23 Dec 2020

22 Tips For SEO For Blogs To Optimize Your Blog For Google And Users

13 Comments

Use white hat SEO to get the best long term results for your author blogAs an author, you should create a blog to promote your brand, portray your image and deliver your message. However, creating a blog, writing articles, and promoting them produces its own unique set of challenges for most authors. Few writers are trained, at least initially, in building a web site. The concept of SEO is even more difficult to understand and implement correctly – yet without good SEO, the value of a blog drops considerably. SEO is Search Engine Optimization. That simply means designing your blog and writing your articles so that Search Engines such as Google and Bing (and hundreds of others) send traffic your way. Primarily, you want to optimize your blog for Google and ensure your content is excellent so people want to read and share it.

Why should you create an author blog?

  • You own the blog, and can write whatever you want without fear of tripping some social network censorship trigger. You can safely write about anything as long as you don’t violate the terms of your blog hosting company and the law.
  • A blog gives you a “home” on the internet, a place where you can be found, your message can be delivered, and your content can be read.
  • Your blog serves as the center of your branding strategy. All posting to social media should be in the form of excerpts from and links to materials on your blog.
  • Your blog is the primary component of your author platform, which is the method you choose to reach your audience. By combining your blog with your email list, videos (possibly a podcast) and other elements, you create a powerful branding, marketing and even selling engine.

All roads to your brand should lead to your blog which is under your control and promotes you.

A blog is a type of website that contains articles, photos, links to videos, and other information about one or more subjects. An author blog specifically promotes the ideas, concepts, stories, and materials of an author.

You’ll face several challenges faced when you create and maintain your blog and the associated articles and other materials:

  • Learning how to use WordPress, themes, and plugins.
  • Making the blog friendly to search engines.
  • Using keyword and phrases to rank high in search engine results.

The remainder of this article explains the concepts of SEO for blogs and how they pertain to an author blog in particular. These are tips about SEO for beginners which shouldn’t take you long to implement on your website.

So get your cup of coffee or tea, sit back, relax and read this article. There is a lot to go over, so allow yourself some time. Be sure to take notes and don’t be afraid to try some of these techniques on your blog.

What Does SEO Cost?

The cost to optimize your content for SEO should be minimalThere is a huge number of applications, web sites, books, blogs, seminars, courses, and everything else under the sun to help you learn about and implement SEO. Some of these products and services are extremely well done, some are okay and serve the purpose, and others are just a flat waste of money and time. I’ve spent the better part of six months looking at many different products, and in this article I’ll present some of the better ones for your evaluation.

Since authors, especially when they are just starting out, don’t generally have a lot of money to spend, I’m focusing on free or very inexpensive products, services and resources.

There are some SEO tools that cost thousands of dollars a month and others that are completely free to use. For the purposes of an author blog, the free tools will work just fine, although a few more manual steps may be required.

What are the minimum costs?

  • About $50 for paid blog web hosting. Always use paid web hosting. This gives you access to support from the hosting company, which you will need when things go wrong.  Also, paid hosting tends to be faster, does not include advertisements, and is generally a better experience for you and your visitors. Finally, and this is vital, free hosting services do not allow you to install plugins, and those are essential for SEO.
  • Around $10 to $20 for a domain name. Note that most web hosts include the first year of a domain name for free with their hosting package.
  • Optionally, you might want to get a premium theme for your blog, since these include support and tend to be faster and look better than the free versions.

That’s it. That’s all you have to pay for to get your blog set up and working. You can find just about everything else you need for free. So, as you can see, you can set up your blog on a budget.

What is a Brand?

Your brand is the way you present yourself to the world. You can either define, cultivate and promote your image or brand, or others will, de facto, define it for you.

It’s possible to create a blog that portrays more than one brand. My blog, for example, discusses all of my books, which are about a wide variety of subjects as well as the writing and related services that I provide.

If you write western novels, like Louis L’Amour, then your brand is an author of western fiction. You could narrow this down even further to western fiction focusing on the Arizona area in the mid-1800’s if you’d like.

In general, you should focus your brand narrowly because that makes it easier to identify your audience and define your message. This doesn’t mean you must limit your books or the theme of your blog to a single topic – just the overarching image that you portray to the rest of the world.

Once you’ve determined your brand, you can work on what it should look like.

  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Styles
  • Shapes
  • Types of images

For example, an author focused on World War II in the Pacific could include images of ships, Marines, airplanes and so forth from that era.

It’s a good idea to spend a little bit of money at this stage and hire a graphics designer for a couple of hours to get some advice. I like to use local businesses because I can sit down in front of them, spread out pieces of paper, and we can brainstorm together.

You can also take a look at your competition to see how they show their brand.

Who is Your Audience?

Optimize content for SEO with the idea that content is king for getting noticed by search enginesOnce you’ve defined your brand, ask yourself, “who is my audience?” Since this article is aimed at writers, your audience is presumably readers of your works.

The more precise you can be at defining your target audience, the better you will be able to write articles, create promotions, and so forth that communicate with them. This will make your promotions and sales efforts more effective.

Trying to target “everyone” or “all businesses” makes it difficult or impossible to reach your readers. On the other hand, if your audience is “people who watch Star Trek”, you’ll be able to focus your blog and articles, and, more importantly, create promotions that actually reach those people.

Find a Good WordPress Host

One of the best SEO content tips is to use WordPress for your siteOne of the most important factors for SEO is the speed of your blog. Google, and other search engines, dislike websites and blogs that are slow.

If you want the pages and posts on your blog to be featured high in the rankings, preferably on the first page for several search terms, you have to ensure that your pages load in under 5 seconds. The faster they load, the better. We’ll talk more about speed shortly.

If your blog is frequently down or getting errors, then Google won’t be able to index your pages, which means they may not appear in the search results at all.

Advertising such as banner ads, which is normal for free or cheap hosting, encourages people to leave your blog. Google keeps track of how long visitors remain on each page, so if they leave quickly, Google takes that to mean the experience for the reader was poor. As a result, your ranking could suffer.

Finally, all web hosts occasionally have problems, and sometimes  you might do something on your blog that causes it to crash, perform poorly or not work at all. In those instances you want a web host with good customer support. Free hosts do not provide support.

If you only purchase one thing, pay for your web hosting. I’ve had excellent luck with Siteground, but there are others out there that also do a good job.

How to Set Up Your Blog For SEO

Use WordPress for your blog. Why?

  • It is specifically designed to handle many of the concerns of SEO.
  • There are tens of thousands of themes and plugins available to support anything you need.
  • WordPress is easy to learn.
  • There are many courses available. If you want to find a few good ones, go to Udemy and search for “WordPress”,

Most web hosts, including Siteground, have a simple, automated way to install WordPress on the host. Use that method to get it done without hassle.

We’re not going to talk about how to set up WordPress itself as that’s beyond the scope of this article. I’ll write a future article to talk about that.

Google Analytics

Use Google Analytics for your Author Blog to be able to find out what is happeningOptionally, you can set up Google Analytics in order to find out about your visitors and what they do on your site. If you’d rather not confront this now, go ahead and skip this section.

To set it up, head over to Google Analytics. Create an account if needed. Note there is a lot to Google Analytics, and it can be quite confusing. All you need to do is create an account and link your website to it. Once you install the Yoast SEO plugin, it will take care of the rest for you.

  1. Go to https://www.google.com/analytics/ and click on Access Google Analytics at the top on the right.
  2. After logging in, click on Admin at the top.
  3. In the Property column, click on the drop down and choose Create a new property.
  4. Fill in your website details.
  5. If you want the tracking code, it’s under Property. Click Tracking Info -> Tracking code

You’re done for now. Later, you’ll connect to Google Analytics from the Yoast SEO pluginThis plugin will ensure that the Google Analytics codes are on every page of your blog so your statistics are accurate.

The full procedure is described in this Google help file.

Permalinks are a Vital Component for SEO for Blogs

Go into the Settings -> Permalinks option and set the “Post name” option. This is the best for SEO purposes.

Plugins You Will Need

Plugins are modules (applications) that you install into WordPress to add functionality. Over time, you’ll probably add a dozen or more of them to change the look of your blog, add features (such as book pages), improve SEO or adjust performance.

What is an SEO Plugin? These are plugins specifically designed to help your site be more attractive to Google and other search engines.

These are my recommendations for free WordPress plugins to help you with SEO, plus a few that work well for authors.

  • iThemes Security – All the security you’ll ever need for your blog, including backups.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – Install the free version of this plugin, go through the configuration screen, and your blog will be well optimized on a site level for SEO.
  • Webcraftic Clearfy – WordPress optimization plugin – includes dozens of optimizations to improve your blogs performance and security.

Is Yoast Premium worth it? You’ll have to decide if the price for the premium version of Yoast SEO is worth the cost. I bought it for the redirection feature, which helps prevent 404 errors when the URL for a page has been changed.

Some other plugins that you’ll find useful include:

  • wpDiscuz – An extension to the WordPress commenting system that works well.
  • Antispam Bee – Prevent spam.
  • Visual Form Builder – A very nice contact form plugin.
  • Fancy Author Box – Replaces the author box on posts with a nicer one.
  • MooBerry Book Manager – This is a great plugin for authors that lets you define a page of information about each of your books. It takes care of formatting that nicely and even defines the schema (a way to organize and define data) to make your books known to Google.

I recommend against the following plugins:

  • Akismet – Antispam Bee  is better.
  • Jetpack – A toolbox with lots of different uses, but the overhead is high.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights – Connects directly to your Google Analytics account to give your great statistics of your blog traffic. Free version doesn’t have the statistics needed.
  • WP-Statistics – This plugin has a lot of functionality, but it caused my WordPress to crash. I tried it a year before, when I was on a different web host, and they recommended against using this plugin as it caused problems among their users.

Make sure the following is true for any plugins you install:

  • Positive reviews. There are always bad reviews, but the majority should be positive. Look over the reviews as sometimes an older version of a plugin received negative reviews due to a problem which has been fixed.
  • Still supported – Do not install anything which has not been verified as working for your current version of WordPress.
  • PHP – Ensure your plugin is supported under the most recent supported version of PHP. As of this writing, PHP 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 are good choices. Avoid any earlier versions.

Create Great Content

The best SEO practice is to provide excellent contentNow we come to the “secret” for successful blogs.

Assuming your hosting is fast and your blog has been set up properly, the most important thing you can do is create good content. In fact, not just good content, but fantastic content that people want to read and share with their friends.

This is true with your blog as well as your books and anything else you write. All of your content must be incredible.

If you want your blog to succeed, create good content.

Think of these questions before and while you are writing:

  • Does this reinforce my brand?
  • Is it appropriate for my audience?
  • Does it solve a problem (or problems) for your audience? Does it teach them something? Does it provide good entertainment?
  • Is it something that will be shared by your audience?
  • When you are finished, have you done the best job possible?
  • Is the grammar and spelling perfect?

By creating great content, people will want to read it, share it and come back to see what else you’ve done. Search engines take note of traffic patterns, including clicks coming from social media such as Facebook, and assume that if people remain on your site they like your articles.

Conversely, if your content is bad, people will not stay as long and Google will downgrade your pages and posts.

Stop Selling

While you can (and should) sell your books, services and products from your blog, your articles should give high-quality information that helps your audience solve their problems, entertains them, or provides some other service for them.

Don’t sell in your articles. Instead, freely give information.

Don’t mistake this to mean you shouldn’t sell your books, products and services on your blog. Your blogs should be written to freely give excellent value at no cost. Other pages in your blog can be used to sell if you like. For example, the pages about your books and products will obviously be sales oriented. However, an article about your characters or topics shouldn’t sell.

Keywords

In the “good old days”, all you needed to do was stuff your page with all of the keywords that you wanted to be listed for in the search engines. There were many sites where each page consisted of a short article followed by invisible (hidden with shading and coloring) lists of hundreds upon hundreds of keywords.

That technique no longer works. In fact, that will get your site booted from the index.

Today, search engines are much smarter, and they are getting more intelligent all the time.

Your safest course is to use 100% white hat SEO. This means create good content with keywords and phrases used naturally (organically) within the text, image tags and so on. Don’t try to fool the search engines using any spammy techniques. Period. The safest strategy is to assume you will be caught if you attempt to use subversive, black hat SEO techniques, If you get caught (and you will) your page or even your site will be penalized.

So what are the SEO keyword best practices you need to follow?

When you write an article, determine the main phrases and words that apply. For example, the keyword for this article is “SEO for Blogs” and “Optimize your Blog for Google”. Those keywords appear in the title and within the text a few times (no more than four or so). That’s what’s great about the Yoast SEO plugin – it will tell you the optimum number of times to include your keyword.

LSI keywords for optimizing SEO for blogs article

Sample of using the LSI Keyword Generator

Now figure out a few dozen other keywords and phrases related to your topic. You can use LSI Graph for help.

This tool will suggest a list of phrases that you can use in your text. By doing this, you tell your readers and the search engines more about the topic of your article.

Additionally, use Long Tail keywordsshort phrases occasionally used for searching. The idea is that it’s virtually impossible to rank highly for a single- or two-word phrase. There’s just too much competition. However, you can rank highly for longer phrases, and you can include a lot of those phrases within your article. That’s one reason why longer is better – you can include more long tail keywords.

As of this writing,

  • “SEO” gets 110,000 searches per month
  • “SEO for blogs” gets 210 searches each month.
  • “how to optimize your blog for SEO” has 27 searches per month.

This article will never rank on the first page (or even the 100th) for SEO. There are thousands of sites trying to rank for that keyword. However, it can rank for “SEO for blogs” and “how to optimize your blog for SEO”, and for those, the article will probably appear on the first search page.

The idea is to get on the first page for as many long tail keywords as you can without making the article read awkwardly. For a 2,000 word article, use 50 or 60 keywords that get 30 or so searches each month.

if you need more ideas for keywords, you can search the following places to see what people are talking about in relation to your subject.

  • Facebook groups
  • LinkedIn groups
  • Quora
  • Answers
  • Ask
  • Forums and blogs related to your subject

Keep Your Blog Constantly Up-To-Date

It is vital that you put out excellent quality content on a regular basis.

I write one major article of 2,000 to 4,000 words every week, and a smaller, 300 to 600 word article every day.

In addition to adding new content, you need to be updating and modifying older articles. Information changes and your site needs to reflect that as well.

One thing you can do that will have a great effect is to cross-link your articles. Older articles can be modified to reference newer articles with similar information and vice versa. This gives your visitors even more value because they can find additional information if they want.

SEO On Page Optimization

What is on page SEO? This is everything that you do that is contained on the page of the article (post) on your blog.

The topic of on-page SEO is huge, and could take up a dozen books all on it’s own. Because of that, we’re only going to hit the highlights here.

We’ve already discussed the need for great content, but it bears repeating because that is the most important factor.

if you have great content, you’ve done much of the work needed for good results in the search engines.

For your text, keep the following in mind.

  1. Put your main keyword or phrase in the first and last 100 words of your article.
  2. Include that keyword a couple of times in the rest of the article (depending on the length).
  3. Research long tail keywords that make sense for your article and use them liberally throughout.
  4. Include the main keyword in your page URL.
  5. Include the main keyword in your meta description.

Your page should include one (and only one) H1 tag (you’ll see this as “heading 1” in the style menu of the WordPress editor.) Include your keyword in that header. Generally, in most themes, the title of the article is used as the H1 tag so you don’t have to worry about it.

Style menu for wordpress posts

Use H2 through H6 tags (“heading 2” through “heading 6”) to break your article into subtopics. Ensure these are in the correct sequence. For example, H1 is followed by H2 is followed by H3, and not H1 followed by H3.

Never skip headings – meaning use H1, H2, H3 in that order, not H2, H4.

Links Internal and External

Include links to external sites as needed. In books and articles, authors should always cite their sources, so follow the same rules when you write articles for your blog. Of course, don’t bother using the style guidelines from APA, MLA or CMS. Just link to the web page you used as a source.

Internal links are just as important. You should reference your other blog posts and pages as needed to support the topic of your article.

Ensure your links work and don’t lead to dead air. Google will drop your site in ranking if it detects too many broken links, internal or external.

You don’t have to check manually. You can use the free utility at Broken Link Check.

Image SEO

Include images that help your readers understand your content. Infographics are excellent, and videos also work well.

Rename the filenames of your images before you upload them to something that makes sense. For example, I took a picture with my camera and the image was called DCS2456.jpg. I renamed that to “closeup image of my flower garden with honey bees.jpg”. This gives the search engines more context about the image.

Include ALT and TITLE tags that describe the image when you upload it into WordPress using the media center.

By naming the image and including the ALT and TITLE tags, you give Google and other search engines the information they need to understand what the image means and how it relates to your article.

Before uploading, compress your image so it is as small as possible. For jpg files, for example, you can set the compression or optimization level when you save it. Note: the Webcraftic Clearfy plugin has an option to automatically compress images as they are uploaded.

Video SEO

By including video in your blog, you can increase the amount of time your visitors stay on your page. People like videos, especially if they are well made, informative or funny.

How to effectively use video for SEO purposes is a subject for a future article.

However, by including  video you make your blog more attractive and more favorable to Google.

Off Page SEO

What is off page optimization? This is getting links from other web sites and blogs to articles and the home page of your own blog. The act of getting those links is called link building.

Links to  your site tell Google that other people believe your content has value. In other words, links give you credibility.

Google and other search engines absolutely love links; after all, that’s the whole purpose behind the web – to link information together. Get as many high-quality links as you can, but be careful not to do it all at once. Take your time, a few links a day at the most. More than that might cause Google to get the idea you are using spam techniques to get those links.

What is a high quality link? These are links from sites that:

  • Do not engage in spam techniques.
  • Do not contain malware.
  • Have high quality standards for their content.
  • Have high traffic.
  • Links to information sources for the most part.
  • Has a good presence on social media.

The best links are from authorities in your niche. For example, an authority link for a writing blog would be a link from Writer’s Digest or from the blog of a well-known author or speaker.

Other link building tips include:

  • Get an account on Help A Reporter Out and submit regularly. You’ll get picked up by a few reporters and earn links back to your site.
  • Get to know people in your niche and, after they begin to know, like and trust you, ask for links to your site.
  • Win awards for your writing.
  • Get a column in an online newsletter.
  • Become a speaker for a conference or event (they will list a link to your website in most cases.)
  • Join local groups in your city and get your profile added to their membership directory.

You get the idea? You have to spend time creating content for other people. This is almost always done without compensation.

I typically spend an hour a day building links to my site.

Things you should avoid like the plague:

  • Buying or selling links.
  • Link exchange farms.
  • Paying for blog comments, forum comments or other spam techniques.
  • Anything else that seems the least bit spammy.

You will get some spam links to your site, but as long as the majority are legitimate, you’ll be fine.

Guest Blogging

One of the best ways to get inbound links to your blog is to write guest blogs on other sites. If you happen to get a guest post on a high traffic site you can gain an incredible amount of traffic. Once you have a few of these, especially if the sites have high authority, then Google will take notice and raise your site up in the rankings.

Guest blogging is one of the best, fastest ways to get high quality inbound links.

How do you get the chance to guest blog?

  • Your site has to be of exceptional quality that gives good value. This will be attractive to other bloggers.
  • Your writing has to be very good.
  • If you have influence or are well known in the industry of the blogger, you’ll have a better chance of being granted a guest blog appearance.
  • You will need to ask for the opportunity. This requires that you do a little networking, get to know the blogger and let them know you before you ask them for the favor.

While high-traffic authority sites are the best places for guest blogs, you can start by asking other authors in your niche for the opportunity. This will give you practice while you build a few links back to your site.

How long should you make your guest post? You can ask the blogger for direction, although they’ll usually answer it’s  up to  you. Just make sure you deliver extremely high quality work that’s as long as necessary to make the point. By doing this, you build your reputation and work your way up to higher traffic sites.

Blog Commenting

One very effective technique, if you do it correctly, is to comment on blogs within your niche.

When you do this, always read the article fully, understand it, and give an intelligent comment in the blog. Usually there is a place for you to include a link to your site. If not, include it within the text of your comment.

Never leave comments like:

  • Great job.
  • Fantastic article.
  • I know what you mean.
  • And others of a similar, general nature.

Leave a few sentences at least up to a few paragraphs if you have enough to say. In other words, ensure you provide some value to the blogger and the readers of that blog.

Never purchase blog comments. That is spamming.

Only include one link in your comment.

Never leave negative comments. Like the old saying goes, if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.

Forums Related to your Brand and Message

It’s a great idea to find forums that are related to your brand or niche. This should be a part of your normal networking habits.

Read these forums regularly and get involved in the conversations. You’ll meet people, which may lead to guest blogging opportunities, link exchanges, and even paid writing jobs. That’s all a normal part of networking.

Ensure you know the rules for the forum. Some allow links, some don’t, and others only allow them under certain circumstances. Follow the rules of the forum. If links are allowed, use them sparingly.

If the forum has the ability to create a signature, use that space for a link to your site.

Don’t spam forums. Post intelligent comments, link only occasionally, and take part on conversations.

Leverage your Social Media Accounts

Being active on social media is a very important factor in your efforts to get traffic to your blog.

Create a Facebook page for your brand and use that to deliver your posts to your Facebook audience.

Post links to your articles (on your blog as well as guest posts elsewhere) on your Twitter feed. Additionally, share the love and post links to posts of interest on other blogs. Use hashtags to spread the word out even more.

Post links to your articles on LinkedIn.

Join groups (or communities or whatever they are called) on the social media and become part of conversations. This will expand your professional network and you’ll find many others who will be happy to help you. Keep in mind that you should give at least twice what you receive.

By doing this,you’ll gain organic traffic directly from social media, and you’ll also build a network of people of similar interests who can help you on your journey.

Google considers social media traffic a very important part of determining the importance of your page. This is a factor in ranking  your blog on search pages.

Check your Blog SEO

Check your site occasionally using the following tools.

All of these may be freely used, although they also have paid versions. For most author blogs, the free ones work fine.

You may find that you get a lot of errors when you first run these tools. Just fix a few at a time until your site is pristine.

The more your site is in compliance with these tools, the more likely it will be that it is indexed and ranks well.

Conclusions

Does that sound like a lot of work?

No one ever said blogging is easy. In fact, you may find building your blog and getting traffic to take far more time than it did to write your book. SEO for blogs requires constant effort.

Allocate some time each day to create new content, build your professional network, and drive traffic to your blog. Ensure you optimize your blog for Google, but don’t depend only on Google to send you traffic.

Always engage in white hat, ethical SEO. If it seems even the least bit spammy, don’t do it. The search engines have become very intelligent about finding spam, and if they determine your site is trying to fool them, you’ll be lowered in rank or banned entirely. And that won’t help your traffic at all.

The most important fact to remember:

Excellent content is the cornerstone of blog SEO. If your content is of bad quality, your site will not rank well. On the other hand, if your content is fantastic, people will want to read and share it, and that will make your site rank.

I hope this article helps you in your journey to get your blog noticed, and that SEO for blogs is a little clearer now.

[top]
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
13 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bhanu Stark

It’s very helpful thank you so much.

Gillian Kent

Wow! A comprehensive collection of advice. I am doing most of it but there are a few key things I have just learned that will make my blog better. I found the section about plugs ins that you don’t recommend very helpful.

Kaylee

I just recently started blogging and am still learning new things about it everyday, thank out for the article I found it very helpful.

Christine

Very helpful! So much information in one place!

John

This is a really helpful article Richard. Thank you for sharing your wisdom in such an accessible way!

Raquel

This is such helpful, detailed information and answers many questions I’ve had for a while. I’m bookmarking for sure so I can come back to this article over and over. Thank you Richard!

Gail MacKay

As usual, massively great information and content from Richard – thanks for sharing

Iva

This is eBook material, Richard! Well done. And I have to start to use many different tips about SEO and other stuff.
Thanks!

Bonnie Dillabough

A very comprehensive treatise on why every blogger should consider SEO when posting. This is practically an SEO bloggers course in how to get their blog found online. Google and other search engines view blogs as news, which by default makes it relevant information. But not all blogs are created equal. Blogs that are strictly curated content with no real meat to them, created simply to bring people to their sales page, are pretty low priority for most search engines. Blogs with real content that is not repetitive or to obviously copied from other sources don’t hit the marke and… Read more »

13
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x