What’s the best way to optimize your blog for organic traffic?
Whether you’re a brand new blogger or you’ve been blogging for a while but SEO wasn’t a priority until now, I’m going to share the SEO basics for bloggers that you need to know to bring organic traffic to your website. You’ll learn how search engine optimization works and why understanding SEO is so incredibly important to the success of your blog.
I recently wrote about whether new bloggers should focus on SEO or Pinterest first, so I recommend reading that if you aren’t sure where to put your energy right now.
If you haven’t made SEO a priority yet you need to start as soon as possible, and hopefully this guide will give you a fundamental understanding of what SEO is and how to begin optimizing your blog so that you are getting that Google traffic.
This post will cover:
- What is SEO and why it’s so important
- How to make your site rank high on Google
- How to write good content
- What makes a good keyword
- On-site SEO and off-site SEO
What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Search engine optimization, known as SEO, is the process of optimizing the content on your website or blog in a way that will help you to rank higher on search engine results from Google, Bing, etc.
Using SEO creates more ‘organic’ traffic to your site. Organic traffic is basically people finding you from a search engine, versus coming to your site from ads or links on social media sites like Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.
SEO is essential because it brings FREE traffic to your blog. That means readers and potential customers are finding you for free. So you can see why understanding SEO basics is so vital if you want your blog to be a success, especially if you want your blog to bring in money!
What does ranking mean?
Ranking refers to your rank (placement) on search engine results page (SERP), or where you show up on Google or Bing.
Think about when you search for something, which links do you normally click on? Probably the first few results you see. In fact the majority of people never go past the first page of Google.
So where do you want your post to show up? At the top of those search results, because the more people who see your link the more clicks and traffic you get.
The SEO Basics You Need to Know
How to get your blog post ranking high on search engines
There are a few fundamental elements of getting your posts to rank high on search engines.
- Fast site speed
- Well written, original content
- Good keyword research with long tail keywords
We’re going to cover all of these things, but first there are some SEO basics you need to understand.
When you start a new blog it takes time for Google to get to know what your website is about, so SEO is a long game. It can take 6-12 months for a new website to be ‘trusted’ by Google.
Building trust with Google is also called building ‘authority’ meaning they consider you to be an authority on what you’re writing about. There are sites that will estimate your domain authority like Moz.com.
How does Google know what’s on your blog?
Google sends out bots to scan your content, this is called crawling. They also scan the links within your post (internal linking) to learn more about what you’re doing (what you’re an authority on). They then decide if your content is worth indexing, or placing, on their search results.
If your content sucks, they aren’t going to index you. Don’t worry, I’m going to tell you how to make your content not suck.
To build that authority and get a search engine to place your link at the top of their results you have to choose the right keywords, write good content, and get backlinks from other trusted, high authority sites.
You also need to have good site speed, loading your website should take under 4 seconds. You can check your site speed at GTMetrix and Google’s Page Speed Insights, and I explain 10 Ways to Speed Up Your Website here.
These things fall under on-site SEO and off-site SEO.
The content on your website is on-site seo, while off-site seo consist of backlinks. Backlinks are other trusted sites linking to your site and sending a signal to Google that they trust you. We’ll talk about how to get backlinks below.
What is good Content?
Generally, good content with all the SEO essentials has these things:
- Original and unique – aka not stolen, Google will detect this and penalize you
- Around 2000 words or longer.
- Long tail keywords naturally woven into it that you can eventually rank for
- Internal and external linking
Original and unique content
Making your content original shouldn’t take much explanation, but in case you didn’t know copying other people’s work is cheating. It wasn’t ok in high school or college and it’s not ok to do on your blog.
You will eventually get caught, Google scans your site, they will know you’re stealing other people’s content and will not link your site in their search results.
Have you ever clicked on a link looking for a recipe and the writer has like 5 paragraphs of a personal story that has nothing to do with the recipe? That’s because they are trying to make Google happy with a longer post.
You can have a post under 2000 words rank on Google, but you should try to write longer posts. That will be easy for some and hard for others.
I’m a short and sweet type of person, so longer posts can be a struggle for me, but if you’re a very chatty person make sure to stick to the point. If you’re rambling and going off topic it’ll confuse the reader and the Google bot that is scanning your site.
Your keywords are really important. Keywords tell Google what your post is about, so they know who to show it to.
Before you write your post you need to make sure you’re writing about something that you can eventually rank for in the top 10 search results. You might not rank right now, but as you build higher authority your post will move up in ranks.
It’s also really important to use long tail keywords.
Let’s say you want to write a post about growing roses. Your keyword might be ‘grow roses’ but a you have to be more specific and use long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are phrases that elaborate on the topic and give you a better chance to rank for additional keywords.
Some better long tail keywords would be:
- how to grow roses in the desert
- the best time to plant roses
- how to grow roses indoors
- how to grow roses from cuttings
- the best conditions for growing roses
So you want to use a long term keyword, and you want to include as many other relevant keywords in the body of your post as you can so you can rank for those searches too.
I use KeySearch to do keyword research, check out why I love it and how to find low competition keywords with it.
Always do keyword research before writing your post. Generally you don’t want to spend hours working on a post that you can’t compete for, unless you know it’ll do well on another platform like Pinterest or Facebook.
For example it would be really tough to rank for a post about how to make chocolate cake on Google, but Pinterest users love recipes and will have an easier time finding your post.
However, many people have seen their traffic tank when these platforms change their algorithm, so you really don’t want to rely on just one platform.
Your don’t want readers to visit one page on your site and then leave, your goal is to have people stay on your site and read other related content.
This is where internal linking comes in. You should always have 2-4 related posts linked throughout the content of your post, if not you should have similar posts linked at the bottom of your article.
Additionally, if you’re on WordPress and you built your site with a theme it may come with a similar feature you see in the photo below, if not you need to add a plugin.
Your blog should also have a ‘previous/next’ feature. If you don’t make it easy to find other content on your site, your reader will just leave and you will lose potential page views, and if you monetize your blog you are losing potential revenue.
External links are links to other websites throughout the body of your article that supports the topic you’re talking about. They’re sort of like the sources you list at the end of your research papers in school.
If you’re linking to a site that is relevant to your topic it shows Google that you are offering real value to your readers by sharing high-quality information. Ideally you should have 1-2 external links to relevant, high quality posts in each post.
Backlinks is the most important element of ranking on Google, and the thing that is probably hardest to get for many bloggers because it’s off-site, you don’t have direct control.
You get backlinks when another site links to your blog. This is more helpful if the site has a higher authority than yours. It’s like having your professor or boss write a referral letter for you versus having your mom write one. Who is a potential employer going to trust more? Definitely not your mom!
Google values links from higher authority sites, because they have already earned Google’s trust.
You also generally want your backlinks to be ‘relevant’ meaning the content on the paging linking to you is similar to the content on your page.
Some ways to get backlinks are:
- Guest posting on other blogs
- Posting your links to social media
- Have people share your content
- Answering questions on Quora
- Being a source for HARO
You can find guest posting opportunities by searching your topic + guess post. Know that you’ll need to deliver high quality content, so make sure the site has a higher domain authority than you so that it’s worth your time and effort.
Create accounts on all the major social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and link your blog to them. Even if you don’t use them it’s a good idea to reserve those accounts just in case you want to use them later.
Have social share buttons on your site so readers and easily save or share your post, use a plugin like Grow.
Lastly, you are not allowed to buy or sell backlinks. You might see offers but it’s not allowed.
Lets briefly review the concepts and terms we covered.
We learned that Search Engine Optimization is the process of creating content that will help you rank on Google. Knowing SEO basics for bloggers is incredibly important because it brings free traffic to your website.
Having high quality on-site SEO helps you to rank higher on search engine page results, and you create that content with proper SEO that includes fast site speed, original content that’s around 2000 words or more, using long tail keywords, and internal and external linking.
Finally the most important way to build SEO is by building backlinks. Backlinks from high authority sites shows that Google can trust your site to also have high quality content.
I hope this post was helpful to you and gave you a better understanding of the basic concepts of SEO. If you did find this helpful I’d love it if you shared this post and subscribed to my newsletter.
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