Is SEO still important in 2017?
How can I optimize my blog for today’s search engines?
Today, I’m gonna be talking about how to optimize your blog for search engines in 2017. I’m going to be sharing why I think SEO is more important today than it has ever been.
Listen to This Episode
But I’m also going to share how to make sure you are doing what you need to do when it comes to SEO.
I’m gonna cover some of the basics first, but then I’m going to get into some new stuff that I’ve never spoken about before. These are changes that are happening right now that you want to educate yourself about.
A few years back, I started my biology blog, Interactive Biology. Within a relatively short amount of time, it became pretty successful.
At one point, I decided to bring in some guest writers to create more content. After a few months, when I checked the Google analytics, those posts weren’t doing so well. They weren’t bringing me any extra traffic. So I stopped doing them, and I let the blog sit for a while.
But today, those posts are my top traffic drivers. Why? Because I optimized them for search engines. We’ll come back to this point.
I will cover basic stuff, but also talk about some advanced strategies that I haven’t seen any courses on. This is cutting edge stuff that tells us where where SEO is going in the future.
But for now, let’s cover the basics.
Why SEO Matters More Than Ever
1. Social media algorithms are unpredictable
You might be getting tons of traffic from Pinterest or Twitter of whatever, but that traffic is dependent on variable factors like shares, likes, reactions, etc.
But that’s not the only concern. The algorithms intentionally suppress even highly valuable, relevant content. Even if you like a page on Facebook, you’re less likely to see their content than you ever have been in the past. And that’s true across all the platforms.
We’re also seeing social media emphasizing paid content. Of course, they have to make money. But the glory days of social media marketing are gone. You can’t just post something and magically get tons of traffic.
2. Search Engines are still a GREAT source of traffic.
I got some numbers for you, because I wanted to see how search engine traffic compares to other kinds of traffic. I did a lot of digging.
The best information I found was in relation to news sites. There were some studies done by Visual Capitalist, Gallup, Edelman, and Alexa. Here’s what they found:
- Direct traffic (48%)
- Search traffic (31%)
- Referral traffic (11%)
- Social traffic (10%)
That’s right: search engines are generating almost 3 TIMES as much traffic as social media.
When you look at fake news traffic, it’s a little different:
- Social (42%)
- Direct (30%)
- Search (23%)
- Referral (5%)
What does this tell us? Social media algorithms are not that good at identifying relevant, high-quality content! And that’s true outside of news sources, too.
3. Google is still the #1 search engine in the world.
It accounts for 81.42% of searches in US. In other countries like the U.K., Canada, Australia, India, and others, it’s even higher than that.
4. Earned authority still matters in Google’s eyes
As you build your blog and you start creating great content, Google starts to see that you are an authority in your niche. They can also see that other people consider you to be an authority.
Earned authority is slower than viral content, but it’s much more viable over the long term. It lasts longer.
Look at my biology blog. I haven’t posted there in over five years. But my traffic continues to increase!
Why? Google sees Interactive Biology as an authority site.
Just look at my numbers from the last 30 days: out of 96,362 visitors, 81% of them, 77,643 of them, were from Google. Only 451 were from social networks. That blog isn’t optimized for social media. It’s optimized for Google, and that paid off. It continues to pay off!
I hope I have convinced you that Search Engine Optimization is still relevant, and that it matters even more today.
Most Important Factor for SEO
Above everything else, this is what matters most:
Are you serving your audience as best as possible?
Is your content great? Is your content AWESOME?!
Is your content relevant?
Are you demonstrating that your blog is an authority?
Think about it: what is Google trying to do? Someone goes to the search engine and types in a query. Google wants to serve them high-quality information that is relevant to their question. If they get good information from Google the first time, they’ll go back again and again. And that makes Google more money.
A few other things to think about:
Are you serving Google as best as possible? Are you giving Google everything it needs?
Think about why you use particular sites. I love to shop on Amazon because they make it so easy to get all the information I need to do all the things I want to do.
It’s the same with you and Google. Are you giving them everything they need to serve their audience?
One more thing: Are other people endorsing your content regularly? Are they linking to you or sharing your stuff? Are they sharing it on social media because of how great it is?
Let’s get into some of the technical stuff now. Before you get into SEO, there are a couple things you’ll want to have in place.
1. You need to have a way to monitor, track and analyze results.
Install Google Analytics. If you don’t have it installed, go right now and install it. Seriously, stop reading and go do it.
It allows you to track ALL traffic. All of it. If someone comes to your site, Google Analytics tracks it.
To set it up, open Google Analytics account and create Property in Google Analytics. It will give you a tracking code to add to your WordPress site.
Adding the code is relatively simple. In some themes it’s built into their settings. If it’s not, there are a number of plugins out there that you can use, including one called Google Analytics.
Make sure you have Google Analytics installed. End of story.
2. Add your site in Google Search Console.
This allows for tracking at a deeper level. It lets you to track rankings and errors in Google.
The system will walk you through the steps to setting it up. If you need help, I highly recommend going to YouTube and finding a video tutorial for Google Search Console and WordPress.
3. Keyword Research
I hate it, but it makes sense to do it. I’m starting to embrace it more.
Keyword research is a specific kind of search that tells you what people are searching for.
If I want to know how many people are looking for information are about starting a blog, I go to Google Keyword Planner and I can see that information. I can see how many people are searching globally or just in the US. I can play around with variations on search terms to find the most effective ones.
Take the title of this episode, for example. When I was setting this up, I went to Google Keyword Planner and I searched “SEO for WordPress.” I saw that there were 100-1,000 searches per month with medium competition.
Then I started playing with the search terms, and I tried “WordPress SEO.” That search term was getting between 1,000 and 10,000 searches per month, with low competition. That’s a much better bet for me, because it will be easier to rank for that and I’ll be more likely to get more traffic.
This research took me about a minute to do, and I was able to find a more optimized title.
Just search for “Google Keyword Planner” and you’ll find it.
Let’s talk about LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords. These are keywords that are related to the main keyword phrase that I am targeting. They give Google an indication that my content is relevant to someone searching for that target topic.
It used to be that SEO involved identifying a keyword or target phrase and then stuffing it everywhere. In the title, in every sentence…just everywhere. That’s not how it works anymore, because of LSI keywords.
There’s an interesting tool that I discovered at lsigraph.com. I can type in a keyword phrase and see some very relevant keywords, or LSI keywords. And then you can make use of those related keywords when creating your content.
It’s very helpful for getting a bigger picture in terms of the content you’re creating.
1. Change your permalink settings
The permalink is the permanent URL to every post in your blog. If you leave it at the default setting, it just looks like a random string of characters. And that doesn’t give Google any information about what’s in the post.
So go into your permalink settings, and make sure it includes the title in your URLs. That gives Google more to work with.
2. Choose the right theme
It’s relatively basic, but really important. Some themes are poorly built. You want to avoid those themes.
How? Choose from a trusted developer like Thrive Themes or Elegant Themes.
You also want to make sure that it’s mobile optimized. This makes it more responsive on a mobile device.
3. Pay attention to site speed
The faster the better. If Google sees that your site is taking forever to load, they won’t send people there because it’s not a good user experience.
If Google has to choose between two sites that have the same level of content, but one loads super slowly, Google will send traffic to the faster site.
You may also want to consider Google AMP, which helps pages load faster on mobile devices. We’ll talk more about that later.
4. Use the “WordPress SEO” plugin by Yoast
This is, hands down, the best WordPress SEO plugin out there.
Why? It allows you to test your content, and it will make specific recommendations on particular posts.
It allows you to optimize the way that your title and descriptions show up. And if you have the pro version, you can actually analyze multiple keyword phrases.
Optimizing Posts and Pages
1. When it comes to SEO, written Content is very, VERY important!
You can have all the videos you want, but Google isn’t very good at indexing what you’re saying in a video. You need written content that goes along with it.
2. Think from the perspective of the searcher
Put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for something particular and hopefully finding your site. What keywords are they using? Make sure those are in your title.
3. Make sure every piece of content delivers on your promise
When someone finds your post by searching with keywords, don’t disappoint them! If they searched “how blood flows through the heart,” and they click on your link, they better leave knowing everything they need to know about how blood flows through the heart!
Google also keeps track of “bounce rate,” or the number of people who click on your page and then leave right away. Keep that number low. Give the people what they want by delivering on your keyword promises!
4. Structure each post for the reader
The easier your page is to read, the longer they stay on page.
There are a few things to think about when it comes to writing for your reader.
a. Optimize your titles so that they make sense for searchers.
There’s a cool tool you can use that will analyze your headline and give you suggestions for improvement.
I use this as a loose guide. It helps me think about things that I wouldn’t necessarily think about on my own. But I don’t aim for a perfect score every time. Ultimately, you have to know your audience.
Don’t make your title too long. Keep it to 70 characters or so.
b. Have a compelling description and use that as the excerpt.
When you post in WordPress, there’s an option to specify an excerpt.
If you don’t give an excerpt, Google will just generally scan your content. You don’t want that. You want to be in control of what Google sees. You’ve got about 150 – 160 characters. Use them to tell Google why this post is valuable for your readers.
c. Use short paragraphs.
People don’t like to see big blocks of text online. That’s even more true on mobile devices. Break it up.
d. Break up your content into relevant sections
Take a look at the sections in this article.
Make sure you have relevant headings. This makes it easier to scan through the content. So many people swipe through these days, and you want to make it easier for them.
When you’re making headings, you need to use the right kind of headings. This helps give Google an indication of how important these headings are.
So your title will be h1. Your section headings might be h2 headings. Any subsections will be h3 or h4 subheadings. The higher the number, the smaller the font. This helps Google to see what’s important.
e. Include relevant images
When you include images, give Google as much information as possible.
Use appropriate filenames and alt tags. When you upload an image in WordPress, it asks you if you want to give the image an alt tag. If for some reason the image doesn’t show up, your reader will see the alt tag.
f. Link to relevant content
These should be both outbound links, or links to other authoritative sites, and inbound links to your own content.
When you’re linking to other content, make sure you’re linking to relevant, authoritative sites. This tells Google that you’re doing your research and linking to things relevant to the content you’re posting.
When you link to your own content, you’re telling Google that you have another post on that topic that it might want to check out.
New Stuff to Try
1. Consider using Google AMP
AMP is an open source project. It’s mainly Google in collaboration with a bunch of different companies. It’s all about speeding up the mobile web.
It basically creates a simplified version of your page so that it loads faster on mobile.
I won’t go into detail here because I’ve talked about this before, in Episode 261. But if you want AMP for your WordPress blog, you’ll need to install the AMP plugin.
2. Start learning about (and testing) structured data
This is new for me. But one thing we’re learning is that the web is becoming a more and more visual place, especially on mobile devices.
Google and other search engines are starting to use the Schema.org vocabulary to add markups to your pages and posts. This gives search engines an even better understanding of your content.
This allows Google to give you a better representation in search. If you search in Google for a recipe on your phone right now, you’ll see a number of recipes that you can swipe through at the top of your results. You’ll see reviews and ratings, too.
Now when I do that, I don’t even look at the other search results. All those pictures are so attractive at the top! Those sites are adding the Schema.org vocabulary to their posts, which allows Google to pull the relevant information and display it prominently.
When they first started doing this, it was just recipes and movies. But since November, they have been expanding this. So now you can see this for courses and restaurants, too.
It makes you more likely to go to those posts than to any other results.
There aren’t a lot of people talking about this yet, and it’s new to me, too. But I want you to be aware of this. And I want you to start researching it. We’re going to be seeing more and more of this over time.
- Headline analyzer by CoSchedule
- Relevant sources for website traffic statistics
- Episode 261:Google Amp for WordPress: What Bloggers Need to Know – where I go in depth about Google Amp