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SEO meant absolutely nothing to me 2 years ago. I’d started my blog like a bull in a china shop, writing post after post without really understanding why I was writing it or who I was writing it for. I presumed sharing it on Facebook and Twitter would be enough.
Boy was I wrong.
I started to see articles about SEO popping up all over Pinterest but it looked complicated, and frankly kinda boring, so I skipped it.
As my traffic plateaued and I realised that running a successful blog was slightly harder than I’d thought previously, I began reading every article about gaining blog traffic that I could get my hands on. And yes, that meant gritting my teeth and learning about SEO!
And you know what? I actually started to like it!
What started off as dry and boring soon became a gritty challenge. And I do love a challenge!
What I really love is that you can quantify the results so you can see your progress as you climb the Google rankings. It’s very satisfying.
The results are addictive. Within a year of learning about search engine optimisation, my traffic had grown by a staggering 513%!
This was without any posts going viral on social media and the results were spread over many different pages on my blog.
Finally, I had found something that worked. Something that would allow me to turn my blog into a sustainable business.
I couldn’t have achieved this success without my trusty friend Keysearch but we’ll come back to that later!
No time to read now?! No worries! Pin it for later!
So with that in mind, I’d like to teach you that SEO is worth your time, it can help drive results for you and you might even start to enjoy it as I do…
What is SEO?
SEO or search engine optimisation is basically the technique used to tell Google what our website and our articles are about.
Google has little spider bots which crawl your website looking for clues to work out what you’re all about.
By using search engine optimisation techniques, you are making the spider bots jobs easier and making it more likely that they understand your website better. Consequently, Google will rank you higher for the search times that you are targetting.
SEO can be divided into 6 main sections, all equally important. We’ll look at each section individually now.
How to use SEO techniques on your website
Website SEO or Off-Page SEO
Whilst it is important to optimise each article for SEO, it’s also important to make sure the whole site is optimised and functioning well.
Websites which are fast, have a relevant website title and metadata and lots of content about one specific subject will be ranked higher than those which are slow and cover a huge range of topics in less detail.
It’s also important that your website is easy to navigate with appropriate categories which sum up what your website is about. These days the recommendation is to have fewer categories and if needed, use tags to create more detailed submenu’s.
You basically want your website categories to sum your website up in a few words.
If your website loads slowly, many readers will click away from your page very quickly. You should be aiming for a load time of under 4 seconds. You can use tools like Pingdom.com to find out what your load speed is.
Often things like large image files and excessive use of Plugins can slow down your site. There are, however, some plugins which can help optimise your website for speed. WP Rocket is a Plugin I use for this purpose.
Choosing Keywords for your SEO strategy
This is probably THE most important part of your SEO strategy, choosing the right keywords to target.
A good keyword is a short phrase which you have the ability to write extensively about.
It is also a phrase which people actually search for. For example, when people go on holiday, they are very likely to type into Google search ‘things to do in X’ but they are not likely to type in something like ‘my favourite places in X.’
However, it also needs to be a phrase you can actually rank for, one where the competition is not excessively high.
There might be plenty people searching for ‘things to do in London’ but there are also a thousand similar articles, many of them in-depth and many of them written by websites with more authority than you have. You’re not very likely to see any of the traffic.
Can you realistically rank for that? Maybe you could make the keyword a little longer and more specific? For example, it may be ‘things to do in London in the rain’ or ‘things to do in London as a family.’
It is very difficult to guess which keywords will A) be looked for by a large volume of people and B) will have low competition. That’s where keyword tools come in handy. I’d argue that they are the single most important investment that you will make in your blog.
I use Keysearch for this and I cannot rave about it enough.
When you search for a potential keyword phrase it will tell you how many people search for it each month, how difficult it will be to rank for and which 10 articles are currently on the top page of Google. You can then check them out and decide if you can write something better.
It will also offer up various alternatives along with their search volumes and difficulty scores so you can choose something better.
You can get a 20% discount off this tool by using this link and using the code KSDISC at checkout.
Once you’ve settled on a keyword, you need to incorporate it into your article. The aim is to use it frequently without it sounding forced. When a keyword is used too many time so that it sounds unnatural, this is called Keyword stuffing which Google frowns upon.
You do however need to make sure your keyword appears in a few key places;
- First paragraph
- Scattered throughout
- 1-2 Alt tags of your photos
We’ll go through them in more detail now…
Start with the keyword within your title. It will preferably be towards the beginning of the title but the title also needs to sound appealing to the readers so they choose yours over the other articles on page 1 of Google search!
You’ll also want to make sure it is in your URL. Your URL will default to your blog post title which is often too long. I try to make my URLs just the name of my website/key-word to keep it clean and simple.
If you are using Yoast, you can change the metadata which is the few lines pulled up by Google in searches to show your potential reader what your article is about. I try to use my keyword plus a variant of it within this metadata.
Now you will want to sprinkle your keywords throughout your content. I try to use it at least once in my first paragraph and then wherever it makes sense elsewhere. I also try to use it in at least one H2 and one H3 subtitle.
In addition to your actual keyword, you should use lots of other very similar phrases throughout your content. You may start to rank for these too but it also sends signals to Google about what your content is.
Finally, make sure you use the keyword and a few variants in at least one or two alt tags of a photo. The alt tags are primarily for describing the image to visually impaired readers so this should be your priority. Only add the keywords where you can do so naturally!
For this, I may say something like; ‘picture of a girl cycling the streets of London on a cycle tour which is one the most popular things to do in London!’
Encouraging your audience to hang around
When someone lands on your page, Google is assessing how they interact with your content.
If too many people arrive and find your website hard to read or find that the article is not about what they thought it was, they may leave quickly. This sends a message to Google to tell them your article doesn’t address the audience’s needs.
In an ideal world, you want the reader to spend as long as possible and click around on your site. This sends positive feedback to Google that your site and your content are interesting and relevant to your reader.
You can do this in a number of ways.
To make your articles a pleasure to read, I suggest you breakdown your content into very short paragraphs. Doing this, as well as using photos, subheadings, charts, tables, bullet points and infographics can help to engage your reader.
Try to write lots of relevant content and link to it throughout your article including a few links towards the top of your content to get maximum eyes on it. You may also want to include a ‘read more’ section highlighting similar articles.
Make your website visually appealing, easy to navigate and above all, your content needs to be quality and easy to read. Your content needs to be better than what is already being featured on the top page of Google.
Once you’ve created your article, sprinkled it with keywords and promoted it on social media, it’s time to get linking!
Links to your article are another way of telling Google what your article is about. So take ‘things to do in London’ as an example. If someone links to you with the anchor text (the text which gets clicked on) as ‘things to do in London’ or something very similar like ‘activities in London’ it helps convince Google that your article really is about London activities.
Try to secure some links to your content from other niche websites (such as a London site) or from a high authority travel website.
You can estimate a websites authority by checking their DA (domain authority score) using Moz Explorer. This is an approximation only and it can be just as valuable to get a link from a more niche website with a lower DA.
Often external links like this are secured by contributing to collaboration posts, guest posting for other bloggers or arranging link swaps directly with other bloggers.
If you are arranging link swaps, the best type are three-way swaps or indirect link swaps. If you happen to be in the travel niche, I run an indirect link swap group on Facebook. You can join here.
As well as external links, make sure you add some internal links. Link out to your own relevant articles and go back to old articles to link from them to the new post.
It’s good to add a few external links to other blogs or websites from yours. This again helps confirm your topic to Google. Make sure these are super relevant and it can help your own SEO attempts as well as aid other bloggers.
Finally, if you can, build up your authority on the subject. You can create more articles relating to the first topic which you can interlink on your site. You can also arrange to do guest posts and contribute to collaboration articles to help tell Google that you are an expert on the topic.
But don’t get too hung up on SEO…
SEO is important to help you gain traffic but it is not the ONLY way to get traffic. Some articles do well on social media (especially controversial topics.) Other articles do well on Pinterest.
If you can’t find a keyword to rank for, consider going for it anyway. My rule is 80% of my articles are SEO optimised but I have others that do well on Pinterest and social media. That’s okay too…
Hopefully, you now have a better idea about how to focus your SEO efforts.
Remember these 3 important things:
- Choose keywords you can rank for
- Be the best resource for that keyword
- Keysearch is your best friend! (USE KSDISC for 20% off with this link.)
Don’t forget to grab your FREE printable SEO checklist!
NOw you have learnt how to grow your traffic, it is time to start monetising it! Make sure you join my FREE 5-day affiliate marketing course to learn the best strategies for monetising a small blog.
We’ve covered a lot of ground today so you will probably want to refer back to this SEO guide later. Why not pin it to your Pinterest boards?!