A beginner’s guide to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It refers to a number of methods that can help improve your position in search results. So if you search for “blogging tips”, well-optimised sites should appear higher in the results than the not-so-well-optimised sites.

There are some things you need to know, and some you don’t – or some you shouldn’t have to learn, anyway. I’ll explain why in a moment.

A strong, relevant domain name is essential.

In theory, you can build a popular blog with any domain name. But it’s going to be an uphill struggle if you choose a domain that doesn’t meet some or all of the following criteria:

memorable
descriptive
relevant
contains keywords

A domain name such as mo123.info works because it has the word “blogging” in the domain name. I could use benbarden.com to write about blogging (and I used to do this). But the domain name alone doesn’t tell you much, and doesn’t help with search engine traffic.
Titles are also very important.

Post titles can make a big difference in how many people find your site through search engines. Titles that are too short, too long, or have too many words that aren’t descriptive will not help at all.

For instance, consider a series of posts called “Quick Tips”. If you call them Quick Tips #1, Quick Tips #2 and so on, this won’t help search engines to pick up the keywords in the header. Instead, you should include a few keywords, like this:

Quick tips: Paragraph length and colour codes

This is much better than having a title along the lines of “Tips”.
Use headers within your posts.

Not only does this make your posts easier to read, headers are picked up by search engines. If you can divide your posts into sections like I do, you may find that it helps your position in search results too.

However, you must use the actual heading styles (if your editor provides them). Some sites simply make the text bold or change the font size to make certain text look like a header, when actually it isn’t one at all. This isn’t as effective as using a true header.
Use image descriptions.

Hopefully your editor allows you to add images to your posts without having to enter the code yourself. Either way, here’s what the code for an image looks like:

Image description

url-of-image tells your browser where the image is; Image description is displayed if the image cannot be loaded or someone views your site with images disabled (or they use a text-only browser). The description is also picked up by search engines.

Of course, how you do this depends on the software you’re using. In WordPress, you’re prompted to enter a title and a description for any images you add..
But this is not a complete guide.

There’s a very good reason why I have not listed a lot of SEO tips in this blog entry. I don’t think you should have to worry about them unless you are writing your own blogging platform. Let’s look an example.

Some systems allow you to choose the kind of URL you want to have for your posts. An unoptimised URL might look like this:

yoursite.com/blog.php?id=1

An optimised URL might look like this:

yoursite.com/blog/what-is-search-engine-optimisation

When I switched my blog from the first style to the second, I noticed that Google was doing a much better job of finding my posts.

So why would anyone want to use the first example? I’ve come up with two possible reasons.

You don’t want to be on the search engines at all. If this is the case, you can block search engines from going into your site at all, and you should be able to make your posts private.
Preference. To be honest, if you want the first style, you probably don’t know a lot about SEO. And that’s OK. However, if you don’t know about SEO, how are you able to make an informed decision about which URL style you’d like? If you know that the first style won’t help your search engine ranking and you want your site to be picked up by search engines… why would you use a URL style that will hinder your progress?

This is why I do not think you should have to worry about some SEO-related tips. Giving people too many options allows them to make choices that could hinder their site’s progress. I simply can’t see the logic for allowing people to turn off optimised URLs if they want their site to be indexed.

If blogging software did this automatically, you wouldn’t even have to think about it, and that’s one less SEO-related tip that would need to be shared outside of the technical community.

Nine Compelling Reasons Why You Should Publish An Ebook

1. An Ebook is a Handy Way For People to Download Your Content

When finding a blog that you really enjoy, you’ll probably want to see more from the author. If there’s an ebook to download, it’s a great way for readers to get a bumper dose of the author’s insight and opinions, along with their writing style.

Blogs are great, but if you only write blog posts, you’re missing out on a potentially massive opportunity. Ebooks are easy to download, and can help to keep your readers interested.
2. With an Ebook, You Can Cover a Topic in Greater Depth

Have you ever tried to cover a big topic in a blog post? It’s not easy. You’ll either write a short post that barely scrapes the surface of the topic at hand, or you’ll write a post that’s probably too long to digest.

On the other hand, a blog post is ideal for covering one specific area of a broader topic. But there’s a problem with that approach too…

3. An Ebook is Much Easier to Follow Than a Chain of Blog Posts

If you’ve tried to write a series of blog posts, you may have noticed how the navigation between posts isn’t all that great. Sure, you can add manual links, put the posts in a category, or use a plugin to manage links between the posts. But I still find a series really rather horrible to browse through.

An ebook is so much simpler to read. How you read it is up to you – whether you read it on your computer, download it to your ebook reader, or print it off, I think it’ll always be easier to follow an ebook than to click through multiple blog posts.
4. You’re Less Likely to Rush It Out

I find that it’s all too easy to write a blog post really quickly, and hit “Publish” without so much as a second thought. This can lead to scrappy content, mistakes, or leaving out an entire section that you wish you’d covered.

With an ebook, you have to go through the process of putting it together. An ebook is almost certainly much longer than a blog post. It’s a lot more work to put together, which can force you to spend a bit more time polishing it up before you send it out.

Of course, with a blog post you can edit out any mistakes. This isn’t true of an ebook. But if people have already seen the mistakes when the blog post goes up, will they even notice if you go back and correct them?
5. An Ebook Improves Your Writing

Following on from the previous point, writing more content doesn’t necessary mean you’ll write better content. But I think it does make you think about your content much more deeply.

I find it quite difficult to write an ebook if I don’t have a clear plan, with a list of the sections I’ll be writing, in the order I’ll be writing them.

A little planning goes a long way. So does thoughtful writing.
6. It’s Easier To Catch Up

If you’ve been away for a bit, or you’ve just found a great blog for the first time, trawling through hundreds of old posts is a daunting prospect. Even if there’s a “top posts” page, it could take forever to click through all of them. I’ve seen some blogs that list 50+ links on a “best content” page. Clicking through all those would be a chore.

Having an ebook of your best content, or an ebook giving in-depth coverage to a bigger topic, is a great way to grab new readers and show them what you’ve got to offer.
7. You Can Include Bonus Content in Your Ebook

You can try putting bonus content online, either by hiding the navigation links or asking people to log in first. But these are barriers that may cause more issues than they solve.

Instead, including a few additional posts that won’t appear on your blog is a great way to give people a reason to download your ebook. If it’s just a compilation of posts that are already on the blog, it might be a handy option for some, but you’ll probably find that a lot of people won’t go and download it.
8. You Can Do More With The Layout

This is quite an interesting one and a benefit I didn’t even think about until I started putting together my own ebooks. Web designers have to deal with different versions of different browsers, font rendering issues, operating systems and so on.

With an ebook, some of these issues aren’t quite as troublesome as they might be in a web browser. A downloadable PDF looks pretty much the same no matter what platform you view it on.
9. After Reading a Great Ebook, Readers Usually Come Back For More

If a reader lands on your blog and reads your latest post, great! But if they’re now up to date with your content, where do they go next?

With an ebook, readers can download it and come back to your blog when they’ve finished reading. This is good if they take a few days to get through it, as there will probably be some new content by the time they come back.

In fact, it can be quite useful if a reader saves your ebook somewhere, but forgets about it for a few weeks. They then find it, read it, and see your URL at the bottom. This reminds them of where your blog is, and might just get them to come back.
What do you think?

Do you read ebooks? Have you published any ebooks of your own? Are you a fan of ebooks?

Don’t forget to download the Weekly Blogging Magazine, a free ebook that I publish every couple of weeks.