Google pushes specific guidelines for a better and contributive user experience (UX). Of course, certain guidelines apply to blogging to make the most of it. Google mentioned three major tasks: 1) create great content, 2) make sure readers and crawlers can find your content and 3) measure and analyze.
If we are going to sum up what Google wants us to do with our blog in one word that would be: optimize. Indeed, the search engine giant wants us to optimize our blog where possible if we want to maximize the outcome. We can do just that.
In a digital marketing world where SEO (search engine optimization) is commonplace, you cannot ignore the value that content brings to the table. One solid way to connect with our target audience is through publishing high-quality content.
And when we say, high-quality content it means 100% original, actionable, informative, accurate, engaging, thought-provoking, descriptive and to-the-point articles or blog posts.
How can we optimize our blog? The answers are below.
Site-wide blog optimization techniques
1) Select a domain name
Choosing the right domain name is a critical process. If it will be a corporate blog, then a branded domain is necessary for building awareness. Other than this, the domain name must be easy to recognize and remember.
Don’t pick anything that is complicated or doesn’t have intrinsic value. What corporate bloggers don’t understand is that a branded blog is a digital asset hence should provide value to the company and the users.
Further, decide whether it’d be a www or nonwww. The majority of the experts would say both are equally as good when it comes to SEO. They are not wrong although I prefer the nonwww version because that’s three extra characters in the SEO title.
Nevertheless, consider your users. Would they bother typing in the www or not? If your branded domain is already too long, chances are, they wouldn’t bother and just proceed with using brandname.com. That’s a guide to choosing which one should do.
2) Select a hosting company
Hosting is needed so you are allowed to post a website or page onto the interweb. Once hosting is already set up, the site is hosted (or stored) on a special computer called server. Being hosted also means removing the subdomain (e.g. brandname.wordpress.com). Own domain is one of the requirements of hosting companies so you can host with them.
Hosting affects SEO directly and indirectly. Directly, it all comes to uptime and downtime, which also depends on the quality of the hosting company. Good for you if the site is up 100% of the time. If there’s a downtime and the bots crawl your blog during this unfortunate time, they may soon rule out that your site is not that reliable, affecting rankings and traffic altogether.
Hosting also affects speed. Site speed and loading times affect UX that’s why Google decided to elevate speed as a ranking factor, not just a signal. If the blog is hosted on an optimized server, your site will be fast enough. Hence, there’d be no lost opportunities on your side more so because users abandon a site that takes 4 seconds or more to load.
It all begins with your choice of web hosting company. The good news is some companies offer free SSL certificate on their hosting service packages. Security is also a ranking factor. This means, all things being equal, Google will rank a website with SSL (being served on its https version) instead of a site without one.
SSL is highly advisable for sites or blogs that collect personally identifiable information. This applies in particular to ecommerce sites that collect sensitive information as well.
3) Set permalinks
A permalink plays a critical role in the overall optimization of the website. Having said this, choose a custom structure as it provides more relevance and meaning to the internal pages. Not to mention, the opportunity to put targeted keywords in the URL.
All URLs on your blog must be SEO-friendly as well. It means no URL with special characters like &, $, =, +, ? and %. URLs with any of these characters are considered as bot traps.
If you are using WordPress, this can be quickly set up under Settings > Permalinks. Choose “Post name” and click Save. All your posts will now include actual words instead of the default https://www.brandname.com/?p=2617.
4) Create a sitemap.xml file
A sitemap refers to a list of all pages on a website that users can access. A sitemap.xml file tells the search engine about all the existing pages on the site that its bots should crawl and index. Updated regularly, it’s a great way of telling the search engine about new pages on your blog that needs crawling.
While adding a sitemap do not necessarily boost rankings since it is not a ranking signal (yet), the protocol will make crawling better since all the internal pages are in one place. Also, the pages are based on priority and crawl frequency.
Yoast, which will we discuss in detail in the next sections of this page, can also create the file for you. Moreover, there are several sitemap generators online that you can use.
Finally, submit the sitemap.xml file to Google Search Console. Yes, this is also needed for proper site optimization. Go to Crawl > Sitemaps. Then, click the Add/Test Sitemap button. Add the proper URL parameter then hit Submit.
As a rule of thumb, although Google auto-updates the sitemap, it would best to update and resubmit every 90 days. Just to make sure that the right pages are getting crawled and indexed.
5) Optimize the robots.txt file
After submitting the sitemap, your next stop should be optimizing your site’s robots.txt file. This file tells Google which pages to exclude in the crawl. Indeed, not all the pages on your website deserve a crawl.
What are these pages? These are the member-only pages, login pages, private content and all other pages that you don’t want Google to crawl.
While at it, declare the sitemap.xml file on the robots.txt. A search engine starts crawling the site by checking its robots.txt file. Hence, this is an opportunity to notify the bots of the sitemap.
Do all these blog optimization techniques to optimize your blog. Nonetheless, be reminded that these apply sitewide. In the next part, we will discuss optimization at the meta level.