What’s the deal with SEO?

I’m obsessed with Search Engine Optimization. In fact, I’ve made it my business to be obsessed with it. SEO is the one thing I do, and I love it.

The reason I tell you this is that, unless you get paid to pay attention to SEO 100% of your time, you don’t need to be obsessed with it like I am, and maybe you’re not. But being the SEO go-to guy for many businesses, I get the impression that some people think about it way too much.

The sad thing is, most of the time, the people who obsess about their site’s SEO don’t have the most important ingredient for a website: something worth sharing. There are so many times where I can answer questions with a ton of technicalities, but I don’t, because it doesn’t matter. When I’m talking about SEO, 99% of the time, I’m answering to someone that has absolutely nothing to share with the world.

If I can leave you, my fellow Texas Freelance Association supporter, with a single thought today that will improve your SEO, it would be this:

Start with something worth sharing and a reason why to share it. 

Your goal does not always need to be getting a ton of people to see your content. For example, maybe you want to share something with your immediate community. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I have much more respect for that than the people who try to shove bland content in front of thousands that don’t care, all in a desperate attempt to improve SEO and rankings.

As you might imagine, I can go on and on about this. I’ll admit that I can get pretty passionate. But for the sake of getting to the purpose of this post, let’s move on to the checklist.

A Simple SEO checklist

  1. Define a clear purpose
  2. Define the focused keyword
  3. Write a compelling title tag
  4. Write a compelling meta description
  5. Organize the content with Headings (H1s), H2s, H3s…
  6. Optimize images with descriptive file names and alt text
  7. Choose appropriate categories
  8. Edit the URL before publishing
  9. Use a Facebook Open Graph image
  10. Share your post with your community

Keep in mind, I’m going to skip A LOT of technical things on purpose. For example, I’m not going to cover video SEO which is a gigantic topic all by itself. The below technical points are going to cover the 20% of technical SEO the common blogger should be aware of. This 20% will get you 80% of the way, and in fact, it will probably get you 100% of the way if you do #1 really well.

Also, the tips below often are specific to WordPress blogs using the free WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.

 

1. Clear Purpose

Start with a purpose – one that doesn’t involve SEO. Know who your audience is. Have a “why” to your content. Have meaningful purpose. This one thing, although not technical, will have a greater impact on your SEO than all the below points combined. Google is trying really hard to rank content that people like, so the most important aspect of solid SEO is to create that kind of content.

 

2. Focused Keyword phrase

Think about what words others would use in Google when searching for your topic. You can use Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool to find out about how much people are searching specific phrases. You’ll use this keyword phrase in specific places, but don’t stuff it throughout the page. Just use natural language. Don’t think about the focused keyword too much when writing.

And by the way… don’t worry about meta keywords.

Search Engines haven’t used them for quite some time now.

 

3. Title tag

Keep this around 65 characters. Use your keyword and make it compelling. It’s an SEO signal but it’s also what users see in Search results. It will help “sell” the click.

Editing the title tag and meta description using the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast

4. Meta description

Keep this around 155 characters. Use your keyword and make it compelling. It should be a good review of what’s on the page. It’s technically not an SEO signal but does show up often in Search results. It’s another element that helps “sell” the click.

 

how the title tag and meta description show in Search Results

5. Headings and Subheadings (H1s, H2s, and so on)

Break the content up for UX and the average Internet Reader. Use Headings and Subheadings to organize the information for the user and for the Search Engines. The heading levels should reflect the levels of importance. Generally speaking, your page/post title should be H1, and all other content should be H2 or lower.

 

examples of headings and subheadings

how to edit h1, h2, and url of a WordPress blog post

 

6. Image SEO

It’s always best to start with high-quality original images. Optimize the file names and alt text with descriptive text. Use the keyword as it makes sense. Use an image sitemap for image heavy sites.

 

How to bring up the edit options for an image in a WordPress blog post

where to edit the alt text of an image in a WordPress blog post

7. Categories

Choose categories that make sense. Think about user experience. Create new categories as needed, but try to use categories that will be used for other content.

 

8. URLs

Use the focused keyword in the URL. Keep the URL short and keep unnecessary elements out of it. Make it user friendly and descriptive. Use dashes in between words.

9. Facebook: Open Graph

I recommend using the open graph image at a minimum, which will tell Facebook what image to show whenever your post is shared on the platform. This image can have a great impact on the sharability of the post once it’s on Facebook.

editing the facebook image in the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast

10. Outreach

Sometimes there can be a bit of the chicken-or-the-egg problem with SEO. How can Google tell if people like the post before anyone sees it? Outreach can help with that. Outreach is the process of getting more eyes on the post. Outreach is the “white hat” method of earning links, which we won’t get into in this post.

In short: share your post with your community. Build rapport with those that have influence over your community. Get people talking about your post.

Authorship

Self-promotion tends to be a turn off. But you do want people to know who you are. Sign your posts with your photos and a mini bio. Make yourself known as a thought leader. Others will be more likely to care what you have to say.

Social

Make the sharing of your post easy. This does not mean to include 20 share options. That’s a bit overwhelming. Include 3 or 4 share options and make it obvious and easy to use.

Questions/ Comments?

Ask and comment in the box below. I’m looking forward to what you have to say!