Building a blog is easy. Building a successful blog with huge traffic that doesn’t die down? Now, that’s a challenge.
You might think that writing well is the only skill you need to produce a successful blog. Yes, it’s a huge factor, but there are other ingredients needed if you want people flocking to your website, weeks or months after you hit publish and promote on social media – one of which is SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
During my stint as an online magazine writer and editor (this was before I joined Spiralytics where I learned about content marketing and had a better understanding of SEO services in the Philippines and the international scene), we heavily relied on producing quality content to increase our traffic. Sure, we had cool and uniquely written articles that performed well upon publishing because of social media promotion, but the traffic dropped in a week or two, and continued to dip overtime until cobwebs appeared. What was our mistake?
We didn’t optimize our content for search engines. We were too focused on writing unique articles with unique titles that people couldn’t find our content online. Search engines like Google didn’t think that we were the best website suggestion for users so we were kept from appearing in the first pages of search results.
What is SEO?
“SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results.” (The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz, a great guide for people who want to learn about SEO)
If you want to grow your blog/website’s traffic (and keep it growing), you need to implement SEO strategies that will make you more visible to users who are interested in the content that you create, even if you’ve stopped promoting in social media. Here are 5 traffic-boosting SEO tips and tricks that every blogger needs to know and are easy to implement:
1. Use keywords that users search for
How do search engines find relevant websites for search results? Keywords. Search engines like Google crawl the millions of content produced in the Internet to find the best possible results for search queries (the words typed into the search box by users). You need to include those keywords in your content so that search engines will find you.
Identifying your moneymaking keywords
How do you know which keywords your target readers are searching for? A simple way to do this is to put yourself in the shoes of your target reader and think about what you would type in. But if you want a more data-driven method to find out what topic to write about and what keywords to include, you can make use Google AdWords Keyword Planner (I've blogged about how you can use it for that purpose in my post 10 Free Online Tools That Make a Writer’s Life Easier). If you want to find out which keywords your website is already ranking for so you can create more topics around those, try Google Webmaster Tools for Search Queries.
My travel blog's moneymaking keywords and their rankings from Google Webmaster Tools
Hubspot's Rachel Sprung put together this great guide on How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: A Beginner's Guide if you want to have a better understanding of keyword research. Want a much deeper guide on keywords? The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz has a detailed chapter on keyword research.
How and where to use your keywords
Once you've identified what keywords you need to use in your content, you should know how and where to use them.
Create keyword-rich titles. Aside from your title being the first thing that readers see in search results, search engines also take notice of which keywords are in your title to determine how relevant it is to search queries. According to Amy Porterfield, "search engines give more importance to your page title than just about any other variable". Try to put your keywords first because search engines give more weight to the first words of a title.
Some bloggers make the mistake of creating vague titles like it's the next Academy Award Best Picture film. Don't be too dramatic with your titles, make it catchy while still including your keywords. Here's an infographic on 74 Attention-Grabbing Blog Titles That Actually Work by Pauline Cabrera of TwelveSkip.
Search engines also look at your post's URL to determine if it's relevant to a search query, so you should include your keyword in it as well. You can shorten your URL by removing prepositions, but always keep your keyword.
Try to put your keywords in the first or second sentence and scatter it in the rest of your post. Don't put your keyword in every sentence though, be as natural as possible and mention it only when it's applicable. Search engines penalize posts that they think are over-optimizing.
d) Meta Description
Your meta description is that short sentence seen in the search results below the title. It gives the search engine and your readers a brief summary of what your post is about so you have to put your keyword in it as well. You can set this by installing plugins in your CMS. If you're using Wordpress, I highly recommend Wordpress SEO by Yoast.
2. Make your images SEO-friendly
Search engines can only crawl text for keywords, they can't crawl images. But that doesn't mean that there's no way for search engines to see images.When uploading images to you blog post, take the time to rename your image to describe what is in the photo (Ex: if you have a photo of a mug that's color yellow, you should rename it as yellow-mug.jpg instead of IMG28492.jpg) . Search engines also look at alt text in images to figure out what it is showing. Your alt text should be a description of the photo. (Ex: yellow mug).
3. Link to your own posts
This is what SEO specialists call "internal linking". An internal link directs your reader from one page to another page in your website. According to Neil Patel in his blog post The Seven Commandments of Internal Linking that Will Improve Content Marketing SEO in Kissmetrics, internal linking has three purposes:
a) Aids in website navigation
b) Defines the architecture and hierarchy of a website
c) Distributes page authority and ranking power throughout the site
Internal linking is as simple as connecting related blog posts or pages from another post by hyperlinking URLs to keywords. If for example I mention "Korea visa application" in a blog post, I can link that to my blog post on Korea visa application. Link your posts to keywords that describe what the post is about. This will signal search engines that your post is about that keyword and increase your chances of appearing in search results for that keyword. At the same time, it keeps your reader in your website.
4. Use topic tags wisely
When I started blogging more than 10 years ago and still had no idea about SEO practices, I thought that the more tags I add for a post, the bigger chances I had for people to find my website - FALSE. Surprisingly, I still know some bloggers today that think this is true.
Hubspot's Meghan Keaney Anderson perfectly explained the dangers of creating too many topic tags in her articleBlog SEO for the Modern Marketer: How to Optimize Your Posts: "Because each tag creates a separate aggregative page, some SEO experts argue that having too many similar tags on your content -- for example, having “email," “email marketing," and “emailing" -- can come across to search engines as duplicate content and end up getting you penalized."
If you've already created tons of tag variations in your posts, clean them out now. Choose keywords that you want your website to rank for and just use those. 15-25 keywords is a good set for tags for your whole website.
5. Produce quality shareable content (and promote it)
All of these SEO strategies will be put to waste if you don't produce content that people actually want to read and share. At the end of the day, the main reason why people will be going to your website is because they want to read what you have to say.
"Create content that readers find valuable and Google will deem search-worthy. Visitors are more likely to share content that they enjoyed reading and will stay on your site longer, while bloggers and the media might use your site as a reference, which means more organic links." - says Danny Wong of Blank Label.
If there's a best way to boost your blog's traffic, it's getting your posts linked by other websites. If it's a huge website with high ranking in search engines (or a ton of websites with significant domain authority), you'll be getting some "link juice". This is one of the main focus of SEO specialists, link building (learn more about it in Backlinko's Link Building: The Definitive Guide).
The million dollar question is: How will you get these people to link back to you? Promote your content. Hitting the publish button shouldn't be the final step in your blogging process. Share your posts in social media (not just your personal accounts but in groups and communities related to your topic), content aggregators, and reach out to people who you think will be interested in your post (especially influencers in that topic). If people think your post is valuable, they will share it to their network and if it's really good, will even mention it in their own blog posts.
There are plenty of other SEO strategies that you can implement in your blog, but for starters, try out these first. Lucky for you, the Internet is full of FREE guides on SEO that will teach you to rank higher and increase your traffic. Install Google Analytics in your blog so you can monitor your organic traffic and see if these tricks really helped your blog get more readers.