Google’s oft-quoted advice for getting your blog articles ranked is that you should write rich, high-quality, and valuable content. That’s great advice and, without good content everything else you do to improve your SERP position is largely a wasted effort. However, there are many things you can do in addition to creating high-quality content that will give your articles a boost. We’re going to look at 10 basic SEO techniques that every blogger, writer, and editor should be aware of when they are creating content for the web.
Keywords Matter, But Don’t Overdo It
Google’s algorithms have come on leaps and bounds, and they can do all sorts of clever semantic analysis to figure out what your content is about, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect keywords. Keywords in the text correspond to search queries, and although Google will match queries with synonyms and other variations, you’re more than likely to rank higher if you include exact match keywords in your text, so make sure you do your research beforehand and have a clear idea of what people are searching for.
On the other hand, don’t go overboard and stuff as many keywords as you can into your content. It makes for awkward reading and the days when keyword stuffing would guarantee a place in the SERPs are well in the past.
Don’t Neglect Long-Tail Keywords
While you definitely want to hit the most prominent keywords in the niche you’re targeting, the long-tail is actually far larger than you’d expect. If you neglect the long tail, you’re throwing away valuable traffic that is likely to be less hotly competed for.
Pay Attention To Titles And Subtitles
It’s particularly important that you put keywords in a prominent position in H1 and H2 tags. Again, don’t overdo it, but make sure that your target keywords find a place in your article’s titles and subtitles.
Get Your Meta Tags In Order
Some parts of the page are given more weight by Google than others, and among the most important areas for optimization are meta tags that don’t appear in the page content at all. Two that you should definitely be aware of are the title tag and the description meta tag.
Technically, the title tag isn’t actually a meta tag; it’s an HTML element, but we’ll deal with it here rather than in a separate section. The title tag determines the text that appears in the blue link on the search engine entry and is intended to be succinct summary of the content. It should be no longer than approximately 70 characters, and should contain the article’s primary keyword, plus other keywords. Don’t just make it a list of keywords, because that looks bad in the SERPs.
The description meta tag is a true meta tag. It looks like:
meta name=”description” content=”A short summary of the contents of this page.”>
It occurs in the page’s head section along with the title tag. The description meta tag is usually used by the search engines to populate the snippet that appears underneath the blue link in the SERPs. The description tag probably isn’t as heavily weighted as the title tag, but it’s good practice to ensure that it contains a succinct summary of the article that is no more than 160 characters long and contains the relevant keywords.
If you’re using WordPress, an SEO plugin like the one from Yoast make both of these tags easily editable.
Grammar And Spelling
It may seem like common sense, but there’s plenty of content out there that throws caution to the wind and makes no effort to conform to the grammatical norms and the preferred spelling of the market it’s aimed at. Grammar and spelling matter: Google doesn’t want to send its users to sites where the articles look like they’ve been written for a lolcat meme. That said, an incorrect use of the subjunctive or the occasional split infinitive aren’t going to matter at all, but insofar as is reasonable, stick to standard grammar and run a spell checker over your content before publishing it.
Use Relevant Categories And Tags
Tags and categories may be a fairly minor signal for the search engines, but it’s worth making sure that your content is organized properly.
Link To Your Sources
Publishers tend to exert a lot of effort when it comes to incoming links, but proper citations with links to high quality sources of information are a signal to Google that your content is more likely to be high-quality as well.
Optimize Your Images
Images present a good opportunity for making further use of your keywords, which can be placed in:
But again, don’t go overboard and stuff irrelevant keywords into your image’s metadata just because you can.
Use Google Authorship
While Google Authorship isn’t currently used a ranking signal, it does have an effect on click-through rates because it provides the information Google needs to display rich snippets, including author names and images. This plugin will help you set up Google Authorship on your WordPress site.
WordPress is a fairly solid platform for SEO out-of-the-box, and while there are endless tweaks and optimizations you can make to a site in order to improve its SEO performance, these basic steps will ensure that your articles will make a good showing when they are published and into the future.
Graeme Caldwell works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, http://blog.nexcess.net/.