Firstly, SEO – or Site Engine Optimisation – is a vast and complex subject.
I’m simply aiming, through this post, to cover, as the title states, the basics. There are many resources out there, that can help you to better understand SEO, and how it can help you to increase traffic to your blog.
When people talk about search engines, they refer primarily to Google.
This is understandable. I mean, we even talk about “Googling” something, making the brand name into its own verb. (“Hoovering”, anyone?)
However, many people, myself included, still use Bing, on occasions.
And there are other search engines to keep in mind, such as Yahoo. It’s also worth remembering that, in addition to being social media sites, both You Tube and Pinterest are powerful search engines.
If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, specific to Bing, You Tube or Pinterest, that information is out there. Just Google it – or maybe utilise one of those alternative search engines…!
The starting point with SEO is to write quality content, that meets the needs of your target audience.
If you’re not doing that, then SEO can’t really help you. When you produce poor content, even if you do gain visitors through search, they aren’t likely to remain on your site for long – meaning that you will have a high bounce rate, and search engines won’t be inclined to show your content to future visitors.
Keywords are vital for SEO, and there’s definitely an art to constructing keyword optimised titles.
The process begins with keyword research and, whilst this can potentially be a long and agonising process, for which multiple tools are used – it doesn’t necessarily need to be.
Many people use Google Keyword Planner, and I have occasionally delved into the free version of BuzzSumo.
However, Google itself provides much of the information that you need. Experiment with typing in potential keywords and phrases, and seeing what results come up.
Notice the suggestions that Google’s auto populate facility offers – as in, when you type in a word or two, and a space – right before you press enter. Sometimes, these suggestions provide invaluable inspiration.
Equally, the related searches section, near the bottom of the page, can give further ideas. The process of keyword research definitely helps you to come up with fresh ideas for blog posts – in addition to ensuring that you use the best keywords possible, in those posts you’d already planned to write.
Identify relevant long-tail keywords.
These will tend to be phrases, maybe three to five words each, and very specific and targeted. For example, I write fiction, but the term “fiction” is incredibly broad. “Historical fiction” narrows it down somewhat, and “modern historical fiction”, still further. Or even, “writing modern historical fiction 1980s”.
The disadvantage of becoming too specific is that there may not be sufficient search volume for a particular phrase. It’s generally advisable to look into both popular and long-tail keywords.
Your keywords, and variations of these, should be included in your headings, and sprinkled throughout your text.
But don’t overdo it. This is known as “keyword stuffing”, and search engines penalise sites that do this. It isn’t always easy to find the right balance, but what you’re aiming for is a piece of writing that sounds natural. Write with the reader in mind, first and foremost, but with an awareness of search engine requirements. That way, you should be fine.
Optimise your images.
If, like many of us, you have a tendency to name image files poorly, when saving them initially, you will need to alter this. I have often had to do this myself, within WordPress. The title needs to explain what the image is, even if there is text in the image itself – because search engines can’t “see” your pictures, or read the text within them. Separate individual words with hyphens, in your image titles.
Links are important.
There are internal and external links, and both can help with SEO.
Internal linking is linking within your own site. This is great, as it helps visitors to navigate the site – and encourages them to stay on there for longer. In my own posts, including this one, you can see examples of hyperlinks, leading to other pages within this blog.
I do also occasionally include outbound links, to relevant external sites.
It’s worth noting that anchor text – the text in your hyperlinks – is taken into consideration by search engines. If your keywords appear in anchor text, this tends to be positive. Avoid linking a phrase such as “See this post”, because that doesn’t tell search engines anything.
Backlinks from other sites to your own can be invaluable, and people place varying amounts of emphasis, on the importance of gaining backlinks. Links from high authority sites, and/or those relevant to your niche, are definitely the ones that will benefit you most, both in general, and for SEO purposes.
People tend to think of social media and SEO as distinct from one another.
However, links from social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, can be powerful, from an SEO perspective. After all, Twitter and Facebook are clearly high authority sites.
When it comes to Google Plus and Pinterest, the potential SEO benefits are a major advantage of posting on these particular platforms. November 2018 update: With regard to Google Plus, please see my post, written last month, in which I discuss the planned closure of this – in my view, generally underrated – social media platform.
I also touch upon the subject of Tumblr SEO, in my recent post about Tumblr for writers, so that’s another site to consider.
In practical terms, I would suggest posting your own links regularly, on as many social media platforms as can manage. Also, encourage others to share your content, by including facilities to do so, on your blog.
And one more quick point, before I close: Consider the loading speed of your site.
Fast loading sites tend to rank better in search engines. Obviously, from a user perspective, a site that is slow to load is going to cause frustration.
SEO is so important, and learning SEO is an ongoing process. I’m very much a beginner myself, but hopefully, this information will be of use to some of you. Keep in mind that this was written in June 2018, and SEO is constantly evolving.