SEO was one of the topics on my list that I knew I had to learn about, but I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it.
It was not as intimidating as getting into the stock market, but still it was one of those things that I just kept postponing. However, I know if I ever plan on using this platform to reach more people, and perhaps convert it into a source of income at some point, I will need to step into the SEO territory.
And so I ended up consuming dozens upon dozens of articles and videos on this topic, and then this post was created.
I have applied most of these techniques on my own website; some of them I already knew and some were brand new to me, but, hopefully, they will all be useful to you.
The Simplest Guide To SEO For Beginners:
- What is SEO?
- Why do you need to learn about SEO?
- How Do you know your current ranking on Google?
- How can you rank higher on Google?
Now let’s start with the most basic question of all.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is to optimize your website to rank higher on search engines in order to be seen by users and, therefore, get more traffic.
Why do you need to learn about SEO?
I think we can all agree that everyone with a website or a blog, their main goal is to reach people, and one way of doing that is if people can find your website when they search for related topics online.
Knowing SEO is the most effective way to know how search engines work and what users want; and this way you will have the tools to adjust your website accordingly and, eventually, drive more traffic to your site.
Google has been the number 1 search engine forever. And it doesn’t seem like this is going to change any time soon. So it is a wise decision to start learning about the criteria on which this search engine ranks websites.
How do you know your current ranking on Google?
If you want to know your current ranking on Google, you can simply go to Google Search Console.
If you don’t already have an account, set up an account there and add your website. It will take a while before they pull up the details and the data of your website, but you will eventually have an understanding of where your website stands at the moment.
This tool shows you which queries you have been ranked for, what was your rank position, the countries in which your website appeared on a search result page, which pages exactly appeared, and how many clicks your pages received.
So it pretty much sums up all the information you need to know to figure out your current position; and it also gives you an idea of what you need to work on to rank higher in terms of keywords and pages on your website.
How can you rank higher on Google?
There are things you need to do on your own website, and then there are things you need to work on off-site.
First I would like to take a moment here to brag, if you don’t mind. Because I actually found that I had knowledge in this area through a previous work experience (which I never thought was ever going to benefit me in anyway, but then here we are!), so this was an interesting part for me to read about because most of it was quite familiar.
And this also made it easier for me to explain it here.
Now, back to on-site SEO, in order to have Google search engine recognize your website and its content and actually trust you as a source to show on the first page, there are a few things that you need to check on your website first.
There is a technical aspect to this and then there is the content aspect.
Here are 4 technical traps you want to avoid falling into and should work on fixing quickly if you’ve already fallen into one of them.
1. Mobile usability
You need to make sure that your website and its content are mobile friendly; meaning it can be viewed just as clearly and easily on a mobile phone as it would on a desktop.
This is because the majority of Internet users actually use their phones to perform a search. If your website is not adjusted for a mobile view, it will not be suggested in the results on a mobile phone.
To make sure your website is in fact mobile friendly, you can use Google’s free Mobile Friendly Tool. All you have to do is enter your website’s URL and it will tell you whether your site is mobile friendly or not.
In order to adjust your website pages to become mobile friendly, you can either hire a web designer to do this for you from websites like Upwork or Fiverr or you can simply choose a theme that is marked as a “responsive theme.” (WordPress has plenty of options for themes that are mobile friendly).
If you want to know more ways on how to create a responsive website, you can read this article.
2. Loading speed
Another major factor that will affect whether you rank on Google’s first page or not is how fast your website loads.
The typical loading speed for a website should be 3 seconds or less. So, you should make sure that your website does not take longer than that.
To check your current loading speed, you can do so through entering your website’s URL into Pingdom, another free tool. You may want to check the speed from more than one location to figure out your average.
To decrease the loading time of your website, you can try following these tips.
3. Broken links
The third tip is to check your website for any broken links or 404 pages. These may stem from a link to an article within your website that no longer exists, or an article that has been merged into another, or you linking to an external article that has been moved or deleted.
There are a few ways you can check for broken links on your site. One is installing a plugin.
There are plenty of plugins you can install that would instantly notify you whenever there are any broken links found anywhere on your site. One of the most commonly used ones is this WordPress plugin Broken Link Checker.
However, if you’re anything like me and you would avoid installing a plugin if you could, then you can use something like this Free Broken Link Checker tool.
All you would need to do is enter your website’s URL and, in a few minutes, it will scan all the pages on your site for any broken links, whether they link to internal posts or external websites.
It is important to note that the existence of broken links on your website decreases your website’s status as a credible and authoritative source and, therefore, Google’s analysis system will not be favouring it.
And as long as your site is active, chances are there will always be new broken links every now and then. So, make sure that you do check for broken links periodically, maybe once every month.
4. Self-referencing canonicals
This is what you do when you have more than one piece of content on your website that has similar or almost similar content because, for example, you published an updated version or published the same article under a subdomain.
You may also need to do this if you find that you are getting better rankings to your article from a link that was shared from social media instead of the direct link on your website.
So, when you add a canonical tag to the original page, you are alerting Google that it should only index and rank that original link on your website, and any rankings that these other links get should count against that one canonicalized page.
The reason you should canonicalize your page in any of the above cases is that having two pages with different links and with duplicate or closely similar content will lead to them competing with each other for your target keywords on Google, which might result in less chances of either of them ranking higher.
Here is some more info on why self referencing canonicals are beneficial for SEO and how to add them to your pages.
This content aspect has a few key points that you will need to pay attention to. They may seem like a lot, but they are easy to work on and fix.
This is one of the most important, if not the most important, aspect to be considered on a first results page. Your website needs to have quality content; quality means you need to have content that will add value to the reader. Here’s what to focus on:
A. Unique content
It’s not enough to write about a topic that everyone wants to read about; it needs to have something different.
If you write the same information that every other website has, there is no reason for Google to choose you over them, especially if yours is a new website and, therefore, doesn’t have authority.
You can implement unique content in different ways; the simplest one is by adding your own data and conclusions based on research you made on the topics.
Or maybe you can search for something that everyone has a common opinion about and draw a different light on that topic and discuss it from a different perspective that no one tried before.
You’re mainly going to need to use your creativity here. You may also find inspiration from posts like this one that suggest different ways to come up with new blog post ideas.
B. Elaborative posts
While you can find a short post ranking on the first 3 spots on a Google search results page, the majority of the top ranking posts are actually long ones.
And the reason for this is because a long post indicates knowledge and extensive information provided that will benefit the person who is looking to learn about a specific topic.
Also, if your post is too short, it will most likely cause a high bounce rate, which is the rate a user leaves your website at, so the longer and more engaging the content, the higher the amount of time a user will spend on your website.
This sends a signal to Google that this website has value, and it starts increasing your ranks for those specific queries that these users found your website through.
However, how to define a “long” post would mainly depend on the niche of the website. You may want to read about how long should blog articles be by Neil Patel.
This is basically the key to how you would rank; if you do everything on this list and you are not targeting the right keyword, you will still not rank.
First, let’s see what it means to target a keyword.
When you use a search engine, you search for a word or a combination of words to find what you are looking for.
Let’s say you search for “dog food” on Google.
This search term can have two main intents:
You either want to buy dog food, or you want to know about good dog food brands.
Now, in this scenario, I have a website that sells pet food and accessories and such.
In order for me to rank in this search query, I need to have the following:
- The words dog + food used frequently on my website. (I can check how many times I should use a word to rank, by googling that word, clicking on the top result, and Ctrl+F the word to see how many times it was used there and copy that.)
- A blog on my website that has quality content on dog food (types and brands for example).
- Have an expressive title that shows I have relevant information on my website (best dog food brands/what type of food should you feed your dog?/etc..).
- Have a snippet/excerpt that explains what my website/post is about; and it should have these keywords mentioned. This snippet is what appears below the website link on the search results page, and it gives a preview of the content to the user.
So we now know what it means to target a keyword; it’s time to decide which keywords to target.
How to choose the right keywords:
A LOT has been said about all the different ways you can find the perfect, most profitable keywords to target, and many of those tools cost a lot of money (which is cool if that’s your thing..); however, I will list below some of my favourite (free) ones.
1. Google Search Suggestions
You can Google different words that are relevant to your niche and see what Google suggests. These suggestions are based on what most users have been searching for when they type this specific word.
You can then decide between those word combinations based on how many results you find when searching for that term. The less results there is, the higher your chances of ranking for that word.
Another factor you may want to put into consideration when deciding which term to choose is the type of sites that are ranking for this word.
Are they niche-specific, old, and authoritative websites that would be hard to beat? Or are the top ranking sites question forums and/or irrelevant sites to the niche which would be a lot easier to beat?
2. Answer The Public
Answer the public is a website where you can enter a certain keyword and it will give you all the questions that has been asked about that topic online.
You can use this information to decide which questions you will answer on your posts, and which words you will use to have your post appear as an answer to those questions.
This website has a paid version, which will allow you to search by region; the free version does the purpose in showing you data from all over the world.
This is also a brilliant tool to use to brainstorm ideas when you have no clue what to write about on your next post! If you would like to learn more about how to use this platform, you can check out this guide.
3. Google Trends
When you enter a search term in Google Trends, it will show you where this term is mostly searched by region, and it will show you the related topics to this search term.
It will also give you the option to compare between the data for this search term and another one (a competitor one for example).
This is an amazing tool because not only does it show you how popular a single word is, but also shows a graph displaying how this single keyword has been performing over the years.
This can help in your decision because if a word is increasing in popularity, then this is a possibly good choice; however, if it has been declining over time that means people are losing interest in it, so there would be no point in trying to rank there because it will be a short-lived thing.
4. Quora and Forums
Using websites like Quora where people ask questions about every thing in life can be of benefit. You will use the topic search for the keywords you are trying to decide about and find the questions the has the most answers.
You can also try searching Google for “keyword: forum” and explore the first few results there; go to the forums and find the topics that has the highest interaction. This should be an indicator to the type of topics that many people who are interested in this niche are discussing.
You can find a list of other keyword tools (free and paid) in this article.
3. Voice Search
The third and last tip on this list about optimizing your site’s content is voice search optimization. Optimizing your website for voice search is one of the things that can help you rank higher because many people (2 out of 3 adults) are now depending on voice tools like Siri and Alexa, and they use these tools to ask questions.
You will want to learn about how to optimize your website for voice search.
If you can create content that answers the type of questions a user asks using a voice search, you will definitely increase your chances of ranking higher on the web search results page.
And here comes the other part of setting up your website to rank higher, and that is the off-site part. This basically consists of one main thing:
Authority means that your website is a trusted and reliable source of information.
Now, how would Google analysis system know that?
The answer is simple: The more websites link back to your content, the higher your authority is to Google.
But not just any websites, the websites that link back to yours need to be authority ones themselves in that niche too. This is called backlinking.
This can be a little tricky, because this will mainly rely on the responses you will get from other people. Here is how you can go about this.
First you will search for those with very popular websites within your niche. You can type your niche keywords to find such sites.
Then you will have three routes available:
- You can check if these websites accept guest posts and try to write a post for them, so that you will have a link back to your website on their website (in the about section at the bottom of your article).
- You can contact these website owners and tell them you have a post that discusses a similar topic to what they published, and check if they can link to your post (not likely to work in most cases, but it won’t hurt to try).
- Another option is to use a tool that displays data about a certain website/article and all the websites that has shared them. You can then check those websites and pick the ones that share a high number of the same topics, and contact those ones and send them yours. They would most likely share it too.
You can read this step-by-step article on how to find and contact potential websites to link to your post.
After you have created some backlinks for your posts from authority websites, it will make it easier to build authority for other posts in the future through using internal linking.
This is you referring/linking to your newly created post in one of your older posts that has been previously backlinked through authority sites and has already become an authority page.
This way your new post is already linked to through an authority page and you didn’t have to contact anyone for it.
And we have come to the end of this guide. Hopefully, this content was sufficient to understand basic SEO and to start implementing those tips into your own website for better rankings.
Till next week, happy days!
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