I don't claim to be an expert on SEO. But I've learned some and, as usual, this e-zine-turned-blog is all about sharing what I've learned in the hope it will help you in your own writing journey.
Probably, nowadays, most writers know what SEO is. But I can see some of you still have glazed-over eyes, so let's talk about what SEO is. SEO doesn't have to be complicated. There's a boon of books written on the subject, but those are for people who are interested or who do marketing or publicity for a living. Writers need to know some about SEO to promote their own writing and make the most of every opportunity for their online writing, but we don't have to get overly complicated. Let's keep it simple: SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization" and that phrase doesn't have to be intimidating. It simply means there are simple things you can do to optimize (make the most of) search engines and help them find you and your writing. That brings more readers to whatever you write. And that's a good thing. After all, that's what we're in it for, right?
So, let's get started and look at 7 Keys to making your blog post more search-engine friendly (also known as search engine optimized):
Key 1: Write Only One Topic Per Post
Seriously, only one topic per post. This sounds easy, doesn't it. But I find it's harder than it looks. Take today for example. I have so much I want to tell you! Besides writing on the topic of the month, I also want to:
- Tell you that I have a new book out. How exciting is that?!
- Encourage you to attend the Colorado Christian Writers Conference coming up later this month.
So what should I do? Answer: Stick to ONE topic per post so the search engines can figure out where to file this and then when someone comes asking for it, those lovely engines will know right where to send them.
What about those other topics? I have some options so I'll need to make some decisions. I could:
- Write them in separate posts. They would each need to be in their owns post because they are different topics. The drawback here is that I've agreed with my subscribers, when this was an e-zine, to only put something in their in boxes once a month unless it's really, really important and couldn't wait til the next month's post. I don't want to raise the ire of my subscribers by sending two more posts in the next few days. Still, when this blog was in the form of a newsletter, I could put this "extra" information in a sidebar and deliver all this information to in one newsletter. I can't do that so well in a blog since it will scramble the brains of the search engines.
- I could write about my new book and CCWC on other Pages on this blog (the tabs at the top). The drawback here is that I don't know if you'll see it.
Also, because the Colorado Christian Writers Conference is coming up in only a couple of weeks, if I'm going to encourage you to go I need to do it soon.
If my subscribers aren't interested in these topics, that's what the delete key is for.
Another advantage of writing only one topic per post: busy readers can see at a glance if they're interested and they don't miss important announcements because it's one topic per post. On the other hand, if they're not interested, they can simply press delete.
Key 2: Discover Your Key Words
Now that you know what your one topic for your post is, determine what your key words are. Key words are important. If you want to increase your readership, if you want to reach more people with your message, then you need to pay attention to key words.
Your key words are those words your potential reader is going to type in to a search engine when he or she is trying to find the very information you're writing.
In other words, imagine your future reader: that person who needs what you're writing about. But they don't know you are writing just what they need. How are they going to find you? Here's how: They are going to access a search engine (Google, Bing, or other) and then type in some words. What words are they typing in? Whatever those words are, they are your Key Words.
Make a note of them. Write them down. Type them somewhere. Learn to choose really good key words. You're going to need them.
Now, how can you know if you picked good Key Words? Or do you have that feeling that you haven't quite nailed down your key words and you wished you had some suggestions for alternate words or phrases? You can get some help with your Key Words at the free Google's AdWord: Keyword Tool. With this tool you can put in your key words and get a whole list of related words and phrases.
Google's AdWord Keyword Tool also tells you how many searches were done for those key words or phrases and the level of competition for those words. In other words, are you competing with a lot of other blogs that are also using those key words? A high rating might mean a popular topic but a lot of competition. Medium competition might mean a significant number of people are searching for that topic but not that many people are writing about it, which might be very good for you.
Considering number of searches and the competition, write down the most promising words and phrases for your blog post topic.
Key 3: Use Your Key Words in Your Blog Post Title
Now that you know your key words, use them in your blog post title. For example, this blog post is about helping you create your own blog posts that attract new readers through SEO, it's about helping you create successful blog posts, and it gives you 7 keys. All of those thoughts are reflected in this post's title.
Since I have learned this much about SEO, and since good SEO techniques have started to become familiar enough to me that I recognize them or, better yet, I recognize when they are missing, I have to tell you that sometimes I see blog post titles that make me cringe. Honestly, I'm not trying to pick on anyone here. I'm only trying to help. So if you see yourself in what I'm about to say, please know I'm not picking on you personally. I see these things a lot, and I just wanted to call your attention to it so you can do better in the future. I cringe only because I know it's a lost opportunity.
I've seen (and actually I've been guilty of this myself) blog titles like:
- Great News!
- Exciting Stuff!
Practice being specific. If your great news is that your book just won an award, give the title of your book and/or the name of the award. If you're announcing your new book, use the key words of what your book is about to attract people who are searching for information on your book's topic. If your exciting stuff is that you're going to be a guest on TV, say which program.
If you're blogging about writing or publishing, put those key words in your title. If you're writing an online article on a current event, use the key words for that event. If you're teaching on your favorite topic, that topic which is the passion of your heart, put that topic in your post title. You get the idea...
Key 4: Use Your Key Words in Beginning, Middle, and Ending of Your Blog Post
Now take those same key words that you used in your title and use them:
- in the first sentence of your post, or at least in the first paragraph.
- in the body of your post, in a way that is natural and organic (not stacking or forcing those words unnaturally). You can use them more than once, but use them at least once.
- in the last sentence of your post, or at least the last paragraph.
Try this: I'm now writing the first and last paragraph of my posts at the same time, and then I fill in the middle. That's helping me more easily get those key words at the bottom of the post without forgetting.
Sometimes this feels awkward and forced. That's okay. Do it the best you can. It will get easier. And it's really, really important for your SEO.
Key 5: Include Links
Two things here:
First, it's very helpful to your SEO to have links in your post that actually link to something helpful that you're talking about. So always, always, always put at least a couple of links in your posts.
Second, you must make the words that form your link count. Another thing that makes me cringe is links that use words like:
- Click here
- More info
- Find it here
Those words don't count for anything! Make your link titles count by actually stating, using key words, where that link will take you. For example the above link I gave you actually takes you to Google's AdWord: Keyword Tool, so those are the words I used for the title of the link! Not hard. Just do it. It will make you points in the SEO department.
Here's another example. This morning, when I was already planning to write about SEO in blog posts, I saw in a Paper.li I subscribe to a blog post by author and speaker Mary DeMuth titled "25 Best Blog Practices That'll Rock Your Blog!" Though her post isn't about SEO, it is about blogging and I thought her post might help you, too, so I wanted to share it.
Take note that the words I made into the links actually tell where that link is taking you. The Paper.li link takes you to a post I wrote about that Twitter-fed Paper that you can create. Putting words in the link that go with the link score you many more SEO points than a link that says "Click here."
Key 6: Include a Photo
Honestly I don't know if a photo helps out with SEO or not. But I do believe a picture helps your article gain attention, so I included it in this list.
I don't know a thing about Pinterest. I haven't joined that one yet. But I have heard that in order to "pin" an online article in Pinterest there has to be a photo with the article. (If you know Pinterest, you can leave a comment and let us know if I've got that right.)
I do know that sharing a post on Facebook gets a lot more attention if it has a picture with it. So do find a photo to go with your post. You can use one of your own photos if you want to, if you don't mind your face on the internet, or use the image of your book cover or award--whatever goes with your post's topic.
Don't have a photo? I'm sure you know better than to just go take one from somewhere. Photos are copyrighted just like your words, so respect others' copyrights.
There are web sites where you can grab free photos to use in your blog. Google "free stock photos" and you'll find some.
I haven't always put a photo with my blog posts unless I was blogging about something that a photo naturally went with, like my book cover or an event I had a photo from. But I've recently come to believe having a photo is very important and I've been overlooking adding one, so I'm going to try to always include one from here on out. (We'll see if I remember!) Last month I used a free photo from Dreamstime.com. For this post I used a free photo from Morguefile.com. Be sure to read the small print to know whether you need to put a credit line on it. Dreamstime wants you to, and tells you what to put. I used that as the lable for the photo in my computer so the two would be stored together and I'd have it when I needed it. Morguefile doesn't require that, but I put their link on the photo both because I appreciate them providing me a photo and so you would know where it came from.
Key 7: Add a Video
I've learned that adding a video from YouTube really scores you SEO points, too. There are thousands of videos on YouTube so you can find a bit of teaching on your topic or an inspiring song.
You can also use your book trailer. Don't have a book trailer? Here's a post I wrote on how to make your own 30-second book trailer for free.
Bonus Key: Make Sure Your Posts are Share-Friendly
I didn't count this one as an SEO key because I don't know that it helps in optimizing your post for search engines, but it is a pet peeve of mine. (Mary DeMuth mentioned this in her article, too.) Be sure that every post you write is easy to "Share." That means installing buttons at the bottom that readers can click to share your post on Twitter, Facebook, and a bunch of other sites.
You'll see Share Buttons at the bottom of this post, and I hope you'll Tweet it and Facebook it and Google+ it. You can also use the e-mail and blog post share buttons.
On other blogs I've seen a whole bunch of other options and I'm frustrated that I haven't been able to figure out how to add those to my blog yet. I'm thinking it must be a plug-in that people get from somewhere else because I've looked on Blogspot and the ones I already have are the only ones I can find. Maybe you can do better with your blog.
Use these techniques elsewhere too
By the way, all these SEO keys can be applied to your web site, too. And to online articles you write, guest posts on other people's blogs...anywhere you write online. So start practicing and soon you'll be a natural at it.
I'm planning to make myself a checklist so I don't forget any of these steps in future posts. You might make your own checklist.
If you practice these 7 Keys to SEO-successful blog posts, you should see an increase in people visiting your blog and reading your messages. And that's what it's all about, right? You're writing because you want people to read what you write, right? Let me know if you find these tips easy or hard to implement in the comments section below. If you have other ideas for SEO success, please share it in a comment. Or if you have questions about this topic, put it in a comment and we'll see what answers we can come up with. I wish you all the success in the world in your own writing and posting!