Search Engine Optimisation – Mission Impossible?

An SEO beginner

SEO for absolute beginners

I was going to call this blog ‘Search Engine Opimisation Made Easy,’ because when I googled it – it came back with 163 million results. But then I thought hmm, but my blog will probably turn up in the search results ranked at 163 million and one, no one will find it there! I then Googled SEO for beginners, and there were 161 million results, and  then SEO for non technical people. That came in at 21 million results. This is unquestionably a popular topic. Then I though I’ll think of a cool funny title instead – what about SEO mission impossible – how original is that? Well 147,000 results came back for that, so it wasn’t that original, but maybe a bit less generic. Which I think is good.

Hacking through the SEO jungle

I knew what SEO stood for and I knew I needed it.  My blog had lost thousands of readers when I went from my beloved, easy to use Blogger platform, to my own domain name and Word press site www.eccentricengland.co.uk  No one told me this would happen, and that my 25,000  readers a month, including my fan club from Portugal and the Ukraine would disappear over night! I couldn’t quite work out who was to blame for that. One training site I looked at stated  ‘SEO is a practise that can take less than a day to learn but a lifetime to master.’ Not particularly encouraging I thought. So here I was at the first paid for, Boost Your Business course from the North East Enterprise Agency covering ‘An Introduction to SEO’ and then the second half of the day was about ‘Doing more with SEO.’  I do hope they are going to give me a backlink on their website by the way, as apparently they are like gold dust in the alternative universe of optimisation. I normally write about travel and fun events but this was quite an event for me – I needed to take responsibility for my technical incompetence!

Of maximum importance is to remember that there are two audiences for your blog – your readers and Dr Google! You cannot underestimate the power of making friends with Google – it can make or break the success of your blog even if you write the best content in the universe.

Your SEO is looking a little peaky..

On our course, which was held in the very nice offices of the BIC (Business and Innovation Centre) in Sunderland, were other people just like me who wanted a non threatening forum in which the burning questions could be asked without shame. James Lane was our very patient and very knowledgeable trainer from Hypestar  who I am also hoping may throw a backlink my way. I did ask lots of basic questions because I knew it could be my only chance. So I know that the meta description is just a short (160 characters max) summary of what your page is about. However, writing this well is very important for SEO purposes. The slug is the back section of your URL, which is also an important identifier – but you can edit it on your site to make sure it has your keywords in it too. Backlinks are actual live links to your site from another one and again essential to a healthy SEO. However, backlinks from social media do not count!  Another SEO fact which I was oblivious to.

Optimise your slug

Long Tailed key words

Long-tail keywords are more targeted search phrases with three or four words. The more specific the keyword then the easier google finds it to rank it. These words make your post more specific,  and therefore more likely to reach the right people. So the word ‘cat’ will be generic and have many more results than ‘magnetic organic cat collar.’ And if you are the manufacturer of that magnetic organic cat collar, then that makes you easier to find – for people who know what they are looking for. That is a very specific example.  It’s not so easy if you are not selling a distinct product but maybe a service or information. You need to have the right keywords for your audience. What are the people who search for your site looking for on Google?

To help with the keyword question, James recommended Google’s Keyword Planner Tool which is also free. You log in and put in your primary keyword – I guess mine would be travel blog (well that’s two words) The ‘keyword ideas’ tab should give you different ideas with their search volume. This will help with deciding on the best keywords to put into your site. You also need to use the headlines tool – which google also likes to search. I wasn’t using the headlines option at all as I didn’t know it was so important. Note to self – put headlines on all blogs.

Optimise your Meta titles

I can’t believe I even just wrote that headline. Do I even know what I mean?  I think I do because James explained it on the course pretty well! At the ‘business’ end of your WordPress blog, after the main text, are boxes called your title tag and your meta description. These need to be concise and fully explain what the page is about and contain your key words. If you’ve got your key words in these and your slug you are on the right track.

Meta tags are simple!

Alt tag your images

I knew that putting good images into your blog was really important. What I did not know was that every image you upload to your site should have an ‘alt tag’ embedded into it – i.e. a written description of the image you are using to make it easy to find. You can do this when you edit the image itself. This also helps with SEO and is a boon to the visually challenged. So if your image is a bowl of apples then write that on your tag!

A bowl of apples

How quickly your site loads is also very important, and to have images which are too large can slow things down. James told me about a plugin called Smush.it, which automatically compresses your images so that they load quicker. By the end of my SEO training day all my images on my hundreds of blogs were well and truly smushed. Video content is great for SEO, but always embed the links and don’t upload the whole file or  it will slow your site right down again. 

A picture paints a thousand words

There’s lots more to SEO than just this, and I have tried to explain what I have learnt so far as simply as I can, but I’ve really only covered the content of the first part of our training day.  I’m guessing SEO is like so many things – it’s easy when you know how. Improving your SEO is a time consuming activity but it would be so worth it if I can see my blog stats recover. Beauty is only skin deep and while your blog post may look amazing, what’s inside counts just as much! Right I’m off to sort out my Meta description and my slug!

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The course I attended was £65 for the first workshop and £110 for the whole day.

 

 

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