In short, there are two kinds search engine optimization (SEO) that affect the search engine rankings of your blog, the off-page and the on-page factors.
The off-page factors are the external, incoming links to your blog, trustworthiness of the domain and such. Some of these can be optimized by a blogger, by building links through legitimate methods and keeping the blog clean of illegal or borderline content. However, for the most part, off-page SEO is something a blogger won’t do directly (e.g. other people linking back to you).
The on-page factors are the internal aspects, everything a reader and a search engine sees on the blog and individual web pages. For the on-page factors, a blogger has full control to make the required modifications in order to make the blog as SEO-friendly as possible. Thus it makes sense to focus your initial SEO efforts for the on-page and build a foundation for the long-term search engine optimization.
There are certain tasks that only need to be done once, e.g. domain registration and optimizing the settings for the blogging platform and theme or template. And then there are tasks that you can pay attention to when writing and publishing individual pages and blog posts. This post presents the 13 most important things a blogger should do for the blog’s on-page SEO.
1 Use Relevant Keywords for the Domain Name
There are many blogs that have done OK without having keyword phrased blog and domain name, which might be better for branding purposes, just take a look at Twitter or Facebook for example. But for SEO, the blog’s name and domain name should be the main keyword phrase of your blog, or closely related to it.
The domain of the blog usually matches the blog’s name and it is beneficial to optimize both the blog’s name and domain with good keyword phrase. If you already have an established blog, this is done already. If you’re starting a new blog, use a little time to come up with good name for the blog, with good keywords or a phrase, and register a domain with those keywords.
2 Optimize the Keywords in the Title Tag
The title tag of a web page is the most important on-page search engine ranking factor. Title tag is not directly the same as the headline of a blog post for example. Title tag of a page is usually shown on the top left corner of the browser, and in the HTML code of the page, it’s the text between <title> and </title> tags in the header section of the HTML-page.
In blogs, the title tag is defined by the blogging platform. It depends on the configuration of the blogging software, the theme or template, or use of plugins and addons, how this can be optimized on your blog. In WordPress, the title tag can be optimized through the WP theme or by a plugin, like All in One SEO Pack. Similarly in other blogging platforms, the title tag can be optimized with extensions or by editing the template.
Whatever method is used, the title tag should be optimized for different pages of the blog by including the keyword phrase of that particular page. On the front page, the title tag should include the blog’s name and possibly the tagline, with the order of these two depending on the keywords you’re trying to optimize. As the keywords at the beginning of the title tag are slightly more important than the others, put the blog’s name first if the name is your main keyword phrase, otherwise, include the tagline first.
In the archive pages, like category- or tag-pages, the title tag can be the category name and the blog name. For individual pages and posts, the title tag should match the main headline. This way, you can optimize the title tag by including the keywords phrases on the headlines when you’re writing them.
3 Write Great Headlines
In addition to optimizing the title tag, the blog theme or template should use the different headline tags efficiently. This means that the H1 headline tag should be used for the main headline of the page, which for the home page is the blog’s name or the tagline, and for the individual pages, the main headline of the page or post.
This requires that the theme uses different headline tags for different pages. Otherwise, the H1 headline is always on the blog’s name, even on individual posts, or even worse, there is not H1 tag, just H2 and onwards. So ensure that the theme you’re using has these things covered. You can check this by viewing the HTML source code of the individual pages in your blog and looking for the H1 title. If the H1 tag stays on the blog’s name on all pages, including individual posts, you need to tweak the theme or ask for an update from the theme developer.
With SEO-friendly theme, both the title tag and H1 can be optimized by writing great headlines and including relevant keyword phrases in them, if possible. I say this, because great headlines are not only important for SEO, but for your readers as well, so don’t compromise the headlines power by making it just about your keywords.
4 Pay Attention to the Anchor Text in Your Links
The external, incoming links to your blog are very important, but those are off-page factors as mentioned at the beginning. But the links, and the anchor text used in them, are important for on-page optimization as well. Always add links to your own posts and pages with relevant keywords and phrases. Alternate the phrases a bit, for example using different variations like singular and plural form.
The links are more important to the “receiving” end, whether the link is external or internal, but the links and anchor texts are important for the page they are in as well. Because of this, it is good to link out to other blogs and your other posts from every post you write, using optimized anchor texts. Yes, your link will give “link juice” to the other blog more when you link out, but it does help your on-page SEO as well. This is often overlooked when people think about SEO.
5 Write a Perfect First Paragraph to Every Post
If writing great headline is important to grab the attention and SEO, the next important factor is the first paragraph of the article. This should capture the reader to read the rest of the article. No amount of SEO will help if visitors that do come in (taken that your headline is good enough) leave immediately because the beginning of the post isn’t written well enough.
But as we’re talking more about SEO than writing, try to include the main keyword phrase for the post into the first paragraph and the beginning of the post, namely the first 50-100 words.
6 Manually Add Informative Description to the Meta Tag Description
Meta tag description can be found from the head section of the HTML page. In the early days of the web, search engines relied heavily on the meta fields, like keywords and description, in order to rate and rank the pages. But this is no longer true. However, the meta description is very important for another search related factor, but not search engine rankings.
OK, so the meta description (and the meta keywords) has very little effect on the search engine rankings. So, why meta description is included on this post then? Simple, the meta description will show up in the search engine results. If the searched phrase is in the description, the description will be used and depending on the search engine, the phrase might even be highlighted.
So the main purpose of the meta tag description is to increase click-through rate from the search engine results pages to your blog, so it’s a different kind of SEO, not the usual which aims for higher rankings. If you don’t add meta tag description manually, the beginning of the post is usually used automatically (yet another reason to write great, descriptive and attention-grabbing first paragraph).
You should write the description manually, to ensure it is properly optimized (and catchy enough to lure new visitors from the search engine). How you achieve this, depends on the software or service. Unfortunately in free blogging services like Blogger, this can’t be done very easily. But on self-hosted WordPress, installing All in One SEO pack will take care of this, enabling you to manually add and edit the description if any post or page.
7 Use the Best Permalink Structure for SEO
In addition to the keywords on the domain name, the keywords in the rest of the URL matter as well. In the blogosphere, this is called the permalink. The permalink should always include the post name, sometimes referred to as the post slug, e.g. this posts default slug might be “13-essential-on-page-seo-tips-for-blogs”.
The post slug can be optimized even further by editing it manually, e.g. removing the irrelevant words from the slug, like “a”, “the” and such. Or the slug can be very short, which also makes the URL more convenient, while adding the keyword relevance to the used phrase or word. This kind of shortened postname in the permalink is known as SEO slug.
Other elements that can go into the permalink like year, month and day or numeric post id can, and in some case should, be included as well, not just the post name. Arguably, the best permalink for SEO is either just the postname (/%postname%/ in WP) or category + postname (/%category%/%postname%/). Personally I prefer numeric post ID + post name for both SEO and performance reasons (/%post_id%/%postname%/ in WordPress).
8 Use Keywords in Sub-Headlines When Applicable
Sub-headlines (H2-H6 headline tags) have relatively low importance search engine ranking factor, but it’s still worth to use keyword phrases in them when possible.
In addition to the SEO benefits, important aspect of the sub-headlines is to pace the flow of the text and make the text more scannable, which is important in online media. So use sub-headlines, and make them keyword rich if possible, but focus on using them as a tool to improve readability.
9 Always Add (a Keyword Phrased) Alt-Text to Images
Using alt-text on all your images is a must. First, it’s an accessibility issue, for people who don’t see the images or have disabled them on their browser, and secondly because alt-texts are good for SEO as well.
In addition to giving the images a good alt-name, also use keywords in the file name of the image. This is a small thing will also improve your SEO.
By optimizing your image names and alt-texts for search engines, you increase the chances of getting those images into the image searches as well.
10 Don’t Go Overboard with Repeating the Keyword Phrase
If you have all the above covered, you don’t have to worry much about using keywords in the rest of the text. It is good to use the phrase when it fits the text, but more importantly, don’t repeat any keyword phrase too many times.
This is called keyword stuffing and it has high negative effect on your search engine rankings. Thus, keep the keywords usage at bay and don’t fill your title tag, headline or the body text with too many repetitions of a keyword phrase. Use synonyms instead and just focus on writing a great post.
11 Create Unique, Valuable Content
If you copy the content for your blog from somewhere else, it will have negative effect on your rankings. This is sometimes called the duplicate content penalty.
There are lot of myths and theories about the real effect of duplicate content penalty, but the fact is that filling your blog with copied (or even stolen) content won’t help your blog at all; it can only make it worse.
You should avoid copying content, partly because of the negative effect for your blog, possibly labeling your blog as spam blog (or splog as they are called) and more importantly, copied content won’t bring much value to your readers.
Referring and using cites, always linking back to the original source, and adding your own insights is fine and a good practice, but for the most part, your blog should be filled with original content.
12 Keep Your Blog Fresh
Search engines don’t like outdated content. Or the other way around, search engines, especially Google, love websites that are updated regularly. And hey, blogs are perfect for that, designed to deliver fresh content consistently.
Don’t let your blog stay abandoned for too long, so try to post as often as you can, keep the blog filled with fresh content. You don’t have to post multiple times a day or even once a day if that doesn’t fit your, but choose a blogging schedule and stick with it.
Over time, the search engines will learn how often you update the blog, visit and crawl your pages more frequently, and increase the chance to give your blog the much needed rankings.
13 Deploy Useful Hierarchy and Navigation on Your Blog
As the last on-page SEO tip, ensure your blog has clear, useful hierarchy and navigation in place. This means linking to relevant posts internally, using category and tags intelligently on the posts and having clear navigation options available to the user at all times.
Your sites usability will make the experience more pleasant for the reader and the search engines will like it too. It helps them to find the other related posts and pages, and for the search engines, helps in the categorization of your content.
With these on-page SEO tips, you will cover the most important search engine optimization needs on your blog. The next step is to keep creating great content and start building links back to your blog.
I hope you enjoyed this article and please, share this with your friends, as I’m sure it’ll help them to improve their SEO skills as well.
If you have questions about SEO or any feedback, let’s continue the conversation on the comments!