This is a guest post by Derick Schaefer from WP Host Co, a premium WordPress hosting company.
Search Engine Primer for The WordPress Blogger
Since the majority of WordPress bloggers publish their content openly to the Internet, we are going to feature a 3 part series to help demystify the topic of Search Engine Optimization.
The hard fact is that 92% of Internet users visit a search engine at least once on a daily basis. They use them to find information, solve problems, and just flat out explore. Though social media is all the rage, bloggers cannot ignore the fact that search engines can expose your site to new visitors.
Though no one but insiders at Microsoft and Google can guide you as to exactly how a search engine ranks a piece of content, there are some very knowledgeable people on the topic. Though I don’t put myself in that space, my career in search marketing has given me enough knowledge to cringe when I hear people giving flat out “false” information when it comes to search engines and blogs. So, when WPLIFT asked me to write a guest post, I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about—a three part series on “Search Engine Optimization for the WordPress Blogger”. In this first post of the series, I am going to layout the realities and dispel the myths. Unfortunately in this first post, I have to lay the ground work so we aren’t going to talk about WordPress at all. . .you’ll have to wait for the 2nd and 3rd posts.
Search Engines view each piece of content on a website as it’s own independent entity. Thus, a blog post on a political scandal versus one detailing your favorite chili recipe is two totally different topics in the eyes of a search engine. To grotesqly simplify the search engine algorithms, they look at your content, external links into your post, and social media signals that reference your post.
Each page on the Internet has three pieces of content as far as a search engine is concerned. The first is the content on the page that you and I as readers see. The second is an HTML element called a “Title” and the third is an HTML meta-tag called the “Description meta-tag”. A search engine will look at each of these and break down the content into one, two, and three keyword groupings. Obviously, all three of these pieces of content should have some sort of alignment. In my next post in this series, I’m going to give you guidance on plugins that can help you with content optimization and making your blog more search engine friendly.
One important note to make is that writing good content that is deemed valuable by your readers is important in your search engine strategy. The reason being is that good content gets referenced which helps to links to the content. Next lets talk about the role external links play with search engines.
Google’s algorythym is built on the measurement of inbound links. Not all links links are created equally, however. If I buy a domain today and launch a blog, links I give your blog really have no authority. If the Financial Times, however, links to your blog post, they have authority in Google based on the amount of time their site has been online and the thousands of other sites that have linked to their site and its content.
The second important element of an inbound link is its anchor text. Have you ever seen a hyperlink that says, “For a great recipe click here”. Google associates meaning to that anchor text. And, the keywords “click here” have over 4 billion pages associated with them in Google’s index. What you want to have is a link something more meaningful like “Texas Chili Recipe” which has 290,000 pages in Google’s index. In my third and final post in this series I will talk more about building links as well as highlight the types of ill fated strategies that could do more harm than good. In the meantime, SEOMoz published a great post entitled "Search Engine Ranking Factors".
The good news is that search engines are listening to social media. The bad news is that for the average blogger who gets a few Facebook Likes and Twitter Retweets, you won’t see a bump in search rankings. Our experience and data with our own blogs have proven that you really have to surface to the front page of a Digg.Com, get thousands of social media confirmations, or get a Retweet from a powerhouse Twitter user to get favorable treatment in a search engine. Still, the average blogger should have a presence on a few of these sites as you will see random inbound links created from other bloggers who pickup your information via social media. And, of course, you do have the random chance of an industry powerhouse sending you on your way to viral content with the click of a button. In my final post of the series I will give a few tips on making your blog "social media compatible".
Questions, Myths, and Guidance
Question: Do search engines use the keywords meta-tag field?
Though it is argued that some are still reading them, the take away here is that by stuffing a web page or blog post with words you want to rank on will not work. Search engines look at content. I still fill in 4 to 5 keywords in all of my content but this is partially a discipline exercise as well as some of the tools I use to analyze my content do use them.
Myth: Fast hosting gets you better rankings
As the founder of a hosting company with wickedly fast service, it pains me to say there is no magic "SEO" sauce in hosting. With this said, if your server is constantly down or takes 2 minutes to render a page, you could get penalized for it. Moreover, if your server is in a bad neighborhood hosting a bunch of gambling sites, you definitely expose your self to search engine penalties. But a switch from one reputable provider to another based on marketing that claims search engine advantages is not a dollar well spent.
Question: Will A Bunch Of Links Help Me Out?
No, think quality versus quantity. If you go sign up for a service that guarantees to submit you to 5,000 directories and a bunch of bookmarking, you could actually be opening yourself up to a penalty. Focus on good content in your blog and the links will come naturally. CopyBlogger.Com is a great example. After years of great content, the links and SEO ranking are just there.
What other questions do you have or insight from your experience that I can learn from? Let's take it to the comments section as I learn something every day about search engine behavior.