In this epic SEO for bloggers guide I'm going to show you how to optimize your new blog for Google search.
It's a pretty simple concept and yet many new bloggers completely ignore SEO.
Many new bloggers are intimidated by SEO. But it's only intimidating because you don't understand it.
So in this blog post I'm going to lay out the basics of SEO for beginners and by the time we're done, you'll have an action plan in place to rank your blog posts on Google.
Before we get started, let's go over what is SEO to begin with.
Google SEO basics
When a user searches for something on Google, their algorithm tries to match the users' search query with the best result possible.
The process of optimizing your blog post to rank well on Google search is called search engine optimization (SEO).
Many bloggers completely ignore SEO when starting. This is understandable. It is a well-known fact that Google will not send traffic to new blogs (source).
But ignoring SEO altogether isn't the right approach either. Once your blog ages and begins appearing in search results, you'll be glad you paid attention to your SEO right from the start.
You know full well I recommend new bloggers use Pinterest to get traffic. But that doesn't mean you should ignore Google SEO.
For a blogger, there is nothing better than free traffic. That is exactly what you get with organic Google traffic (organic means it comes from the search results, not from paid ads).
The answer is that it depends on what the user intent was of the search.
When someone looks for "running shoes" Google will show ecommerce sites in the search results.
But when someone looks for "best running shoes", that's when Google will show educational content (aka blog posts).
Google is where people go when they are seeking answers to their problems.
Do your blog posts each solve a specific problem in your niche? If so, you're in luck.
If you are creating content that people search for and your content is solving problems, then Google is going to love your blog!
Google's algorithm is looking at 3 main things to rank websites: their content, their authority, and the user experience.
And those are the 3 main things I'm going to cover in this epic guide on SEO for beginners:
- User experience
Choose a keyword phrase to target [Content]
Google, while very advanced, is not a mind reader. It's your job to make it clear to Google what your content is about.
For every article you write, choose one main keyword phrase and mention it throughout your content.
Which keyword should you choose? For that, you need to do keyword research.
Before you even lift a finger, you first have to conduct keyword research. If you skip this step, you will write content for no one but yourself.
I struggled for a long time because I wrote whatever content I wanted to write. Then I'd wonder why I wasn't getting any traffic. The answer was simple: nobody was searching for the content I was writing.
It's such a simple concept. Find out what questions people are asking and answer those questions.
When you're on the hunt for keywords, look for 3 types of keywords:
Related keywords are oftentimes called LSI keywords (latent semantic indexing). LSI is a system Google uses to analyze the other words people use to search a given topic.
It's important to use related keywords naturally and not just repeat your main keyword phrase over and over again.
How to do keyword research [Content]
There are a few places you can do basic keyword research for free:
While these tools are good for finding ideas on what to write about, you need to dive deeper into the numbers to find the best keyword phrase to target.
Best keyword research tools [Content]
Here are the best keyword research tools for beginners.
Finding keyword ideas is great, but if you have zero chance of ranking for them you are wasting your time. A keyword research tool like LongTailPro will tell you the popularity and difficulty to rank for any given keyword phrase.
They can also recommend related keywords and do competitor research to gauge your chances of outranking them.
This tool is not for beginners, but for bloggers who want to take their content marketing game to the next level.
Where to use keywords [Content]
If you do not add your keywords (both main and related) throughout your article, Google is going to have a harder time figuring out what your article is about. Yet if you add it too many times you are keyword stuffing which will have negative consequences.
So how often should you include your keyword phrase, and where?
There is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to keyword density.
The reason is that Google is smart enough to know a keyword and its variations. So even though you might only be adding your exact keyword phrase ONCE - that may be enough!
You can add your keyword phrase in Yoast and in the SEO analysis section they'll give you their recommendation on keyword density.
However, keyword density is really a thing of the past. In 2020 and beyond, the focus should not be on how many times to use it, but rather where to use it.
What you'll find is that you can rank #1 in Google even though you mention the search term 0 times in the body!
For this article (4,000+ words) I mention "SEO for bloggers" 10 times (including this time), which is probably too many. They recommend a whopping 16 mentions.
You need your keyword phrase in a few very important places to rank for that term.
Page title - Most importantly, it needs to be in your title, preferably at the beginning.
h1 tag - If you're using WordPress, odds are the title is displayed on your page with the H1 tag.
h2 tags - It helps if you have related keywords mentioned in h2 tags.
URL Slug - It should be a part of your slug (the URL), ie: www.domain.com/this-is-the-slug/
In the content - Especially in the couple of sentences of the blog post.
The URL slug for this blog post is in bold: https://www.dosixfigures.com/seo-beginner-bloggers/
If your slug format looks different - you need to change them. To change the structure of your WordPress URLs, go to Settings > Permalinks.
Not everyone will type the exact keyword phrase you are targeting into Google. By using related keywords, you can Google traffic from these similar keywords as well.
For this article, for example, I may appear in search results for "SEO for blogs", "SEO tips for bloggers", "SEO for beginners", or "SEO guide".
Sometimes, your post is too long and you end up with a url that's far too long. This makes the url look unprofessional.
Imagine this long url: https://www.dosixfigures.com/google-seo-guide-for-beginner-bloggers/
That looks spammy to the visitor and it looks spammy to Google as well.
To keep it short, just use your keyword phrase: https://www.dosixfigures.com/seo-beginner-bloggers/
Content length [Content]
Are you planning to fill up your new blog with LOTS of short blog posts? If so you're in for a big disappointment. In 2020 this strategy will get you nowhere (source).
Focus on creating high-quality long-form content if you to want to rank in Google search in 2020. A blog post worth saving, sharing, or reading again should be at least 2,000 words long.
How much help can you really provide in 500 words? Not enough, that's for sure.
As far as a set word count goes, there isn't one. If you feel like you can say everything you need in a 1,000 word article, great. If you need more, go for it.
Here are three major benefits to writing longer content.
While word count alone won't get you a better ranking, data shows word count does play an important role.
Not only that, but a higher word count will also get you more backlinks.
PS: Thanks in advance if you link to this blog post!
And yes, you can also get more social shares with longer content.
Google would much rather prefer a website with 15 pages of amazing content rather than a 250 page website full of short articles.
Don't just write great content, write insanely great content.
Epic blog posts are what's going to get you more backlinks, longer session durations, more pageviews, a better Google ranking, more email subscribers, and even paid clients.
Seriously, if you're not writing an epic blog post, why even bother?
I have sold off (or straight up junked) most of my blogs because of this.
Years ago I would write tons of content to rank for hundreds thousands of different long-tail keywords. This strategy worked for a while - before Google caught on and put a stop to it.
On this blog, Do Six Figures, most of my content is in the 2,000 to 3,000 range. This blog post clocks in at over 4,000 words.
PS: I use this plugin to show sortable word counts in the posts page of my WP admin.
Write an awesome headline [Content]
Headlines are extremely important. Without a catchy headline, you won't get as many clicks to your blog pages as they deserve.
When you create awesome blog post titles, you will get more clicks at a higher rate than the competition.
And when your page gets clicked on more than the competition, it sends a signal to Google that your page is more relevant for that particular search term.
Google keeps track of your CTR (click through rate) and pushes sites with a higher CTR higher on the serps (search engine results page).
On Google's search results, they will display your title in 600 pixels. On average this comes out to 55 characters. So make sure that your keyword phrase is in those first 55 characters.
This is just an average number, as a title with letters like t, l, and i will allow more characters than one with M's and W's.
To see how your title will look in Google, use Yoast SEO plugin or this SERP preview tool.
The perfect title that maximizes click through rate and improves your Google ranking should have this formula:
(Number) (Adjective) (Keyword Phrase) ( Benefit) (Time)
Not every blog post will have this exact formula, but it's a proven one that delivers results.
If you want to learn more about how to write a catchy headline, catch this in-depth guide I wrote.
With Thrive's Headline Optimizer you can run tests on a group of headlines to find the best one.
Their tool shows different headlines to different readers and, based on the analytics, picks the winning headline.
It is the only surefire way of knowing you have an awesome blog post title that both Google and your readers will love.
Edit the meta description [Content]
The meta description is a code that's in the source of your webpage whose purpose is to describe what your page is about. In the source code, it looks like this:
<meta name="description" content="Make this a two or three sentence description of this page."/>
Years ago, this was used to rank your site. And boy did I take advantage of it! But now things have changed and what you put there won't help you rank directly.
But Google does use this text to show as the description on the search results page.
Just like movies use trailers to preview their movie, the meta description is the preview of your blog post on Google.
The better you utilize the meta description, the better your click-through rate will be.
If you choose to not add a custom meta description at all, then Google will choose the first few sentences of your article. And since often times your article will start with a question or an anecdote, it's not the best use of this space.
In your meta description, you want to entice the reader to click on your result so you'll want to demonstrate value, provide a benefit, or create intrigue.
A good meta description also includes your exact keyword phrase in the title and description. When the search term matches your keyword phrase, the text is bolded and draws more attention to your link.
Optimize your images for search [Content]
Google is actually two search engines in one. In addition to regular text results, there's also image results (and more).
While not as valuable as a regular search result, you can also get traffic via Google Images.
To help you rank on Google Images:
Small images or low quality images do not appear in Google images results very often. Use larger high quality (yet optimized) images. You can optimize your images using ShortPixel which will reduce the file size but keep the quality.
While the user cannot see your file names, Google can. Name your images appropriately, utilizing your keywords in the images.
Alt text is meant to describe your image to the blind who are using a screen reader to browse your site. It's also a great place to add your keyword phrase. Add a sentence that describes your image, making sure to add your keywords.
Add your keywords near the image so that Google identifies what the image is about, since Google can't quite "see" the image.
Why domain authority matters [Authority]
If you are a nobody, Google search will ignore you. Sorry to be so blunt, but that's how it is.
Google wants to present the reader with the best answer to their question. Sure, Google looks at your content to determine that, but all things being equal, they prefer to send the reader to an authority blog.
Imagine you're Google's algorithm and you want to send a user to the best possible answer.
Let's say the question is: "where do I buy the new iPhone?"
Would you send the user to apple.com/iphone or to a new website, let's say buynewiphone.net?
Even though you can buy the new iPhone at each site, the one with more authority gets the coveted number one spot.
But don't despair, you too can become an authority in your niche. Here's what it takes to build up authority in your space.
The age of your domain name [Authority]
Authority really boils down to trust. Google wants to deliver the best experience for their users, and oftentimes this means sending them to trusted and reliable sources of information.
Your new blog won't get much Google love to start. After all, Google barely knows you. Perhaps you two should go on a date and get to know each other first?
Then after a few months of showing your worth (like providing great content), they'd be willing to take the next step and let you into their search results.
You never know, if Google ends up loving your blog they might just let you go all the way and have the number one spot!
The number and quality of your backlinks [Authority]
Google can only guess how valuable your blog content is. While they can read it, they don't really know how valuable it is.
But what if a bunch of people (including very important people) are all linking to your blog post?
Surely then, this blog post must be good!
Getting backlinks is so important if you want to rank your blog on Google search. And again, it all boils down to trust.
Here are a few ways to get more links.
Buying links or doing link trades are generally frowned upon. However, you can get creative with this to avoid detection. For example, maybe you can get a backlink in exchange for a social media mention.
There's lots of other types of "exchanges" you can do that toe the line between "white hat" (legit) and "gray hat" (might be okay).
Total number of social shares [Authority]
How does Google know if your blog post really provides value? One thing Google supposedly looks at is your social media shares.
While this hasn't been confirmed by Google, it's been shown that links with a lot of social shares end up higher in the search results (source).
This is why you should always encourage your readers to share your blog posts on social media.
The best way to do this is to use the Social Warfare WordPress plugin to add share icons to your blog posts.
Why a good user experience matters [User Experience]
The 3rd and final thing Google looks at is the user experience you provide.
Google recently announced that in 2021 that user experience will be a ranking factor going forward (source).
There's a few ways Google can "guess" whether you're providing a good experience to the reader.
One way is by seeing what the user does after conducting a search and visiting your website.
Do they go back to the search results quickly? If so, your site probably wasn't very helpful.
This is called the "dwell time", or the time from when the user clicks on your link to the time when they come back to Google.
Google also scans your blog posts to detect common things that affect user experience, such as pop-ups, ads, slow sites, small fonts, etc.
Want to provide a good user experience? Here's the lowdown on how to do it.
No pop-ups on mobile [User Experience]
There are two kinds of pop-ups, the annoying kind that open a new browser and the less-annoying kind that's called a lightbox overlay.
You should always avoid opening a new browser window without permission. That's essentially browser hijacking.
But overlays? It depends!
A good rule of thumb is to not completely overtake the browser with a full-screen lightbox on page-load. You also want to make sure it is easy to close any lightbox pop-up.
I can't possibly give this topic the depth it deserves, but Moz did a nice job of covering it here.
Here at Do Six Figures, I'm always changing it up. But at the moment, I have one lightbox pop-up that shows up when the user scrolls down 50% of the page. Or, if they move their cursor to exit the page beforehand, the lightbox display appears instead.
I do this using Thrive Leads.
No big ads (especially above the fold) [User Experience]
Google cares about the design of your website, too. Even though Google doesn't technically have 'eyes', it does attempt to see your blog the way a visitor sees it.
So in order to think like Google, we must think like a regular visitor. What do they want and when do they want it? The answer is they want their question answered and they want it done quickly.
'Above the fold' refers to the section of a blog that is visible without scrolling.
In your first paragraph, you need to clearly tell the reader what your blog post is about and why it's important.
I know that
most all of you want to make money from your blog. You might think the answer is to slap a bunch of ads all over your page. But that type of thinking is outdated. Ads just don't work anymore.
Instead, focus on building a relationship with your reader. Get them on your email list. Give them value. Once you've established that you are an authority on the subject and they trust you, that's when it's time to start making money from your audience.
Make sure your site is mobile-friendly [User Experience]
Google essentially has two algorithms, a desktop and a mobile one. In fact, if you log into Google Search Console, you might see that your indexing is done via the mobile version of Googlebot.
If you don't have a mobile-friendly version of your website - you're missing out on over 50% of all traffic!
And if you're getting traffic from Pinterest, your mobile traffic might be much higher than 50%.
I've built my blog using Thrive Theme Builder. With it I can create a mobile-ready site that looks good and is fast on mobile.
You need a fast-loading blog [User Experience]
Google has indicated that the speed of your overall site and page is a signal that's used to rank pages. If you want to rank on the first page of Google's search results, you need a fast site.
You can check your page speed here.
There are other reasons why you want a faster website.
Visitors often times click to go to the previous page or simply close the window if a webpage is loading too slow. In a world of fast-loading sites with great content, nobody wants to visit a slow site.
When Google's bot visits your site, it might decide to spend a few minutes on your site. It's looking for new webpages and updated pages to add to their index. If your site loads too slow time will run out before Google's done checking out your new content.
If you choose a budget hosting company you will get what you pay for. If you want a fast loading site, you have to pay for it. Sure, there are things you can do to improve your page speed, but the first crucial second or two is done by your host.
What else can you do to improve page speed?
Shared hosts oftentimes cram too many users onto the same server, slowing everyone's site down. This page loads in about 2 seconds with WPXHosting.
Many themes are badly coded (too many unnecessary PHP calls). The theme I'm using to get a fast-loading site is Thrive Theme Builder.
Don't add too many plugins to your site, especially ones you don't need. Badly coded plugins will slow your site down.
Use a content distribution network (CDN) like Cloudflare (free).
Optimize and compress your images as you upload them to WordPress using the ShortPixel plugin.
You can see my full list of WordPress plugins to improve page speed here.
No broken links [User Experience]
Broken links are a bad experience for the end-user. Since Google's bot follows links, they'll know if you're linking to a bad link. Do you?
I have the LinkWhisper plugin which has a broken link checker built-in. This plugin does a lot more than check for broken links, but this feature is certainly useful.
It checks not only broken internal links but it checks for external links that don't load or return a 404 error.
Using internal links [User Experience]
A good user experience means the user got what they wanted and found resources for additional help on related topics. This is why you should add on-topic links to your other blog posts throughout your content.
Don't let a related posts plugin to do the work for you. Instead, add internal links within your content naturally. These internal links will carry more weight than a list of links at the end of your blog post.
By linking to your past blog content, you're letting Google know these pages are relevant to the topic of the blog post and that they are important.
I use the LinkWhisper plugin to find the best internal link locations throughout my entire site. Perhaps my favorite feature is the ability to add links in older content to my new posts.
Good website metrics [User Experience]
Google may or may not (I totally think they do) look at your bounce rate and average time on page in Google Analytics.
Remember they also have access to this data because of the Chrome browser.
If your website has bad metrics, it can raise a red flag to Google that users aren't having a good experience on your blog.
The bounce rate is the percentage of users who only visit one page. In other words, they show up and then they bounce.
The average time on page is the amount of time a user stays on that particular article.
Another metric to look at is pages per session, which is pretty self-explanatory.
I use the ExactMetrics plugin to see this specific data right on my WordPress dashboard. I find Google Analytics too confusing to try and find the data that matters, so it's good to have a plugin display it for me within the WordPress admin.
Well-designed blog [User Experience]
I don't care how valuable your article is, if it's not an easy read, I'm not going to read it - and nobody else will either.
When it comes to blog design, many bloggers spend way too much time trying to get their blog "pretty". The end-result is a site that's too busy and doesn't put the focus where it needs to be: on the content.
I recommend using a premium theme that gives you full control of what your blog can look like. This is why I recommend Thrive Theme Builder. This lightweight theme comes with built-in templates that aren't fancy, but are practical and focus on the user experience.
Aside from your blog design, here's how to make your articles easier to read:
I dive deep into how to design a WordPress blog here if you want to learn more.
That about does it. That was quite a doozy!
If this post has helped you learn a bit about how to rank #1 on Google, please consider leaving a comment or sharing this post on social media!