I started this blog, “Brian Writing,” ten years ago as an assignment in my undergraduate English program. I’ve continued writing posts occasionally since then, sometimes more frequently than others. In all that time, I have never tried doing anything about my blog’s SEO – the one thing that might help people actually find me. I always assumed the internet elves that live behind the digital curtain would take care of it for me.
That’s all changing, now! This week I watched a course on Lynda.com called SEO Foundations, taught by instructor David Booth. For anyone who enjoys writing a blog but has never gotten into the messy details of finding an audience for it, learning about SEO is critical. I recommend checking out the course or finding other ways to learn about SEO.
In a nutshell, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is way to help search engines like Google and Bing find your web content and show it to people who are searching for topics that you’ve written about. If you have a website about Mexican pastries, but you haven’t optimized it for search engines, the next time someone Googles “Mexican Pastry blog” they will have a difficult time finding you.
“Search Engine Optimization is a process that requires a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of patience.” – Lynda.com SEO Foundations Course
The Lynda.com course is divided into ten sections, which include topics such as keywords, content optimization, link-building strategies, measuring SEO effectiveness, and more. Each of these topics covers an area of SEO that can enhance your website’s discoverability. At the start, a helpful introduction to SEO kicks things off by answering basic questions about setting expectations for what SEO can accomplish, and how it affects your business or website. You can watch the entire course in just a few hours.
The concept of keywords could be the most important concept to learn in researching SEO. On the surface, it is pretty simple to understand: a “keyword” is the term that someone enters into a web search engine like Google. As most everyone has experienced, the more specific the keyword is, the more relevant the search results become.
Pinpointing some of these specific terms that are frequently used by searchers and incorporating them into the content on your website can put you on the path to discoverability. Specific parts of a webpage benefit from having keywords included: headings, URLs and meta-tags with keywords all increase search engine visibility.
From the perspective of content optimization, the course suggests using the website www.schema.org as a resource for formatting content in a very search-engine-friendly way. Schema.org offers frameworks for formatting different types of content so they are recognizable by search engines. For example, if your blog post includes a recipe, using content tags from schema.org can help Google identify the post as a recipe and display it as such.
Keywords and content optimization is just the beginning.
Building the right inbound and outbound links into your pages, planning your long-term content strategy with an editorial calendar, and measuring the performance of your SEO efforts are all important pieces of the puzzle.
I have spent years blogging on a whim without much consideration for developing a “target audience,” so at first, these concepts seemed a bit intrusive to my creative process. Instead of just writing about whatever I want and posting it, SEO suggests being more deliberate about creating content that is relevant to a specific audience & easily searchable.
The first step to reconciling these different attitudes is to learn about what SEO actually is, and the Lynda.com SEO Foundations course is a great place to start.
*ed. note – this post was written for a digital marketing class at the Georgetown University S.C.S.