This guest post is by Belinda of The Copy Detective.
Your blog is a good read. Everyone says so.
Although “everyone” is really just people you already know. Like your Mum.
So why isn’t your blog being found by other people? The millions and millions of people hungrily consuming blog content out there in the global online space we call the Internet?
The cold, hard truth is that Google hates your blog. And it’s nothing personal. You just don’t have anything that Google wants.
Creating high-quality, relevant content is a must if you want your blog to be noticed by search engines but it’s only part of the picture. If you’re not sure if Google really hates your blog, or whether it’s just ambivalent, then step through these warning signs.
1. You don’t know which keywords your readers are using
The very heart of search engine optimization is understanding what people are searching for online and aligning your own content to those searches. When you use the same words and phrases that your audience members use, your blog posts can be matched to online searches. If you don’t? Well, you may as well be blogging in another language.
2. You don’t know how to find the right keywords
Google has a free keyword tool that will show you different phrases being searched on, the amount of traffic they get, and how many other sites are also trying to rank for those phrases. Spend a few moments before writing each blog post to find the most popular phrases for your blog topic, or use keyword analysis to think of new topics!
3. You don’t use your keywords frequently enough
Using your keywords as frequently as is natural will help Google understand what your blog post is about. Use an online tool such as wordle.net to produce a word cloud from your blog post. Your most frequently used words will be the largest ones you see and you can quickly see if you’re using the right phrases often enough. But beware of over-using your keywords and being labelled a spammer.
4. You are trying to rank for too many keywords in every post
Keeping it simple is definitely the best approach when you are optimizing your blog posts. Focus on a single theme and choose one main keyword to avoid diluting your SEO efforts.
5. Your blog headlines don’t even mention your main keyword
Strategic marketing aims your message like a laser rather than spraying it into the wind, and the same applies to SEO. Your headlines (h1 text) and subheadings (h2 text) are given more weight than regular text, so they’re prime candidates for your keywords and phrases.
6. You don’t bother putting descriptions on your images
You might include images to catch your readers’ eyes, or to help balance your text, but Google can’t see your images and unless you attach a description of some sort, your image will be ignored. Attach an image description using the ALT tag or caption, and don’t forget to use those keywords.
7. You never link to your old blog posts
Creating links between your blog posts makes it easy for your readers to discover other content, which naturally keeps them hanging around for longer. From an SEO point of view, Google pays particular attention to links, making them the ideal location for your keywords.
8. You never link to other bloggers
Although it sounds contrary, you will also get some SEO benefit from sending your readers away from your blog by linking to other blogs. You might do this with a “best-of” list post or with a blogroll—however you do it, but Google sees you sharing high-quality content with your audience, and rewards you for it.
9. You don’t fill out your page title and description fields
Meta data is the code name for the information you can use to advertise your blog post to Google. When you search on Google, the results are displayed as a post headline in bold and a brief description underneath. Search engines can work this information out but you are better off writing these yourself and popping those keywords in.
10. You don’t make your URLs search engine friendly
Using recognizable words, especially your keywords, in your blog post URL will help Google to make sense of your blog posts. The bonus, of course, is that your blog posts will be easier to remember for everyone else. So take a minute to edit your blog URL before you publish.
11. Your blog has broken links all over the place
Broken links occur when a URL points to a page that no longer exists. It might be that you changed the URL slightly or you deleted the blog post, but broken links give the impression that you aren’t maintaining your blog. Broken links also stop Google from crawling your blog posts and when you put the two together you get a big SEO cross against your name.
12. Your blog doesn’t have a sitemap
A sitemap is a website page that has all the links and pages of your blog mapped out. Sitemaps make it easy for Google to index every page on your blog, which can affect how quickly you appear in search engine results. Most content management systems will have a plugin that will create and submit your sitemap to Google, taking all the hard work out of the process.
13. You copy your content from other bloggers
Smart people don’t try to reinvent the wheel. They draw inspiration from the world around them. Google rewards original content but “original” refers to the wording rather than the concept. If you lift large amounts of content from external sources, and Google will mark it down as duplicate content and give you no SEO points. Adapt or attribute. Always.
14. You don’t publish blog posts often enough
Google loves fresh content and new posts on your blog are a great incentive for Google to come back and visit. Some bloggers publish when they are inspired. Some bloggers write every day. The question you need to answer is how often can you publish valuable and relevant posts to your readers.
15. You never use bullet lists in your blog posts
Google loves bullet lists. Not quite as much as headlines, subheadings and links, but a lot more than regular text. That, of course, means you should use lists to break up long passages of text and pop your keywords in, especially in the first couple of words of each list item.
16. You don’t have a presence on any social media platforms
Google is always looking for ways to return search results that are valuable and relevant. Social recommendations are becoming a huge influence on how search engines view your content and that’s exactly what active social media pages are. So go and get social, and build a community around your blog.
17. You don’t share your blog posts on your social media pages
Social media pages are fantastic for building a community—see above. They are also the perfect vehicles to share and promote your blog posts! Don’t be afraid to share your new blog posts across social media and ask your community to share the love. You are building social currency that Google loves to see.
18. You don’t invite blog readers to leave comments
Comments give your blog the kind of freshness that search engines just love. Comments also show that your blog posts are still relevant to readers. Invite readers to leave their thoughts and continue the conversation or blog about something a bit controversial to get the discussion started!
19.You don’t know where your biggest referrers live
Google Analytics will show you where you have the greatest numbers of people sending traffic to your blog. It’s worth knowing who they are so you can give them the attention they deserve. Your analytics will also show you the keywords that led people to your blog, how many times they visited, and which other pages they clicked on.
20. Your blog content will age like a b-grade actress: badly
Blogging about topical subjects is a great way to start a conversation but it might also date your blog posts into irrelevancy. Creating helpful, educational content, instead of editorial content, is just one way you can create a library of blog posts that will be relevant again at a later date. Mixing different types of blog posts will also keep your readers interested.
21. You don’t write about topics people are interested in
If you ever ask yourself if your blog posts are interesting enough, you’re asking the wrong person. If your blog isn’t getting much attention from readers then Google isn’t going to give it a second look. You can discover a wealth of potential topics from comments on other people’s blog, surveys, keyword analysis, trending Twitter topics, and simply asking your current readers. Don’t be shy!
22. You have advertising that is irrelevant to your blog topic
Paid advertising is more than ok but if you have a lot of advertising that is irrelevant to your blog topic then it kind of makes you look bad. Google is getting really good at picking out poor poor-quality websites and lots of irrelevant advertising can give off all the wrong signals.
23. You don’t have share buttons so people can’t spread the word
Social share buttons let your readers promote your words of wisdom without ever having to leave your blog. Apart from the extended reach, the more often your blog posts are tweeted, liked and commented on, the more value they have … and the more Google will notice you.
24.Your guest posts are replicated on other sites, word for word
Opening your blog up to guest bloggers is a fantastic way to add depth and variety to your own blog topics—not to mention giving yourself a break from writing! But if your guest bloggers publish the same content, word for word, on their own blog, then you don’t get the kudos from Google for original information. Ask your guest bloggers to give you exclusivity or at least a few weeks’ head start.
25. You write about too many topics and Google is just plain confused
If you have a lot of different passions, that’s wonderful, but blogging about them all on the same blog will get you nowhere. In fact, from an SEO point of view, your blog will look like a big pile of books on the floor: too hard to categorize. Keep it simple and Google won’t get so baffled.
Remember that Google’s ultimate mission is to match online searches with the most relevant and reputable content. You will be rewarded when you create content that focuses on your readers’ needs and you build a strong network around your blog. It won’t happen overnight nor is it a one-off process but if you keep at it, people will find you (and it will be Google that shows them).
Belinda is a professional marketing copywriter confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. You don’t have to choose between them! Read her copywriting blog, The Copy Detective, and improve the way you write about your business.