When most people think about structuring a website for search engine optimization, they immediately think of developers. You don’t have to be a developer to master SEO. It doesn’t take much technical skill; you just need to understand the basic elements of SEO and how to incorporate them into your posts. In other words, while developers are essential when it comes to troubleshooting, site performance and much, much more, structuring your blog for SEO is one thing you can get started on right away.
Even if you do eventually decide to put some of these tasks in your developers’ hands, you need to know how to direct them on SEO best practices when structuring a blog. Fortunately, it’s easy to implement once you know how it all works.
How to Structure Your Blog for SEO
Even the best blogs can go unnoticed if they don’t have proper SEO in place to help them rank on a search engine results page (SERP). You want your website to show up so that people will find the site while searching, click on the URL and hopefully continue to return. SEO helps people find your blog in the first place, so once you have great content ready to go, your next step is structuring it with SEO in mind.
Below are the key structural elements to a blog and how you can make sure that you’re optimizing each for the most successful SEO results.
1. Page Title
Google typically displays the first 60 characters of your page title, so ensure you have something catchy yet concise that isn’t going to get cut off when it shows up on a SERP. It’s also important to include your keywords in your page title, preferably at the front. It’s OK to think about your keywords when writing a title—don’t feel guilty! If you can make it work and it doesn’t sound like you’ve stuffed in a keyword for no reason, then you’re good to go on both accounts.
2. Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are the blurbs of text that you see under a title when performing a search. As a blog owner, you have control over what this blurb says, so you want to write a concise summary of what the article is about and why it matters. The trick here is that you only have 160 characters, so you have to get creative.
Meta descriptions work similarly to the title in that you should use keywords to help the search engine bots interpret what your page is about, but ultimately, this small description is for the searchers.
This point is always a bit tricky for me and almost didn’t make the list, but there is no denying that using keywords in your content is going to help your website perform well in search engine rankings. You should absolutely not go through your content and attempt to stuff in keywords. They should appear naturally to help the search engine bots know what your content is about and how it should be indexed. Again, you should be writing for your readers and not the bots, so keywords in your content should naturally happen. So why is it even something to bother thinking about when writing if it should happen naturally?
This is where I feel many articles and advice out there have it wrong. You really shouldn’t let keyword considerations cloud your mind, and I don’t think it’s necessary to go back and stuff keywords into your content. However, you can do keyword research to fuel some of your topic ideas. If you know what keywords people are searching for, create a blog post about it and allow those keywords to appear naturally in the text.
I recommend using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool to do keyword research.
4. Header Tags
The header tag, or H1 tag, should only be used once per page. One of the biggest mistakes blog owners make is overusing the H1 tag and then confusing search engines; thus causing ranking issues for your blog. You should use it at the top of your page to describe exactly what your page is about.
The sub-headline tags, or H2 through H6 tags, are the tags that can be used multiple times on one page. The purpose of these tags is to break up your content to make it easier to read for the bots, which means that focusing on using your keywords in these tags is important.
5. Images and Alt Tags
Images can scare blog owners because of the long checklist of things to do to optimize them for SEO, but once you’ve gotten the basics, it’s really pretty simple. A few things to consider when using images:
- They must be in the right format. Use JPGs for higher quality images like photos and PNG for graphics.
- Save the images with a file name that describes what the image is about, and use hyphens between each of the words. This is a great time to use keywords you may want to rank for.
- On that same note, include image alt text. Remember that search engine bots cannot see your images, so this is all they have to go off of when deciphering what the image is about. To include this, you simply add alt=”your alt text” to your image tag.
- Consider using a tool like Image Optimizer to ensure you are not uploading files that are too large, which could cause your page to load slowly, which is bad not just for SEO but site performance as well.
For more about optimizing images, I recommend this article from Shopify that explains in detail some of the more advanced image optimization tactics.
Creating categories helps your readers navigate your site, so naturally search engines find this to be a big positive. If you simply order your blogs chronologically, it’s much harder to narrow down what you want to read or find more related articles, so categories are an excellent solution.
To set up different blog categories for WordPress-based blogs, visit your Appearance tab and then click Menus. Here you can add the categories you want, and each time you upload a post, there will be a section that allows you to click on the appropriate category for that post.
While it’s true that Google recently removed author photos from SERPs, that doesn’t mean that authorship is dead. There is still speculation that Google may someday use authorship and the authority of an author in its ranking algorithm. Many feel Google is already doing this and simply isn’t telling us, but regardless, although Google has not made any official announcement that Author Rank does or will exist in the future, it’s an extremely convincing idea. It’s best to start building up your authority as an author now in anticipation of this. After all, Google+ is Google’s network, so they want to make it as important as possible and encourage social sharing here as opposed to its competitors.
It’s also worth mentioning that although there might not be a picture, that doesn’t mean the other benefits have disappeared. When you visit a search, you can still click on an author’s name and be brought to that author’s Google+ page. If you’re a blog owner, you want searchers to have this option. Visiting the profile page of one of your author’s is a great way to get readers to scroll through other things that author has shared and hopefully then send them clicking to your site.
Check out this iAcquire article for more on the intersection of authorship and SEO.
8. Internal Linking
Internal linking is essentially linking to other pages of your website within the content on your blog. You benefit from internal linking because it helps improve navigation for readers by sending them to relevant pages (not to mention it should help improve your time on site numbers).
In the past, it was recommended that you use keyword-rich anchor text, but Google is moving away from that now and prefers more natural or branded anchor text. For example, it’s better that I used the anchor text “this iAcquire article” in the example link above as opposed to something like “authorship benefits.” The move toward natural-looking anchor text integration came about mainly because too many companies were building poor quality backlinks specifically for SEO purposes and not to help readers. You can learn more about that here.
Do you know of other tips for structuring a blog for optimal SEO? What has or has not worked for you in the past?