To harness the power of search traffic, you need to SEO optimize your content. This beginner's guide to SEO is a good place to start, knowing what works, what worked, and what stopped working.
That SEO guide you've been following for years may contain some ideas that worked back in time before Google rolled out its major changes in the recent past.
But I want to be honest with you. SEO is as complicated as it sounds. There is no one-got-it-all SEO Guide out there. In this beginner’s guide to SEO, we will cover in-depth on what you need to do in order to improve the ranking of your posts on the search engine results pages.
What is exciting about SEO is that, with SEO, even a small amount of knowledge can make a difference. A couple of months ago, while playing around with great content and optimization for search engines, I had one of my posts, get featured on the first page of Google for the keyword, “self-publishing sites.”
This post has continually brought hundreds and sometimes thousands of traffic to my website every month.
But before we can discuss some SEO strategies, we need to get to the basics:
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is a technical term used to refer to a series/group of activities that a webmaster like you undertakes in order to grow the visibility in organic search engine results.
Well, that definition is a bit complicated, but SEO generally encompasses both technical and creative elements required to improve rankings of your posts, drive more traffic and increase awareness of your site in the search engines.
As a content creator and marketer, you want to approach SEO to mean running the right website so that it is seen by the right person. Your website needs to be filled with optimized content that is relevant, evergreen and useful to your target audience.
Is SEO Difficult?
This being a beginner's guide to SEO, it is important we discuss this question. A simple answer would be yes and no.
Why is that so?
Great and helpful content will eventually rank in the end. If you are a niche website with less competition and you continually churn out great content based on a single topical idea, then Google will eventually find you, so long as you are using a good SEO WordPress theme.
But that can take years, so you need to be a vigorous search engine optimizer. So yes, SEO can be hard.
Google uses more than 200 ranking factors when determining what results to show to a search query and in what order. While we know many of these factors as content creators, there are others that remain secret to the big Google. Besides, these ranking factors carry different weights and these metrics are not known to the public.
However, SEO is not rocket science. The truth is, if you want to benefit from SEO, then you need to do SEO.
So is SEO difficult? While we can stick to the yes and no answer, I think SEO is more demanding than it is complicated: Build quality links, do on-page optimization, publish quality seoptimized content, have a fast loading website, engage your readers to reduce bounce rate.
How Can I Learn SEO at Home?
Any amount of knowledge can make a huge difference when it comes to SEO. You do not have to invest in an expensive SEO course if you don't have a budget for it. There are lots of beginner's guide to SEO documentation that you can find for free.
Some of the ways that you can use to learn SEO at home include:
- Subscribe to SEO Blogs: We love Backlinko blog as Brian documents tested SEO strategies that work
- Find relevant articles on SEO, SEO guide, on-page optimization, off-page optimization, technical SEO, etc.
- Invest in Udemy extensive courses. Most courses are frequently discounted to $10.99 Take advantage of their peak seasons and buy some of their highly-rated SEO courses
- Attend conferences and seminars
- Read and Stick to Google SEO Guidelines
So if you've been wondering, "how can I learn SEO?" then the above strategies should get you started. These 30 SEO Experts tell you more about the simple SEO strategies that work for them
Why Do You Really Need to Up Your SEO Game?
While there are tons of other ways to get traffic to your blog, search engines such as Google and Bing drive the majority of traffic to websites. So if your site is not being indexed and your pages not crawled by the search engine robots, then you are missing out on your piece of the pie.
Remember, Search engines, and in this case, mainly Google is a primary method of navigation for most internet users.
Internet users enter their search queries and click the search button to get recommendations by these search engines. Search queries are words that internet users type into the search box, and hence carry very extraordinary value when it comes to the entire SEO process.
Thus SEO can make a whole lot difference for small businesses.
Beginner's Guide to SEO
It is critical to know that search engines, your uncle Google, have two major functions: Crawling the web and providing search users with a ranked list of sites most relevant to their search queries. Now, follow the tips below when writing content for your websites.
1: Perform an Extensive Keywords Research Before Writing Content
Keyword research should always be the first step in your content creation process. Writing content without keyword research doesn't pay off. When doing keyword research, you need to find profitable keywords that have low competition and medium search volume depending on the authority of your domain.
Keywords are usually inspired by the search queries that users would be typing on Google to find your content. Examples include best WordPress plugins, free WordPress themes, how to learn SEO at home, best book reviews, copyrighting for dummies, best food recipes for summer, self-publishing sites.
Take time to find the most competitive keywords that do not have many search results on Google. By targetting long-tail keywords, you stand a chance of being found amidst the internet noise that’s almost deafening.
On-page Optimization Strategies to Boost Your Rankings
Include your main keyword in the title of your post and URL slug
Ensure that your keyword appears in the first and last paragraph of your post/pages
Depending on the number of words of your post, use the keyword two to four times in the body of your content
Use Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords throughout your content
At least include the keyword once or twice in the subheadings.
Add Alt texts to your images and include your keyword
Use SEO friendly permalinks
Reduce bounce rate with the use of multimedia such as engaging infographics, gifs, screenshots etc.
2. Internal linking.
This refers to a process of linking to other posts within your site when writing a new post or updating an old post.
If I am writing a new post about how to publish a bestseller, I would want to link to this post my former post on the self-publishing sites. This not only directs my readers on what useful and related content to read next, but it also helps in boosting my rankings a bit. The simple rule is as always, never overdo anything.
3. Use SEO-friendly Permalinks
Permalinks refer to the URL addresses where your posts can be accessed online. You want to use URLs that make use of the post name only instead of numbers, dates, etc. See the image below.
After installing WordPress, navigate to Settings>>Permalinks to configure your permalinks structure.
What if I had not updated my permalinks before? Of course, I would be having my addresses looking ugly with /?213 at the end of the URLs. These are not appealing to the human eye and memory. Well, they are not appealing to the search engines as well.
If your permalinks use dates and numbers, you may want to change this by logging in to your site, then going to settings then Permalinks.
Tip: Always include your keyword in the permalinks of your posts
4. Image Alternate Tags
Search users of most search engines have an option to filter the results as All, news, videos, articles or images.
If you use images on your posts, you want them to be indexed and crawled as well. To do this, you want to always edit the “alternate text” section of the image. Write a short description of the photo and include your keyword in there.
5. Link to External Useful Content
Add credibility to your content by linking to relevant content from authoritative sites. I typically link to more than a dozen websites in each blog post. Your readers could learn something on another website that could help them well understand your post. This is also a critical element of SEO.
Only link to credible sites and contents that are super helpful.
6. Content Relevancy.
This is a very critical component of SEO. Your pages should deliver what they promise. This means that your headlines should be specific and the content copy very relevant.
Remember search engines will show search results based on their relevance to the users’ search queries. This determines whether your article will appear on the first page of Google, or it will be stuffed on pages 99, 100 etc.
7: Optimize Your Website for Speed.
Slow-loading websites piss off your site visitors, and they are more likely to click that ‘back’ button faster than ever. This increases your bounce rate. A high bounce rate tells Google that your page/post is not helpful, that’s why visitors don’t stay on that page for long. And if you are not helpful, then Google won’t want to show you to their search users! This lowers your Google rankings.
8. Domain names
Domain age. How old is your domain? Older domains tend to get more traction since they carry some sense of credibility and authority. So if your domain is less than 2 years old, then you may not get the traction that you desire without working extra hard on your content creation and promotional strategy.
Domain types: If possible, stick to .com and .org domains. Easy to remember and common. Domains extensions such as .info and .biz should be avoided as they are normally common with spammers.
Beginner's Guide to SEO in 2020 and Beyond
SEO is a demanding process that requires an integrated approach, and there is no one sure way to kill it in the industry. To build your own empire, you’ve got to keep learning. Some of the things to keep in mind when it comes to SEO:
- Make your website super fast
- Make it user-friendly. In the online world, the user is always right
- Always optimize your posts for SEO before hitting publish
In 2020, there are critical elements to take note of. We are going to discuss two elements of SEO, which take time to complete but are very critical in making your blog posts compete favorably with the giants in the industry.
1. Employ the Power of Long-Tail Keywords.
Long-tail keywords are the opposite of the main head keywords. For example, if my main head keyword is Online Business, I could have the following long-tail keywords instead.
- The ultimate guide to starting an online business
- Online business ideas, tips, and tricks,
- Start an online business in Kenya
- The best online business tool
Why Long Tail Keywords?
- Help you outrank your competition.
Since your website is brand new, competing for the generic keywords such as Pinterest tactics, SEO, online business, fashion blogging, etc with the established brands out there is almost a work in vanity.
Long-tail keywords receive less search traffic monthly. These low search volumes discourage established brands from targetting them, and hence giving you an upper hand to rank higher in the Google search pages.
- That’s How People Search the Internet
Search Users are more specific when browsing the web. If one wants to buy a WordPress template, he is more likely to search for the “Best responsive WordPress theme” instead of just “WordPress themes.” So long-tail keywords help you to meet the specific needs of the user you are targeting, and hopeful close sales.
I wanted to write an extensive post on How to generate traffic to your blog. There are millions of search results for this keyword. So instead, I decided to target another keyword, “Ways to Make Your Blog Go Viral.” I titled the post, ”63 Ways to Make Your Blog Go Viral.” and a few months later, it made its way to Google's first page for the search keyword above.
- Better Conversions
The more specific you are, the more specific the kind of users/visitors you will attract. Let’s look back at our keyword mentioned earlier “Best responsive WordPress theme” The person landing on your post via this keyword is a ready-buy if you are offering great WordPress themes, then want meets solutions, and it is much easier closing sales this way.
If you are writing a copy for your landing page, you want to target people who are specifically looking for the free gift you are offering. Generic keyword: Free eBook Long Tail Keyword: Free Email Marketing Guide
2. Building Quality Backlinks
Backlinks refer to the external websites linking to your post. A quality backlink is a link to your site from a relevant and high-quality website. If your niche is SEO, you want to have sites in the SEO industry linking back to you. These backlinks add juice to your SEO strategy
Sites on digital and online marketing are also relevant in this case. So if you are a fashion blogger, getting a link from a technical niche website doesn’t really count as a relevant backlink.
The simple rule is DO NOT BUY BACKLINKS
There are two ways to get backlinks which I have seen work:
1. Email outreach. Write a really great blog post on your blog. Then go to Google and find sites that have written contents that could be complemented by your post. Find their email addresses and reach out to them.
One of my readers reached out to me, and I liked his approach:
Hi Victor, I’m a digital marketer and my team and I write frequently on digital marketing related topics– I recently visited your site while researching for an article I’m working on… This is a note for your webmaster, as I found a dead resource on your site that visitors like me surely miss. It’s on this page: ... I got an error message when I tried to click on this site: ...
And while you’re updating your page, I wondered if you’d be open to including some further resources that could help people looking to set up their website for success. How to Setup Your Website for Success...
Thanks for your help and for providing great resources! Best,
Well, that really got me engrossed and ready to link back.
2. Guest Posting
Guest Posting isn’t dead. Personally, I don’t believe it will ever be dead. Guest posting refers to writing detailed posts and having them published on other websites related to your niche. You get a brief bio below your posts with a link linking back to your site. One of the benefits of guest blogging is that you get a do-follow link back to your website from an authoritative website.
Want to get started with guest posting today? Then read our ultimate Guest Blogging Guide for more tips
Beginner's Guide to SEO; Best Practices
You don’t need to be an SEO expert though, you may hire one if need be. Ensure that you have met the following recommendations before hitting the publish button.
- Do keyword research and aim for keyword intensity of above 0.5%
- Employ the use of long-tail keywords. Neil Patel breaks down 11 reasons why you should embrace long-tail keywords
- Use synonyms or phrases related to your keyword randomly in your blog post
- Link to insanely awesome content from other bloggers related to your content
- Link to your existing blog posts that are related to your blog
- Always include Alternate tags for all your images. Ensure that your alternate description carries your keyword.
- Include your keyword in your blog post SEO title
- Let your keyword appear in the first paragraph of your post
- Set your focus keyword and meta description.
- Ensure that your meta description is compelling enough to have people click through
To make this process a lot easier, we recommend that you download the RankMath SEO plugin by Rankmath if you are not using it yet. It is great since it gives you on time progress about your post-optimization and rates your content SEO as either poor, okay or good.
Your Turn! What SEO strategies are you currently using?
I would love to know what you think about these tips in the comments section below