Successful Blogging: SEO Description & Content
Now for the second part of the SEO (search engine optimization), part of the series. This should be the last for as far as I plan to delve into this topic. Entire blogs exist to cover this subject, there’s no end to it, but hopefully once we’re done here you’ll have a better understanding of how this all works.
Last time I covered writing titles for SEO. If you haven’t read that then go take a gander. It’s a long one but sets things up for this article covering descriptions and your content.
Every page and article on your site should have a meta description. The meta description is the summary that shows on search engine results that tell people what it’s about. It’s an excerpt and a way to focus on your keywords and draw readers to your article in the search results.
|The meta description in action in search results.|
Now, with Blogger it appears by default it does nothing with this field. It appears Blogger creates one but it has nothing in it, so it’s useless. If you’re a WordPress user then natively you don’t have one that’s created for you. Fortunately for WordPress users you can get a plugin to fix this. It’s the one I recommended in the previous article, WordPress SEO. WordPress SEO will give you a meta description field to fill in on everything.
Having a meta description is HUGE. Not having one, or having an empty one, really hurts you. In this case search engines will extract text from your article to show in the search results. Why bother having one if search engines will do this? Well, the big search engines will do this but not everyone will. Second, having that meta description tells search engines to begin with what your stuff is about instead of them having to come figure it out. If search engines already know your description then you’ll rank better. Third, it lets your control what shows up in the results.
|Here’s what a meta description tag looks like in your site’s HTML.|
However you do it, ensure you have a meta description field. There are two fundamental things every single site needs for SEO, a title tag (as explained in the previous article), and a meta description. The lack of either will seriously hurt you in search results.
Meta Description Length & Keywords
As with the title tag, there’s an ideal length to the meta description field. That length is 160 characters. Ideally you’ll aim a little less to play it safe on smaller screens so all your text is shown. The WordPress SEO plugin makes knowing this length simple.
Within that description you want to target your keywords. If I’m writing about Khorne Daemonkin then you can rest assured my meta description contains that keyword. Naturally it helps your rank for said keywords and lets the searcher know what your article is about in the results, simple enough. As with the title tag, do not keyword stuff your description. Using your keywords once in the description is usually enough. If you use it too many times it can be seen as keyword stuffing and you’ll take a penalty for it.
This part is pretty simple, your content needs to also contain your keywords. Again, if I’m writing about Khorne Daemonkin then I need to ensure that’s in my content. As with the other stuff, do not overuse it. There used to be a day when you could gauge the keyword density to see if you were on target. At one point you wanted your keyword density to be about 4-6%. Meaning, your keywords accounted for 4-6% of the content. There’s still truth to this, keyword density, but the percentage these days is around 1-3% that you should be aiming for. Search engines have taken to a “less is more” approach these days.
Your content is the most important factor for SEO. If you do nothing else discussed then at least make sure your content contains your keywords.
My experience is, and this applies to the other areas discussed, that if you use your keywords naturally that you’ll rank better. By naturally I mean using your keywords in a normal sentence, seemingly non-targeted. This is easy inside the article content but can be trickier for your title tag discussed last time. Title tags have very limited room making it harder. To give a real example, as SEO is one of my jobs where I work, something like this would appear natural if I’m aiming to rank a dentist office locally “Family Dentistry in Bath, Maine”. Unnatural might look like “Family, Dentistry – Bath, Maine”. The last one looks targeted, it’s breaking words out and isn’t very normal. It seems minor but all these minor things add up and it’s the difference between being ranked #1 and #30. Basically, just write normally and make sure your keywords are in there and you’ll do fine.
This is the last thing I plan to cover and something most of us use in our articles, images. You’ve probably guessed it, keywords again. How do you work your keywords into your images? Simple, start with the name of the image. If I’m still writing about Khorne Daemonkin then the images I upload, though not every single one to avoid overuse of my keywords, will be named with my keywords. For example, I might name an image: khorne-daemonkin.jpg or khorne-daemonkin-warhammer-40k.jpg. Search engines pick up on this and it will help boost your rank for your keywords. This is very important in image searches too for obvious reasons.
The other thing you can do with images is give it a title. The image title is an attribute of the image tag. In WordPress when you insert an image you’ll notice this as a field you can fill in. Put an appropriate title on your images with your keywords and keep it short and simple, like “Khorne Daemonkin – Warhammer 40K” or “Khorne Daemonkin vs Grey Knights”.
Related but different is also the alt attribute. Alt stands for alternative text. It’s used as a descriptor to explain the image. Think of this like a caption of sorts. Your alt attribute should contain your keywords while explaining the image. This field is also readily available on WordPress.
In Blogger I don’t see this as an option so you’re really relying on the image name to carry weight.
I could go on and on about SEO but the goal here with this has been to give you a fundamental understanding and I hope I’ve done that. It really isn’t a big mysterious thing and the concepts are quite simple once you know the basics. The real value of SEO comes from utilizing all the discussed things and pulling it all togehter. Doing one of these will help but doing all of these on everything you write is where you’re going to get the most out of it.
For those who are very interested in all this SEO stuff and are thinking: Fuck. I have over 1,000 articles and none of them are SEO optimized. What do I do? Where do I start? I say focus on what you do going forward, not what you’ve done. SEO is an ever evolving thing. The moment the SEO professionals have figured out a small fraction of Google’s complicated ranking algorithm is the moment Google changes it all. Seriously, search engines update their ranking algorithms all the time and as a blogger you will never keep up. If you had a basic website, say a company website, where you have 10-20 pages then that’s easy to keep current. We bloggers though, we churn out too much content to go retroactively adjust to meet new SEO guidelines.That being said, if there’s a few articles that you really want to rank well then sure, take the time to work on those. Just don’t overwhelm yourself trying to update hundreds of them.
I’ll open this up to questions. If there’s something specific you would like to know about SEO then just fire away.