If you’re new to blogging it’s likely you’re still trying to figure out exactly what is SEO and how it works. There’s no doubt, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a big deal when it comes to being found on Google, but as a blogger how focused on SEO should you really be?
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This epic guide walks you through the main ideas behind SEO and breaks down the key things you need to do in order to rank on the first page of Google.
No ads, expensive tools or graphics skills required. Just solid strategies that could seriously boost your chances of ranking on the first page of search results. Who doesn’t want a piece of that?
Short on time? Click on the links below to jump to the relevant section:
Why do we need SEO?
According to Hosting Facts most recent Internet Statistics survey there are around 1.24 billion websites in the world and roughly 10 slots on Google’s coveted first page of search results. Getting there requires more than a wing and a prayer. If you’ve gone to the trouble of creating great content, you’ll want people to connect with it. This is where SEO comes in.
If you’ve read any guides on SEO it’s pretty easy to come away feeling like it’s all just gobbledegook. How many of those free, handy dandy PDF checklists you’ve downloaded simply gathering dust on your hard drive?
Believe me, when it comes to learning juicy, traffic-boosting strategies, you are not alone in kicking the SEO can down the road in favour of a more user-friendly method like Pinterest.
A properly optimised site is absolutely central to SEO and still even seasoned bloggers and some professional web designers are failing to incorporate best practices into their work.
If you’re not technically minded and someone else built and manages your website, at least get clued-up about SEO. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions because it may look pretty but could be failing your business quite epically.
Here’s the thing, SEO is integral to the business of blogging, building websites and content marketing because it works. And like Pinterest, it’s free. Yet there’s a lot of misconceptions surrounding it, keywords in particular. Many bloggers ignore all but basic SEO techniques because they’ve been told it’s unnatural or spammy and they should instead focus on quality writing.
While creating quality content is the single most important thing you should be doing, there are steps you can take to help search engines find it, rank it and get it in front of your ideal audience. SEO is a crucial part of your blogging toolkit.
How does SEO actually work?
Here’s an all too familiar scenario for many new bloggers: work your socks off building your website and creating your first few blog posts. You’re really happy with it and pretty sure it’s high quality and serves a specific need but after a few months your analytics tells a different story. No one is visiting your site. Yikes.
It’s really easy to get discouraged at this point and assume your blog is a failure when what you’re really failing at is SEO, which is completely fixable!
At it’s simplest, SEO is really a ‘best practices’ framework of processes and steps you can take to help search engines understand and rank your content in search results. Their primary aim is to determine which content is going to be the best fit to match a user’s individual search query. SEO basically does much of the heavy lifting of getting your content in front of the right people.
A good SEO strategy is like lining a path to your little pot of content gold at the end of the rainbow with neon signs saying ‘it’s right here, folks, come and get it’.
After all, it’s one thing to craft brilliant, value-driven content, but you also owe it to yourself and your audience to make it easy for them to find it. Google is a machine. It may be smarter than the average bear but its mighty algorithms are still based on machine learning, or artificial intelligence. It needs clues and signals. This is where SEO comes in.
Search engines generally can’t ‘see’ images, for example, they need text to tell them what they’re about. That’s why the alt text field is so critical when uploading images to your blog (more on this below). It not only tells Google what each image is about, but it’s what screen readers use in order to describe an image to visually impaired people or if a user has disabled images in their browser.
SEO is really about following protocol and checking boxes but it makes the interweb a better place for us all. If you play nicely and deliver on all fronts, it sends the right signals to search engines and improves your chances of ranking where it matters most for your business.
Keywords – what are they and do they still matter?
When search engine bots crawl through the millions of articles on the web they need flags and clues to ascertain exactly what each one is about. When people type a search term into Google, this is called a Keyphrase (also know as a Keyword).
Google is really just a giant matchmaking service. Its sole purpose is to match only the most relevant, quality content to each search term. When you use actual terms people are typing into search engines within your content – and include other closely related search queries too- it’s an indicator that your content might be a good match.
Note the ‘might’? There are many other, often mysterious, factors that go into how search engine’s rank each piece of content.
Believe it or not Google actually employs real people to evaluate the quality of websites too. These Evaluators help to ‘teach’ the machines what constitutes quality content. Individual web pages are given a Page Quality rating based on a number of factors:
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT)
- Main Content Quality and Amount
- Website Information/information about who is responsible for the website
- Website Reputation
If you want to dig deeper into their methodology hop over to Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. The ‘CliffsNotes’ version of Google’s quality ranking?
Write irresistible, value-driven, long-form content that serves and delights your target audience. Focus on building a trustworthy, reputable brand and a strong profile of quality backlinks.
Thanks to Google’s focus on semantically related phrases (words that are similar and related to the main search query), exact match keyword optimisation is less of a factor than in previous years. That’s not to say you shouldn’t optimise your content for keywords but long-tail phrases (more than 3 words) is probably a better ranking strategy.
Think phrases which show user intent such as ‘how to create a bullet journal’ as opposed to the broader ‘bullet journal’. Keyphrases are like a bulb in your neon sign: definitely not greater than the sum of parts of an effective overall SEO strategy, but sure help in getting eyeballs on your content.
SEO in 2018 – more than just Keywords
SEO is so much more than just keywords, however. From the number of your site’s backlinks, to how you format blog posts or your site’s page load speed and number of clicks required to navigate your content.
There’s a ton of things you should do to please the Google gods. If it feels like a drag, just remember that every aspect is considered with just one thing in mind: the end user’s experience. If you’re not audience focused, it could be time to rethink your motivation for blogging.
To compound the issue, some SEO practices are more technical and absolute, some more creative and open to interpretation. Google is certainly getting smarter at understanding the nuances of language, for example, so things like Keyword ‘stuffing’ are no longer necessary. But there’s still a lot of debate about what you should focus on.
It’s OK to experiment a little and decide where you will draw the line. Ultimately, your web analytics will tell you what’s working and what’s not. SEO is an ongoing process and, as Google rolls out new updates, you’ll want to keep an eye on any changes in rankings (good and bad) to see if there’s any correlation.
A word of warning: SEO is kind of addictive. What starts out as a drag can quickly become an obsession. Hitting the top of the SERPs (or even in the top 10) when you’ve been languishing way down is like making your first affiliate sale, kind of amazing. Once achieved you’re hooked. Embrace your inner geek, roll with the ups and downs of search rankings but don’t let it get in the way of making great content your priority.
I’ve focused this guide on the key SEO practices most experts agree are necessary for ranking well in SERPs, including some newer thinking borne out by this insightful ranking factors study from SEMrush (essential reading for any blogger or content marketer).
I should point out that even if you follow all these guidelines, there’s still no guarantee you’ll see results overnight. It can take months for your content to build momentum, authority and for all your link building efforts to pay off.
Even then it’s not a given, competition is fierce. If your content isn’t top notch and loved by real, breathing human beings, no amount of SEO will keep it top of search results for long. Write for your audience first while incorporating SEO into your overall modus operandi and it will become second nature over time.
Website SEO Strategies
Good SEO starts with your website and should be baked into every aspect. There are tons of things you can do but many are pretty advanced and a little out of the scope of this guide. Just focus on these website SEO tips and you’ll be well set up from the outset:
- Choose a niche relevant URL – including a keyword relevant to your blog’s niche or topic in the URL not only helps visitors ascertain what your content is about but also lets search engines know too. Don’t get too hung up on this but it’s worth bearing in mind when naming your blog and business. Avoid hyphens. It just looks spammy to users and search engines. Shorter is better – aim to keep it under 16 characters.
- Go for .com – unless your blog and business is locally focused it makes no sense to choose a country specific suffix. Lots of bloggers opt for things like .co or .org but if your chosen .com name isn’t available, it’s probably better to go back to the drawing board and have a rethink.
- Make WordPress your platform of choice – I know, Squarespace is user-friendly and loved by many but WordPress offers unparalleled flexibility and versatility and has the edge for SEO. Just roll with the learning curve and you’ll be glad you did.
- Choose a well-coded HTML5 theme with a responsive layout for all devices – It must be mobile-friendly or Google will penalise you. I use the Genesis framework by Studiopress with a child theme by Hello You Designs. I also recommend Restored316 Designs who offer gorgeous, feminine themes for the Genesis framework or see Creative Market’s excellent selection of themes covering just about every style and framework. Use Google’s mobile test tool in Search Console to see if your site is truly mobile-friendly.
- Go HTTPS – Google rewards secure websites so make the switch using a free Let’s Encrypt issued SSL certificate. Ideally before you start publishing content. Siteground (my recommended web host) makes the job incredibly easy with just a few clicks. Alternatively manually install one easily via SSL For Free. If your site already has content, you’ll need to update your site’s old http images filenames to the new protocol using a plugin like Search And Replace. Warning: switching to https may result in a temporary dip in search rankings (thanks to the redirects which Google doesn’t like) but you should ultimately see an improvement – particularly if you’re targeting lower volume, long tail keywords where your competitors are less likely to have switched to https.
This short tutorial explains how to install an SSL certificate via SSL For Free (select full screen and HD 1080 for best viewing quality):
- Site architecture – a bit like a company org chart, think of your site’s architecture like a tree with a clear, logical hierarchy that helps users and search engine bots navigate easily around your website. A good tip is to physically map out your site’s structure on paper with the homepage at the top, your main pages underneath such as Blog, Case Studies, Start Here, Store (if you have one), Contact, Services (if you offer them) and About pages. Posts or products should then sit underneath the blog and store pages respectively and are further broken down into broad categories (2-7 is about right). Categories and tags help users and search engines determine your site’s topics. Each blog post or product will usually be assigned to one main category and is mandatory. Tags are optional and act as further clues to topics mentioned in posts or on product pages.
- Employ the ‘three-click’ rule when designing your site – A good UX (user experience) is an important ranking factor. An unofficial axiom is users shouldn’t need to perform more than three clicks to reach any piece of content. Navigation should be easy and obvious with a natural flow and plenty of helpful internal links in posts which move users and search engine bots logically through your content (see Links below)
- Pop-ups – a hotly debated topic. Google hates anything that interferes with user experience, but marketers know pop-ups convert. If you plan to grow your email list you’ll probably be offering an opt-in form of some kind. The consensus is that it’s best to avoid anything that pops up immediately upon entry, blocks content or cannot be easily dismissed. The penalties for interfering with a mobile user’s experience are harsher so you may just want to consider limiting popups to desktop visitors. Consider using a user-activated modal (e.g by clicking a button), an exit intent pop-up or even a timed slider instead and check your stats for things like bounce rate and time on page to gauge effect and compare to your conversion rate. Check out this video on pop-ups and how they interact with SEO.
- URL structure – URLs must be ‘clean’ , obvious and ‘human readable’ so avoid using a naming protocol that contains things like blogyoucademy.com/?=15 instead go into your wordpress dashboard > Settings then select Permalinks. I recommend choosing the /postname option. This keeps your links shorter and ‘prettier’ – better for users.
- Create a custom 404 page – using a plugin like 404 Solution. Tell visitors that the page they’re looking for can’t be found and include helpful links to popular pages or posts, your site’s homepage and include a search box. Use deadlinkchecker to find broken links (broken links are not good).
- Create a sitemap (a ‘map’ of every piece of content on your site) and submit to Google’s Search Console and Bing’s Webmaster Tools to help search engines quickly build up a picture of your site’s structure and content. Jetpack has the ability to create sitemaps or you can do it via XML Sitemaps.
- Add a favicon – the tiny icon shown in the far left of the URL field or tab. Looks pro and pleases search engines. Most themes have the functionality to add this easily.
- Add Schema (Structured data) to your site – ever typed in a food related question and got a recipe at the top of your search results? or perhaps when you search for instructions and you get a step-by-step list at the top? These are simply posts formatted using structured data and are intended to create a better search experience for users. Structured data currently supports a number of formats including recipes, articles, reviews, products etc. Use the Data Highlighter in Google’s Search Console to mark up an individual post, select the type of format your want to display then follow the on-screen prompts and manually highlight the text that will be assigned to each tag. The great thing about adding structured data is that it gives us ‘little guys’ the opportunity to jump to the top of SERPs even with a lowish Domain Authority (DA) and fewer backlinks than bigger competitors. Again, SEM Rush have come up with the figures to prove this in their recent study explaining how to rank for featured Snippets.
- Increase site speed – Your site’s load time is a big deal (and this post tells you how I increased my site’s speed by over 70% in four easy steps). SEMRush’s study also shows that the average bounce rate for the top three listings in SERPs is just 49%. More tellingly, bounce rate along with time on site and number of pages visited were among the top four most influential ranking factors, along with direct website visits. This is pretty huge as it shows a clear correlation between user behaviour signals and their affect on rankings. These findings also bear out a Kissmetrics study on page load times which found that 47% of people expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less and that every 1 second delay results in a 7% drop in conversions.
It’s easy to get freaked out by all the errors and some are more critical than others but all collectively act to slow your site down. You can boggle your brain trying to understand what each means or simply take this list as your starting point and consider making the following adjustments:
- Optimise images – oversized images are a big drain. Only upload images in the exact pixel dimensions required to fit the space at 72dpi and consider running them through a free image optimiser like Kraken to further reduce file size. Stick to JPEGs for regular images and PNGs for logos but never TIFFS as these are huge files with no compression. Another option is to optimise images directly within WordPress using an optimising plugin like Smush.it.
- Reduce the number of plugins on your site – while plugins can be wonderful, helpful things the flip side is too many can cause security issues, slowness and crashes. In an ideal world your site should be clean, lightweight and beautifully coded and requiring very few plugins. But unless you know code this is rarely the case.
How many is too many? That depends on the quality of your installed plugins. More than 15-20 and you’ll probably run into speed issues.
If in doubt go with the most trusted and downloaded plugins with the highest ratings and stay away from any that haven’t been updated by developers in months. Remember to regularly update your theme and plugins (and always delete any unused plugins). Here’s a list of essential plugins to install:
- Jetpack – an essential WordPress hosted plugin that handles many design and security related aspects of your site.
- Akismet Anti Spam– another essential plugin to protect your site against spam
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – your on-page SEO fairy godmother. Don’t create content without it.
- W3 Fastest Cache – my favourite caching tool that helped me decrease this website’s page load time by over 70%
- Wordfence Security – protects against brute force attacks and detects any potential security issues
- Database backup – it’s essential to keep a regular backup of your site’s files. My own hosting provider – Siteground – takes care of this for me but UpdraftPlus is the most popular and highest rated plugin if your hosting account doesn’t offer this functionality.
- Cookie Consent – if you’re EU based the law requires your visitors must consent to your site’s Cookies. This plugin places a customisable and clean looking bar at the top of your site.
- Facebook Open Graph Meta Tags for WordPress – adds twitter cards, Schema.org markup, facebook Open Graph (for image-optimised shares).
- Social Warfare Pro – people sharing your content is a hugely positive signal to search engines. It provides valuable Social Proof and says ‘hey, this content rocks!’ Social Warfare Pro is a paid plugin but completely brilliant and one of the few I’m happy to pay for. It gives complete control over how users share your content on social media. The best thing? I can control what users share to Pinterest so only my best, optimised pins get out there and not random imagery. Hello free traffic!
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) – a system of thousands of servers sitting in various data centres across the Internet. Files are cached at these centres and website content is served to end-users depending on geographic location thus speeding up load times. Cloudflare is free and offers easy integration with Siteground.
- Use a WordPress caching plugin. W3 Fastest Cache is a free WordPress caching plugin that’s worked miracles improving my site’s speed and performance. By clicking a few checkboxes I was able to improve my site’s speed considerably.
It may seem like a random thing to focus on but links are probably one of the the single most important aspects of any SEO strategy. From a structural standpoint within your website’s content to the number of quality sites linking to yours (inbound links), understanding link best practices and link building strategies will seriously up your SEO game. Here’s my top link related tips:
- Internal post links – as mentioned in the ‘three-click rule’, internal links (links from one blog post to another) are how search engine bots build up a profile of your content and each post’s hierarchical relation to others. A bit like a trail of breadcrumbs. More importantly, internal links keeps readers engaged, enlightened and diving deeper into your content. The longer they stick around, the better it looks to search engines who view this as a sign of quality and relevance.
If there’s one easy, SEO-related thing you can start doing today it’s linking your blog posts. Context and relevancy is everything so don’t link to any old post for the sake of it. Consider keeping links within the same categories. Similarly the anchor text (the hyperlinked text you link from) counts.
Don’t use phrases like ‘click here’ instead use a natural sounding phrase that’s pertinent to what you’re linking to, e.g. ‘seo walkthrough’. It’s ok to occasionally use the focus keyword of the page you’re linking to, but sparingly or you risk being penalised. Always make internal links open in the same window.
- External links – as with internal links, search engines need context to determine what your content is about. Helpful and relevant links to high quality, authoritative external posts provides value for readers and context to search engines. There is much debate over whether you should make these links open in a new window. Some feel it impedes the UX (particularly for mobile).
I personally hate clicking a link halfway through an article and it loads in the same window so I ensure all my external links open in a new one. It’s a grey area for SEO geeks but having people stick around on my site longer is worth the risk.
As with internal links, anchor text is critical to SEO. The phrase must relate directly to the topic or point being discussed and importantly, to the content being linked to, so get specific. Make these links ‘Do Follow’ (see next tip).
- Follow versus No Follow Links – when search engine bots crawl through your content and see a ‘follow’ link (a piece of html code) it’s a green flag telling them to keep crawling and pay attention to the site and content you’re linking to. Here’s the good part. When a site with a higher Domain Authority (DA) links back to your content – called an inbound link – you get to bask in their reflected glory because it passes authority building ‘link juice’ to your site.
Most organic links (all internal and most of your external links) should be ‘follow’. I’m aware that some bloggers limit their follow links out of a fear of losing link juice, but it’s far better for your SEO to create a natural looking link ecosystem that references other quality content. Occasionally, however, it’s necessary to make your links ‘no follow’, i.e to stop search engines from crawling links and passing link juice.
There are a few reasons I can think of, specifically if you don’t want to be associated with a site you’re linking to e.g. if it has a poor reputation and you’re merely using it as an example in a post or being critical in some way, or if it’s a sponsored or promoted link (see affiliate links below). For the most part ‘follow’ is the way to go now.
- Affiliate links – if you’re monetising your site with affiliate marketing, always make these links ‘no follow’. To do this you need to ‘wrap’ each affiliate link in a bit of code that tells search engines not to follow it. It looks like this: <a href=”http://www.yourlink.com/” rel=”no follow”>Link Text</a>.
Simply replace the first green link with your affiliate link then change the following green Link Text to whatever you want the anchor text to be. You then copy and paste it into the page using the Text (HTML view) in the WordPress editor. Click back to Visual view and you’ll see the link text is now clickable.
Another option is to use the ‘no follow’ checkbox in the Pretty Links plugin (free with a pro upgrade option). I love this plugin because it enables me to shorten long, ugly affiliate links using my website url (keeping things on brand) e.g blogyoucademy.com/prettylinksplugin.
The great thing is I can create one link and use it anywhere. If the link needs updating or I need to swap out the affiliate link for another product, it will apply to all instances of the link. A HUGE time saver. I prefer all affiliate links open in a new window, but that’s entirely up to you.
- Inbound links – probably one of the most important signals for search engines in determining the popularity and quality of your content. If you only adopt one SEO strategy going forward, let this be it.
Along with the ‘social proof’ that comes with lots of social shares, links from quality websites – that all important link juice – is irrefutable proof that real humans are loving your content and are a sure-fire way to win Google’s heart.
Guest posting and forging relationships with other bloggers will not only get your content in front of a wider audience but it’ll lead to more inbound links.
On-page SEO Strategies
SEO isn’t just technical tweakery. How you format and structure your posts is a key factor in how search engine’s view and rank your content. Also called On-Page SEO, think of the following as a checklist that must be adhered to every time you create and publish a post. After a while, it’ll become second nature and you’ll learn to craft SEO-friendly blog posts every time.
- Keywords – Don’t obsess about getting to the very top slots, just aim to make the first page and you’re doing well. No need to add a keywords in Yoast’s ‘focus keyword’ field (search engines’s don’t use this information, only your competitors will see it!) I like to do a very brief amount of Keyword research prior to writing a post and only when I’ve already planned what I’m going to write about.
I then write the post and find an appropriate long tail keyword to fit my content, never the other way around. Google’s Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest are popular, free tools and useful to help target the competitiveness of a given keyphrase. However, the data provided is actually how easy or hard it is to rank for Google ads rather than search results per se.
It’s a little different out there in the wild, particularly as you’ll be competing with sites with a much higher Domain authority (think Wikipedia, Huffington Post or industry specific giants).
As a smaller, newer blog it makes sense to target longer search phrases (long tail keywords) containing ‘moderator’ words such as ‘how to’ ‘find’ ‘where’ etc.
Moz’s Keyword Explorer looks at your site’s DA along with any competitors already ranking and provides a much more useful metric – Difficulty rating – to help you target keywords you’re actually likely to stand a chance of ranking for. Aim to target keyphrases with monthly search volumes of 200 or less on a brand new blog with low DA.
The overarching premise is to match the searcher’s intent, so target phrases people are actually typing into Google to find stuff – questions in particular. Dropping a few semantically related phrases into your copy (while keeping things natural and not spammy) is a good idea. LSI Graph is my fave tool to find them.
- Titles – All WordPress headings (or titles, whichever you prefer) are given a tag – H1 down to H6 – which denote their hierarchy in relation to the page’s content. H1 is the most important and is your post’s main title. Most themes make it super easy to insert one but if you’re coding it manually always ensure your main title is wrapped in an H1 tag and that it’s no more than 60 characters in length.
Next in order of importance is H2. H1 is used only once but H2 headings are used to wrap your post’s subheadings and thus as many times as required. Subheadings are really important for a couple of reasons: they break up the text so it looks better and help readers skim easily through your post to ascertain what it’s about.
They also help search engines figure what your content is about too. Try to use a keyword in your main title and in at least one subheading. Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer is the best tool for helping you craft click-worthy headlines.
- Use bullets and numbered lists to break up blocks of text
- Add images, infographics and video to create visual interest
- It’s all about the white space, baby. You may cringe at the idea of paragraphs with just a couple of sentences but online this is the way to go. Nearly half of all internet users are on mobile now. Think of how huge block of text look on a tiny screen – awful! Two to three sentences per paragraph is more than enough.
- Length – Size matters! According to Backlinko’s study the average result on Google’s first page contains 1890 words. Long-form content is ruling the school when it comes to rankings. The longer you can keep people engaged and on your site, the stronger a signal it is to Google that your content is hitting the quality mark.
- Freshness – Search engines love fresh content so a regularly updated blog is a must. How often should that be? Many feel once a week is the minimum but I’m a believer in quality over quantity and I’m fine with posting maybe twice a month.
Really it’s up to you but short, fluff-filled posts several times a week probably aren’t worth your time. Update old posts to revive them and make them fresh in Google’s eyes.
- Shareability – Social signals are a big indicator that your content is loved and of high quality. Add share buttons at the bottom of your post and actually tell people to share! Once the post has gained some traction and your share counts are in double figures, move them to the top of your post. People are more likely to share content they believer is already popular, even if they don’t finish the article.
A tip is to turn share counts off until you reach a minimum threshold. Social Warfare allows you to do this. Another huge benefit of Social Warfare is the ease with which you can add twitter cards, facebook opengraph and Google+ markup – thus controlling the exact text and imagery that is shared by your users (and ensuring a large image is included automatically with every share).
- Add Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions to your homepage, pages and posts – a meta title is the short, one sentence intro that shows up in a user’s browser tab and as the title in the search snippet in search results. The meta description is the brief, descriptive text that sits underneath this.
It’s important to control what people see because Google will simply lift whatever it can from your page (see the example in Yoast’s Snippet preview below where it’s simply lifted the first lines of text from the post).
You’ve got a tiny amount of space so make it count. Search snippets aren’t a direct ranking factor but are hugely important because what you write here could be the difference between a user clicking through and choosing a competitor’s site instead.
Direct website visits, however, most definitely are a major ranking factor so don’t squander this valuable SEO real estate opportunity. Sum up the benefit to the reader and the outcome they can expect. This is one place you might also want to add your keyphrase, too. It’s easy to edit snippets using the free plugin Yoast SEO.
- Images – I rarely caption my images but always add a title and alt text. As discussed earlier, it’s crucial to add a description in the Alt Text field. This should ideally contain your keyword and read as though you were describing the image to a visually impaired person.
Properly labelled and keyword-optimised image descriptions can help you rank top of image search results; a lesser-known traffic-boosting strategy that can give you the edge over competitors and help you rank higher than regular SERPs.
Wrapping it up
Phew! A lot to take in, right?
We’ve covered a lot of information but I hope you’re not feeling too bamboozled! SEO is a huuuuuge topic but if you use this post as a reference to refer back to and absorb in bite-sized chunks it begins to feel less overwhelming. I promise!
Hopefully you’ve seen why SEO is so important for bloggers and how it helps to drive free traffic to your blog. Pinterest may be your top referrer but relying solely on one method alone for traffic generation is a risky strategy. Eggs in one basket and all that.
SEO is more than just a way to game search engines, it’s a best-practice framework that makes for better websites, blog writing and all-round end user experience. Ignoring it means you’re only doing a partial job (and potentially missing out on valuable traffic as a result).
Here’s a reminder of what to tackle and in what order:
1. Start with your website – have a spring clean and ditch any unwanted plugins, run some speed tests and implement any recommendations including a caching solution or a Content Delivery Network (Cloudflare etc). Optimise all website images and make this a new rule going forward (no more huge 2mb uploads!) Remember to add keyword-rich titles and alt text!
Is your site navigation clear and can users get to content in less than three clicks? Look at how to improve the internal link structure between posts. Update any affiliate links to ensure they are ‘No follow’. Ensure your site is being properly indexed – manually add a Sitemap to speed the process up. Add a favicon and make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
2. Adopt an SEO mindset when writing blog posts – craft headlines which tap into emotions and meet the search needs of readers. Use H1 and H2 tags as a minimum and don’t forget a Meta title and description to populate search results.
Format posts to make them human and search engine-friendly with short paragraphs, white space, bulleted lists and a mix of images, infographics and video. If your content can be structured into a featured snippet in search results, go ahead and mark it up accordingly in Google Search Console!
Make it shareable – add share buttons and a ‘Pin-it’ button and encourage users to take action. Long-form content is more likely to be shared and rank higher in search results. Add a keyphrase and semantically related phrases in your copy, but keep it natural and not at the expense of crafting useful, quality content.
3. Focus on acquiring quality backlinks and social shares – through guest posting, influencer outreach or simply creating amazing content people want to share and link to! Backlinks and social proof are the rocket fuel needed to propel your site up the search rankings.
Ready to put these tips into action? Join The Blog Lab to receive my weekly action-focused newsletter then hop over to the FREE resources page to get the Blog Post Planner and Blog Post SEO Checklist!
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