If you’re blogging or building websites for the long haul then you’re going to need a friend to keep you company along the way, so let me take this chance to introduce you to one of my good friends, SEO. Formally it’s known as search engine optimization.
SEO may seem slightly intimidating in the beginning but it’s actually about as intimidating as one of those small yappy dogs that barks like a lunatic when people come to the front door of their home.
Not so scary after all, right?
It’s actually a pretty silly sight.
What’s even sillier is how simple the basics can be once you learn and consistently apply them, and after a while it honestly becomes pretty fun.
So grab your party hat and prepare for a ride through the beginners guide to SEO.
Beginners Guide to SEO: An Overview
Before we dive in I believe it’s important to cover what exactly SEO is and our purpose for using it.
Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your content to be found in the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing). I’m pretty sure you have probably used at least one of these sites before in search of an answer to a question or problem.
The results the search engine reports back to you with are not just there by coincidence. A large chunk of these results come from bloggers like yourself that have optimized their content using on and off page factors which we talk more about throughout this post.
The point of SEO is to bring organic traffic your blog using keywords relevant to problems and needs of your target audience (the group of people you are creating content for).
Which leads me right into the numero uno factor that will make working with SEO simple or annoying as the yappy dog mentioned earlier.
I can’t express enough how important it is to spend time doing superb keyword research before starting on any kind of SEO.
This can literally make the difference between your content ranking within a few weeks or months after publishing, or even at all.
Before you can begin this you need to decide on a niche, or a topic that you would be interested in creating content around and staying dedicated to.
This is where the importance of selecting good keywords comes into play. So head over to the Google Keyword Planner to search for cool keywords to start constructing with.
From the home page, click the Tools and Analysis tab and select Keyword Planner from the list.
After that you want to select Search for keyword and ad group ideas then type in your keywords. You can include several at a time by separating them with commas.
From here we want to set our keyword results to be exact match in order to get the best idea of what people are typing into Google.
To stay on the safe side I like to use exact match. The rest of the process will be the most important part of choosing good keywords.
Once you master this you will be on a hot path to ranking in Google, and several miles ahead of your competition.
The key to doing this is to break down your niche as much as possible so that you can carve out your own little spot in it, which in turn positions you as the authority.
Many bloggers waste time scrapping for keywords that are already being fought over in constant brawl for rankings.
They become to entranced by the huge number of searches these phrases are getting per month and think that’s where the party’s at, but that’s really not the case at all.
Look at the huge difference it can make when you tap into only a portion of this monster market.
Instead of blogging around the very broad niche of weight loss it would be much easier to choose a sub-niche of it such as weight loss after pregnancy.
Sure the number of searches are much lower, but your chances of getting your content ranked quicker are much higher.
When targeting the lowest hanging fruits you will also show up for more phrases in the search results and people will begin to view you as an authority.
On page SEO pertains to optimizing your content on site around keywords so the search engines can read what it’s about to index it in the search results.
This is why on page factors are important, as they will help structure your content for the search engines for your target audience to find.
If you follow my advice to create valuable content around the lowest hanging fruits (keywords) you can in some cases rank with only on page SEO.
Just a few simple tasks and your page will be up for an indexing nomination from the Big G itself.
In English, using on page optimization will only increase your chances of being ranked as Google can better read what your content is about once optimized.
So what does it take to be ‘considered for a nominee’?
On Page Factors
#1.) Ditch the Keyword Pitch
As annoying as it seems now, it used to be dare I say ‘cool’ to overstuff keywords into your buyer keyword posts. We’re talking anywhere from 3-5%.
Keyword stuffing is no longer cool. Nowadays it’s best to stay far away from this point and base your content around your end user.
Relax with your content and create as though you’re communicating with a friend.
If you were speaking to them about the same thing, would you be using the same keyword left and right in your conversation? Probably not, so why would you want to create your content that way?
When you focus more of your efforts on writing better, more natural content you don’t have to rely on keywords as much to attract and audience.
People like to read genuine content written by genuine people. That being said, Keep your keyword density at 1-2% and switch it up with the use of similar words and phrases.
Take the long-tail phrase weight loss after pregnancy for example again. Instead of repeating it over and over again you could switch it up with others like lose weight after pregnancy, after pregnancy weight loss, or pregnancy weight loss.
Permalinks are search engine friendly links for each individual page or post on your site. More specifically, they are help describe what a page is talking about in a less confusing way.
For example, before you clean up a permalink (highlighted text) it will look jumbled up like this:
Not only will cleaning this up make it easier on our reader’s eyes, it will help the search engines more easily detect the keywords our content is targeting and increase the chances of ranking higher.
It’s best to do this for each page or post your create so you can keep them in an orderly fashion as you begin to add more to your collection over time.
I probably should have first mentioned that in order for your permalinks to appear this way on your own blog, you should check out your settings.
Simply go to Settings, click on Permalinks, and select the Post name option.
#3.) Meta Keywords & Description
Just as it sounds, the meta description is where you describe what your blog post is about.
It’s best to place your main keyword as close to the beginning as possible and more importantly, make it say something that will grab people’s attention.
For this process I like to use a free plugin called WordPress SEO by Yoast, which you can find by clicking the Plugins tab on your blog, then select Add New.
As you can see, I’ve told the tool what I want my main keyword to be an included it in the description and wrote a short but catchy description.
#4.) Keywords in Images
Next, add your main keyword to the alt, or alternative tags of the images of the blog post you’re trying to rank.
Google has the ability to read these image tags and will send some extra traffic your way by ranking them in the images section of the search results.
You should then see the alt text section which is where you will list your main keyword. You want to add your keyword to the title area as well.
#5.) Internal Linking
To keep people on your site longer and direct them to check out your other posts, it’s a good idea to link to content you have created in the past.
When you link to other content, it will typically be through a keyword related to the the topic of the blog post you’re linking to.
This helps Google see that your content is all on a related subject matter and therefore, a growing source of information within the niche it’s targeting. Just don’t overdo it.
Too many links will start to look spammy and then you start risking penalties from Google so better safe than sorry.
#6.) Header Tags
H1 counts as the title and like we discussed earlier, you want to place that as close to the beginning as possible.
Other than that, you will rarely catch bloggers using any other headers besides 2 and 3. Keep your headers natural looking and don’t force your keywords.
#7.) Bold, Underline, and Italicize
Dressing up your keywords in bold, italicization, and underlining not only makes them stand out, but emphasizes to Google that your post is about that keyword.
This is really something you don’t want to overdo because not only does it throw up red flags to Google, it doesn’t throws off user experience.
Be cool though, don’t bold, underline, or italicize your keyword more than once per blog post.
#8.) Lengthy Content
Many people will swear up and down that writing lengthy content doesn’t influence SEO but in reality, it does.
In the old days (well, about 2 years back) Google was bombarded with poor quality content that my 6 year old niece could have probably written better.
These days, Google gives more weight to lengthier content because it’s geared towards value and user experience instead of just rankings.
By lengthy, I mean 1,000 plus words of all killer, no filler content that provides value.
For more tips about your on-page SEO, check out this article.
Before I end this post, I want to give you an idea of what off-page SEO is about.
Off-Page SEO: A General Overview
Off page optimization is simply the process of making your website move up and down in the search engines.
This is done by sharing your content on external websites such as Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, StumbleUpon, etc.
It can also be known as building backlinks, which you can also think of as votes. A site linking to yours is essentially telling Google that it vouches for your content.
If a site has likes, shares, tweets, plus ones, pins, bookmarks, and references from similar websites and blogs that link in, it’s a pretty damn good indication that people like your content.
Makes sense, right?
The more of these links you earn for your site, the better your chances are for ranking in Google.
The most important thing to remember is that not all links are created equal, so instead of going crazy collecting boatloads of links you should try focusing on quality ones.
That being said, let’s chat about the different types of backlinks there are. Another important thing to note is that it’s important to have a mixture of these links so your site’s link profile look more natural.
Types of Backlinks
Social Signals: This includes Facebook shares, Google pluses, Social Bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon & Reddit, Retweets, Pins, YouTube & LinkedIn shares, etc.
These can be powerful as they show Google that real people on active social sites are interacting with and sharing your content.
Web 2.0’s: These are sites with user generated content within a viral community; Tumblr, Weebly, WordPress blogs, document sharing sites like Slideshare & DocStoc, Blogger, Squidoo, wikis, etc.
Authority (High PR): Sites that have established trust with Google from frequent user interaction and engagement; Guest posting, blog networks, press releases, high PR blogs/websites, .gov & .edu sites.
These links can be harder to get because they aren’t open to everyone. It will either take money to buy them or time to write a quality guest post for someone else’s blog.
For example, a link from Copyblogger would be much more powerful than a link from some other random blog in the same niche.
Because Copyblogger has already established trust with Google and thousands of users, therefore a link from the site would carry more weight.
How to Build Backlinks
You don’t necessarily want to build backlinks to each and every ones of your blog posts, but mainly the ones you want to rank for.
You should also know that Google ranks pages, not websites. Which means that for each page you want ranked in Google, you need to build more backlinks or get higher quality links than your competitors.
The page with the better link profile will win and take the first spot at the top of the search results.
So to get started building backlinks, here’s the basic process you want to follow:
Write a high quality post on your blog of at least 1,000 words, and don’t forget the on-page SEO.
You want to get your content positioned where your target audience is hanging out which is social media sites, social bookmarking sites, web 2.0’s, forums, other blogs, etc.
To give you an example of each:
1.) Social Media
Share your post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, Pinterest, YouTube
2.) Social Bookmarking, Web 2.0’s
Re-write or spin that post into smaller articles around 400-500 words a piece on 2-4 other web properties such as Blogger, Weebly, Wix, WordPress, IBO toolbox, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, etc.
Use a different variation of anchor text to link back from each of these sites to your blog.
If you aren’t sure what anchor text is, it’s simply the clickable text in a post. Typically, the anchor text consists of a variation of keywords and phrases that indicate what you’re clicking through to.
3.) Link Building
There are numerous ways to build links, but the best kind to focus on are those that are high quality and relevant to your niche.
~ Search for other blogs in your niche and comment on posts you vibe with.
When I say comment I don’t mean drop some quick and cheesy line like “Nice post, thanks for sharing!” or “Great post, I couldn’t agree more!
Take time to read through the post and make a valid point that actually contributes and brings value to the conversation.
Some blogs will allow you to use your keyword as the anchor text (in this case the name you use when commenting) and others will have you use your own name, which is good for branding your blog around you.
~ Find forums in your niche and help solve people’s problems. Go the extra mile to answer their questions and you will soon appear as an authority and a go-to person in your niche.
Most forums will allow you to place a link to your blog in the signature which is excellent because when you help others and share value, people will become more curious about how you’re getting your insight and click through to see more.
These are only the basics of on and off-page search engine optimization, and I hope you now have a better understanding of how each of them works.
Put this stuff into practice and you should have no problem at all getting your content to the top of Google.
Just remember that this is a process and some keywords can take longer to rank for than anticipated.
Until Next Time,