But there's still that pesky problem of getting lost in the crowd. With millions of blogs online, how will people find you? Your fabulousness is great, but even a golden needle gets lost in a haystack. Hopefully people will spread the word, but we also need some help from the search engines.
How search engines work…in a nutshell
When we talk about search engines (like Google although it's not the only one), there are a few things to understand.
First, there are electronic “spiders” that “crawl” the internet constantly. Their sole purpose is to visit and revisit web pages, index (i.e. categorize & organize) the information contained on those web pages and file that information away so when someone is searching, it can be found quickly. (Imagine if all the billions of pages on the internet weren't organized in some way!)
This is helpful because when you, a human, hop onto Google (or another search engine), type in your search (a.k.a. query) and hit enter, Google quickly looks through the web pages its spiders have so loving indexed, and produces a highly relevant list of search results that matches your search criteria.
Why search engines matter to a blogger
A search engine like Google is important because landing on the first page of Google's search results for a particular search is very valuable. It's like that golden needle getting found in a haystack. The vast majority of users never click over the second page of search results, so if you are on the first page for a particular search, it's huge.
How do you land on the front page of Google's search results?
Well, no one knows exactly. The exact formula (algorithm) is a closely-guarded secret and is highly complex. We do know there are many variables Google considers, but one that seems to hold quite a bit of weight is keywords.
If you're the one searching for something, keywords are the main terms you use in your search.
If you're a blogger, keywords are the words spiders associate with your web page (each blog has many web pages).
When the keywords used in the searcher's query match the keywords associated with a particular web page, that web page has a better chance of landing near the top of the search results. It's not guaranteed by any means (remember all those other variables I mentioned above?), but it helps.
So, as a blogger:
- Think about the type of person you want to find your site.
- Think about what that person would search for if they were looking for a site like yours. For example, what are the words or phrases they would type into Google to find your site? Maybe they would enter "easy knitting patterns," "frugal living," "stay at home dad" or "blogging tutorials." Those are keywords.
- Use those keywords whenever possible in your domain names, your posts, your pages etc. This will increase your chances of getting associated with those keywords by the spiders, and (hopefully) land closer to the top of the search results.
The importance of long tail keywords
Long tail keywords have 3+ words in them. (Actually, they're more like a phrase than a keyword, but hopefully you get the point.) Long tail keywords often return better search results for real people and are therefore more useful for bloggers.
For example, about five minutes ago, my daughter and I were looking for items she needs to make paper beads, specifically glaze. When I searched, I didn't use the term "paper beads." Instead, I used "best glaze for paper beads." The latter returned much more relevant results.
For bloggers, short keywords with one or two words (like "dog" or "cake recipes") are very difficult to rank for these days simply because there are so many sites competing for them. So the tip here is to try to use keywords that are longer. Use phrases.
When you are thinking about your domain name and your post titles, think about what a real person would type into a search bar for the information you're about to provide, and try to incorporate those keywords.
Related: What is Long Tail Search and Why it Should Matter (briangardner.com)
Choosing and using keywords wisely is an important part of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Here are all my posts about SEO. For now, a basic understanding of keywords will serve us well as we take steps to get this blog off the ground.
Other posts in this series
- How to Start a Blog or Website: Intro & FAQ
- How to Start a Blog or Website: Cheat Sheet
- How to Find (or Refind) Your Passion
- How to Decide What to Blog About: What Works for Readers?
- How to Decide What to Blog About: What Works for You?
- Understand Branding: 4 Tips
- Understand Keywords: Increase the Odds of Getting Found
- Writing Great Content: 3 Tips
- How to Write a Killer About Page
- 12 Blog Organization Tips
- How to Choose a Domain Name: 12 Tips
- How to Register a Domain Name
- How to Set Up Hosting and WordPress
- How to Change Your Nameservers
- How to Add a New User in WordPress
- How to Optimize Your WordPress Settings
- How to Install a Plugin
- My Favorite Plugins
- How to Get & Optimize a Feedburner Feed
- How to Choose a WordPress Theme
- How to Install a WordPress Theme
- Elegant Themes for WordPress
- How to Install Google Analytics
- How to Use WordPress: Tips & Tricks
- How to Start a Blog or Website: 10 Tips for New Bloggers