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Some gurus will tell you that if you’re not doing intensely strategic, painstakingly planned SEO for your blog, you’re a fool.
I have a confession to make.
I don’t spend a lot of time and energy on SEO for my blog. I’m also an SEO copywriter, so that makes me a hypocrite, right?
I do SEO on my blog; I’m just not a zealot about it.
My take is that if you don’t have lots of time and budget, but you don’t want to be left in the dark, dingy corners of the search engines (and social networks), learn how to drive-by SEO your blog.
If it’s simple and quick, you’re more likely to make it a habit. And marketing doesn’t work unless it’s a habit you practice every single day. (Sorry if that disappoints those of you who prefer to casually outsource your marketing.)
So here are some simple habits you can start integrating into your content publishing routine quickly and easily. Very little pain required:
1) Decide what you’re going to blog about. You and I both know this is actually the toughest part of the entire process so it deserves it’s own step in the list.
2) Brainstorm a few possible titles for your post. This frames your thinking both for the writing process (user facing) and for the SEO (Google facing).
3) Hop onto Google’s free Keyword Suggestion Tool. It’s quick and intuitive for even the most novice blogger. Based on your topic and title brainstorms, enter 5-10 key phrases that fit the bill. Remember to step outside your own vocabulary habits and think like your reader.
4) Scan the keyword suggestion list. What you’ll notice is a split between low search volume but highly relevant key phrases and higher search volume but less relevant or “specific” key phrases. Hmmm …
5) Pick your SEO battle. There are really only two ways to attack the situation:
- If the less searched on key phrases are really jumping out at you as relevant, hooky topics, consider using them anyway. This is what’s known as long tail strategy in SEO. It’s an effective way to attract lower volumes of high-quality traffic, traffic that is more likely to enter your sales funnel. All while sidestepping the uber competitiveness of higher volume keywords thousands or even millions of other web pages are optimizing for.
- If you’re wanting to compete on those highly searched, competitive phrases, go for it. But prepare for battle. It’s going to take more than one measly blog post to rank well for your pet keywords. Unless the post goes viral but even then, over the long run you will want to optimize multiple pages and/or posts on your site for those phrases.
Super Secret Keyword research tip: you can safely ignore the guru conspiracy theory that Google’s Keyword Suggestion Tool is feeding us crap data. The numbers themselves don’t even matter that much anyway. You want to focus instead on comparing relative search volumes for different key phrases.
6) Select one great keyword phrase. Yep, just one. While your blog post might and probably should include variations on your keyword phrase (plurals, verb or noun iterations, descriptors, etc.), you can’t effectively optimize a blog post for more than one phrase. Unless the blog post is very long in which case you might be able to SEO for 2 phrases without sounding forced, spammy or stilted.
7) Use your keyword in the right places. Okay, this part isn’t actually all that difficult but people get all freaky-deaky about it. Go easy on yourself. It’s a blog post; not War And Peace. The MAIN things you want to do here:
- Use your keyword phrase at or near the beginning of your post title. If you’re keyword phrase is “purple people eaters” and your post is on the 10 best ways to network with PPPs, you could try “Purple People Eaters: 5 Ways to Win Over the Toughest Crowd in the Room.” Still okay but maybe not as enticing to Google or your readers: “A Harrowing Tale: Getting to Know the Purple People Eaters of Pennsylvania.”
- Check your <title> tag. Typically, blog software settings default to using your post title as your <title> tag content. This is actually okay, especially if you’re following along with my drive-by SEO formula. However, it’s nice to have the ability to tweak your <title> tags if you want to, so do consider having custom field functionality added to your blog. (That’s what it’s called in WordPress anyway.) I like to use my post title as the <title> tag, but sometimes you might want to tack on something helpful like your company name or the article category. For example, the title tag of this post reads “Drive-By SEO for Your Blog | Karri Flatla, snap! web marketing solutions.” It really just depends on your branding priorities, what you think will pull more clicks in the search engine results pages (see next tip), etc.
- Keep your <title> tags short. Remember that your <title> tag is what shows as the clickable link in the search engine results pages (the listings you see when you do a search). Google and other search engines will truncate them down to about 60(ish) characters. Ultimately, you want a title tag that reads well so more people click it and actually read your blog post!
- Write a blog post using your keyword phrase. Again, don’t lose your head. Don’t start cramming your keyword here, there and everywhere (ee-eye, ee-eye oh). Just be sure to use your keyword as near to the beginning of your post as possible and then again throughout the post when it MAKES SENSE TO DO SO. If you just stick it in where it doesn’t sound natural and conversational, readers will think you’re an insensitive jerk or that you can’t write competently in English. Both are bad. Keep your head on with this one.
8) Think outside the box. Here are some other places to use your blog post keywords:
- Twitter. You might have noticed that twitter posts show up in Google searches just minutes after they’re posted? Talk about real time information eh? If you want to attract twitter power users, be sure to use the # symbol or hashtag in front of your keyword.
- Facebook and other social network. Same kind of thing here. Use these media like microblogs. Don’t spam them with keywords; instead mention them here and there (but not everywhere … ).
- Add your “tags.” Tags are just keywords or descriptive phrases relating to the content of a blog post. You can add them to your own blog sidebar (as a “tag cloud”) as well as to your submissions on social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Digg. The quality of traffic from these sites isn’t always fab, but if you use well targeted “tags” (keywords), it certainly can’t hurt in your efforts to attract people seeking out very specific information on a given topic.
- Alternate text for your images. It’s easy to abuse this so don’t. Just choose an image that relates closely to your post topic and make your keyword the alt text if it feels appropriate as an alternative description for users with images turned off in their browser or using screen readers (visually impaired).
- Anchor text in back links. More often than not, if someone links back to your blog post they’ll just snag the link from your site and use that. Therefore, you usually do not have a chance to you know, sit down and write them a love letter requesting they please link back to you this way and that. Instead, make sure your blog is configured to create “pretty permalinks,” or links with all or part of the post title in the URL. This is as opposed to links that just show a post ID like this:
- mysite.com/blog/index.php?postid=12 or
Eeew! Google “likes” juicy, descriptive anchor text and so should you.
9) What about video you ask? Optimizing video blog posts is even easier because there is less textual content to deal with. Do all of the above, making sure to write at minimum, a short introductory description saying what the video is about. Rand Fishkin at SEOmoz takes this one step further and advises you put your SEO cape on and hire a transcriptionist to type out your video content, edit it, wa-la! A full-on blog post PLUS video. Personally, I like video blogging because sometimes it’s just easier than writing a blog post. So your call on the transcription.
That’s drive-by blog SEO in a nutshell. Time consuming? A little. Worth the effort? Definitely. Plus, the more you practice any habit, the easier it gets and the better the result. Your people need you. Now go out and help them find you.