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SEO Basics for Better Blogs

The small things really do add up when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). Making sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s (or should we say, add your alt text and hyphenate your URLs) can make the difference between your page ranking first, or your competitor’s. From keywords and anchor text to meta descriptions and headings, these are the most important SEO basics that you need to know if you write or post blogs.

Keywords

Keywords are the linchpin between what people are searching for and the content you are providing to fill that need.

Keywords can be broad and far-reaching (these are usually called “head keywords”), or they can be a more specific combination of several terms (these are often called “long-tail keywords”). It is much easier to rank for long-tail keywords.

Keyword placement is more important than keyword density.

SEO Basics:

  • Include keywords in:
    • Path/page section of a URL
      • Example: /seo-basics-better-blogs/
    • SEO Title
    • Meta description
    • Image alt text
    • Heading 1 (H1)
    • Heading 2 (H2)
    • First 100 words of a page’s content
  • Keyword density per page: 0.6-2%
    • Dispatch keywords naturally within the body
    • Do not keyword stuff or sacrifice the user experience to reach 0.6-2%
    • Use Yoast’s keyphrase analyzer (a drop down feature in the “Focus Keyphrase” section in WordPress) to measure keyword density.

Path/Page Text of a URL:

Search engines can process long URLs without much trouble, but shorter URLs are better for user experience. Keywords in the URL are a very small ranking factor.

SEO Basics:

  • Separate path/page keywords with hyphens
  • Ensure path/page text is readable (not: /californai%-097nfh6_efficiency/)
  • Include keywords
  • Shorter is better
    • 60 characters or less is ideal
    • Rewrite URLs that are pushing 100+ characters

SEO Title:

SEO Titles (also known as title tags) are a major factor in helping search engines understand what your page is about, and they are the first impression many people have of your page. SEO Titles are used in three key places: (1) search engine results pages (SERPs), (2) web browsers, and (3) social networks.

SEO Basics:

  • Include keywords and information about the page
    • Example: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
  • Approximately 50-60 characters including spaces (leave room for brand)
    • Example: 30-36 characters + | NW Media Collective
  • Avoid keyword stuffing
  • Avoid spammy characters and capitalization
    • Example: S E O—H*A*C*K*S for~sale!!!

Meta Description

Meta descriptions provide concise summaries of web pages. They are between one sentence to a short paragraph and appear underneath the blue clickable links in a search engine results page (SERP). However, depending on a user’s query, Google might pull meta description text from other areas on your page (in an attempt to better answer the searcher’s query).

SEO Basics:

  • 150-300 characters appear underneath the page title in desktop search engine results
  • 120 characters appear underneath the page title in mobile search engine results
  • Include keywords and information about the article
  • Recently, Google has oscillated between displaying 150 and 300 characters, so the best practice is a 120/180 approach:
    • Include the most important keywords and information within the first 120 characters
    • Include secondary information in the following 180 characters (in case Google displays more than 150 character descriptions)

Images

Image size affects page speed. The smaller the file, the faster the page will load.

Alt text or alternate text is displayed when a user’s browser is unable to locate an image. Disabled visitors to your site may use screen reading software, which reads the page out loud, and this software will read the alt text instead of the image.

Search engines use alt text as a ranking factor in their image search results.

SEO Basics:

  • Image Alt Text
    • Describe the image as specifically as possible
    • 125 characters or less.
    • Include keywords when relevant
    • Avoid keyword stuffing
    • Use Yoast plugin to easily add alt text to images
    • Don’t add alt text to images that only serve a design function and don’t add value to the content of the page
    • Examples of alt text:
      • No alt text: <img src=”dog.png” alt=””>
      • Okay alt text: <img src=”dog.png” alt=”Dog”>
      • Better alt text: <img src=”dog.png” alt=”Dog running”>
      • Best alt text: <img src=”dog.png” alt=”White Great Pyrenees dog running through field of daisies”>

Heading 1 (H1)

H1s are usually the largest text element on a page and are meant for people that are already on your site. If your site was a book, the H1 would be the title. It is telling users what your post or page is about.

SEO Basics:

  • Use one set of H1 heading tags per URL
  • Include keywords
  • Up to 70 characters including spaces
    • Can be the same as SEO Title if, after it is combined with the brand name, the SEO Title is under 60 characters

Heading 2 (H2)

If H1s act as the title of your “book,” then H2s are chapter headings. H2s are an important part of user experience. They help users scan for information. It is not 100% clear if search engines look specifically at header tags, or if the way that users respond to content with header tags has a larger impact on search rankings.

SEO Basics:

  • Must be relevant to the topic and your headline
  • Include keywords or synonyms as long as it doesn’t sacrifice user experience

Links

There are two types of links: internal and external.

Internal links are links that go from one page on a domain to a different page on the same domain. These type of links allow users to navigate a website. Internal links also draw users to content you want them to see such as a Contact Us form or detailed product/service information.

Internal links from authoritative pages on your domain have a stronger effect on relevancy than pages with no or low PageRank.

External links are links that go from one page on a domain to a different page on a different domain. External links are not a ranking factor, but relevant and high-authority external links enhance user experience.

Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink.

SEO Basics:

  • Include links to both relevant internal and high-authority external pages
  • Include important links in the first 200 words
  • Anchor text:
    • Succinct
    • Avoid linking preceding articles (a, the, our) or punctuation marks
    • Relevant to the target page (i.e., the page it’s linking to)
    • Not generic (don’t write “Click here!”)
    • Low keyword density (not overly keyword-heavy)

Once you have the SEO basics down, learn why local SEO is essential and how you can use social media to improve your ranking.

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