I am not an expert on Search Engine Optimization but I’ve been messing around with it a bit lately and thought I’d pass on a few tips. These tips relate to both SEO (Search Engine Optimization) proper, which means helping people find your blog posts, which, in turn, means hyping up your Google Juice, as well as general social networking. Almost everything here is obvious but I see many blogs that I really like not doing at least some of them.
Social Networking (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
Your blog should have an easily available set of social networking buttons on each blog post. Ideally these buttons should be on the view of your blog that shows the various recent posts (titles and summaries) as well on the individual blog post pages. Many blogs have buttons that link the reader to the blog author’s Twitter page or other places, but this is not what I mean. I’m talking about the twitter (or other social networking site) button that instantly generates a tweet (or other appropriate action) when pressed.
This button should not lead the reader to a place where they can sign up for the ability to share a blog post. Some blogs do that and it is counter productive. A lot of your readers will ignore this. The social networking buttons should include a lot of options because, even though most people probably use Twitter with Facebook a close second, there are still lots of people who use Stumble Upon or other sites. So when choosing what buttons to show (by adjusting your social networking plugin) be generous.
It would also be nice if your sharing buttons were clearly marked and readily available and distinct from your “follow me on X” buttons.
Some bloggers have a Twitter button that generates a tweet with an @ tag like “@wordpress.com” or something along those lines. That is pretty useless. The @ tag should be more specific to your on line presence. Nobody cares that a tweet was generated from a WordPress blog. That @ tag is to bring relevant individuals into the conversation, not to advertise a generalized blogging network. So adjust that if possible.
Depending on your blog there may be a plugin you can use (or replace) to do this.
Search Engine Optimization
Google ranks and finds sites using a number of criteria most of which are at least initially mysterious. SEO developers (those that develop plugins or strategies etc) attempt to “game” this to enhance their users’ or clients’ Google Juice. Google then adjusts. It is an arms race that you will lose if you don’t keep up. So keep up.
Also, it is probably true that faster rendering sites get higher up on Google search pages than slower rendering sites. So, make your site faster.
Themes or templates for WordPress sites that are old should probably be replaced. Newer templates or themes may be better optimized for speed.
Themes or templates can be “SEO optimized.” But if that is something that was done a couple of years ago, it is probably outdated. Make sure your theme or template is updated (usually a largely automatic process but you need to press a button).
At the moment, it seems that templates or themes that make use of “schema.org” work way better than those that don’t. Search engines use schema.org markup to get at the information on your site. Make sure your theme or template makes use of schema.org. It will say that in the description.
In short, if you have an old template or theme, replace it and make sure the new one is schema.org ready.
I assume it is also true that you should be using the most current version of WordPress or whatever other blogging software you use.
SEO and Social Networking Plugins
To get those sharing buttons, and to improve SEO, you can get various plugins. Get recently developed or updated ones, and keep them updated.
Specific SEO strategies
Pick good keywords. The first keyword you list is the keyword you think will lead people to your post. If you use a generic keyword, your post will be one of a gazillion other posts on a Google search. If you use a more specific one you may get better results. This obviously depends on what people are searching for.
Use your keyword a reasonable number of times in the post, including the title and the “slug” (the part of the URL that identified your post).
Try to write the title of your post in the form of a likely common Google Search. If I write a post on how high sea levels may rise with global warming, I might title it “How high will sea levels rise with global warming” and/or use a phrase like that in the post. The keywords might be “Sea Level Rise, Global Warming, Climate Change.”
Use headings (headers) and put the main keyword in a header tag. This may be extra work since you may have to hard code it, but it is not that difficult. Use HTML code to make an H2 level header and put the keyword in it as part of the title of that section. Many of us think of using titled subsections as a tool for long text, to help break it up, and you may be reluctant to use headers with short text. Forget that convention and use the headers even when your blog post is short.
A blog post that is under 300 words has less google juice. I can imagine why this is true, but I don’t know. But it appears to be true because all the SEO experts say it. At least for now.
Using graphics in blog posts
Graphics seem to increase Google juice. If you use graphics, there are a few guidelines that may help.
Retitle the graphic, if needed, so it says something that makes sense. So, change 23272w90348408.jpg to Map-of-sea-level-rise.jpg.
Put a phrase that uses your keyword (if appropriate) in the alt-test and description, and include a caption with that as well.
Put links to your other posts in your posts, when appropriate.
Use title tags properly
Each HTML page has a “title tag” that is said to be very important for search engines. Google will create the search engine result largely from the title tag. There are SEO plugins that allow you to manipulate this data. I am somewhat agnostic about this approach as I’ve seen mixed results, but if you have an SEO plugin you should try doing what it tells you do to about post titles and descriptions.
Don’t be an idiot about post titles
The title of your post is probably the most important thing when it comes to SEO and in general getting someone to read it.
The first rule is don’t be cute. Well, be cute if you want, but don’t create a title that has great literary value or that conveys some subtle bit of humor or makes a nuanced connection between two things you are writing about, etc. etc. unless the title also states what the post is about.
In other words, the title of your post is the ONLY means to tell a potential reader what your post is about. It is NOT an IQ test or a test of popular culture knowledge or anything else.
Let me put this yet another way. Your post title should not be a quiz that only your “smartest” or most socially aware readers, or more typically, your most telepathic readers, will understand. The title of your post should not be a challenge that only some will overcome in order to unerstand what your post is about.
Have I put that enough ways?
For example, this post is titled
“Expanding Blog Readership Through SEO and Social Networking”
If I wanted to be more literal I might have said,
“Clickety–clack 10 SEO hacks”
“Link or cut bait”
“Searching For Juice”
… or any number of titles that make a subtle, nuanced link between something you weren’t thinking of and something in my own head. Don’t do that. Google won’t figure out that your post is there, and if Google does, and puts your post on the only page in a search result that matters (page 1) readers won’t figure out what you are writing about.
Save The Drama For Your Mama
And by Drama I mean your inspired literary blog post title and by Mama I mean a header within your post.
See what I did there?
Expanding Blog Readership Through SEO and Social Networking, according to YOU
Please make your brilliant suggestions (and corrections of what I’ve said) below!