SEO – it’s that mythical creature you hear people whispering about all over the internet.
How can I increase my SEO?
What are the best strategies for SEO?
Or maybe you’ve just come across the term SEO in one of those spammy emails:
We are an SEO company and we have news for you – your site isn’t ranking in Google! Don’t worry though as we can offer our expert services in Google to get you top of the list. Just contact us and send us all your money and we can help.
People are often scared of the term, but there’s no need to be! I’ve been working in digital marketing for almost 5 years now at a company that was up until recently solely focused on SEO. Thanks to spammy emails like the above and black hat techniques, the term is now often associated with poor practices. But SEO most definitely isn’t a dirty word!
Here’s what you, as a blogger, need to know about SEO:
What is SEO?
In short, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.
SEO is the practice of getting your site to appear higher up in Google’s search engine results. It can also apply to other search engines, but as Google is the main one and for the sake of ease, I’m mostly going to talk about SEO in relation to Google in this post.
You’ll often hear people talking about “organic traffic”, and this is traffic that comes as a result of searches in Google. This can be especially lucrative traffic.
Getting your site to rank higher can be done in a number of ways – some of which are easy, others are more difficult. Google likes to keep its complete algorithms under wraps, so some of the practices that are carried out are kind of experimental, but there are a few main ranking factors that make all the difference. The big one is:
The way that Google works is that they judge how valuable a site is by how much equity it has. Equity is also sometimes referred to as link juice. You can think of it as the authority that a site has.
A site can build its authority by acquiring backlinks from other authoritative sites.
Think of a backlink as a 5 star review. But not all backlinks are equal. If regular old Joe who runs the corner shop recommended a restaurant, it might get a couple of people booking there. If Kim Kardashian recommended it, they’d be booked up for years. Likewise, sites with higher authority and influence will pass more equity via their backlinks.
You might hear about follow and no follow links. A follow link is a regular old link, but a no follow link will pass no equity. Essentially, a no follow link cloaks it from Google, meaning that they disregard them. These are used when a site owner has been paid or offered some form of compensation in return for that link.
As a blogger, you can acquire backlinks by creating good, relevant content and promoting it well. If a fellow blogger likes it, they will link back to it. Maybe even a bigger site, one with very high authority in your niche might pick it up. Particularly if it’s useful or helpful to them.
You can also guest post for other sites in your niche on relevant topics. These will link back to your blog meaning that you’re getting good, relevant backlinks in your link profile which will build your trust in Google’s eyes.
When Google crawls sites, they see the number and quality of backlinks between them. They use these to measure how authoritative a site is and will rank them accordingly. But that’s not all.
We’re always being told:
Content is king.
And I feel like that’s something we should definitely be listening to!
Even if your blog has 100 backlinks, if you don’t have relevant content on the site, Google won’t be happy. The way to get your blog pushed to the top of those rankings is to include relevant keywords so that Google knows what queries your site is answering.
Having high quality, in depth content that is linked to and includes keywords will help Google know what you’re writing about and that you’re someone to be trusted. But don’t spam those keywords! Your content needs to look natural and useful, not just a jumble of words that sound weird to a reader. Google is cleverer than that!
My unpopular opinion
As I said, Google has lots of factors that go into their algorithm, many of which are quite obscure. I have one theory about search engine rankings that I know a lot of people would disagree with – in fact, I’m pretty sure most people in my office would! – and that is that social media can affect rankings too.
Now don’t take any of this as law. It may not necessarily be that a good engagement rate or following on social media affects search engine rankings directly. It may just be the fact that if your content is well shared on social media, it’s likely to pick up more backlinks.
But I have a niggling idea that those shares do affect Google’s search engine rankings somewhat. The reason I believe this is thanks to my lingerie blog, Big Cup Little Cup, and single post there entitled “So you think you know what a D cup looks like?”
When that post went live, Big Cup Little Cup was seeing only 1000-2000 views per month. It went live in April, we saw a steady increase to around 8000-10,000 views monthly. Then, BOOM. It went viral. The post was shared by a popular Facebook page which then had shares everywhere else under the sun. It was on every relevant industry page on Facebook and almost trending on Twitter. We had over 30,000 views in a single day and over 100,000 pageviews that month.
We gained a couple of small links as a result of that over the next few months, but our views were rapidly increasing. There was an initial dip in the month after it went viral, but then it began to rank for a specific keyword phrase that was very popular. With very little additional work, only a couple of smaller backlinks (and the relevant content that was already there), that post moved up the rankings until it was number 1 for that search. We now consistently see around 100,000 pageviews per month there with many of those beginning at that post.
That’s all I’m saying – I think those few days of virality have contributed to that post ranking number 1. Whether directly or indirectly, social media has some effect.
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