A while back, I wrote a guide on how to start an anime blog on a virtual private server. Regardless of choice of hosting you made, you might be wondering, how do I promote my blog and attract readers to my blog. We will discuss about that in this whole post. After all, I have been blogging about anime for over 10 years and know a few tricks.
What is SEO and Why It’s Important?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a technique that grows the quality and quantity of web traffic to your blog. This is usually with a search engine such as Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc. Search engines use complex algorithms based on keywords, the quality, and the number of websites linking to your content.
Besides the quality of the content, if more websites link to your content, your website will rank higher in the search results, in layman terms. This is probably why it’s a good idea to link to other blogs that have relevant content to improve your ranking. It’s because it creates a trackback, thus a link back to your website, which can help with your ranking in the search results.
Nowadays, bloggers use SEO plugins to handle search engine optimization. While some themes like Studiopress’s Genesis Framework and plugins like Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack handles this, setting up and getting good SEO is easy. You just follow the setup wizard after activating the plugin. Afterwards, you specify a single keyword for the search engine to use for your post.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea to also track your rankings using a search console to find areas to improve on. The search console also allows you to pinpoint areas that can cause issues with the search engine’s ability to index your website. Google and Bing have this feature. You only need to put in the verification code, which you do with your SEO plugin of choice to gain access to the console.
Also, be aware that search engines, especially Google have special algorithms that can affect your rankings based on your content quality. This is especially the case with Google Panda, which aims at poor quality or thin websites.
If you write content that is less than 250 words, have poor grammar or spelling mistakes, Google Panda will penalize you. Once Google Panda penalizes your website, it’s difficult to recover. You may as well start over from scratch if that happens.
That is why you should not only avoid really short posts (those under 250 words), but also focus on quality content. By having readable content with good grammar, no spelling mistakes, and use reputable sources (if you are writing an editorial post), your website should rank good in the search results. I will focus more on that later.
Lastly, you should host your blog on your own domain. Free domains that you receive when you create a blog on WordPress.com is very limiting. Not only that, it doesn’t look as professional. Also, it takes more effort for visitors to remember and type your address to visit your website.
Moreover,when you decide to get your own domain, you basically have to start over from scratch from an SEO standpoint. This is not too surprising since you don’t have control of the free domain. If WordPress.com doesn’t like what you are writing, it can shut your site down and you will lose access to the domain.
As expected, a domain name is a good investment and it’s relatively affordable. A .com domain usually runs around $9 a year, which is really cheap. By having your own domain, you can establish your identity. Of course, you don’t have to advertise what blogging platform you are using in the URL. Note that if you want to use WordPress.com with a domain name, you would need to get a paid plan, which starts at $4 a month.
Make Sure Your Website Loads Quick
These days, people want their information quickly. If your website loads slowly, there is a high likelihood that people will bounce off your website instead of browsing through it. Also, page load times are a factor in the search results rankings. There are ways to improve this, which includes the following:
- Use a page caching plugin – It’s always a good idea to use a caching plugin, which caches your post or page on your WordPress blog as a static page that your host serves to your users. In most cases, it’s wasteful to just allow users to view a dynamic version of your blog since the content changes infrequently. W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are two popular WordPress plugins that serves cached, static pages of your blog. This in turn will drastically improve your page load times.
- Use a Virtual Private Server – Unless you have good shared hosting, which is uncommon, your shared hosting will usually hold your blog back. If you have the knowhow, a Virtual Private Host will go a long way. That way, bad neighbors that eat up resources on the same server won’t hold your blog back.
As expected, the resources allocated to you on a virtual private server is yours to use. Moreover, you can install any software you want on the server as long it doesn’t break terms of service. With that, you can set up object caching to cache common operations used by WordPress and store static cached pages of your blog in memory. This in turn will decrease page load times even further.
- Do not use PNG images – PNG (Portable Network Graphics) is a high-quality picture format, which can become big size depending on the content. This is really bad for slow connections and mobile. Instead, use JPEG format images with a high or very high quality preset to improve page load times. Also, Animated GIFs can have an effect on page load times, so don’t use too many.
- Have a mobile version of your website – These days, most people view websites on smartphones instead on laptops or desktops. It’s beneficial to have a mobile version of your website to improve the user experience. Most themes use responsive design to accomplish this, so you don’t need a dedicated mobile plugin to create a mobile version of your website. Also, Google will improve your rankings if you have a mobile optimized version of your site.
- Only serve a HTTPS version of your website – HTTPS (HTTP Secure) is a secure web protocol that encrypts the page that your host serves to your user. This is important as this improves not only for the security for your visitors since attackers can’t eavesdrop on their traffic, but also it improves privacy. It makes it difficult for attackers to retrieve passwords, emails and other sensitive information on your site.
As expected, Google ranks sites higher that use HTTPS. Most shared hosting should have the ability to enable an HTTPS version by default. On virtual private servers, it’s not difficult to set up as there are guides to do this online.
Focus on Quality Content
The best way to improve your search result rankings, the amount of traffic to your blog, and subscribers is to focus on your content. As the saying goes, content is king. There are some things to become aware of:
- Write your posts in a Word Processor, not in the WordPress editor – It’s obvious why you should write your posts in a Word Processor like Microsoft Word, LibreOffice or Apple Pages. Not only you have a local copy of your post, you can use the built-in grammar check.
As expected, a grammar checker can check for grammar mistakes, but also writing style suggestions. Yes, things like using passive verbs, which anime bloggers should not use unless you are writing technical posts or focusing on topics that is academic in nature. Your posts should only use active verbs, which improves the readability of your content.
Also, avoid repeating yourself. I know it’s tempting, but this can really annoy the reader. This also applies to words as well. Use a thesaurus if you are using the same word frequently in the same paragraph.
- Make sure you don’t have overly long sentences and paragraphs – Long sentences generally makes content harder to read. This is because readers might lose sight of what you are trying to convey if it’s too long. In other words, deliver your thoughts in 20-25 words per sentence.Also, do not have too many sentences in a single paragraph. If a paragraph is too big, it can make your post look like a wall of text. The ideal paragraph length is usually 5 to 6 sentences.
- Make sure your content has structure – Your post should have a logical structure and not become disorientated. If you are writing an editorial, it should have a thesis statement, your arguments, and conclusion. For an episodic post, writea few sentences to gain the reader’s attention, the best moments in the episode, and your overall thoughts. Of course, the structure is up to you, as long it remains logical.
- Insert images between a few paragraphs – It’s not a really good idea to have just one image and the rest text. It can become tiring to the readers to just look at a bunch of paragraphs. Perhaps insert some related images every few paragraphs to make your content become more appealing to the reader’s eyes.
- Pay attention to the readability score – The Flesch reading ease score (0-100) gives a good idea of how readable the content is in the reader’s eyes. The score is based on the average length of sentences and number of syllables per word. The higher the score, the more readable it is.In other words, you should avoid using complex words, unless necessary.
Also, keep sentences under 25 words to make your content readable to your readers. SEO Plugins like Yoast SEO has a tab that allows you to see the readability of your content and check for areas to improve your writing style. If you are using a different SEO plugin, you can measure it using a tool like Readable
Other Things to Look Out For
Besides post quality, you should also consider your blog’s design. Make sure you are using a good theme with good web design from a reputable developer. Do not use pirated or nulled premium themes. Not only that is illegal, you are basically inviting hackers to hack your website. If you want to use a paid theme, please obtain it legally and support the creators who worked on them.
Personally, I build my theme using StudioPress’s Genesis Framework. I use the Genesis Framework since it provides an optimized WordPress experience, especially for SEO while providing regular updates to improve security. I know there are free theme frameworks like Thematic, but the developers behind it haven’t updated it for a long time. At least the paid versions, you will at least have regular updates and of course, support. You usually create a child theme around the framework, which makes it easier to maintain.
However, there are premium child themes, which are turnkey and doesn’t require any additional coding to customize. You just tailor your site’s design using the settings the theme provides. I recommend this route if you don’t know PHP and CSS.
Next, you want to create a unique identity for your website. It’s might be a good idea to commission a logo or a mascot that you can use as your header image or branding. If you have artistic skills, you can probably create your own.
In short, you should create a unique identity for your readers to recognize your blog as. This is why I highly recommend a dedicated domain name and not use a free one. A dedicated domain establishes your identity for your blog. While a logo or commissioned artwork can become a sizable investment, this will go long way to improve your readership and traffic to your blog. This is especially the case if you plan to monetize it through advertisements.
Lastly, try to have your website added to an anime blog indexer and subscribe to a Jetpack plan. Anime Nano is still a good place for some people to discover latest posts in the anime blogosphere. To add your blog there, you just need to have your blog active for at least 1 month.
As expected, most readers who are interested in anime usually follow blogs through WordPress.com Reader. It’s not too surprising since most anime bloggers use WordPress.com or the self-hosted version of WordPress.
The catch is, while WordPress.com blogs will appear in the search results in WordPress.com Reader, self-hosted do not. This is unless you subscribe to a premium Jetpack plan. After doing this in May, I see an increase in WordPress.com reader traffic. This is usually the top 5 in referrers for WordPress.com Stats. The Personal plan is the bare minimum, which provides this in addition to better anti-spam protection and backups. Don’t forget, you can also add a follow button on your blog using this generator.
With that, this is all the suggestions I have in mind when it comes to blogging. As always, people have different techniques to improve their blog. Feel free to share what worked for you in the comments along with thoughts on the techniques and suggestions I discussed. ¶