Simple SEO tips to improve your blog’s search rankings

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Every blogger has heard of the term SEO. SEO blog category is among the fastest growing – you have to look no further than the number of authority blogs that cover the topic extensively. Having some SEO knowledge is essential for every blogger to improve his luck with search engines. More organic traffic is important for blogs, especially those monetized by pay-per-click schemes.

SEO has two sides – things you do to your blog theme, and things you observe while writing(which are rather difficult to change, when there are several posts). Things to observe while writing are rather tedious, like checking the keyword density, duplicate content, optimizing titles etc. On the other hand, things to do on your theme are easier, and they need to be done only once(unlike while writing). Below, you will find some easy tips to improve your blog’s SEO, by meddling with your theme files(this post assumes that you have a basic understanding of the WordPress templating system, else refer to help files).

  • Optimize your titles: The title is the single most important tag in your page. Make sure that you use them wisely. WordPress uses the same sentence for heading and title tags. For better appeal to search engine traffic, use All In One SEO plugin to rewrite your titles, such that the title is eye-catching.
  • Optimize your headers: The post-title tag (usually <h2>) is important. Make sure that you put keywords in your header. Also, change the header tag to h1 in single pages (this is debated).
  • Change your blog title: Most themes use h1 for blog titles, while relegating post titles to h2. From an SEO view, this is suicidal.

    You should put your most important header in h1.

    Now, ask yourselves: is your blog title more important than your post title? No. So, make sure that you use h3/h4 tag for header. Changing the tag is easy – just replace the tags in the theme files. Open up style.css and replace the h1 with h3/h4(you are on your own with this, so do this only if you really know what you’re doing).

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  • Use h4/h5 tags: Use h4/h5 tags as sub-headings, and use them to demarcate the different parts of your post. Use CSS to beautify them.
  • Change the sidebar headings: Most themes use h2 for sidebar headings. This is another of those weak-points of the default templating system. Change the sidebar headings to h4/h5.

    If you use widgeting system, this is a bit complicated. You may have to use functions.php to overwrite the default widget system.

  • Modify title format: The default title format for WordPress is Blog name ? Post name. Modify this to Post name ? Blog name for better results. Replace your title tag with this code(this is what I use):
    <title>
    <?php if ( is_paged() ) : ?><?php $paged = '— Page '.$paged; ?><?php endif; ?>
    <?php if ( is_404() ) : ?>Page Not Found — <?php bloginfo('name'); ?>
    <?php elseif ( is_home() && !is_paged() ) : ?><?php bloginfo('name'); ?>
    <?php elseif ( is_search() ) : ?>Search Result : <?php echo wp_specialchars(stripslashes($_GET['s']), true); ?> <?php echo $paged; ?>
    <?php elseif ( is_attachment() ) : ?>Attachment : <?php echo trim(wp_title('—', false)); ?>
    <?php elseif ( is_single() ) : ?><?php echo trim(wp_title('', false)); ?>
    <?php elseif ( is_category() ) : ?><?php echo trim(wp_title('', false)); ?> category <?php echo $paged; ?>
    <?php elseif ( is_author() ) : ?>Author Archive : <?php echo trim(wp_title('', false)); ?> <?php echo $paged; ?>
    <?php elseif ( is_archive() ) : ?>Archive : <?php echo trim(wp_title('', false)); ?> <?php echo $paged; ?>
    <?php elseif ( is_paged() ) : ?><?php bloginfo('name'); ?> <?php echo $paged; ?>
    <?php else : ?>
    <?php echo trim(wp_title('', false)); ?> — <?php bloginfo('name'); ?>
    <?php endif; ?>
    </title>
  • Serve Category names in h2: Category names in category pages is invaluable, as they are related to the content. Use h2 tag to emphasize the category name.
  • Replace other h2: Replace other instances of h2, where it does not make sense. For example, the Comments heading is usually placed in h2/h3, but it does not merit such an important position. Change it to something more sensible, like h4/h5.
  • Use the footer’s real estate: Footer is usually the last part crawled by the search engine. To make a lasting impression ( 😉 ), include a very short description of your blog in the footer(see this blog’s footer).

That was a long list, but trust me – it is worth the effort. Hope you had a great time reading this!

Discussion

  1. @Karthik: Yes, copy-pasting content will blacklist your blog from search engines, and people will also hate it. I suggest you write original articles, even if it is 1 per week (because as a reader, I’d rather have 1 original post rather than 10 duplicate posts). And do not believe in the myth created by probloggers that not posting for some days will make your readership fall. It is more about quality than quantity, for new bloggers.

  2. hey i am new to blog world so please help me
    will copying and pasting content from one website to my own blog blacklist it from the search engines as told here

  3. Sure, np, glad you took it well, and you perhaps did the right thing, no point taking the risk to send Google a wrong signal!

    No hard feelings! :)

  4. @Karthik: Hmm…I agree that you have got the point. And now I realize Daniel maybe running the risk too. And yes, I did read about Chris P’s stuff sometime back, which got me excited about SEO. And he’s the reason why I use H1 for description (also what I said in my previous reply above) too.

    And I switched to H2 when you alerted me – I owe you one. And, since you feel like it is not “winning”, I don’t feel like that either.

    Now this is a real dodge fight 😉 (thanks for those links too)

  5. Please go to http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3134380.htm and scroll down to read two of tedster’s replies. For the record, tedster is the moderator there.

    Also, http://www.cornwallseo.com/search/index.php/2007/02/16/secrets-of-the-h1-tag-revealed/ where the author seems to support your opinion, but accepts in the comments that its dependent on the template and not on the core code and that he was perhaps mistaken.

    And, please do take the time to run your blog or the DailyBlogTips blog through http://www.websitegrader.com

    Lastly, its never good to form an opinion based on a single person’s perspective. Nobody is an expert, and Daniel could just as well have missed the point. I could well be wrong here for all you know, but to the best of my knowledge, its *not* good SEO practice to have more than one h1 tag in a page. You run the risk of getting penalized for “trying to game Google”. You and I may know that’s not true and you were just trying to add some more value to the page, but Google needn’t necessarily hear you out.

    When I’m given a choice between two controversial sides, I tend to take the safer side. Especially when a guy like Chris Pearson thinks that there shouldn’t be more than one h1 tag (He designed the theme I’m using and he’s one of the best WP theme designers and particularly known for his SEO oriented designs).

    The bottomline is that I tried to voice my opinion, you did yours. Honestly, I don’t think anyone “won” here.

    Either way, good luck!

  6. @Linu: Sure, Google and other search engines pull in the description from meta description tags. However, that does not mean that it carries importance. All of SEO experts agree that while Google doesn’t give a damn about those old system of meta, Yahoo values them – which is why I use description tags too.

    You really should update your SEO knowledge – your current knowledge is from 4-5 years ago. Modern SEO places a lot of importance on user interactivity, semantic markup etc.

  7. Do a search for ‘Tech Blog’ in Google. Look at the search result. After the Title, The first sentence is from that site’s Meta Description Tag. Description and Keywords tags are also very very important.

  8. @Karthik: Ah, I should have perfected my own blog before doling out advice 😉 But seriously, this theme was built before I learned SEO, and it shows! h1 for description is what I am looking at, in my next theme rebuild. That’s most sensible, since my tagline is sharp.

    And btw, I hope you like my advice of using h1 for post titles in single pages – I said it specifically because I knew otherwise this problem would crop up.

    Edit(Feb 28 2007): Just found out that redesign of DailyBlogTips.com uses h1 for post-titles even on index. Daniel(author) is an SEO expert, and I am sure he would not have done it if it weren’t useful. Guess I win, Karthik 😉

  9. Not to sound rude, but having more than 1 h1 tag on the index page does not make for good SEO IMHO.

  10. @Linu: Thanks. Btw, All in One SEO can help, but use it for title only – don’t waste your time on the others, they are not valued by search engines anymore.

  11. Very Importants SEO Tips.

    I use “All in ONE SEO Package” plugin. Where I can customize Title, Keyword and Description Tags of each post individually.

  12. These are some great SEO tips I havent heard before.

    And to think, just earlier this week, I finally learned how to tinker with CSS files to do things like change the header appearance…now I can do it and have it be SEO-optimized at the same time!

    Thanks a million!

  13. @Haris: Thanks, and no prob 😀 If you have any problem with any of these steps, feel free to ask.

  14. @Michael: Thanks, and that is the way I have done it too. H1 for titles is ludicrous, atleast on the post pages.

  15. The idea of using h1 tags for your blog posts is absolutely brilliant and I haven’t heard that ever before. It makes perfect sense though, search engines would obviously put more weight on information that seems to be more important (hence h1 being “1” and h2 being “2”).

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