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SEO and Your Blog

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post for the WordPress.com blog about how SEO works on WordPress.com, and…

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Writing is the hardest part.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Rennett Stowe.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post for the WordPress.com blog about how SEO works on WordPress.com, and today I’d like to discuss this here on The Daily Post. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it refers to things you can do to increase how high your site ranks in the search results of Google and other search engines.

SEO is a hot topic around the blogosphere, and you’ve likely heard a lot about it. Much often repeated SEO advice is untrustworthy and some of it is just plain bad.

The good news is if you have a site on WordPress.com we take care of the vast majority of the technical side of SEO for you. The only thing you really need to do for great SEO is write!

The bad news is writing is the hard part, which is why so many people would rather obsess about their SEO.

There are a few simple things that you can do, however, to make sure that your site’s content is well indexed by Google:

  • Create a descriptive tagline. Your tagline is the one-sentence description of your blog that appears just under your site title, and even if you have a theme that doesn’t actually show your tagline, search engines still use it to figure out what your blog is all about. Examples of good taglines include “Mary L. Smith, Vermont poet” or “My journeys through Southeast Asia.”
  • Employ keywords. Keywords are terms that your target audience might use when searching for your site. To figure out what keywords to use in a particular post, think about what you would Google if you were trying to find that information. If you are writing a post about fun games to play with toddlers, for example, it would probably be a good idea to make sure you use the term “games for toddlers” somewhere in your post. Be careful about using too many keywords, though. If you repeat the same keywords multiple times so that your posts read in an unnatural way, Google will consider that “keyword stuffing.” Doing this can actually hurt your site’s ranking.
  • Use specific post slugs. The post slug is the portion at the end of your post’s URL. On WordPress.com, you can edit your post slug to be whatever you want – it does not have to match your post’s title. No matter what your title is, it’s best to have an accurate, simple post slug that describes what your post is about. For example, this recent Daily Post is titled “Quick Tip: Highlight Comment Conversation with a Widget.” That’s a long title. If you load it and look in your browser’s address bar, however, you’ll see that the post slug is simply “comments-widget” which is much shorter, but still explains what the post is about. Google likes that kind of post slug.
  • Add a few accurate and descriptive tags. Many users think that adding as many categories and tags as possible to their posts is important for SEO purposes. In fact, the opposite is true. Google does not rely on categories or tags to index your content, as Google’s Matt Cutts explains here. Additionally, on WordPress.com if you add too many categories and tags, your posts will be excluded from our Reader Topics pages, which are a fantastic way to attract new readers to your blog and build your traffic. Instead, choose only a few categories and tags – those that best highlight what each post is specifically about. Like with keywords, ask yourself if you were searching for this information, what tags would you be most likely to click on?
  • Build your traffic in smart ways. SEO and traffic go hand-in-hand. The more people who visit your blog, the higher your site will rank in search results. Luckily, WordPress.com is a community in addition to a blogging platform, so we have lots of ways to increase your readership. We’ve talked about many of them here on The Daily Post. If you’re here participating in the writing and blogging challenges, you are already doing something right. Another excellent way to build traffic is to read other blogs similar to yours and leave interesting comments. You can also use features like Publicize to alert your various social networks to your new posts. If you’d like more ideas on traffic building, check out the Get Connected section of the newly revised Learn WordPress.com guide.
  • Avoid SEO fads, such as keyword stuffing or purchasing links from other websites. There’s plenty of bad SEO advice out there, and most of it won’t work for very long, even if it might give you an artificial traffic bump in the short term. Google doesn’t appreciate SEO tricks. It wants people to use its search engine as much as you want them to visit your website, so its goal is to return the most useful results for any given search query. The more tactics bloggers come up with to fool Google into ranking their sites higher than they deserve to be, the more Google screens preemptively for such manipulation.
  • And finally . . . post! The single most important thing you can do to increase your blog’s SEO is to post regularly. Even if you have a website with mostly static content, include a “Blog” or “News” section that you regularly update so Google can see that your site is active. All the SEO strategies in the world won’t help if you’re not adding content, so get to writing!

Hopefully, this has assuaged any anxiety you might have had about SEO. It’s really just common sense. If you’d like to read up on some of the more technical aspects of SEO, check out Google’s SEO guide. Google also has an official blog you can browse for all the SEO information you could ever want. Finally, you can use webmaster tools with your WordPress.com site, if you want to collect some additional information about how your site is being indexed.

56 Comments

  1. Excellent advice – thank you! I changed my tagline after your first SEO article. I didn’t realize we could change the post slug, though. I thought it could only be the title, which has made me put a lot more thought into my titles ;-) I like that we can tailor the slug without having to tweak the title for SEO, though. Thanks for that insight!

  2. If I may be presumptuous I wish to add that one must familiarise/familiarize yourself with the difference in English spelling between UK English and US English and use both in tags for example “colour” and “color”, “humour” and “humor”. Good luck.

  3. Thank you Elizabeth. Once again you have wrtten a helpful and interesting post. I will be updating my Slugs, amending my tagline and working out how to use keywords better. P

  4. good write-up.
    and finally, somebody speaks the truth: a lot of seo advice out there is so bad that it even feels dirty to just think about the matter.

  5. Thanks for posting. I’ve been looking up various SEO information and kind of got lost in the web of things. Your post made it easy to understand. :)

  6. Very helpful information. I’m glad to hear that WordPress takes care of most of our SEO for us, because all I want to do is write, not worry about whether I’m doing things right behind-the-scenes. I’m a writer, not a programmer.

  7. Right now I would be happy to even be able to write another post. Have not been able to upload or insert media for a couple days. I was blaming it on recent INET 10 upgrade, but I don’t think that’s it.

  8. Finally! SEO advice from a trustworthy source! and I wasn’t asked to pay $25.

    I once saw an episode on Shark Tank of a guy who claimed to work for an SEO company. All the sharks laughed at him and told him he was a joke. So SEO is something that I don’t worry myself with.

    I believe writing quality content. People will read it and share it if they like it, that’s it! Keywords will make it easier, but most stuff isn’t keyword heavy and it still goes viral.

    Just watch “Charlie Bit My Finger” on YouTube…if you haven’t already :)

  9. Thank you for the great post on SEO tips! I’ve been stabbing in the dark and now I feel like I have three things that I can change TODAY. This post moved me forward as a blogger and I appreciate that.

  10. With regard to changing ‘post slug’ I experimented on my last post BUT it appears you should not change it AFTER it is published because when I did and went to view post …it said what I was looking for was not there….so when I went back it had re-defaulted to the original and I left it alone….Diane

  11. I meant to say also that re trackbacks and pingbacks …I unchecked this because I was getting pingbacks to places that weren’t regular blogsites….and I didn’t know why they would be doing a pingback on a particular blog….Diane

  12. Thank you for making this understandable! I had no idea I was using too many tags or that I needed to have a specific tagline. Normally, I just get overwhelmed trying to read the jargon. Thank you for spelling it out for me. Can’t wait to make my changes!

  13. I have gotten on board with using Google Webmaster tools. It took some weeks before my site was began to register within their algorithms. Thanks for the tips! I talked about WordPress.com SEO in a previous blog too.

    The tip to adjust my site’s headline helped for sure. Since my occupation is all about internet and digital marketing, I NEED to know stuff like this. Nonetheless, WordPress.com is for my own personal blog and networking purposes, and I am about to start a new website on WordPress.org for the primary landing space of my business.

  14. The advice on the tagline alone is already a huge tip. I maintain wordpress blogs and honestly I used to ignore taglines – never knew they value much – SEO wise! Thanks!

  15. additional tips:

    After you write good posts, add illustration into your writing to help visitors understand your explanation better. If you writing about your travel experience, help them feel the situation on there with photo and videos.

    Adding illustrations, photos, videos, or other rich medias right way, will not only help or entertain your visitors, but also provide better ranks on search engines.

    WordPress support various type of medias. The tool is already there, so add medias to your content if you have.

  16. It’s funny how things meant to bring you happiness only bring you down sometimes:-( When I started blogging I thought it would just be something that helps get me off the sofa and walking around my town. Now it seems I have to worry about things now. Whatever.

  17. Very brilliant ideas and sound advice on SEO, I was getting confused on this issue but your post really helped me. Thanks so much

  18. Writing is not difficult, when you have new ideas troubling your thoughts. Writing can release you from stress and anxiety. Just write whatever is in your mind. You would feel great.

  19. Lovely lovely tips! Thank you for posting this in a cohesive, readable manner. I learned a lot of good tips – especially post slug as highlighted by many other readers.

    A quick question about tags, are they more effective if they are contained within the body of your post, wait, scratch that I guess that is obvious. I guess a better question is, is it essential that tag words appear in your blog post?

  20. Excellent article! You had me at SEO, as I didn’t even know what that meant:). I definitely feel more at home writing than I do navigating the technical side of blogging, but I am learning. Thanks for being part of my education!

  21. Great information, thank you for the honest advice (rather than some utter nonsense that has been presented AS advice). As a fairly new blogger, I must add “change post slugs” to my ever growing list of “Blogging Boo-boos” that includes “clean up tags & categories”, which I had created previously using some bad advice. “On the ‘blog’ training”, I guess ;)

  22. Thanks for this advice! I was really unsure about tagging and how I should go about it – I thought the more, the better. This has changed the way I tag. Also about using key words in articles (not too many) is great advice – cheers.

  23. It’s great to see someone talking about traffic as well as SEO. A lot of people are so concerned about making sure their blog ranks high that they forget that traffic is one of the key things that matters. Thanks for the informative piece Elizabeth.

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