The basics of SEO

The basics of SEO

If you are blogging regularly then you will want people to find your content and the best way of getting reads is via Google searches. A lot of people see SEO or Search Engine Optimisation as a dark art and it really isn't. Once you get a few basic techniques down your content will start to show on Google.

These tips are very basic and getting these right is only 1 very small part of search engine optimisation.

Titles

The title is the most important thing on your page. Get it right as this is also what shows on Google's search listing for your page. It also decides the main search terms you will show up for on Google.

So, what makes a good title? Apart from featuring your indenting search terms and describing what your article is about it should also meet a few other criteria:

  • Titles should not be longer than 60 characters
  • Titles should be the only H1 tag on the page
  • Titles should not contain links to other pages

Get these 3 things right and you are on the right track but titles are not everything.  

Meta Descriptions

Staying with what shows on your Google search result listing, your meta description is another key element of your page. This is not visible on your site but rather sits within the code and is read by Google and other search engines.

This short snippet of text should describe your post, feature the key phrase you are hoping to show up for and entice the user to click on your listing to find out more.

A meta description should be between 50 and 160 characters. Anything longer than 160 characters will be clipped short on the Google search results page.  

Image Alt Tags

Another piece of code that affects your ranking chances and is also mostly hidden like meta tags are the alt tags associated with your images. These are used for a number of things and perhaps most importantly are used by screen readers to help the visually impaired browse your site.

An image alt tag should feature your key phrase but not only your key phrase. You should also describe the image for the visually impaired. The is no limit to the text in an alt tag but don't go mad, keep the description here to under 10 words.  

Content

You must have heard the saying "content is king" and as much as I hate this saying as content is not always a good thing when it comes to SEO the saying is mostly true. Google loves good content, with good being the keyword here.

Bad content will mark you down in Google's eyes and everything you write on your site adds to the bigger picture of who are you and do you add value to users. You need to write good, valuable content that people want to read. Each post should have at least 350 words and generally the longer the article the better.

Longer articles are better but don't waffle, repeat yourself or use 10 words when 2 will do. These are all bad writing habits and exactly why I don't tell clients they have to hit a word count on every page. If you can't write 1,000 words on a topic that is not a problem - just write at least 350 words in a high-quality article.

There are 3 types of links, 2 you control and should get right every time and 1 you don't control but perhaps can influence.

Let's start with internet links as you have complete control over these. Internal links are the links in your content to other relevant pieces of content you have written within your website. When you read an article on my site and I have mentioned something I have previous written about I always include a link back to the original article.

This kind of internal linking helps Google work out the relationship between your pages and builds a better picture of the structure of your website.

You should always link to your sources when quoting reference material. It is also a good idea to link out to external references that back up your ideas and writing. Google will see these links and build relationships leading to a better understanding of your content and ultimately the better Google understands you the higher you will show in search results.

The final type of link is a backlink and this is somewhat beyond your control. A backlink is a link to your article from another website. These will come naturally in time as you build an audience and build awareness of your website. As you write more good quality content the more chance you have of getting someone to link back to you.

There is another way to get backlinks and this is what most professional SEO's charge the big money for - link outreach. Link outreach is not as complex as it sounds, it is the practice of contacting other website owners that have similar fo supporting content as yours and asking them to link a few words in their article to your article on a similar subject matter.  

Frequency

Finally, the last part of SEO that most people overlook is the frequency of your new content. Google loves content and will keep coming back to read your latest posts. The more often you post the more often Google will review your website.

If only it was that simple. You have to keep up your posting schedule so don't start posting new content every day as you will not be able to keep this up long term. Start with once a week for a new site and see how you get on. I post every 2 - 3 days because the experience of running several websites tells me this is something I can comfortably do.

To help with consistency look if your content management system allows for you to schedule posts in the future. I use Ghost which has this feature and I can spend a Saturday afternoon writing 3 - 4 posts in one go and have them steadily released over the next week or 2. This takes the pressure off having to write something new and high quality every other day and allows my site to almost run on autopilot while I am busy in the day job.

These are just the basics of SEO and the subject goes a lot deeper when you start looking at mobile-first indexing, usability and schema markup. These advanced topics are something you probably don't need to be too concerned with for your blog but are important if you want the number 1 spot for a key phrase like "best web designer"