The Theme of this chapter is very important because 65% of targeted visitors comes from search engines.
If you recalled from our chapter twelve, I listed SEO optimization as one of the tools used to increase blog traffic, though it was not explained in details because I promised that we will set aside a chapter for it.
I don't know what you have perceived SEO to be, perhaps you might have seen it as one hectic job, that requires you to hire an SEO expert, I will not say you are totally wrong, but I believe SEO is not something to dedicate a special time for, it should be part of you, as you post articles and create pages you should have these SEO best practices in mind.
Having said that, let’s see some definitions on SEO, then move straight to the commandments of SEO, believe me, today's topic is will not be as challenging as chapter ten and eleven, where we learnt about HTML Coding.
What Is SEO?
SEO (search engine optimization) is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve Google and Alexa rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.
Though Search engines are smart and their organizations continuously works to improve its efficiency, you still need to help search engines crawl your contents easily, the world of search engine optimization is vast and unending, why because Google and other search engines continually modify their algorithms, but you don't need the all, just the basics and the most important practices is what I will be teaching you.
What are Keywords /Key-Phrase?
These are words or phrases that can be used to summarize the headline and body of a particular post or page. It is the word/word-phrase you intend to rank for in search queries.
I prefer key-phrase to keyword, for example instead of using "Blogging" as my keyword, I will use "Learn Blogging", Although, what word is indexed as your keyword is up to search engines to decide, the more frequent a word or word-phrase appears in a post or page, the more likely it will be indexed as a keyword (this is Google’s algorithm, it’s not always the applicable).
Types of SEO
SEO is basically divided into two broad categories, they are;
1. The Onsite SEO Practices.
2. The Offsite SEO Practices.
1. The On-site SEO Practices
These are SEO practices implemented on a web page or the entire website, it involves blog post and page optimization, it is the basics of SEO, you must have scored your onsite SEO about 65% before venturing into off-site SEO. Let’s look at Google SEO best practices that is applicable to all other commercial search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, Yandex , Ask, Baidu, AOL, EXcite, Info, Etc. (we will use Google as a case study ).
a. Optimize Page Title
Use keywords in page title, the page title should be about 65 characters, some blogging platforms has enabled this feature in its settings, you can easily add a website title there, but it can be done manually by using the Title tag, <title> Your Page/website Title here </ title >, this should be placed right after the head tag <head> in the HTML editor of your website. Please refer to our chapter eleven lectures for further HTML learning.
b. Optimize Website Meta Description
A Meta description is a short paragraph which is displayed under a title tag on the SERP, it should be around 150 characters and should contain your website keywords which can also found in your page title. Meta tags helps in telling search engines about your blog.
c. Optimize Your Post Headlines
Your page/post headlines should contain the keywords in your post’s content which you want to rank for. It should not be too long, about 65 characters, and should not be misleading, write your headlines considering both visitors and search engines.
d. Optimize Your Post Content
Your content should be evergreen (quality assured) and unique. High-quality content means faultless spellings. Copying posts from other similar niche won't help your SEO at all. In SEO optimization, visitor's Experience is the number one factor. Your visitors should be satisfied with your contents, that's what Google wants, and Google can predict that through the average time visitors spend on your site, their conversion rate (comment), their votes and ratings on your posts, all these matters, at least to some extent.
Avoid Keywords Stuffing, Don't use Hidden Text (i.e. white text in white background), Google considers such practices as spam. An ideal content should range from 400 - 1000 words (though still depends on your niche and topic).
Use headings, subheadings, bold tag and other basic HTML ELEMENTS within your post, use anchor texts (A text link that leads to another post or website). Please refer to our HTML lecture for more Details.
Google hates duplicate contents, this is where you are to watch out for blogs copying your posts, because you might end up writing a good quality post that will put food on another person's table. Google can't easily tell who owns the post, so you have to make sure your post is yours alone, if you think someone is killing your SEO by copying your posts, it’s a good SEO practice to report such post to Google DCMA. Notwithstanding, Google sometimes use post age and internal linkings within the post to predict its rightful owner.
e. Optimize Your Post Meta Tag
Not all blogging platforms permits editing of post meta tag, wordpress do, so you can also make your post meta tag more unique, and it should also contain your keywords, writing a meta description tag that has no relation to the content of a page is bad for SEO. Good to know that When Using Wordpress, Adding title tags and meta descriptions to your pages is easy using free plugins such as All in One SEO, Platinum SEO, and SEO by Yoast.
f. Optimize Your Images Using "Alt" tag
You should add "alt" (alternate) text to your images, Google can't see your images, the image title and alternate text is what search engines use to predict what your image is all about, the alternate text should contain your keywords also.
g. Optimize Your Domain Name
The relativity of your domain to your keyword is a bonus to you, don't worry, "how to choose a perfect domain name will be a topic of another chapter. But take for instance; If a website name is BlogNigeria.com.ng, there is a great chance of ranking high for the keyword "Blogging In Nigeria”. This does not always count, it’s just a bonus.
It is also worthy of note that domain age don't really matter to Google any more, a 10-years old domain with no content is still same as a day-old domain.
Redirecting non-www version of your domain (E.g. blognigeria.com) to www version (e.g. www.blognigeria.com ), or vice versa, is a good SEO practice, if not Google will index it as two separate domains having duplicate content.
h. Optimize Your URL and Error pages
It is Advisable to use a static URL address instead of a dynamic one. Though most times it’s up to your blogging platform to decide, as in the case of Blognigeria.com.ng, Mybb don't permit static URL.
There are two types of web addresses: static and dynamic.
A static URL looks like this: ngstudents.com/2016/06/15/get-post-utme-fast-updates-of-all-institutions-in-nigeria-20162017/
A dynamic one can look like this: blognigeria.com.ng/showthread.php?tid=4017&pid=6754#pid6754
Google and other search engines hate Error pages, Pages Not Found and Broken Links, it is very bad for your SEO. It is a good SEO practice to enable a 301 redirect of all broken links, yes, I prefer 301 to 401 redirect.
It Is Also Advisable to Use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in URLs. For Example, You better use Blognigeria-tutorial-day-thirteen instead of Blognigeria tutorial_day_thirteen, because Google reads the later as one word (I.e. Blognigeriatutorialdaythirteen).
i. Optimize Your Website for Speed And Device Compatibility.
Your Blog should load fast enough, if not, impatient visitors will hit the back button of their browser and head for another website on the search listings (your competitor), heavy websites loads slowly, this is usually caused by bulky themes, bulky templates, use of flash and heavy scripts. Google hates Flash content!
Also, your website should be mobile friendly, your choice of theme or template should be one that fits into devices of various screen sizes.
Your Website pages should be clear, light and easy to navigate, Google Is Not Going to Rank Low-Quality Pages When It Has Better Options.
2. The Offsite SEO Practices
This is mostly concerned with inbound link building, social media optimization and increased domain authority. Let’s take a look at some off-site SEO practices.
a. Backlink Building
Backlinks are high quality links pointing to your website from a reputable website. It is worthy of note that when building backlinks, the quality of the link matters more than the quantity, don't spend your money buying thousands of links gotten from low Authority websites or websites that are not related to your niche. For example, getting a backlink to your hosting review blog from a high authority food blog sounds crazy to Google, you might be penalized for it.
You better stick to natural backlinks (though hard to get these days) if you are not sure of your paid backlink sources.
There are three types of backlinks to take note of
1. Organic Links – These are links you don’t have to ask for, they are the best kind. Especially if you can get them on sites with high authority such as major news outlets and other well-recognized name websites.
2. Whitehat links – This basically stands for good, quality link building (the kind you should strive for).
3. Blackhat links – This stands for spammy, low-quality link building (the kind you should avoid).
The sources of backlinks includes but are not limited to;
1. Contacting the website owner directly to ask for a backlink to your blog, either paid or free, it’s up to you two, or better still, your can do it the trade by barter way (backlink exchange).
2. Purchasing Backlinks from link vendors or hiring a backlinks expert to do the job.
3. Guest posting on reputable websites (e.g. blognigeria) and adding your website link in your articles (Recommended).
4. Allow backlinks to come naturally from excited crawlers and visitors.
b. Social media Optimization
Be sure to enable social sharing on your posts, though social media don't normally give backlinks, it helps Google to locate your posts, thereby increasing your traffic.
In conclusion, you should know that good visitor's experience is the skeleton of SEO while Quality Content Is its backbone. It might take Weeks, Sometimes Months to see results if you have followed the above Guidelines, just be patient with it.