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SEO: The Must-Dos That You Just Can’t Miss

Posted By Stacey Roberts 9th of January 2015 Search Engine Optimization 35

Last year, we had Rand Fishkin sort us out with a comprehensive post on SEO basics, tips, and tricks. If you haven’t thought much about SEO and the traffic it can bring your blog, now would be the time to do it! Get into the right habits at the start of the year, and they’ll become second-nature.


 

We welcome Rand Fishkin to the ProBlogger Theme Week today to talk us through all things SEO. While this week we’re exploring all the things you can do with a post after you hit “publish”, Rand is reminding is to take a second before we do and have a look at the things you can do to optimize your post before it even gets into the hands of your readers.

For days, you’ve been agonizing over this post. The hours of guilt for not starting it sooner, the toil of finding the right topic, the relentless editing and re-editing, and now, at long last, the publish button is there, tempting you to end the struggle and at last declare this tiny battle over.

publish-button
(above: the blogger’s tantalizer, teaser, needler, and tormenter)

If you give in to that sweet release, it will feel good, at least for a little while. But in the months and years to come, you’ll look back at that post and, perhaps in revery, read it again, and think to yourself:

“That was a really excellent post I published. Why has it had so little success?”

It started so well. The post had some retweets on Twitter. It got shared and liked a few times on Facebook. Maybe it even got a bit of traffic from Google+ or Pinterest. But, then, the traffic stopped. Your post wasn’t “new” anymore, and the web world, it seemed, no longer cared for something more than 24 hours ago. In fact, the data backs this up – social sharing half-lives across networks are <7 hours.


spike-of-hope

There is another way.

The vast majority of content consumed on the web isn’t actually found through social media. In fact, the largest driver of traffic to web content (outside of direct navigation) is still the same source it was 3, 5, and 10 years ago, and remarkably, in spite (or perhaps in part because) of the rise of social & mobile, this source is still growing.

You’ll probably recognize it:

google-search-box

Search, and Google in particular (with 90% of worldwide share), still drive vastly greater quantities of traffic than all the social networks combined (some good research from DefineMG here). Given Google’s 3.5+ Billion searches performed each day, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many bloggers, thinking about search, Google, and all that “SEO stuff” has been put aside in favor of Facebook shares, likes, tweets, +1s, and the more visible feedback and applause that come from social sources.

That bias is understandable – a visit from a Google search doesn’t have a fancy embeddable counter you can show off. 30,000 visits a month from search engines doesn’t carry nearly the same social proof that 30,000 Twitter followers does.

But, it should.

The vast majority of visitors who come via social have a browsing-focused intent. They’re looking for something interesting, distracting, temporal, and, only rarely, directly or immediately applicable to an activity that will lead to them accomplishing the goals you’re hoping for on your website (a subscription to your posts, a following of your social accounts, purchasing your products, etc).

On the other hand, searchers know exactly what they want and when they want it – right now. Almost no searches are entirely serendipitous, but most every social visit is entirely so. A searcher is seeking to find information, accomplish a task, or transact in some way right this minute. That’s why they performed a query. If your blog post (and your website, more broadly) helps them achieve this goal, the value of that visit to both parties can be fantastic.

Here’s the tragedy:

When you look over those past posts, you might realize that yes, dammit! It’s time to do some SEO! No more ignoring Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. But, sadly, that ship has probably sailed. One of the harsh truths of blog-focused SEO is that a few hours after a post is published, 90%+ of the ranking ability is spent. Sure, you could go back and tweak some titles, language use, or even URLs (depending on your CMS), but those don’t have a good chance of helping the post perform moving forward.

It’s that first burst of activity – of social sharing and people emailing it around and links coming in – that set the stage for ranking success in the search engines. The words, particularly the title, of the post are how others will describe it when they share, link, tweet, and pin. Those words are strong signals to search engines of how and whether to include your page in the search results. Likeiwse, the first few hours are when you’re most likely to earn that attention and awareness of potential linkers. Links are still a huge part of how search engine algorithms rank pages, and without them, you’ll usually struggle to perform. Both of these are short-lived opportunities on which you need to execute if you’re going to have SEO success with your blog.

Thankfully, you can resolve to make this a priority in the future. It may sound like a bad infomercial, but you can substantially upgrade your blog’s SEO potential with less than 5 minutes per post. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Keyword Research
  • Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion
  • Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Step 1: Keyword Research

Earning additional search visits from the content your blog produces over a long streth means ranking for a keyword term or phrase that gets at least a few queries each month. You probably don’t want to tackle competitive phrases where you’ve got little chance to rank on page 1, but you also don’t want to to be ranking brilliantly for a search term no one ever types. In general, phrases with fewer searches are going to be less competitive (if you want to get more data-driven about analyzing the relative difficulty of ranking for a keyword, there’s a tool for that).

Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is still the best one out there to show relative volume levels. Here’s what it looks like:

adwords-kw-planner1

I plugged in a few possible searches related to the post you’re reading now (which is, in a very meta way, about doing SEO for blog posts). The suggestions you see above are what Google’s keyword tool returned. They expanded on a few of my ideas and showed me some terms I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to put in. But, before we go further, there’s four important points to be wary of when you’re looking at the Keyword Planner:

adwords-kw-planner2

A) These aren’t ALL the terms and phrases Google knows are related to your keyword(s). For whatever reason, they’re not comprehensive and, on any given search, may omit numerous good options. This is why it pays to refine and rerun once or twice, and to expand your brainstorm list of terms. It’s also why I’ll suggest using another methodology in combination with Keyword Planner below.

B) The numbers you see are not accurate. We’ve seen them show numbers that are 1/4 of the actual searches for a term and we’ve seen them show 4X the real figure. What is useful are the relative quantities. If Keyword Planner says term XYZ gets twice the searches that term ABC gets, you can be fairly sure that XYZ > ABC. Don’t panic about choosing a term with only 10 or 20 searches/month. These low numbers are actually where we see the least competition and the least accuracy from Google in under-reporting real volume.

C) This “competition” does not refer to how hard it might be to rank in the organic results for a given keyword. Keyword Planner is showing a competition level that’s related to AdWords bids and how many campaigns are targeting these terms. Don’t be too discouraged if it says “medium” or “high” as the organic results won’t always reflect what the paid ads do.

D) Likewise, the cost column can be mostly ignored when thinking about SEO. The one area it can be helpful is to provide a sense of how transactional in nature the search query is, and the value of that traffic to others. If you’re thinking about offering ads on your blog, for example, you might want to note how much advertisers are paying to be in front of searchers for a keyword related to your topic(s).

The other keyword research source I’d encourage you to pursue is Google’s autosuggest. It often illuminates keyword ideas that you may not have seen through AdWords Planner. In fact, some of the best terms and phrases to target are those Keyword Planner hasn’t listed, but autosuggest does (this is because many other SEO-focused content creators have likely missed them).

blog-seo-autosuggest
Start typing, but don’t hit enter!

Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion

Once you’ve found a few keywords that might work, modify your blog post’s title to include it if you can. For example, when I started drafting this post, I titled it “Publish Now And 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost.” It had a catch and it matched the tone I was aiming for with the piece, but it didn’t target any of those lovely keywords that can help it potentially earn visits for years to come. So I thought up three more:

  1. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
  2. Your Amazing Blog Post – SEO = 1000s of Lost Visits
  3. These Simple SEO Blogging Tips Will Save You 1000s of Lost Visits

Even though I don’t like #3, it’s probably the best optimized title (note that Google is pretty smart these days about interpreting modifications of words like “blog” and “blogging” that have the same meaning/intent). But, that doesn’t mean I’ll choose it. As I noted above, a lot of a post’s potential success is based on its ability to get in front of the right eyeballs. A title that’s optimized for keyword placement but doesn’t resonate with social sharers and potential linkers isn’t worth compromising for. Instead, I’d go with #1 or #2 and I happened to like #1 just a bit better.

The only other part of this step is to make sure the post itself has at least a mention or two of the target keyword phrase and is actually about that topic (nothing infuriates searchers more than discovering a page ranking in Google that’s not actually about what they wanted – and those user/usage metrics will, eventually, hurt your rankings).

Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Chances are that when writing your post, you mentioned someone, used a graphic or image from somewhere else, linked to some reference-worthy content on another site, or called out a service or organization in some way. If you believe there’s any chance that they (the referenced party) would be interested in reading what you’ve written about them, don’t be shy – let them know.

Twitter makes this incredibly easy (and Google+, too, for those of you using that service). In this post, for example, I referenced a study from Bit.ly, some search stats from Statcounter, and a great post from Define Media Group. Immediately upon hitting publish, I should tweet, G+, and/or email all three of them and say thanks, making sure to point them in the direction of this post. Maybe they’ll share it, maybe they won’t, but they’ll know I appreciate their work, and that goodwill might be valuable in the future, too.

Likewise, if I know there’s a few people in my network or among those that I follow/interact with on social media or the offline world who might benefit from or enjoy this post, I should drop them a line, too.

This might be 30 seconds of thinking about who to contact and another 2 minutes sending the messages, but the reward for that effort could mean the difference between a post that spreads, earns links, and ranks, and one that falls into the tragic “Flatline of Nope.”

———–

A few last pieces of advice:

  • Don’t worry too much about targeting a keyword phrase in more than one post. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Google has no penalty for a blog that publishes 3-4 posts all chasing the same keyword. The only time I might not do this is if you’re already ranking very well for a term/phrase, in which case, I’d consider updating the old post vs. writing a completely new one.
  • Updating & re-publishing can be a super power! If you’ve got a post that did well, but didn’t quite make it to the first page of results, consider revising it, adding in the most modern information, and publishing a new post to replace the old one. You can use a 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to point search engines from the old version to the new one.
  • If you need inspiration for titles or content in niches where you think there’s just nothing exciting to write about, I can’t recommend Buzzsumo enough. Give the tool a spin with a few searches related to your potential topics and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Not every post needs to be or should be SEO-targeted. Writing for your audience, for yourself, or simply to court serendipity is a wonderful thing. But every few posts (or at least every few dozen), think about all those poor souls who are searching and finding none of your amazing work – do it for them :-)

p.s. A couple years ago, I created a presentation centered around my love for bloggers and blogging entitled: How to Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul. If you’re worried that SEO means sacrificing the beauty of your work, check it out – it may just restore your faith that the two can live in harmony.

About Stacey Roberts
Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama, follow on Pinterest for fun and useful tips, peek behind the curtain on Instagramand Snapchat, listen to her 90s pop culture podcast, or be entertained on Facebook.
Comments
  1. With the rise of social media over the past few years, I’ve seen a huge decline in bloggers worrying about SEO. It’s “old news” to the newer bloggers who are focused on getting clicks from Twitter, Google+, etc. But it’s a goldmine for traffic, especially when the long tail keywords are targeted properly.

    I’ve been putting a lot more time into search optimization lately, and I’m already seeing some decent results from it. It’s a long term solution to the “I want traffic” problem, but it’s worth the time invested because like you said, people searching for specific terms know exactly what they want, and if you’re giving it to them, you win.

  2. Hello Stacey, Great post!
    For me the third step is the most important. Most creative and proactive approach to be unique – more visitors on the page in long term.

  3. I’ve been more interested in doing some better SEO on my articles in the past months and have slowly seen some improvement. Of course, good content is king and I do my best to provide something great for my visitors, but not having any decent keywords in my articles didn’t help previously :)

  4. Targeted traffic comes with SEO. Searchers are really looking for something and they know what it is. Just attract them, feed them and convert them. Most of the social media sites are places without focus (opposite SEO). I don’t care how many careless visitors I lose.

    LinkedIn has brought good business for me as certain people are really looking for something in there. So, I have optimized my profile there and attracted many great businesses from LinkedIn.

    Mere focus on one source of income is like putting all the eggs in one basket. So, I’d rather find something useful in each arena. I hope it works for me the way it’s been working in past few years.

  5. Rand speaks his SEO brilliance again.

    I’ve doubled down with my SEO efforts these days. Seems like simple works best.

    Instead of pushing myself to learn all the in’s and out’s I stick to basic fundamentals.

    Blogger outreach is huge. I link out freely and usually email or social tag folks whom I’ve linked to in my posts. No better way to expand my presence through the power of leveraging.

    Help people out and folks will happily share your post in return. This can mean a nice surge of traffic as well as some serious Search Engine Juice.

    Ryan

  6. Keyword Research is the most important and prior aspect for the SEO of any website. The basic fundamental of SEO starts on keyword research and ends on keyword optimization.

  7. This is a great post! Buzzsumo and Google’s Keyword planning tool are both tools that I need to include immediately in my blogging tactics! It’s so limiting to depend solely on social media to promote my blogs posts

  8. Hi Rand
    All these things are nice, but the hard truth is that you need backlinks. Without backlinks (quality), you are getting nowhere. It is the harsh truth.

    I have certain niche sites which are well optimized with onpage SEO and stuff (not over optimized). It has very relevant and quality articles. And its not a 5 page niche site.

    But it doesnot rank well at all. The competition is from “small pages” from authority sites. They often do not have keyword in title or url or header tags. But because these are from “authority sites”, the algo pushes them up. Most of the links are from spammy PBNs but still they count.

    Google’s algo needs major changes. Too much importance is given to domain populaity. Not that big sites want to rank for these keywords, but Google ranks them; and user experience suffers.

    Regards
    Neil

  9. Have to agree with Mike. Ever since social media came into the big picture, things have changed in SEO. Nevertheless getting the basics right in optimizing a website is essential too for an effective outcome.

  10. nice post stacey, but we should always take are while writing title and description. Not to over stuff them with keywords.

  11. I agree with you Stacey, very nice post. Most of the people are going crazy after social media, the reason lies behind the impressive and exact metrics like followers, friends, tweets etc and the ease of accessibility of the various platforms and generating more traffic has become the name of the game, all the while not giving importance to the ‘productive visits’ which mostly come through Google search.

  12. Hey Stacey, awesome tips. Thanks for this post. I think besides keyword targeting, uniqueness is also important to rank high for a longer time. For instance, a how to article with unique solution and an average keyword targeting, ranks high enough for really a long time span.

  13. Hey Stacey,

    Nice Post. Keyword Research is main factors of every blog. without it you wouldn’t rank any blog or site in Google. Google knows very well about which blog or site should rank first. So, It really matter to grab and pay attention on to find some nice keywords and write good content on the basis of that keywords.

  14. There are some good tips here for sure. It is a trade off when trying to implement the keywords into your headline and writing a headline that will garner attention.

    Don’t forget to optimize your image tags and anchor tags.

    That being said, I hear people cry that SEO is dead. I don’t think it is dead but it may be really sick. There are some things that you can do to get better results in the search engines. But, it’s a bad idea to start writing for the search engines. Write for your readers.

  15. Hi Darren,
    This article is very helpful to decide which keywords to select when you are crafting new post, lot of people says to choose high volume search keywords to write blog post, where competition is very high.

    From last three months I am doing same, like what you said here, but daily I am getting 6 page views to my posts from search engines as per webmaster tools, these keywords have less impressions because of that I am getting less page views.

    After reading this article I got the confidence that I am going in a right way for long run, thank you for sharing this article in descriptive manner.

  16. Hi Stacey,
    Learned something new.
    And What is that?
    Well, it’s the third point.
    I will now tweet to those people if I would link to them. Its like the situation, two birds one stone. Right?
    Thanks for the post!

  17. “The Spike of Hope” I am painfully aware of this concept. Aptly named.

  18. Great roundup as usual, really enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing your article about SEO: The Must-Dos That You Just Can’t Miss with us. Looking forward for your best article this year.

  19. Hi Stacey,
    Awesome tips shared, Keyword research and writing optimized content are the important keys for getting higher search engine ranks. What I have analyzing is that Google will give preference to properly keyword researched and seo optimized content in 2015.

  20. Great advices for those who still think it’s good or not to write their own blog posts SEO-ready. The majority of the bloggers are still writing for themselves and for friends and eventually the communities they managed to get in a while. More and more of them should also start considering SEO concepts while preparing their articles. They would encounter a boost in readability.

  21. Great post! I just found your website and I am excited to learn more on how to get my blog ranking…

    Zach Crandell

  22. Great article! Keyword research is crucial. And like you said, republishing can be a great strategy. If you aren’t ranking for a keyword, update, and try again!

  23. Thanks Darren,
    Really I was not sure about the term competition in keyword planner tool. I usually think that more the competition is it will be much harder for me to rank in search engine however after reading this post I am clear about the term competition.

  24. Completely agree with you but I think, social media has become a necessary evil these days. Social media business groups and pages are a great way to integrate potential customers of your products and services. If a targeted social media campaign is planned and executed then it can also attract potential buyers.

  25. I get something interesting, and even I forget, the GKP with google auto search. Yes, maybe this time I do not wear it, and thanks for reminding.

    One thing that makes me wonder whether the influence of the big social media exceeds the keyword? Can I get the right answer? Thank you for this cool article!

  26. Hi Rand,

    Thanks very much for sharing your expert SEO tips. Hugely appreciated.

    In regard to your 3rd point about telling people you’ve mentiioned them/their blog in your post…I have definitely seen positive results anytime I’ve let another blogger know I’ve included them in a post. Usually they thank me and either Tw or FB mention the post.

    My most-read post of all time was one in which I referred to over a dozen bloggers’ experiences on the particular topic I was writing. Before I even wrote the post I wrote to each and every blogger I was planning to mention. I told them about my post, asked if it was ok to include them as an example, and confirmed the facts I planned to use about them. After I published the post I let each of them know it was live and thanked them for being included. Almost all of them RT and/or FB mentioned the post… leading to my most-read post of all time.

    Which serves as a great example of your recommendation here.

    Thanks again for taking time to give us some insider tips on SEO.

    cheers, Lash

  27. Hi rand,your third point is awesome. I’ll definitely try this for my new post. Hope i can get the result and can build good rapport with them. Thanks a lot :)

  28. Totally awesome and detailed post out here, Stacey! Thank you! Especially the #3, I love it when making a contact to the mentions and notify the interested people!

    I have a personal view about weigh of search engines traffic, I kind of feel like social media-backed promotion gets diluted in few hours because of rush and pushing the promoted content and the content coming from Big Bs (big brands) and in this situation and definitely for the long run, search engine optimization done correct will be the best way to stream the right audience in anytime someone is in need of such post and he/she lands on yours.

    Thanks once again!

  29. Such an awesome article on SEO.The one of the best article to use for our blog.
    Thanks for sharing

  30. Focusing on creating quality content with relevant keywords and including image + video is a natural approach to getting good rankings and improved SEO.

  31. Thank problogger for enlightening me about the Google keyword tool. One thing I also learned apart from being not 100% accurate, the figures are also changing. Thanks Darren and more power.

  32. Hey Stacey, Great post with lots of tools and publishing abilities…

  33. Now days If you want to Rank High in Search Engines then U have to do social media. Sharing links in Facebook, Google+ and twitter with #tag improves web site rank and traffic.

  34. dipen says: 03/23/2015 at 9:26 pm

    Now days If you want to Rank High in Search Engines then U have to do social media. Sharing links in Facebook, Google+ and twitter with #tag improves web site rank and traffic.

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