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Your guide to keywords, rich snippets, and Google’s SERP.
If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you’ve heard the term SEO.
You might know it stands for “search engine optimization”. You probably know it’s somehow connected to using keywords.
And most writers and bloggers know a little about keywords and have at least done some keyword research at some point.
Or know how to check for keyword volume numbers to see how popular their post might be.
Or maybe you blog on a self-hosted blog and you’re learning to use Yoast, the WordPress plugin for SEO. It’s pretty user friendly.
This means even someone new to SEO can follow the suggestions to turn those little red lights to yellow and then green.
But you may still not know exactly what SEO is and why you need it.
Trying to learn SEO can be really overwhelming. There’s a lot to learn.
But everyone who is successful at writing or blogging will tell you that you need SEO.
Very few people will tell you exactly how to do it or why.
What exactly is SEO?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a series of techniques, both on page (in your post) and off page (behind the scenes), that can help drive traffic to your blog.
All these techniques combine into an overall strategy for optimizing your blog post content so that search engines can find it and include it in their search results.
No matter which platform your blog lives on, understanding and using proper SEO can bring the Internet traffic to your posts.
It can help people, who want what you are offering, to find and click on your link.
Many bloggers and freelance writers know SEO is important.
They know that it’s connected to ranking on Google and getting traffic. Some may even understand what it is to an extent.
But a lot of people still don’t have a deep understanding of how to do it.
What is a SERP?
It’s the page you see after someone types a word, phrase, or question into the search box and hits enter.
The search engine produces a list of relevant links for you to peruse and choose which to click on for more information.
Those results show up on a search engine results page (SERP). The results can include ads and other visually enhanced results called rich snippets.
In most cases there will be more than one page of results, but the reality is most searchers never go beyond that first page.
Why should I care about SEO?
In a nutshell, SEO gets your post in front of more people. When a link to your blog post shows up on the 1st page SERP, a lot more people see that link.
If you want people to read your blog post, buy your novel, or read your poetry, then SEO matters.
SEO done right means more people have a chance to click your link to find the answer to their question or the information or product they were searching for.
If you can get your post to rank so that it falls on the 1st or even the 2nd page of the search results, traffic to your post can soar.
If you do SEO properly, your link lands 1st page above the fold on SERP and your true audience can find your content much easier.
With the changes that have happened lately on big platforms, SEO is even more important for all of us who produce content.
What to know about the SERP
The first thing to know about SEO is how to identify the different parts of that search engine results page (SERP). Every search engine has one.
It's the page you see after you enter a word, phrase, or question in the search box and hit enter.
The most well-known of these is Google’s SERP, so I’ll refer to that in this post.
But there are alternative search engines including popular ones like Bing and Yahoo.
There are search engines with unique purposes like Yandex (European perspective), DuckDuckGo (enhanced privacy), SwissCows (family friendly semantics), and BoardReader (forum and message board results).
All search engines produce a SERP.
Although each looks visually different than a Google SERP, they will have similar components.
The good news is SEO works similarly across every search engine.
So, by learning basic SEO techniques, those other search engines can find your post too.
Understanding the anatomy of a search engine results page
The search phrase aka keyword phrase. You can see it above next to the yellow highlight.
This is what your reader” or “potential customer” types into their Internet browser.
A search phrase can be one word or it can be several words. It can be a complete sentence or even a question.
User intent can be determined by looking at the format of what a user types in the search box. Understanding user intent can be very helpful for your SEO content strategy.
The total number of results Google found for the search phrase or keyword can be found at the top of the page. I highlighted it in purple in the above screenshot.
This is how you can tell if your post is 3rd of just 4 possible results (not so great) or if it’s ranked 10th out of 3 million results (pretty dang good).
The featured snippet, next to the pink highlight above, is the holy grail when it comes to organic SEO.
The featured snippet is position zero, the top of the heap! Better than ranking #1 on Google SERP.
Getting your blog post link here can not only increase traffic, but it can boost trust and authority in the eyes of readers.
The featured snippet is position zero, the top of the heap!
“People Also Ask” is a visual graphic showing a list of questions, next to the blue highlight in the screenshot above. It’s usually a series of 3–10 questions.
If you click on one of the questions, a featured snippet pops up with the answer to the question.
Getting a link to your post here is not quite as good as the featured snippet, but it’s close.
There are more than 25 different “rich snippets” or visually enhanced results where your post can show up and be featured on a SERP.
Don’t worry you don’t have to know about them all.
In fact, you don’t even have any control over some of them at all. Some happen because of the type of post you create, such as a brand, a product listing, a Google business page, etc.
Others spots you can pay for. You’ve seen many of them without even realizing it.
Like the sponsored ads that show up near the top of a Google SERP:
Sponsored ads always show up at the top of Google SERP.
Businesses and companies pay for those ads to show up first because evidence shows most people see and click on the links in the top half of that Google page.
Sponsored or paid ads will have that little green box that says “Ad” next to it.
Companies pay for ads because many people won’t scroll down more than halfway on a SERP and tons of people never look at results beyond that first page.
But you can sometimes get to that top spot without having to pay for it. SEO is how you do that.
What is Google ranking all about?
Normal site links typically come after the rich snippets and visual graphics. I’ve highlighted these with green in the above shot.
The first five to ten most relevant links will show up on Google’s 1st page when someone does a search. We’ve said the featured snippet is position zero.
The next link is ranking #1 and so on. The first three to five of typically are positioned on the top half of the page.
These first five links are the equivalent to “above the fold” positioning in a printed newspaper.
These are called “organic” search results because they are not purposefully pushed to the top because of a paid ad, but happen naturally as a result of what is found in your content.
The first five to ten most relevant links will show on Google’s 1st page when someone does a search.
So first page of the SERP is where you want your posts to show up.
And if you can get them in the top half of the page, the first five or 6 results, just below the ads, that’s the prime spot to get traffic.
And getting your post shown as one of those rich snippets is like striking gold when it comes to traffic.
What to Know About Keywords
It’s important to have an idea of what your target readers or potential customers might put into the search bar.
The more you know about which words they use when they search, the more likely it is you can use that keyword phrase or a related one in your post.
When you use the right keywords, it increases the chance of Google choosing your post to show on the results page aka the SERP (Search engine results page).
There are tons of other components that can factor into the Google search ranking for your post but keywords are fundamental.
So you start with a keyword, which is really a fancy way of saying a focus word. It’s not the same as topic or niche. A keyword is generally a more narrow focus within a topic or niche.
If your niche is health targeted toward first time moms, one keyword might be post pregnancy diet, the keyword for another post could be kegel exercises, and so on.
I’ll share more about keywords in a future post, but the basic premise is one target keyword per post.
You can include related keywords but there should be one main keyword per post.
That’s what I have for today about SEO. This is the bare minimum basic information.
Just enough to help you get started.