One question that I’m asked often by bloggers is, “How do I know which words to SEO?” It’s confusing, sometimes overwhelming, and it takes a bit of time and practice to understand keywords and SEO fully. Let’s start at the basics–what exactly is SEO? I’ll make this easy and tell you exactly what you need to know.
What does SEO mean?
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization–optimizing your blog content for search engines. It’s how your blog posts will be seen by Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. From here on out, though, I’m just going to say Google, because it’s easier to refer to just one of the sites when explaining the concept.
Google automatically sends Googlebots (some people call them crawlers, bots, or spiders) to your blog every few minutes or so. You don’t have to do anything for this to happen–it’s just what Google does.
Quick side note: Google Analytics usually show the lowest numbers for bloggers because they don’t count any of their Googlebots. Statcounter, Jetpack, and other analytics providers do count those crawlers–that’s why your pageviews and such are higher with sites other than Google Analytics.
Googlebots look for certain things every time they visit your site. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to concentrate on SEO in your post or not, Googlebots always come and look for these things:
- keywords used in your post and on your blog in general
- links to and from your post
- the way you title images and the “alt text” used in your image
- the items you use bold headings for (H2 headings are best, but bold is ok too)
- the title of your post
- your post URL
When these items include your keyword (or keywords), it’s easier for the Googlebots to crawl your post. This leads to Google indexing your post (adding it to their huge table of contents for the web), and lastly, to serving your post (offering it to people who use the search function to search for the topics that you happen to have in your post).
When these items don’t include your keyword, Googlebots do what they can to pull the most information from your site. This could result in your post showing up further down the search pages.
I like to relate this concept to having a guest in your home. You can tell them to go check the pantry for some food and hope they see the awesome homemade banana bread that you made, or you can bring that banana bread right to them on a silver platter, along with some cold milk. Using good SEO in your posts is how you’d offer the information to Googlebots on a silver platter.
What is a good keyword?
A good keyword is the most basic explanation of what your post is about. Your title and keywords don’t have to match. Actually, most of mine don’t. I always pull my keywords out of my title. Using 2-5 words is a way that I can incorporate my keywords into other sentences throughout the post without sounding spammy. There are some examples at the end of this post for you.
Can we walk through an example?
You just wrote an amazing post about your grandmother’s apple pie recipe. You want to title the post My Grandma’s Apple Pie Recipe: My Favorite Dessert. That’s a great title. It tells your readers what they’ll find when they read your post, and it also tells them a little about you–that this is a family recipe, and it’s your favorite. Now it’s time to start “SEOing” your post.
Here are some keyword options for you:
- My Grandma’s Apple Pie Recipe: My Favorite Dessert
- My Favorite Dessert
- Apple Pie Recipe
- Grandma’s Apple Pie Recipe
You should be thinking backward at this point. What do you want people to search for in order to get your post to pop up in their search results?
Let’s look at all of the options:
1. My Grandma’s Apple Pie Recipe: My Favorite Dessert This option is long and unnecessary. I can almost guarantee you that nobody will ever search those keywords. You need something a bit shorter–2-5 words is what I aim for.
2. My Favorite Dessert Again, I can almost guarantee nobody will sit down and search for “my favorite dessert.” Especially when they’re in need of a great apple pie recipe. They’ll search something more specific.
3. Apple Pie Recipe That would be my first choice. It’s probably what I would search for. But… Google Apple Pie Recipe. Look at the very top of the page, under the search box. Over 24,000,000 search results.
That’s a lot of apple pie.
You want your post to be towards the top of that search, but with 24,000,000 other websites about apple pie, it probably won’t happen. Mark that option off, because it’s too popular.
4. Grandma’s Apple Pie Recipe Google that. About 1,110,000 results. Definitely better than #3. You’re always going to have competition, but you should always search a few different keyword options to see what keywords have the least amount of competition. Know that by using Grandma’s Apple Pie Recipe as your keywords, you’ll also pick up searches for similar keywords. If someone searches for “Grandma’s Apple Pie” or “Apple Pie at Grandma’s” your post is likely to pop up.
I want to note quickly that sometimes you have to use a popular keyword. It’s ok, don’t let that stress you out. Rules are meant to be broken, right?
I published my post. Why am I not on the front page of the Google search results?
The more times your post is viewed, the more links into your post (from roundups and such), and the more times it’s shared on social media, the higher your post will rank in the search engines. Don’t plan on posting your recipe Monday and shooting to the top of Google on Tuesday–that’s not the away it works.
What if I can’t come up with good keywords?
It’s important to note that not all of your post have to be “SEO’d.” Here are a few examples of blog posts I haven’t SEOd. They’re more for me and my readers–not to get search engine traffic.
- Some Days You Just Need a Smile (a post where I shared a cute video)
- What I’m loving: My health and fitness favorites (my current favorite health and fitness gear)
- The 9 Emotions of a Teenager (a fun infographic I made)
- Rock your Facebook page with these three tips
Do you have examples of good keyword ideas?
I do! Thinking about what I’d like people to search for helps me a lot. Here are some examples of my post titles and keywords. The keywords are in parentheses:
- Easy Guacamole Recipe (easy guacamole recipe)
- 5 Easy April Fools Pranks for School-Aged Kids (easy april fools pranks)
- How to set up MailChimp like a boss (set up MailChimp)
- How to NoFollow A Link (how to nofollow a link)
- Pinterest Tips and Tricks for Bloggers (Pinterest tips and tricks)
- Descriptive Burlap Wreath Tutorial (burlap wreath tutorial)
WordPress users, I recommend the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin to help with SEO. I wrote a post about how to use it here. Blogger users, I’m not familiar with any tools to help with your post SEO. I did, however, find this great tutorial for you about SEOing your blog in general and it includes a couple of tips for SEOing your posts. Adding on to what that blogger said about SEOing your posts, do what you can–identify keywords, use them in your post title and permalink/URL, title your images using your keywords, and use bold font to break up your post.
SEO can be confusing, but it’s definitely worth sitting down for a few minutes a day to get a handle on it. Once good SEO begins to send search engine traffic your way, you’ll have a better understanding of the value of good keywords. Try it on a few popular blog posts you have, and let me know how it goes!
Looking for more information about SEO? Here are a few posts you’ll find helpful:
- How To Create SEO Friendly Blog Post Titles
- How To Optimize Images For SEO
- How To Find The Right Blog Topics To Rank Better In Search
About The Author:
I’m Becca Ludlum, and I am thrilled to be here visiting the SITS blog today. I blog at My Crazy Good Life and recently wrote a book for bloggers called Everything But the Posts: Tips, Advice, and Templates From A Blogger Who Has Been in Your Shoes to help bloggers who want to create or grow their blogging community.
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