Search engines want to find engaging, relevant sites for their searchers. They also want to weed out spam, scammers and sites offering dodgy services. To achieve this, search engines are forever amending their algorithms so be wary of anyone who boasts of being able to get your site in the first position on the search engines results pages. It would be fantastic as a writer to create a blog and see it rank highly within weeks, but just as overnight successes are often several years in the making, creating an audience for your blog won’t happen instantly.
SEO is best done by looking at blogs on an individual basis and tailoring optimisation for each blog individually. I will cover some basics, none of which will be particularly technical.
- Forget being obscure or ironic and use descriptive post titles that clue the reader into what your post is about.
- Don’t be afraid to label a book review as a book review but do mention the title and author of the book too.
- Bear in mind that if your title sets up an expectation in a reader’s mind, that reader will be disappointed if your article doesn’t live up to that expectation and won’t return to read your next post.
- Break your posts into readable paragraphs and consider using bullet points, lists or short paragraphs grouped under subheadings.
- Keep your opening paragraph brief and relevant to the blog title – in the search engine results the opening words of an article are shown below the url or web address so if your sentence doesn’t appear to be relevant to your title, browsers may not click through to read your article.
- Images are not obligatory but they do help break up text and an appropriate image can complement the article. If you do use an image, please put a descriptive title in the alt text option. You won’t see this title in your post but it’s useful a) for readers who use text only browsers or rely on audio description software and b) search engines can’t ‘see’ pictures so use the alt text description. Bear in mind that images posted online are still subject to copyright laws so if you use someone else’s image, check permissions and give credit.
Page Loading Speed
A page of text will load relatively quickly. A page stuffed with images, an embedded video link and a clever interactive app that starts playing when the page is opened, will slow down load times. If a browser thinks they’re interested in a blog article listed in the search engine results pages but finds it’s taking forever to load, that browser will lose interest, close the tab that was trying to load your blog article and go and read someone else’s. Page loading speed does play a (small) part in search engines’ algorithms. When posting an article consider:
- Limit the formatting to the basics. Do use headings, bold, italics, underlines and change font size where appropriate but don’t use more than one font and keep the background plain.
- Use appropriate images but reduce the image size to a low resolution – you can always put a link in the image to a full size high quality image that opens in a new tab if for instance you want readers to see a book cover in full detail.
- Don’t embed videos in blog posts. Use links instead. Bear in mind some of your readers may be accessing your blog via a mobile device or have a limited time to catch up so don’t want to watch a video.
- If you have a long article, consider breaking it down into parts and posting each part with a link to the next/previous posts.
- If you are quoting from another source or referring to an article elsewhere, use links rather than quoting large chunks of text.
URLs or web address
Most blogging platforms use the post title as the url and this is a good idea to stick to if you can amend the URL. www.blogpost1 isn’t as descriptive or as easy to remember as www.poetsandblogging. Someone looking for a review of a book isn’t likely to click through to your review if the URL doesn’t look relevant.
You’re a writer so your content is readable, engaging, authoritative and exactly what your readership is looking for, isn’t it?
It might be tempting to write a controversial article or clickbait to get attention, but you’ll be attracting one-off readers only interested in your clickbait article who won’t subscribe or stick around to read more. If you keep posting clickbait, readers will feel tricked and stop reading.
Your aim should be for regular readers and subscribers who will share and post links to your articles.
- Keep links from your article to other sites useful and relevant, e.g. in a book review a link to the publisher or author website is useful. You don’t need to create a link every time you mention the author’s name, one link per article is fine.
- Consider adding links to other articles you’ve written on the same topic, but don’t let the list get too long. Linking to other reviews you’ve written of books by the same author or from the same publisher might interest a blog reader but links to every single review you’ve ever written won’t.
- Try to get links to your blog from relevant quality sources, e.g. your publisher, magazines that have published your work, in guest posts on other blogs, in professional profiles, etc. Keep it relevant though: your favourite bookstore including a link to your blog in return for you linking to theirs is fine but a link from your favourite pet food store looks odd.
- You will be tainted by association so beware of links from low quality sites.
- Never buy links. You’re wasting money and it could backfire: search engines will block your site from their listings if it’s suspected you’ve paid for links.
- If you leave a comment on someone else’s blog, do leave a link to your blog if there’s an option for comments to leave a weblink. Don’t put a link in your comment unless you are linking to a specific post that’s relevant to the discussion. Don’t leave a comment just so you can post a link.
Always Moderate Comments
- Social media is social. If readers can’t comment on your blog they will move on to one where they can so you need to allow comments.
- Moderation puts you in control – you get to decide which comments appear on your blog and which don’t.
- Your blogging platform’s spam filter will prevent spam comments appearing on your blog. But moderation allows you to filter out comments that don’t look like spam but do contain links you don’t want appearing on your site.
- Moderation allows you to decide when you want to look at comments on your blog and allows you to edit them before they appear so you can take out any links you don’t want to appear in comments whilst still allowing the comment.
- You don’t have to reply to every comment but responding to queries and thanking people for comments looks courteous and reassures commenters that you’ve seen their comment.
- If someone has engaged with your post but is critical, do consider allowing the comment. It may start a discussion with other commenters supporting your original post. If, however, a commenter has reverted to discriminatory language and/or personal insult, don’t hesitate to delete the comment.
- Monitor the time you spend moderating and responding to comments. Most relevant comments arrive within 24 hours of the original post so allow some time after posting for comments to arrive. Comments on older blog posts, particularly those posted over a month ago, will be spam and can generally be deleted unread.
I look at comments in more detail in a future post.
The previous and first post in this series was Poets and Blogging.
The Social Media and Writers panel event will be at Leicester Writers’ Club on Thursday 19 May 2016 at Phoenix Arts from 7pm. Tickets for non-Club members are £5 on the door.