Here are some basic steps in trying to optimise your blog posts to be crawled and indexed by search engines and also how to ‘sell’ your posts when they are seen in search results.
When you write a post, the two main ostensible factors are the post’s title (or headline) and the body copy of the post. Left to their own devices, these two elements would automatically deliver information about your post/blog to the search engines. This raw information may not be the information would prefer to be the public face of your blog so you are afforded plenty of opportunities to change that face by either using some elements already in WordPress or installing and using very simple plug-ins.
(For this post I am using examples from WordPress – the principles are the same for any blogging system).
Firstly let’s look at the dynamic of what drives traffic to a site in the first place through a search engine.
1) Someone keys in a search phrase; 2) The search engine delivers up a selection of results; 3) Each result has a title and a two line snippet of information underneath; 4) The URL of the site is under that again. In Google the default is to show 10 of these results per page.
So, from these results, the searcher makes a decision to ‘click through’ to a page/result that they feel best suits their needs. To deviate slightly, this is where the behavioural science comes in to play. We know absolutely their search phrase, but don’t know their search intent. We can sometimes infer the intent from their search phrase – but that can be very misleading. Google and Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing, (and many others) try to provide search results extras that help the searcher to redefine the initial search quickly.
Back to the topic! The searcher is presented with 10 results and he/she picks one. They don’t simply click the first one they see (normally), they briefly scan each if the results individual titles and the descriptions and, based on the information in those two elements, makes a decision as to which site they feel best suits their current requirements. For a look at search terms and results in a previous post.
So, the elements that are presented are your title and page description and in order to get that click through both of these have to be fairly compelling, they have to scream ‘you’ve found the answer you’re looking for here”.
WordPress standard page title (and URL) is defined in the permalinks. The options are limited in terms of what the standard page title should be. However installing something like All In One SEO Pack you have the opportunity in each post to
a) Change the URL if you want (to get a keyword/key phrase in)
b) Change the page title as it will appear in a search engine result.
The page title would normally default to (depending on your setup) the headline of the post in the main. But sometimes you may want the headline in the post to be one thing (perhaps in keeping with the style of the post) and the title of the post as it will appear in a search engine result to be a completely different phrase or emphasis.
Here is an example of this. If you do a blog search for ‘link building strategies’ the results that turned up first was:
It’s a compelling enough title answering the search query with a decent enough description as well. Navigating to the linked page reveals this page beginning:
It’s possibly more in keeping with the overall look and feel of his blog, but he made a conscious effort to change the page title (as it would appear in a search result).
Lastly: Use you page titles whatever you do; they are a vitally important element not only for attention grabbing but hugely important in search. Get your keywords in the page title (not necessarily in the posts headlines) at every opportunity and make each page title different with no repetition.
The default page title in many HTML editors is “Untitled Document”. Currently there are 62,600 Irish web pages with that expression as their page titles. It pales in comparison to the 33,400,000 pages worldwide as “Untitled Document” as a page title. It’s a serious waste of web property and missed opportunity.
The default page description (sans plug-in) is a snippet of text of the first few characters of the post. While the introductory paragraph may be an excellent introduction to the post when you are on the blog, the same words turning up as the description of the post in search results may tank completely and look largely irrelevant to the search phrase.
Page descriptions in search results normally run to about 160 characters in total. It’s therefore incumbent on the writer of the post/page to describe precisely the information contained in that page using keywords. While the page description is fairly irrelevant in indexing and SEO, the description of you page in search results is the part that sells the page and therefore will play a huge part in getting searchers to click!
Below is the difference of what WordPress might have served up if it was left to its own devises and the amended version. I think the top one wins – because of the description.
Make sure that you dump the standard URL’s setup in WordPress in favour of either automatically generating your URL’s or specifying them each post. Specifying them will give you the opportunity to get in a more keyword descriptive URL which will help in search engine optimisation.
A much forgotten part of the search process are images and video. All images and video should have an “ALT=” tag well described and every image should have a “TITLE” attribute ascribed to them. Make the TITLE descriptive and keyword orientated. Make sure that the title of the image relates to the copy in the page. Images can be searched separately in Google or they will show up in search as a blended result – pages and images.
After writing a post and before too many posts get on top of you then try and do the following checklist:
- Keyword orientated URL
- Optimise the page title for Search Engine Results. Make you page stand out.
- Write a compelling Keyword focussed description – in the space allotted.
- Manage you images: give them Titles and Alts.