Yeah! Here’s the second guest post in the context of FebBlogging! I’m really thrilled to announce not only an extremely entertaining but also a very helpful post written by Carina. It means a lot to me that she took the time for this because I know that she is always on the go 😉
Carina has launched her blog last year and although Stepabout has not yet reached its first anniversary it took immediately off and left a huge impact in the blogging world but furthermore she is a real inspiration to me – thank you, Carina, for convincing and supporting me to start my own blog!
The heart of her blog is presenting special celebration days, like for example the Clean Out Your Computer Day but also more in-depth subjects like the Celebration Of Life Day. But her blog is definitely a lot more than just bringing those special days closer to her reader, see for yourself what Carina, an aspiring freelance writer has to offer!
5 SEO Basics for Absolute Beginners
When I started blogging, it took a few Twitter chats for me to find out about SEO. I had no idea what these three letters that sounded like a misspelled version of CEO even meant. But now that I’ve been blogging for almost a year, I got the hang of SEO, which means Search Engine Optimisation. It’s about how your blog ranks in Google and other search engines and how you can influence this ranking.
At first, this whole idea of SEO sounded daunting and I didn’t care about it much in the beginning. But let me tell you, the basics of SEO aren’t that difficult to grab at all! I don’t want to write a bible about SEO here, I’ll just try and give you the most important basics. You need to start somewhere, or don’t you?
How to Improve Your Search Engine Ranking
1) Use Heading Tags
It doesn’t matter whether you’re on WordPress, Blogger or on some other blogging platform. You can use heading tags anywhere as they’re a simple HTML element. Before telling you how to do that, let me tell you what those tags do:
The Google robots crawl the HTML source of your site because it’s more informative than just text. Heading tags will tell these robots which are the most important parts of your content. Headings are relevant descriptions of a post, which is why you want the Google robots to know what is a heading.
The easy way to show them is using heading tags, which are usually <h1> to <h6>. These are organised hierarchically, which means that <h1> is the main title of the post. Subtitles can be arranged using <h2> to <h6>, depending on their importance.
Make sure to have your most important keyword in the title, aka in the <h1> tag. I’m not a fan of stuffing keywords into posts, but determining the one most relevant keyword for every post and including it in the title won’t hurt.
Okay, so the next question is how to add those heading tags. The answer to this is simple, especially if you’re on WordPress (both self-hosted and .com). I don’t know about other services, but I’m sure it works in a similar way.
So if you’re editing a post in the visual editor of WordPress, you will see a box in the top right corner that says “Paragraph”. You only see this box if you’re entire toolbar is visible, you can reveal it with a button on the top right. If you click the arrow of the box, a drop down menu will let you choose a heading tag.
You can either choose an option there, for example “Heading 3”, and then write your heading; or write your heading first, then mark it and set it to “Heading 3”. In the visual editor, your heading will then look differently from your body text. This will also be the case if you publish the post. “Heading 2” will look larger than “Heading 4” because, as I said, they’re hierarchical.
Another way to do it is to go to the HTML editor of the post you’re writing. Find your headings and put an opening and closing tag with your desired heading number around. For an <h2> tag, this would look like this:
<h2>Your Fancy Heading</h2>
Make sure you don’t forget the slash in the closing tag, otherwise the following text will be included in the heading, too.
2) Set Alt Tags on Images
Images are becoming more and more important in SEO. Yet, the Google robots don’t have eyes, so they can’t see what’s in the images you upload to your blog. But they can read the content of your images if you provide accurate descriptions.
That’s where alt tags enter the picture. Alt text is the text that will appear instead of your image if the image don’t load for some reason. So if someone opens your site from a slow network or has disabled image loading from their browser, they will see the alt description instead.
This means that alt texts should always be accurate descriptions of what is in the picture. Preferably, alt text should also include your most important keyword. This way, search engines will know what’s in your image and thus show it in search results. This might lead traffic back to your site.
Setting alt text on your images is pretty simple. Again, I only know about WordPress, but I’m sure it’s not too different on other platforms. Once you uploaded the image, you open the visual image editor by clicking the little pencil icon. There, you’ll see a box saying “Alt text”. Just fill in your alt text there and you’re done.
3) Make Your URL’s Relevant and Sensible
Did you know you can change the URL to a specific blog post of yours? Under the heading box in WordPress, there’s a little box next to your URL saying “Edit”. If you click that, you can edit the part of the URL that comes after http://www.yourdomain.xx/
That’s a helpful feature as it lets you generate URLs that describe the content of your post better. By default, your URL is probably set to something like http://www.yourdomain.xx/title-of-your-blog-post-no-matter-how-long-it-is.
The problem with that is that it tends to create monster URLs, especially if the title of your blog post is a long one. Instead of that, you could set it to http://www.yourdomain.xx/SEO-basics, as an example for this post here.
Like in your <h1> tag, make sure to identify and include your one most important keyword. Further, you want to keep the dashes between every word. Without them, Google cannot determine individual words, which might lead to confusion. (That, by the way, is why http://www.expertsexchange.com – which is Experts Exchange – keeps getting search results for Expert Sex Change. They changed their URL to http://www.experts-exchange.com now…)
4) Add Site Descriptions (WordPress)
Site descriptions will not help any of your individual blog posts, but they will help the general ranking of your site. It’s what helps your UK lifestyle blog to be found if someone searches for “UK Lifestyle Blog”, for example.
You can set these descriptions for any page, but most importantly, you should have one on your home page. So if you’re logged into WordPress and visit your site, you will find an “Edit Page” button and a pencil in the top bar.
Click that and you’ll be redirected to the admin version of your home page, which is where you can write a site description. The description won’t show anywhere on your site, so you don’t have to worry about your writing there. Just throw in a few keywords, including the topics you write about the most.
5) Get an SEO-Plugin (Self-Hosted WordPress)
Unfortunately, you cannot install plugins if you’re on WordPress.com. But yet, the principles of the plugin I suggest can be applied to your site anyway. So the SEO plugin I use is YOAST SEO (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/). It’s a simple plugin that displays a box in the admin panel of every post I’m writing or editing.
There, I can enter a focus keyword, which is supposed to be the one most relevant keyword for said blog post. In the case of this post, it would be “SEO” or “SEO Basics” – you get the point. After that, you can change the way your post appears in search engines by altering the title and meta description to match your focus keyword.
If you’re on a platform where you cannot install plugins, don’t worry. You can use the principle of a focus keyword anyway. I mentioned it several times above: It’s helpful to define the one central keyword of your post and then build your headings and alt tags around it. This will help your SEO even if you don’t have the plugin.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed With SEO
Improving your search engine ranking might sound like a daunting task at first. But don’t get overwhelmed and start small, there’s plenty of things you can do even if you have no clue. Also, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments or send me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you like to connect with Carina here are some links:
and of course her amazing blog Stepabout