Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential part of blogging but one that is intimidating for many of us. Once you know a few simple SEO tricks though, it becomes as easy as remembering to use punctuation!
Although I started blogging in 2013, I didn’t pay any attention to SEO until late 2016. I knew it was important but assumed that it would be too complex and require too much time to learn.
I got over the initial hump when I attended a conference and sat in on an SEO session. It was a basic introduction to Google Analytics — the treasure trove of website traffic data. I was hooked.
Now, even though I’m far from being an expert, I’m passionate about the importance of SEO and encourage everyone I know who can benefit from it to learn the basics.
Why is SEO so important? To answer that question you simply need to think about how you find the answers to your own daily questions and dilemmas. Chances are, you use a search engine to find the information you need.
Your potential readers are typing in their queries into search engines. If you’ve been neglecting SEO, you probably aren’t showing up on the first page of the results where they can find you.
So basically, SEO is important because it brings you traffic. And whether you blog to connect with others, share a message, or make money, you need traffic.
Another reason SEO is important is because aside from bringing you page views, search engines bring you quality traffic. Visitors from search engines want to take action.
They typed in a question they needed an answer to RIGHT NOW. That means they’re going to be more likely to connect with you if your content satisfies their quest. It also means that advertisers will pay more for those ad impressions than from other traffic sources.
Now that you know why SEO is something you probably don’t want to ignore, here are some simple SEO tricks that you can put to use right away.
Don’t Rely on Tricks
I know, it sounds like I’m contradicting myself. “Hey, let me share some tricks with you but don’t use tricks!”
This really is the most important thing to understand about SEO though. Unless you want to make SEO your full-time job, you’re better off not trying to game the system.
Ultimately, good SEO is about creating really good content — Content that other people think is so great, they can’t help but share it; content that truly helps solve a problem or makes others’ lives better.
If you never understand keywords, link building or alt text, great content WILL be found and is the best thing you can do if you want to gain search engine traffic.
In addition to creating killer content, the best SEO trick you can employ is offering an amazing user experience. User experience isn’t exactly a ranking factor by itself, but several features that relate to user experience are.
Things to work on:
- Site Speed
- Visual Appeal
- Large, easy to read font
- Lots of white space (short paragraphs, space in between)
- Images to break up text
- Use headings, bold text and italics to make content skimmable
- Make Your Site Mobile Friendly
Keyword research is an important aspect of good SEO. It doesn’t matter if you write a fabulous piece of content if no one is looking for it. Create content with target keywords people are searching for.
Start with the pain points and interests your target audience has expressed. If you’re new or don’t have a large following yet, read the comments on similar sites and on related social media accounts or in groups.
Then, type in queries related to those topics in Google (or another search engine). Google will autopopulate suggested queries based on search volume to give you an idea of how many people are searching for which terms.
Once you have a list of possible keywords, run them through a keyword tool (for a free option, I like Ubersuggest which is a great SEO tool all around). This will give you a better idea of exactly how much search volume different keywords get and also provides an estimate of how hard the keyword is to rank for.
Don’t let search volume or keyword difficulty drive all your keyword decisions though. Keyword difficulty is a subjective rating and will differ from one tool to another.
Although a single keyword might only receive 100 searches per month, related keyword searches might bring that total into the thousands. So start with a long tail keyword (i.e. really specific) which you’re more likely to rank for (since less people will be trying to write for it) and you might just pick up some of the more general keyword searches in the process.
I prefer to search the keyword I plan to write about and check out the posts that are on the first page of the search results. If I think I have something new or better to say, I’ll write the blog post no matter what the keyword difficulty is.
Use Your Keyword (and Variations) in Key Locations
Once you’ve chosen a keyword, make sure you make it clear to your reader and to search engines that the keyword you’ve chosen is what you are writing about. This does NOT mean adding it to your post as often as possible!
Overusing your keyword is called keyword stuffing and it will hurt your performance. Readers won’t like it because it will just sound weird and search engines are smart enough to figure out what you’re up to and they don’t like being manipulated.
Instead, aim to place your primary keyword in the following locations:
- Meta Description
- One Heading
- One Image
- Sparingly within the post as appropriate
If you’re covering your topic thoroughly, you’ll be using plenty of related words that will signal to search engines what your post is about so resist the urge to repeat your keyword in every section. If you can’t help yourself, at least use some synonyms or alternate phrasing.
A super easy trick to improve your search rankings is to utilize links in your posts. Use both internal (links to your own posts) and external links (links to other sites).
Linking to your own content makes it easier for your reader to navigate to similar content on your site. It also sends signals to search engines about the content you create.
Don’t be afraid to link to other sites! No one expects you to be the expert on EVERYTHING and you don’t have time to be anyway.
Save your readers the time of searching for answers by handing it to them. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll look more trustworthy to search engines since you’re genuinely trying to provide the most comprehensive and helpful answer for your reader.
That about covers it when it comes to SEO tricks that any novice can put to work right away. After you’ve given these a try and you’re ready to dive deeper check out HashtagJeff.
I’m a big fan of the HashtagJeff philosophy, which is that “optimizing for the user IS optimizing for search.” After all, we blog for readers, not for bots.