Get Great SEO without Losing Your Mind
Originally published on Music Meets Social.
SEO is a tricky beast. Some days I think I have a solid grasp of it, and others I think, “why bother?” (Confession.) With the constant tweaks to the algorithms, it’s a time investment to stay on top of it. First, though, apologies for no post last week! One of my biggest goals for this li’l blog is consistency. This week I've been trying to manage a new freelance gig with life, and being sick. I still want to provide quality content for everything I'm committed to. Because deadlines were close together, I’ve adjusted to spread out my work. And here we are!
Intermission over. :)
SEO is crucial, even if the most you can manage at this point are the basics. It’s not worth exhausting yourself with perfect SEO that you neglect the actual design and content of your site. Even the basics can help you.
But first, let’s back up a bit. One of the best definitions of SEO I’ve seen is from Content Strategy for the Web.
“Search Engine Optimization is the process of creating, editing, organizing, and delivering content (including metadata) to increase its potential relevance to specific keywords on web and site search engines.”
Whew. That’s a lot to process. Let’s simplify it a bit.
“SEO is using every element of your website to increase the chances of appearing higher in search engine results, based on keywords specific to your website and content.”
Some may argue that killer SEO needs to be a top priority. If you have the time or are raring to go, by all means go for it. But if you’re new to blogging or managing a website, take it one step at a time. When you’ve mastered the basics, move onto more of the high-level SEO tactics.
I’ve listed some resources with more information at the bottom of this post. These aren’t specific SEO books, as I’m still on the lookout for a good one. Let me know if you have any others!
Create Quality Headlines
Nothing is worse than “click-bait” headlines, amiright? There’s a difference between an intriguing headline making people want to read more, and a headline that’s created to bait people.
Use strong words, keep the length down, and make sure it matches your content. Some headline formats work better than others, and you’ll notice everyone using them. Why? You clicked on that “21 Reasons Cats are Better than Dogs”, right? Exactly.
- [Number] Tips to [something to accomplish]
- How to [accomplish something]
- [Do something] like [celebrity, business guru, or other desirable entity]
You can find these are more in Digital Marketer’s FREE “Social Media Swipe File”. It’s a great resource!
Update often with great content
Please hear me when I say this doesn’t mean posting just to post. It means taking time to consistently publish quality content. I write down every single idea for a post I have, so when I’m feeling stuck I'll still have ideas.
Find a schedule and stick to it. (Do as I say, not as I do…) It may take some time to figure out how to make it work, but don’t get discouraged! Taking the time now will help you in the long run as you continue to grow your site.
Begin with the key message
Did you notice in the beginning how I mentioned the topic, took a detour, then came back? Most posts with a detour have something important for the reader, though it's irrelevant to the topic. SEO algorithms look at (Can algorithms look? Hmm…) the first sentence to see if the relevant keyword is there. If it is, Your Post: 1, Competitor’s Post: 0.
In short, begin with the key message, and be sure to include your keyword(s) in there to help.
Use a website grader often
(And by often, I mean once or twice a month.)
A website grader gives you a grade for your website based on certain factors. It scores your site on SEO, speed, traffic, and social sharing; all valuable to a successful site. Most offer feedback and suggestions, usually centered on better utilizing header tags. I prefer Quick Sprout, but Buffer has six other graders that you may prefer.
Set a reminder to use this once or twice a month to track growth and improvements. You may be tempted to use it more often, but that can make it hard to see overall trends.
Use alt text for pictures
This is one I need to go back and add to most of mine! Alt text are what appears if a picture won’t load. Instead of “DSC_0001”, create a keyword-focused piece of alt text like “iPhone 6”. This will give readers a sense of what they’re missing while maintaining accessibility.
A short alt text with the topic won’t be what makes your page #1 on Google. But, utilizing this with other techniques will help you achieve a better SEO ranking.
Which hat will you wear?
There are two types of SEO: black hat and white hat. White hat SEO is what you want. It means using the tactics I’ve mentioned here and others to “legally” improve ranking. Black hat SEO is sneakily creating ways to help draw more traffic to your site. This is usually invisible to visitors, or at least not noticeable. Black hat SEO will get you blacklisted from search engines.
One of the most creative black hat techniques I’ve seen is placing keywords within the background. It's the same color, so Visitors won’t see all these wonderfully relevant keywords. But the SEO algorithms will.
One of the most aggravating things about SEO is that the algorithms are constantly changing. So, you need to be on top of these changes so that you can maintain your ranking. Thankfully, Google has a Webmaster page to help. Did you hear that BMW got blacklisted by Google for using doorway pages? This was almost 10 years ago, but is still a valuable lesson. These doorway pages essentially helped them get higher page ranking by misleading consumers.
Final thought: Keywords are meant to be a delicate sprinkle throughout your post, not a heavy-handed dump. Place them in the right spots and no one will notice how killer your SEO skills are!
Question of the day:
In the grand scheme of managing your website, how highly do you rank SEO?
(Get it? He.. He.. No? Unintentional, I promise.)
The Designer’s Guide to Wordpress (SEO Friendly URLs, pg. 41)
Letting Go of the Words (pgs. 7, 41, 74, 118, 126, 148) ** She sprinkles SEO advice throughout the book, when applicable, so there are more instances than this. **
Content Strategy for the Web (pg. 34, this is where I got the definition above)
Above the Fold (pg. 210)
* These are affiliate links, thank you for helping to support this blog! *