This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please read my disclosure for more details(Last Updated On: November 14, 2018)
SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, is kind of like a secret language. Each search engine, like Google or Bing, has a set of rules (or an algorithm) which determines which websites they want to rank higher on their search results page. The search engine picks the websites that are the most relevant and helpful to the searcher and displays them higher up on the list.
While Google doesn’t publish its algorithm, SEO marketers have been able to learn from analyzing data to figure out just what they should do to rank higher. SEO can be an overwhelming topic for people new to the subject, but there are a few super easy to understand concepts that you SHOULD learn to help your blog’s organic traffic increase! If you want to get your post to rank on Google, take a look at these beginner tips for SEO for bloggers.
1. Use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool to Determine Your Keywords
First things first: a keyword is a word or phrase that people type into their search engine. A keyword could be “halloween costume ideas for twin babies” or it could be “chicken soup recipes” or it could be “hot dogs.”
“Hot dogs” is a pretty direct search term, but something THAT general and THAT common (and THAT delicious) will have tens of millions of search results, and all the pages that relate to “hot dogs” are in high competition with each other to rank.
However, something way more specific, like “halloween costume ideas for twin babies” is considered a long tail keyword, and that’s the thing that you should be focusing on. Long tail keywords are usually 3+ words, will have a lower search volume, and therefore, sites focusing on that keyword will have less competition to rank higher on Google.
So how do you learn about your keyword? In the past, Google’s Keyword Planner Tool was a free to use and free to access online resource to help check search volume and competition levels for keywords so you could determine which was the best phrasing of a term to focus on. The tool is still free, but you have to finagle a little bit now. You must sign up for a Google AdWords account, set up a campaign, and (yes) enter payment information before you can access the tool. BUT – as soon as you get through this set up, you can pause that first campaign indefinitely and you won’t get charged.
Once I’m in Keyword Planner, what I usually do is type in the search term that I would personally use to find the blog I’m trying to optimize. So, for example, this one, my gut tells me that I’d search for “seo for bloggers.”
Hit “Get Started” and you’ll be taken to a list of keywords that are related to the one you typed in, average monthly search volume numbers, and competition level. Focus on the average monthly searches bar – if your keyword has too few searches (either 1-100 or 100-1K), then it’s not worth using for your focus keyword. If it has too MANY monthly searches (anything above 100K), though, the more difficult it’ll be to break through the rest of the similar pages to rank on Google. Those are the guidelines I use, but definitely experiment to see what works for your blog at the stage you’re at. Then, skim through the list of keywords and decide what you think would be the best to use.
2. Download the Yoast WordPress Plugin
This free plugin is literally a lifesaver when it comes to on-the-spot SEO while you’re writing a blog! Once you download this (find it here!), you can plug your focus keyword and it’ll tell you all the ways to optimize your post to include the phrase in all the right spots.
- Header Tags. The name of your post is the most important thing for Google to see – what you write there is telling Google what YOU think your page is about. That will be your H1 tag in the HTML code. (Don’t worry about coding, though – your blogging platform should be taking care of all of that). After that, the subheadings are the next important. Header tags help break up a post visually, but they also send hints to Google. Your Header 2 (H2) tag is second important after your post. (TIP: There should be only one H1 in your post,)
- Title Tags, Permalink, and Meta Description. These are what pops up in Google if your page shows up on a search result. Shown below is an example of what I entered in Yoast for the blog post I wrote about 6 things you should do after you start your blog.
- Alt Tags for Images. This is SUCH a big one! Since images are just that… images… they clearly can’t be searched in Google. But, just kidding! They SO can!! If you 1. name your image something optimized before you upload it (like “cute-cats-doing-yoga.jpg” instead of “IMG034.jpg”) and 2. add an alt text describing the image with a keyword, your pictures can be found in the Google images search results. Such an easy little step to help gain organic traffic.
3. Include Your Keyword in Your Post… Naturally
Another step in the path to get your post to rank on Google is to include your focus keyword a handful of times within the post itself. It has to sound natural, but it has to be word for word what you’re trying to get to rank. I worked in digital marketing for over four years at an ecommerce website and this skill is one that took a bit to get used to, but now it’s almost second nature.
What I usually do is write my post like normal, without even thinking about SEO, and then after I’m done, I go back through and look for a few key sections to switch some words around to fit the keyword in while still maintaining my post’s integrity. 3-6 is usually what I aim for, not including the title and permalink.
TIP: Try to fit the exact keyword into the post within the first two paragraphs. If you’re really good, try to fit the same keyword into an H2 somewhere!
4. Write Actually Helpful Content
Google has smartened up over the years. SEO used to be a pretty spammy practice a while back, and techniques like buying links, inserting links into irrelevant pages, etc. were called “black hat.” Black hat SEO focused on gaming the system and NOT on an actual audience. White hat SEO is the opposite – SEO marketers of today know that Google wayyyy favors site owners who create actual, genuine content that is honestly aimed to provide information/a service to the user.
Length matters! In this article from Yoast’s blog, they say that blog posts should be at the VERY minimum 300 words, but anything over 1000 is ideal. Why? Well, more chances for your keyword to appear naturally, more header tags, more images with alt text, all adding up to more clues for Google to know what the heck your post is about.
Match your content with your title. How many times have you clicked on a link from Pinterest and the post had nothing to do with the title written on the pin? Confusing users just to get a link will backfire. Your bounce rate will go up, you’ll lose authority and trust in the eyes of Google, and it’ll lower your reputation among other bloggers. (Well, I don’t have proof about that last one, but, I mean, I believe it.)
5. Include Relevant Internal Links and Outbound Links
One of my biggest tips about SEO for bloggers is this: always look at the post from the eyes of the reader. If you were reading a post about what you were writing about, what would YOU want to see to make it more helpful or interesting? What could you include that would make it a more worthwhile reference?
Something that I always like to add – and that Google likes when you add – are both internal (within your own site) and outbound (to other pages) links.
Internal links. Linking to yourself on your own page is a great way to get that SEO juice flowing. (FYI, for real “link juice” is 100% a term I heard almost daily when I worked as a professional marketer.) For one, linking to other relevant posts you wrote that relate to the topic at hand is just dang HELPFUL to the reader. Want more info? CLICK HERE! Easy, got it! Internal linking also tells Google in one more way what you think is important. This Hubspot article has great instructions on implementing this strategy.
Outbound links. Linking to relevant, high-authority websites (like I literally just did) is another awesome tactic to increasing your SEO. You’re once again providing more knowledge and help to your reader and telling Google what types of sites you want to be associated with. With that said, link to GOOD, trust-worthy places, and leave the weird scammy sites off your blog.
Recap: How to Get Your Post to Rank on Google
This is just barely a scratch on the surface of all the things you can do to optimize your page in the hopes of ranking in search engines. However, everyone has to start somewhere, and the basic tenets of SEO generally stay the same. There will always be updates to the algorithm to adjust to, but I’m fairly certain that high-quality, genuine content will always be valued in the eyes of Google. To summarize, here are 5 SEO tips that all bloggers should learn about:
- Use the Keyword Planner Tool to determine a realistic keyword to try and rank
- Download the free Yoast plugin for help on optimizing your blog posts
- Add your keyword into your post multiple times in a natural way
- Publish genuinely helpful content with the reader’s best interest in mind
- Include multiple internal and outbound links within your blog post
I hope these tools help you start to understand the concept of SEO and what you have control of on your site to get your post to rank on Google. Let us know in the comments any other ways you use SEO to improve your site’s rankings or if you have any questions at all!
About the author
MaDonna Sheehy is from kaijumaddy.com and has been making websites since the late 90s when she was just a little Maddy. She loves corndogs and kitties, blogging and food, Japan and Halloween. Visit her site to find free craft patterns, delicious recipes, blogging tips, and lots more. Facebook| Twitter| Instagram| Pinterest
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