The Lazy Blogger’s Guide to Effective Blog SEO

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) usually sends cold chills up and down my spine.  I used to avoid it like hanging out a mother-in-law convention until I realized that SEO was the key to attracting lots of awesome readers.  That’s why we’re going to focus on it as a tool for getting your first 1,000 blog readers.

Here’s the deal – you shouldn’t spend hours stressing about keywords, canonical link structure, and other migraine-inducing search topics. 

Instead, I’m giving you permission to be a little lazy with this one.  Thankfully doing the SEO basics is good enough for most blogs since the WordPress platform already handles much of the SEO heavy lifting.

For today, here’s a handy 7-Step guide to doing the absolute minimal SEO tweaks while getting the best results

Step 1: Install the WordPress for SEO Plugin.

This plugin will make it easy to take care of high-level SEO configuration.  For example, the plugin will automatically create a XML sitemap.  The sitemap makes it easy for the search engines to find new and existing blog posts.  The plugin will also alert Bing and Google that an updated sitemap is available.

Once you install the plugin, it will take you through a quick tutorial to explain all of the SEO options you can tweak.  I suggest using most of the default settings.  This is a super powerful plugin that makes it ridiculously easy to look like an SEO ninja.

Step 2: Pick research keyphrases to relevant and SEO friendly posts.

Research keyphrases are more than two-words long and point to a user question.  For example “best jogging stroller”,”top schools in Alpharetta Georgia” could easily end with question-mark and reveal a reader looking for solid content.

Use your keyword research tool to see how many searches are made for each term. Pay attention to the “local search” volume if you are a local retailer or service provider.  Also take a look at competition for the keyword.  You’ll tend to see less competition for “longtail keywords”, keywords with more than 3 keywords. Don’t get hung up on these numbers, the idea is to pick good search volume keywords with relatively little competition.

Make a list of 5 keywords that you want to target with your posts.  You’ll use the list for the next step.

Step #3: Write future posts with your target keywords in mind.

Keep your list of target keywords handy as you brainstorm post ideas for your editorial calendar.  Look for opportunities to write meaty how-to posts that naturally incorporate your keyphrase.  It will be easy to write excellent reader and SEO friendly posts since your keyphrases address reader problems

Warning – don’t fall into the trap of writing for the search engines.  All you want to do is let Google and other search engines know that your post has relevant information for the chosen keyphrase.

Step 4: Follow the SEO Checklist for Every Post.

Get in the habit of completing your SEO chores before publishing every post. Once you install the WordPress for SEO plugin, you’ll get an easy area for completing some of these tasks.  Before you hit the publish button Take time to take a close look at:

  • Post Title: See if you can get your keyword into the title of your post.  Again don’t force the issue.
  • Post Description: Consider writing a custom description for your posts that includes your target keyword.  Remember that Google will use your post description in the search engine listing so make it interesting teaser.
  • Post Tags:  There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule for the Post Tags.  Like with most SEO techniques, focus seems to work best.  Pick three keywords that accurately describe your post’s subject.  And, yes include your target keyword.
  • Image Alt-Tags:  Since every post should have a photo use the opportunity to include your keyword in the alt-tags.  Make the alt-tag reader friendly since it will be shown for email readers who have images turned off in their email program.

Step 5: Make Your Social Share Buttons Visible Google is using “social signals” to determine how authoritative and relevant your copy is to your audience.  Of course, Google’s favorite social signal is Google+ and +1 buttons. With Google’s aggressive promotion and integration of Google+ it just makes sense to include Google+ as one of your three social share buttons.

Regardless, make sure you put your social share buttons under your headline and at the bottom of the post.

Step 6: Create Hub Pages

Neil Patel at QuickSprout offered a great suggestion to create Hub pages for content on your blog.  These hub pages help your readers get to buried content on your blog.  This works especially well if you have more than 50 posts on your blog.  Here’s an example from Problogger:

Use hub pages to help blog SEO

The added benefit is that the hub pages work like ad-hoc sitemaps categorizing content and giving the search engines more posts to index.

Step 7: Watch Your Page Load Times

Google is paying a lot of attention to your blog’s page load times, the amount of time it takes for your page to fully display all of its content.  Research has shown that fast sites get better conversions and are considered more relevant prompting Google to reward fast loading sites.

You can check your page load times at with at Pingdom.  Obviously the quicker the better is the rule here.  Most experts agree that your page should be loading within 3-5 seconds.

The main culprit for slow loading blog pages are plugins.  These irresistible pieces of code can potentially slow your blog to a crawl.  If your pages are loading slowly then start deactivating and deleting plugins that aren’t absolutely necessary.  Listen, I’m a plugin addict too but they aren’t worth getting dinged by Google.

1,000 Blog Reader Challenge Participant?

Complete these 7 steps today.  Optimizing your posts will be important for achieving your 1,000 Reader goal.  By the way, if you are not in on the challenge, then read this post to see what it’s all about.  We are getting a little technical in this post so go ahead and ask your questions in the comments.

About Stan

Stan Smith is the Managing Director of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

23 thoughts on “The Lazy Blogger’s Guide to Effective Blog SEO

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  5. Ozio Media

    The great majority of bloggers wouldn’t even think of using keyword density and other SEO techniques to improve their SERPs. This means that if you are blogging with only a few keywords for your posts, you will naturally improve your ranking with the search engines. It really isn’t any more effort than planning what you will write before you start so that the post stays on topic. With the coming changes to Google’s algorithm, it will also be beneficial to include a few synonyms for your keywords to take advantage of the upcoming semantics function that will be included soon.

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  7. Stanford Post author

    See how tricky I am! Didn’t know that Headway automatically includes WordPress for SEO – Good stuff.
    P.S. My little sis lives in GA – much love

  8. Stanford Post author

    Tags aren’t my favorite either. Haven’t run into the duplication issue because I always change my tags for each post. Thanks for contributing some great tips.

  9. Stanford Post author

    You are welcome. I have used All-in-One SEO and like it’s features. WordPress for SEO impressed me with its anti-scrapper / RSS features which are pretty nifty.

  10. Sarah

    Hi Stanford, very interesting post. At the moment we use the All-in-One SEO plugin. We also have many other SEO platforms like Google Adwords and 7Search.com that we use. There are definitely so many SEO options to use and choose nowdays. Thank you for your SEO Tips.

  11. Stanford Post author

    Hey Eric! Thanks for the link. I’ll take a look and see what you are up to.

  12. S. Emerson

    Jean (and everyone else reading),
    Google and the other major search engines reserve the right to display what they think is best for the person’s search. All you can do is write the best meta description you can and hope it suits the search made.

    Google explains it here: Site title and description http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35624 c/w video link done by Matt Cutts, Google Spam Dept.

    Plus they also did this post on their Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Better page titles in search results http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ca/2012/01/better-page-titles-in-search-results.html

    Hope that helps you understand why your meta descriptions are not showing.

  13. Eric Wittlake

    Stanford, good stuff as always. I completely ignored SEO on my blog until Google become the top traffic source despite my giving it the cold shoulder. Now I try to care about it a little bit more without getting too caught up. Here are five steps I shared last year that I believe have been behind most of my search success to date: http://b2bdigital.net/2011/12/06/game-google-no-risk/

    I really like the hubpages idea, I have been considering building specific resource pages, with a collection of posts or pages, definitely would help on the SEO front and on the user experience front as well.

    Like you, I use Genesis. In the interest of reducing the number of plugins, I have found their simple SEO options cover what most people use, including modifying titles and descriptions.

  14. Dianne at www.hotmessprincess.com

    Stanford, I have a question: I’m onboard with the 1,000 readers challenge…but when you say 1,000 readers do you mean 1,000 extra hits on my blog or 1,000 email subscribers? Also, I totally relate to Elle’s comment above – I don’t have your messages filtered, but already have SEO in place on my blog and when I didn’t see anything in the headline about the 1,000 readers thing I figured this had nothing to do with that. :-)

  15. Elle

    Aaah! I almost missed today’s challenge information because I filtered your emails with 1000 challenge in the subject line. But, great information today I really appreciate it. I have a Headway Theme and I think that plugin is included because I see the meta tag and title tags but I have never filled them out! I thought google would index the blog content itself, so dumb of me! I won’t be making that mistake again, but the hub page thing confuses me. Liked your shout out to GA, BTW. :)

  16. S. Emerson

    Not a fan of using tags. Worried about creating duplicate content pages. Think about it, if you did a series all on one subject your front page and the corresponding tag page would have the same content at the top. Boring for readers and causes a duplicate content problem for the search engines.

    The image alt attribute (not tag) should describe what the image is about. It really is for those who surf with images turned off (for faster surfing), when your image is missing for some reason, and for those who use assistive technology to read web pages to them. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the words within the image alt attribute a combination of description and keywords, just don’t keyword stuff and write nonsense that won’t make sense to anyone.

    For load times, yes plugins are a time sucker. Not only does the software have to process your active and inactive plugins, they write to the coding of your pages, sometimes inserting their own stylesheet or script locations which in turn adds more stuff for the browser to download before rendering the page to the visitor.

    Also when uploading images to your blog resize it before uploading. Right size for the job. Browser will download the huge image you upload and then resize it as per your sizing in the coding or whatever the software resizes it to. This takes time.

    Third party sources also can slow down the rendering of your pages. If their server is down or slow and your coding isn’t optimized to load them last your pages will stall or not render at all if their server is down. Google has gone down (believe it or not). Was horrible trying to surf that day when people using their services had not optimized their background coding.

    In this world of low patience everything you do to improve the download speed of your pages is important and not just for Google. You earn your social proof (likes, shares and bookmarks) through an enjoyable experience by your visitors.

  17. Paul

    Hi I use youst which is similar to WordPress SEOi think, its great have you come across it Stanford pbnj and on track for 1000 got 136 visitors mostly via social platforms, have you come across triberr

  18. Stanford Post author

    Definitely give WordPress for SEO a try Jean. It gives you a preview of what your listing and description would look like for your post. I find that this feature is a great way to motivate me to do SEO.

  19. Jean

    I currently use All-In-One SEO as my plugin – but when I do searches on Google, it doesn’t show the meta description I had set-up. I think I’ll give WordPress for SEO a try.

    SEO is such a pain to think about and remember when blogging, so I definitely appreciate this lazy way of doing it. Kudos :)

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