Single-minded SEO can be an easy and dangerous trap to fall into. Many bloggers fixate on a single strategy when it comes to search engine optimization. Some bloggers frantically scramble for backlinks instead of focusing on good content. Others try to pack every post with keywords, resulting in keyword density at the expense of legibility. The real key to white-hat SEO in blogging is balance. With that in mind, here are seven strategies every blogger should be aware of and use in conjunction with creating good content.

(1) The headline is the most important part of a post. In my experience, the single most important factor in ranking for a keyword or keyword phrase/string is the headline. One good strategy (employed in this very post!) is to ‘introduce’ the headline in order to increase the number targetting words and phrases. The first phrase above (Blogging Search Engine Optimization) is a good string to target. The second string is debatable. What would turn up the right result? ‘SEO Strategies Blogger’ is an unusual search string. It might have been better to go for ‘Blogger SEO Strategies,’ but a compromise was reached for the sake of making more sense to a reader and for this example.

(2) Backlinks should be built up naturally over time. Creating comment spam or buying lots of links really isn’t worth your time, energy or money. Greater rewards come from links you could never buy, from high-profile blogs or websites that are attracted to your content. Moreoever, search engines take notice if a relatively new site suddenly gets powerful backlinks and that site might be penalized for purchasing such links. Don’t expect strong, high-PR backlinks overnight. Be patient, write well, and they will come.

(3) Keyword density is important, but so is long-string keyword or phrase order. It isn’t enough just to target the keywords you want to rank for in every single sentence. In fact, though 3-5% is what most people recommend, that is a tough thing to accomplish. Instead, shoot for longer-string keyword phrases (e.g. ‘longer-string keyword phrases’!). Mixing up the order from phrase to phrase will not only make for a better blog read, it will also increase the likelihood that you will rank for unusual strings of keywords you may not have thought of (did you notice the variety of search string orderings in this paragraph?).

(4) Latent semantic analysis/indexing in a nutshell: write naturally and use relevant terms. Even if you’re not trying to rank for every word or phrase you use, search engines do look to see if you are using phrases that other sites are using when writing about certain topics. For example: this post is about SEO and mentions latent semantic analysis. That lets the search engines ‘know’ that I am aware of an important factor in search engine optimization. Using related phrases can help you rank above even more established and higher-PR sites for similar terms. It is a way of ‘rewarding’ people for writing better content, even if the competition is targetting similar keyword strings.

(5) Search engines look beyond your blog on the web – buzz may be important. Various people have analyzed (for example) Google patents and patent applications, and some experts have concluded that Google looks in emails and forums not only for links to blogs but also mentions of them. Applying latent semantic analysis, it is entirely possible that Google also pays attention to what words are used in conjunction with your blog’s title or url. In short: search engines may even use ‘buzz’ about your site – even if there are no links – to determine what your site ranks for.

(6) Relevant outgoing links are important, just like relevant incoming ones. Search engines look not only at who links to your site, but also who you link to. If you consistently link to sites about something unrelated to what your site is targetting you may, over time, start losing your rank for the keywords you are targetting. Some off-topic linking is fine, but it is best to keep in mind and link to other sites in your field or niche often. This shouldn’t be too hard to manage, as it makes sense to link to relevant sites!

(7) Most importantly: SEO isn’t everything! While all of these strategies are good to keep in mind, focusing too much on SEO will lose you readers (and respect) over time. Diversification is the key. Always be thinking of your multiple target audiences: regular (usually feed) readers, social media visitors, those coming via natural backlinks and search-engine users. So, whenever you write a new post or page, think about SEO but don’t forget to also think about the diverse visitors who come to your site from all over the web and for all kinds of reasons. SEO is important but content (cliche:) is still king.

Some of these may be old (white) hat to many you, but it’s good to practice a bit with every post. The trick is to have SEO be second nature – a natural extension of your writing. Think of the Googlebots as another member of your audience, just like your regular readers and other visitors! Communicating with them well is just another thing to keep thinking about.