SEO Best Practices – Optimizing Your Blog for More TrafficJanuary 10, 2018
Ranking your blog high in Google search results is the most efficient way of growing your blog traffic. And this is achieved by following these SEO best practices.
Following the SEO best practices is crucial if you want to see more Google traffic coming to your blog.
Most blog traffic comes from search engine results pages (SERPs), and this is true for most blog niches.
If you want your blog to benefit from search traffic juice, you need to make sure your pages rank high enough so users click the links.
Simply put, SEO is the term used for the techniques you can use in order to gain visibility for your pages in the search engines results.
When we are talking about SEO, we are referring to the organic results that a search engine generates. Organic results are the ones that appear naturally on the page based on their content, rather than the ones it's been paid for.
Search engines try to give the most relevant and helpful results to users' search queries. In order to do so, search engines have their own algorithms which take into consideration different qualities of a page. While nobody knows for sure the exact algorithm and all the factors, there are certain ranking factors known to be taken into account by search engines when deciding what pages to rank.
On-page SEO, like the name suggests, refers to the techniques used on the page to help the page gain higher ranking in SERPs. On-page SEO factors may include: use of keywords, optimizing the page, increasing page-speed, use of internal linking and so on.
Off-page SEO refers to the methods used to boost a websites' ranking with the help of outside sources. The most important factor that falls into this category is link-building, especially getting links from other sites and brand mentions. This is a huge ranking factor as it establishes the website as an authority and it receives social validation which, in Google's eyes, means quality worth ranking.
If you just started your blog and you want people to find you when conducting a research on Google, your website should be found on the first results page in order to get traffic.
Ranking high on Google means having a successful SEO strategy.
Without SEO, you won't see any traffic coming from search results because your page will rank somewhere on the 20-30th page. Who do you think goes that deep into the search?
Right – Nobody.
Fully optimizing a website means lots of time and money, is not just using a word now and then and waiting for results to show up. SEO is a vast topic that involves plenty of knowledge, trial and error, and time.
But there are certain SEO tasks you can conduct yourself without any money or previous experience.
So what are the best SEO tips and tricks any beginner can start applying right away with no money or experience?
I've put together an SEO checklist for new websites, containing the essential SEO tips and guidelines any beginner should focus on for starters.
So let's dive right in.
You would think that choosing where to host your blog wouldn't be such a big deal for ranking. You just pick a hosting service and link your domain name to it.
Choosing the right hosting service is the first item on the SEO tips and tricks list.
I know, if you are a beginner just starting out your business, you don't have lots of money to invest and it's tempting to turn to the cheapest methods to deal with hosting. You can even find websites that provide free hosting services. And who doesn't want free?
If you are serious about your blog, don't fall into that trap.
Websites hosted by a certain service provider are linked to each other by the IP, and their domain authority influences each other.
When you host your domain on a cheap platform, you will share the IP with thousands of other websites you know nothing about and which will have an influence on your domains' authority. This can turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing.
There are higher chances for it to be a bad thing because most of the business you will find hosted on cheap platforms are not serious about their ranking and are mostly spammy websites with a bad reputation.
Do you want others' bad reputation to fall on your shoulders? No, you do not!
It's better to do some research and invest a little more money from the start in a safe and serious hosting service.
Also, it doesn't hurt to also familiarize yourself with the best blogging platforms out there.
SEO is nothing without the right keywords.
Most of your SEO efforts will revolve around finding the proper keywords to target. It's one of the basic SEO best practices.
In order to get traffic to your blog, you have to rank for certain keywords. And when I say rank, I'm talking about high-ranking. Searchers don't get past by the 5th page of the search results (it's a miracle if they get so far), so if your pages are not on the first results page don't expect to get any traffic soon.
When a user is searching for something on Google, he's using certain queries. Those are the keywords.
You need to find the keywords that people search for in your industry and that are relevant to your content.
Noticed how I said, “people search for”.
If you use keywords that are not searched, your SEO efforts will show no results. Because no one is searching for your content. You have to deliver what people want.
The second important thing is the competition a keyword has.
When your blog is in the beginning, your website has a low domain authority, a small number of links, and it's hard to nearly impossible to compete with well-established blogs in your niche.
You want to start with keywords that have low competition. While it may sound tempting to pick broad keywords with high search volume, you won't get to rank for them.
Instead, focus on more specific keywords with low competition even if they have lower search volume.
In time, when your website will catch experience and authority, you will be able to rank for more competitive keywords.
There are several tools for keyword research you can freely use for finding the best keywords to focus on.
UberSuggest is one way of coming up with more keywords. Add your main keyword and hit suggest. The tool will generate related search queries based on Google Suggestions.
KeywordShitter is awesome because it generates up to thousands of search queries you can choose from. If you are in need of lots of keywords or even new ideas, this is a good place to start.
Google Keyword Planner is a tool that gives more insights. It generates more keywords based on the keywords you add and you can see their search volume and competition. You can freely set up an account on Google AdWords and then you will have access to the Keyword Planner tool.
The results are based on the paid campaigns generated in AdWords, but this tool can still be a helpful asset for coming up with new keywords and for estimating the traffic opportunity of a keyword.
This is one of the most powerful SEO tips.
Adding LSIs keywords in your content in addition to your focus keyword will make your page more likely to rank for the topic your page is about.
LSIs are related searches surrounding your main keyword.
Did you notice the suggestions Google gives you when you start typing something in the search bar? Also, the suggestions it gives at the bottom of the search results page. Those are LSIs.
They are basically the most used terms that users type into the search bar when looking for a certain subject.
To come up with more LSIs keywords, you can also use a tool like LSIs Graph. You type in your main keyword and it generates a bunch of LSIs you can include in your copy.
The more LSIs keywords you use, the better. If your content contains many LSIs, it means that your content is insightful and you cover more aspects of the topic. To Google, this suggests your article is a great resource for users and will reward you with rank boosting.
As with keywords, don't overdo it. Cover as many LSIs as you can but without losing the relevance.
I know that you are probably looking for a simple answer to which is the optimal keyword density you should aim for in your content. I'm sorry to break this to you but — there is no exact number.
There was a time when keyword density played a huge role in ranking pages. It's still a big deal, but with the evolving of search engines, it's now a harder aspect to control. Search engines get smarter and smarter, and the “stuffing the content with keywords” approach died long ago.
Being just one of the many ranking factors, it's hard to tell how much of your ranking is due to the keyword density.
If you conduct an online research, you'll find suggestions from 2% to even 20%. In reality, there are pages with 2% keyword density which rank in the first results, and pages with a keyword density reaching 10% which rank not even close to the top.
What you need to aim for is writing insightful content surrounding your focus keyword and using synonyms, antonyms, and different variations of the keyword. Use them naturally without altering the contents' relevancy and the reading ease.
Besides adding keywords to the content, there are a couple of vital places where using keywords influences search engine ranking.
- Title tag – It's essential to have the focus keyword in the title as it plays a huge role in ranking.
- Meta description – It doesn't have a direct influence on SEO, but the description is part of what makes users click a link which boosts the CTR. High CTR equals higher ranking.
- Headings – You don't have to add keywords to all the headings. Aim to have at least two or three headings containing keywords if it's relevant to the content.
- Alt tags and image description – Because Google doesn't see images the same way humans do, describing them the best you can is what makes Google understand what the images are all about. Having keywords in description and alt tags will rank your images in image search – and yes, people use image search more than you think.
- URLs – While keywords in URLs don't have a major impact on ranking, they can still make a difference. If you can include your main keyword in the URL of the page without forcing it, it's one of the best SEO tips to do so.
The title tag is the first one to tell search engines what your page is all about. It's also the first thing users see when your page displays in search results.
This means your title tag should be concise, express what the article is about and it has to be appealing enough so users will be intrigued to click through.
The title tag is also used in the web browser and when the post is shared on social networks.
In order to pick the right title tag to use for the best SEO results, you have to follow some guidelines.
- The optimal structure for title tags is: [Main Keyword] – [Second Keyword] | [Brand Name]
- Keep the title short as Google will break the title by adding an ellipsis “…” if it is too long. The title should have between 50-60 characters, including spaces. There is no exact limit as the length is measured in pixels and some characters take up more space than others. For example, “W” will take more space than “i” or “l” would take.
While meta descriptions are not a ranking factor anymore, they are essential for click-through rates. The meta description is the snippet that's shown in the search results under the title tag.
They give insight to the users about what the page is about and it's what makes users click your link. The more users click, the better the ranking.
I searched for “cat training” and, as you can see, the search queries you use are highlighted in the text.
Your meta description should contain your main keywords and be as compelling as possible so it engages the users to click through.
- The recommended length is between 150-160 characters so the meta description will be fully shown. Also, if the description is too short Google may decide not to use it as a meta description and show a snippet from the text page instead.
- It should include calls-to-action: calls like Learn More, Buy Now, See Offer, are great to trigger users' interest.
- If you sell products, adding details like pricing and such can also increase the CTR.
Keep your slugs short.
This is more of an SEO tip than an SEO practice. Search engines have no problem dealing with long URLs, but it's best for users if the URL is shorter.
Because it's easier to read, to remember, to copy/paste and to share. URLs are shown with every search result, and URLs actually have lots of impact on people's decision of clicking a link.
You want the URLs to be shorter, concise, and to clearly express what the content is about.
Keywords in URL can slightly increase page ranking, even if it doesn't have a huge impact. So, if it makes sense and it doesn't sound forced to use keywords in the URL, don't hesitate – just do it.
The image title
First, don't oversee the way you name your image files. Images should always be named as descriptive as possible. You want Google to know what your image is about, don't you?
Let's take this image as an example. Instead of leaving the name “IMG_26353.jpg”, better use something that describes the photo like “Drawing-and-painting-supplies.jpg”. This can make it pop up in image search results.
Image titles are one of the places where your main keywords should be used.
The alt text / alt tag
This is the text that shows on screen if, for some reason, the image can't be properly displayed. Also, alt text tells users using screen readers what the image is about.
Always use alt texts and include SEO keywords describing the image.
While this won't necessarily improve your SEO efforts in a direct way, adding captions to images can play a huge role for users. According to Poynter Research, captions see up to 16 percent more readership than text.
This doesn't mean adding captions to each image you upload. Add captions where they can offer more insight and context to the image itself.
Subheadings are the ones who break out the content into logical sections and give a schematic idea of what your article is about.
Many people make the mistake of overlooking this step by not adding subheadings at all.
There are two reasons why you should always optimize the subheadings:
- For the user-experience - The first thing a user does when clicking on an article is scrolling down through the content and reading the words that are highlighted so they can make an idea on what the content has to offer. People don't just start reading the article word for word, they first do a quick scan of it. So breaking it down into points will increase the reading rate.
- For search engines - Users are not the only ones scanning through the content. Google also scans all the content in order to decide where to rank it, this also includes looking at the headings and subheadings.
Moreover, try including keywords and variations in your heading as it can help with rank boosting.
It's crucial that your page loads fast.
The fastest your website will load, the higher the ranking.
Just think about how annoying it is when you go to a page and it takes years until the page finally loads. Do you have the patience to wait for it? In most cases, the answer is no, you get back and find another website with the same pieces of information.
This is what your customers do if your pages take too long to show. They will click “back” and go to another website. And when I say too long, more than 3 seconds of loading is enough to make a user abandon your website.
According to Kissmetrics:
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
Google takes this really seriously.
From a technical point of view, this users' behavior of leaving a website to go back to the search results and find another resource is referred to as the bouncing rate.
The bouncing rate is one important ranking factor for Google.
The higher the bouncing rate, the harder it is to rank high in the SERPs.
What can you do to improve page speed?
Images can easily stuff your page with unnecessary weight, as oversized images take longer to load. Use an image editor to make your images as small as possible before uploading them.
- Resize – If your page has a width of 600px, resize your image to that width. Don't upload a 2500px-wide image if all you need is 600px. It will badly hurt your page speed as it will take a long time to load.
- Compress – Also, to compress images without losing any visual quality you can install WP Smush.it plugin in WordPress. Every time you upload an image, the plugin works in the background to reduce its size. Or use an online image compressor like Optimizilla.
Many designs may look pretty and appealing, but a lot of them will take forever to load and show their beauty. And what is the point of having the perfect looking website if no one will see it because it loads too slow?
Aim to choose a theme that's simple, responsive, and it's not full of excessive features to slow down the speed.
The best option – go minimal.
Run your website through Google PageSpeed Insights and see what score you get. It also gives back suggestions on what to change in order to get a faster loading speed.
In the end, all the SEO best practices revolve around one crucial step: Content.
Without quality content, all the SEO efforts and strategy you put to work are in vain.
Content is king. – Bill Gates
Write compelling content for humans, not for search engines.
If you write thinking about people and how your copy will answer their questions and will help with their struggles – be sure that Google will know that without you over optimizing pages and stuffing unnecessary keywords all over the place.
Once you implemented all the SEO basics on the list, the next step is to measure.
Lots of marketers, especially beginners, often underestimate the power of measuring results.
If you think that you will just implement some SEO basics, then everything will run smoothly by itself – I'm sorry to break it to you. It doesn't work this way.
After optimizing all you can on your website you have to see what and how is working.
For tons of insight about websites' traffic, set up a free account on Google Analytics and connect it to your website.
You will find a lot of information there about where your traffic is coming from, how people behave on your website, how much time they spend searching around.
For starters, take into account this data:
- What is your bouncing rate
- Where you rank for targeted keywords
- What are the keywords that generate the most traffic and conversions
Just by paying attention to data and analyzing you will be able to develop your SEO strategy further.
Hope this article helped you understand the basics of SEO you have to apply in order to successfully start your business.
What do you think can be added to an initial SEO checklist? Feel free to leave any suggestions, comments, and questions in the comment section below.