SEO Guide For Bloggers
Since 2009, the world of SEO has changed so much. It used to be fairly easy to get organic traffic, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case today. The competition is fierce and everyone is fighting for the same eyeballs. So what can we do about that? How can you stand out from the rest?
Focus on a great SEO foundation and the rest will follow.
It’s easier said than done, but making the effort as you go really does pay off in the long run.
SEO is not something that you’re going to see results from overnight. Think of it like growing out your hair. For a while, you have to deal with your bangs right at eye level and just want to chop it all off. But you don’t. You stick it out and keep going because you know in the end your hair will grow past that point and you’ll get the outcome that you want. That’s exactly the way SEO works.
What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization is essentially getting your content to appear at the top of search engines. Or to put it another way: It’s creating great content that is useful and answers questions asked on search engines.
Placement on search engines can greatly affect the amount of organic traffic you get. Think about the last time you did a search on Google. My guess is, you found what you were looking for on the first page of search results. My second guess is, even if you didn’t find what you were looking for, you didn’t go past the first (or possibly second) page of results.
That, my friend, is why SEO is so important. If you can write great content that answers the questions people have, Google will show your site in results when people search.
Some of the benefits of SEO:
- Increased organic traffic to your website or blog.
- Increased visibility on social platforms like Pinterest and YouTube.
- Builds trust and credibility for your brand.
- Attracts people that are actually interested in the content you write, not just random visitors that up your bounce rate.
Convinced yet? Good!
It’s not difficult to see WHY SEO is important. The hard part is figuring it out, laying down the right foundation and maintaining it.
You’re thinking this is great. How do I get started…
Before we get into that, let’s explore SEO a little deeper to give you a better understanding.
While I could go on and on about how search engines work and what’s behind it all, sometimes, it’s best to get it directly from the source.
It’s almost hard to believe that there are over 60 trillion pages on the web. All on different topics, all of different quality, and all of which have to be indexed by Google and other search engines.
Google indexes websites and individual pages by crawling them. Google crawls the site and links going to and from the site. Using a whole bunch of formulas that I couldn’t possibly begin to understand, Google determines what, out of those 60 trillion pages, best answers your search.
There are also algorithms working behind the scenes to better understand what you really mean when you search. Over the last decade, Google has gotten MUCH smarter figuring out what exactly you’re searching for.
If you want to dig a little deeper, about what Google uses to evaluate what comes up in search, here’s Google’s Quality Evaluation Guidelines.
It’s easy to get lost. So it’s time to narrow down your focus.
Now is your chance to pause, grab a cup of coffee or a snack. Come back and let’s dig in!
How your website is built and what it’s built on plays a big factor in your SEO efforts. Search engines focus on a number of things, but here is what you have control over.
- Your site speed, page loading time – Make sure you select a hosting provider that can accommodate this need. Some providers say they focus on site speed, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to your site.
- Your CMS (Content Management Platform) – We recommend self-hosted WordPress. While there are other systems out there, WordPress offers a lot of flexibility, the ability to customize your theme and extend its functionality with plugins. Best of all, it’s free.
- Your Theme – When choosing a theme you may have to decide between functionality and customization and size of them. Typically the bigger the theme (meaning the more options it has) the slower it is to load. You want to look for a theme that has the options you need, has clean code and is lightweight. Additionally, look for a theme that was built with SEO in mind. There are a ton of them out there. (We recommend Elegant Themes and ThemeForest.)
- Navigation – Keep it simple! Choose your pillar content and stick with it through your navigation.
- User Experience – This is a big one. Make sure users get an awesome experience when they come to your site. Don’t bombard them with ads or force them to sign up. Be useful, be friendly and be you.
- Your Mobile Experience – When is the last time you checked out your website on a phone or tablet? Users need to be able to easily navigate your site, read your content and click/tap different areas very easily.
All of these things contribute to you being found in organic search.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Content is king.” Well, if content is king, then SEO is queen and they go together like peanut butter and jelly. You really can’t have one without the other and be successful.
Your content defines who you are and your brand online. Even if you’re just one person, you’re still creating a brand for yourself. (Want more information on branding? Click here.) While you may feel that you’re just out here by yourself, you’re not. As you’re producing content, Google (and other search engines) are crawling your content for many reasons.
When search engines look at content, here is what they are looking for:
- Type of content – Are you publishing long content or short? Is it easy to read with great images, bullet points and other items that break up the content? Does it include video? Does it link out to other sites?
- Quality of content – This one can be hard to wrap your head around. Sure, you know you have to create quality content, but what is quality content really?
- Length of content – There is some debate on this one. Some say over 1500 words is best, others say short articles, under 500 words is best. Mix it up and see what works best for your audience. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a magic length of your own.
- Authority of content – If you’ve got sites linking back to you that’s wonderful. It builds your authority and credibility online. Something that most people don’t think about is linking to others. This also helps build authority.
Images play a role in SEO as well. You may not realize it, but most images are indexed by search engines as well. You can check Google Search Console (aka Webmaster Tools) to see if your images are being crawled. Additionally, if you use Yoast SEO plugin, you can check there and select that you submit images with your sitemaps as well.
Including or excluding images from your sitemaps is totally up to you. But if you do exclude them, you might just be missing out on some organic traffic.
Within The Articles
How you lay out your articles and where you place keywords is vital to search. You’ll want to make sure you have a number of things in place for each article.
- Your title: There are 2 types of titles. Your post title and your meta title.You want keywords in your meta title.
- Your Meta description: Keep this under 156 characters and make it awesome.
- Use Subheads – (H2, H3) Subheadings CAN rank in search.
- Make sure whatever content you’re producing is relevant to your niche to help you build authority.
- Select keywords that do the same.
- Make sure your keywords are in your title, tagline and more. (Hint: These goodies are in our guide.)
Let’s Recap It!
So we’ve just gone over a whole bunch of info on SEO. Which you’ll probably forget. I do many times. So bookmark this page and come back to it when you need a refresher! Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Now what we learned? I’ll do my best to keep this summary short.
- SEO is the foundation of everything you write (or should be).
- That content and SEO go together like PB & J.
- SEO takes a while – you won’t see results overnight. This is a marathon people, not a sprint.
- We went over the basics of SEO, and if you didn’t click that link to run off to Google and see how they do it all, you totally should. It’s pretty awesome.
- And finally, we went over individual pieces, keywords, content, images, in-page SEO.
This is not, in any way, meant as a comprehensive guide. It’s for you to understand what it is, and small ways that you can start implementing changes that will snowball into something awesome.
What are your thoughts on SEO? Do you do any of the things we talked about? Miss any of them? Let me know in the comments!