In Part I: Share, Part II: Shareable and Part III: Talk of this S.S.S.T. Series we covered the importance of sharing your blog, making it shareable by others and getting folks to talk about you with their online networks. But there’s one important component of your super-sonic blog promotion strategy that we’ve missed. Here it is:
Let’s begin with why it’s important to talk about search. Because you want more readers for your blog, right? Well, the people who are your friends, plus the people who are their friends, are not all the people in the world. They’re not even all the people who may be interested in what you do! Search is how most people find you. Search is the most common online activity after email, and that fact cuts across generations.
You’ve probably heard of SEO (search engine optimization) and may think it’s very mysterious and only for tekkies. Not anymore. It’s easy to do and very powerful. Of course, you can make it complicated if you wish. But let’s begin at the beginning.
SEO is simply the process of appealing to search engine algorithms to boost your site’s rankings in natural (aka organic) search results. This used to be expensive and complex. That was then. It’s a new day.
Today, basic SEO is free. You provide Google and other search engine content; they find you. And today they find you more easily when you serve up lots of fresh content. Regularly. You tend to do this with a blog; with a website, not so much. So Google today loves – LOVES – blogs.
NOTE: It bears mentioning that Google loves all its own products. Right now it loves Google+. You may want to check out this article about Google+ Today For Tomorrow’s SEO. If you want a real expert on the subject of G+ it’s got to be Mark Traphagen. So check out his articles on Windmill Networking (soon to be known as “Maximize Social Business”; full disclosure: I also post monthly on the site).
Today, basic SEO is easy. Most modern themes you’ll buy are pretty well-optimized for search traffic already. And if you want to do more, you can get good enough to do SEO yourself (more on that at the end of this article). If you want to stick with simple, trust me; you can. People who know me know I’m a troglodyte. I learned most of this in the past few months. Here are the basic tools:
I use SEO for WordPress. It configures titles and posts to be Google search friendly. It’s also friendly for linking posts to Facebook and Twitter. You can find best practices and also grab the plugin for your own use here.
My buddy and mentor over at Pushing Social, Stanford Smith, also likes SEO Friendly Images – which adds blog titles to your alt-tags for images (reminding us of the importance of putting the right keywords in titles) – and SEO Smart Links – which automatically links key phrases in your blog post to other posts on your site.
Optimizing key words used to be a lot more difficult than it is today. Marketing analysts used to spend months analyzing particular market niches. Today you can do research in minutes using fairly simple keyword research tools. Is it important? Perhaps. From a traffic perspective, business blogging pundits will tell you that a post using the optimal keywords can bring you 10,000 visitors, where one you write off the top of your head might bring you 100. But if you don’t have the time for keyword search, and you do this at the expense of putting effort into providing valuable copy, you’re not going to get repeat readers (or buyers, supporters, advocates, volunteers or whatever else you’re after). You don’t want to lose sight of the forest for the trees and weeds.
Keep this in mind to minimize anxiety: At the end of the day keyword optimization has little to do with SEO. It’s about knowing your constituency so well that you learn which words will grab their attention and persuade them that what you’re offering has value for them. It’s what we’ve talked about before.
This advice trumps all other advice about search: LISTEN. How to do this? One way is simply to ask whoever answers your phones to write down the key questions people ask. Then notice which words keep popping up over and over. You then just “optimize” your writing by including some of these frequently used words for maximum effect.
You don’t have to get into the weeds this much, but a teensy bit of keyword research can probably go a long way. And if you’re interested in learning more about search keywords – and having a bit of fun — you can check out these resources:
Keyword Research for Web Writers and Content Producers 5-part Guide, on Copyblogger
How to Find the Keywords that Work for Your Content Marketing Goals includes research tools for social networks, on Copyblogger
SEO Copywriting Made Simple free report, on Copyblogger
Keyword research tools collect information from different search engines to estimate the number of times people search for different phrases. Results on each platform will differ as they all collect information from a different mix of search engines. Some charge a small monthly fee (Wordze, Keyword Discovery and Wordtracker all offer free monthly trials). Google trends is free and could not be easier to use. Just type in any phrase of your choosing and you’ll see if more or less people have been searching on this phrase. (e.g., I searched for ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ and found the latter to be much more trending today).
KEYWORD PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE
Scribe content marketing software by Copyblogger will feed a handful of helpful keywords
Today, you optimize for readers first and search engines second. In plain English that means focus on your content. Here’s a great infographic that makes it abundantly clear what to do and what not to do. We’ve talked a lot about content on Clairification. Good content is king. Always has been. Still is. All the changes Google has made over the past year with Panda and Penguin have simplified SEO and made content the core of your search strategy as well (if you want more of this story, read this). If you know what your readers want you to give them, and you deliver it, then they’re probably going to find you. Still, it doesn’t hurt to give your content a little boost and a push out the door.
Those who are thoughtful give their best work a strategic shove. This requires being consistent and methodical every time you post something to assure it is optimized to get traffic. This means sharing on the major social platforms used by your constituents, whether you do it manually or by using sharing tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and the like. And it means thinking just a teensy bit about the keywords that you guess will help more folks find you. A lot of your guessing can be informed simply by listening, as we discussed above. Other things you can do on a regular basis (calendar this in your blog content/engagement/promotion plan):
- Put key words in your titles
- Put key words in your social profiles
- Put key words in your ‘shares’ of posts to your social channels
- Put key words in your posts
- If you have software (like Google Analytics) on your blog, check to see which keywords are driving the most traffic
A lot of search results today depend on which social channels happen to work best for you. You don’t know until you try. For me it’s Linkedin, so I’ll pay more attention to keywords I post in links and discussions there. For many it’s Twitter or FB. I even know a few today who swear by Pinterest (and that may work for you too if you’re a visually oriented organization). Check out Social Media and SEO – Do Search Engines Still Deliver a Punch? Experiment.
Again, don’t obsess about keywords. Just don’t be unconscious. We’re talking about optimization here. How to give your posts a push and yourself an edge. I know I may sound like a broken record, but nothing is going to trump content. Consistent, fresh, compelling wow content. Don’t trust me. Trust the SEO experts. They all advise the same thing. Focus first on your what your audience wants.
Use common sense. Here’s one of my favorite tips from the aforementioned experts:
My best SEO tip is the obvious one: Create compelling content, presented in a lively and entertaining way.Once you’ve done that, boil down your post into one to three words that describe what it’s about, and then use that exact word or phrase in the headline, the URL, the first paragraph and elsewhere in the text. Try to use restraint, though, or your SEO overkill will become obnoxious. For instance, “SEO tip: How can SEO experts leverage SEO to achieve SEO Nirvana in the SEO space? The answer: powerful SEO!”Charlie White – Senior Editor, Mashable and co-author of Bloggers Boot Camp @Charlie_White.
Now you know that search today is not rocket science. If you’re still worried about it, check out The Lazy Bloggers Guide to Effective Blog SEO by my friend Stanford Smith at Pushing Social. It’s quite reassuring when it comes to optimizing search, and not at all daunting. Seriously, if I can do it you can do it. You can probably do it better!
It’s your turn. Are you worrying less about search these days? It really is much simpler than in days past. I wonder… what are your IT folks recommending?
Image courtesy of Petal Pahlavan. Photos Flickr Sharon Pruitt, Linda Hoover