The term SEO (search engine optimization) seems to still be so mysterious to folks and I want to clear this up. Many people want to know how to get more eyeballs to their website and blog content, so if you’ve wondered the same thing… let’s chat. If you are an expert in SEO, plug your ears and look away because I am going to use examples and SEO basic terms that will have you shaking your head.
First, SEO is not mystical, and it is not even the job for some guy sitting in a dark basement desk wearing a hoodie. It is something you should understand and be doing every day…or at least frequently if you want your content found by more people.
Whenever you add or tweak content on your website (including blog posts) you are potentially optimizing the site for Google and other “search engines” to find it. Optimizing it means you are adding content that will be helpful to people who are searching for it, you are making sure it is relevant to the person searching, and you are making it easy to consume by adding paragraph headers and formatting it for people to find the information they seek.
Here are 7 things you can do to become your own SEO expert (or at least apprentice):
Create content people actually want.
Before you write a new post, ask yourself if people are really searching for this answer…I mean like when I go searching for chocolate in my pantry and I am moving cans and boxes around. Are people going to Google and typing in, “How can I _____” with your topic in the blank? When you type that question in Google, what comes up? Are there loads of posts out there already? Can you put a unique spin on it or add to this body of knowledge to provide a more niche answer?
Too often we create mamby-pamby oatmeal content. Bland. Boring. Useless. And I’m right there in the bowl with you. I find that after a few months I start slipping from the edge right back into the cushy middle. It takes a lot of work to stay in your zone of genius. In digital marketing, there is a ton of content out there, so if I can’t put my own personality or spin on content, it’s just another bowl of mediocre oats.
Provide great information, not a marketing brochure.
Google wants you to create content for the users who are searching for helpful information, not just a page that has nice marketing slogans and pithy facts about your brand. Go look at a couple of pages right now on your website. If you were a potential customer who had questions or problems they were trying to solve, would your page give them the answers or just tell them about YOU?
Think of the keywords BEFORE you begin writing
You have to write for humans, not for Google bots. That means you have to think of the question or problem your reader has, write it down. Now ask yourself, what is the main word or couple of words in that problem or question.
Question a reader has: How to set up the perfect podcast studio?
Possible Keywords: Set up podcast studio
Alternative 1: Set up professional podcast studio
Alternative 2: Set up video recording studio
While writing the post (or outlining what you are going to say in video or audio content), be sure to use the keywords and phrases throughout. Do it naturally. Don’t write, “To set up a podcast studio you will want to use equipment for a professional podcast studio. There will be microphones in a video and podcast studio …” You get the picture.
I tell our clients often to write down the top 10 FAQs people have about their industry and their specific business. Now write a blog post and create short video pieces that answer each one using the keywords and phrases from those questions. That is optimized content.
Download our “GUIDE FOR PLANNING BETTER BLOG POSTS” to help you plan your content for better SEO.
Quit using jargon and write content people will know what to do with
So often people write content as if they’re writing textbooks or worse, technical manuals. Dry and complicated copy often does not absorb. If you use terms and acronyms, even terms you assume everyone knows, explain it the first time you use it. You can go back to acronyms from that point on.
Will your content have the answer they came for or just more questions? Make sure when you’re your reader finishes, they say, “Ahhh refreshing! Just what I was trying to understand.”
Make it long enough to be helpful.
While I hear everything from “Make your blog posts 400-800 words” to “Google likes posts that are 1,500-2,000 words”, the key is to make sure there’s enough meat on the bones of a post that the reader gets their answers. If your post is only a couple paragraphs long and just covers a topic at a high level, your reader may feel they wasted their time clicking over and leave frustrated asking, “Where’s the Beef?”
A post that is 400-500 words long (or short) is going to have less of an opportunity to naturally have keywords and helpful content in it and yet if you stuff a post with keywords, it will smell like spam. There are many experts (who are these people? Yoast is a pretty reliable source and they say 300 is the absolute minimum) who say a post or a webpage must have 400-800 words to even be indexed or recognized as a page by Google or other search engines. Regardless of what those people say, write enough to be helpful!
Seth Godin’s blogs are often very short, but he isn’t worried about driving more eyeballs to his blog. He’s got more eyeballs on each post than Argus Panoptes, the hundred-eyed giant in Greek mythology, so he writes whatever he wants. He also writes daily!
If you are wanting Google to see your website and blog posts as a reliable source and send more people there for their answers, be sure to beef it up!
Write better titles for your content
This is where my wit often gets me in trouble. I always want to name my blog posts something witty or clever, but Google has a very dry sense of humor. If I would have named this post “Mullet Blogging” or “Excavating Your Website” it would amuse me, but would anyone really be typing those terms into Google? (Besides me?) NO! Save your cleverness for inside the post.
Take that keyword list you came up with earlier and the top FAQs and use one of those for your title. If at all possible, start with a keyword. “Basic SEO: How to get my content found” is one way to title this post. If “basic SEO” is my keyword phrase I would want to put that in the front. “How to get my content found” is still pretty close to a keyword phrase, it would be secondary.
I love how SEO Expert, Heather Lutze, calls these “Mullet Titles” since you want the business in the front and then a party in the back.
Let’s talk a little geeky here
Now stay with me. I’m going to get meta on you. Metadata, meta descriptions, ALT tags, H1, H2, H3 tags. These might sound like phrases out of a Steven King novel, but they are just sections and parts of your website content that Google bots know how to read. Imagine Google has a little robot and “metadata” is the only info it knows to read.
So, when you load any piece of content onto a website look for a section or box (typically toward the bottom of the page) that asks for the “meta description.” This just means, “Tell me a little about what this is and if you can include one of your main keywords that will be helpful.” The meta description is the sentence or two that shows up under the bold headline when someone does a Google search.
ALT tags are the words that will describe each image you load into your website (they all should have ALT tags). While the intent of an ALT tag was mostly for the visually impaired so their computer would read what was being shown on the page, it is another area that you can use to tie that image into your post concept. So instead of just “robot” being in my ALT tag above, I would put “Google bot for basic SEO” or “Google bot to help content be found.” Keep in mind that most website designers do NOT optimize the content they load into your site and you may have a beautiful site that is not helping search engines find you.
H1 H2 H3
H1, H2, and H3 tags are just a tech way to say the same thing your 4th grade English teacher taught you. Put your headline at the top and then put the rest of your content in OUTLINE FORMAT. So all of your paragraphs will have sub-headings and then other main thoughts will have sub-sub-headings (it’s been a long time since I was anywhere near an elementary school so just go with it). So, your blog post title, for example, would be formatted as an H1 heading (usually this is done automatically because of how the page is formatted). Your paragraph headings should be formatted to be H2. This is because our little robot friend speed reads and skims each page reading H1, H2, and H3 tags to see if the page is really about what your keyword says it’s about. So don’t get too clever with your headings.
If you are still with me and your head hasn’t exploded, CONGRATULATIONS! You now understand the basics of SEO to help you get your content found by more people. Of course, there is more to optimizing your website but I want you to take a deep breath and realize that it’s all very doable. If you follow the 7 steps outlined here and regularly create content for your ideal audience, you will see your website traffic increase. And of course, don’t forget to promote your new content by sharing on your social media channels. [READ: If you build it, they will NOT come.]