Getting consistent, quality traffic to your website has always been and will always be the name of the game, regardless of the type of industry that you are in or the type of website that you run. Yes, in many ways, it is better to have a smaller number of high quality visitors than it is to get a larger amount of junk traffic, but it’s always favorable to have the numbers in your favor. This is especially true in the case of blogging.
And while you can look to all sorts of different sources for directing new readers to your blog, like social media or article marketing, getting your blog ranked highly in Google can be positively invaluable. Yes, if you live by the Google, you’ll die by the Google, but the powers of successful search engine optimization cannot be understated. However, I find that many beginning bloggers — and even some more experienced ones too — make some crucial mistakes with their SEO essentials and basics.
Are you guilty of these surprisingly common mistakes?
Missing the Robots.txt File
When the Googlebot comes around to crawl the content on your blog, it looks first to the robots.txt file for information about what to include and what to exclude. This is positively fundamental. I won’t go into further detail about how you can edit and optimize your robots.txt file; there’s a great little guide on Varvy.com for that. What I will say is you want to make sure this is in place and it does have the correct information.
To check, simply point your web browser to yourblogdomain.com/robots.txt (replacing it with your blog’s actual domain, of course) and see what pops up. The good news is that WordPress does generate this file automatically, though you may choose to add or edit it.
Using the Default URL Structure in WordPress
It’s great how a platform like WordPress takes care of so many of the basics on your behalf. That way, you don’t actually have to dig too far into the code or make any major changes to get started with your new blog. On the down side, not all of these default settings are really the best choice. You really shouldn’t be using the default theme right out of the box, for example.
By default, new blog posts will take on the URL structure yourblogdomain.com/?p=123. The only indicator for the individual blog post is the post number at the end. For the average reader coming across that URL on social media or elsewhere, they have no idea what they’re about to read. Instead, go into the permalink structure settings and change it so that the title is a part of the URL. It’s up to you if you want to include other variables like the date or category.
Trying to Rank for the Wrong Keywords
Articles and blog posts like this one tend to talk about “ranking in Google” in a very general way, but it’s not like there is just a single list of results in Google. The results are based on the search term that the user enters into the field.
Ranking at the top of the search engine results page for your own name might provide a happy ego boost (and ranking second could make you despise a lesser-known Hong Kong pop singer), but it’s not going to be all that useful because it means that the searcher already knows your name. It’s good for reputation management, sure, but it might not be quite as good for the purposes of generating the kind of traffic you desire.
Instead, it makes a lot more sense to target the keywords that will deliver the traffic you want. This may sound incredibly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many bloggers are putting all of their efforts into ranking for their own names or for their blog’s names.
Failing to Organize Your Content Effectively
Let’s say that you walk into the public library — yes, physical books still exist and people still read them — and you’re looking for some reference material on visiting Maui. Thankfully, libraries are generally organized using the Dewey Decimal System, so all of the books related to visitng Maui are sorted together and will always be found in the same number range.
You might not need quite that same level of stringent standards and control, but your blog should have some semblance of being organized. WordPress allows you to create as many categories and tags as you’d like. The general recommendation is to keep your category count relatively low; you probably want to have no more than about a dozen. And remember to reuse the same tags when talking about the same content. You don’t want separate tags for smartphones, smartphone, smart phone and cellphones.
Sticking with Outdated Information
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Wrong. It’s far too easy to get stuck in old habits because they seemed to have worked in the past. Search engine optimization continues to change and evolve and your old SEO strategies might not work anymore. Be ready to adapt to the times, because the Internet is not going to wait for you to catch up.
What is your single best SEO tip for new or even experienced bloggers? What’s the stupidest SEO mistake that you’ve ever made?