Having a reasonable amount of experience in the heady world of SEO, I’ve been promising my fellow dad-bloggers that I’d give them some SEO pointers for a while now – so I’m finally getting round to it. I doubt I’ll be able to cover all of the important stuff in one post, so this may stretch to 2 or 3. But for now, I’m going to focus on what I’ll call ‘the basics’ – setting your blog up, optimising your code and a few other bits of housekeeping. But first…
Whilst there are a lot of similarities, I shalln’t be covering any professional-level SEO. Luckily though, there are quite a few differences between the sort of SEO we do for our clients and what it takes to get your blog found by potential visitors. I won’t be covering link-building for instance, or some of the more complex keyword research you could do. In order to ensure a sensible end-game, I’m going to assume you want to learn more about SEO for your blog because you want more visitors through Google, rather than to appear in any competitive verticals. As I said above, if you want to know more about SEO for retail or more competitive verticals, talk to a professional. Right, enough of the caveats – here goes:
Getting the basics right
Choose your name carefully – Getting your blog name right can save you a lot of stress in the long-run, not just because of the hassle of changing it at a later point, but because it could give you a head-start on your SEO too. Things to consider when picking a name include:
- Make it memorable – Unless you’re relying on all your traffic coming through referals, chances are you’ll want to tell people the name of your blog in person; making sure it is easy to remember will help them get there!
- Make it easy to spell – Including a pun or a ‘clever’ mis-spelling might seem like a fun idea, but unless you register domain names for the ‘correct’ spellings too, you’ll lose traffic this way. Just don’t do it!
- Get a keyword in there – It’s not a big factor, but if you want to appear in Google for ‘dad’ or ‘father’ related terms, consider including those words in your title – and, more crucially, your domain name.
- Check for duplicates – There’s nothing worse than setting everything up, publishing your blog and finding out somebody else has used the same name as you, or a very similar one. Be unique – it’ll help everyone.
- If you’re going to reflect your blog name in your domain name, register a few different derivitives – a .com, a .co.uk maybe – just to ensure somebody doesn’t do the same thing I mentioned in the point above!
Ensure your platform is SEO-able = Most good CMS’s a blog platforms come with all the SEO functionality you’ll need built-in, but if you’re using a less well-known platform – or perhaps building your blog from scratch – ensure you have the ability to modify the SEO elements you’ll need to. Changing page (and post) titles, meta data (descriptions etc), adding code and building-in social functionality will all be needed if you want to get your SEO up to scratch. If you use a platform like WordPress or TypePad, browse through the most popular SEO plug-ins or widgets to ensure you know how to use them.
Figure out WHAT traffic you want – This sounds like a silly question (most people would answer “everywhere, you moron!”) but it does take some planning. Are you looking to capitalise on news or trends? Hoping to dominate for certain terms? Looking to attract people to work with you? Or just keen to catch people who are interested in the particular topics you will be covering? Knowing who you want to attract will help you to decide how far you optimise. For instance, if you’re only concerned about attracting traffic related to what you are already blogging about, getting your content right is most important. Whereas if you are hoping to capitalise on current events or trends, you’ll need to do a bit of keyword research to ensure you utilise those terms in your title (for instance), content and file-names.
Customise your settings – Once your blog is setup and installed, you know what traffic you want to attract and you’re ready to start posting, you will want to ensure you know what items you’ll need to customise when posting. Here are some of the essentials:
- Edit your file-names – If you’ll look at the naming I’ve used for this post, you can see I have amended my filename to include keywords and phrases which aren’t in the title of the post. Make sure you can do this too.
- Add a description – The “meta description” tag often defines the ‘snippet’ text which appears below your blog title in search results, so customising it can be a big help. For instance, if you don’t include a meta description, Google will include a snippet of text which it considers most relevant to the search query – and it won’t often be the sort of text which attracts click-through.
- Manage your tags – Adding an ‘alt’ tag to your images, keywords to your post, a ‘nofollow’ tag to your links or perhaps caption to a video file will all ensure your content is as crawlable as possible.
Make the most of Google – Even if you have an analytics package built-in to your blog platform, get Google Analytics added too. Google Webmaster Tools is another useful tool to have in your arsenal, and will allow you to modify things like your sitemap, your preferred domain root (www or non-www) and other important factors in the way Google sees your site.
Once you’ve got all that sorted, you should be in a good position to launch your blog and get crawled by the search engines. Next time, we’ll cover some of the more advanced things you can do with your blog. If there’s a particular question you have and would like me to cover next time, ask in the comments!