If you used a search engine to search for instructions on how to change a tire, and you got back results on the best new tires you should buy, or someone’s top 18 pictures of their tire swing, would you get a bit annoyed? Further, if you kept getting unhelpful results from that specific search engine, would you eventually switch to a different search engine to get your answers?
Well, as a company providing a service, Google knows that it needs to give you the best results possible in order to keep your attention and your business. Each search engine seeks to give out the results that will most delight you, a human.
What delights you as a human? Wild guess here: pictures, simple instructions, stuff that actually answers your question, stuff that’s well organized, content that is well written, content that includes the phrases and titles you actually searched for . . . say I’m getting warm here.
How do search engines rank sites then?Since search engines aren’t actually human, but are trying to imitate human behavior and logic, the creators of search engines have to create guidelines for their software to help give the most human search results.
Google, Bing, and other engines are always trying to modify their software to get to the most pleasing results for humans >> so as a blogger, if you’re spending time learning the 200 new factors that affect SEO each time a search engine updates its software, you are focusing on the dew, which is on the leaves, which are on the trees >> and you might be missing the forest you’re standing in.
Instead, let’s think of search engine software as an imperfect system trying to get closer and closer to what humans like. If you’re doing what humans like on your blog, you’re headed in the right direction. Here are the ten factors that will make the biggest difference for your blog . . . because they’re what search engines are basing their site ranking process on . . . because they are the things that matter most to humans:
1. Well-Written ContentI know you care about this not only because it affects your blog’s SEO, but also because you take pride in your work. Well, search engines care so much about this (and write their software to look for this) because it makes a difference to how much a reader enjoys their search results.
Translation: Write your blog content in a natural, helpful tone. Double check your work. A few errors are okay here and there, but craptacular grammar can easily affect how much people enjoy reading your work. Also, paragraphs that don’t make sense or don’t flow logically can distract people.
2. Multimedia ContentUs humans love when points are illustrated by photographs or drawings, or available as videos, or downloadable as audio . . . we love options. We love pretty things. We love simple things. Search engines know that their users (humans) will be happier with posts that include multiple forms of media, instead of just text, so search engines show more love to those posts.
Translation: If you are making a point that is explained better through a video, make a video. Provide a main blog post image that lets people know what your post is about. However, don’t forget that you can include more images in the body of the post when they relate to your points. For example, I’ll casually drop in the image below because it illustrates how much more interesting a blog post with pictures looks than a post that is just text . . . clever girl.
3. Keywords That Make SenseHumans use keywords all the time. I shall illustrate this point with some extremely real dialogue:
Hey, I ran into James and Regina the other day,” says Person 1.
Oh, you mean the crazy blogger with curly hair and her sidekick who always wears red tights and a cape?” says Person 2.
Person 2 used all the underlined keywords to clarify who James and Regina were. Keywords are details that help people classify and verify information. If you completely forgot my name and my sidekick’s name, you might search the Internets for “blogger with curly hair and a sidekick in red tights.”
Yes, I could have gone with a more relevant example above, but I think we had more fun with this one. The point is: people will pull out and search the keywords and terms that are most memorable or important to them. Google and other search engines know this. They return results that use those keywords naturally.
Translation: You know the people you want to reach with your website. Think of the keywords and the exact phrases they are likely to use when they search for your type of content online. Use those keywords in your post (and in your blog post title and heading–but that’s information for another point, coming soon). As an example, this blog post is titled SEO for Bloggers, mainly because I feel that you as a blogger might specifically search that. Sure, you might also search for SEO tips or search engine optimization for blog owners, but I felt my title was a good guess.
4. Content That Engages ReadersHave you ever landed on a website that looked like it was last updated in your year of birth? I know I have, and the Internet wasn’t a real, wide-spread thing when I was born . . . so, translation, that’s bad. When I land on sites like that, I leave immediately. Hi, my name is Regina, and I’m a shallow Internet snob. And as a snob, I won’t stay on sites that aren’t engaging. Your design needs to engage and your post content needs to engage. If readers check out mentally after your first paragraph, they’re outta there.
Search engines want to show you (as a reader and content consumer) sites that are interesting and that you will spend a lot of time on. They are paying attention to how engaging a blog’s content is, they are designing their software to identify interactive, captivating sites more and more.
Translation: Engage your blog readers through great content, images, a logical layout, an easy-to-use site, and your stellar personality and jokes. Your blog’s search engine rankings thank you. If you’re able to keep people on your site longer than other sites, search engines love you.
5. Links That Lead to Your BlogDo you want another epic dialogue example to illustrate a point? Of course you do:
Hey, do you know a good store to get corduroy skinny pants from, Bob?” asks some clearly cool person.
Oh yeah, go to Too Regit to Quit, it’s a new boutique on South 1st Street,” says some other clearly cool person.
What just happened? Old school word of mouth. Well in Internet land, people have these same conversations (where they’re recommending a specific entity or resource) through links on their blogs that recommend something or social media platform shares. The social media thing is the last point in this post, but let’s address links.
When another website or blog links to your site, search engines take that to mean someone is recommending you. More links means more people think your blog is hot stuff. In our corduroy pants example, if you repeatedly hear of this shop, (epically named) Too Regit to Quit, you would eventually go there.
But, here’s the deal: If your successful and popular best friend who has the same taste in clothing recommends a boutique store, that means way more to you than the socially awkward man at the gas station who shouts out the boutique’s name while driving off and bumping Ace of Base. No offense Ace, I think I know the lyrics to all your songs, backwards.
Search engines act the same way as you did in this situation, they will take the link/recommendation of reputable blogs as more valuable than the random link from a site that just popped up last week and still seems a bit awkward. And in general, they will take the link/recommendation of a blog in your same space (ex: fashion) as more relevant than a link from something completely unrelated (ex: a toaster oven blog).
Translation: Guest write posts and articles for established blogs in your general industry. These blogs will typically link back to your blog within your guest post. Also, focus on creating content that people will want to share. Build the best metaphorical corduroy skinny pants you can through your blog.
6. Blog Post Titles That Make SenseIf I ask you for your best social media book recommendations, and you tell me about a book titled “The Girl with Yellow Shoes,” I will look at you with the what’s-in-your-cup-other-than-the-coffee-I-thought-was-there stare. I already feel you’re about to tell me something unrelated and annoying. What’s interesting though is >> “The Girl with Yellow Shoes” might be the best book on social media ever written . . . but the title of the book would suit me better if it made more sense . . . especially if I only have a limited amount of time available to me to decide on my next social media book.
Google knows that if you wrote an epic post on using MailChimp as an Etsy store owner, you might have naturally included “MailChimp” and/or “Etsy” in your blog post title. But, more importantly, Google knows that if a web searcher searches for “how to use MailChimp for your Etsy store,” that person is more likely to click on a blog post titled “MailChimp for Etsy Shops: The Champion’s Guide to Awesome Emails” than “This Girl Still Has Yellow Shoes On, It’s Weird.”
Translation: Title your posts in ways that would cause you to click (if you fit in your ideal blog reader group). Title your posts with keywords that will help people figure out what it’s all about. Title your posts in ways that build excitement and accurate expectations.
7. Content That’s Long Enough to Really Address a NeedRemember that one time you Googled “SEO for Bloggers” and landed on a post that was only 10 words long? No. You don’t. Because it probably never happened. Since you as a human want enough information to actually accomplish your goals (ex: become awesome at blogging, learn how to change your car’s oil, create tasty gluten-free desserts, etc.), you probably prefer content that gives you a full picture. This usually requires more than 200 words.
Search engines realize that 2,000 words will give users/searchers a more complete picture of how to do something epic than 500 words. It’s based on a human need, and it’s translated to how their search engine software treats all the posts in Internet land.
Translation: Use headings, and images, and bullet points to keep your text interesting, but then make sure there is enough text and content to really help and engage people.