SEO, SEO for techies, techies SEO, SEO in technical blogs, SEO in technical blogs not marketing, techie, techies, SEO…
Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there.
I was just stuffing this post with keywords in the first paragraph in order to trick Google into ranking this page for the term “SEO for techies.” Or really, I was just hoping to rank for any of that stuff. Whatever. SEO!
I’m sorry. I couldn’t really resist that lead-in. It will actually probably hurt our SEO for the page, but the gag was worth it.
But Seriously, If You Have a Website, It’s Worth Paying Attention to SEO
If you’re anything like I was for a lot of years as a blogger, then you think of SEO as the silly games in the first line of the post—if you think about it at all. I mean, look no further than the term itself: search engine optimization. This makes it sound like you just unroll a loop somewhere, inject a bit of assembly code, and BAM, you’ve gamed the system.
I wanted no part of that, myself.
After all, it’s amateur-hour gimmickry, right? After all, over on DaedTech, I’m a serious opinion blogger with a following. I have shares galore, something like 3K RSS subscribers, and way more regular readers than that. Why would I try to attract randos from Google when an army of people just hangs around, reading everything I write?
Of course, that was a self-indulgent fiction that I believed a few years ago. As I started writing blog posts for content marketing and selling my own products and services, I developed a much different understanding of the world. And even before that, drilling into my Google analytics showed me how self-indulgent that thinking was.
That’s a quick snapshot of DaedTech’s traffic from the last few months. That green section, and a few of the other slices? Those are my regular readers. That huge blue block of 56K people? Those are my visitors from Google.
I’ve only started paying attention to SEO for my site in the last couple of years. I wince to think how big that blue slice might be if I’d been paying attention for seven years instead.
So in this post, I’m going to offer advice, and I’m going to offer it as if you were me from several years ago. Here are the things that I wish I’d known and that you need to know.
1. SEO Isn’t an HTML Gimmick Anymore—It’s Now About Helping People
Let’s circle back to how I led off this post. A couple of decades ago, search engines had significantly simpler algorithms for determining content relevance. Submit your site, the search engine crawls it, and if you’re talking about term X a lot, you should probably rank for term X.
Naturally, this led to some truly awful, spammy behaviors to game the system. Hindsight is, as they say, 20-20. So, for a while, you could rank by stuffing your meta tags and posts full of awkward phrasing—writing for search engines instead of humans, if you will.
Times have changed. Google knows your location and shopping habits better than you do yourself, so you can assume it’s gotten smart enough to figure out the difference between a legitimately helpful web page and something a hack spammer threw together.
Modern SEO is not about keywords and gimmicks on your page. It’s about your content and how helpful searchers find it. Google pays attention to what people click on, how long they spend there, whether they hit the “back” button to look for other results, etc. In short, it has extensive ways to know whether a searcher found a link valuable.
Their algorithm has become so opaque, mysterious, and elaborate that the only way to “game” the system is to actually create detailed, valuable content that searchers like.
2. Your Site’s Performance Matters, So with SEO, Premature Optimization Is Not the Root of All Evil
Switching gears a little, here’s one for those of you that feel your eyelid start to twitch when you see someone concatenate strings instead of using a string builder. Think of the performance!
I won’t get into debating the merits of whether it’s premature optimization or best practices when it comes to code. But I will say that the performance-minded folks will carry the day when it comes to SEO. Performance matters, and it matters a lot.
On this blog, I’ve suggested using WordPress and its plugin ecosystem over static site generators. Mainly, this has to do with commercial considerations and letting people who aren’t versed in markdown manage the blog. But for those of you that like SSGs, you have a definite leg up here.
Whatever you use, spend some time making sure your site performs well, both on desktops/laptops and on mobile. Google will reward you for it (or punish you for not doing it).
3. You Control Exactly What Searchers See
As I’ve said, SEO is really all about the searcher’s experience. Good experiences means good ranking for your content.
And that experience starts right on the search page. When you type something into a search engine, you skip the ads and start skimming through the results. Off the top of your head, you probably think of this as a series of links, URLs and undifferentiated blurbs of text.
But there’s a lot more of a method to the madness. Take a look at this screenshot of a search of Hit Subscribe’s blog posts.
For the top entry, I’ve highlighted something in yellow. Specifically, I’ve highlighted the things that you can explicitly control down to the last detail. “It looks like you’ve just highlighted everything,” you might be thinking. Yes! You’ve got it. I can’t easily change Hit Subscribe’s base URL, but I can completely control everything else that appears on the search engine results page (SERP).
Take advantage of this. For each post you write, think of what you want searchers to see. What would make sure that someone searching for something (in our case, “blogging ROI”) correctly conclude that your post will help them? Modify these things accordingly.
4. Links Make Google Love You
Pulling out to a broader level, you want Google to like your site on the whole, and not just on a page-by-page basis. You want Google to think of you as a highly reputable authority, the way it thinks of, say, a site like Wikipedia or Stack Overflow. You want a high domain authority.
A lot of factors contribute to this, but one of the most important (and easiest to implement) ones is how actively you participate in linking. This means linking within your blog to your own content. But it also means linking to outside content. You want users to always be able to click from something they like to another thing that they might like.
That’s the part you can easily control. Where it gets a little harder is attracting domains with high authority (or any authority) to link to you. The more inbound links you get, the more seriously Google takes you and the better you start to rank across the board. Your domain authority goes up.
The best way to get a lot of link love is to create great content over months and years, and people will naturally start to link to it. There are other tactics you can use as well, up to and including outreach to solicit links. You can use these to accelerate the process, but whatever you do, don’t offer to buy links! If the search engines think you’re doing this, they’ll blackball you.
5. Whatever You Do, Don’t Cheat—It’s Not Worth It
And that last point brings us to #5. Search engines will blackball you because they’ll (correctly) think that you’re cheating. It’s the same reasoning behind not rewarding keyword stuffing or any of the other shady practices employed by so-called “black hat SEOs” over the years. They’re making it so that you can only get ahead in the system by following its rules.
You might find yourself tempted at times to take shortcuts. This is especially true if you really get into SEO and start aggressively pursuing top results in the SERP. It can get addictive for some people, believe it or not.
But however into it you get, resist the impulse to do questionable things. Not sure if it’s questionable or not? Err on the side of not doing it. You can always survive being the sixth result the SERP page instead of the fifth. But not appearing there at all? That’d be worse than if you’d just never bothered getting into SEO in the first place.
Just Start Paying Attention
I’ve listed a few things that you need to know, but without going into the specifics of how exactly to do it. With the right plugins and a little know-how, you can figure that out pretty quickly.
My aim here was just to introduce you to SEO, see if I could help it shed some of its baggage in your mind, and then give you the most critical points to bear in mind. And truth be told, you can work on four of these five things without doing any further reading: create good content, make your site perform well, link a lot, and don’t cheat. The only one you can’t do immediately is the SERP result editing, which you can do with the version of Yoast that comes with WordPress. As a techie, you’ve got this.
So as you look at your site and your blog and as you think about new content, bear these points in mind. More people are going to find your blog via search than you think. Make sure they feel welcome when they do.