book marked it for further reference as I need to work on my da.

    http://littlemissmelanie.com

  • What an absolutely incredible post Hels, I’m so glad you decided to do this. I’m still learning about SEO every day, and have just moved over to WordPress and installed Yoast, I’m hoping this starts to make me think about SEO a lot more. I’m definitely trying to but’s such a difficult area, I love how well you and your husband have broken everything down. xx

    Kristy | thevioletblonde.com

  • Thank you so much for writing this post (and to your husband helping you write it). It is incredibly insightful, and I’m really eager to up my SEO game as I feel that I’m really bad with it… especially when it comes to fixing broken links!

    Lizzie Bee // http://www.hellolizziebee.com

  • This is such an incredibly useful post Hels (and Sam!). I work in digital marketing so I have a fair bit of experience with SEO but this post has just helped me even more! Thank you guys so much! xx
    http://www.imjustagirl16.co.uk

  • Nadia

    Thank you so much for this to-the-point brilliant post, Hels! Your hubby broke it down into very “chewable” chunks and it’s easy to understand what’s what 🙂 I’ve known some of the info for a while but certain things were definitely an eye-opener! I love to learn and improve the skills that would benefit my blogging journey and I couldn’t be more thankful, darling 🙂
    I really need to sit down and dedicate at least a couple of hours each week to do SEO work on my blog. The one and only problem is always “finding time”. This post reminded me how VITAL it is to do that!
    xox Nadia
    http://www.mielandmint.com

  • Nina

    This was a great post to read. Thanks for sharing. I try to remember using Keywords while I’m creating blog posts but I alwyas forget.

    Nina’s Style Blog