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.