If writing is the art form of content, SEO is the science of content. No matter how well you string words together and sprinkle your blogs with puns, it’s important to optimize it for search queries. That’s where SEO comes into the picture.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is a fancy way of saying “Let’s get Google to notice our content!” Because 81% of B2B businesses now have some form of a blog, you no longer have a leg-up by posting content on a regular basis. You have to own the process and learn the tricks of the trade to get your content in front of the right set of eyes. And if you’re a marketing expert, it’s a given! SEO can’t just exist in your toolbox; it needs to be an integral part of your content marketing strategy. If you haven’t fine-tuned an SEO strategy, now’s the time to do it. It’s 2020 and SEO is here for the long run. Let’s walk through the basics of SEO so that you can start implementing it into your 2020 marketing strategy.
There are two types of SEO that you should be aware of: On-site SEO and Off-site SEO. The difference, as you can imagine, comes down to what you’re trying to optimize. If you’re trying to work from the inside out (starting with your site’s pages), you’re working on your on-site SEO performance.
This includes your landing page, about page, blog posts, contact page, etc. Any page that you can navigate to on your site is fair game for on-site SEO. The point is to optimize it in a way that is user-friendly and bot-friendly so that it ranks well in the search engine results page. Most SEO experts refer to the search engine results page as SERP, so we’ll hop on that bandwagon, too.
Here’s the big picture: On-site SEO requires you to define a target audience, get in those readers’ minds, listen to their questions (search queries) and provide and emphasize the content you can offer to answer those questions. It’s a lot of strategy, a lot of content, and a little bit of patience as you learn the best practices for your business.
How to Practice it?
There are tons of different ways to optimize your website content, and as the digital marketing landscape continues to grow and evolve, these ways will change in parallel. That’s why it’s important to stay updated on the latest SEO trends and happenings. We’ll break it down by a few major categories: blogs, keywords, navigation capabilities, and quality content.
SEO for Blog Posts
We could write a book on how to optimize your blog posts! There are so many different approaches—it’s hard to just pick one. The rule of thumb is that you should always create stellar content for your blogs and then use the following to make it even better:
Headlines: Headlines should be descriptive, attention-grabbing, and meaningful. Try to keep them less than 55-60 characters; otherwise, Google may cut off the headline and you’ll lose part of its meaning. Your headline shouldn’t be clickbaity; it should really summarize what your article/post is about.
Meta-descriptions: This is the tiny description that Google shows as a preview to your post. It goes in the rectangular box right underneath the headline. Think of a meta-description as a movie trailer. It should be captivating, and it should make your readers want to keep reading. At the same time, it should stay true to the tone and objective of your article.
Images: Blogs that use images get 94% more views than blogs that do not. Everyone wants to see pictures while they’re reading! Otherwise, it’s a whole lot of words—which can get really boring. Make sure you’re using images that coincide with the words on the page, and be sure to label them with something that makes sense. Readers may not see the file name of your images, but bots will. And bots consider these image file names when they’re crawling your site.
Keyword research has been changing recently, as it’s beginning to take on a more customer-centric light. But what remains the same is that keywords play an important role in the SEO performance of your blog. As a writer, you should have a few words that sum up the message of your blog. If you’re talking about digital marketing strategy, for example, your keywords may be: digital marketing, marketing strategy, digital marketing campaigns, and social media strategy. Side note: Keywords don’t have to be singular. You can also use keyword phrases.
At the start of each blog post, come up with 3-5 keywords/keyword phrases for your post. These should be part of a bigger, overarching strategy for your site that includes a list of keywords. When you’re auditing the SEO performance of your site, make a list of keywords that are relevant to your realm of expertise. This way, you can refer to this word bank whenever you’re trying to figure out your target keywords for a blog post.
This one’s simple: Readers want to be able to navigate your site quickly, without hassle. If your site has glitches or isn’t very user-friendly, people are more likely to click out of your site and move on to one with a better user experience. Part of your SEO strategy is ensuring that users can navigate your site easily and that everything is intuitive.
This one seems like a no-brainer… because of course you have quality content!! When professionals start focusing on SEO, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers—so watch out for that. Just because SEO is about the search engines doesn’t mean your content goes out the window. A good SEO strategy starts with quality content; the rest comes later. When you’re writing an “About Me” page or a new blog post, come back to your “why.” Why are you writing this information? What is it that you’re trying to say? What’s the purpose of your site? Your content should always come back to these questions—so much so that your users should be able to answer those questions for you… because they know your “why” through the content you produce.
Off-site SEO is where some people stop. Lots of bloggers and marketing gurus think that on-site SEO is enough and that off-site SEO is kind of unnecessary. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! Off-site SEO is how you interact with the internet world. It’s a huge part of your SEO performance, and without it, you’re missing out on potential followers and readers.
Similar to on-site SEO, there are tons of nooks and crannies to off-site SEO, but we’ll stick to the basics. If you’re able to nail these, you’re off to a great start with your site.
You know the blue underlined text that hyperlinks to another site? Yep, that’s it. That’s called a backlink, and it plays a big role in off-site SEO. A backlink is how you establish credibility. When you backlink to other sites, you’re sending your users to a site that you deem reliable. It’s helpful when you’re trying to explain something without getting sidetracked. You can simply send your users to another site for a more elaborate explanation and then go on about your business with the rest of your story.
With backlinks, the goal is to make it a two-way street. As you establish yourself as an expert in your field, sites will begin to backlink to your site, which boosts your traffic and credibility. When backlinking, be sure to check the credibility of the sites you’re recommending. You shouldn’t be sending users to a site that you don’t trust yourself. Pro tip: Check the domain authority of other sites. Domain authority is a score that shows how relevant or helpful a site is. Aim for your site to obtain a domain authority of 60+, and make sure you link to sites with a domain authority of 60+.
As a blogger or website owner, you’re part of an elite club of website junkies. Just kidding, it’s not that elite, but it is a group nonetheless. We’re all trying to navigate this digital world, so why not do it together? That’s why guest posting is a helpful tool. You can collaborate with other like-minded people to guest post on each other’s blogs, which will double the number of eyes that your content reaches.
You guessed it… the last off-site SEO tactic we’re hitting is none other than social media. We live in a social media crazed world, so it’s only fair that we use it to our advantage! For your off-site SEO, you should be posting on your social media platforms to spread the word about your site and all the great stuff you’re doing. Make sure it’s targeted—you don’t want random people coming to your blog and leaving after a few seconds. There is a strategy behind social media, after all! When drafting social posts to advertise your site, try to incorporate your keywords and your overall voice so that visitors know what they’re getting into when they click the link to your site.
Feeling like an SEO expert yet? We’ve tackled the basics, from keyword phrases to target character length. SEO can sound intimidating, but for the most part, it’s common sense. As you work towards optimizing your blog, remember that it’s not just about the bots. You’re definitely trying to get noticed by Google search bots, but your audience is what matters most. The rest is about the numbers—and with enough practice, you’ll master it in no time.