SEO for Bloggers: Foundations

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) the main thing to remember is that it’s all about relevancy and keywords.

Search engines love blogs and, if you do it right, you can make some good progress just by making a few key changes to what you’re doing already.

Search engines love blogs for three reasons:

  • Blogs are generally updated regularly, producing fresh content.
  • Bloggers are passionate about their topic areas and posts will be filled with “quality” content (by quality I mean, relevant).
  • And blogs are, by nature, setup to make the content easily searchable, organized, and interconnected (which we’ll talk about in a later post).

Assuming you have your blog setup and your main topic decided upon, the best way to start improving your rankings in the search engines is to post. And post often.

In a field like photography, there are so many blogs and websites out there devoted to it that you can easily get lost in the sea of search engine results with the likelihood that you’ll never get noticed. The bright side of that, though, is that most bloggers out there – or professional photographer’s sites, for that matter – don’t do everything they can to SEO their sites. So, if you play your cards right, you can push yourself up a few slots by doing a few things that others aren’t.

So, the first thing you need to do, as I said before, is write. The more you write, the more the search engines will crawl and index your site, the better your chances for moving on up. Now, you don’t need to write a lot in each post (though, that will certainly help too) but you should write often, and regularly. I started off just writing here and there when I came across a cool site or had something to say, but I would often go days or even weeks without writing. I then made the commitment to myself that I would post something new every weekday (when possible). And that made such a difference! I saw my readership go up, my status within the community, and my traffic from search engines began to rise as well.

Now, you don’t need to go all out and post something new everyday, like I do. But it is a good rule of thumb that putting up a new post 3 times a week is a good goal to shoot for, especially if you’re just starting out. It will help get you into the rhythm of writing and it will show the crawlers that there is consistently new content to index.

While attending the Internet Retailer conference in Boston last summer one of the presenters said (and I’m paraphrasing) “what’s good for your readers is good for SEO“. Meaning, if you are posting regularly, your readers will have something to keep coming back for and the search engines will start to see you as someone to keep checking back with as well.

When writing a blog post or posting a photo, the words we use are very important for both conveying the message to our readers and for getting the right information picked up by the search engines.

It is easy to slip into patterns of writing as though we’re talking to someone that is already somewhat familiar with the subject. What I mean is, say we’re talking about a camera. I could easily say something like “I have a D200 and I think it’s a great body that is very reliable whenever I go out on a shoot.” Most of you followed that pretty well, right? Imagine, though, that you don’t know anything about photography and have no idea what a D200 is or that the “body” is referring to the camera. Notice how the following sentence says essentially the same thing, but makes it very clear: “I have a Nikon D200 DSLR and I think it is a great digital camera body that is very reliable whenever I go out on a photo shoot.”

The edited version serves two very different, but equally important purposes. First, it makes sure that your readers are well-informed and helps any newcomers catch up a little. Also, it introduces keywords and phrases that people will actually be searching for. Think about when you search. You use brand names and not just model numbers/names, right? So it follows that if you use them in your content, it will tell the search engines that they should pick up on that content too. Same with other phrases. You wouldn’t show up in searches for the word “body” but you might have a shot for searches for the phrase “digital camera body”. At least it will add some context to your content.

Where you place your keywords and phrases is also important. You want to put your most important keywords towards the beginning of your posts because the crawlers see earlier phrases as being more important. Also, without flooding your posts with too many instances of the same phrases (called “keyword stuffing”) you will want to repeat the most important keywords a few times throughout the body of your post. To draw it out even more, use bold and italics, even underline, to draw attention to your most important phrases. Use it sparingly, though, because you don’t want it to look hideous to your readers.

For many of us, imagery is key to what we’re doing. And photos are an excellent place to throw in some good keywords and phrases. Every image should have “alt text”, or “alternate text”, applied to it. In blog platforms, like WordPress, you have the option to add it in when uploading or inserting your photos into the post. If you know a little HTML, you can insert it manually within the image tag like this:

<img src=”FILENAME.jpg” alt=”Keyword rich descriptive text goes here.” />

Anywhere that you can put in relevant keywords, you should. And that includes tagging your posts.

Many people will add their posts into categories to keep things a little more organized but many won’t even tough the tags. A tag is simply a keyword that you want to apply to a post. It’s another way of telling the search engines that these are the keywords and phrases that are the most important ones to pay attention to when looking at the post. For example, for this post I will probably tag it with the following list of phrases (separated by commas) with the most important ones first, and it would look something like this:

SEO Tips for Photographers, SEO Tips for Bloggers, SEO Tips,┬áSEO for Photographers, SEO for Photobloggers, SEO for Bloggers, SEO for Photo Bloggers, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, Photography Keywords, Photo Keywords… and so forth.

You will see that this is also where I would insert variations on the same phrases. Not only did I mention “SEO for Photobloggers”, but I also inserted “Photographers”, “Photo Bloggers”, and “Bloggers” into the mix. This is a good practice within your content, too, to make it more keyword-rich but it also helps your post show up in a wider variety of search results. If there are words or phrases that are often misspelled or spelled differently (like Photoshop vs. PhotoShop or Photo Shop), include those in the tags as well.

In our next SEO for Bloggers post, we’ll talk about links and how they play a vital role in building your page rank.

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