This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business. This post also appeared on Mashable’s website, where we found it and wanted to share the information.
In addition to writing for their human readers, web writers and bloggers have to consider the digital web crawlers employed by search engines like Google (). Your business can’t skip the task.
Since most would-be readers use search engines to find blog posts, you need to make sure that Google ranks your site highly when those readers search for terms related to your business and the content you’re writing.
You could spend thousands of dollars to have a search marketing firm optimize your business’s blog for search engines, but chances are that you can learn a lot of the fundamentals yourself, saving yourself a lot of money as long as you have the interest and the time. Here’s a basic primer on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your company’s blog.
1. Always Include Search Terms in Your Post’s Title
When Google reads a website to index it, it reads the code directly, not the snazzy presentation that humans see. The way most blogging platforms are built, the headline or title of your blog post is among the first things Google sees, and Google generally assumes the words that appear earliest are the most important. That’s why the title is the most important part of your blog post when it comes to SEO.
Think about who you want to reach with this blog post, and what that person might be searching for when looking for your business’s goods or services, then include critical words from that hypothetical search in the title. The most important terms should appear as quickly as you can reasonably fit them in. Just be careful not to make the title unreadable or awkward to human readers — that SEO effort will have been for naught if the reader is immediately turned off by the content once he or she finds it.
Here’s a pro tip: You’re not likely to win strong ranking for more than one or two search terms at once, so minimalism is a virtue here. Don’t get over-ambitious. Focus on one potential search term, then if you want to rank for a second term, write a separate and unique post specifically with it in mind.
2. Link Important Words to Earlier Blog Posts
Search engines generally assume that a blog post that has been linked to has more authority than one that has not. They also consider exactly what word or phrase linked to the post; a blog post about the iPhone () is going to be more likely to show up in Google searches on the subject if another page links the word “iPhone” to the post.
You’ll get the most value from external links from sites that Google or other search engines already consider to be an authority of the subject (if the top blog about iPhones links the word to your post, you’ll get a huge boost), but all incoming links will still pass rank to your page, even those from elsewhere on your site.
So be sure and link important keywords to other pages or previous posts on your blog to gain some credibility and search rank. It will make a big difference. Just don’t overdo it; not only do human readers hate reading blogs so filled with links that they might accidentally click on something, Google may penalize you if you go overboard, too.
3. Hit the Tagging Sweet Spot
Most blogging platforms let you apply tags to your posts. Tags help organize your blog so both humans and search engines can find what they’re looking for. They’re terms like “consulting,” “local” or “technology” that reflect the topics and content of the post.
Google tries to recognize tags and use them to prioritize your site in its search ranking for those terms. The tags are usually links to other pages on your blog (usually a backlog of other posts with the same tag), and like we said earlier, linking search terms to other pages on your site helps too.
So by all means, add pertinent tags to your blog post, but be warned that Google and other search engines are wary of sites that try to game this system. They will penalize you in the search rankings if you use so many tags that the web indexing bots suspect you might be attempting to associate your content with unrelated topics just to score extra traffic.
The method for determining this is arcane, but a good rule of thumb from a pro blogger is that five to 10 appropriate tags are usually right in the sweet spot.
4. Use Google Insights to Find the Best Search Terms
You don’t have to play a guessing game about the best tags or search terms to link or put in your post’s title. Since Google is the most popular search engine, it makes sense to focus your efforts there. Whenever you’re not sure which terms to go with, hit up Google Insights, a web-based tool that compares the popularity of any search terms you want to know about.
For example, if your business is a coffee shop but you’re not sure whether would-be customers are more likely to search for “café” or “coffee shop,” Insights can tell you which one is more popular.
These four tips should get you on your way to having a more SEO-friendly corporate blog. Add your tips for search engine optimization in the comments below.