If you are a new blogger or are struggling with a blogging issue, I might be able to help you.
Please send details of your problem to kp.nd.2008@gmail.com. Pl do not make generic queries (e.g. how can I start a blog or why am I not getting traffic on my blog). Please do not spam with many queries.

How to start a lifestyle blog

On Top Blogs, I have published a number of articles on starting a blog, with inputs from successful bloggers. 
 
I have shared experiences and best practices on starting and maintaining a beauty and fashion blog, food blog, travel blog, product and book review blog and technology blog. The post on how to start a lifestyle blog comes rather late, but here it is: 

What is lifestyle blogging

 
Lifestyle blogging is a niche (= segment) of professional blogging in which we talk about topics that lead people to have a good lifestyle. 

Good lifestyle would mean good health, organized family and occupational life, enough money and comforts, style and fashion, overall well-being and happiness.

Lifestyle blogging goes much beyond beauty and fashion blogging though fashion and beauty are often a prominent part of most lifestyle blogs. [This aspect has been discussed in detail at the end of this post.]

Please visit the linked post if you are interested in discussing more on what lifestyle blogging is

Why start a lifestyle blog

 
Lifestyle blog suits bloggers who have multi-faceted expertise and experience in lifestyle matters. That also means the blogger must be genuinely interested in these areas and not choose the niche just because it is stated to be a paying niche. 

If you are interested and well-experiences in two-three of the main areas, i.e. fashion/ beauty, travel, parenting/ child care, design/ decor, health/ nutrition/ emotional health/ psychology, lifestyle blogging is the right blogging niche for you. 

Once you are an established lifestyle blogger, you are not constrained by narrowness of the niche - a problem faced by bloggers of fashion, health, parenting and narrower niches. 

You might have already researched that lifestyle blogging is a well  paying niche because a large number of people are interested in one or the other lifestyle matter, and there are many brands ready to put advertisements on lifestyle blogs. 

Though there are some recommend to consider blogging as pure business and go with any paying niche, whether you have interest in that or not (as shared in the linked post: making money blogging), the majority of experts and high-earning bloggers recommend that blogging without passion is a burden over long term - and I agree with them. 

How to start a lifestyle blog

 
If you have decided to go for blogging and have chosen to start a  lifestyle blog with the aim to make money from it, let's talk the nitty-gritty.

These are the bare essentials when you start a professional blog in any niche: 
  • Choosing a relevant and expressive title for the blog.
  • Choosing a memorable domain name for the blog.
  • Deciding where to host the blog: selecting a reputed web host and the right web hosting plan that would meet your present requirements and also be expandable in future. You may visit this page to learn more about how to choose the web hosting plan best suited for you. That page also refers to discussions on choosing the right domain name.
  • Choosing the right website builder or blog creator. My recommendation is wordpress.org CMS. Don't go for a free blogging platform.
  • Choosing the right theme and going by the best web design. Wordpress has many themes - free and paid - suiting lifestyle blogs.
  • Deciding the categories within the broad niche (In the case of lifestyle blog, categories will be fashion, cooking, etc). 
  • Composing static pages. The blog must have an 'about us' page, a 'contact us' page, one giving the blog's ethical/ privacy/ content sharing policies. If you are an expert in some area, tell that in the 'about us' page. 
  • Composing posts. A blog stands on its content, and all other things are secondary. But creating the right content is also the most difficult and most time-consuming part of blogging. When starting the blog, do not make it public before you have created some posts with great content. Perhaps, 2-3 for each category; the more the better. Do not start with very thin content. 
  • All bloggers create content, and some create marvelous content. However, even among those who create great content, not many make money from the blog. Part of the reason is that most bloggers create content that informs; it does not solve problems. So, write content that solves problems of your 'target audience', i.e. people who would visit your blog. 
  • Promotion and SEO. All professional blogs created with the goal of making money need traffic. Traffic consists of visitors who click on ads on the blog, make purchases, share posts with others. For that, the blog should be known to others and should come on top of Google/ Bing search pages. If your blog is made with Wordpress CMS, it has free and paid plugins for SEO. I will recommend that you go for RankMath or Yoast.
  • Monetization. Finally, the blog should be able to make money for the blogger. There are more than a dozen ways to monetize the blog. Putting advertisements is the most common way to earn money from blogging. When the blog is of some maturity and is popular, one can think of affiliation with brands, etc - these pay better than just displaying advertisements. 

That was a summary of actions that a blogger must take for professional blogging. All bloggers try to take these actions but just a fraction of bloggers actually make money. So, the next section is going to be on what specific actions to take on the lifestyle and how to monetize the blog:

Making money from a lifestyle blog

 
No theory here; just the best practices. Some of these actions are universal and MUST be taken, while some work differently in different situations. All of these have been validated with real-life experiences of successful lifestyle bloggers.
  • Ask yourself, what is your area of passion and expertise within the broad lifestyle niche. Also find whether you are good at writing or explaining through video; whether you have lots of information but not much experience, or a lot of experience and expertise, or both. 
Decide your blogging strategy based on answers that you get from yourself; don't start and maintain the blog randomly. If at the end of this self-analysis, you find that you are an expert on one small area, do not go for a full-fledged lifestyle blog but concentrate on that niche. (More on this in the next section.)
  • You need not include all categories that are found on lifestyle blogs. That can indeed become overwhelming, and you may not have expertise on some of them. For example, you may not be a keen traveler or may not have expertise on cooking. However, think of synergistic categories. Heath and nutrition, pregnancy and childcare go together well. Decor, handicraft/ DIY, hobbies gel well. Family matters, emotional health, spirituality, health are closely related. 
I know a blogger who is master in stitching and embroidery but felt that she could give a lot of tips on parenting and child care. Her lifestyle blog in English on all and sundry topics did not do well. She analyzed the reasons and then opened a blog in her native language on stitching - and it is doing quite well!
  • Also examine who are the people who would visit your blog, refer your blog posts to others and even buy from links on the blog. You will need to focus your content towards them. 
Especially think of the age, gender, education level, buying habits, location, expertise in the field, and free time in hand of your potential visitors. Write according to their needs, their liking.
  • The web design of the lifestyle blog should be such that it clearly shows the categories (because there will be distinct categories in the blog) and attracts attention to the top content. If on Wordpress, do not choose a theme that is appealing at the cost of clear navigation. Go only for a modern, responsive theme.
  • Those searching for tips on lifestyle areas are looking for nice things in life - so the blog should be highly appealing, a bit flowery. Keep the mood positive, full of energy.
  • On lifestyle blogs, people come in search for genuine solutions and tips because enormous content is available on life matters, and much of it is either routine or commercial or copy-pasted. So, give genuine tips. 
Another small bit of advice here: have a mix of personal experiences and posts written in the third person. That will help you build authority while retaining personal touch.   
  • On each post, embed photos that enrich the post. There is no scope in a lifestyle blog for generic stock photos and photos of poor quality. You may like to visit this page for tips on putting images on the web
If you decide to post your own photos and videos, have a smartphone with good camera (No need to buy costly equipment). If you'd do all the photography yourself, it makes sense to buy a small tripod to hold the camera. You do not need a lot of editing of photos or videos if you take care of light and placement of objects in the frame. Mind it, editing takes time. 
   
If you are poor at photography, buy photos from ShutterStock, Pixabay, Pexels, etc but avoid commonly used stock photos.
   
Videos work well in a number of lifestyle topics, especially when giving tips on exercising or makeup and explaining recipes. It is a good idea to open a YouTube channel and link individual videos to the blog. 
   
Instagram and Pinterest are top media-sharing platforms for lifestyle bloggers. Do not ignore them at all. 
  • Use the blog to integrate content across all social media platforms- YouTube, Instagram/ Pinterest, Facebook etc. 
  • While you will be publishing posts on specific topics, think of publishing some big posts that cover a number of areas and are in the form of background information. Don't forget to give link to these pillar posts/ pages on other posts. Have at least 2-3 such webpages in each category.
  • Lifestyle blogs start paying well when you graduate from CPC or display advertisements to product reviews and affiliation. These streams pay much better.
  • When reviewing products and recommending a product, be honest to the core. That builds trust with your visitors. Once you achieve a good level of trust and have good traffic on the blog, people click on your recommendations and make purchases through your affiliate ads - resulting in good earning. 
Disclose your affiliation with the product, if reviewing and recommending an affiliate product.
  • If you have expertise in one or more areas within the lifestyle niche, think of online courses - as they pay well and also keep improving your expertise quotient.
  • Think of evolving a community around your blog. People interested in lifestyle matters tend to visit the same resource if its content resonates with them or solves their problems. One great way to build a loyal community is to engage with them on social sites and the second is to let them subscribe to your updates. For email subscriptions, you can start with a free account on MailChimp.
  • Learn from competition. On Google, search for top lifestyle blogs, with filters for your location and your interests. Look at the blogs that come on top of result page - for the topics that they cover. Can you cover the same topics and write as good? Does your blog look as good and has as clear navigation as these blogs? Do they use some keywords/ search expressions repeatedly on the blog so that search engines pick them up on top, and should you use the same ones? How are they monetizing- can you think of the same ways of making money? And so on.
start a lifestyle blog

When fashion blogging is better than lifestyle blogging


A successful blogger has said, and I shared it earlier, that you need not have all the categories of lifestyle blogging in your blog. The same applies when you know a lot about fashion and love grooming, but are thinking of opening a lifestyle blog just because you learnt that it has a greater money-making potential. 

Consider these two points.

First, the statement that lifestyle blogs have a better earning potential than standalone fashion blogs is a generalization that only tells that because lifestyle blogs cover more areas than just fashion, there are more brands and more interested people. Since both can earn well for the blogger, the actual earning depends on a hundred factors including the design, quality and usefulness of content, optimization and monetization.

Second. When you are passionate about fashion and focus on fashion itself, your time and energies will be more focused than trying to laboriously compose posts on other topics. By focusing on your area of interest and expertise, your output will be more, and your expertise quotient will also rise faster. 

This post on ITB tells in detail about starting a beauty or fashion blog

When to move blogging from narrow niche to lifestyle


There are times when moving from a narrow niche to lifestyle blogging makes good sense. 

One reason you should think of broadening the niche from fashion or travel or wellness to lifestyle is that you have nearly exhausted your knowledge base or experiences in that narrow niche. 

Another situation when you could be considering this is when you have more time on hand or you have decided to become a full-time blogger from doing blogging in spare time, e.g. when your kids are grown up or you decide to leave the 9-to-5 job. 

Some bloggers tend to broaden their blogging niche when their are of interest and expertise grow. For example, you had training in make up and grooming and so you were blogging in this niche. But then you got interested in embroidery and stitching - and you took classes and have joined an active group on this. As this is a linked lifestyle area, you can add this also to your lifestyle bundle. 

But if you are such a blogger of a narrow niche and are thinking of moving to a broad niche, you must coolly analyze whether this is a quirk or a well-thought-after move. Will you be able to sustain your new-found love for the new niche?  Also look whether the niches complement one another. Finally decide whether you will open a new blog or continue with the earlier one.

Remember, on moving to lifestyle blogging from a narrow nich or adding new categories, you will have to modify the 'about us' page, blog description etc - all places on the blog and linked social media accounts - wherever you have talked about what the subject of the blog.

Lifestyle blog topics

 
Let me suggest subjects that suit a lifestyle blog. Do not have more than 5-6 categories. You can include more than one subject in one category.
  • motherhood
  • parenting
  • marriage and family matters
  • dating and loving
  • entertainment: tv, movies, music
  • showcasing successful people, interviewing them, inspirational talk
  • health and fitness
  • emotional health
  • self improvement
  • social matters, culture
  • alternative systems of healing
  • diet and nutrition
  • party and etiquette tips
  • social skills
  • event management
  • DIY, daily hacks, technology hacks
  • sports and hobbies
  • creative arts, visual arts
  • home design and decor
  • home buying 
  • gardening
  • food
  • travel
  • photography
  • beauty and make up
  • fashion
  • ideas for making and saving money
  • home business
  • book reviews
  • product reviews
  • sharing experiences
  • services, including courses, through the blog
 
Disclosure: I do not have any affiliation with the products recommended on this post.

Is serverless web hosting the best option for blogs and small businesses?

The use of serverless in hosting/ computing parlance is not new but this concept is gaining ground because of its high versatility and low costs.

Don't be in any doubt about this: servers are very much required for a website or app to work online. As a publisher, you need not worry about the server if your website or program is on the cloud.

Bloggers and small business owners who maintain their own websites can gain from this type of hosting. It is especially useful for those in the business of offering apps and computer codes.

web hosting for blogs

Now Microsoft Azure is offering serverless website making on its platform. Amazon's AWS already has serverless offering on Lambda. Google is offering it since 2008 and claims to have improved it significantly in the latest versions.


What is serverless computing?


Wikipedia defines serverless computing like this:
Serverless computing is a cloud computing execution model in which the cloud provider dynamically manages the allocation of machine resources. Pricing is based on the actual amount of resources consumed by an application, rather than on pre-purchased units of capacity. It is a form of utility computing.
Serverless computing still requires servers, hence it's a misnomer. The name "serverless computing" is used because the server management and capacity planning decisions are completely hidden from the developer or operator.
In serverless web hosting, the servers are fully managed by the hosting company and the developer does not have to bother at all about server-related tasks. This is what is called FaaS or function as a service model and is the most hassle-free version of cloud computing. You pay for the functions that your code performs on the web, and it is the responsibility of the web hosting company to keep it running.

For small purposes, such as hosting minor applications or a small website, serverless hosting is becoming a very tempting solution, especially because the top-end tech companies offer it, and at a very low fee.

The following video tells how AWS Lambda works:



By embedding this video I do not specifically recommend Lambda over other offers, but I have put the video here because it beautifully tells how a serverless service works.

SEO terms in simple language

You keep hearing SEO jargon from other bloggers, experts and also SEO experts. These can sometimes look profound and confusing.

In this glossary, let me simplify the SEO jargon for you.

404 not found: When a linked webpage does not exist, the visitor gets '404 not found' status on his browser. If a website has many webpages that have gone dead or their URL has changed, that is a bad SEO signal because visitors do not get what they look for. 

algorithm: The set of formulas that search engines use for calculating how important a webpage is, from search point of view. The algorithm used by Google is so popular, we call it Google algorithm. Search companies keep their algorithms secret so that SEO experts and hacks do not use it artificially to jack up search ranking of their webpages. (Algorithm is a general computer term used for a set of formulas for any problem-solving.)

alt attribute: This is a way to give a description to images, and is written in HTML. This description or alt attribute is not visible directly but is read by readers for visually handicapped people. It is also used by search engines to know the details about the image. (An attribute is a quality of an HTML tag, so alt attribute is part of img tag. To call it alt tag is wrong.)

anchor text: The text which is hyperlinked to a web entity. In this sentence, what is search engine is the anchor text:You can visit this article to know in simple terms, what is search engine. When someone clicks on this anchor text, he is taken to a webpage on ITB website.

backlink: A link received from another webpage. In the above example, the webpage on search engines has received a backlink from the webpage you are reading. 

If A is a webpage of a very authoritative website and it sends a backlink to webpage B, search engines will get a sense that B must also be authoritative. Thus, backlinks are a sort of endorsement, and so are important for search engine optimization. Also called inbound link.

BERT: It is a way of 'natural language processing' or letting the machines learn what humans say. Invented as a machine learning tool by Google, BERT tries to understand the context of a word by looking at its left and right (so, the B in BERT is for bi-directional). It is being used by search engines to understand the real intent behind search queries.

blackhat: When people use wrong ways of search engine optimization, such SEO is called blackhat SEO. Blackhat techniques try to fool search engines to get a webpage to the top of search results. Such techniques include hiding keywords, buying backlinks, link farming, etc. 

bounce rate: Used for telling whether people leave a website after landing on a webpage, i.e. without visiting other webpages of that website. In number terms, bounce rate is the percentage of all sessions on a website where users viewed only one webpage. A high bounce rate tells search engines that the website does not have many webpage relevant to the search query.  

broken links: When a link does not lead to the intended webpage. This happens when the linked webpage/ image is removed or its URL changes.

canonicalization: When you have more than one URLs pointing to the same website (e.g. with or without www written at the beginning of it), search engines take them as different websites, and that hurts SEO. A 'canonical' tag is put in the HTML of the website to tell search engines which one is the primary URL out of many. This is called canonicalization.

click through rate: This is the number of time a webpage is clicked out of the number of times it appears on search results. It is calculated in percentage. A webpage having CTR of 2% means the webpage was clicked 2 out of 100 times it was shown up in search. A higher CTR gives a signal to search engines that the webpage is relevant for the search keywords for which it was searched. (CTR is also used for estimating how many times an advertisement was clicked out of total number of times it was seen.)

core web vitals: These are qualities that tell how much a webpage or search result is visually stable. These include how fast the page loads on the browser, how its interactive elements behave and whether the content loads first or other elements such as advertisements. Poor performance in terms of core web vitals can lead to downgrading of a webpage in search ranking.

crawling: Search engines have programmes called crawlers (also called search bots/ spiders) that visit websites and their webpages to collect data relating to search. This data helps search engines to put webpages in their index, remove webpages that have gone bad, find keywords in the content, etc.

crawl budget: The number of webpages of your website that Google might crawl in a given session. In large websites, there may be thousands of webpages and search engines may crawl only a few hundred, and this may result in many webpages not being included in search index. So, webmasters use robot.txt (see below) to tell search engines which they may skip.

domain authority: This is a ranking score developed by Moz, which tells how good a website is from search point of view. Related is the page authority- the score for individual webpages.

duplicate content: When the same content is found on more than one webpages, it is called duplicate content. It can hurt SEO because the search engines are likely to mix up as to which one is original. When it results from undesirable copy-pasting of content, search engines may even penalise websites for this.

external link: Link to another website. Opposit of internal link, which is a link relating to another webpage on the same website.

Google analytics: A Google website that would give you a lot of search-related data regarding your website if you put Google analytics code on the website. This data is very useful in making SEO strategy for the website. (The link given above might take you to Google login page before it opens the analytics website.)

Google Keyword Planner: A free tool provided by Google for keyword research.

Google penalties: Google and other search engines can remove a webpage or a complete website from their index if they find blackhat SEO practices being carried on it. There can also be other reasons for such penalties, e.g. carrying copy-pasted content or inappropriate content.

heading tags: HTML tags that specify headings and sub-headings within a webpage. There are 6 levels of H tags. These are important for SEO because they tell search engines that the words given in the H tags are of special importance.

Hummingbird: A 2013 Google algorithm update that tries to find the real intent of search queries. Semantics or finding the true meaning of a word in the context it has been used is the base for this algo update.

internal link: Link to another webpage within the same website.

keyword: One or more words in the search query that tell what the query is. When used for webpages, the keyword is one or more words that are likely to be used by searchers and that should exist in that webpage so that it comes up in search results. 

keyword difficulty score: Some SEO tools give a number that tells how difficult it is to optimize for a keyword. It is generally in the range of 1-100. Long tail keywords are usually easy for optimization and have low keyword difficulty score - and therefore bloggers should focus on them for SEO. 

keyword stuffing: Putting too many keywords or using the same keyword many times on a webpage so that search engines believe that the webpage is a great resource for those keywords. It is not a good SEO practice to stuff keywords on webpages. 

link farms: When people join to artificially promote each other's websites by linking to one another, these are called link exchanges and link farms.

link juice: This is the authority that is passed on to another webpage when it is backlinked form an authoritative webpage. So, when a high authority website/ webpage gives a backlink to your blog, you get a lot of link juice and the chances of your blog coming high on search pages go up. 

local SEO: Search engine optimization done in a way that a webpage comes high on search results when someone searches for local items. Websites of local businesses need more local SEO than websites giving pure information.

long-tail keyword: Keyword that refers to a narrow topic. For example, "geography" is a very wide subject while "geographic formation of Himalayan ridges in Bhutan" is a very narrow subject - this is a long-tail keyword within "geography".

meta tags: HTML expressions that tell about the website or webpage. Website's name, its description, and description of an individual page are important meta tags from SEO point of view, because they help search engines know the subject of the website/ webpage.

nofollow: If you make a link on your blog as nofollow, you are telling search engines that your blog does not intend to pass on authority or link juice to the linked webpage. When you link to a bad webpage to tell people not to use it, you should make the link nofollow. For this, a nofollow attribute has to be added to the link's HTML. 

off-page optimization: SEO actions taken on the webpage itself, e.g. putting alt attribute on images, putting heading tags.

on-page optimization: SEO actions that are not taken directly on the webpage, e.g. getting backlinks from authoritative websites.

organic traffic: Traffic that comes to a website/ webpage without payment. On the other hand, when you pay (or issue advertisements) to get traffic, that is called paid traffic.

page experience: Google says, it now gives high importance to the experience that searchers have on the webpage. Thus, if a webpage shows an intrusive popup, it is a bad page experience. Webpages with poor page experience are likely to suffer in terms of SEO.

PageRank: A complex set of formulas used by Google to give a number ranking to webpages. The score is arrived at by giving values for hundreds of factors such as the number of backlinks. The name of this ranking score comes from the name of its developer, Larry Page. It is not made public but is part of the overall Google algorithm.

Panda: The name given by Google to a major update to its search algorithm. Released in 2011, its main aim was to reduce the ranking of webpages with poor quality content.

PBN: Private Blog Network. It is a network of websites used for giving backlinks to particular webpages to improve their search ranking. Google says, it disapproves of such undesirable practices of artificially boosting a website/ webpage's ranking.

Penguin: Name given by Google to a major algorithm update in 2012. It is specifically targeted against link manipulation for SEO. 

RankBrain: It is a part of Google's search algorithm since 2015, and refers to the use of machine learning for finding the relevance of webpages for search queries.

ranking factors: The factors that help a webpage to rank high on search engines. These include the age of the website, pages linking to the webpage, bounce rate, length of the webpage, load speed and so on.

relevant traffic: Traffic that is relevant to the subject or advertisements on a webpage. 

Irrelevant traffic is useless, even hurtful. People who visit a webpage as they were wrongly re-directed to the webpage, or by seeing an advt or using a wrong link will not read the content, not click on advertisements and may even flag the webpage as bad. 

rich cards: Visually enhanced and engaging search results. These are a form of rich snippets, and are created with structured data.

rich snippets: Snippets or brief description about a webpage that comes on search results, with enhancements (e.g. images of products, preview of related webpages)


rich snippets and cards in search results
Rich snippets and cards. (Courtesy: Google)

robot.txt: This is a file that can be put in a website to tell search engines which webpages to crawl and which they should not crawl for indexing. Webmasters usually do not want webpages twith little value or duplicate content to be crawled by search engines.

search console: A Google website that gives a lot of information (including search related problems) and advice on your website if you link the website with it. You need to have a Google account to make use of its tools.

search engine: A program that searches databases based on user queries. For searching information on the web, there are big web search engines such as Google and Bing. 

search intent: The intent (=purpose) of a search. When you make a search using Google search box, your intent could be to get information about something, buy or sell a product, locate a place, compare products, look for a person, or something else. 

semantic search: Search techniques that try to know the real meaning of a search query out of many possible interpretations. As a simple example, 'where' in the search query would mean that the searcher wants to know a location without asking for it. Search engines try to understand the human language using machine learning and other modern tools. 

SEO: Search engine optimization. All techniques that help a webpage show up high on search pages of Google and other search engines. 'SEO' is used used by some for an SEO expert.

SERP: Search Engine Result Page. The page (with 10 or more number) with search results, which comes on screen of the device when makes a web search. 

schema.org: A set of information (called schema) provided on the website that helps search engines to give visually rich search results. Rich cards (see above) are created using schema.org

sitemap: The list of webpages, arranged in a structured way, in a website. Though Google and other major search engines crawl all websites on regular intervals to find their content, submitting a sitemap to search engines helps them know what webpages should to be crawled.

snippet: The brief description that comes below the search result. (See rich snippets and rich cards above for visually rich types of snippets.)

structured data: Any data that is properly organized, such as Excel tables. However, in terms of search, it refers to data about a website given in a format recognized by search engines, so that they understand the content better and then display it in a better way in search results. Schema.org is the way structured data is formatted on a website.

webspam: Techniques that try to confuse search engines to believe that a webpage is of high value though it is not. These are blackhat SEO tricks.

whitehat: The type of SEO techniques that are desirable. (Its opposite is blackhat SEO.)

How search engine works

What is search engine?

In simple words, search engine is a tool that finds results when someone searches the web.

There is a search engine within our computers, which searches files, images etc stored within the computer, but search engine mostly refers to searches on the web. 

How search engine works on the web?

To make a search, you give an input (type a query or submit a photo or say a query to voice assistant) and you expect the results to come out within a second. It is not possible for any program or tool to search the entire web (=world wide web) real-time in a few seconds because the web is enormously big and millions of searches are made every minute. 

So, what the search engine does is to make an index of webpages. It is like a list of webpage that the search engine believes are useful to answer search queries. For populating this index, a software (called search bot or web crawler) keeps crawling the entire web all the time and whenever it finds something of use, it includes it in the index. 

Let me now expand some concepts relating to how search engines work:

Search indexing

The indexes maintained by search engines are huge. They contain enormous data in big servers in different parts of the world. The indexes are still very big databases, but much smaller than the whole web, and the data is highly organized so that search results can be given out instantly.

Search ranking

Search engines want to give the most relevant results in response to a search query. Different search engines have different sets of logic for this. Based on what the technologists manning a search engine think is valuable, they make complex formulas in which points are given to a number of ranking parameters. These formulas. called search algorithms, are used for ranking each webpage - and a webpage enters the index based on their ranking. Some commonly used parameters that are included in search algorithms are: how many other websites link to this webpage, whether its content is original, how long is the webpage, whether the content is legally and socially appropriate, whether the webpage identifies the owner. Google is supposed to use a few hundred such factors, periodically adding new factors and keep changing their relative importance. 

Keywords

Once a webpage is found to be worthy of being included in the index, it is tagged with one or more search keywords

A search keyword is the word (or a set of words) that people use for making searches. For example, when looking for wedding dress, people might type such queries on the search box: "wedding dress", "dress for the bride", "what dress should I wear on my wedding?", "wedding gown", "wedding gown in Minaz city", etc.

In this example, out of many billion webpages in a search engine's index, a billion will have useful/ valuable information on dresses. Out of them, a few million webpages will have info on wedding dresses, and a still smaller number of pages on wedding gown. A few thousand webpages may be talking about wedding gowns available in a city called Minaz. 

Search engines keep researching for keywords using artificial intelligence (described below) and tagging them with webpages in the index. Thus, a good article on a wide range of related topics may be tagged with hundreds of keywords. 

Keywords may refer to a very wide subject (e.g. dress) or a narrow subject (wedding dress) or an extremely narrow one (wedding gown in Minaz). Keywords that refer to a narrow subject, they are called long-tail keywords.

Search relevance

As a searcher, you might have experienced that sometimes the query comes to your mind straight and sometimes it comes in bits. You sometimes do not like to type out the entire query that comes to your mind, especially when you are travelling on a rough road and typing on the mobile phone. Search engines use human knowledge and also machine learning tools to make the best guess about what you are looking for. 

In the above example, if you live in Minaz and make this query, "wedding gown", the search engine will try to give you the most useful results. So, you are likely to get results for wedding dress shops in Minaz. You might also get some buying information on other dresses. If the town does not have many dress shops, you might get more results on general information on wedding gown, some tips on wearing a wedding gown, etc. 

But what happens if you type something like this on your search box: "Apple red best"? Depending upon how smart the search engine is, it will use all the information it has gathered about you (your earlier searches, what results people click after making this type of query, whether people in your area search for the fruit apple or Apple electronics products, etc) and make an intelligent guess.

Keywords are the key to connecting search query with the right webpages. So, when the search engine has tagged some webpages for keyword "wedding gowns in Minaz", and someone looks for this information, the search engine will look for webpages in its index, which are tagged for "wedding gown" and "Minaz". Then, because the searcher seems to be trying to find a shop in Minaz, the search engine will filter the selected webpages for buying intent. Thus, the top results on the search page will likely be those of shops selling wedding gowns in Minaz.

Matching keywords is easy, but finding the search intent (intent behind a search query) and matching it with the entries in the index is the real tough job for the search engine, because the searchers make queries in not so straight manner. So, all the major search engines invest heavily in this. 

Recent developments in the way searches are made by people has added complexity to online search. People now search more on mobile devices. They write small queries and are often interested in local information. People also use voice assistants for search. Such queries can have nuances based on dialects and the peculiar way one speaks. A large number of queries are made within apps and social media platforms. Images, audio and videos present more challenges to search engines because these media do not have search keywords associated with them unless the creator adds them manually.

How Google search engine works

As we all know, Google is the big daddy of web search. It works on the lines discussed above: it has huge servers that hold data of billions of webpages in its index. Its crawlers are extremely fast and powerful. Its processing speed also is tremendous. 

Google's big workforce keeps inventing new ways to filter useful/ valuable content out of all that is produced every moment. It must also be efficient in discarding content that is not useful but is presented as useful by using unethical SEO techniques. Based on its research, Google brings out algorithm updates.

For judging the search intent, Google keeps doing research into natural language processing and other relevant fields. It extensively uses artificial intelligence (one segment of it is machine learning). 

search indexing and search intent

Most popular search engines

The present breakup of searches on the web is as follows;

  • Google: 92.7% of all searches (74% of all desktop searches and 94% of mobile searches) are made on this search engine.
  • Bing: About 2.7% of searches are made on this search engine (12.5% of desktop searches, less than 1% of mobile searches). 
  • Yahoo!: Of all searches, 1.5% are done on this search engine.
  • Baidu: This is China's own search engine and gets about 1.1% of all search traffic. 
  • DuckDuckGo, Yandex and Ask are other popular search engines.

Many social media/ ecommerce platforms have a huge number of webpages of their own, they have their own search engines. The following are worth special mention: YouTube, Amazon, Facebook.

Using H tags on posts to improve blog seo, readability

Do you know that websites are allowed to have 6 levels of heading tags, and that these tags help in improving blog SEO (search engine optimization)?

If you are a new blogger or web content creator who is not familiar with HTML, this post will help you write content in a way that it helps readability as well as SEO by taking an HTML-based action without knowing HTML!

What are HTML tags?

Webpages are written in a language called HTML. A protocol or set of rules associated with this language makes a webpage available to us when we type its URL or link; that is why the URL of websites and their individual webpages starts with HTTP. 

Even when other languages such as PHP and JavaScript are used for various functionalities on a webpage, the HTML makes its basic framework.

HTML is written as a collection of tags. In simple terms, HTML tags tell how the element associated with the tag will render on the browser. For example, <p> tag is for making a paragraph and <b> tag is for making the text bold. Let us see what happens when you write tags on a HTML page:

You write this:  <p>This is a <b>paragraph.</b></p> 

The result you get on a browser is this: This is a paragraph.

In this example, <p> and </p> tags told the browser to make this sentence as a new paragraph. <b> and </b> around the word 'paragraph' made this word bold. 

What are header tags on a webpage?

Certain tags behave like a template because their format  (font style, text size, text color etc) and other attributes are pre-coded in some other section of the webpage/ website. In modern websites, including blogs, a separate file in CSS (a web language) is used for such formatting.

Heading tags (H tags) are one such set of tags and they are used for telling the internet browser that the words or sentences associated with these tags are headings and should be shown in a particular way.  HTML allows 6 levels of H tags, numbered from H1 to H6. As you would have imagined, H1 is the top level.

Why are H tags important?

Basically, H tags are used for styling a paragraph in a particular way. When you use the same tag for all similar headings, they all appear in the same style. For example, all section headings in this blog post are H3 level headings. 

On a blog, you can highlight important expressions by making the text bigger or making it bold, but you will have to do it each time. Headline tags do that job in one click.

The second, and bigger, advantage of using H tags is blog SEO. When you tag an expression as a heading, search engines take it as an important indicator of the subject being discussed. For example, the H3 tag used in this section says, "Why are H tags important". When the web crawler of Google comes to this blog post, it will find that the matter relates to heading tags, and when it finds that there is a sentence that tells why H tags are important and it is tagged as a headline, Google will feel more assured that the blog post is on headline tags. 

Heading tags are important for visually impaired people who use screen readers for browsing websites. Headings made using H tags are read out loud or in a different way to indicate that a new section has started.

How do you put H tags on the blog? 

On Wordpress platform, blog posts are made up of blocks. A block by default is a paragraph. But when you click on it or start writing inside it, a small toolbar opens up with a paragraph or flag sign. If you click on it, a drop-down list appears as shown in the picture below. If you choose Heading, the paragraph changes into a heading and the H tag's level is shown on the tool itself. You can increase or decrease the level of the H tag by changing the level.

seo tags for headings

On Blogger platform, the toolbar remains fixed on top of the post editor. You can change a paragraph into a heading by changing the H level in the drop-down menu. The levels are given as "Major Heading", "Heading" etc.

If you want to manually change the H tag in the HTML of the blog, that too is very simple. Whatever text you want to convert into a heading, you just enclose it within <H> and </H> (opening and closing of the H tag). For example, 

I write this in the HTML of a Blogger post: <H2>blog SEO improves with proper H tagging</H2>

When I see the blog post on my browser, the sentence comes out like this: 

BLOG SEO IMPROVES WITH PROPER H TAGGING

Note that the text appears bold and is CAPITALised, and the space between the heading and lines above and below increases. This is because of inbuilt style-sheet of this blog in which H2 tag has been given this format.

How to choose the right heading level? 

On most blogging platforms and website builders, there is an inbuilt hierarchy of H tags. The title is usually given H1 level, main sub-headings get H2 level and so on. As mentioned above, each H tag is formatted in a particular style. You can, however, manually re-format an individual H tag.

Though heading tags improve blog SEO, they should not be used arbitrarily and too many times. If the post is smaller than 250 words, you should not put more than one or two heading tags. 

SEO experts usually advise not putting more than one H1 tag in a webpage, otherwise search engines penalise the webpage. So, a blog post or article should have only one H1 tag. However, a senior Google search expert has gone on record to say that the number does not matter as long as the heading makes sense.

It is also asked whether more SEO benefits are achieved by putting higher level headings. Google experts say, that is not necessarily so. If something is more important than the other, give the first one a higher level of heading - that's all. 

It is also suggested that you do not skip a level. For example, do not jump to H4 from H2, However, that need not be applied rigidly. 

In big articles or articles with different sections and sub-sections, use them in a structured way, as shown in the graphic below. Again, that is not a rigid format, and you can be flexible.

More than being SEO friendly, H tags should be reader-friendly. Headings should be used for identifying separate sections. Usually, if there are sub-sections within the main section, you should give them a lower heading level. When you highlight too many words or sentences in an article, they not only lose significance, they also tend to irritate. When you use a series of distinct sections (as in the post that you are reading), they can come one after the other but don't make them a lower heading level.

Though HTML accepts 6 levels of H tags, we need not go beyond H4. However, if you like the inbuilt formatting of a lower level, go for that. Similarly, if you don't like inbuilt formatting of a particular heading, you either change the formatting manually or apply some other heading tag. For example, at present H2 tag on Blogger themes makes the text in CAPITALS (see the above example or the image below), which you may not like. If so, you may put other levels of H tags on your blog.

blog seo
             

How to write SEO friendly article with H tags

Finally, let's discuss what text should be included in the headings on which an H tag has been applied. 

Before coming to SEO, let me repeat what I said earlier: reader comes before search engines. So, headings must serve the purpose of telling the reader about the subject. No compromise on that.

After you have composed the text for the reader, think how you can make it more SEO friendly. For that, think of expressions by which people might be searching that type of content. There are dozens of tools for doing that but I will suggest this simple method to new bloggers and those who do not want to spend too much time on search engine optimization:

Go to Google! Google is the best place to find the target search keywords. You type your heading on Google and look at the suggestions given by Google. To make the things clear, let me give this example:

I wanted to SEO optimize the heading of this section. The section relates to writing SEO friendly headings. I typed this on Google and found the results as given in this screenshot:

seo title examples

Out of the suggestions given by Google, the first one is most related to this section and people are searching with this keyword. However, because this section deals with only one part (headings) of that keyword, I add 'with H tags'. This makes the heading SEO optimised and I am being honest about the fact that the section deals specifically with headings.

If you want to learn more about HTML behind H tags, you can visit this resource: H tags on websites.