A guest post by Stephanie Stiavetti
I’m sure you’re familiar with the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO), one of the biggest time sucks we food bloggers endure to get more people to our blogs.
There’s no way around doing this work, as all bloggers must bend the knee to Our Great Google Overlords, with the exception of a handful of folks who are so insanely popular that they transcend the realm of mortal blogging (*cough*Ree*cough*).
The problem with keeping our websites search engine-friendly, however, is that every so often, Google changes the rules. And inevitably, for months following these changes, my inbox is flooded with the doleful cries of bloggers who have lost a chunk of their traffic.
If you’re smart, though, it won’t matter how Google alters its algorithm. All you have to do is produce good content and avoid questionable SEO practices. There are countless finer points, a few of which I’ll get to in a moment, but the fact remains that you’ll need not fear even the most Machiavellian changes Google makes to its ranking methods.
Here are a few tips for maintaining your trusted liege status to The Goog. They’re easy enough so that even if you’re tech-averse, you can implement these changes in a single night, without having to bring on a consultant.
2.Own your shiz, yo! Google is arguably the most important search engine on the planet right now, and it’s the reason we do this little dance called SEO. Google giveth, and Google taketh away. One relatively new factor in search results ranking is attaching everything you write on the internet to your Google author profile, so that the search engine understands that you are an authority. Every piece you write, if linked back to your profile, is an endorsement of your expertise. Setting up Google Authorship is easy, but it’s beyond the scope of this post. Jean Layton, gluten-free doctor and Google aficionado, has developed a wonderful video tutorial on setting up authorship. This is one of the many reasons we love Jean.
3.Lock your doors, then lock them again. Or rather, make sure your site is secure. There are few things worse for your SEO than harboring the digital equivalent of chlamydia. Many services can help keep your site secure, including:
- Sucuri and VaultPress
- Food blogger Andrew Wilder offers special backup and security plans, where he does all the heavy lifting for you. His Sleep Soundly plan includes backups, security hardening, and malware monitoring. The best part? If you ever get hacked or accidentally destroy your site (hey, it happens) help fixing it is included. ¡Muy bueno!
4. Avoid the weakest link. Make sure all the links on your site are active. That may seem like a monumental task; who wants to check every link they’ve ever posted? Thankfully there’s a plugin that will do all the work for you. WordPress’ Broken Link Checker automatically checks all the links on your website and tells you which have gone the way of the pterodactyl. You can easily remove them or replace them with another URL. Very handy! Note: This plugin can be a bit of a resource hog, so consider only running it a few times a month, as opposed to letting it run 24-7. Your host will thank you.
5. Get the right tool for the job. There are a handful of tools that every person with a website needs. They’ll count your readers, tell you how people are finding your content, and tell you how healthy your overall website is. The best part? They’re all free!
- Google Analytics – For tracking how many users visit your site, where they come from, and what they do once they get there.
- Google Webmaster Tools – This is essentially the dashboard that tells Google how to interact with your website.
- GT Metrix – Free website speed and performance optimization.
5. Post smarter. I recently spoke at the IACP conference with Andrew Wilder, sharing how food folks can tighten up their SEO with just a few tweaks to their content. You can find our SEO slides here, which contain a very useful resource: A checklist of what you need to include with every article you post online. This will help you craft each post in such a way that Google will clearly understand what you’re trying to say, making it much easier for it to rank your site. And the less work you make for The Goog, the more merciful it will be when you inadvertently make a mistake somewhere along the way.
SEO can be overwhelming, but it’s mostly common sense. These tips will make your site more favorable to Google. In the end, they must come after the two most important cardinal rules: write good content, and practice ethical SEO techniques. All the SEO trickery in the world won’t get around those two core tenets!
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Stephanie Stiavetti is a food writer, food blogger, cookbook author, and culinary media consultant. She has two passions in life: teaching people to cook and helping food entrepreneurs build their businesses. Stephanie maintains the Foodpreneur newsletter, where she shares tips on how to grow blog traffic, develop monetization strategies, and take your culinary business to the next level. Her first book, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, was published in October 2013.