When you first hear it, you wonder if it’s a type of bank loan, a new athletic conference, or a word coined by digital teens for “see you.”
Soon, of course, you find out it stands for “search engine optimization.” But maybe even after you find that out, you’re still clueless.
But SEO can be a powerful tool in the author blogger’s arsenal. What it really represents is the chief weapon you have in the competition for the second kind of traffic you bring to your blog.
Just to refresh your memory, there are three kinds of traffic you can get to your blog or website:
- organic traffic, from links in content
- search engine traffic, in response to search queries
- paid traffic, driven by ads or paid links.
The first two are most important for bloggers, and are where most of us start. Paid traffic can become an important part of your strategy, but you need a foundation in how all this stuff works before you start spending any money at all on getting traffic.
Luckily, the quantity of traffic you can get from organic links and search queries is so vast, you may never need to pay for visitors.
In an earlier article we discussed the varieties of organic traffic and how you can draw people to your blog with links placed strategically around the web.
Now it’s time to learn the basics of SEO traffic. Once you learn some of this I promise your blog will never be the same again. And you’ll start seeing the blogs and websites you visit quite differently, too.
Starting at the Beginning
To start off with, we have to realize that all SEO is connected to this one simple fact:
When people are looking for information online the first thing they do is fire up a search engine toolbar and start creating searches.
When you enter your search query in the search bar (for Google, Bing or any other search engine) and hit “Enter” you’ll be presented with the first page of “results” or places the search engine thinks you’ll find what you’re looking for.
How does that happen? How do those sites—and not others—get on that list, and specifically, on the first page of results?
Today, it’s probably because the author (or professional SEO hired by the owner of the site) has optimized their articles or their site for search engines.
In other words, they’ve tried to make it super clear exactly what questions they are answering.
Building Blocks of SEO
If you have a blog you may have already run into a lot of the terms used in simple SEO. These make up the basic building blocks we’ll be using in our SEO strategy. You’ll need to understand these to get anything out of your efforts:
- Keywords—the terms people type into the search bar when looking for something
There are specific keywords or phrases people use to find the kind of information you are writing about. Do you know them? Without some research, it’s likely that you don’t or even if you’ve got an insight into the keywords used in your subject area or niche, you might be surprised at which forms of those terms people use the most.
For instance, in the self-publishing field there are lots of keywords people use to find information. Here are some:
- “publishing a book”
- “publish a book”
- “self publishing” (without the hyphen)
- “indie publishing”
- “how to publish a book”
Some forms are used much more often in searches, and part of your SEO skill will be working out the best keywords for your particular site.
- Links—the way one website connects to other websites
- With the URL as the link, like this: http://www.wikipedia.org
- Through a text link, where the URL is “hidden” behind a specific phrase or word, like take me to Twitter
- Attached to a graphic, like a banner ad, sidebar badge or “buy now” button. Here the URL is also hidden from view. Here’s an example:
- Anchor text—the actual text used to create a link
As we saw, text can be used as a link. In the example take me to Twitter the text “take me to Twitter” is used as the anchor for the link, so that’s the anchor text.
- Referring site—a site that contains a link to another site
This is the site that contains the links. For instance, all the links on this page have my blog as the referring site, since they all originate here.
- Target site—a site linked to by a referring site
- Domain name—the URL of a website, specifically the part before “.com” or “.net” or “.org” etc.
Links (or hyperlinks) contain the web address (or URL) of the site being linked to. Clicking the link takes you to the other site. Links are what holds the web together. In fact, you could think of the world wide web as a network of links. Otherwise, how would you get from one location to another?
Links can be placed in different ways:
This is where the link will take you. In my take me to Twitter example, Twitter.com is the target, because that’s where you’ll go if you click the link.
There are lots of different ways to look at domain names, and it pays to put some thought into this when you get started. When you realize that people linking to your blog will always be using your domain name (as part of the URL the link is pointing at) you can see it’s worth some time.
Here are some examples. Some are more effective than others, and when you study keywords this will be immediately apparent.
This post contains bullet lists, numbered lists, subheads and highlighted quotes. All of these help to signal what the text is about and how it’s organized. This helps both human readers and search engines.
Google assigns a Page Rank to every web page, from 1 to 9. Google.com is a page rank 9 site, and your blog when it starts is a page rank 1 (or 0 if there is such a thing.) This can be helpful to know because it’s commonly accepted that links from higher page rank sites have a more beneficial effect on your own ranking and authority and, therefore, your potential placement in search results.
The implied authority or influence that passes with a link from one site to another, depending on their page rank and authority.
Understanding these terms is important to gaining SEO traffic, and I hope the examples make each term crystal clear.
Once you learn these elements of SEO you’ll be ready to “optimize” your own articles, blog posts and web pages, allowing them to reach their search engine potential.
Next time we’ll look at how these elements of SEO play out in the real world of your blog posts.