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Issue #11 • November 2017

The Importance of SEO Basics for Creators and How to Track It

Analytics and metrics Metrics Website Optimization

When I created my very first blog in high school, I didn’t have a clue about search engine optimization.

At that time, it never crossed my mind to create content that was easy for Google to digest. The whole idea of bots crawling my blog would’ve caused me to raise an eyebrow.

My first blog was simply a space for me to share my poetry, publicize my journal, and share inspiring designs and images before Pinterest was a thing. After quickly falling head over heels for blogging, I contemplated starting another to kickstart my career.

When I decided to create a blog in college to build what’s now considered a “personal brand”, I kept hearing the SEO acronym tossed around. After doing a little research, I knew the basic definition of what it was but influencing it with tailored blog content– that was a whole other story.

My first two years of “serious” blogging were full of experimentation, but when I landed on my niche of copywriting and marketing strategy, I invested more energy in really optimizing my blog content and website with SEO basics.

Now my blog and personal brand allows me to book out months in advance with many of my copywriting and ghostwriting clients coming straight from Google. Color me surprised!

All of this is to say SEO basics are worth paying attention to, especially for new bloggers looking to build a strong foundation. I’m still reaping the benefits of the work I put into my website’s SEO only a year ago.

I like to think of your website as a 24/7 sales team. Even when you’re fast asleep, it’s still up and running, helping you connect with readers from around the world.

And the more energy you put into increasing your SEO now, the more visibility you’ll have in the future no matter where in the world your audience is from.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the practice of increasing the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine results page (abbreviated to SERP). When you type a word or phrase into Google, for example, you’ll see a ranked list of potential resources. These brands and blogs continually show up on the SERP because of their tailored advice.

This is commonly referred to as “organic” or “earned” search traffic, which differs from “paid” results determined by pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns. That’s why you normally see a few advertisement links before scrolling to the organic search results that stay relatively consistent.

Today we’re focusing on organic traffic that can be built over time through SEO. Money talks with paid ads, but we’ll help you increase your web traffic without needing to open your wallet. Sounds good, right?

Your ultimate goal is to get on the first page of the SERP, ideally in the first position so you stay front and center. We’ll dive more into how this is determined later.

While there are many factors that go into healthy SEO, let’s first talk about why it’s so important, especially for bloggers who want to offer additional products and services.

The importance of blog SEO basics

Why care about SEO? Think about how many times a day you search on Google or a similar search engine for information. Whether you’re researching for an upcoming blog post, looking into affordable options for a service, or scrolling through reviews to influence your next big purchase, you’ll instinctively turn to a search engine for results.

Google makes researching extremely easy, which is why we all use it. There’s a pretty good chance that the majority of your ideal clients or buyers are using it too.

Search engines exist solely to help users find what they are looking for. By optimizing your website for search engines, you increase your chances of reaching your ideal audience.

Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping the right people find your blog, you can be proactive about optimizing your blog content.

SEO basics: What search engines look for

How do you know if your blog is optimized for search engines? Since there are multiple factors that go into healthy, long-term SEO, you may be wondering where the best place to start is.

Knowing what search engines look for is the first step. With each factor, you’ll find search engine optimization tips you can put into action, some only taking a few minutes to complete, to help you create a solid strategy behind your SEO efforts.

SEO basics: relevancyRelevancy

Naturally, Google wants to provide its users with the most relevant answers to their queries. That’s why writing evergreen blog content is so useful for increasing your search engine ranking.

Evergreen content is relevant regardless of its timing, whereas trendy content becomes irrelevant over time. An example of evergreen content would be How to Style Props for Beautiful Instagram Photos. The trendy, less search engine friendly version would be How to Increase Your Following with the September Instagram Algorithm.

Another key to creating relevant content for search engines is by using the right blend of keywords. Keywords are industry-specific words and phrases that are commonly searched for.

You may notice in this blog post that we have the keywords “SEO Basics” sprinkled throughout the content. This is a commonly searched phrase that is relevant to our topic, which is why we’ve featured it in our blog post.

If you place too many keywords in your blog posts, however, you could become a victim of keyword stuffing. This can kill your SEO because bots who crawl your website will see your content as spammy.

To help you find relevant keywords within your niche, read this Moz keyword finding blog post for a good jumping off point. You can also use tools like Moz and Google Search Console to find keywords.

Relevancy pro tip: For a simplified keyword discovery activity, think of a blog post topic you’ve been wanting to write about. Type it into Answer The Public to find the most popular searched questions regarding your subject.
You can even cross-check the question in Google to see what resources are currently ranked for it. The question could even become the title of your next evergreen blog post!

SEO basics: user experienceUser experience

When you start building your new website or redesign a former version, one of the first things to focus on is optimizing the user experience. This term refers to the overall experience of a person visiting your blog or website.

The better a visitor can navigate your website, the more likely they are to stay on it. This will also decrease your bounce rate, which is the amount of visitors who leave your website after viewing only one page. Low bounce rates tell Google that your site is of higher quality because visitors routinely stay on your website for more than they originally searched for.

User experience can also be affected by your visuals, formatting, and overall layout. That’s why it’s commonly recommended to stick with an eye-appealing color palette, choose fonts that pair well together, and use consistent imagery in all pages of your website.

User experience tip: When a new visitor is looking to learn more about what you do, one of the first places they look is at your navigation. Take a moment today to look at the navigation links on your website.
Are they cluttered or organized? Are they easy to read? Are you using drop-down navigation for additional pages? Make sure all of your links are concise and clear, helping your audience get to where they want to go fast.

SEO basics: domainDomain authority

Did you know your domain influences your SEO? Your domain authority is ranked on a scale of 1-100 by Moz to show how well your blog will rank on SERPs. This goes into determining the true strength of your domain.

One measure of domain authority is how long it’s been active for. This is why companies who have kept the same domain name for 10 or 20+ years have an easier time ranking on the first page of Google than a brand new company.

Does this mean that bloggers will always be buried into the SERPs for every keyword? Not even close! Depending on your industry, you may have a range of competition. To decrease your amount of competition, niche down and be specific about who you help.

Other things that can enhance your domain authority include internal and external linking, which we will cover in the next section.

Domain authority tip: Use the Open Site Explorer tool from Moz to test your domain authority. Take note of the websites you’re currently receiving the highest “link juice” from and research similar websites you may be able to collaborate with.
Create a list of three action steps you can take this month to increase your domain authority using some of the tips above and in the rest of this blog post.

SEO basics: internal linkingInternal linking

Adding links to other relevant, quality blog posts you’ve already published on your blog within new blog posts is called internal linking. You can also use this practice when linking to other pages of your website, like a product sales page or freelance services page.

Let’s say you’re a website developer who is writing a blog post about How to Understand Code for DIY Beginners. By familiarizing yourself with your blog archive, you may want to introduce links to other blog posts you’ve previously written on similar subjects.

You’d want to add a link to your old blog post on Formatting Your WordPress Blog Using CSS and a CSS Glossary for Newbies. You could even add a link to your freelance website development services, consulting services, or the self-paced DIY coding course you recently launched.

All of these links to other internal pages strengthen your domain authority because Google sees it as you linking quality content to more quality content. Internal linking is great because it focuses on SEO efforts that you can directly control since it’s within your own website.

Internal linking tip: Choose two to three blog post topics you’ve been wanting to write about and list them on a sheet of paper. Look at your current blog post archive and make a list under each topic of what relevant blog posts could be linked within the content. This is smart to do for every blog post until it becomes second nature to internally link to other pages on your website.

SEO basics: external linkingExternal linking

External linking, however, is when your domain authority increases due to the amount of links that are pointing to your website from OTHER websites.

This is why building a community of like-minded creators in your industry is so important, especially in the early stages of brand building. These external links tell search engine bots that your content is of high quality because it’s been linked to several times by other bloggers.

It is important to note that you want to attract external links from quality websites. Otherwise, your website may take a hit in SERPs because Google could see the links as spam. This practice of buying links and using unethical practices is often called “black hat SEO.”

Instead, practice “white hat SEO” to increase your ranking by producing content for a human audience rather than trying to beat search engines.

External linking tip: Pitch a few influencers in related fields to see if you can write a guest blog post for them. Take what you’ve learned from creating quality content and put it into action for their blog audience.
Not only will you grow your visibility, but you may also have the opportunity to include a link to your website in the blog post, which increases your external linking favor in SEO. Win-win!

SEO basics: html-tagsHTML tags

Armed with your keywords, let’s start implementing them into other areas of your website. First up is your meta description, which is a small snippet underneath your headline around 160 characters that summarizes the content you’ll find on the page.

Most website builders and CRMs allow you to customize the meta description rather than just pulling an automated excerpt from the page. In your meta description, you’ll want to include relevant keywords and sprinkle them throughout your one or two short sentences.

Again, don’t use keyword stuffing or a running list of keywords since it tells the users nothing about your content as they scroll through the SERP. That’s why including two to three keywords within your meta description is best.

Now let’s talk about title tags, which determines the title of the page by using HTML. The headline of your blog post will often generate a title tag for the page. It also becomes the clickable headline, meaning it’s the first thing a visitor sees on a SERP. Make sure your headline includes a keyword and is concise.

In addition to title tags, you will also have headline tags within your content. You may have noticed that your CRM has header 1, header 2, and header 3 formatted styles for your blog content. In code, it looks like <h1>, <h2>, and <h3>. You should use these headline tags to create hierarchy in your content and optimize them with keywords to get the most SEO juice possible.

Image tags, also referred to as alt tags, are an HTML element that defines an image. This is because search engine bots can’t read images like they can read text. Image tags tells search engines what the image is.

Keywords are ultra important when creating these alt tags, especially since this text is hidden behind the image. It is only visible by bots so you can add more keywords than those in your title tags and meta description.

HTML tag tip: Take one blog post topic and create a meta description, title tag, and image tag using the tips above. Do this at the start of every blog post and add it into your CRM.
If you’re looking for an easier way to organize these SEO elements, download the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin. It makes SEO more intuitive, helping you determine how easily digestible and optimized your content is.

Get started today with blog SEO basics!

Now you have plenty of tips to help you optimize your blog for search engines. Take some time to make a prioritized list of actionable steps you can take to start optimizing your blog. Will you start with HTML tags or redesigning your site? Go with your strengths and start implementing today.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear what SEO practices have been most beneficial for your own blog growth. Leave your answer in the comment section and let’s chat.

Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

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