How To: SEO for Bloggers Part I

In the last couple of posts, I summarised some of the terminology used for SEO and now it’s time to see how you can use it to get your blog noticed.

Search Result Snippets

Let’s start with what happens when someone enters a search term in a search engine; most will provide a list of results with a brief summary of the page it is showing a link to.  This summary is called a “snippet” and is the best chance you have of selling your content to draw the searcher in to click on your page.  The first 200 characters are the ones to consider and if you have been clever and used keywords that match the search term, they will be in bold in the snippet.  It is therefore important not to duplicate post or page titles or page descriptions and write meta-description (the part of HTML, that gives search engines and potential site visitors the summary of the site content) that is unique.  The best meta-descriptions are short, engaging sentences that grab a searcher’s attention, initiate interest in what’s on the page and makes them want to find out more by clicking into the site.

At this point, I should also add that research has shown that being the first result on a SERP does not guarantee the searcher will select your site.  Therefore, it is important to optimise your snippet to make it stand out from the other results, while not being too concerned about where you come in them.  You could insert symbols into the meta-description or ensure there is a photo of the author (or any image) that will draw attention to it.  (A simple tutorial on how to link up your image to your snippet). It should be noted once more, that it is not possible to edit meta-description (or, indeed the html coding, per se) of a hosted (or free) WordPress blog.  At least, I’ve tried!  If, however, you’ve already got control of your work, there is a recommended plug-in called Yoast that allows html editing.

SERP using images and symbols

Note how Dave’s image has appeared in one of the results and he has used symbols to make his text more noticeable in the second result

Page Title vs Post Title

One thing that is important to understand is that the page title may not (or does not) need to be the same as a post title.  In fact, as far as Googlebot is concerned, it may be better for them not to be the same:

Page Title: Html coding: <title>How to make cookies</title>

Post Title: Cookies I love

Thetag is the short text that appears when you hover your mouse over an open tab to describe the webpage.  Unfortunately, even if you get your page title and meta-description spot-on, Google has the power to change them whenever it wishes. It is therefore, sometimes better to leave the meta-description blank on all but the main pages and leave Google to decide what it wants to put in!

The Perfectly Optimised Page

  • Meta-Title should be edited for crawlbots with limited stop words.  The H1 headline (html tag) is the title of the page that the reader will actually see and should be written as such.
  • Alt-Attributes for images are very important if the image is key to the content and meaning of a page.  Web crawlers cannot interpret video content or images, although can undertake basic image recognition (try dragging and dropping an image of someone from an email into Google image search and see if it can find them).  It is therefore important to optimise images using the Alt attribute, for example:

<img src=”Tom_cat_asleep.jpg”

Alt=”cat sleeping”

Cat sleeping

Our cute cat asleep – check the alt-text though

Optimising site structure

To get the best out of your site, it is useful to do some housekeeping:

  • Plan internal linking and architecture: make sure any links in posts use keyword anchor text rather than non-descriptive pointers (such as “see my post here“)
  • Where possible, find and eliminate any duplicate content
  • Get rid of any unnecessary pages and links and if a post has received no traffic in its lifetime, you may as well delete it.  Ensure all links are still live and use the 301 redirect if necessary to send it somewhere else (or back to the homepage if there is nowhere else appropriate).  404 errors are inefficient for SEO and should be avoided wherever possible.  Those of you self-hosting can get a WordPress redirection plug-in if you need it.
  • Install and frequently use the Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools (an application that logs in to see how a site is performing and identifies search queries,broken links, etc) to let Google help you optimise your site.

If you’re still with me, I will explore how to use links and images to optimise your site in Part II, as well as providing some background on how paid and sponsored links work.