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7 simple ways to optimise a blog post for the search engines

There is so much palaver banded about on how to optimise a blog post to make it seem totally complicated. In reality, when all is said and done, there are some simple procedures that can be put in place that will make a big difference, and these really don’t need to beefed up to make you believe it needs to be done by a fancy, expensive SEO agency.

Of course if you want to consistently be on page 1 of Google (whatever that truly means, and for what?) and always be in the result of every search option, then you may need to employ some experts who do this all day long, but if you can’t afford these services here are some actions you can do yourself.

1. Choose an easy keyword

If you’re really into SEO you will probably take great pains to work out which keyword or keyphrase is the most popular, highly sought after, has the least competition and all sorts of other factors, but even if you haven’t got all those systems to hand, focusing on any particular keyword is better than nothing.

Then there is the difference between short and long tail keywords. These is affected by popularity, as a short tailed keyword (usually comprising of a single or a couple of words) can be quite ‘expensive’ in the SEO world, whereas a long tail keyword (a phrase that might reflect what people would type into the search field) will be more difficult to incorporate within a post, as it needs to be reproduced in its exact form to be valid.

And not only that, for full SEO it needs to be found in its entirety in at least 14 places within the post, which is quite a feat when it comes to copywriting and making the content feasible, readable and interesting. So I would plump for a keyword you are comfortable with, is easy to use, and can be manipulated into your text in a variety of ways.

2. Place the keywords in the right places

The 14 places I mentioned above are: the post’s main headline, the permalink (the post’s own URL), the opening paragraph, the picture’s caption and its alt tag (see below), the subheaders, at least the middle and final paragraphs, the SEO title and meta-description (see below), tags and categories, links and the call to action. I’ve written a post about 18 uses of keywords within blog posts if you’re interested to find out more.

3. Optimise your images

Did you realise that search engines cannot see the pictures in your post? Because they are not comprised of words, images are therefore invisible to spiders. So you need to put some words behind the pictures for the search engines to read, and this is done via the alternative (alt) tags.

This is done by clicking on the picture in situ within the post to bring up the image properties or image editing menu.

Showing Alt Tag In Image

Regardless of what blogging platform you use, there will be an alternative (alt) text field to fill in. This needs to be filled in with a relevant description about the picture. This not only provides the necessary words for the search engines to index, but also enables the partially sighted web users to get their computers to tell them something about the picture.

And by including the relevant keyword you’ve chosen for this post in the alt tag description, including the title tag above (which results in that little yellow tag showing up whenever you mouse over the published picture), you’ll be satisfying the SEO criteria too.

4. Don’t forget the tags

Tags (in WordPress) or labels (in Blogger) are the secondary keywords. I mentioned the primary keyword in No 1 above, but there will be other important words in your content that could do with a bit of highlighting to draw the attention to them by the search engines. These must be taken from the text in your post, because the search engines will compare the relevance they have to what you have written, and good matches mean more brownie points.

Tags can either be over or under-used in a post (some bloggers even forget or neglect them), but to me they are important, along with allocating the post to an appropriate category (subject or topic). They are also good for the search mechanism you may have included in your sidebar for readers to find posts within certain subjects or niches. Checking my stats in Google Analytics shows many posts and pages have been reached due to my tags and their respective pages that list the posts that use them.

I wouldn’t use too many tags with a post (some blogging platforms even limit their use to only five), so be sparing as well as highly relevant when selecting which ones to use.

5. Filling in the meta details

In WordPress.org there are plenty of SEO plugins, but I use WP SEO by Yoast, because this allows me to fill in my meta-description which certainly can help to optimise a blog post. Now I know that WordPress.com blogs don’t have this feature, but this is not the end of the world because WordPress has a highly developed SEO system already incorporated into these blogs behind the scenes.

The meta-description is the descriptive area within a snippet. A snippet is the entry arising from a search request, and comprises of the SEO title, the post’s URL or permalink and if the meta-description is not filled in properly, the first 156 characters which are taken from the beginning of the post.

Rich snippet showing Google Authorship for Alice Elliott

(Oh, this is a rich snippet, because it shows I have claimed Google Authorship, hence why it includes my avatar (portrait), byline (author name) and link to my Google+ profile.)

Now you will have noticed I mentioned an SEO title. This because there is the possibility of a post having two headlines or titles. The first is the post’s headline, found at the top above the content, which should be carefully constructed for the reader’s benefit, an enticing, persuasive and cleverly written contribution that is vital for attracting attention and sticking out of the crowd within noisy social media environments.

The second is the SEO headline, and with WP SEO by Yoast there is the option to construct this title solely for the search engines. This is not always visible within the web, but just in case it is, make sure it is readable and definitely contains your chosen primary keyword.

WP SEO by Yoast in action

This screen shot shows the WP SEO by Yoast plugin in action. There is a snippet preview at the top, which changes as you edit it, the keyword entered below (options are offered when you type it in), a check list which will turn green when you’ve incorporated everything, the SEO title field which shows at the top of the snippet (good idea to include your blog’s name in it) which needn’t be the same as your post’s headline as it will be written purely to satisfy the search engines, and the field for the meta-description which is visible in the snippet preview.

6. Make sure your links are relevant

Links are vital when working in SEO into your posts. There is no need to go over the top with links (otherwise you may be classed as spam), but they do need to be highly relevant to their destinations in relation to the post’s content. This means if the post is about dog grooming, it is important to link the a webpage specifically about dog grooming, and not to the homepage of a website about dogs.

There are three kinds of links, internal, outbound and inbound. These are all important to optimise a blog post. These represent a doorway to another page, post or website, and can work both ways for reciprocal purposes. In fact the presence of links within a post does enhance how SEO performs, especially if any outbound ones connect with a high ranking website, but remember less is more, perhaps no more than two in a post, if you don’t want to aggravate Google’s Penguin algorithm.

And if you’re really clever and you can create a contextual link (a link that consists of words relevant to the destination, rather than just ‘click here’) which contains your primary keyword, then that will certainly boost your SEO ratings. Interestingly research has shown that the call to action ‘click here’ is much more successful in gaining a response, but these words do nothing towards the ability to optimise a blog post.

7. Sharing is caring

And the final element which helps to optimise a blog post is regarding interaction and engagement. It’s important to share your post within social media (networking and bookmarking) in order to reach a bigger audience and gain more traffic back to the blog. Also this works better the more interaction, likes, comments, sharing and recommendations you can gather, as this reciprocation and engagement is noted by the search engines and the algorithms within the social media sites and is rewarded accordingly as SEO.

Every post will benefit from a good call to action, giving the reader something to do other than to read you post and disappear. A suggestion could be to encourage them to leave a comment or share your content in their social media profiles. If your call to action also includes the primary keyword that helps with SEO.

Any manual sharing of your post on social networking or bookmarking sites will help if you can accompany its link with an attractive, interesting and persuasive introductory paragraph, and if you can add in the primary keyword into that too, this all helps with attracting the search engines and helps to optimise a blog post.

Now it’s your turn. See if you can incorporate some of these ideas into your posts, and let me know in a comment below if this has made a difference.

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Alice Elliott writes the award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She provides simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Visit her new Beginner Bloggers blog to find her latest learning resources.