An Intro to Tumblr SEO
Hello there to our GSC followers and new fans alike. Today we will be talking about the wonderful world of Tumblr SEO. When we originally wrote this post in 2013, we talked about the 900% growth it experienced and how Tumblr was the future. Since then Tumblr has went through its ups and downs, but has remained a huge part of the web.
2023 Update – This post is now 10 years old! A lot has changed on the web, but Tumblr has by in large remained the same. If you are looking to add a touch of SEO flair to your Tumblr blog, you can still follow this advice. Good luck!
Here at Elite Strategies, we’ve always given the majority of our customers a solid dose of Tumblr whenever we embark upon an SEO or social media campaign. Sometimes it may be more modest than others, but we include it in our content marketing strategy at least 8/10 times. Tumblr can be a great way to attract a niche audience and following, particularly if you are in an interesting niche, but really it could be anything. We even have an example of a local pest control company that has quite the Tumblr following.
Basic Tumblr SEO Tips
The best way to think about Tumblr is to consider it a website in and of itself. For starters, here are some basic Tumblr SEO tips if that is what you are looking for here:
- do all the normal on-page SEO stuff
- identify and fix 404 errors on your Tumblr site
- optimize your images, not just title tags but size and quality as well
- build links to your individual Tumblr posts, and they will rank
- create content around your images, not vice versa
- link your Tumblr with Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools)
- add a Tumblr Sitemap (in part 2 of this guide)
- anchor text optimization (do it)
- toss some structured data in there!
- choose a responsive Tumblr theme (mandatory)
- keep your ads reasonable
For the most part, you can treat your Tumblr the same way you would a website. The great part about Tumblr is you don’t have to worry about a lot of “framework” type stuff or things like SSL/HTTPs for SEO.
On-Page SEO for Tumblr
Ok now for the fun SEO part. There are basically 3 ways (basically – not only) that people will come across your Tumblr: search engine, Tumblr search, or a link from you or another 3rd party. You want to be sure to optimize your Tumblr page as well as each post you make, and that includes links, pictures, videos, and text.
For the purpose of this article, we are going to talk about the second way people will find you through Tumblr or Google search. This is where optimizing your blog will come into play. There is one thing you always need to remember when optimizing for Tumblr: they keep things extremely simple with their algorithm. They rely on popularity and tagging to rank you internally.
Tag your posts with relevant tags. Think of general words to describe your post and categories that it fits into, and then tag appropriately. I do about 3-5 tags per post all of the time. Sometimes it is fun to throw a tag in there but be sure not to confuse the Tumblr mods/algorithm (note: not sure if there is a manual tag review, citation needed) So make sure you tag.
Tagging will allow the Tumblr spiders to group your page appropriately, and with the correct group of people as well.
Tumblr Custom URLs and Permalinks
Always create custom post URLS, as with regular on-page SEO it will help your SEO game a lot. Same with photos, the alt and description boxes are there for a reason. No, its not so people can check, it is so Tumblr can categorize your blog!
Want to check for other people who like things a lot (hmmmm why would you need this?) Try throwing this Tumblr footprint into Google:
site:tumblr.com "liked this"
From there you can leverage those Tumblr users to your advantage if you can get crafty.
Tumblr Homepage Title and Meta Description
I used Tumblr for 3 months before I started to really dive into the back end of it, once I started seeing 14 year old boys ranking for their targeted keywords (with absolutely zero know-how), I started to look into this a wee bit more.
Ok so one of the easiest ways to do this is through the “customize” tab on your Tumblr back end. Once there, look for the section labeled title/description.
Remember to throw in a few keywords you are targeting, or branding. Stick with a standard length title tag and meta description, don’t go outside of those parameters. If you have inner-Tumblr pages you can workaround those as well but you’ll have to dive in a little deeper to edit those.
Tip for newbies: your Title and Meta Description is what will show up when doing a Google search. Remember not to put anything terrible in there because it may take up to a few months for this to update (worst case.)
Tumblr H Tags
Next, dive into the “edit HTML” section of your Tumblr blog under the customization tab. You’ve gotta know your way around HTML/CSS at the very least in order to make these changes. Here you will want to make sure that things such as H1 tags are in place. Specifically, be sure that all post titles are given an H1 tag, which has historically been great for SEO. You will need to look for line(s) of code that have this snippet:
and stick an h1 tag in there any way you can. You may have to go into the CSS if your size is something weird, which most themes these days might be the case.
Tumblr Title Tag Hack
A lot of times out of the box, Tumblr doesn’t have title tags configured properly for Google search. By default, the is set before the . Don’t worry, this little trick will fix this right up.
Essentially what this does is makes the title of your page the same thing as your main heading. It’s not always the best way to go, but for a Tumblr, it’ll do most of the time.
Tumblr Off-Page SEO
We couldn’t get through a guide about Tumblr and SEO without mentioning links, could we?
The general rule of thumb when considering linking is to create content that is so good that your readers will want to share your content.
The easiest way to get more links from tumblr.com is to have your content re-shared. Many Tumblr authors do this by simply asking to do so below their posts by saying something like “re-share this post for good karma” or something of that nature. While this sounds a little like begging, if it is executed properly it can work.
Outside of Tumblr is a totally different world. There are a number of different options for creating more exposure for your Tumblr in other social media sites. Many Tumblr authors have created Pinterest boards for their Tumblr accounts. We’ve found Pinterest to be very synonymous to Tumblr, in the fact that both sites are image centered.
In addition to Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter are both viable options to share you content in an effort to gain links.
Another way to get your content out there and gain back links to your Tumblr is to email people in your niche and ask them to collaborate. This can be in the form of an interview, guest post, or just a simple link drop/mention on their blog.
The possibilities are endless, use your imagination and creativity and always think about what the other website has to gain by mentioning you.
Tumblr SEO Mindset
First rule of Tumblr: don’t talk about Tumblr. (Ok, that’s actually not the first rule of Tumblr.) You can talk about it as much as you want.
The real first rule of Tumblr is: do not treat it as a blog. This is not a place to “post articles” or write about your feelings. Get the word “article” out of your head right now! Later on down the road when you learn the real meaning of a Tumblr blog you can start thinking of articles again. Also, do not spell it “Tumbler” like the glass or acrobatics individual. Not cool.
We are not going to insult you by walking you step by step creating a Tumblr account. Go to tumblr.com and register. It has always been my theory that it is better to register for properties with the @domain that you are marketing, but do what feels good. Next, pick a Tumblr name that is fun and cool. Unfortunately Elite Strategies did not follow that advice, we chose to take the vanilla branding route instead and just chose our name. If the name of your company is “Bill’s Screws & Fasteners” Maybe choose – tumblr.com/bills-screwed-fasteners or something fun that will stick with people.
Next you need to get inside the mind of Tumblr followers. They are not Facebook followers, nor are they Twitter people. They are kind of a hybrid individual crossbred somewhere between an Instagram user and a freelance blogger. They are very temperamental and can be very quick to make a decision. They’ll rip your face off if you make a sideways comment about their art, so play it cool till you learn the ropes. It is kind of like your first day in prison, keep your head down. So go over to Tumblr and before you start building (it’s not all about you, ok?) – go to the search box and find some Tumblrs that you like.
Don’t just click through and mindlessly follow people, similarly to when you sign up for Twitter and they make you follow 20 people. Follow people that generally look relevant to your interests. Take notes along the way.
Note the black border of the image, the focused photography, and the implied struggle between the insects: it’s cool. Now it is your turn to be cool.
If you don’t know what cool is, you can check out the top Tumblr blogs of 2014. If you haven’t been Tumbling that long this might take a little time to absorb, either way take some time to check out. Follow up with a trip to Know Your Meme, which every social media expert needs to have a thorough knowledge of. Researching memes will almost certainly trace back to a reddit thread, a Tumblr page or some forum known for meming.
Whatever you do, don’t just start chucking up images that you snap on your phone. This isn’t your normal blog, and it’s definitely not a Facebook Page. You want people to be able to browse your Tumblr and get stuck because they are captivated by the amazing content there. Feel free to use other peoples pictures, graphs, movies etc, as long as you give credit where it is due. Your Tumblr is a culmination of information that you’ve collected as well as posted yourself.
This isn’t Facebook: you don’t post the first thing that comes to your mind. Ask yourself the question: will everyone who reads my Tumblr stop and say, “Wow, that is interesting – maybe I’ll share that!” If you answered no to that, then find some better content.
Tumblr Content for SEO Clients
Here are a few content ideas for “off-niches” if you are an SEO consultant or agency with some of those ideas.
- Fun photos from your company/community
- Graphics/how-tos of funny things that happened on a job
- Playful photos of things happened on a job
- A graph on why you need your service
- A howto video relating to your industry
- A wonderfully curated image of your front-end
- An infographic of why your product rocks
- Pictures of funny people using your product
- Graphics with statistics about your product
Get the idea? Funny pictures of your cat and or dog will also be great. Dogs do very well on Tumblr but cat CTR’s have been through the roof in the last quarter of 2012. ;)
Don’t make your Tumblr blog like Pinterest or all “grid system like,” while some do you don’t want photos to be the sole focus of your blog. Create a familiar environment for people who might happen to stumble across your Tumblr (intentional rhyme). Go with the normal style of top to bottom post style, but keep the graphics to a minimum. Don’t make too many ancillary pages either, you want people to stay on the blog portion of your page not off on other pages. This isn’t a website. I do advocate a contact us page but that’s about it.
As much as I’ve hated it in the past, you will want to put Disqus on your theme. This will allow basically anyone to interact with your Tumblr without having an account first.
Tumblr SEO Examples
There are a ton of Tumblr’s out there that are just failing to get the point. Then there are others that are spot on. The Boston Globe’s Tumblr is a fantastic example of how to market your Tumblr Properly. Taken from their Tumblr about page:
This isn’t about breaking news in Boston (check us on @bostonupdate on Twitter). It’s not about the important capital-J journalism of those daily printed pieces of paper (and soon to be website) called The Boston Globe. But it is about the world we live in, often (but not exclusively) filtered by the reporters, photojournalists, reviewers, web producers at the Globe and boston.com.
They keep their Tumblr very image-oriented and focus on stories that appeal to the Tumblr demographic.
Pew Internet is a data research company that collects research and studies how American’s use technology in their daily lives. (sound boring?) They are a great example of a “boring” industry that turns it into something fun. They take bland topic and turn it into something interesting by Tumbling about this data, by using graphical reports. Even people who aren’t interested in research/data will stop and look at these reports:
Here is the thing people, unless you are in the possession of a very cool concept, and extremely artistic individual, or have a very interesting and hip product or service, chances are your blog is not going to go viral. That is ok, the goal of every baseball game is not to hit a grand slam every time you go up to bat.
Make your posts meaningful at all costs and rich with texts and photos whenever possible.
Once you get situated with Tumblr, there are a plethora of tactics that you can do to create an influx of PR juice to you, and your site.
Finally, make sure that you follow the same standards that you would for your website. Specifically, be sure that you aren’t violating any of the Google Webmaster Guidelines such as using automated link building or link spamming. This could land your Tumblr site in jeopardy.
Creating a Tumblr Sitemap
This is the easy part. Want to know a secret about Tumblr blogs? They all come with XML sitemap files built in! All you have to do is navigate to your Tumblr blog URL and add “sitemap.xml” to the end. So for instance, our Tumblr URL is:
so our sitemap will automatically be:
If you’d like to take it a step further, you can create a website sitemap, which is different from an XML sitemap in the fact that it is intended for your visitors, instead of search engines. You can read about that more in our guide to XML and website sitemaps.
Tumblr throws a lot of bonus SEO goodies into their framework. For instance, they generate a robots.txt file for all Tumblr blogs as well. You can view your robots.txt file by navigating to:
The downside is the robots.txt file can’t be edited, but the good part is Tumblr is the one handling all the traffic and crawling and are pretty good at this stuff.
Adding Your Tumblr to Google Search Console
The first step is navigating to Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools), you can do that by going to: google.com/webmasters and sign in.
You must have an account at this point, if you don’t then take this time to go ahead and make one.
Once logged in to GSC you will be presented with your home screen. Here you will click the “add a site” button:
click on Add a Site to add your Tumblr
After that you will be presented with the dialogue box to enter your site. Here you will input the full address of your Tumblr blog, in this case we will use the Elite Strategies Tumblr:
Enter your Tumblr Blog here
Once that is done, you will be presented with the next screen, to verify your site. In case anyone does not know why you do this, this is so ill-intentioned people will not add your site to their GSC and start changing all sorts of settings and causing havoc on your site. Normally you do this by dropping a verification file into the root of your FTP, but today we must do a tiny workaround.
Tumblr does not have FTP capabilities (at least, end users do not) so we must verify using a meta tag.
Copy the text within the red box to your clipboard.
Now shoot on over to your Tumblr blog in a new tab. Hit the “customize” wrench/button at the top of the page then from there hit the “Edit HTML” button that should be on the left hand pane. (locations of these may change if Tumblr changes in the future)
Now is the part when you take the code that is on your clipboard that you got from Google Search Console, and insert it within thetag of your Tumblr blog, you want to do this just above thetag like so:
Paste your verification meta tag into your head tag.
We censored our data to be a little more cautious. After that you will go back to the GSC tab. Now hit “verify” and you are done!
Well, you are not done yet :)
Ensure Tumblr Sitemap is Added to GSC
Technically your Tumblr blog is part of the GSC world, but you are not officially in yet. You still need to add your sitemap, so Google can find its way around. Most of the time Google can and will find your Tumblr XML sitemap, but its always good to play nice with Google and help their process as much as possible.
Next, go the “Optimization” tab (I always felt like it should be part of the “configuration” tab) and click on the sitemap section. Go through the next three steps as shown:
Being that we already have a Tumblr sitemap (step listed above), we can take that URL and use it here.
There is some conflicting information out there regarding which sitemap to add (sitemap.xml or sitemap1.xml). Sitemap.xml lists sitemap1.xml and so forth so it is already included however just to be safe, I usually add both sitemaps just for fun, it won’t hurt you.