Easy SEO Tweaks: Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge

Posted 18 July, 2013 by Amanda / 63 Comments

bloggiesta

Hello, my lovely Bloggiesta participants!

Today we’re going to tackle SEO. But we’re only going to dip our toe in the ocean. And yes, SEO is an ocean. And please note that I am not an SEO expert. Most of my knowledge comes from what I’ve learned on the Internet, this webinar on SEO, Google’s own SEO resource, and the book Search Engine Optimization for Dummies by Peter Kent.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t rock this. One word of caution, however. SEO is very technical. I’ve simplified it as much as I can and provided links to explain what I can’t. SEO requires a certain level of Internet know-how, and I can’t cover all of it.

SEO means search engine optimization. And search engine optimization means getting recognized by search engines so searchers can get to your site.

Easy? Let’s look at this in action.

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Easy SEO Tweaks

SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN, AMANDA?

Your keyword is the search term people will likely use to get to your post.

So how do you choose a keyword? Think of what searchers will type into the box to get to your site. That is your keyword. (Or keyphrase.)

To optimize your post, your keyword should be ALL OVER THE PLACE:

  • Post title
  • URL
  • Meta description
  • The post itself (even better if you can stick the keyword in an H tag or bold/italicize it)

On images: I know we all like our fancy fonts, but if you put your keyword in text in an image, it will NOT be read by search engines. But you can–and should–practice SEO for images.

I submit to you a challenge of slightly epic proportions.

I am going to caution you NOT to mess with posts that are already published. There are TOO MANY WAYS things can go wrong. Practice using posts you have scheduled OR create posts to practice.

Post Titles

Evaluate the effectiveness of your current post titles.

1. Does your keyword appear in the post title?
2. Where is your keyword in the post title? Search engines assume that whatever is on the LEFT is most important.
3. Does your post title adequately describe what’s in the post?

If you find that your post titles need improvement, decide how to address them in the future.

For example. On a Book Bender’s reviews used to be:

Person’s Review: Book Title by Author

But because I wanted the book title and author to be my keyword (hint: what people will most likely use to land on my review), we changed it to read:

Book Title by Author {Person’s Review} 

This is more important if you’re trying to write a “catchy” post title. DON’T. Save the catchy stuff for social media. Stick to describing what’s in the post.

URLs

Evaluate the effectiveness of your URLs.

1. Are your keywords in your URLs?
2. Do you know how to change URLs?

Self-hosted WP users: if you’re using a permalink structure that involves page id numbers, you’re missing out on quality SEO. BUT CHANGE PERMALINKS WITH CAUTION.

Blogger users: you CAN change your URLs. Here’s a tutorial on how to change your Blogger permalink.

Sometimes I drop “unnecessary” words in my URL to make it simpler. Like a reviewer’s name, for example? A reviewer’s name is only going to matter to the readers of the blog.

Try changing a URL on a draft or not-yet-published post. Do NOT change a URL on a post that’s already published. DO NOT.

Meta description

Embrace the meta description.

1. Do you use meta descriptions?
2. Does your keyword appear in your meta description?

Note to WP.com users: as far as I can tell, you do not have the ability to change your meta description. To COMBAT this, use your keyword within the first few sentences.

Self-hosted WP users: download a plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast or All-in-one SEO. Yes, even if your theme has built-in SEO options.

Blogger users: use the meta description box in your Blogger dashboard. Use this explanation about adding a meta description to your post page if you’re not sure where to find that.

Try adding a meta description to a post. (Note: in the image above, the description below the link is my meta description.)

The post itself

Because content always counts.

1. How often does your keyword appear? Don’t STUFF your post full of the keyword, but use it normally.
2. How is the keyword formatted? Search engines give more weight to keywords when they appear in H tags or are bolded/italicized.

Evaluate how you use your keyword. Are you using it effectively? Does it sound NATURAL? If your keyword appears too many times, it could negatively affect your SEO.

Bonus options for the SEO fearless

1. Get a Google webmasters account: this allows you to monitor the health of your site.
2. Start a Google+ page and link up: Google+ is owned by Google, which is the leading search engine. You do the math.

Come back here and tell me all the SEO tweaks you’ve accomplished or ask me questions you have.

Filed under: Event,

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63 Responses to “Easy SEO Tweaks: Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge”

  1. All this SEO makes my brain hurt. But I know it’s important to get your blog out there and get those page views. I’ve done some of these tweaks but not all of them. Maybe after a nap, I can tackle this!

  2. So you’ve seen better results with the new title format? I was curious about that…
    Also, what exactly do you use as the focus keyword? I always put the author’s name, but should I also add book title? And I never really knew what the meta description was. Cool!

  3. I like your tip about post titles. Mine are kind of similar to how yours were before. I assumed they were okay because they still have the title and author and usually series (and my keywords are usually the title and/or series). It didn’t occur to me that word order mattered.

    I changed my permalinks last night after the Twitter chat with you and Corey. It was super easy *and* thanks to this article by Yoast (http://yoast.com/change-wordpress-permalink-structure/) all of my OLD links now redirect to the new structure. A word of caution though – the redirects did cause my site to slow down a bit. But it worked like a charm.

  4. wow I’ve never really messed with SEO before. When I get home tonight I’m totally going to figure out this meta description thing and I need to do better with the custom links! Thanks for the help!!

  5. I’ve played around with this a bit, and I’ve noticed a big change since I started using SEO for images. I’ve always underlined my book titles to make them stand out, but I’m going to go back this weekend and switch them all to bold! I just added a meta tag and it looks like I’ll be adding some to my posts, too (are those visible by readers in Blogger?). Thanks for all the great suggestions, this is a great (simple!) explanation.

    • SEO for images is something I haven’t really done much with, except try to add an alt text to each. It’s something all book bloggers should look into since we tend to be so image heavy AND because image load times can affect SEO.

  6. I really liked your post. Never really cared for SEO, but it does look important and I’ll try to work on improving for the future. Thanks Amanda

  7. I never knew about SEO! I have just added the meta description for a post. I am not so sure about adding one to the blog home page. Where would that show up – do you have one?

    • If someone linked to your blog–just the URL, no specific post–the meta description for your blog would appear. Just like you use a meta description to describe what’s in your post, you use the homepage meta description to describe what your blog is.

      Mine’s a little lackluster, but it reads: “A book blog focusing on adult and YA books in the following genres: mystery, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, historical romance, and contemporary.”

      • Amanda
        Thanks this post has sent me off into exploring this SEO a whole lot more! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Just watched the web seminar this morning. (If the time of this comment is weird it’s because I am in NZ!) I see above that my first comment is 3:40am, haha, I was not up at that time, but I did go to bed late, you had me exploring SEO!

        • Yay! I hope the webinar was helpful–that’s where I learned that keywords = search terms. Once I knew that, everything made so much more sense!

          There’s a ton of information about SEO available. It’s something you could easily explore for hours.

  8. SEO is so important and I have been trying to work on making my posts more SEO-friendly. These are great tips. I am doing well with the post itself but not so much for images. Thanks for the reminder that I need to do that. Do you think it’d be ok to add alt text to images for already published posts? I blog about recipes on my blog as well and it seems like the recipes search terms get me more views than the book reviews. I think I need to move the “book review” to the end of the post title instead of the beginning.

  9. This is awesome — thank you so much for this. I only did one thing so far — the meta description, because that was easy! — and I plan to sit down with your URL and title tips as I work on my weekend posts. I’m *so* grateful you pulled this all together — thank you!

    Now, to figure out how to get my custom URL to stay on my blog rather than just redirect!

  10. You’ve given me something to think about – blog post TITLES. I totally get what you’re saying, how the stuff on the LEFT matters more, but my OCD is not quite on board with this. I’m not sure who will win this battle (me or the OCD) but it’s definitely something to think about.

    I knew I could change the URL for my posts but I have yet to do it. Something to also consider.

    The meta description for individual posts is new to me. I’ll definitely try this out. My only gripe is that I format and schedule all of my posts via WLW, so I will have to go to Blogger to do this (as well as the custom URL). Small annoyance but if it helps people find my blog, I’ll do it. Question for you about meta description – Would it be beneficial for me to go back to older posts and add a meta description? Or should I not bother?

    Also, you mentioned bold/italicizing keywords in your post; is one or the other okay? Should I bold AND italicize?

    I am bummed that G+ has an impact on SEO. My G+ account was suspended because I wasn’t using my real last name. Since I do not want my real name plastered all over the Googleverse, I deleted my G+. I hate that this has affected (did I use the right word?) my SEO but I value my privacy more.

    Great and informative post Amanda! You have shed some light on SEO for me and have given me some things to help improve my SEO. So thank you :D

    *It might be worth noting that when you Google something (to see where your own posts place in the results), Google custom tailors your search results based on (a) whether or not you’re logged in, (b) your browser history, among other things, and thus your own posts can appear higher (or lower) for you than say someone else. DuckDuckGo explains it better than I can.

    • Honestly, if you have your keywords in your post title, I don’t know that word order is extremely important in the SEO big picture.

      Answer time!

      “Would it be beneficial for me to go back to older posts and add a meta description? Or should I not bother?”

      I honestly don’t have an answer to this. A lot of times, Google pulls areas of your post with the keyword in for the snippet, so the meta description never appears. In that sense, having keywords in your post content is more vital than having it in your meta description as well.

      “is one or the other okay? Should I bold AND italicize?”

      It’s a style choice for you. When search engines see you’ve done something different to the keyword, it assumes it must be important. I don’t think doing both would help. One or the other depending on what you like best.

      “did I use the right word?”

      YES.

      In theory, if people are +1ing your content and sharing on Google+ even if YOU aren’t there, it could still benefit your SEO. Because other people are saying, “Hey this content is awesome” and Google says, “Okay, good to know.” It’s just that Google+ can also give you the ability to claim authorship and do a few other SEO helpful (but not “must-do”) things.

      And I agree–I would never trust my own Google search. I’d also guess that (though I have no knowledge of one) there are sites that tell you how you rank in search engines. With SEO being so important, especially in the business world, tools for SEO abound.

      • Thanks for answering all my questions!

        I currently italicize the book title (which I consider a keyword), so I’ll leave it at that.

        And I used the right word! Woot woot!!

        Good to know that it helps when people +1 my content. But I do have to wonder, how many people actually use G+?

        And I will keep in mind to write out my meta description in a coherent sentence.

        • Yup–I’ve got an On a Book Bender style rule that all book titles need to be italicized in reviews. It also helps to have the book title in an H1 or H2 tag, I think.

          G+ is growing, or so Google says. It’s still pretty bare, especially when compared to Facebook or Twitter. But there are a few things you can do with G+ that are pretty cool. It may never fully catch on, but Google holds a big bargaining chip by making it helpful for SEO.

          • When I think of G+, I think of Gretchen Weiner in Mean Girls and how she kept trying to make ‘fetch’ happen. Google keeps trying to make G+ a thing and so far, since it launched 2 years ago, it hasn’t happened. Google is trying too hard. Plus it doesn’t help that they’re trying to strong arm everyone into using G+ by taking away other Google products. I think Twitter and FB (another social media site I’m not too fond of) will reign supreme over G+.

  11. Awesome! :D

    Small note though: People should turn off personalized results when googling to see if they can be found, otherwise you’ll just end up high in the results because they are yours and you’ve been there a lot ;p (Oh google bubble, ruining things always)

    Good luck and lots of fun this weekend! :D

  12. There’s a lot of great tips here. Some of which it turns out we’re already doing, and some other tips we can’t easily control on wp.com. I like the tip of putting the keywords to the left of the title. We were already doing this (__ review rather than review of ____) and I didn’t even realize that was a good thing :)

    • I’m honestly surprised that WP.com doesn’t allow the option for meta descriptions. They say, though, that WP “out of the box” is still SEO friendly. You can try to work with Google webmasters or G+ to boost your SEO, though.

  13. Thanks for this mini-challenge! It seems as if I’m a bit stuck for some of the steps, since I use WordPress.com, but that’s alright. The one thing I don’t do is put “review” in the post title, just TITLE BY AUTHOR. I’m never sure how much of a difference that will make.

    • You should be able to do everything but the meta descriptions! WP.com has a post on its site about SEO on WordPress.com. Maybe that might help?

      I think adding ‘review’ can only help you. It’s more about choosing the most specific keyword you can. Because if you optimize for the most specific (e.g. book title by author review), you’re already going to be optimized for more general terms.

  14. By hashtag in the blog title do you mean a #BookReview for instance? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that except when someone is doing a sponsored post/ad. Or is {Book Review} or {Jenna’s Review} in your example considered a hashtag? Just trying to understand the foreign language that is blogging :) Thanks!

  15. Thanks for hosting the mini-challenge! The tips are really helpful.

    During the last Bloggiesta, I did a little experiment as I analyzed my search term data for my WP.com blog. Turns out that Google is mainly indexing the title and the URL. I wasn’t conscious of using keywords in the first sentence or two, so I’ll keep that in mind now. I’ll also make a point of using headers (with keywords) in my posts.

    Thanks again!

  16. Thanks so much for this post! I didn’t even know what the permalink was before reading this! I also learn that I need to put the key words in the post title first – I would have never thought about the importance of this! (from now on the title and author of the book I’m reviewing will come first!)

    I love these bloggiesta mini-challenges! I didn’t think I would have time to participate this weekend, so I didn’t sign up. :/ I’m glad I checked it out anyway!

  17. Oh, wow! This is awesome! I had no idea what a meta description is, but yeah, I try to make my post titles as simple and accurate and possible. It’s good to know that the first words in a sentence are what matters the most, though!

  18. I did not do Bloggiesta but I found this post while looking at the site for it and it is extremely helpful! I’ve only vaguely known about SEO before now. Thank you for the tips! I am definitely bookmarking this page for reference!

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