Let’s face it: small businesses blog for one reason: to get noticed and eventually lead to some sort of sale. Whether demonstrating expertise on a topic, promoting your services or brand, or interviewing someone in the industry, you are encouraging people to come to your site, share your content, and ultimately do business with you. Paying attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can fuel your blog with more horsepower for relatively low effort.
Surprisingly, many small businesses have never heard of SEO or are intimidated by the acronym and what it means. But in reality, basic SEO takes little time and budget–you just need a little extra TLC every time you publish a post. I’m a big believer in the oft-repeated mantra, “The best SEO is good writing,” but imagine if you enlist the powerful combo of great content and some SEO tricks? Unstoppable.
Start Your Engines (Search Optimization that is)
Getting your site to rank high and often on search engines like Google and Bing is considered both an art and science, but still remains a mostly mysterious formula that mere mortals like us don’t control or understand (unlike Google). To make matters more confusing, search engines change and update their algorithms often, like the much-talked about Google Panda. But there are regular, basic steps you can take to increase the chances of your blog getting noticed early and often on search engines.
Get into Gear
If you have a WordPress.org site (that you pay to host the content), there are all-in-one SEO Plugins that will help guide and do the work for you out of the box. (Important and sometimes confusing distinction: Many small businesses use the free version of WordPress.com, which does not offer SEO plugins).
For the many small businesses on WordPress.com, the company stands behind its SEO in that “80 to 90%” of SEO mechanics is done automatically, which builds confidence, but we can can top 100% with just a little extra work.
Blogger.com is generally not considered particularly SEO-friendly (and ironically owned by Google) but has a page devoted to the practice. You can also find some tips here and other resources on the web about SEO on Blogger.
Move into the Fast Lane
For the majority of bloggers that are on WordPress.com, take these easy steps before publishing each post. The order you do them is a matter of personal preference: planning up-front versus optimizing at the end, just so long as you do it.
- Use keywords for turn signals.
Once you have your topic and content nailed, think about potential keywords for your post. For instance, if you’re writing about mortgage trends in your local real estate market, include all associated words at least once and think about other ways to say them sprinkled in your blog, typically this will happen organically anyway. The Google keyword search tool offers a comprehensive view of how your chosen keywords will fare. Be aware that there are different schools of thought on keyword density and “formulas” for the best results,but I advocate authenticity above all, meaning your post should sound natural, like a human communicating, not a word-repeating robot. In fact, search engines have sophisticated tools that route out black hat seo practices like keyword stuffing and mark as spam.
- Move the headline to front seat.
Sometimes in our quest to be clever or get attention (myself included) blog post titles can be obtuse for search. As with keywords, take the time to make your headline searchable. For instance I recently did a post on outdoor billboards and the headline was “Sex, Religion, Politics (and a Hitler teapot): Controversial Billboards Revisited”. Not exactly SEO-friendly. So I at least changed the “slug”, after the date, to “controversial-billboards-2012″. That earns me a more regular hits and I can still maintain my self-proclaimed witty headline.
- Images ride shotgun.
As bloggers, we know the value of adding images and graphics to tell our story and it’s also a proven fact that content with images get more hits that those without. In a few easy steps, graphics can be a powerful SEO tool by reducing the file size (search engines dislike slow loading sites), renaming the file name to something specific and meaningful, and adding a title. There are other steps you can take.
- Make Pit Stops for Categories and Tags.
Even if you’re pressed for time, “Categories” and “Tags” is worth the effort to do some of the SEO work for you, especially knowing the difference between the two: Think of “Categories” as the bucket of content type versus “Tags”, which are more detailed words and phrases about the post. For the outdoor billboard piece, the Categories might be “outdoor billboards” and “advertising.” Tags would be more specific, like “Hitler teapot” or “J.C. Penney”.
- Create your own traffic.
As a standard practice, linking to your own related posts, other blogs, or external content add value and insight, and also work to boost your SEO. As with keywords, link strategically and where it makes sense. No stuffing allowed!
- Honk Your Own Horn
Most bloggers use their social network to get the word out for each new post. This is just good old self-promotion, but a reminder you can also increase your SEO with every share and reaching your extended network. A quick way to do this each time is by using the WordPress publishing feature that automatically sends to all social media outlets, or you can manage this process yourself. I opt to share manually to target different messages to my audiences, but nice to know I can use publishing in a hurry.
… Never Hit the Cruise Button
Once you’ve taken these primary steps to SEO-ize your blog, keep the wheels in motion for long-term good habits and practice. And remember, it’s not just good content that helps build organic SEO, but posting on a regular basis is just as important. Last but not least, pay attention to your stats: what are people searching on to find your blog? Use that data to fine tune your content continually.
What SEO practices work best for your blog?