(This is the first of a five-part series about blog SEO. This series was published two years ago on HyperlocalBlogger.com with an emphasis on local blogs, but has been updated and rewritten for publishing now.)
Most SEO basics are the same from one site to the next and one industry to the next. Optimizing page titles, building links, etc., are important for everyone, for example. But blogging — and local/small business blogging in particular — carries with it some unique challenges and opportunities.
In this series, I’ll cover both the basics of SEO in general, as well as the specifics as they apply to local/small business blogging.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process that involves tweaking your web site (optimizing it) for maximum visibility in search engines like Google and Bing. I call it a “process” because SEO is an ongoing thing, not something you do once and forget about. And for me and many SEO professionals, it’s about more than just search engine rankings. It’s a process that targets two audiences: search engines and humans.
A search engine wants to know two main things about web pages:
- what the page is about, and
- how important/valuable the page is
SEO is about knowing how to make both of those things obvious to search engines, while simultaneously creating value for human visitors to your site. In that sense, SEO is both an art and a science.
What’s the goal?
The goal of SEO — indeed, of any kind of marketing — is to create trust. You want search engines to learn to trust your blog as an authority in your area and/or industry. When they do, your blog posts will rank highly in search results and you should get more traffic to your blog.
You also want human visitors to trust your blog as an authority in your area and/or industry. When they do, they’ll visit more often, they’ll bookmark your blog, they’ll spread your content on their favorite social networks, they’ll link to your blog posts and recommend your blog to others. Both search engines and humans reward trusted sites and blogs. Good SEO helps you create that trust.
Search engine algorithms are exceptionally complicated and change on a regular basis. Google says it uses more than 200 factors in determining how to rank pages, and it makes hundreds of changes to its algorithm every year. No one outside of the search engines knows the exact formula, but we know there are some very important signals that influence how your blog is seen by search engines and how it earns trust.
Signals You Control
As a blogger, you control many of the signals that search engines rely on, such as:
- the name of your blog
- the categories or tags you use
- the titles of your blog posts
- the content of your blog posts
- even the alt text you use on images can serve as a small signal for search engines
- some incoming links to your blog (by listing your blog URL on social network profiles, in local/industry directories, etc.)
- internal links you create — links on your blog to other pages/articles on your blog
Signals You Don’t Control
There are some signals that you don’t control, but still serve to tell a search engine what your blog is about and how important it is, such as:
- links to your blog from other sites/blogs, and the anchor text of those links
- what other sites/blogs say about your blog when writing about it and/or citing your content
- social media sharing of your content
- feed subscriptions
- click-thru data (in Google and Bing)
Of this list, the first two signals tend to carry much greater significance than the rest. Inbound links to your blog, in particular, are a very strong SEO signal. The quantity of inbound links is important, but the quality of inbound links matters even more. Links to your blog from highly trusted and locally relevant sites, for example, would be a very strong signal in your favor.
The anchor text of links is also extremely important. In the previous paragraph, I used the anchor text “the quality of inbound links” for the link to an old blog post. That tells search engines that the page I’m linking to is about inbound links.
The other three signals are likely to play a small role, too, particular the social sharing element. Both Google and Bing have confirmed that social signals are counted in their ranking algorithms.
Summary & Preview
That’s a semi-brief introduction to the basic concepts of SEO. If nothing else, keep in mind that your goal as a blogger is to make it obvious (via various signals) to search engines what your posts are about and why they have value, while at the same time writing for human visitors.
In part two of this series, I’ll talk about the importance of doing SEO on your blog long before you begin writing posts and share tips for setting up your blog for the best long-term SEO success.
In the meantime, if you have questions or comments on this article, the comments are open.
(This is the first of a five-part series about SEO for local/small business blogs.)
(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)