Leading on from my post about creating effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) following Google algorithm updates (Panda, Penguin, and the completely new search algorithm that is Hummingbird) here are some hints, tips and reminders for all bloggers.
Use Google Ad Words as your planner. Find out what people are actually searching for to land on blogs and websites that share a theme with yours. Use the Keyword Planner (embedded under Tools and Analysis) to find lists of phrases (long tail SEO) to target your content. If any of the long tail SEO search terms already appear on your blog then revisit that content and update it if you can.
Meta description information is now more important that meta keywords (which can now be seen as keyword stuffing). The 'meta description' (also known as 'search description') is the snippet of text that appears alongside a Google search result and is the teaser to the article or website. The guidelines for optimum display in search results are 70 characters for the title of your post (and this needs to include a keyword) and 156 characters for the description (this doesn't need to include a keyword).
Use your permalink to include a keyword and your post title to expand slightly on your content theme (remember the 70 character rule above). This encourages the use of the basic SEO tools available on most blogging platforms so don't forget to fill them in.
Google algorithms use a programme called Fetch to read content to ensure that it reads well and is displayed as coded. On-page header tags should be in numerical order - <h1> will always be your title (or your website/blog name), subsequent sub-headers use header tags in decreasing numerical order as they descend in importance on the page. In the same way, using bold and italics to highlight important sections or phrases will also increase readability. It is worth noting that Fetch also picks up on grammar and spelling.
Create great content and write posts that people want to comment on and then share. Remember to make it easy for your readers to share and comment too. View your blog using different browsers and on various gadgets (desktop computer, laptop, tablet) to ensure the layout works well and/or is mobile optimised. Ensure that your comments section doesn't require readers to sign up or sign in (and turn off Captcha). Have your share buttons in a prominent place.
Remember to optimise your images. Rename your image before uploading and make the name appropriate to the article. Once uploaded put alt tags and title tags in place. An alt tag gives the image an alternative description and a title tag can be used to explain image or captions with a 'tooltip' box that pops up when a mouse moves over a link. Good use of alt and title tags will enhance the browsing experience of visitors with disabilities, increase the page's keyword density score and provide valuable information to your visitors.
Check the behaviour on your site. Be meticulous with regards to comments and delete anything that you suspect to be spam. Also check your site speed and loading times and use the five-second rule (i.e. your page shouldn't take longer than five seconds to present itself on screen in full). Google has been using page load speed as part of its optimisation since 2010.
- moz.com is an on-page grader and whilst this is a paid service you can utilise your one-month free trail effectively to gain insider knowledge (don't forget to cancel your subscription).
- opensiteexplorer.org allows you to compare your website/blog's performance alongside up to five others.
- Google Analytics now has additional sections including the Acquisition > Channels to see where visitors are coming from and Acquisition > Landing Pages to see where they are landing.
- GTMetrix.com analyses your website performance.
- Brokenlinkcheck.com checks for broken or dead links
Use Google Webmaster Tools. Register your website with and without the 'www' at the beginning of the URL. Choose which one you would like as the more important version and action a 301 redirect through Webmaster Tools to prevent any registering of duplicate content. Submit a site map, 'ping' your content regularly to prove ownership and double check for unnatural backlinks. Also if you receive a message from Webmaster Tools, act on the recommendations immediately.
Google Plus is proving to be very important in Google search results. If you have a personal profile or a page ensure that you have uploaded a head-and-shoulders picture and that your website is linked to your profile/page. In return, ensure that your website/blog includes a "rel=author" or "rel=publisher" link back to your Google Plus account. You can find out how to claim Google Authorship here.
As I said in my Search Engine Optimisation post, SEO isn't difficult but it's about doing it right and Google hasn't changed much over the years (on the surface) however the updates have ensured that they can find out who isn't conforming to their guidelines much easier. Have a look at this presentation from Happy Dog Web Productions which takes you through the "Google Zoo" in easy-to-understand snippets of information.