Today I was chatting with a client about setting up their blog posts to optimize for Google and other search engines. This tactic is commonly referred to as SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Before we get ahead of ourselves, I am going to start by saying that the SEO world is HUGE and it can get very complex. There are experts that specialize in optimizing businesses and we could dive REALLY DEEP into this world…. but for the sake of this post, we are going to start with a beginner’s guide for setting up your blogs for SEO success.
A couple years ago, I spoke in a local group I’m a part of about SEO. I didn’t actually realize how much knowledge I had until I was prepping for my talk. (Below you’ll see a checklist and a cookie I made for each attendee.) As it turns out I know a lot more than I realized!
In this post, we are going to specifically talk about on-page SEO. This refers to the optimizing you’re doing on a specific page or post. I will keep these guidelines pretty simple and easy to follow. If you’re working on uping your SEO games, I 1000% recommend installing the Yoast Plugin to your site, if you had Sprout build your website, it should already be installed. 🙂 (NOTE: Yoast is a free SEO plugin and you do not need to upgrade to premium even though they’ll try to sell you on it)
Let’s dive in!
Setting up your blogs with “on-page SEO”.
Establish your “keywords phrase”.
Many times your keyword(s) will actually be a keyword phrase or long-tail keyword. Because as hard as we try, we’ll never rank high on a term such as “Chocolate”. When choosing what to target, try to think about this as something your audience would be googling or use this fun tool. If you’ve done your Keyword Research you’ll be ahead of the game! (We’re not going to go over keyword research in this post, but you can learn more about it in this post from Moz.)
Establish a nice flow with your copy and headings.
One thing I see often is large bodies of text such as a letter. In some cases this might work, but when you are laying out your content, it usually works/looks better if you are including headings. This will be better for SEO, your readers, and the visual layout of your posts.
One of the great things about headings is that it provides a great spot for keywords. Adding your keywords into headings will carry more SEO weight than in body copy and Google will like you for that. While using your keyword phrase in your headings is great, you’ll also want to sprinkle them into your body copy as well. I say sprinkle because it should only be a light misting of keywords… We don’t want to dowse them and sound unnatural or make obvious attempts at keyword stuffing.
Get those links!
- Add outbound links. What’s this mean? It’s a fancy way of saying linking to external & reputable pages that aren’t a part of your website. This shows Google you know what you’re talking about and are happy to share knowledge to help the readers.
- Link to internal pages that live on your site, such as other blog posts or a services page that’s being discussed. This will help viewers to stay on your site longer which is also good for SEO. Plus they get to learn even more about what you offer!
- Bonus tidbit: Another piece of SEO is gaining backlinks. This is when other sites link to your site and showing Google you know what you’re talking about. Again, we’re not covering that in this post, but if you’re ready to take the next steps, that’s an option.
Choose your Featured Image
This isn’t specifically an SEO tip, but I’m including it because it goes hand-in-hand with writing your blogs. Each blog post should contain a Featured Image, be careful to choose a photo that allows for your theme’s default cropping. Get to know what works best for your site. I generally recommend using photos with now text showing. Photos with the subject in the middle of the graphic and a composition zoomed out work best. Don’t forget to optimize your file size for the web! Keeping photos under 200kb is great, under 100kb — even better!
*** DISCLAIMER: The featured image spot is pretty well hidden and can be easy to forget! Even for me!
Set up Image Alt Text
While we’re on the topic of photos… don’t forget to add alternative text to photos. This is a description of what your photo is showing and it’s used for accessibility for blind people. This is important for being accessible, but it also gives you another spot to insert keywords. Remember, Google can’t read images (yet!) but it will use your alt text to see if your photo is related to your keyword. You can learn more about writing effective alt text in the video.
(BONUS: upload your photos with a file name that contains your keywords.)
Setup your Meta description
A lot of people have heard this term but don’t actually know what it refers to. Your meta description is a couple sentences that search engines use to describe what’s on the page/post when viewing search results. The Yoast plugin suggests around 120 to 156 characters for meta descriptions. This spot gives you an opportunity to use your keyword as well as entice viewers to click on to your page.
It is commonly said that your blog or page should be over 300 words. This isn’t a strict character limit, and I think blogs can certainly be longer OR shorter. Google uses words to see what you’re talking about, so just think about it, the more words you have, the more Google can absorb. Just remember, don’t add extra fluff just to make it longer… Content should all be relevant to your post. And remember, don’t be repetitive with stuffing keywords, you still want to sound natural.
Extra Blogging Tips:
Want to edit your publish date? You can even schedule it in advance.
Sharing to social media? Don’t forget to tag any other people or businesses mentioned in the post.
Do you have an e-mail newsletter? Sharing your blog there is a great way to spread the word and gain more traffic.
If you want to learn even more, here’s a nice video tutorial that will walk you through some of the SEO Tips we talked about above!
I hope this post was helpful to learn more about setting up your blogs for SEO success! Please contact Sprout if you have any further questions.