Probably because blogs have been, mistakenly, touted as natural search engine magnets, all on their own and without help. This isn’t 100% correct.
The good news is that blog SEO (search engine optimization), once it becomes a habit, is relatively easy to do. Basically, you want to be found in search engines for some common keywords in your niche that everyone is searching for, right?
Surprisingly, people mess up in the beginning, get 6 or 7 (or longer) months down the road, and then realize that their blogs are totally off the search engine radar.
Here is my promise: these 10 blog SEO mistakes can be easily avoided from day one, and that’s definitely the best place to start if your blog is new or you’re creating another one. With the exception of the URL mistake, all of them can be made right today.
Note: this information deals primarily with WordPress blogs, but some of it can be applied to a blog on another platform as well.
Here are 10 really common SEO mistakes and how you can avoid them on your blog or posts.
1. Choosing keywords that no one searches for.
This is probably the most common mistake, and it’s really easy to make. It applies to optimizing your home page as well as individual posts that you want to get special attention.
You think, hey, I like anchovy flavored donuts, so I think I’ll write about it and make it my main keyword phrase! But then you discover that no one is actually searching for anchovy flavored donuts. Lack of keyword research is the surest way to rank poorly in search engines. You must do your research and figure out what people are really searching for. This is not the time to go with your gut, either, as I’ve seen first-hand a few real estate agents (who rely on heavy search traffic) totally bite the dust on this one. It’s a very natural thing to assume that people are searching for your brand or your location or title, but until you research it, you shouldn’t bet on it.
2. Choosing a totally bizarre blog title.
BizChickBlogs may be out there, but at least it’s got blogs in there. Recently, I changed my blog’s title to Complete Guide to Blogging, and it’s already ranked highly in Google for that phrase (as of today, it is #7; subject to change). If your blog is about cars and cars is not in your blog title, you should probably work it in there. For best results, put it first. Easy way to do this is Cars: Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Them (note: you should NOT make cars alone your desired keyword phrase, lol).
I’ve seen some weird blog titles like Alzheimer’s Back Pain Kidney Disease Remedies Cures Information. LOL Way too many keywords going on in there. That’s not necessarily good, either… the idea is to choose a blog title that fits what your blog is about, and that has your keyword phrase in it.
3. Choosing a totally bizarre URL.
This goes completely with number 1 and number 2. The research I’ve conducted across a handful of various blogs now, as well as the advice of SEO gurus out there, says that your URL really does matter. Different search engines place varied amounts of weight on it, and of course domain age and quality backlinks can make up for it, but Google – the big search monster – does in fact place significance in URL.
Does this mean the base URL has to be an exact match? No. If you write a post, just make sure the slug (for WordPress users who can control this) reflects your keywords. Example: bizchickblogs.com/common-blog-seo-mistakes.
Huge tip: Your blog title, blog URL, and blog description should all reflect your primary keyword phrase. It may be too late for your URL but you can always change your blog title and description.
4. Ignoring meta data.
Ouch. What does your blog, or your blog’s posts meta data look like? Do you know? Have you even checked?
If you aren’t using All in One SEO, or Meta SEO Pack, or an SEO-ready theme, or one of the other bajillions of SEO plugins out there, chances are, you’ve got just one meta data field filled out correctly – the title – and you’ve got no meta description or keywords to speak of. This is probably #2 in the most common mistakes bucket.
WordPress doesn’t automatically create that meta data for you; you have to handle that part.
Huge tip: Your meta description is priceless. It is the 2 lines of text that show up right underneath your listing in search engine results and it could mean the difference between someone clicking on that result or not. Make it relevant, and make it count. Always start it off with your keyword phrase, and then write a decent sentence as to why someone should come read your post/page.
5. Ignoring pretty permalinks.
Double-ouch. I say double-ouch because it’s as easy as turning the lights on and yet 50% of the blogs I come across don’t do this. It’s either on purpose or out of ignorance. Going back up to number 3, I think ?p=1272 counts as a totally bizarre URL, don’t you? And that’s the type of URL you have if you haven’t turned on pretty permalinks on your blog.
My suggestion: in the WordPress permalinks options panel (Settings>Permalinks), choose the custom option, and type in: /%postname%.html. This will cause all of your posts to have a very keyword-rich URL that ends in .html. The SEO benefit of the .html ending is hotly debated, but I can tell you that it seems to work well for me and many of the major blogs out there have already been doing that for some time.
Whether or not you use the /month/year option is totally up to you. I had already started getting back links with that option and so I decided to keep it turned on to avoid 404 errors/broken links.
6. Not having a sitemap.
Sitemaps *help* web crawlers figure out what is on your site, and they can be incredibly useful if you have pages on your site that are not linked to from the home page. They have other uses, such as telling the search engine which pages to ignore, or how often you update your site (which probably means nothing these days).
Contrary to old, popular, belief, sitemaps don’t have to be human-readable and you don’t have to link to them from anywhere on your blog. It’s behind the scenes. Just have it there when the search engines start crawling your site (for example, when I publish a new blog, I actually will refrain from doing any pinging until the sitemap is built).
7. Excessive pinging.
What happens when you update a WordPress page or post is that, by default, WordPress sends a ping to a tool called Pingomatic. Pingomatic then pings a whole list of ping servers, which basically have the effect on the web of saying
“Ta-da!! Something new is here, go check it out!”
So then, web crawlers that listen for those pings put the new URL into a queue of other URLs to go crawl. Ultimately, this helps your site get crawled (and indexed) more quickly.
The problem: by default, WordPress pings every time you update. This includes any edits. Excessive pinging can get (and will) get you banned by ping servers, so unknowing WordPress bloggers find themselves not getting crawled at regular intervals because they are being penalized for something they didn’t know was happening.
I use a ping optimizer called MaxBlogPress Ping Optimizer to make sure that doesn’t happen on this blog. It controls the rate at which pings are sent. CBNet Ping Optimizer is just as good. Use either of them.
8. Not linking internally.
If your posts have anything to do with each other, you should be linking to them. You can do this automatically with a tool like LinkWithin, or you can do it more organically (and more effectively) by linking the right keywords to their respective pages. Have a page that’s lists all of the 30 minute meals posts on your cooking blog? You should link to it. Linking to relevant pages from your posts tells the search engines that those pages are specifically about those keywords.
9. Writing posts that are too short.
Reserve posts that are less than 100 words for micro-blogs (tumblr, etc.), Twitter statuses or Facebook updates. On your blog (if you want search engine visibility), aim for 600 to 1000 words at a minimum, or longer for best results. Don’t kill yourself over it, but you need a decent keyword density and you can’t get that if your posts are too short. Not only that, you want also to snag those long-tail keyword phrases and for that, length is a must.
10. Writing content that doesn’t support your intended keywords.
Unfortunately, search engines know better than to take your word for it with keywords. So you can claim the keyword phrase ‘Cox high speed internet’ all you want in the meta data, but if that keyword phrase is nowhere to be found in the content, good luck. It doesn’t work. Your content must be relevant, and it must support your desired keyword phrase. Don’t overdo it, though. Put it in the first sentence, as well as throughout the content at a rate that is totally natural, and you should be OK. The most important thing here is to write for your audience, not search engines. So, if you have a great piece that isn’t keyword-rich, try adding the keyword phrase at the top, followed by the colon, and again at the end in a sentence.