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Are you a new blogger and have absolutely no clue how to optimize your blog for SEO?
Don’t worry, because this post contains everything you need to know to get started with SEO once and for all.
In this SEO for Bloggers – Beginners Guide, I will show you the exact steps you need to take to get your blog optimized for search engines like Google so your blog can start generating organic traffic.
Let’s get started.
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SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This is how we make our blog pages and posts appear higher in search engines and get more traffic to our website.
These days, almost all search engine traffic comes from Google so it makes the most sense for us to write our content according to Google best practices.
SEO refers to a wide range of components. We can break these down into “On-Page SEO” and “Off-Page SEO”.
On-Page SEO refers to the content directly on your website that you have control over, including your blog post text, titles, formatting, image alternative text, and website speed.
“Off-Page SEO” refers to activities off your website that can increase your website ranking, such as getting links from other sites to your site. These important “inbound links” from other websites are an indicator to Google that your site has quality content because other people are linking to it.
Implementing proper SEO techniques helps to drive people to your website organically (that is, for free and not paid). We all use Google every day to search for information, products, or ideas. However, we rarely venture outside of the first page of results.
How often do we even scroll to the bottom of that first page? Typically, we will click on the top 2-4 search results and there are only 10 organic results shown on the front page. (Unless the user has changed their defaults allowing a maximum of 100 results)
Therefore, for your site to gain traffic from organic (unpaid) searches, you ideally want to rank as close to the top of the first page of results as possible. This means we have to get inside the mind of Google!
By understanding how Google and other search engines work, you can optimize your website to be ranked high on the search engine results page (SERP) for searches that relate to your website.
To find websites and index content, Google has “robots” that search the internet and categorizes websites and posts. Therefore, it is important to include relevant keywords on your website and in your blog posts to help Google find and direct traffic to your site.
Often, it’s actually better to use a short phrase or search string rather than just a keyword. So, consider what a user would be searching for to find your site.
For example if they are planning a trip to a destination are they likely to type in just the destination name, or more likely they will be searching “how to get to destination” or “things to do in destination”. These longer phrases are called “long-tail keywords” and are much easier to rank for than just the keyword by itself.
Example: Try to rank your post for “How To Get To Michigan” instead of just trying to rank for “Michigan”.
Try to be specific with your keywords and blog post titles as well. For example, calling a blog post “My Favorite Shoes” would be too generic to compete with massive sites.
Instead, really drill down to what your post is about and title it “The Best Nike Air Force 1 Shoes for 2020”. There are also several tools online to help you choose relevant keywords. My preference is to use Uber Suggest and Google Keyword Planner.
You want to find the keywords that have a high search volume and low competition.
Search Volume = The number of people searching for a specific keyword or keyphrase in a search engine per month.
Competition = How many competitors that are also trying to rank for the specific keyword that you are.
Let’s take a look at the image below of keyword examples:
VOL- this means volume.
SD- this means competition.
If you take a look at the keyword ideas for “best morning routine” you will see that it has a volume of 1,900 and a competition of 37.
But the keyphrase idea- “the best morning routine” has a volume of 1,900 and competition of 6.
The second keyphrase idea “the best morning routine” will give you a much better chance of ranking.
You have to optimize your blog posts for SEO using keywords that have a high volume number, but low competition number.
Your keyword (or phrase) should appear in several places throughout your blog post:
• Blog Post Title
• Article URL: WordPress lets you choose how your URLs appear in the Settings tab under Permalink Structure.
Be sure to choose an SEO friendly link structure like Post Name so your posts appear as…
“mywebsite.com/best-adidas-spring- 2019/” instead of “mywebsite.com/02-01-2019/?p=22837”
See how the first link is much more readable and you can instantly guess what the post is about, where the other two links leave you clueless?
That’s how Google reads pages as well, so you will get a ranking boost by making your links easier to understand. (note if you are going back and implementing SEO practices, do not change your old URLs unless you set up redirects as you may lose valuable links to the site)
• Meta Description: The short description that shows under your post title in search results. You can adjust this description at the bottom of your blog post in Yoast.
• Headlines: Google favors short easy to read paragraphs and searches your article to read the headlines. Use your H2, H3 and H4 headings for titles breaking up your blog post.
Your H1 is the most important tag and should only be used once on any page, it will likely be the setting for your blog post title. Make sure you are using your keywords in these headlines.
Note: Use your headings in order. Since the blog post title is an H1, you can start by using H2 headings in your blog posts. Don’t use an H3 heading if you haven’t used an H2 yet and so on.
• In the first few sentences: The keyword, phrase and search string should be used in the first few sentences of your blog post.
• Use Related Keywords: Google has gotten smarter and likes to see related keywords in the same post. Using a tool like Google Search Console or UberSuggest can show you related keywords that you can try to use in your post.
For example, if you are targeting “dog walker San Diego”, you would probably want variations like “walking your dog in San Diego” and “dog walker jobs” where they naturally fit.
• Follow the Yoast Recommendations: The Yoast plugin for WordPress and Showit users will make recommendations for your targeted keyword or phrase when you enter the phrase in the “Focus Keyword” box.
Don’t worry about meeting every single recommendation and don’t change your writing style to something unnatural just to make Yoast happy, but these recommendations will get you on the right track and ahead of most of your competition!
Website speed is another key factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. Have you ever visited a website only to have it load really slowly, so you eventually give up and go to another website?
Google hates when this happens so they prioritize websites that load fast, especially on mobile. The faster your website loads, the better the experience is for users so Google will rank it higher than a slower site with similar content!
Improving your site load speed can be a big job. But here are a few simple things to help:
• The number one culprit of a slow loading site is images. With today’s high end cameras and phones, images can be very high quality but also very large sizes.
You can reduce the size of these images and compress them so the quality difference is minor but the size is significantly smaller, which means they load much faster. See the below section on Optimizing Your Images for more information on this.
• Change your server location to where your largest audience resides. Or use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) which will copy your website all over the world and will automatically use the closest one depending on where the visitor is. This if offered free with Siteground – my preferred host provider.
• Clean up your image library and remove unused images
• Clean up your sidebars removing and resizing slow loading images
• Remove or replace slow plugins (or just simply switch them off when they are not in use)
• Work with a developer who will be able to dive deeper into the inner workings of your site to discover what is slowing it down. I found that a simple Instagram widget I was using added an additional 7.5 seconds to my clients home page loading time, when the rest of the content on the entire page took just 1 second!
While a lot of SEO is based on the text content on your site, images play an important role as well. First, be sure to include a description, title, and alt text for each of your images.
• Rename Images: Change the image name from the standard default out of the camera e.g. IMG2834.jpg” to be descriptive of the image e.g. “how-to-blog.jpg” Include keywords in the naming.
• Note: Google cannot read the text overlay on images, so it will be skipped for SEO purposes.
• Resize Images: Aim to get the image size down to 200-500 kb where possible, which is a significant savings over a 5 MB+ images that comes out of today’s high-quality cameras.
The exact size of your images depends on your theme, but you can safely resize them to 1000px wide for general blog posts and 1920px wide for feature images or longer banner images on your homepage.
• Add Alt-Text: This is to help visually impaired visitors who use a screen reader. Write out a text description of the image as if you were describing it to someone who cannot see the image in one sentence. Use your keyword if it’s appropriate but don’t stuff it into every image if it doesn’t fit.
• Image Compression On Older Images: If you have a blog or website already and have not been resizing images, you need to! You can use plugins such as ShortPixel or WP Smush to do this across your website for WordPress users.
However, I highly recommend resizing images before you load them or reloading them to old posts as this is more reliable than a plugin.
Loading speed is one of the main factors Google looks for in ranking sites and large images are often the chief culprit in websites loading slowly. By making your images smaller your page will load faster, which will be appreciated both by your visitors and by those important Google robots!
Once you have completed the basics of SEO and checked off the quick wins you can start working on a longer-term SEO strategy. In this section we look at how you can go about that.
An inbound link is when someone links to your blog post or page from their site. The better the site the better the SEO boost this can give you. So, for example, getting a link from Forbes or BBC gives you more credibility in the eyes of Google and gives you important “link juice” helping to boost your rankings.
Obviously gaining a link from the likes of Forbes or BBC is not easy, but there are plenty of ways to start generating more easily attainable inbound links.
Here are a few examples of how:
• Write Great Content: Seems simple but generate great content! The better your content the more likely it is that others will share it and link to it as a reference in their own blog posts.
• Write Guest Posts. Writing guest posts is a great way to get additional press, reach new audiences and generate inbound links to your blog. Start with smaller sites and other blogs and then progress towards bigger online publications.
Additional tip when writing guest posts-Write guest posts that are on the same topic as one of your most popular blog posts and then link to your original article. The more inbound links to a specific article the better it will be ranked by Google.
• Get Interviewed: If you have a great story to tell, are starting a business or have done something unusual on your travels that makes for a great story, tell people about it! It can be awkward asking to be interviewed but it’s a great way to create interest in you and your blog and give you some inbound links.
• Ask for Links: You can search for top articles related to your article and look for gaps in them. When you find a gap that can be filled by your article, you can reach out to the author and share your article, asking them to link it to fill the gap.
Your articles should be at least 500 words but aim much higher. Articles with 1,500 words will be viewed more favorably in Googles eyes. If your articles are short, Google will think that they are not useful or informative. It is also said that huge info articles with 5,000 words rank highly for this reason.
Regularly add new content to your site. Google is looking for sites that regularly publish new content to show that your site is up to date and maintained. Having a regular and consistent publishing schedule is important for both your readers and Google.
Writing regularly can be time consuming, but you can come up with ways to use existing content to quickly create a new article. For example, writing an article 20 Amazing Destinations For 2020, featuring 20 places you have already written about on your blog.
That way the images are probably already there and optimized and you can pull snippets of text from the original articles. Plus, you can link to the other articles which is a great practice for deep linking.
However, make sure to not create too much competing content within your own blog. You don’t want several very similar posts all trying to rank for the same keyword. It’s great to have multiple related articles in the same area that all link to each other but you don’t want articles that would compete with each other.
Given that Google is clearly the focus of your SEO efforts, it makes sense to register your site on the Google Search Console. This is a free service provided by Google that gives you a lot of information on how to best manage your site and alerts you if Google is having any issues accessing it.
I personally love to use this to investigate what search terms are bringing readers to my website and to see where I rank on Google for those specific terms.
You can filter through the results and find specific positions for keywords and phrases. For example, I could discover that I am ranking in 11th place (i.e. top of the second page of Google organic search results) for the search string “how to write a blog post for SEO”. Since I am on the second page, I would then do additional SEO work on the article that is ranking to try and get this onto page 1 of Googles results.
Or UberSuggest. Planning your keywords and phrases is made easy with Google Keyword Planner and Uber Suggest. You can investigate what search terms are being used for specific topics and then organize your article around these.
These tools help you to find which keywords / phrases have high search volume and importantly low competition – meaning you are more likely to rank highly for it.
Woohoo! You did it! Now you can grow your blog even more by optimizing your blog for SEO. Did you learn anything new? Let me know in the comments below!
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