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The Basic Guide to SEO: Six Ways to Optimize Your Blog

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Welcome to Part One of what will be a long-running series on the ins-and-outs of search-engine optimization. In this post, I’m going to provide some very specific tips and tricks for building an SEO strategy to optimize a company blog.

For a more-general primer on SEO, click here. But I want to use this post to focus on blogs and SEO, since blogs can be a key tool in using organic search to drive more visitors to your website. In the SEO world, content is king—and blogs are filled with frequently updated content, which search engines like. Engines will crawl your website more often if it’s being refreshed frequently, and subsequently offer potential visitors and customers more opportunities to be directed to your site.

Tip #1: Build a comprehensive, master keyword list.

Your master keyword list is pretty much your own personal marketing thesaurus. To build it, you really need to think hard about your target audience and what keywords they might use to search for your product or service. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think like a human (really), and not a computer, and group relevant phrases together in a natural way. Then strategically sprinkle them throughout your blog and use them in meta tags and descriptions (more on that later). I used to work for company that made software for the financial-services industry, for instance. For us, a keyword phrase like “financial software” was too general and not very helpful; but “private equity software” was better and helped us drive traffic. Google AdWords has a tool that lets you search for common keywords and see how frequently they’re searched for each month, as well as the average bid per keyword. Invest time in this research and develop a great list.

Tip #2: Post content on a regular basis to maintain “freshness”.

Like I mentioned before, websites and blogs that generate new pages on a regular basis have the potential to create higher “freshness” scores with search engines, which will inevitably contribute to positive results. By freshness I mean new and relevant content that is up to date and useful. The rate at which a blog increases in its number of pages can also make the search gods happy. Usually blogs are refreshed more often than company Web pages.

But at the same time, content that becomes stale doesn’t necessarily lose all value, since search engines realize new content isn’t always better. They take many factors into account when determining a page’s relevance, including the average amount of queries for the page (which many older pages still have). Take a look at this deep-dive into freshness if you’re interested in more information.

Tip #3: Master URL’s, Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions, H1 tags.

I know this sounds complicated. I’ll explain all these elements in a minute. But basically, search engines care about website URLs and also “tags” for content, like meta titles, meta descriptions and H1 tags (HTML coding-speak for any main headline on a Web page). Search algorithms tend to attribute more relevance to a page if keywords are placed within these elements. So it’s important to keep all these elements of your blog well-polished and as relevant as possible. Tying all these things together with your master-keyword plan makes it much easier to drive organic traffic to your blog. Meta titles are the blue titles you see for search results in Google, while meta descriptions are the phrases or sentences beneath them. And remember, the keywords a user enters in a search show up in bold in search-display results. If you don’t take the time to craft these tags and descriptions yourself, the search engines will do it for you, robbing you of an opportunity to put your best foot forward in SEO.

Tip #4: Add a rel=publisher tag if you have a google+ page.

This tip actually applies to all branded websites, not just publishers, and only those who have google+ pages. What the “rel=publisher” tag does is allow the webmaster to form a verified connection between their site and google+; it basically tells the search engine that a blog, in our example, is associated with a company’s google+ page. To get started with google authorship and publisher, check out this guide.

Tip #5. To paginate or not to paginate?

There is much debate in this area, but we here at SumAll have planted our flag firmly in the pagination camp. This means that when reading a blog, viewers don’t see a super-long stream of flowing content; instead, they see a chunk of content, and then see some numbers at the bottom of the page allowing them to click to a subsequent page. See the SumAll blog here for an example. For one thing, I think this approach makes for easier reading. Second, it places more attention on important “call to actions”—requests for readers to do something, like request more information or buy something. These requests are often placed higher up on a page or before screen/page breaks, so they look more prominent on a page that’s paginated. More significant are the effects pagination has on page crawling. Your blog may be much more difficult for a search engine to crawl if it can’t define any logical site structure.

Tip #6: Have sharing buttons.

Yes, we all are very familiar with overused sharing button that seems to exist on every Web page out there. The reason they (literally) stick around? They just work . . . but especially on blogs. My advice to to make it easy and engaging for viewers to be inclined to use these buttons. You may as well design a new and engaging functionality here to stand out from the crowd since so many of the social-media sharing plugins out there all look the same, and soon may become nothing more than graphic “noise” to the viewer. One example of more-customized sharing tools are those made by AddThis.

David Hanaford is a front-end engineer for SumAll, a company that helps connect companies’ data and allows them to see all their information in one place—and provide visibility into the past, present and future. A version of this post originally ran on the SumAll blog.

David Hanaford

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