Email lists. Guest posting. As a new blogger, there’s a lot to figure out. So it’s not surprising that most bloggers don’t know the first thing about search engine optimization. Not surprising, but it is a shame. What is SEO? Search engine optimization is simply the “art” of getting your blog posts found when somebody types in a search term on Google. If you’re a travel blogger and have written about the best beach destinations with kids, you want people to find that article when they search for… well, the best beach destinations with kids. But here’s the thing: Unless you optimize your content for search, that won’t happen. Why? Because those who do optimize for search will get that traffic.
Why You NEED To Read + Action This Guide
You need to pay attention to search engine optimization because without it, your articles won’t show up in search. If that concept doesn’t bother you, consider that those people who are searching for terms related to your blog are people – – potential readers, and people you could help with your content. If you only have a couple hundred visits/day, you could increase that significantly. Further, people visiting your site from search engines are highly focused. Think about it: they went through the effort to type in a search term into Google. They’re seeking out information related to your topic. You want them to follow your blog, subscribe to your email list, and engage with you. So here’s the rub: There are hundreds of super detailed, in-depth beginner’s guides on SEO. They’re thousands of words, go over what it is, how it works, how to build back links, and everything else. But if you want the 80/20 version of what you can do when you’re writing your next blog post to optimize that post for search, here it is: SEO for dummies. At the bare minimum, action this guide. It will help you get more traffic.
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Ground Zero: Start Here for Beginner Search Engine Optimization
Without this step, any SEO success you have will be pure luck. Keyword research. You can optimize your articles for search all day long but if you’re targeting a keyword that nobody even types into the search box on Google, nobody will find your posts. A keyword is anything that people search in Google. To set a keyword for your article, think of what you’d type into Google if you were to look up the term. For example, on Adventure Baby, we wrote a case for cloth diapering, listing all the reasons new parents should cloth diaper their babies. I started with “why cloth diaper”. Then, type it into a keyword research or SEO tool. I use Ahrefs. It’s expensive, but you can sign up for a free trial, batch a bunch of keyword research and then cancel the trial after you’re done:
You can also you SEMRush, Moz, or even Google’s free Keyword Planner (which is not nearly as good but will get the job done once your free Ahrefs trial ends!). Globally there are only around 20 searches per day of the term “why cloth diaper”, and pretty much none in the US. So instead of trying to think of a new term, I scrolled down in Ahrefs to find the top results ranking for the term “why cloth diaper”, to find the top keywords the results are targeting:
I found “cloth diapers vs disposable” has the highest search volume at 900 searches (under the Volume column). When I type that into the search bar, I find the following information:
I’m paying close attention to the Keyword Difficulty (it’s considered “easy” to rank in the top 10 for), and the search volume. Globally, there are about 1,000 searches for this term, yet it’s only slightly more difficult to rank for than “why cloth diapers”. If you aim for lower competition, higher volume keywords which may sound easier said than done, you can rank even if you have a brand new blog.
8 Things You Must Do When You Have Your Keyword Set
Okay, so you’ve set your target keyword. I’m going to show you how to optimize your article for search based on that keyword. This is called “on page SEO”. This is an overly simplified guide to on-page SEO, but right now, overly simplified is good. Start here.
Step #1: Install Yoast SEO Plugin
Yoast is a bomb dot com plugin that “scores” your optimization effort while you’re writing your article in WordPress, based on the keyword target you set.
Find it in your WordPress dashboard under Plugins > Add New.
Step #2: Set Your Focus Keyword in Yoast
Open up your new blog post, and set the focus keyword in Yoast. You can find it below your text area in your WordPress dashboard when you’re creating a new blog post.
Your focus keyword should be the keyword you just identified as your target during your keyword research. Setting this is what your SEO score on Yoast is based off of.
Step #3: Set Your Article URL
Your slug (or the terms after your domain name when you type in the URL of your article – like adventurebaby.com/cloth-diapers-vs-disposable) needs to be the keyword you’re targeting.
This is one thing most people fail to do, but most top search results have the URL as the keyword.
This communicates to Google what your page is about. You can set this by pressing the Edit button beside your URL at the top of the New Post page, or scrolling down and setting it in Yoast (which will change it up top, too). Warning: If you’re revising previous articles, do not touch the URL! Any links to that article will 404 if you change it up.
Step #4: Set Your Headline
Headlines are important, even in search results. Why? Humans perform searches. You’re far more likely to click on a search result with a compelling headline than a boring one. With Yoast, you can set two headlines: the one that will show up on your blog, and the one that will show up in search. The keyword must show up in the headline for search. Blog headline:
Keep the keyword in both if you can, but if it’s an awkward keyword or you can’t think of an amazing headline for your blog that included the keyword, just include it in the SEO title. Try to keep the keyword closer to the front of the SEO title (ie Cloth Diapers Vs Disposable: The Ultimate Showdown rather than The Ultimate Showdown: Cloth Diapers Vs Disposable?).
Protip: Make your SEO title more compelling than the top few results when you search your keyword on Google. You want people to want to click on your article, rather than the competition’s.
Step #5: Set Your SEO Description
Your SEO description is like a subhead that tells the searcher a little bit more about your result:
It shows up beneath the URL in the search results. Unsurprisingly, it needs to include your keyword.
If you don’t set this in Yoast, it will automatically pull the top 160 characters of your article. You don’t want this. Set a short (160 character or less) meta description that entices the searcher to click onto your result, that also includes your keyword.
Step #6: Set Your Featured Image
Your featured image should have “alt text” that includes your keyword. It actually doesn’t need to be your featured image, but to keep it clean I like to do this as a standard of practice:
If you don’t want to include a featured image, just set your keyword as the alt text to a relevant image in your article.
Step #7: Include Your Keyword in Your Intro
This isn’t the most important step (which is why it’s #7), but if you can, include your focus keyword in your article introduction. Don’t go overboard and include your keyword a thousand times in your text. Once or twice is fine (even if Yoast tells you it’s low).
If there’s no way your keyword can fit naturally into your article at all, leave it out. This isn’t a total deal breaker. It’s more important to have a natural, useful article than it is to include your keyword.
Step #8: Get Link Happy
External links (links to pages on other websites) and internal links (links to other pages and content on your own site) are important for search engines.
- Include links to authority resources within the text of your article
- Include links to your other articles within the text of your article (where relevant).
Do not go overboard. 2-3 links to other articles and a couple of links to external resources will do the trick.
Too many links = bad. Not enough links = bad. Stick with a few.
Don’t Overlook “On Page” Search Engine Optimization on Your Blog
There are a million other things you could do to rank higher in search. You could:
- Build high-quality backlinks to your site
- Link from popular articles on your blog to other articles
- Create the best resources on the internet related to your topic (so, you know, people want to link to and share them)
Plus dozens of other strategies. But if you do nothing else, don’t skip these 8 steps.