Advanced SEO Tips for Blogs – 2013 Edition

by Jason Acidre on January 11, 2013 · 60 comments · Content, Search


Over the years, blogs or weblogs have proven its effectiveness as a marketing tool for individuals and brands when used to communicate ideas and information.

Two apparent reasons why this platform for content publishing and community building is so effective in business marketing are:

  • Its capability to easily spread awareness through interactivity and audience engagement
  • Its ability to influence consumers’ buying decisions.

As many experts say, your blog is the most important social media tool. Everything else that follows will just support and propagate the content that your blog has – and this includes SEO.

SEO is an important process in blogging. Given that new and targeted visitors, leads and potential customers to the blog can be easily generated through this channel.

Even though SEO is an important area, it should never interfere with how you write your content. Because search engines are all about improving the online experience of their users, so your SEO approach should do too.

There have been so many improvements and changes in Google’s search algorithms these past few years. Optimizing a blog for search has also progressed along these changes, in which a few new signals, factors and methodologies where augmented.

So in this post, I’ll be sharing 11 actionable tips that you can implement to improve your blog’s visibility on search results and performance in driving constant search-traffic this 2013.

Create content that gets searched

Content is what drives any online marketing strategy, and that’s why it’s so important to continuously create contents that get actually searched and consumed by your target audience.

You can use keyword research tools such as Google’s Keyword Tool and/or Ubersuggest to get content ideas and to determine what topics are sought-after in your space.

Focus your content development strategy on providing answers to frequently searched information on subjects/topics that aren’t time-sensitive.

This approach can help you constantly attract visitors from search engines who’re specifically seeking for the information that your content provides.

Important: Make sure that the content is absolutely relevant or actually about the query you’re targeting, and offers valuable/useful information to readers. You can check out more tips here on how to optimize your content for search.

Create more landing pages (not just posts)

Blog posts can do pretty well on search results. But static pages (that can offer the same value) can perform better.

The time/date that a blog post is published sometimes causes posts’ search rankings to fluctuate, seeing that newer blog posts or content about the same topic from other content hubs will eventually compete for the same spot.

So if you have very extensive blog posts or guides that have somehow served as an ultimate resource for a certain topic in your industry, converting them into independent pages on your site will definitely be a great way to protect, maintain and/or improve their rankings.

Few great samples of these are:

There are also other ways and reasons to expand your blog’s amount of important landing pages (meaning pages that you’ll really need to optimize, promote and push more internal links to) such as:

These are content assets that deserve better search rankings for very competitive search terms, because they are worth-linking to. They have better chances of getting natural links and it’s reasonable to promote them through manual link building or social outreach.

Pumpkin Hacking

This is a strategy that I got from Nick Eubanks. The main principle behind this strategy is to focus resources and efforts on building what works.

If you have an already established blog, it’s best to assess the keywords that are sending constant traffic to your site (using Google Analytics). But if you’re only starting a new one, keep on testing and track the posts that are performing really well in terms of driving search traffic and conversions (engagements, social, subscriptions, etc…).

Identify the niche or the type of content where the keywords are really sending good amount of engaged traffic to your blog.

Start focusing on those areas by creating more stems of content, based on the niche’s root keyword (ex: “link building”) – using the same approach for the content (ex: “comprehensive tutorials or data-driven content”).

The more you target the root keyword’s long-tails or replicate the approach or style of your previously successful content, the more your content strategy can establish your brand/blog as an authority in that field.

And in an SEO-perspective, search engines can fully understand the response from the traffic you’re getting. This means you can improve your blog’s search share in the niche that you’re focusing with (and could also possibly make your blog rank better for the niche’s root keyword).

I’ve realized this early on my blogging career, where most of the good reception were gained by my comprehensive link building posts.

So I focused on that. And it worked. My blog somehow became associated with the niche keyword and have built a strong mindshare over the time.

Another efficient way in merging your keyword and content strategy is through extracting more data from your Google Webmaster Tools (search queries feature). You can check out this great guide from Jeremy Morgan on how to do agile content marketing with GWT.

Length of content/document

Comprehensiveness of content is a strong signal that search engines use, not just to gauge relevancy, but also to determine the value of the content.

If the content is a complete resource about the subject, it basically deserves a higher ranking position.

Longer posts are sticky, knowing that they tend to get bookmarked, get more return visits and/or referenced to by other content publishers as a resource.

Few tips on making your content more comprehensive:

  • Add more visuals in your blog posts.
  • Expand the details of the information you’re offering (Wikipedia style).
  • Identify the areas of the subject that’s missing from other websites’ similar post and provide those information in your content.

Build more on-site trust signals

Google is known to use hundreds of factors in evaluating rightful pages/sites to be ranked higher on their search results.

Implementing more signals coming from your site is one of the best ways to demonstrate authority and trust (to both users and search engines).

Several trust signals that you can easily put into practice:

  • Invite guest authors and offer authorship markups for them (to improve your blog’s author portfolio and gain more trust signals through their AuthorRank).
  • Create content for links/shares. Examine the types of blog posts in your space that work well in terms of social sharing. Replicate and let known linkers/sharers in your industry know about it (more tips here).
  • Link out to trusted sources. Readers and search engines will more likely trust your content if you’re citing useful materials from other authority websites.
  • Social proof. Integrate social calls-to-action on your blog, as this can display your activity on different social platforms (and number of followers/subscribers can influence how people and search engines see the blog as a brand).
  • Encourage blog comments. The more engaged readers you have, which can easily be reflected by the discussions happening within your blog, the more positive signals you can send out.
  • Reduce interruptive ads. Especially those that are placed above the fold.

Use other formats of content

Another way to create more positive signals from your site is to create content in different formats. There are so many content formats that you can try and test out for your blog, such as:

Slide presentations - Slideshare.net

Videos – Youtube and Vimeo

Infographics - Info.gram and Visual.ly

Timeline – Timeline JS

 

Google Algorithm Updates for 2012 by Nikko Machine

List – List.ly

Aside from creating signals, having more content hosted on these authoritative UGC sites can help you attract more referred traffic. Since these pages (hosted on Slideshare, Youtube, etc…) have high tendencies of getting displayed on search results for long tail searches, which of course link to your site.

Optimize for Dwell Time

Dwell time is a user-experience metric, which is a combination of bounce rate and time-spent on site. When people are staying longer on the blog, it becomes a strong indication that they are finding its content useful and relevant, and thus help in improving the site’s ability to rank better on search results.

There are many ways to optimize a blog to make its visitors stay longer and to encourage them to take actions:

  • Build more thematic internal links within your posts’ content. Use longer anchor texts to make the more visible to readers and to entice more clicks.
  • Use compelling images/visuals to stimulate and capture your readers’ attention.
  • Link to related blog posts at the end of your post (if you’re on WordPress, you can install the Yet Another Related Post plugin).
  • Invest on a visually appealing site design and learn basic UX. Ask people for feedback and suggestions to improve user-experience.
  • Optimize content above the fold. Make sure that the headline and introductory part of the content can entice readers to scroll down.
  • Improve your blog’s load time or site speed. Use tools like Pingdom or Page Speed Insights to assess areas of the blog that could be causing it to slow down.
  • Optimize for readability and design your content for skimmers. Break down your content in shorter paragraphs and highlight the important parts (by using bold texts, headings or quotations).
  • Use strong calls-to-action on highly-perceptible areas of your pages (ex: at the end of the post or above the fold).

Optimize categories

Blog categories are strong static pages that can compete for highly competitive terms, because they actually pertain to the niche itself and they are up in the hierarchy of your blog’s architecture.

Though many times, these pages aren’t well-optimized for search, and often become poor-content pages (that sometimes can cause content duplication within the site).

There are a few things that you can do to improve your categories (for it to look more appealing to both users and search engines):

  • Optimize your categories’ title tags.
  • Add custom content above the fold, including a headline (with the keywords that the category is about) and an introductory content which describes the types of content that go into that category.
  • Display only the excerpts for the listed posts in each category page.
  • Build contextual links to your categories (both internal and inbound links).

Improving the page value of your categories can also help distribute more ranking power to the blog posts under it. The same thing happens when your blog posts are increasing their page authority, wherein they can also pass the ranking ability back to the category page.

Making the blog’s architecture search-friendly

This is the part where basic and advanced on-site optimization meets. Having great content is good, but you also have to understand that SEO is also about making it easier for search engines to find access and index pages from your site.

Help search engines to better understand what your site and its content is about so they can serve it to users/searchers who’re specifically seeking for it.

Some of the optimization methods that you can implement on your blog:

  • Use accurate page titles on each page and blog post on your blog. Make sure that the page titles are really relevant to page’s content.
  • Add meta descriptions on your posts/pages, with the aim to increase SERP CTR, not just to target keywords.
  • Use descriptive URLs for your posts/pages (custom permalink structure). It’s also best to keep your URLs short.
  • Add an XML sitemap and Robots.txt, so search engines can easily identify which pages they should prioritize in crawling and which folders of the site they aren’t allowed to access.
  • Make sure that the blog’s URLs are canonicalized or redirecting to a single version of the URL (www. or non-www).
  • If you have videos, add a video sitemap. If your blog is on WordPress, you can just download the Google XML sitemap for Videos plugin.
  • Validate your blog’s coding. You can use W3C’s free toolset for validating HTML, CSS, schema, and many other web document formats.
  • Implement authorship markup. You can check out this tutorial from AJ Kohn.
  • Improve your blog’s site speed. Use the tools I’ve mentioned above (Pingdom or Page Speed Insights).
  • Check your site for crawl errors using Google Webmaster Tools. Fix these broken pages if necessary, but if not, you can choose to 301 redirect them to the most related pages (or to a new URL version of the page). It’s also best to reclaim all the links from other sites pointing to your broken pages to reduce crawl errors. Lastly, create a custom 404 page and suggest other pages where visitors can go instead.
  • Block search crawlers from indexing thin and/or potential duplicate pages from your blog (tags pages, search feature, meta refreshed pages, etc…) by using the “noindex” tag.
  • Start implementing social snippet markups for Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Dana Lookadoo shared an in-depth guide on SEOmoz mid last year, while RKG also did an extensive tutorial on how to use Open Graph tags for social snippets.
  • You can also start utilizing structured data (schemas) on certain types of content. Raventools released a tool that generates schema codes for reviews, events, products, books, movies, persons, organizations. The tool also has a plugin for WordPress blogs.

Branding

Everything that you try to build off-site should add value to the brand that your blog is trying to shape. It’s very important to know what separates your publication from the rest in your niche/industry.

Know your unique value proposition and make it as your blog marketing efforts’ core. It will help you establish more positive signals to your blog and will also help make you remarkable in your space.

The more you push your value proposition and making it certain that it will be relevant and resounding to your audience (through the interactions and the content you produce/distribute), the more your blog will become a link magnet.

Brand-based signals will definitely be important this year, since it’s becoming more obvious that search engines favor brands that have strong presence in their search results.

Here are some methods that you can do to build more brand signals to your blog:

  • Contribute content on high-traffic blogs in your industry through guest blogging. Focus on sharing your expertise to steadily build mindshare in your niche and brand recognition.
  • Participate on popular discussions on relevant communities, especially on sites where your target audience is (forums, authority blogs, Q&A threads, online community voting sites – like Reddit, Inbound.org or Hacker News). Add value to the discussions to be remarkable and to attract click-through traffic to your blog.
  • Start building in-content brand mentions/citations (co-occurrence) – that are in close proximity to your blog’s major keywords – as search engines understand and count these unlinked brand mentions as signals. Simon Penson wrote a great piece about link building without links, I highly recommend reading that post.
  • Utilize and create campaigns on social platforms where your target audience is (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc…). Build a strong following base by being consistent with content sharing and relationship building.

Track and optimize for Conversions

Track everything that’s performing well on your blog. Evaluate your best traffic sources, content/landing pages, and the elements that make your visitors take actions.

Set up goals on Analytics to make the most out of the traffic you’re already getting. It’s also best to continuously improve your blog’s important pages (those that are already converting visitors to leads or sales – if you’re selling products or services).

Test those that are already performing well by using Google Analytics’ content experiments. Because the more your important pages can convert its incoming visitors, the more they’ll likely be ranked higher on search results (based on the usage data and traffic behaviour on your pages).

For more advanced tips on building a high-traffic blog, check out these posts:

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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