In this article, I intend to demystify a common industry buzzword, SEO, and also provide a look into how SEO can benefit a blog.
If you aren’t sure what SEO is, or you’d like to learn more about how it works, this easy-to-read guide will help you to better understand what the fuss is all about.
SEO: What is it?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
Quite simply, it is the process of optimizing and configuring the pages and posts on your website so they will be displayed more prominently in search results on search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
Optimizing pages enables marketers to attract more traffic to their websites from free, “organic” or natural listing sources, especially as they increase the rank of their content.
A page’s SEO value is determined by a few key ingredients:
- The content on the page: search engines track every word on the web. This enables them to produce meaningful search results when someone searches for something specific. For example, searching for “video games from the 80s” would, hypothetically, turn up search results that pertain to those keywords.
- The title of the page: every page on the web has a title (unless it was deliberately left blank). Page titles summarize what the page is about, much like a book title tells you what you can expect to find on the inside.
- Links: inbound and outbound links also factor into your page’s ranking. When one page links to another, it is essentially a recommendation for that other page. If a lot of people link to your page, search engines consider each of these links an endorsement for your content. Conversely, when inbound links to your site are considered bogus or spam, it can decrease your page’s ranking. Generally speaking, links from trustworthy sites are given more weight.
- Words used in links: different word combinations can be used in anchor text (anchor text refers to the words used in links). If someone were to link to Outsource Blog Content and used the anchor text “blog content”, for example, we would begin to rank better for the key term, blog content.
- Reputation: if your site is frequently updated with new, value-adding content, and more trustworthy sites are linking to you, your site will begin to rank higher in search results thanks to your solid reputation.
It’s important to know that search engines are often changing their algorithm, which is their proprietary formula for determining how well a page ranks. The ingredients mentioned here are just the basics, as many other granular components can factor into a particular page’s ranking.
Though it is a good idea to optimize your pages, the best way to rank well in search results is to offer regular, quality, value-adding content. That’s where blogging comes in.
SEO: How does it Benefit a Blog?
If you’ve been tracking so far, you may have come to the realization already that a blog usually benefits a website; not the other way around. If regular, quality content is the key to SEO and organic traffic, then creating more content on your blog can only help your business or website. Of course, low-quality content won’t be of much benefit to you.
This isn’t to say that blog posts can’t be search engine optimized. Here are several ways posts can be configured for SEO purposes.
- Create posts that serve your target market: if you know what your audience will be searching for, you can create content that will benefit them and answer their questions. However, it’s virtually impossible to rank for your all of your chosen keywords. Marketers have to do their research, and narrow their focus on a small number of content topics so they can develop authority in those areas.
- Optimize headlines: your posts can benefit greatly from being broken up into digestible chunks. In this guide, the two major headlines are “SEO: What is it?”, and “SEO: How does it Benefit a Blog”‘. The best practice here is to put the keywords at the beginning of each headline. The same goes for titles. Moreover, titles and headlines should also be engaging, drawing people in to want to read more.
- Optimize page URLs: the URL of a page refers to its location on the web (i.e. http://www.yourwebsite.com/content-page/). Search engines will check to see if the bolded portion of the URL (i.e. “content-page” in the given example) matches up with the title, headlines, and keywords you’ve specified. Individual words should be broken up by dashes (-) for best results.
- Optimize links: anchor text can also play a part in a page’s SEO value. For example, if one of the links in your menu reads “shoes”, and you create another link in the page that also has the word “shoes” in it, the second link won’t be given as much attention by search engines. Therefore, anchor text within posts should be different from any other link on the page.
- Optimize your website for mobile: though mobile design goes beyond the scope of this guide, it is essentially the practice of creating a website that caters to mobile users. With more and more users accessing websites from their tablets and smartphones, it’s a good idea to meet the demands of mobile users. Search engines have begun de-prioritizing websites that aren’t mobile friendly.
These are just some of the many ways in which blog posts can be optimized.
Ultimately, SEO best practices will help your content to rank higher in search engines. When your content ranks higher, it will be clicked on more often. When it is clicked on more often, you will generate more traffic for your website.
As for what to do with that traffic, it’s up to you. You can build your mailing list, promote your latest product or service, or just have your audience share your content across their favorite social networks. Make sure to create a compelling call to action too.
For additional reading on the subject of SEO, the following resources may be of interest to you.
SEO Benefits from Blogs: this post explains how blogs can benefit your website’s overall SEO.
Blog SEO for the Modern Marketer: How to Optimize Your Posts: this post covers some of the points mentioned here in more detail. If you’d like to learn more about how to optimize individual posts, this helpful overview will provide you with additional insights.