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Advanced SEO Tips for Blogs – 2013 Edition

copyblogger landing page

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.

How to Optimize Great Content for Search Engines to easily Crawl, Index and Rank

authorship markup

Content optimization is getting trickier these days, as users’ behavior toward how they use the web tend to grow over time, plus the fact that a lot of web content providers on different niches are pushing out tons of “great content” in a steadily growing rate.

This progression on web usage has allowed search engines to identify more data that they can use to assess webpages that should be ranking well on their search results (based on usability, social, authority and so many other factors).

Miguel Salcido recently asked 17 experts on what on-site ranking factors they think are most important to optimize this year, which inspired me to write this post – and I also think that it’s worth checking out too.

Anyway, content marketing is making a trend, proving its power as a very effective marketing tool that can tremendously grow a brand’s audience, following and customer base. And empowering your content marketing efforts with basic know-hows on optimizing your content for search is just practical to yield more results to your campaign.

So in this post, I will mostly discuss content optimization techniques that you can implement before and after launching your piece to increase the likelihood of your content in ranking better on search results, even without the help of link building.

Accurate Page Titles

Title tags still remain as one of the most important ranking factors when it comes to on-site SEO, based on many experts’ experience. Using your target keywords in the content’s page title can help improve its search rankings.

It’s also important that the title of your web page will meet – or exceed if possible – your target audience’s expectations from the content that they’ll see to improve visitor retention to that page. Other helpful tips when constructing your content page titles are:

  • Make the title actionable to increase click-through rate when targeting users who’ll see your content showing up on search engine result pages (don’t just use your targeted keywords to rank higher on search engines, but rather write your titles with the intent for humans to click on your listings).

  • Apply a different post title or headline to optimize your site for different semantically related or more long-tail search phrases.

  • You can also choose to use your content’s other target keywords in the page’s URL, as Google is also using URLs to display as the title on search results, when it’s found to be more relevant for search queries closely related to your content’s initially targeted keyword. AJ Kohn and Ruth Burr have discussed this recently here and here.

Use LSI keywords within the content

LSI or latent semantic indexing is a process being used by search engines to identify patterns in the relationships between terms and concepts contained in an unstructured collection of text (as defined by Wikipedia). Basically, this process allows search engines to evaluate the context and relevance of content to a search query based on the related terms being contained by a particular content.

The more a content use highly-related/synonymous terms/words, the more search engines understand where the content should be tagged or categorized in their indices.

A good trick on determining which words you can use for your content, to make its context look more relevant and particularly targeted about the industry-specific keyword, is the use of the tilde (~) when searching for your “root keyword” in Google search.

Authorship Markup

Soon enough, Google may start implementing AuthorRank into their list of ranking factors (or maybe they are already using it) in measuring if a page is worth being prominently displayed on their search results. That’s why building a strong author profile using Google+ is deemed necessary these days to prepare your strategy for future game-changing events.

Implementing Authorship markup in your site/blog is not that hard actually, and there several tutorials out there that you can check out, like from AJ Kohn, Joost de Vaulk and from this blog as well.

Nikko Marasigan, one of our in-house SEO strategists (at Xight Interactive), also tested how far can authorship markup help in terms of rankings, which somehow proven how this simple optimization technique played a big role in making a site/page rank without links from other sources (with only a single Google+ profile linking to it). Just imagine how much more power can it produce if you have solid authors contributing content to your site.

Another advantage of having authorship markup applied in your site/blog is that it increases the click-through rate of your site’s pages on Google’s SERPs, as your listings will look more trustworthy and credible to searchers.

Length of Content

It’s undeniable that longer and in-depth documents are ranking very well on search results. Make your content more comprehensive than what your competitors are offering to push your rankings above them.

Thought it is also important to ensure that the quality of information within the content will not be over-saturated or be out of substance for trying too hard to lengthen it. 800+ words will do.

Interactions and engagement in content (UGC)

Encourage your visitors to join the discussions happening within your site’s content (user generated comments, product reviews, star ratings, upvotes, etc…).

Building interactions within your content is very vital, as Google also depends on this factor in evaluating how useful your content is, especially if the amount of relevant comments in your content is high and offering value to the discussion.

There are many ways to improve interactions in your content, such as:

  • Incentivizing interactions, like organizing a comment contest or offering do-follow links to trusted commentators.
  • Making it a call-to-action at the end of your post(s), like adding “would love to hear your thoughts below, at the comment section”.
  • Responding to comments to initiate conversations.

Shareability and ability to collate social signals

As I’ve mentioned above, search engines are strongly dependent on social data these days in detecting pages that are relatively popular, authoritative and up-to-date.  So if you can drive more social signals to your site’s content, you’ll also be building a solid chance for them of ranking better on search results.

Below are few tips on getting more social shares to your content:

  • Make sure that your content is really useful and share-worthy. You can check out this post on the common types of content that make it well on social media and on how you can effectively promote them as well.
  • Make social sharing very easy for your page visitors by making your social sharing buttons visible. You can place it above the fold or at the end of the content, as visitors are more receptive on taking actions from those areas of the page.
  • Do manual social outreach, particularly to people who are really interested and more likely to share your content.
  • For more tips, you can also visit my old post on how to generate more social shares.

Link out to other credible external sources

Linking out to other sites, particularly to known trusted sites (not just Wikipedia), is a strong signal that search engines can use to see if the page is topically relevant and if it is using/citing credible sources for its content.

This action builds up the trust search engines see in your content, since it somehow aligns itself, in terms of information, to the sources that it has mentioned.

Use of rich-media content

Including rich-media content like rich and visually attractive images, cinemagraphs, screenshots, videos, slide presentations and/or data visualizations alongside your text content can also improve its search rankings.

These page elements can help improve the depth of your content and can also enhance user experience, which is another factor that search engines look into in ranking webpages.

You can also optimize their attributes to make your content more relevant to your content’s targeted search phrases, such as using your targeted keyword(s) on your rich-media content’s filenames, alternate texts (for images) and descriptions.

Implementing Schema and Microdata

Schema could really play a big part in the future of search engine optimization, and many experts believe that this optimization process has already been giving some sites the advantage of getting better rankings than other websites that haven’t applied these markups on their sites yet.

Schemas are set of tags that can be used by webmasters to their websites, which is specifically made for search engines, for them to better understand web-based documents and to eventually provide better and more relevant search results to their users (since by that time they’ll have better understanding of what a particular content is about through the help of microdata/schemas).

Learning how to code schemas can be real tricky at first. But the good news is that Raven has recently launched a browser-based tool that allows its users to generate schemas called Schema-creator.org.

You can easily create Schema.org markups using this tool and copy the generated code to your website.

Think Conversions

Every page of your site is a landing page that’s capable of generating you revenue. And Google is also looking at this kind of ability from your content to determine if it can satisfy your site’s visitors.

Implementing conversion-oriented optimization to your site’s content is definitely advantageous in so many ways, not just with rankings, but as well as in business perspectives. Some of the most common ways that you can apply to your content to increase the chances of converting its page traffic are:

  • Improving the page’s loading speed – you can use Google Lab’s Page Speed Online to see the elements that make your page load time slower and this web-based tool will also provide suggestions on how you can optimize these page or site-level elements.
  • Improving your content’s callto-action – make sure that your site offers are visible to your new visitors (you can place it above the fold or below after the content, and continuously test where it works best). It’s also best to make your offers relevant to what your content is about (basing the products, services, newsletters, ebooks or webinars you want to upsell on the topic of the content).
  • Internally linking to other relevant and useful content of the site – promote your site’s other popular/authority content through internal links, and make these links very visible (by placing them within the content and using longer strings of texts for their anchor texts), as this can increase your site’s average page visits and site visit duration/time on site. The more your visitors see your other content, the more you can funnel them to subscribing or returning to your site.

Build strong internal links to your “great content”

Lastly, once you have published your new content, you can then start building internal links to it from your other strong content (old related blog posts/articles). Vary the anchor texts that you’ll use for internal linking and try to make the linking contextual to entice clicks from visitors on these pages.

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