Hooray! It’s time for our final post on SEO and then you will be an expert. Well, maybe not an expert. Remember that at most big dot coms there is a person and/or a team who does nothing but SEO for their site.
5) Categories and Tags: When the Google bots crawl your blog post, they are focusing on a few sections to discern what the content is about. Aside from the post’s header, which we have already discussed, it also takes a look at that post’s category and tags (or labels on the Blogger platform).
Wait, you’re thinking. What’s the difference between a category and a tag? A category should be a broad theme on your site that many, many blog posts can fall under. For instance, mine are Publishing, Editing, Reading, and Writing. A tag, on the other hand, can be far more specific and call out topics you may have only mentioned in a post: iPhone, Anne Lamott, books on writing.
Now, which is more important from an SEO perspective? Well, I wasn’t sure so I started doing some research. I bumped into this great post on Digital Inspiration and found the below video by Matt Cutts, a Google genius himself. Matt says to focus on the categories and not exhaust yourself on the tags. Thanks, Matt! (Also, check out the related videos on YouTube. There’s a goldmine of helpful information there.)
6) Hyperlinking, Cross-Linking, and Anchor Text: Believe it or not, the Google bots even read what you’ve linked to within your blog post. Yes, these bots are very sophisticated, but no they will not fetch your morning paper or make you a cup of coffee.
One of the most common errors I see is a blogger not knowing how to create a hyperlink. This is a hyperlink, in case you’re curious. This is not: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperlink
To create a hyperlink, just highlight the text you’d like to link to and then find the button in your blogging platform that looks like interlocking chains.
Click on that and a window will appear where you can post your URL. Here’s what the WordPress pop-up window looks like. I’ve pasted the URL I want to link my text to in the top box and I’ve ticked the “Open link in a new window/tab” box. This means that the page will open in a new tab and it’s critical that you always use this box. You never want to link people off your site!
The key to creating a smart, search-friendly hyperlink is the anchor text. Anchor text is just a fancy term for the words you’re actually hyperlinking. The more relevant the word is to where you’re sending people, the better. This is an example of bad anchor text. This is an example of good anchor text.
When linking your post to other sites and to your own content, be sure that where you’re linking is highly relevant to the post. This will help the Google crawlers understand what your post is about and help your human readers access relevant content. I always make a special effort to cross-link my blog posts to other posts I’ve written on the same topic. This will encourage a new reader to stay and explore my site for awhile. The goal is to turn someone into a daily reader–and not just a one-time visitor.
But if I’m cross-linking and sending them to weird, non-relevant posts, they’ll just be frustrated. So my advice is do cross-link to other sites and your own content, but keep the user’s experience in mind. You never want to go overboard with links and frustrate people.
7) Inbound Links: When there are two (or more!) blog posts by two different authors on the same subject, how does Google decide which one to rank higher on the search results page? You might assume that it ranks the blog with the higher traffic first, but that’s not true. In fact, site traffic is just one of the factors it considers.
Google’s goal is to serve a user the most relevant search result for a query. After all, that’s why we love them so much! If you’re old enough to remember Internet searches before Google, you will know what I mean.
In addition to looking at all the other things already covered in these posts, the bots are also judging how many inbound links a site has. Inbound links are merely when another site links to your site. The more inbound links a site has, the more authority the Google crawlers assume it has.
That’s why you want to cultivate blog friendships and be sure to link to other bloggers. If we all share the linking love, it helps us share our readers–and improve our search results. It would also be nice if a site with a lot of authority linked to your blog, say, the New York Times, but that generally proves a bit difficult to achieve.
8 ) Regular Posting: How often do the Google crawlers stop by your site and re-crawl it looking for new information? They don’t wake up every morning and re-crawl the whole Internet. Obviously that job is too big, even for the robots. And it’s inefficient too.
Instead the crawlers monitor how frequently you post and learn how often on average they need to crawl your site. If you update every day, it will eventually learn to crawl your site every day. If you update three times a day, it’ll be crawling your site three times a day. If you haven’t updated in years, it will learn that and stop crawling your site except for periodic check-ins.
You “teach” the bots how often to crawl your site and that’s why regular blogging is so important.
9) Google Analytics: If you’re not already using Google Analytics, I highly encourage you to start. It’s free and it gives you a crystal-clear picture of who is coming to your site, what they’re Googling to get there, what time of the day they’re visiting, and how long they’re staying for.
To install it, you grab a bit of html code and embed it on your site. If you’re a WordPress user, the easiest way to do this is to install a plugin that will do it for you. I used the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin and it worked like a charm.
10) Tracking and Patience: Once Google Analytics is installed, you can now see the keywords that are delivering people to your site. Sadly, this section of Analytics is a bit tricky to find. To ge there, click on the main “Standard Reporting” orange tab at the top. Then in the left-hand sidebar click on Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic. (Remember, we already talked about what organic search is. This doesn’t refer to search grown without pesticides!)
There you’ll see a list of keywords people used to get to your site. Mine currently includes my name and even “Alison Presley novels pen name.” As you can see, someone out there was wondering what my pen name was. It’s May Vanderbilt!
I’ll do a post all about Google Analytics in the future, but for now, how to find the words people are Googling that take them to your site is the most important thing to know. The “organic” section is where you might also see someone Googling a topic that you haven’t covered yet–or have covered only briefly–and that will show you an opportunity to develop new, relevant content around this term.
Finally, the last thing I want to say is that building cred with the Google bots takes time. If you’re doing everything discussed in my three posts on SEO and you’re not seeing an immediate lift in traffic, don’t panic. It can take months for the bots to notice these efforts and begin to rank your posts accordingly. Hang in there and someday soon you’ll see new traffic to post you’ve optimized for search engines.
And that concludes my three-part series on SEO. Feel free to leave a comment with a question! I’m not an expert but I’m happy to help if I can.