The Complete Beginner’s Guide to SEO
By Ken Marshall
SEO is hard. Plain and simple.
If you’re just starting your own blogging adventure, then it becomes the single most important thing you can do to grow your blog traffic and gain new visitors.
You know it’s difficult and really important, but I bet you’re thinking to yourself, “Yes, yes, that’s all good and well, but where do I start?”
Search Engine Optimization can be a little tricky, and if you’re not too sure what it means, or why it’s important, check out this helpful SEO explanation. It is a discipline that takes a lot of people many years to master.
Thankfully, however, I’m going to boil down the mystery of optimizing your website into 10 easy to implement and highly effective steps that you can use on your own blog (after you’re done reading this of course).
Say goodbye to begging your friends for views, and writing great articles that don’t get seen. Let’s begin.
Download The Yoast SEO Plugin
Yoast is an amazing SEO plugin that allows you to easily optimize your WordPress site and get feedback on your progress.
From the dashboard you are able to edit:
- The page title – The name of the post that shows up in search results
- Meta description – Summary of your post that users will see in search results
- URL Slug – The end part of the blog URL that comes after your domain name
You also get an SEO score of how well you’ve done and advice on how to improve. Yoast takes all of the guesswork out of knowing if you’re optimizing your site properly or not.
To download the plugin:
- Go to your WordPress dashboard
- Find “plugins”, select “add new”
- Type in “Yoast SEO” into the search bar
- Click “Install Now” and you’ll be all set
Using Google’s Keyword Tool
A big part of SEO is optimizing posts, pages, and any piece of content for keywords. Keywords are targeted phrases that people are likely to search for around a certain topic. One of the first steps of any optimization strategy is identifying these bad boys. That’s where our good friends at Google come in.
They have developed an amazing tool called Keyword Planner.
It allows you to search any word or phrase and get data on how many people have searched for that term. As well as the location they were searched from and suggests other similar terms being searched as well.
Use it to find popular terms and ensure that there’s an audience for your writing before beginning.
Keyword In Title Tag + URL
Every page on every website on the internet has a title. Not everyone knows this, but you can change that title to be whatever you want. And more importantly, Google pays very close attention to your titles when ranking your site.
So, now that you know how to use the keyword tool, find a primary keyword to use for every post or page on your site.
Once you’ve found that focus phrase, include it into your page title/URL slug (at the beginning if possible), which you can easily do now that you’ve installed Yoast as well.
Not only will it help you rank better and get more traffic, but it will make users click on your site in search results because your title will seem more relevant to their needs.
Use Subheadings (H1s/H2s/H3)
Subheadings. They break up content and organize similarly themed parts of any post. In this case, “Use Subheadings” is one. They help users navigate your page more efficiently. But usability is not the only thing they are good for.
When it comes to search engines (Google especially) they make a huge difference. Google’s dream in life is to return the most relevant and quality content to every user. Using subheadings communicates what is truly important about your content.
If you’re using a CMS (content management system) like WordPress, this is as easy as highlighting the text you’d like to use for the subheading, clicking on the “paragraph” drop down menu on your text editor and selecting the appropriate heading size.
Ideally, you’re going to want to add 4-5 to every post for maximum results.
Write Longer Articles (1500+ Words)
I know, I know. English 102 was a long time ago, and people’s attention spans are shorter than ever.
But many studies have shown that long-form, quality, and well thought out posts are shared more, rank better, and get higher amounts of traffic than shorter posts.
The magic starts to happen right around 1500 words. So if you’re trying to get traffic, writing more is the way to go.
Images + Alt Tags
Every post should have pictures. It helps break up your text and keep your reader’s attention throughout your post.
But there is a hidden gem (literally) behind every image as well.
Alt tags, or “alternative attributes”, are short descriptions you can write about an image so that someone who can’t load the image properly on their computer, or who is using a screen reader can know what that piece of content is about.
That’s not all, though.
Google actually keeps track of these alt tags, and uses them to make sense of your image and surrounding text. Using that amazing focus keyword you thought of in your alt tag is one of Google’s ranking signals, and can lead to visitors finding your site through image search as well.
You can add this tag by:
- Clicking on your photo in WordPress when editing your post or page
- Selecting the pencil icon (edit)
- Finding the “alternative text” field
- Enter in the desired text
- Pressing save
And viola! Better search visibility was never so easy.
Another wonderful gift from the awesome people at Google is Google Trends.
They have built a topic forecasting tool, that allows you type in any phrase or word and see how popular the term has been in the past, currently is, and is projected to be in the future. You can even compare it to other topics on the same screen to easily compare multiple keywords.
The SEO benefit here is to help you write about topics that people are actually searching for.
If an amazing post is written on the Internet with no one around to hear it, does it even draw in visitors?
Share Your Posts On Social Media
Annoy your friends and followers on social media.
That’s right. Every single post you write should be shared to your social media channels. Twitter and Facebook are the big two, but here are a few more sites that not everyone considers, that can pay huge dividends:
Not only can these sites drive massive amounts of traffic to your blog, but social media engagement can indirectly help rankings as well.
Use Variations/Synonyms of Keywords
Time to get just a bit technical. As time goes on, Google and other search engines are getting smarter. They are now able to perform what’s called Semantic Search to figure out what your blog or website is about.
All that means is if you say “big apple” in a post, based on the context around that term, they can determine if you’re talking about a city on the east coast or an oversized fruit.
One way this is done is through the use of synonymous terms within the text. So if you’re writing a post about millennials, you should also include the terms Gen Y, Me Generation, and other variations.
Google will reward you for showing your search to a wider range of people who are searching for those other terms because it will associate every variation as essentially being the same thing.
Last but not least, we have links.
There are two kinds of links you can employ in your content:
- Internal links – Point to a URL within your own site.
- External links – Send users to another website.
Here is how to use each and why it’s beneficial.
Internal Linking: Linking to other pages on your own site is one of the best ways to tell search engines which pages are important on your blog and which ones they should value the most.
For every post you write, incorporate at least one internal link to another post you’ve previously written somewhere within the content. Be sure to make the anchor text (word(s) that the link is placed inside of), something that is either an exact match, or very relevant to the title of the post that you’re linking to.
Outbound Linking: Outbound links might seem counterintuitive. Why send traffic away from your own site right?
Remember how I said that Google wants to give its users quality content? Well the whole point of external linking is to cite sources to back up claims you make in your writing.
If you use any sort of fact, statistic, or uncommon knowledge claim, link to an authoritative or popular website, and Google will reward that piece of content because it knows it can trust it.
So there you have it. 10 ways to SEO your own blog to get more traffic. Did you find this helpful? Were there any tips I missed? Comment below to let me know! Happy blogging everyone!
Kenneth Marshall is currently the owner, editor, and sole writer for a pretty cool millennial lifestyle and career blog. He enjoys a good steak and being out in the sunshine. His job is to help businesses increase their web presence and get found by Google. So get in touch if you’re in need of an SEO. Thanks for reading!
Admin Blogger’s Commentary:
Readers, Ken took a complex topic and made SEO understandable. Please share, so other bloggers know just how easy getting found in search engines can be.
Do you have any other tips for optimizing your posts for search engines? I look forward to your views.
Then go thank Ken by visiting his blog.
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