The Simplest Guide To SEO For Beginners

What is SEO? And how do you use it to drive more traffic to your website? In this post you will find a simple and detailed explanation with practical steps to follow.

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.


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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.

On-site SEO

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.

Technical aspect

Here are 3 technical traps you need to check and fix on your website:

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 some of 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.

To check if your website has any broken links, you can use this Free Broken Link Checker, it scans your entire website for any broken links whether they link to internal posts or external websites.

I actually had no idea I had broken links on here, but I was shocked to find I had 12 of them! Thankfully, all fixed now.

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 favoring it.

Content aspect

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.

1. Quality

This is one of the most important, if not the most important, aspect to be considered on a first page results. 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 simple one is by adding your own data based on research you made on the topics, or maybe finding 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.

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.

2. Keywords

This is basically the key to how you would rank; if you do every thing on this list and you are not using 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.

Example

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.
Google’s first page results for “dog food.”

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. You can then decide between them based on how many results you find when searching for that term. The less results there is, the higher your chances of ranking.

Google auto-complete suggestions shows the most common word combinations with this query
When you search for “dog food” there is a section for questions related to this query that people asked.
At the bottom of the results page, there is a list of related search queries to the term you used.
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 when you have no clue what to write about on your next post!

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.

Part of the Google Trends data results for the term “dog food,” showing how this search term has performed over the past 12 months.
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 and 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

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 to ask questions.

You will want to learn about how to optimize your website for voice search.

Because 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.

Off-site SEO

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:

Building Authority

Authority means that your website is a trusted and reliable source of information.

Now how would Google analysis systems know that?

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. However, how you would go about this is you 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.

Internal backlinking

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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Passive Income: Investing In Index Funds For Beginners

If you have no clue what an index fund is or how to invest in one, in this post, I answer 7 questions that briefly cover all you need to know to start investing.

Let me begin by saying that investing in the stock market is one of the topics I have been avoiding to get into (there’s a list of them) because of how intimidating it felt. I had absolutely no clue what to do with this and every time I try to read about it, I get a headache!

However, eventually, I reached a dead end because I couldn’t find another topic for this week. And I figured I’ll have to get into this eventually if I wanted to properly create a diversified investment portfolio.

If you look at any established investor, you will find that they have to have money in the stock market, one way or another.

Diversification is a protection against ignorance.

Warren Buffett

But since I am a beginner, I’m not going to jump in and start buying individual stocks all by myself, then cross my fingers and hope for the best. I figured I should start with the beginner’s level for stock investments: Index Funds.

Investing in index funds is the easy and safer route to take if you want to invest in the stock market but lack the experience and knowledge it takes, or if you simply don’t feel like taking the risk.

And it seemed like the second best investment to get into after real estate for me. So I decided to look more into this as someone who has never been anywhere near the world of stock market.

If you too have no idea how to start in this kind of investment and maybe considering giving it a try, then this post is for you.


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What are index funds?

An index fund is a type of mutual funds, it is like a collection of funds that follow the performance of a number of different markets/companies, packaged together into a single fund called an index fund.

So, instead of making a choice and buying a fund in individual stock (which requires a great knowledge of that specific stock and its chances of rising or falling in price), you buy a bunch of them into one single fund.

This means more exposure to the stock market, however, with less risk.

Who should invest in index funds?

Anyone can invest in index funds, you don’t need to have extensive knowledge in the stock market as a whole.

You do, however, need to have some basic understanding of how this works and how to choose where to buy your index funds and which funds to buy.

The lower the price of the fund and the account expenses, the higher the profit you will make. And the more broad and diverse the stocks held by the index fund, the less likely you are to face losses.

You also need to know that investing in index funds is mostly a long term investment. Meaning that you need to be willing to hold on to that fund for a while (5-10 years and sometimes more) before you see real profits.

This is usually the long-term investment suggested for retirement, similar to retirement accounts.

What are the types of index funds?

Index funds can be classified into:

  1. Stock index funds
  2. Bond index funds
  3. Commodity index funds

In this post, I’m mainly focusing on the stock index funds. However, I briefly went over the commodity ones in both Investing In Gold (ETFs & stocks)and Investing In Real Estate (funds). You can check them out for a quick overview.

As for stock index funds, these can also be classified into a number of types:

1. Broad market index fund

This is when an index fund is following the performance of an entire market. Famous examples of such funds are ones following the performance of the S&P 500 or Dow Jones.

2. Sector index fund

This is an index fund that follows the performance/profits of a certain industry in the country, such as the banking sector, the real estate sector, or a more broad sector like technology, etc.

3. International index fund

This one is an index fund that follows a number of companies from different countries.

It does not follow the performance of the stock market of these countries, but the performance of the companies whose stocks are part of the fund.

4. Global index fund

This follows the performance of the stock market of a number of countries. This index fund has main stocks from different nations, such as the FTSE 100 for Britain or the EGX 30 for Egypt.

How to choose an index fund?

There are a few things you need to consider and decide on before you take the step and buy an index fund.

Type

First thing you need to decide which type of stock you want to follow.

Do you want to follow the global stock for multiple countries? Or would you rather go for a certain industry’s performance, like banking? Or ones that track currencies or metals, like gold and silver?

There are plenty of options, and if you are not sure which one is to choose, you should go for ones that cover a bigger and broader market.

Fees

Before you buy an index fund, you should check first what kind of fees you will need to pay.

There are commission fees that gets deducted from your profits periodically, you may need to check the percentage and see if it is low enough for you to still be making a profit.

There are also some brokers or index fund companies that charge you to create an account, you will also want to consider this charge.

One last thing is the trading charges. How much you will need to pay to buy or sell your funds (you can buy or sell an index fund at the end of the trading day only).

Broker

In most cases, you will need to buy a certain index fund through a broker or a brokerage firm. You can invest through a brokerage firm locally or go with an online broker.

It is important that you first research this broker and read what other clients have to say about their service.

You can read more about how to choose the right broker here. Or you can find out about international online brokers instead.

How much money do you need to invest in index funds?

Investing in an index fund is known for its low cost. And this is because it is basically holding all the stocks in one package instead of hiring a professional to pick the right stocks to buy. So, that leaves you with not much expenses to pay.

The price for an index fund varies based on where you are buying it from and which fund type you are going to invest in.

Some index funds has no minimum amount required to start and others can have a minimum starting amount of $2000, $3000, or more.

So you can invest with an amount anywhere between $10 and $10,000. But it goes without saying that the more money you put in, the more profit you will make along the years.

However, you can start out with a small amount and keep adding to it every few months or so. You can check this list of the cheapest index funds to buy.

If you invest in a very low cost index fund-where you don’t put the money in at one time, but average in over 10 years-you’ll do better than 90% of the people who started investing at the same time.

Warren Buffett

What are the best index funds to buy in 2019?

Since I’m no expert, I did what any beginner would do and started doing research. And I found that there are a number of index funds that are always at the top of every list of best index funds to invest in. They are mostly the ones with the lowest fees and low to moderate charge for opening an account.

This is a list of index funds that are suggested by most stock experts/advisers (in order from lowest to highest annual expense ratio).

  1. Fidelity Spartan 500 (0.015%)
  2. Schwab S&P 500 (0.02%)
  3. Schwab Total Stock Market (0.03%)
  4. Vanguard S&P 500 (0.04%)
  5. iShares Core S&P 500 (0.04%)
  6. Vanguard Total Stock Market (0.04%)
  7. Vanguard Total World Stock (0.10%)
  8. Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond (0.4%)

Some of these funds you can invest in from anywhere in the world; however, depending on your country, you may need to invest through a local brokerage firm and not directly through the index fund provider.

What are the available index funds in Egypt?

As one of the largest and most developed countries in the MENA region, Egypt has a huge potential for economical growth and many opportunities for investment.

If you are a resident of Egypt and want to know which funds you can invest in locally, or if you are not a resident and simply want to invest in funds in Egypt, below is a list of some of the funds you can consider:

You can also check this article out to have an idea of the top ranking funds in Egypt for this past year and how much profit each made.

Till next week, happy days!

Passive Income: How To Make Money With Airbnb

In this post, I answer 7 questions that cover everything you need to know to start making money with Airbnb.

Previously, in the Passive Income: 4 Real Estate Investing Options post, I wrote about some of the many ways one can invest in real estate. And one of the methods mentioned there was buying a property and putting it up for rent.

Renting a property gives you a steady passive income source. However, some of the downsides to this was 1. you may end up with tenants who don’t pay and 2. the amount of money involved to actually buy a property.

But what if you can rent a spare room in the house you already live in and with a guaranteed payment?

Recently, I came across an ad for Airbnb, and I didn’t actually know much about the service other than that it’s one that provides houses for tourists and such.

I also didn’t know that the service was available in Egypt, which it is!


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1. What is Airbnb?

This is an American company that facilitates tourists’ stay in a country by providing them with an online service to rent apartments, rooms, and hostel beds, etc, for the short period of their stay.

The apartments and rooms available for rent is provided by the locals of that country. They put their available properties up for rent on the Airbnb website, and they get contacted once a tourist is interested in renting their place.

The website provides customizable search options for the guest to find the exact type of property with all the amenities they need. And it gives the host the option to set house rules for the guests to know and agree on before booking.

What you can provide as a host:

1. Place

You can list any kind of property. It can be a shared room, a private room, or an entire house.

The place needs to be clean, secure, and have essential amenities like a pillow and a towel for each guest. You can read more about the basic requirements for hosting here.

2. Experience

Airbnb Experiences are activities designed by locals. They go beyond typical tours or classes by immersing guests in a special kind of activity that they wouldn’t be able to experience on their own.

It’s an opportunity for anyone to share their hobbies, skills, or expertise without needing an extra room. Read more about experience hosting here.

2. Why do tourists use Airbnb instead of hotels?

For the tourists who are looking to spend a short time in your country, most of them want to get the most out of their stay with the least amount of money possible. Airbnb provides them with this option when they put properties or rooms for rent at quite low prices compared to any hotel room in that same area.

It also gives the tourist the ability to live like locals in the country which maximizes their experience.

Besides, many Airbnb hosts provide their guests with more than just a stay, but they help them make the most out of their stay by advising them of places to visit that only a local in that area would know.

That is of course beside the ability to actually book an experience; something that you can only have when touring with a local.

People don’t use Airbnb overtly to trust people more. They use it because they want to get a better sense of the culture and to save money. A by-product was that they live in someone else’s shoes.

Brian Chesky

3. How is Airbnb different from traditional renting?

There are huge advantages to renting through Airbnb instead of the traditional renting, but there can also be some disadvantages.

Advantages:

Guaranteed Payment

As opposed to renting your house the traditional way where you can face an issue like a non-paying tenant, when you rent through Airbnb, you will never have to deal with this kind of hassle because they handle all payments for you. And the guest makes the full payment through the website in advance.

Host Guarantee

Airbnb have insurance programs which secures you and your house in the rare case of any incident occurring that causes damage or injury.

Whenever a guest makes a reservation and stays at your place, you’re automatically covered by their Host Guarantee. You can read more about the terms and conditions of benefiting from this here.

Home Insurance

Host Protection Insurance program provides primary liability coverage of up to $1 million USD per occurrence. The program protects against liability claims that happen in a listing, or on an Airbnb property, during a stay.

You can read more about what is covered by this program here.

Experience Insurance

Experience protection insurance provides experience hosts with free liability insurance of up to $1 million USD to protect against personal injury or property damage claims.

You can read more about what is covered by this insurance here.

Disadvantages

Not a stable source of income

Unlike renting a house to a resident who is going to live there for at least a year and possibly more, renting to tourists will not provide you with that monthly stable income.

Some people can have guests booking their place every month but that is not necessarily the case with every host.

How often you would get a booking would mostly depend on the location of your place (how close it is from sightseeing areas that tourists would be interested in) and how appealing it is (the reviews you get).

Possible damage

There is still the possibility that you might encounter damage that is not covered by the Airbnb Insurance.

4. Is Airbnb safe?

This was an obvious concern when I first learned about the service. If you have a spare room that you want to put up for rent, is it really safe for you to invite complete strangers into your house? Or if you are the one looking for a place to stay, would you feel safe staying with a complete stranger in a foreign country?

“On any given night, 2 million people stay in homes on Airbnb in 81,000 cities all over the world. There are nearly 5 million listings in 191 countries to choose from —that’s more than the top five hotel chains combined.”

So how did this service actually manage to get so popular and have millions of users around the world, whether hosts or tourists? How do all these people trust this kind of service and feel safe using it?

Here are some of the measures taken to provide safety for the host:

They run hosts and guests against regulatory, terrorist, and sanctions watchlists. And for hosts and guests in the United States, they also conduct background checks.

Every guest is asked to provide their full name, date of birth, photo, phone number, email address, and payment information to Airbnb before booking. Home hosts also have the option to require guests to provide Airbnb with a government ID before booking their listing.

Reading reviews from previous bookings from that guest and what other hosts had to say about their stay with them can also be helpful. These reviews can only be added after the reservation is complete; so they are based on actual experience.

Every Airbnb reservation is scored for risk before it’s confirmed. They use predictive analytics and machine learning to instantly evaluate hundreds of signals that help flag and investigate suspicious activity before it happens.

And their customer service is available 24/7 in 11 languages.

You can read more about the Airbnb terms of safety and protection for both hosts and guests here.

Airbnb has proven that hospitality, generosity, and the simple act of trust between strangers can go a long way.

Joe Gebbia

5. Is Airbnb legal?

The service is legal to use in Egypt, so far. However, Airbnb services has been banned by a number of cities and countries due to housing and rental shortage and pricing issues.

So you will need to check whether or not it is legal to use this service in your city before you list your property for rental.

6. How do you become an Airbnb host?

All you need to do is visit their website to sign up and list your property for free.

When listing your property you will be asked to specify all the available amenities and facilities provided, and of course the exact address of the property.

You will then need to provide photos of the place and a short description for the guest to know what to expect.

After that you will have the option to set the price you want, the timing and duration this place is available for rent, any requirements you look for in the guests you will host, and any house rules you want them to follow during their stay.

You are also asked to provide your personal details, such as your full name, your phone number and your ID for verification.

There is a very good article I read by someone who has been an Airbnb host for a few years, advising on how to be a great host, you can read it here.

7. How do you get paid with Airbnb?

First, Airbnb takes a commission fee of 3% from the payment you receive as the host (and between 6%-12% from the guest booking).

As mentioned earlier, guests make the full payment for their stay through the Airbnb website in advance. This payment is held for 24 hours after their check-in, which is the time the guest has to report to the company if there’s anything wrong with the booking or if they couldn’t reach you, the host, in which case the money will be refunded to the guest.

However, in the normal case where you are there for the guest or provided the key for them, following whatever scenario you’ve both agreed on beforehand, you will have your money transferred to you after the 24 hours.

There are several payment options provided. You can have the payment sent to your Paypal or Payoneer accounts, or you can have it directly deposited into your bank account, or it can be mailed to you as a check. The time of the transfer will vary based on the method you choose.

Conclusion

This is a service that can certainly make a difference to your income with little to no effort on your part. It can also be fun for you, if you like to meet new people from different countries and make connections.

And while using this service can come with a potential risk, especially if you will be sharing the place you live in; however, you still have control over the guests you accept and you can ask for all the information you need about them before confirming their booking.

It will be less risky if you will rent a spare property, as long as you make sure you keep any personal or valuable belongings in a safe place (preferably not in the same house).

For me, I think this can be a really good source to increase my income and I do love meeting people of different nationalities. So I plan on trying this myself soon and will be sharing my experience in a later post once I have had my first guest.

Till next week, happy days!