This is the second part of the article on Blog SEO, and we’re going to continue right where we left off in Part 1 with some more things that you can do to boost your site speed as well as the best tactics for optimizing your blog for search.
But first, a quick recap of the top 7 ranking factors that Google uses:
- Click-Through Rate
- Scroll Depth
- Time on Page and Bounce Rate
- Social Shares of the Post
- Natural Back-links
- Site Speed
Now, let’s discuss how to increase your site speed in detail:
- Use a solid, reputable web host such as Wealthy Affiliate, Siteground, Bluehost, or WPEngine. Make use of their CDN (Content Delivery Network) if they have one built-in, or use third-party services such as MaxCDN if they don’t.
- Clean up the code on your site. For those of you who have professionally designed themes, you’re probably alright in this regard. Otherwise, if you’re not tech savvy, it may be worth your while to hire a developer to clean up the code on your blog because bloated or inefficient HTML and CSS adds unnecessary bulk to your site.
- There are plugins that you can use such as Autoptimize that will help you to minimize the size of some of your website’s assets.
- Reduce the overall number of plugins that you use on your blog. Each one adds to the bulk and most plugins use extra resources which load up site-wide. The first thing you should do is to simply deactivate and remove all the plugins that you don’t need. Also, consider using plugin profiles on your blog to help you control where and when a plugin is enabled or disabled.
- Optimize images on your blog since they add a lot of bulk to your site’s downloadable size. Many images actually contain extra ‘payload’ which doesn’t have an effect on how well they appear on your site, and removing that will make the file size significantly smaller.
- Use tools such as WP Smush to optimize images on your blog. Some web hosts such as WPEngine do all the work for you, but if yours doesn’t, you can use the W3 Total Cache plugin to get this done.
More Google Ranking Factors
We may have covered this already, but it’s worth mentioning one more time:
Modern SEO is about optimizing for humans, not bots.
It’s more about making the most of the user experience than anything else. You now know most of the factors that Google uses in making those judgments, but there’s still a lot more.
Here are some of the things to keep in mind when optimizing your site for search:
1. Is Your Site Mobile Friendly?
One of the first things you must do is to ensure that your website is mobile friendly.
After Google’s announcement about mobile-first indexing in November 2016, it’s more vital than ever to have your site working properly on mobile because it now directly influences whether your site ranks in search or not.
It’s of paramount importance that the design for your site is mobile responsive.
Luckily, most modern themes are designed with that in mind and they are mobile responsive right away, but you always just need to test it to be sure. You can use Google’s free test to see if your site is mobile friendly.
Alternatively, you can use Chrome or Firefox to test your site right from your desktop browser.
Both of these browsers have a built-in tool, Inspector, which does just that. All you need to do is to right-click anywhere on your website and choose ‘Inspect Element’.
You will see a little icon that looks like a phone or tablet in the Inspector. Click that and you’ll see your site’s mobile version. There are even options to see what it would look like on different devices.
Also, keep in mind that while your site theme may be designed to be fully mobile responsive, there may be things that you’ve done to your site that have harmed it such as theme modifications or addition of plugins.
So don’t just assume everything is alright, test it.
And remember, Google is all about providing the best user experience even on mobile, so get rid of those popups and those full-screen takeovers.
In fact, get rid of anything that makes it harder to use on mobile.
So don’t just check off being ‘mobile responsive’ on the checkbox, actually use your site the way your visitors would and make sure that it is totally user-friendly.
If you have any popups, splash screens, or slide-in opt-in forms that you use for building your list, you should exempt mobile devices.
Tools such as Thrive Leads make this extremely easy to do.
2. Schema Code
This topic is one that a lot of bloggers avoid because they mistakenly think that it’s complex and hard to understand, but it actually isn’t.
The Schema markup code is basically just HTML code that goes on your website to provide context on your site.
It’s very easy to install and it helps Google to understand what your content means. It also helps to provide context that is extremely helpful in returning the best and most relevant search results.
Schema codes can also be used for leveraging the highlighted features of Google search results like the information box or rich snippets.
For instance, if you’re searching for a local business, you’ll not only get the list of relevant articles, but you are more likely to find the information box on the side.
Google knows where you are and it will give you your local store. Also, it will pull out the address, description, hours, contact number, and other information about that store.
Schema code powers all this because of the context in the data.
While not difficult, the implementation of Schema Codes on your site can get a little nerdy.
Some tools that can help include Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper which generates the markup code and allows you to visually tag all your pages.
This creates the markup code, but it’s still up to you to insert the Schema Code on the page manually. That’s a little annoying, but there are some plugins that make this process much simpler and faster.
If you already have Yoast SEO plugin installed on your site, you will find that it takes care of a few of the basics such as the social profiles and some of the company information but you need a more powerful plugin to take full advantage of Schema code to boost your SEO.
3. Brand Recognition
In the previous article, we discussed the impact that social shares can have on your SEO.
This includes the more obvious social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as well as other social sites like Quora and Reddit.
And the more activity you have going on across all these sites will ultimately lead to more back-links and increased traffic to your site.
The more traffic that comes to your site from these authority brands, the more Google will recognize your site (and the more traffic you will get from Google). In time, this creates the kind of momentum that most bloggers only dream about.
More traffic = more brand recognition = more domain authority.
In turn, this helps with your listings on Google which then helps to increase the things that help those listings… and so on and so forth.
So, the more engaged you are online overall, the more you get your brand out there. Paid traffic is another great way of boosting your brand authority. Distribute your content with ads to boost your brand.
4. Domain Power
There are some things about domains that still matter in the new SEO.
You don’t have to buy a domain that is stuffed with keywords, but if you can get an exact match domain, it can still help with your SEO.
There are other ranking factors to consider such as the age of the domain. A long track record makes it easier for a domain to rank as compared to a domain that was just registered and a site that is new.
Some studies conducted on how long it takes to rank in Google report that on average, the age of a page listed in Google’s top 10 results is more than 2 years. Less than a quarter of the pages listed in the top 10 were under a year old.
This means that longevity definitely matters. If you want those great rankings, it’s gonna take some dedication and a heck of a lot of staying power.
5. Use SSL to Secure Your Site
SSL is now one of the ranking factors for Google (since August 2014) so it helps to have your whole site secured using HTTPS. Since late 2017, the Chrome browser labels any non-HTTPS site as ‘not secure’.
It does this on any sites that have input fields on them, even if they are just simple, run-of-the-mill opt-in forms.
The simple solution here is to secure your site.
A lot of web hosts such s SiteGround have reacted by providing free SSL through their SSL certificate. If that is the case with your web host, you will be able to secure your site with just one click.
If you’re conducting any kind of business online, it’s highly recommended that you get your own SSL certificate that is tied to your domain name.
Getting one is super easy.
Your host will sell it to you and you pay a certain amount each year. They do all the work to enable it. Once you have the SSL set up, you can use simple plugins like Really Simple SSL to ensure that it works perfectly.
Final Thoughts on Optimizing Your Blog for SEO
As you have seen, SEO is something that takes time and consistent work, but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard or frustrating.
But the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t get overly concerned about what you think Google wants.
SEO is no longer about satisfying Google’s search bots. While you do need to know what Google is looking at, what you actually need to be doing is optimizing your content and your site for humans.
That’s the only way you’re going to get ahead in the search engine results race.
You have to know your market.
Know your customer persona.
Know exactly what it is that they are looking for and find ways to provide it to them in the most relevant, value-packed way using content that is easily digestible and shareable.
So, you may not hit the home run each time you publish a blog post, but remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
You won’t rank in Google overnight, but if you consistently use the tactics listed in this article, you will eventually come out ahead.
You may find that you need to slow down the rate at which you publish posts on your blog in order to focus on creating higher quality posts (as opposed to quantity). If that is the case, do it.
When it comes to modern SEO, you’ll achieve more with quality rather than quantity.
Your best bet is to use the ‘Evergreen’ content creation strategy where you focus on crafting content that has longevity instead of content that just gives your subscribers ‘quick hits’.
You could even try only using long-form content on your blog, and then using the more frequent stuff on your email list.
I hope you’ve found this article useful. If you want to get deeper into any of the topics discussed here, we have tons of articles on our blog that cover all the topics involved.
SEO doesn’t have to be a mystery. Google doesn’t have to be scary. You don’t have to stress yourself out trying to appease the Google gods.
All you need to do is to simply create amazing stuff and give Google the right signals that you are doing it.
Google is not your enemy. They are just there to serve the best interests of the end user – which, incidentally, is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing anyhow.
So use this article as your resource to boost your blog SEO so you can start experiencing truly amazing results from your traffic generation efforts.
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Updated: Originally published June 28th 2018