You’d better get your cup of coffee and hit the restroom now, because this is gonna take a while…
I’ve put together some of the most common Search Engine Optimization (SEO) factors that every blogger should be aware of.
Some of what’s listed below might be controversial or unproven, but I’m just puttin’ it out there. Hate if you want, but I believe it’s all sound advice.
There’s no guarantee you’ll make it to page 1 of Google by following these tips, but neglecting them can definitely cost you.
Remember, most of your success rides on the quality of your content and your drive to take action.
And… If you see anything I’ve missed, wanna share some of your own tips, or just wanna chat, drop me a comment down below!
On-Page SEO Factors
Title and Description Tags
Research has shown that your page’s Title tag may just be the most important factor for SEO. Your title MUST contain your primary keyword for the page, and the closer it is to the beginning of the text, the better.
What is the Title tag?
This is the main snippet of text that describes the page. It needs to be a good, and relevant description, and at the same time, compelling enough to get a reader’s attention.
Because… your title tag will appear in more places than you might think. Here’s are a couple of quick examples:
On your browser:
In search results:
On social media shares:
Here’s another little tip for ya… to find some killer elements for your title and description tags, check out Google Adwords. Type your keyword into Google and take note of the ads that show up. Most of the time you’ll come across great copy that’s been split-tested to death and is probably working well for the advertiser.
Now… I’m not sayin’ you should jack their content and use it for yourself, but this can give you a pretty good idea of what’s working for your competition. Use the concepts to make your own killer title and description tags and start stealing away those clicks!
You’ve probably heard it before, but the higher your word count, the higher you’re likely to rank on Google.
You should aim for an average of around 1500 words per post, and even higher is better.
Long content, in addition to providing more value, also ups your odds of ranking for more long tail keywords… some you might not have even thought of.
And… somewhere around the 2400-2500 word mark, the “awe” factor starts to kick in. That’s when readers and other bloggers become so impressed with your juicy content, they can’t help but to share and link back to it…
If you don’t believe me (you stubborn, little %$#@), then check out this article! 😉
Social Sharing Buttons
You don’t have ’em on your site? You’re missing out!
Social signals are a key factor for SEO, and why not make it easy for your readers to Like, +1, or share your content with a single click??
If you’re using WordPress (like me), there’s an awesome (and FREE) plugin you can use for this.
It’s called Sharebar.
If you wanna see it in action, look to the left. 🙂
…or if you’re on mobile or have a small screen, look at the top of the page!
…and if you’re diggin’ my post, do me a solid and try a few of ’em out!
Heading Tags (H1, H2, H3, etc…)
It’s critical you wrap your primary keyword in an H1 tag. The H1 tag is essentially a second title for your page, and sends a strong message to the search engines about your content.
H1 should be at or very near the top of your page. If you’re using WordPress, this is usually taken care of for you.
The Title of your post will be converted to an H1 heading automatically, unless you’re using a custom theme that’s screwing things up… In any case, inspect the HTML output and double check that it’s there.
Also, make sure you’re only using one H1 tag per page.
Never use an H1 tag just to make non-headline text larger–do that with CSS or an inline “font-size” attribute.
Dropping your primary keyword in a few subheadings (H2, H3, etc.) is also a good idea, so long as it looks natural and flows well.
Drop Your Keyword Early
Make sure you drop your keyword in the first 100-150 words of your post. Make sure you fit it in naturally–don’t be obvious about it.
Also make sure you sprinkle that keyword all throughout your post, again, do it NATURALLY.
Google’s gonna be on the lookout for blatant keyword stuffing–you should shoot for a keyword density of roughly 1-2%.
You can get a WordPress plugin that helps out with this, Yoast is a good one, but it’s probably not that critical to track so long as your post flows naturally and sticks to your keyword’s topic.
Use Outbound Links
This is a great SEO technique that’s SERIOUSLY underutilized.
Link out to an authoritative source 3-4 times per average-sized post (~1500 words), and make sure that each link is to a quality post/article that’s relevant to your page’s content.
The sites you’re linking to will help reinforce Google’s opinion regarding the relevancy of your content.
Beef Up your Content with Multimedia (Vids and Pics)
Adding video, graphics or photos to your page can increase reader interaction.
You wanna keep those readers on your site, so give ’em something worth staying for.
When readers land on your site and start browsing around for more, your bounce rate drops, and Google takes note of that.
This may help you rank higher in search results.
Keep your URLs Simple and on Topic
Links to your pages should be as short and concise as possible.
Your keyword should be part of the URL, ideally within the first 3-5 words of the URL (after your domain name).
If you’re using WordPress, make sure you’re using Permalinks for your posts. The default WordPress URLs are woefully inadequate for SEO. I use the “domainname/blog/<postname>” structure.
SEO analysis has shown time-and-again that both of these factors can affect your rankings.
Minimize Your Load Times
Slow-loading pages are a big no-no. The zippier your load time, the more Google likes you.
If you’re hosting a lot of multimedia, consider using cloud hosting, e.g., a company like rackspace.com.
If you’re running WordPress, you can switch over to a more streamlined theme that’s optimized for SEO.
The blog you’re reading now is running on Thesis 1.8.5, and it’s second-to-none when it comes to an SEO-optimized theme.
You can also pick up a decent plug-in to help improve performance. I use Total Cache. It’s free and works like a champ.
You can use the Total Cache plugin with or without Thesis.
Cross Link to Older Content
Don’t forget to link back to your older content. An average-size post should have at least 3-4 “internal” links.
Be smart about it though, don’t just link to a post for the sake of creating links.
Take time to identify a few long tail keywords in your content and link ’em to a post that expands on their meaning.
…did you catch what I did there? 😉
SEO-Optimize Those Pics
Pics, just like your text, need a little SEO attention as well.
Make sure you’re using the “title” and “alt” tags to your advantage. People rarely ever see what you assign to these fields, but search engines most certainly do.
The “alt” tag for images is essentially the equivalent of anchor text for text links.
Here’s an example:
<img title=”title tag seo” alt=”title tag seo” src=”http://mozcafe.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/title-tag-seo.png” width=”467″ height=”43″ />
Did you notice above that even the image filename includes my keywords?
And, like I said before, make sure those pic filesizes are as small as you can get ’em without sacrificing image quality.
Off-Page SEO Factors
Off-page SEO, if you’re not familiar with the term, refers to what you do externally from your site. This is gonna mostly involve promoting your site and acquiring backlinks.
And backlinks is where it’s at. Your site can have the best content on the planet, but without backlinks, it don’t mean $@#!.
Before we get started, lemme say that it’s the QUALITY of backlinks that’s gonna make or break your site.
So, don’t be tempted to pick up a Fiverr gig that promises a gazillion backlinks… you’re asking for trouble. Google is onto these guys, and buying these types of backlinks will get you slapped in a hurry.
So let’s get started. What you’ll need to do is get the word out about your new posting or article, and the best way to do that is to start showing up everywhere. …a philosophy I learned from the master, Brad Campbell.
In order to be everywhere, you’ll need to start somewhere. Try these suggestions on for size…
Create a YouTube channel for yourself or your site. Start making video tutorials, reviews, and summaries of your posts.
Any chance you see to incorporate video into your posts is an SEO opportunity.
Once you’ve uploaded the video to YouTube, use your keyword in the video’s title.
Important: In the video’s description field, you should write up a sort-of mini blog post.
Plan on writing 200-300+ words. Make it good quality–no spammy crap! This is Google’s only way to figure out the relevancy of your video–the Googlebot can’t see or hear your video content.
Be sure to craft your description around and about your keyword.
In the description, be sure to include the URL back to your post. You’ll need to include the full text, “http://” + everything else.
This’ll be converted to a clickable link once you publish the video. It’ll be a “nofollow” link, so it won’t pass any PageRank juice, but it’ll still help your post’s rankings.
Visit high-authority blogs in your niche. Read their content and give them feedback via comments.
Don’t be a spammy jerk though… (that kinda sounds like a canned Jamaican treat). Anyway, don’t drop comments like “Great post!” or “Thanks for the information!”
That’s not adding any value.
Take the time to read the content thoroughly and leave insightful comments. In addition to getting your comment approved and scoring a backlink, you’ll start to develop a good relationship with the blogger.
…and that can benefit you later on down the road.
Oh yeah, be sure you enter your real name and URL when you comment. This is where your backlink will come from–it’ll most likely be a “nofollow” link, but they’re important as well. Google wants to see a natural mix of nofollow and do-follow links.
Guest posting gives you dual benefits. You’ll get the backlink you’re after, plus, if the blog has a decent number of visitors, you’ll get clickthroughs from the guest post as well.
While guest posting is really similar to an older SEO technique, Article Marketing, it’s totally different in the eyes of Google. Article Marketing had its time, but Google finally wised up to what people were doing. Sites like e-zine.com have lost a lot of their juice thanks to the latest Google algorithm updates. But guest posting is still going strong.
What is a guest post?
Simply put, a guest post is when a blogger takes someone else’s content and publishes it on their own blog–giving the original author the credit. This benefits the blogger in that he/she gets free content for their blog, and benefits the writer because they get a backlink (or two) to their site.
If you’re thinking about guest blogging (and you should be), educate yourself before you get started. It’ll save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
Building a Blog Network
If you do this one right, it can pay off in a big, big way… But, if you’re new to this game, it can be a little tricky.
You’ll need to create a high quality blog network for this to succeed, but you’ll also have to create a network with the smallest footprint as possible.
This means you need to diversify every aspect of the network as much as possible.
What you’re doing will be pretty obvious to the search engines if you have 10-20 blogs all hosted with the same provider, all using WordPress, all using the same themes, with all of the domain names registered in your name.
Get the idea?
Building a great blog network is gonna take time and it’s gonna take some cash.
Here’s a great resource for learning how to do it yourself. But be sure you do your homework before you get started. You don’t wanna pour your time and money into a network just to have it de-indexed and banned by Google…
Syndicating your Content
This one is simple, but it takes time, and a lot of people just don’t put in the work.
Take the content you’re trying to rank and rewrite it. Make sure you paraphrase it enough so that you eliminate any duplicate content.
Now, take that newly re-written content, save it as a PDF, and upload it to a site such as scribd.com.
Create a PowerPoint summary of your post and upload it to slideshare.net.
Create a few of personal blogs on sites such as:
I suggest using a pen name for these blogs and not associating them with any of your Google accounts (like Analytics, Webmaster Tools, Google+, etc.).
Each time you write a new post for your primary blog, post a rewritten version of it one each of your additional blogs (a unique version for each blog–no duplicates!)
Make sure you diversify the way you link between these sites. Don’t just link back to your primary site.
For example, link from a blogspot post to a weebly post, then link from the weebly post back to your primary blog.
Mix it up.
Toss in a few more topically relevant outbound links to related sites that you don’t own.
The goal is to make the links look as natural as possible, and an incestuous linkfest between just a few blogs is gonna stand out to Google worse than a nudist at a Little League game.
Social signals (shares, likes, etc,) likely send a message to search engines about the popularity of content. Encourage as many Likes and shares for your posts as possible.
Popular sites for likes and shares are:
Make sure you’ve installed social share buttons to make it easy for your readers to share your stuff.
Large numbers of RSS subscribers is another indicator of your content’s popularity, and it probably has an impact on your search engine rankings, especially since feedburner.com, one of the largest RSS providers, is now owned by Google.
Make it easy for your readers to subscribe to an RSS feed of your content.
Use the RSS buttons provided by your WordPress theme (or a plugin if your theme doesn’t have ’em). If you have a blog hosted on blogspot.com, weebly.com, WordPress.com, etc. then use their done-for-you buttons.
WikiHow.com & eHow.com
Write or contribute to How-To articles.
Register with these two sites and add your URL to your profile, then browse through the content related to your niche to find any articles in need of pimpin’ up.
Like I said before, don’t try to spam these guys, you’ll get booted in no time flat.
Make real and valuable contributions.
In some cases you can add your own site as a source or citation for the article–that’s a bonus backlink in addition to the one you placed in your profile.
Google a topic related to your niche and you’re bound to run into a search result pointing back to Yahoo! Answers.
Post insightful and helpful answers to people’s questions.
You can leave your URL in the text of your answer. You’ll need to spell out the entire URL (“http://” + URL).
The link will become clickable once your answer is published.
It’ll be a “nofollow” link, but it’s totally worth it.
Blogowogo is a blog aggregation site. Create a profile and add your own blog.
Any new posts from your blog will be relayed to blogowogo.com via your RSS feed.
Set up a Twitter account using a keyword as part of your user name.
Make sure you completely fill out your profile, including a link back to your primary money site.
Set up an account and create a lens (single page) for each of your areas of interest.
For example, you might have a page (lens) for SEO, one for WordPress technical info, another for Empower Network, and so on…
Add links to your content in posts and any other chance you get. –just make it look natural. Don’t turn your lens pages into link farms!
This is kinda like squidoo.com. Post your stuff and link back to your site!
You might already be using Flickr for photo sharing.
Make sure you drop your main URL into your profile settings.
If you don’t have a Google+ profile set up, you’re leaving a LOT of link juice in the fridge.
Get thee to Google+ and set up your profile immediately!
Make sure you link back to your blog/website in the “Links” section of your profile. The “Links” section gives you a do-follow link.
Now why would you leave a do-follow link from a PR9 site on the table?
(Update: Well, so much for that “do-follow” link. Google just announced they’ll be no-following Google+ profile links)
You’ll also need to add your blog’s URL to the “Contributor to:” section for Google+ Authorship to function properly. If you need help setting up Google Authorship, here’s a decent guide.
Registering as a business with Google Places can give your site a boost in the SERPs.
Google verifies your business’ existence by snail mailing you a verification code.
You can’t complete the registration and get your listing without it.
This helps ensure that any businesses listed with Google are legit, so getting listed sends a strong trust signal.
Set up a profile here and make it as complete as possible.
Add your links to your profile–work your keywords into your website name.
You can add up to 3 links. They’re all “nofollow” links, and even though they’re just profile links, Ted.com is a PR8 site and still carries some weight.
DMOZ.org Listing (Open Directory Project)
Submitting your site to and getting a link from DMOZ used to carry a LOT of weight.
It still helps, just not as much as before.
Is it worth the trouble to get listed?
You bet. It’s still a quality backlink.
But… you’ll have to be patient. Getting your submission approved can take hours, or it can take months–it all depends on how active your particular category’s editor is.
It’s staffed by volunteers, some more dedicated than others.
Other Ranking Factors
A lot of folks out there speculate on what Google may/may not be using to rate websites. I’m gonna lay down a few of ’em here, but I have to say up front, most of these haven’t been confirmed by Google and are just based on observations by SEO experts over the years.
- A brand-spankin’ new domain will be tougher to rank than an existing one with a clean, white-hat link profile.
Private Whois Registration
- A private domain registration might indicate the registrant has something to hide. It may not always hurt you, but it’s something to think about. Also, listing contact information on your website that matches the domain’s Whois information may be seen as a positive.
Too Many Affiliate Links
- Affiliate links are probably fine in small numbers, but when your site is peppered with them, you run the risk of Google tagging you as one of those crappy affiliate-only sites. Use affiliate links sparingly, and when you do, make sure you “nofollow” them. Better yet, consolidate most of your affiliate links on their own page, then use the “meta robots” tag for the page with nofollow, noarchive, and noindex values.
Title Tag Starting with Keyword
- Research shows that pages with title tags that start with a keyword perform better than those where the keyword is placed toward the end.
- Having duplicate (or very similar) content on the same site can have a negative effect on your site’s rankings.
- Google likely gives a boost in SERPs to fresh content. Especially for time-sensitive keyword searches.
- If the content on your page isn’t original, it’ll likely not be ranked as well (or at all) compared to the original content.
Too Many Outbound Links
- Placing too many do-follow, outbound links on a page may bleed the juice from your own page/site.
Too Many Broken Links
- If your page has broken links, this could be an indicator of an abandoned site and probably sends a strong negative signal about the quality of your content.
Cloaked Affiliate Links
- This looks shady to the search engines. Don’t cloak your affiliate links, or you’ll risk a penalty.
- An older page that’s kept up-to-date (fresh) may outrank a newer page.
- If your site is organized in a logical and thematic way (think “silos”) it’ll likely be easier for Google to make sense of your content.
- Bad reviews of your blog/company on sites such as Yelp.com and RipOffReport.com or poor BBB ratings could have a negative effect on your rankings.
Popups and Advertisements
- A popup-heavy or Advertising-laden site is usually a sign of poor-quality content. Use both very sparingly.
- Don’t place ads above-the-fold. You may get slapped with a penalty.
- Note: “Above-the-fold” means the portion of the user’s screen that’s visible when the page first loads. The user scrolls down the page to reveal what’s “below-the-fold.”
- Correctly setting up and using Google+ Authorship sends clear trust signals which can help rankings. Also, having your name and photo appear next to Google search results can dramatically increase click-through rates.
- Using a sitemap file helps the search engines to find and index all of your site’s content–even the poorly linked stuff.
- Frequent and long duration server downtimes may hurt your rankings. Extended downtime can even result in search engines de-indexing your site.
Privacy Policies and Terms & Conditions
- Well defined privacy policies and terms/conditions can be a signal of trustworthiness.
Openness and Webmaster Availability
- Google has stated in the past that they favor sites that have an “appropriate amount of contact information.” Make sure you have a “contact info” or an “about” page/byline on your site.
- Bullets and lists generally help increase site readability by breaking up page content. This is thought to be a factor when Google ranks a page.
Using Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
- Although Google hasn’t come right out and said it, using their tools to give them more insight into your content likely has a positive impact your site’s indexing and ranking.
- Links placed at the start of page will generally pass more juice than links placed toward the end.
Forum Profile Links
- Link spammers have abused the living crap out of forums. Google likely doesn’t give much value to these types of backlinks. In fact, having too many is likely to get you slapped.
Tweets from Popular Twitter Accounts
- Links to your content, when tweeted by a popular Twitter user, carry more weight than ones tweeted by less-popular accounts
- A high number of Google +1’s is known to have a positive effect on rankings
Social Media Branding
- Having a “corporate” page set up on Facebook and LinkedIn lends authenticity to your brand, whether it be a company or you personally, and may help improve your rankings.
Bad Outbound Links
- Do NOT link out to spammy, low-quality sites or to sites associated with scams such as online pharmacies, quickie loan sites, etc. Doing so can seriously harm your reputation with the major search engines.
Rapid Link Building
- A rapid, unnatural increase in the number of inbound links to a site/page can signal that a webmaster is purchasing links to artificially improve search engine rankings. It’s a sure-fire way to get slapped.
Good luck with your own SEO optimizations. If you’ve noticed anything I missed or have some tricks of your own you’d like to share, do me a favor and drop me a comment below, that way everyone can see and benefit.
Your SEO Overload Guide…