There are only two forms of traffic that can find their way to your blog. Organic and Paid traffic. Anytime you have to pay for traffic to your blog in any way, shape, or form, that is considered paid traffic. Organic is when traffic flows into your ecosystem without paying for it. For all bloggers across the various industries, organic traffic is very important to us. The longevity of our blogging business depends a lot on organic traffic, especially the one that comes from search engines. That is where the understanding of SEO becomes key.
Bloggers can hire SEO experts for thousands of dollars a month because of how complex it can get, and sure there are some benefits to hiring an expert. However, the return on investment isn’t going to be experienced quickly, so make sure you know what you’re doing before hiring someone. I will do my best to give you basic SEO knowledge here as well as tips on how to make it work in your favor when starting a blog.
What Is SEO?
SEO is the practice of getting targeted traffic to your blog or website from a search engine like Google. Done right, you can rank high on a search engine in the unpaid (organic) section. But Google isn’t the only search engine. There’s Bing, Yahoo, and even YouTube that all operate on search-based parameters. The purpose of creating SEO friendly content is that it helps drive organic rankings to your blog, which of course, means high-quality traffic that you don’t need to continue paying for like in the case of paid ads.
With SEO, there are three factors to consider: Your audience (the searcher), your brand, and the search engine. If you neglect any of these three, your SEO efforts will fail. Most people already know that SEO is about optimizing the blog post, but few understand what needs to be optimized. Have you ever asked yourself that question? Is it the writing, design, or the links that need optimization? Actually, they all need optimizing, and that’s not all.
How Search Engines Work?
It’s good to understand how search engines like Google work so you can see the value of investing in SEO. Since Google owns the lion’s share of search engine power, I will use it as the prime example but know that the same principles apply to all search engines. When searching for something in Google, an algorithm works in real-time to bring you what the search engine considers the “best” results. Google will scan its index of hundreds of billions of pages in a matter of milliseconds to determine the best answer for your search. That content will naturally rank on the front page (your ultimate goal with SEO).
Now the question comes in our mind that, “How does Google decide what the best or more useful result to user is?” That’s a good question. None of us know the full answer. Google only shares bits of information here and there, but for the most part, it’s a best-kept secret. Here’s what we know based on filed patents and statements from Google. They care about relevancy, i.e., the key phrase you put in has to be in the content they serve you. They also rely on authority, i.e., is your website trustworthy, how many other pages or sites are linking to your page, etc., and they focus on usefulness. That means they care about how user-friendly and valuable the content will be for the searcher. If the page is well organized and people have an easier time interacting with it, Google will rank that page higher even if the page has less authority and links. Obstacles are also there in SEO.
Why Is SEO Important For Your Blog?
The simple answer is that search is a massive source of website traffic. The current statistics on the number of blog posts being published every second stands at 24. That’s a huge number. Think of how many blog posts will be published by the time you’re done reading this chapter. On any given day, the term “SEO” gets a volume search of about 2.2million on Google. I don’t think you need me to tell you that SEO is going to be extremely important for your blogging strategy. Without it, you stand almost no chance of ranking on the front page of Google and other search engines, which could mean the difference between your seven-figure blogging business and a failed blogging venture.
Imagine that you have a food blog with a blog post on how to make Vegan Spanish Paella. You want the search engine (mostly Google) to like your content enough that it’s willing to show your post as a top result to anyone who searches for the phrase “Vegan Spanish Paella.” To make this happen, you need the magic touch of search engine optimization.
SEO runs very deep, as I said earlier. There is on-page SEO, off-page SEO, white hat and black hat SEO, etc. I will offer an introduction to each of these main terms within SEO and encourage you to continue your education as you grow your blog.
White Hat Vs. Black Hat SEO
There are two camps in the world of SEO, and you’ve got to pick which side you’re on.
Black hat SEO is more of a short-term strategy for those who want to make a quick buck. Instead of focusing on the formula, I shared of your brand, your audience, and the search engine, this strategy simply focuses on tricks and gimmicks to get ranked even at the expense of coming off spammy. It includes stuffed keywords, invisible texts, duplicate content, cloaking, or redirecting the user to another site or page and links from sites with non-relevant content.
White hat SEO is the opposite. As you might have guessed, this is how to build a sustainable and profitable seven-figure blogging business. The strategy here requires you to create content that the searcher will enjoy, something that will build your brand, and, last but not least, optimized content that the search engines like to promote. Yes, this takes more time, effort, and dedication. Doesn’t everything worthwhile in life? White hat includes having well-labeled images, adding relevant links and references, creating unique, relevant content with proper grammar and spelling. It also requires the standard recommended formating and unique page titles.
I need to mention that some bloggers have found a way to create a gray area where they operate with a mix of both white and black strategies. Call this the gray hat SEO strategy whereby you’re trying to intentionally rig the game and get a distinct advantage. Think about guest blogging. Depending on how you do it, that can easily fall into this gray area of SEO, especially when your site suddenly spikes with traffic after guest posting for a huge site. Given how competitive blogging is, it’s hard for me to say whether gray hat SEO is good or bad. I’ll let you investigate further and come to your own conclusion. What I will say is SEO is changing all the time, and the rules of the game are often ill-defined. You need to decide which path you’re going to take and educate yourself on the risks, downsides, and upsides of that choice so you can know what you’re signing up for.
On-page SEO is a tactic that ensures Google can find your blog posts so they can be indexed in the search results. It’s also about having relevant, detailed, and useful content that includes the search phrases you want to rank for. The Google algorithm will scan your blog post to see which terms show up over and over again. So we want to make sure that the chosen keyword or phrase is intentionally chosen and sprinkled throughout the post without overstuffing it. Here is a simple formatting template to copy.
Headline Title Optimization – Make sure you use your primary keyword or keyphrase in the title of your blog post. This is the first rule of on-page SEO. Your title tag should summarize what your blog post is all about and promise a benefit to the reader while simultaneously telling Google what your page is about.
For example, if you’re writing about how to make Vegan Spanish Paella in record time, that headline should include that key term “Vegan Spanish Paella.”
Body Content Optimization – Throughout the body of the blog post, you’ll want to sprinkle the keyword where appropriate. Always think about the reader and how useful the content will be. Do not overdo this. Google only needs to see it appearing a few times to realize that your page is really focused on that topic. For example, I tend to use or repeat my keyword around 6 to 10 times on any given post. My posts are usually over 3000 words long, so in terms of density, that’s not very high. But it’s often enough for Google to get the gist and rank my content on page one.
Meta Description Optimization – Although Google officially announced that they don’t pay much attention to the description, optimizing it is still essential. Your readers will use the description to figure out whether to click on the link or not. It’s better to add the keyword so you can entice people to click the result. Another benefit of using the primary keyword in the description is that it will increase the chance that you show up in the SERPs if someone searches for that exact term.
Synonyms and Variations – For further on-page optimization, make sure to use synonyms and variations of your target keyword through the blog post. This can also help your page rank for multiple keywords so you can end up on the front page of many searches. Find what’s known as LSI keywords, which basically means closely related terms. By going to Google and Bing and typing in the keyword into the search bar, you’ll get all kinds of suggestions. Use these suggestions within your content. For example, I just went on Google and typed the keyword “Vegan Spanish Paella.” I got about 53,300 results in 0.70 seconds. That tells me with a bit of work and creativity we can rank for this term. At the bottom of the page, Google gave me more LSI terms that can go into our blog post, such as vegan paella brown rice, vegetable paella with chickpeas, vegetable paellas halloumi, vegan paella bosh, Spanish vegan recipes, etc. If you can use any or all of them, go ahead. These are some of the pro tips that the best marketers use to rank on the front page of Google.
Image Optimization – This is the next major component of on-page SEO. Search engines cannot read an image as easily as text. We need to help them understand the file by adding an alt text to the image with the right description and, if possible, the main keyword. If you have something like a fashion or food blog where lots of visuals and graphics are needed, this part is critical to your ranking. Always give your image a descriptive filename, then ad and image alt text, and finally give the image a title. The alt text and image title can be the same.
The last thing I will mention before moving on is regarding the user experience and the quality of the content. Always create content that is rich in value and be as detailed as possible. The more people get value from your blog post, the more they will share and keep reading your blogs. Famous bloggers like Neil Patel have become extremely popular on the Internet because their content is extremely high value and user friendly. Check out Neil Patel’s blog to see what I mean. The web page is crisp, clean with excellent user experience, and his content is always super detailed and well organized. No wonder he gets millions of viewers each month.
Off-page SEO is a little harder to control, but there are things you can do to help things work in your favor. One of the things you can start doing is establishing strong trust and authority with your blog. As much as possible, try to get authoritative blogs and websites to link back to you, especially those that speak on your topic. We can talk later about how to build these types of relationships, but again, we don’t want to do it purely for the sake of getting a link. Do it because you have created content that would benefit their readers. You can do things that will encourage mainstream media sites to feature you. This will take time because it means you need to create a lot of content and stand out in your niche, but hey, if you’re thinking long-term, then this is doable.
Another thing you can do is managing your bounce rate. The bounce rate is simply a measure of how many people view only one page on your site before leaving. The remedy for this is to entice readers to spend more time on site. Do this by ensuring you have great content and creative ways of leading them down a rabbit hole where they can binge-read some more of your stuff. You can also test your current loading time to make sure it’s not taking too long as that can be a turnoff. How user-friendly and beautiful is your blog experience? I mentioned this previously, but it’s worth repeating here. If your user interface puts people off or doesn’t seem well organized (for example, your HTML code is out of order, or your blog post paragraphs are too long), the eyes will wear out sooner rather than later, and you will lose a reader.
One last tip that can help your readers increase on-site time is incorporating videos into your blog posts. People love watching videos, and it can be the perfect way to keep people glued to your page.
Your brand identity is another component of off-page SEO to consider, although most bloggers skip over it. Brand building takes time and effort, but it will pay off in the long run. Think about it. If you need to buy new tires for your car, knowing how important your safety is, which link result are you more likely to click on? The one from an unknown blog or one from a company you recognize and trust? Branding helps build trust.
In the same way, you’d likely click on a company you already recognize, people will be more inclined to click on your link whenever your search result shows up if they become aware of your brand. Every effort to get your brand name out there through organic and paid means will pay off. Have a consistent brand identity, and with time people will recognize and associate your brand with the topic you cover. This will increase trust, demonstrate to Google that your domain had authority, and improve your search traffic.
I want to mention one more category here with off-page SEO that you can influence in subtle ways. Consider the fact that all searchers see results relevant to the country they are in. Search engines interpret words differently based on location. Someone in the US searching for the keyword comforter will be served blankets for their bed. The same keyword in the UK might produce pacifiers because that term is commonly used in that context. So how can you use these subtle personal factors to your advantage? A couple of things you can do. First, make sure you do your keyword selection very conscious of the country you wish to target the most. If you want to have a multilingual site and reach people outside your country, that’s great. Just make sure to set up the infrastructure right. However, expect that it will cost you to have an excellent multilingual site with accurate translations. You can also set up geo-targeting, depending on how robust your blogging platform is. The second thing you can do is encourage socialization on the blog. Social media can actually help with your off-page SEO because Google tends to serve more of your content to people who have engaged with other social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. The more people can interact with you on social media platforms, the better your blogs will perform, especially if they can share or comment.
Tips For Getting Ranked In Google
Now that you have a basic understanding of search engine optimization, it’s time to put some of that knowledge to work. Remember, SEO is huge, and there’s a lot more advanced ground to cover, such as technical SEO. You don’t need to worry too much about that as a newbie. Grow your blog, put to practice the basics, and build from there. Here, I want to make sure you have practical SEO tips that are current and proven to work, so here are my top ten SEO tips to help you get ranked in Google.
1. Keep your blog centered on your audience
That means you should create a blog that people enjoy. Search engines are designed to measure signals across the web-based on searchers’ preferences at the end of the day. Their sole purpose is to give the people more of what they want. Make sure your blog is what your kind of people want. The more authentic and useful your content, the more people will love and read your blog, which will, in turn, cause search engines to drive more traffic your way.
2. Attract and retain the attention of your reader
This is the second most important tip if you want to rank higher. First, as we said, is to create nothing short of fantastic content that is useful in value and well organized. Once the people land on your page and consume all that good stuff, you want to make sure they remain on-site as long as possible. The longer you can keep someone on-site, the more Google sees that as a sign that your content is worth staying at the top. Of course, digital marketing is very important in SEO.
3. Keyword placement should be spot on
I mentioned this already in the previous chapter, but I want to make sure you really get it. Do not do keyword stuffing on your blog post. Black hat SEO will only hurt your blog business. Adding keywords and having a keyword strategy is a must, but we need to use them naturally. I already shared the different ways you can optimize your on-page SEO. Please read that part again because where you use your keywords is just as important as how many times. As I said, you want to make sure the keyword always appears in the title tag, the URL, and the first section of your blog post (usually between 100-200 words).
4. Get creative with your longtail keywords search
The best keywords to rank for when starting your blog are longtail keywords. What are longtail keywords, you ask? A simple illustration will help you understand it better. Let’s go back to our earlier example of my food blog. I’m writing a blog post on Vegan Spanish Paella. Newbies will settle for short keywords such as Paella or at most Spanish Paella. Pro bloggers know that a better approach is to go longtail, i.e., using phrases that someone would search.
A perfect example would be “Vegan Spanish Paella Recipe.” Your chances or ranking significantly increase when you go longtail. The quality of the reader is also higher because someone who searches for that specific keyphrase and then sees your link is likely to stay on-site longer and consume all your content, assuming it’s great. Now that you understand longtail keywords, here’s the secret tip. Don’t just rely on Google when finding the suggested keywords. Use OTHER search engines such as Wikipedia, YouTube (yes, it’s a search engine), and also Bing.
5. Consider publishing an industry study long-form post
This is going to be a lot of work because you have to do a ton of research and use data, case studies, etc., but the long-term results will be incredible. You’ll have everyone in your niche linking back to you because bloggers and journalists are thirsty for hard facts and proven data. Everyone will reference back to your blog even without you asking, and Google will definitely reward you more. This isn’t something you can do in a week or even a month, so give yourself ample time to create something epic.
6. Add multimedia files as much as possible and make sure they are keyword rich in their title tags
Visual content and multimedia files are great for attracting and retaining readership. People love beautiful images, infographics, Gifs, audio files, videos, and even podcasts. Depending on what your resources and time can allow you to do, consider adding as much content variety to each post as you can. Podcasts and infographics are also great for generating backlinks and references. Remember to label these appropriately so that Google crawlers can know what they are.
7. Create content that’s closely related to your niche topic
Marketers refer to these types of content as shoulder niche content pieces. They are not directly related to your specific niche but close enough, so your ideal readership would benefit from reading the content. For example, I have a friend who is in home construction. There is nothing sexy about the technical aspects of remodeling a home. Instead, she created home construction shoulder niche content. These are various categories that are closely related, which are far more appealing and shareable such as interior design, home improvement, etc. If you can find what topics are more attractive to your audience and create excellent content that people want to engage with and share, you’ll start noticing a growth in traffic and SEO ranking.
8. Include “What is X” definitions to your blog content
This is so simple, yet most people don’t do it. When a searcher goes to Google and types in a high-level term like “Spanish Paella,” they are typically looking to understand what it is, i.e., the definition. If you notice the changes Google has made over time, they’re seeking to define terms on the front page, so it helps when in your blog post, you also include a definition. In the case of my Vegan Spanish Paella, it would be a wise move to include what is Paella?
9. Add a Q& A section to your content
Of course, this should only be used if appropriate for your blog content. I encourage you to do this because a large-scale study conducted by SEMrush revealed that Google SERPs tend to feature content that has Q& A.
10. Find pre-curated lists of top industry blogs in your niche
This is another secret sauce that will require some effort but pays high dividends, especially when starting out. Your blog is unknown and floating in the deep ocean of the blogosphere. You need people to know, like, and trust you. Google and other search engines also need to like you and see your brand as an authority as quickly as possible, so your dream of a six-figure business can materialize. How do you do this? Creating epic content, doing your keyword research, and optimizing the content, visuals, etc. is all part of the game, but you need more. What I encourage is to take the initiative and start building relationships with strategic sites. By going on Google and typing in “best XYZ blogs,” you’ll tap into a potential gold mine of relationship and link building opportunities that will skyrocket your rankings. For example, since I am looking to rank my food blog, I can type in the best nutrition blogs in X (x = a particular year or my city or country). The results I get will be a curated list of people who already built credibility. Now I need to sift through each of those articles to find the perfect fit for someone I can either partner with or develop another type of arrangement. When you carry out this tactic, make sure the chosen sites have high authority and that you have something to offer them.
In some cases, it could even be a guest blogging opportunity. Using a tool like Ahrefs, you can tell how strong or weak a website is, how many backlinks the site has, and how long it’s been around. As I said, this is going to take some work. Record all this data on a spreadsheet, and once you’ve got a couple of hundred sites, prioritize them in order of importance and start doing an outreach campaign.