I was chatting with my friend Fadra last night over Twitter about something I get asked about all the time.
Fadra was asking me about when the next SEO Meetup is and the Thesis WordPress theme, but really her question goes far beyond that to the core of search engine optimization.
It’s the same thing I had just been talking to Rachel Healy, the Garner Citizen’s web editor about earlier this week. We set out to rank for the phrase “Best Newspaper in Garner” and after about a month, they were #1. The reason I bring that experiment up is, that phrase became a stake in the ground that they could drive towards. With a particular phrase in the back of your mind, you can start to see places you can wedge it in. Rachel told me that when applicable, she tries to use that phrase when talking about the business end of the newspaper so that it will be associated with it. They also added it to their footer as a constant reminder of what they are always trying to achieve.
Rachel told me that last year, they didn’t really have any particular phrases they were aiming for. I understand that as a newspaper that’s not their primary focus, but as a business it needs to be in the mix.
Ok, now back to Fadra’s question. Her blog lives at the domain allthingsfadra.com, so obviously she has that phrase locked up, but wanted to rank for other phrases that she was writing about.
The problem with a blog like Fadra’s is that she writes about a lot of different topics. Search engines probably don’t see any real “authority” from her blog. So how does she overcome that?
That doesn’t mean Fadra can’t write about potty training, falling in love and passports all in one blog, it just means you have to do a little extra work. First off, define a handful of categories you want to write in, not dozens. It will help you stay focused. If you want to go wild, you can use tags. If you are dying to write about the new tires you bought, but they don’t fit in any of your categories, guest blog at a new tire blog and link back to your home blog. Trust me that other bloggers love guest bloggers and it exposes you to new readers.
Think of the keywords you would love to actually rank for, and target them. Write those words down on a yellow sticky note and put it on the wall next to where you write. There’s no reason you can’t keep the fact that you really want to rank for “peaceful moments” while writing about potty training – there is some ability to link them.
You have to decide what stakes you’re going to plant in the ground. SEO is all about focus. Without a plan, you won’t get there.
Knowing some of the technical details will help. Knowing that the title tag doesn’t have to be the same as the headline of your post, or that you can edit the permalink url of the post. All 3 of these items working together can help a post perform better. Look at this post as an example.
Title of the page: Improved Rankings for Mommy Bloggers
Headline of the post: Getting Better Traffic
Splitting those 3 items up, and using slightly different words helps a little, but it usually also helps me rethink exactly what I’m trying to say in the post.
Knowing how good your aim is will help you get better. I suggest a great free tool from seoMoz called the Term Targeter. You give it the url, and the keyword you THINK you’ve targeted, it gives to a grade.
I’ve also been very happy using the ScribeSEO plugin from Copyblogger. It helps you do the same kind of aiming BEFORE you publish.
The mother of all SEO factors is still people linking to you. If I link to Fadra’s super sweet love story that will make you smile with relevant anchor text, that helps. If I link it this way, “See part 2 of Fadra and Sean’s great love story here” – not as helpful.
So what’s the big finish to this long-winded post? SEO is a process, and when you move your blog to the next level you need to think more about it.
So you’re saying I’m scattered? 🙂
I will admit, that all.things.fadra was a random blog I started that turned into much more. Part of the problem was I never planned the blog. And even worse, I migrated from Blogger to WordPress. Blogger asks for a “label” for every post which gets translating to Categories when movie to WP. Your point is well taken that I don’t have to be a niche blogger to at least have a somewhat narrowed focus.
Now to begin the arduous task of doing what I suspected I needed to do all along. Clean Jo those categories!
Phil Buckley says
@Fadra – right, the hard work is straight ahead, but better now than 2 years from now when you have another 300 posts
This is great advice. I like the post-it notes idea. It gives me heart palps to think how much work needs to be done, but you’re so right about making a plan. Phil, we gots to talk. PS. Fadra’s love story rocks.
Phil Buckley says
@Somer – post-it notes seem to make something more real for me, Once it’s written down, I can’t just ignore it.
Maybe we need a “How to take your blog to the next level” meetup???
Karl Sakas says
“How to take your blog to the next level” sounds like a great meetup topic, Phil — dissect our blogs’ focus, headlines, permalinks, and keyword choices!
I find I tend to tinker with my title a minute or two after publishing an article, in the brief time before the RSS feed picks up the post. I find this means I tend to make my permalink more generic, since I’d rather avoid having to add a 301 redirect for something I just published.
I’m going to try the Post-It note exercise, as I think about where to put my stake in the sand. During my marketing job search in the Triangle, I’ve focused on writing about marketing strategy and related topics. I’d love to get more organic search traffic, as opposed to traffic from Twitter and other promotions.
Lisa Sullivan says
Have I thanked you for being you lately, Phil? Truly inspiring post here. As I learn more and more about the ever-changing world of SEO, I love to hear what the experts have to say about it. Really like your Post-It note idea & plan to do a variation of that in my office at work. As for my personal blog, admittedly, that’s on hold for now. However, I too need to do what Fadra has to – clean up those categories…again.
Fadra – you and I are in the same boat. I was a “blogger” girl and I “labeled” and mine was a hodge-podge of topics as well. I have narrowed it down some but perhaps not all.
Oh and one more thing – I never gave much thought into “guest blogging” until I read the added value behind it. I just figured there isn’t enough time in the week for me to consider it but perhaps as I rethink my categories a little and the overall purpose behind my blog, I’ll give that more consideration.
Thanks, Phil…as always. 😉
Bobby McDonald says
Thanks for the practical tips Phil! The section about checking your “aim” is very important. A few years back I was consulting with a real estate broker on his blogs. He showed me his list of keywords and they looked pretty good. Lulled into complacency, I didn’t really dig into my keyword research – big mistake.
After a few months of lackluster improvement I used a tool similar to the SEOmoz one you recommend and bam! — traffic took off. Tthe keywords we were focusing on were technically applicable but there was tough competition for that set. Eventually we found a set of long-tail terms that worked wonders, but if I’d checked my aim first we would have saved several months of busting ass for mediocre improvements.
Thanks for this post!