It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about presidential elections, movie reviews, or fishing tackle, every blogger knows that showing up high in the search engine results pages is a critical element of sustained success.
After all, no one is going to read your latest ultimate guide on bass fishing if they can’t even find it in the first place!
The question is, how do you get your content to rank higher on those search engine results pages?
The Challenge of Using SEO to Influence Search Engine Results Pages
The concept of trying to utilize SEO (search engine optimization) on your blog or website in order to attract search engines can feel intimidating.
After all, SEO is a complex, analytics-driven field that already keeps SEO professionals fully employed around the clock.
The thought of taking on such a formidable task in addition to everything else you’re doing for your blog can seem overwhelming.
All that’s required to get started is a little rudimentary knowledge, most of which you can incorporate into your existing writing regimen with little extra effort.
Common SEO Strategies
Let’s start by going over some of the primary SEO strategies out there.
Many of these will probably sound familiar. However, it’s important to make sure you understand all of the different strategies available before moving on to the critical final piece of the puzzle: creating quality SEO content.
Keywords are the SEO poster child. When most people think of creating “SEO content,” it typically revolves around focusing on a keyword — and with good reason, too.
Keywords are the foundation of quality, search engine optimized content. Aimless or wandering information isn’t going to make Google or your readers happy.
Keywords, when properly utilized (more on that later) bring a sense of direction and focus to your content. They provide an anchor for the rest of an article or post to point to.
Speaking of anchors, another classic SEO strategy is the use of hyperlinks. Google loves to see an article that is properly connected to other, quality resources through hyperlinked anchor text.
It shows a sense of depth and support that stand-alone information can’t provide.
There are typically two different kinds of ways to include links in your content: internal linking and external linking.
Internal links, as the name suggestions, point internally towards other parts of your blog or website. External links, on the other hand, point outwards towards other reputable websites.
Headers are another place where SEO can make a big difference.
If you’re writing about the latest development in computer speakers, you’re going to want to include “computer speakers” in the title and headers wherever it can naturally fit.
While a well-crafted header is a great way to invite a reader to continue down the page, it’s also a key component in alerting Google to what information the page contains as well.
Your metadata, in short, is the data that describes your other data. In other words, your metadata is typically behind-the-scenes information that explains to Google what your content is about.
Properly filled out metadata can be an essential factor in boosting your search engine results.
Believe it or not, the length of your content can make a significant difference in how it ranks.
Typically, the longer the content, the better your ranking. Long content indicates a more authoritative grasp on a subject, rather than a brief, slipshod regurgitation of something hastily researched.
Mobile First Indexing
Creating a website that is optimized for mobile users has become a key element to good SEO.
A huge number of readers that visit your blog will do so via a mobile device. In fact, this mobile traffic has become so important, that Google will actively prioritize sites that are set up to cater to mobile users.
White Hat Versus Black Hat
Now you know some of the key ways to use SEO on your blog, but how do you start using them? Do you just start implementing them willy nilly, however you see fit? Hardly!
It’s important that any savvy blogger uses SEO carefully and thoughtfully, or they could end up doing more harm than good.
This is where white hat SEO and black hat SEO come into play.
The SEO world is always in a state of flux. Each time Google tweaks its algorithm, SEO best practices shift to accommodate the change, and it’s those best practices that you want to keep up on.
White hat SEO refers to SEO that is focused on creating quality content for the reader first and the search engines second.
Black hat SEO, on the other hand, sacrifices quality and readership in order to dominate search engine result pages.
If you’re caught using black hat SEO tactics, Google can penalize you by cutting off all of its traffic to your site, which can be a disaster.
White Hat SEO Techniques
So, rather than start throwing SEO at your site and “seeing what sticks”, consider the following white hat SEO tactics aimed at influencing the search engine results pages without sacrificing the quality of your content.
Answer Relevant Questions
When it comes to white hat SEO, is to remember what search engine results pages are for in the first place. A SERP is a webpage that displays results from a searcher’s question or query.
In other words, it’s attempting to provide an answer to a question.
White hat SEO tip 101: if your goal isn’t to answer a legitimate question, you shouldn’t be targeting a certain SERP.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t target your content. You can still conduct research to find out what questions are being asked within your niche.
From there, you can create content to answer those questions. Just don’t fake an answer simply in order to rank higher on a SERP.
Create Quality Content
Along with genuinely answering questions, it’s important to make sure your content is grammatically clean and not plagiarized. When it comes to integrating SEO tactics, also make sure to adhere to the following:
Don’t Keyword Stuff
Make sure to add keywords where they naturally fit whenever possible. However, don’t let them get in the way of reading the article itself.
In other words, if you’re writing an article about ancient Rome, don’t include the word Rome 10 times in a sentence or even a paragraph.
Simply include the word and any related versions like “Roman architecture” or “the city of Rome” whenever they naturally fit into the flow of the text.
Another important area where quality comes into play is your links. Obviously you shouldn’t be linking to random things that don’t pertain to the subject you’re talking about.
In addition to that, though, you also want to make sure that you choose anchor text (the text that you hyperlink) that is specifically relevant to the page you’re linking to.
In other words, make sure it’s clear what the reader is clicking on.
If a hyperlink of the words “the best dojo in Seattle” leads to a page about life insurance, both Google and your readers won’t be happy.
If, on the other hand, “the best birthday ever” links to a post on your blog about a time you threw a surprise party for someone, that makes sense for search engines and readers alike.
Human readers love visuals. After all, a picture’s worth a thousand words. Whenever you can incorporate visuals, do so!
Don’t Write Filler or Fluff
Long articles help with SEO, but you still need them to be filled with meaningful information. Don’t fluff out your articles with empty words. Do extra research and make sure that every section is important.
As is the case with all of these suggestions, Remember to always prioritize the readers first.
Perform a Content Audit
Finally, if you have a site already, consider performing a content audit in order to bring your existing content up to current SEO standards.
Typically, this simply means going over your site (or a subsection of it) to vet the content you’ve already published.
Do so with an eye towards what should be updated or even deleted in order to improve the ranking of the site as a whole.
If you have a site, consider taking the time to do a content audit soon. Once you’ve done that, plan to conduct audits from time to time in the future as well.
And there you have it. Influencing search engine results pages doesn’t have to feel like rocket science.
All it requires is a little extra time and effort to make sure that your content is clean and SEO-friendly.
Just remember to always keep in mind the reader first and the search engines second.
Have you conducted a content audit on your blog lately? What did you find? Let us know in the comments!