How to SEO Optimize Your Blog for Better Organic Reach
I've already covered quite a bit on how to use keywords properly in your blog posts for better organic reach. Now it's time to talk about how you can optimize your entire blog.
This is an area of SEO that is often missed by new bloggers. You may assume that because you are using a streamlined platform like WordPress, that your blog should already be SEO friendly. That's not always the case.
In this post, I'm going to discuss how to SEO optimize your blog for better organic reach. Some of these are simple, and others require a bit more website know-how.
I'll mostly be discussing how to SEO optimize wordpress blogs, but many of these tips can be used for various platforms.
Optimize the Permalink Structure
WordPress's default permalink structure is ‘?p=[id]' which doesn't utilize post names and keywords effectively, and is therefore not very search engine friendly. You should change the permalink structure so that it reflects the information that you would like search engines to utilize.
You can find this in the WordPress dashboard under Settings >Permalinks.
I prefer the ‘yourdomain.com/post-name' format, which you can get by clicking on the ‘post name' option.
Other good options is the ‘month and name' or ‘day and name', especially if you write more time-sensitive posts.
Pick a Good Theme
The coding of a website is very important when it comes to SEO, and not all wordpress themes are created equally!
You should pick a theme that was created with SEO in mind.
Here's are 4 things to look for when picking a theme:
1. Follows Google On-Page SEO Guidelines
Google has very clear on-page SEO guidelines, so theme developers have no excuse for making themes with bad SEO. Pick a theme that prides itself on following these guidelines.
2. Mobile Responsive
Google uses an insight usability test that factors into the ranking of your website. This includes how well your website integrates and is responsive to various mobile devices.
Just as developers have no excuse for creating themes with bad SEO, they also have no reason for creating themes without mobile responsiveness.
Not only does a mobile responsive theme increase your SEO, it increases user experience. in some cases, more people are visiting websites on mobile devices than on traditional desktops or laptops. More than 50% of my blog traffic at Natural Family Today comes from mobile devices.
3. Regular Updates & Support
A good theme will have a history of regular updates. It will also come with good support for its users.
Take a look at the reviews for the theme you are considering. Reviews should tout responsive support and quickly resolved issues, as well as long-term solutions worked into updates.
Take a peek at past update logs. Note the average length between updates, and what kinds of bugs and new features were addressed, and whether it's consistently up to date with the current version of WordPress.
4. Fast, Clean Code
Good code means a faster site. As we'll address later in this post, search engines love fast and efficient websites.
If the theme you are currently using doesn't live up to these standards, I strongly recommend switching to one that does.
[bctt tweet=”Google has very clear on-page SEO guidelines: theme developers have no excuse for bad SEO. ” username=”nerdymillennial”]
Create a Sitemap
Having a sitemap, preferably in .xml format, allows search engines to index your site in and easier and more efficient way.
If your theme does not already provide a .xml sitemap, I recommend installing a .xml sitemap plugin for WordPress. I recommend Google XML Sitemaps plugin, which allows you to create and update sitemaps automatically.
Download an SEO Plugin
Installing an SEO plugin is another shortcut to optimizing your website in an efficient manner. A good SEO plugin will allow you to edit meta information for across your posts and pages, set custom permalink structures, and more.
I use the Yoast SEO Plugin to handle all of my WordPress SEO needs.
Some helpful features include:
- Page Analysis functionality that checks your SEO optimization for each post as you write it!
- Control which pages Google shows in its search results and which pages it doesn’t show.
- Advanced XML Sitemaps functionality
- Creates easy breadcrumb navigation
- Allows you to edit your WordPress blog’s .htaccess and robots.txt file, giving you direct access to the two most powerful SEO files.
- Automatically optimizes and inserts SEO friendly meta tags and link elements
By far my favorite feature is the real-time page analysis as I'm writing posts. It allows me to quickly see what I need to change or improve about an article before I hit publish.
Block Spam Comments
Not monitoring the comments section of your blog could hurt your ranking in the search engines. Without proper protection, spammers can take over your blog comments with spammy posts and irrelevant links.
Google has blogged about comment spam and how it can affect your blog and SEO. They offer the following recommendations for dealing with comment spam:
- Disallow anonymous posting
- Use CAPTCHAs and other methods to prevent automated comment spamming
- Turn on comment moderation
- Use the “nofollow” attribute for links in the comment field
- Disallow hyperlinks in comments
- Block comment pages using robots.txt or meta tags
I currently use two free plugins to combat comment spam.
The first is Akismet, which checks your comments and contact form submissions against a global database of spam to prevent your site from publishing malicious content. You can review the comment spam it catches on your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.
The second is WP-SpamShield, which offers two layers of leading edge anti-spam protection that work together to block both automated (spambots) and human spam.
Optimize Your Images
When it comes to SEO, it's a common mistake to overlook the images on your site. The images used on your blog have the potential to help or hurt your organic reach depending on how you use them.
As I'll talk about below, page load time is an important factor in SEO, and the size of your images make an impact on how fast your pages load. You should serve images in smallest size possible in terms of download size without sacrificing quality. You can do this manually, or with an automatic image optimization plugin like Smushit.
In addition to optimizing the size of your image, you should also aim for SEO friendly image names, alt text, descriptions, and captions. I recommend reading this detailed post by Yoast SEO that guides you through the image SEO process.
Speed Up Your Site
Google has been transparent in communicating that it uses site speed in its algorithm for ranking websites. Search engines care about how long it takes for your site to load because they know the page load times have an impact on user experience. They want to give higher ranking to blogs that load quickly for users.
If you want to improve your SEO ranking, you need to monitor the load time of your blog!
I recommend using a tool like Pingdom to check how long it takes your pages and posts to load and identify any problems.
Here are some things you can do to improve your site speed:
Use a caching plugin
Using a caching plugin can make your website faster as well as reduce the load on your web server. Caching plugins work by created a cache of static and dynamic content on each of your pages and posts in order to decrease load time.
W3 Total Cache is my top choice because it offers page caching, browser caching, object caching, database caching, and minification (removing all unnecessary characters from source code). Another alternative is WP Super Cache, which works by creating static .html pages to serve from your WordPress site.
Use a CDN to boost your site’s performance
Larger websites benefit from the use of a CDN (which stands for Content Delivery Network). CDN cache your website's static content across a number of servers in a large network, then serves this content to users from servers based on location. Serving content from servers closer to users speeds up response time and results in improved page speed and performance.
Switch to a better web host
If your site is still slow after following these recommendations, the problem may be your hosting service. I suggest contacting your host and asking why your website is loading slowly. If they cannot give you a direct answer (e.g. that you are going over your server's memory limits), the problem is probably that their servers are slow. This is a common problem for those on shared servers.
If you're site is not performing well on shared hosting, consider switching to a VPS (Virtual Private Server). I personally switched to a VPS at Media Temple and saw improvements in my page load times.
Block Pages From Being Indexed with Robots.txt
There may be certain sites on your website that, for whatever reason, you don't want indexed or counted as part of your site's SEO. You can block Google bots from crawling and indexing these pages by editing your robots.txt file.
As I mentioned before, Yoast SEO Plugin offers a feature for editing your robots.txt file. Here's how to edit the file using Yoast SEO.
Fix Broken Links
Too many broken links on your website is a red flag for search engines. If you have a lot of broken links, your site may get penalized as search engines may think that your site is abandoned or not maintained well.
There is a simple solution to this: Use a WordPress plugin such as Broken Link Checker to crawl your site and detect any broken links it contains, whether internal or external.
You can even set Broken Link Checker to automatically check for and mark any broken links as ‘nofollow' until you get a chance to fix them. You can get email notifications, too.
Utilize the rel=”author” Author Tag
The rel=”author” tag is an HTML tag that lets search engines know who the author of an article is. Why is this useful? For instance, Google uses the rel=”author” to include a picture of the author (from Google+) within search results.
In some cases, searchers may be able to add the author to their Google+ circles and even comment on their Google+ posts—all from within the search results page!
Google likes this, because users are more likely to click on article links with an attached author image and profile.
Social media examiner has an awesome post that will walk you through the process of setting up the rel=”author” tag on your WordPress blog.
Write Long, Detailed Posts
Although there has been much debate on the subject amongst SEO experts, the evidence suggests that long, detailed posts are the best for SEO. After all, an inordinate amount of first page search engine results for many competitive terms have a word count of 2,000+.
The folks at Google agree. Pandu Nayak, technical staff member at Google and creator of the Panda algorithm update, posted the following:
Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.
I know what you're thinking… I don't have time to write 2000+ posts. But think of it this way… If you create more long form content, but less often, you're not doing anymore work than usual. For instance, instead of posting two 800 word articles a week, try posting a 2,000 word post every week to two weeks.
I'm not saying that ALL of your content needs to be long form, but for your more competitive keywords, it probably should be.
Which of these SEO factors have you already done? Which of these do you need to implement or change? Do you feel confused or stuck?
Let me know in the comments!
As always, I'm here to answer any questions or comments that you have.
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