[Updated 20 December 2016]

Being able to reach out to more readers with your voice over the internet can sometimes be challenging and the term SEO is likely to be heard on how you can leverage on it to grow your readership.

SEO - What is it?

While there are many SEO courses out there in the market, well...I’ll be honest with you that you can learn all about SEO for free online with our friendly hero, Google and Youtube.I always use the analogy of a Japanese restaurant in a shopping mall to illustrate how SEO works. Think of your blog as a restaurant in a big mall. Your challenge as a restaurant owner is how to get the attention of people who are looking for food, specifically Japanese food in the mall to your restaurant easily. SEO itself, have two parts to it: On-site and Off-site.

People get lost looking for what they want. SEO makes it easy for them to find you. I liken On-site SEO to your Japanese restaurant. The setup of the kitchen, dining area, drinks counter, operations of the staffs and ambience of the restaurant. Things people see when they are in your restaurant (or your blog) when they are there.

This then revolves around their experience when they are in your blog. Layouts, how easy it is for them to search for content they are looking for, and title or your content are some of the factors that matter.For example, placing “Sentoku: Where Traditional Japanese cuisine made modern” enables visitors to know Sentoku is a Japanese restaurant that serves traditional cuisine with modern twists from the first glance. Compare this to “Sentoku Restaurant”, it does not convey information that are relevant to those who are searching for Japanese restaurant nor does it tell much about what the restaurant serves. Hence putting hesitance to first time visitors who have not been in the restaurant. From a search engine perspective, this means the latter would rank lower because it does not convey information that is of most relevant to what visitors are looking for. This is how you would lose out to bloggers who have better title descriptions of their blogs.Does it matter how my content is prepared with the right keywords?

There is no “right” keywords for content. More often than not, it is about understanding about your content and how people might be potentially searching for it. Just as how the restaurant name above affects visitors’ search experience, your content title and content affects it as well. Take the perspective of your audience on how they would search online.
If your content at times cater to crowds of different language, you could duplicate the content in multiple language to ease your audience in finding your content regardless of the language used.

Page Speed:
Online visitors today opt for pages that loads fast. More often than not, bloggers would upload images that are too big in size, hence affecting load speed. To know more about the page speed of your page, enter your blog URL in https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/.

Unless you are building your site from scratch, optimization recommendations that involves coding can be ignored. Each and every blogging platform would have done their level best to be as search engine friendly as they could.Major culprit for slow loading speed tend to be of two things: plugins and images. Websites with flying unicorns and rainbow dust spewing from mouse pointers increases load time of your page as there are more things to render to show the site in its entirety - Lesson here is keep website clean and minimalistic. Plus it makes your blog eye-friendly too.

Another is image file sizes. JPEG and PNG files can be made smaller without losing quality using https://tinypng.com/.

Webmaster tool:
Google webmaster tool is a nice handy tool that shows how your blog appears to bots, how it performs and how many times it appeared in search engine. It provides you a detailed report and data on your blogs search traffic, crawl status, index results and much more.

It notifies you if there is any problem within your blog that prevents crawlers from accessing your blog pages. By using and understanding all the elements in Google webmaster tools you can make your blog Google friendly. Moreover by submitting your blog sitemap in Google webmaster tools you are making bots to crawl your pages better.

This tool is best used together with Google Analytics. 

This tool allows you to know what keywords you are ranking for and how many searches are conducted on those keywords.

Additional reading on Webmaster Tool

1. Google Webmaster Tool (Google Search Console) #1: Introduction
 2. Google Webmaster Tool (Google Search Console) #2: Blogspot
 3. Google Webmaster Tool (Google Search Console) #3: WordPress

Now to Off-site SEO: Things outside of your website

If on-site SEO is liken to the setup within your Japanese restaurant in a mall, off-site is about things outside of your restaurant.Imagine this: You have done a great job in getting the on-site portion covered. Now you will need to get people from the mall to get to your restaurant. You would be passing out fliers, put up signboards, and list yourself at all information counters to make it easier for people to find your restaurants. As for blogging, you are already doing it to a certain extent without realising it.If you have a Google webmaster account (mentioned above), you would be able to see who mentioned your blog by checking “Links to your site” on the left of your screen. These links to your site are equivalent to the fliers and signboards mentioned in the Japanese restaurant.

This is how you check how many people are linked to your site.Do be careful of who links back to you because there are guidelines towards backlinking and poor practices can be penalised. We shall talk about this in later days. (This can be a a long topic on its own)

Social Media and it's role in SEO

Over the years, search engines recognise conversations online occur often within social media. With reference to our Japanese restaurant above, if Sentoku often talked about in social media, this is a sign the restaurant is relevant to people within a certain demographic and location, not forgetting being relevant as a Japanese restaurant.

Hence if there are people searching about Japanese restaurant, it would be more likely to appear in search results. Similarly if your blog is about parenting and discussions in social media about your blog has been about parenting, the likelihood of you surfacing in search relevant to parenting would be higher in comparison to another parenting blog that has low social media conversation revolving around it. Now this is also a reason why a Facebook page is important for bloggers who wish to leverage on social media conversations.

Reading list on SEO for social media channels

SEO is not just for websites or Google. SEO, as the name suggests is applicable to search engines. For SEO professionals, optimization on search is applicable to any platform/website that have search function.

This includes Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.

 Here’s a list of short read on how to optimize each of them:

1. SEO #2: Optimizing Facebook for SEO
2. SEO #3: Optimizing Youtube for SEO
3. SEO #4: Facebook page vs profile

SEO in a nutshell

1. SEO is not scary or difficult.
2. It is about how you make it easy for people who are searching about the content you created to find you.
3. You can learn the basics to the very advance extremes of SEO online for free. Google is already putting the knowledge out there for free.

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