Sunday, 12 July 2020

7-Step SEO Basics for Beginners: Optimise Your Posts and Pages

"Collection of attributes for embroidery and sewing on blue background" by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The site is up. It has pages and posts with good relevant content. You still need to optimise it to show up in the search results for your target keywords. Here, you tread the fine line between clunking search-bait and beautifully optimised content that will rank highly.

Each page or post needs a 'focus keyphrase'. It can rank for many terms, but ideally you optimise around one keyphrase of a handful of words.

Post and page optimization has a number of elements:
  • Title Tag
  • Meta Description
  • Summary snippet
  • URL
  • In-page SEO
The title tags is the first identifier the engines use to work out what a post or page is about. Your main keyword (and preferably the whole keyphrase) should appear in the title tag.

The title tag is not same as the post or page headline element you see in the browser which is usually a deliberately formatted HTML heading - H1 or H2 tags. It may be similar or contain the same keywords, but structurally these are two separate elements.

Using the Chrome or Firefox browsers, you can see the title of the current post or page by hovering your mouse over the browser tab. A title box will pop up for that page.

Good title tags are six to twelve words, or around 55-60 characters. Too short a title tag is an opportunity wasted to get a fully descriptive title; too long and the engines will ignore some of the valuable keywords toward the end.

Having the main focus keyword in the title pushes that conent up the relevance index for the terms people are searching for.

Meta Description

The Meta Description is the one-line summary that exists as an HTML element not actually seen in the rendered post or page in-browser but is very important to the engines when indexing. The engines may not show the meta description you provide and may compose their own if they think the page content diverges from the meta description you provided - no trying to 'game' the system. Save them the effort of getting it wrong and provide your own *accurate* meta description.

Summary snippet

The summary snippet is another chance to craft what the search engines show in the results pages. If there isn't one the search engines try to extract a relevant excerpt of the post or page to show in the results. This will be 'best efforts' or possibly a semi-informed best guess. Again, you have the opportunity to provide a carefully crafted summary snippet.

Page or Post URL

The URL or address carries a small weighting in the rankings, so here's another opportunity to highlight your focus keyword(s) by including them in the URL. This also makes your URL's more understandable to search engines and real people. We're going to step off into URL structures for SEO for a moment.

Which URL's are most understandable and also most likely to rank for SEO?

Plain
http://catlingmindswipe.blogspot.com/blog/?p=123

Day and name    
http://catlingmindswipe.blogspot.com/blog/2020/07/03/optimise-posts-pages-seo/

Month and name  
http://catlingmindswipe.blogspot.com/blog/2020/07/optimise-posts-pages-seo/

Numeric
http://catlingmindswipe.blogspot.com/blog/archives/123

Post name       
http://catlingmindswipe.blogspot.com/blog/optimise-posts-pages-seo/

Custom Structure 
http://catlingmindswipe.blogspot.com/blog


These are the options that WordPress presents in the setup options under Permalinks.

Custom Structure lets you go off and set categories and tags as part of the URL, as well as truly 'custom' structures that you can set based on your own arbitrary rules. Going off-piste with your own rules could be counter-productive if it muddies the focus on post titles and keywords by introducing extra layers of irrelevant addressing.

Simple and direct is best. That means proper English words and not post numbers from the database; ideally your key focus words plus the next most relevant content words. Don't make your URL's overly long, there is definitely a sweet spot  in the results pages before the URL displayed gets line-wrapped or truncated.

In-page SEO

Lastly there's the content itself. If you're hand-crafting posts and pages, with or without a CMS such as WordPress, you're on your own. This is where SEO plugins such as Yoast come in useful for crafting in-page SEO. While the SEO plug-ins tend to look like a one-size solution reducing all your content to a mindless formula of readability indexes (grr!!!) and keyword densities, they do invite you to focus on your content like a laser beam. It's easier to go down a path of your own when you can see the whole landscape than blunder about in the undergrowth. We'll come onto in-page SEO and plug-ins shortly.

That's the last of our seven steps for SEO beginners. We'll summarise what we've got and how it stacks up soon. RC

Image credit: "Collection of attributes for embroidery and sewing on blue background" by wuestenigel CC BY 2.0

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