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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *