What is SEO and How Does it Work?
When I first started blogging, I got tired of hearing about SEO in a quick hurry. It seemed overwhelming, and I had a million other things to learn that seemed way more important.
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization, and it is really important — more important than most things new bloggers spend their time on. It’s not their fault. All the other shiny things are WAY more fun! I’ll attest to that right now.
Google will find and index your blog easier, and send you traffic faster, if you put some effort into SEO right from the start. Bing and Yahoo are also search engines, but Google is the king. They have a common goal to serve their people well.
Searchers are their people, and as you can imagine, Google probably gets a million trillion visits a day from searchers. That’s not a number, but it gives you the big idea. Google (and its minions) want to send people to the right place when they have a question or need help.
Google bots are constantly crawling the web in search of the best content to provide the people. No one knows exactly how Google puts sites on the front page, but there are some clues. And good SEO practices will certainly help. Complicated algorithms and Google magic are behind the rest of it.
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The Magic of Keywords
Keywords are simply the words and terms people use to search for whatever they’re looking for. If I type in “how to ride a unicycle,” I get the following result on the SERP page (Search Engine Results Page).
As you can see, I’ve pointed out with red (very squiggly) markings, the keywords that came up as a result of my search. A keyword sounds like it’s just one word, but the term actually means one or more words (or a phrase) that someone might type into a search engine when looking for information.
Google also gives us alternative terms and search questions (queries) that have been used to search the topic. These related terms and queries are a gold mine for finding great keywords to optimize our blogs and posts for SEO.
12 Simple SEO Tips to Optimize Your Blog
These tips will help your overall site to be more Google and user friendly. For now, we’ll just tackle some simple changes you can make on your blog’s website to optimize SEO. We will learn how to optimize posts and other things another time. Let’s get started.
SEO Changes to Make in Your Dashboard
**This first SEO task is best done with a brand new site where you haven’t published any posts yet. You can still implement this SEO tip if you have published posts, but I URGE you to read this guide about the proper steps to take so you don’t end up with a lot of broken links!
#1. Set up your blog’s permalinks correctly. This is how your posts, blog pages, and all other content on your site displays in the URL box at the top of your computer screen (the https://www.blahblahblah).
In a new WordPress site, the default option is usually check marked. You do not want the URL showing up as www.yoursitename/?y=223. You want to go into your dashboard and choose the option that shows your site name and the title of your post or page.
Go to Settings, then choose Permalinks, and click by “Post Name” to reset this permalink structure. Don’t forget to click save changes at the bottom. This simple change is a huge SEO benefit for your whole site and every post you publish…. moving on.
If you’re not on WordPress, make sure your permalinks look good. If they need changing, contact tech support and ask how to best do that without causing harm to your established links.
If you’re an established blog and want the SEO benefits of changing your Permalink structure, you may want a tech savvy person to do it for you. Grayson Bell over at iMark Interactive is great, and he doesn’t overcharge for tech help!
#2. Install Yoast SEO optimizing software (plugin) if you’re in WordPress. Weebly, Squarespace, and other platforms will have their own SEO optimizing tools.
Go into your dashboard, click on Plugins, then click Add New, and type in Yoast SEO in the search bar on the right. It will most likely show up as your first choice, select it and choose activate.
#3. Make sure your search engine visibility box is on the right setting. You want your site to always allow search engines to index it/your blog.
In your dashboard, click Settings, then click Reading, and at the bottom you’ll see “Search Engine Visibility.” Make sure that box that says “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is NOT checked.
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Make Good Use of Keywords
#4. Consider a keyword in your domain name and/or title of your blog. Definitely not necessary — but worth mentioning, to get a little SEO benefit. It’s a pain to change your domain name once you’ve got a well-established blog, but if you’re just starting out, you might consider it. This isn’t to say that an unnatural, keyword-stuffed domain name is a good idea…not so!
If you’ve chosen a tight niche (a travel blog about one city or one country, for example), it may make sense to add that primary focus word into your domain or blog name. Always do this in a natural way — i.e. “theparisexperience.com” is natural, and “parisguide.com” is possibly too “commercial” or spammy in nature.
If you focus mainly on budgeting, then maybe a title or domain with some form of the word “budget” makes sense. It will certainly give Google a big heads-up on what your blog is about.
Again, if you can do it naturally, and it fits with your brand goals, it’s worth considering. The most important SEO aspect of branding is the quality of your content and user experience, however. This takes priority over a keyword in your name every time!
#5. Use keywords in your blog’s description or tagline. For WordPress users, you’ll find the Tagline box in Settings, then General, and it will be right under your Site Title. It asks you to explain what the site is about. Here’s what I have in mine:
“Start a business or blog, improve productivity, and simplify money and home life.”
You could also put something like “Blogging about XYZ…” or “Blog about XYZ” etc. Use keywords that will be found in the content of your blog so Google will have more hints to send people your way when they’re looking for great stuff about “XYZ.”
Something tells me you might be a bit frazzled at this point. SEO can be a drag. Hang in there, this next tip is the halfway point.
#6. Use keywords when you’re setting up your categories and menu topics. The term “find your zen” may not be as effective as “wellness.” Avoid using quirky wording and terms, and use clear keywords that accurately describe your content, instead.
#7. Use the footer area (very bottom of your page) of your website for extra SEO keywords. You can insert a little blurb about your blog or its mission. *Don’t be unnatural, or use the same phrase as your blog tagline.
Google is very smart, and frowns on trying to game the system with excessive keywords and terms used over and over again. You want to be natural and descriptive — this gives readers a little more insight into the focus of your blog. What makes them happy, makes Google happy.
Depending on your theme and platform, you’ll need to find how to edit your footer. You can always try YouTube…it knows everything!
Here’s what mine looks like. At the end, I state my blog’s mission using a few similar keywords that are in my tagline.
Improve Your Readers’ Experience and SEO at the Same Time
#8. You’ll definitely want to make sure your site is mobile responsive. Google is a stickler for user experience, and this is a huge part of that. Most people browse the internet on phones and tablets these days, and your site and/or theme must look good on small screens.
Google’s a great friend and offers a super easy way to find out how responsive our blog is. Type your URL into Google’s test site here.
#9. Your site’s loading speed is a big deal to people and therefore a big deal to Google. If you have dozens of oversize images, too many plugins (or resource-heavy plugins), or a hosting service that performs poorly…among other things, your site may take a long time to load.
Type your site’s URL here for Google’s PageSpeed Insights and see how you score.
**A quick word about web hosting. There are several huge names out there, so I won’t pretend you don’t know about the biggest one (or two). I will say that they are NOT all equal in service, quality, or speed.
Since #9 and #10 in this post can be affected quite a bit by who you use, I’m going to come out and say that I switched both of my sites to SiteGround this year. They have 5 major data centers around the world to deliver your website’s files to your visitor’s browser in no time.
They also provide free SSL security certificates (which is next on our list) to all customers, and they renew each year for free. I’ve never had another problem with my site being down, and switching to their hosting was free and easy.
My readers get a discounted rate with SiteGround (because I’m gladly an affiliate) in case you’ve had any trouble with your hosting service.
Okay….on with the next tip.
#10. Make sure your site has an SSL certificate (in the URL you should see “https” instead of the old format “http”). This stuff gets a bit complicated, but over the years it’s become easier for hackers to gain access to payment information and other sensitive identity stuff.
HTTPS is a more secure, encrypted means of websites communicating important information to each other. It ensures safety to your customers and audience members, and makes Google very happy.
Page Linking and Google Analytics for SEO
#11. In all of your posts, your About page, Resources page, etc. — link to other relevant posts on your site. Aim for at least 2-3 links to other posts or areas of your site. Your About page is especially good for this.
It’s often the first page a reader sees, and you want them to stay on your site for a while. So direct them to some of your most popular content and keep them longer.
This can be as simple as: “Related Content:_____” or “More on this topic _____”, and link to that post. Page linking lets Google know that your topics are related to and relevant to each other. This is a great SEO practice.
#12. Connect your site to Google Analytics. This doesn’t directly affect your SEO, but it’s the best tool out there to study what you’re doing right with keywords, where your traffic is coming from, what they’re interested in, how long they’re staying on your site…and the list goes on.
Having GA added to your site is invaluable information, and will help you perfect your SEO game over time. Here’s a YouTube video to show how it’s done.
Ain’t nobody got time for me to explain this one. It’s not hard, I promise. Yoast makes it so easy, you can almost do it with your eyes closed!
You’ve made it through the whole thing. I’m hoping these tasks won’t take much longer than 30 minutes to apply. Some things may already be done for you — some you may have already figured out.
Any time spent improving and learning about SEO will bring you great rewards and traffic down the road.
I’m off to continue reading my 300+ page SEO “novel.”
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. How was your first SEO lesson?
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