If you are a blogger, a small business owner, or a digital marketer, it is likely you have heard the term “SEO” tossed around when it comes to managing your website. Perhaps you are struggling to bring in organic traffic and leads, but are looking for a DIY approach to getting your site to rank.
The good news is that you don’t need to hire an SEO specialist in order to start seeing results. There are things you can do today to give your site the boost that it needs to start generating traffic from search engines. Though SEO is more complicated than simply a 10 Step Checklist, this guide is a great start to get you moving in the right direction. This post will share top SEO tips to help grow website traffic.
What IS SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”, and is simply the strategy or strategies of getting a website to rank well (preferably on the first page) of search engine results. If you use the internet at all, you likely know that being on the first page of Google is the ideal spot for getting “clicked on” when users are looking for information. Very few users venture to the second page or beyond, so getting on the first page is #goals. But, easier said than done, right?
All About The Content
“Content is Key”, as the digital marketers say, and they are quite correct. No amount of “tips and tricks” can bring a site back from the dead if it simply has bad content. Search engines prioritize sites that provide valuable information, above all, so trying to “trick” search engines will only get you so far.
Before you dig into the tips below, you need to lay the foundation of a good site. Your site should provide value to your audience. It should be thorough and accurate information. It should be content that aims to help others. If you are missing this essential component, you may want to reconsider the purpose of your website. Once you know what purpose your content aims to serve, you can move into some of the basics of SEO in order to take your site to the next level.
As a content curator and SEO specialist for a variety of clients, I have learned what basic factors come into play for SEO. All of the tips below are things you can implement yourself without hiring a digital marketing expert.
The effectiveness of the tips below are affected by a variety of factors, such as how competitive your niche/industry is, the resources you have, and more. Don’t let that deter you though, because as your experience grows, your implementation of SEO will just get better and better! Remember that SEO is a slow, yet effective game. Ultimately you have to decide what marketing strategy is best for your business, and where to put your time (and dollars) to grow your business.
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1. Write for Your Readers (Not for Yourself)
More than just a “tip”, this first point really highlights a mistake that I see a lot of content creators make early on. Many bloggers especially treat their blog as if it is a diary, rather than a source of information for their readers. I know it can be a difficult concept to grasp, as many of us get personally tied up in the content we publish to our sites. However, ultimately your readers are there to find information on how to better THEIR lives. You need to write content that is there to serve THEM.
There is a time and place for personal stories, reflections, etc. If, however, this is the majority of your site, your blog/website will never rank. The reason is simple: no one is going to Google looking for “What did Jessica Foster think about Paris?”.
They are going to Google looking for “top ten things to do in Paris” or “where to eat in Paris”. The latter are concise, searchable terms. You need to be creating content around what your readers are reasonably searching for.
Having an organization is a big one. Your posts and pages should be organized into straightforward, digestible chunks. Gone are the stream-of-consciousness posts that have no headers, bullet points, or lists in between. Having no organization to your posts will leave your readers scratching their heads, or worse, will turn them away completely.
Be sure that your posts have 1 H1 (your title) and at least 3 H2 headers (your main points). Any subpoints will be noted by H3 headers, and beyond. Your headers should be descriptive enough to tell the reader what the next section is about, without being “stuffed” with keywords or having to be a complete sentence.
For example, the H1 of this post is “10 SEO Tips To Help Grow Your Blog For Beginners”, and the H2s are “What IS SEO?”, “It’s All in the Content”, and “10 SEO Tips to Grow Your Blog”. In this way, the reader knows what topic I am going to be addressing next. They also all include keywords, such as “SEO”, “content”, and “grow your blog”. Since they are in the headers, search engines read these terms as important and are more likely to rank this post for that reason.
2. Choose Your Keywords
Even with a very limited understanding of SEO, most content creators know the importance of keywords. However, choosing what keyword(s) to focus on is more strategic than simply picking 1 word that relates to your post or page.
Stay on Topic
Ultimately, you want to focus on keywords that are related to your business as a whole. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I often see sites that are all over the place on the topics of their posts. This ties into point #1, being that the content of your site should always serve the purpose of providing value to your readers.
The difference between having a blog that is a business, versus just an online diary, is creating content that is on topic, instead of just posting whatever you want to post about. Choosing a niche and sticking with it will ensure that your site will rank for a few, closely related keywords, versus a bunch of random ones.
Brainstorm Keywords Related to Your Business
Once you have an idea of what your main topic is, whether it be “budget travel tips”, “DIY home decor”, or “digital marketing for beginners”, you can start to build out a list of keywords related to that topic. This takes a bit of creativity and research on your end, but much of it should come naturally. Think of what questions your readers may be searching for related to that topic, then make the answers to those questions the keywords of your posts and pages.
For example, if your website topic is “budget travel tips”, some questions your readers may be asking are:
- How much does it cost to travel to London for 1 week?
- Also, How do I save up money for travel?
- How do I save money on flights?
- Where can I find the best travel deals?
Then, the answers to these questions can be addressed in posts with the following keywords in mind:
- 1-week London budget
- Save money for travel
- Save on flights
- Best travel deals
Finally, you can build outposts with the above keywords, with titles (H1s) like the following:
- The Ultimate 1 Week London Budget Guide
- How to Save Money to Travel Long Term
- Best Apps to Save Money on Flights
- Where to Find the Best Travel Deals
Over time, you will be able to think up, build-out, and optimize content that is both on topic and SEO-friendly. Rather than writing on whatever topic that pops into your head, you will be addressing the questions YOUR readers have. Additionally, you can always go to your readers directly and ASK them what they would like to see and build outposts that answer their questions.
.3. Research Your Competitors
If you are struggling to think of what keywords to target or what topics to address in your posts, you should consider researching what makes your competitor’s’ content so successful. See what posts they are putting out, how they are organizing their posts, and what pages they have that you don’t have. Note how many categories they have, what keywords they seem to be focusing on, and more.
Of course, never copy someone else’s content directly. Not only will this get you into a whole lot of trouble as far as copyright is concerned, but search engines may bury your site if they see that you are posting duplicate content. You should be in this game because you are providing your own unique value and perspective to readers. If you are trying to be too much like your competitor, that just ups the competition factor and makes it even harder for your website to rank.
4. Include External and Internal Links
As a blogger, you may seem to be endlessly chasing that coveted link from another site in order to get your site to rank better. Though gaining a backlink from an authority site is the *dream*, is far from the basis of SEO. SEO is a comprehensive strategy of organizing and optimizing the content on your own site in order to rank in organic search results. Though getting a link may give you a little boost, the “meat” of SEO is in your own content.
A Tip About Inbound Links: Though receiving a link from an authority site may seem like the end-all-be-all of getting your site to rank, many content creators don’t consider one important point: CONTEXT. Getting a link for the sake of a link likely won’t benefit you much unless it is 1) related to your niche, 2) Makes sense for the topics, and 3) Appears natural. Networking with business owners in your niche is your best in gaining a link back to your site. This is a huge topic to cover but just remember CONTEXT matters.
External links are links that you include on YOUR site that link out to another site. For some reason, many bloggers are afraid of including external links because they think that their “link juice” will be distributed to an outside site. This is simply not the case if done correctly.
Remember that search engines rank sites because they see them as valuable sources of information. If you write a post on “Best Apps to Save Money on Flights”, it is only natural to link out to those apps you list in your post. In this way, search engines will see your post as a comprehensive resource of information. It also helps provide your reader with additional information. However, I would discourage you from linking to a post on another site that has the same focus keyword(s) as you. You would not want to link to a post titled “Best 20 Money-Saving Flight Apps”, as this will make it harder for your own post to rank.
Internal links are links that are used on your own site to link to other pages and posts on your site. Every post and page on your website should include at least 1 inbound link. This serves several purposes:
- Makes your site more user-friendly (readers can find information easier)
- It makes your site easier to crawl by search engines
- It reduces page depth, so everything is within 3 clicks away from the homepage
Including internal links is a great way to direct readers to related posts and help them find more information. If you have a resource page, you may want to link to your Contact page. If you have a post about “Paris travel budget”, you may want to link to “ten things to do in Paris”. Ultimately it makes your site easier to navigate and information more accessible to your readers.
5. Optimize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
I mentioned above that every post and page should have an H1 tag, that is, your title tag. This is the title of your post, page, or category. Your title tag should always be concise in saying what the content is about, and preferably include the focus keyword for that content. As a rule, titles should be under 60 characters long.
Meta descriptions are the descriptions that accompany your post or page. Depending on your website, you can update this a variety of ways. For beginners, I recommend installing the Yoast SEO plugin, where you can update the title tag and meta descriptions directly. Meta descriptions should be concise, descriptive, include your keyword in a natural way, and be under 160 characters long. The Yoast SEO plugin makes it easy to set your target keyword and gives you a warning if you are over the character limit.
Note: The Yoast SEO plugin is just a guide, and should not be the ultimate standard for how you do your SEO strategy. The SEO plugin will not choose a keyword for you, help you write a title, or tell you if your post has good content or not. All of these elements are essential, so be sure to continue learning about SEO on your own, or hire a professional if you need additional help.
6. Optimize Image Alt Text
Much like your posts and pages, the images on your site should include an alt text (at the least), and a description. Contrary to common belief, this is NOT a place to stuff in more keywords. Not only does this look spammy to readers who happen to inspect your images, but it looks spammy to search engines as well. Your alt text should say what the image is about and include your keyword if fitting.
For example, for your “best budget apps” post, you may include a picture of one of the apps. The alt text may read something like, “BudgetBee App for Travelers”– as this says what the image is about, and includes the keyword. Do NOT use something like, “best budget app applications travel travelers money blog budgeting”.
Ultimately, you only want to include images that are relevant to the topic to the post. Crowding your post with images simply for aesthetic reasons is not user-friendly, or good for SEO. Again, the focus is on providing quality information to your readers (and search engines). Additionally, be sure that the images used are the correct file size and type for your site. These elements may vary, so you may need to ask a professional for help if you can’t determine what size/type of images to use.
7. Optimize Your Site Map
Without digging too deep into the difference between an XML Sitemap and a Static Sitemap, I am mentioning this point as something simple you can set up on your own. Basically, a Sitemap is a roadmap of the layout of your site, which makes your site easier to navigate for both search engine crawlers and users that visit your site.
Including a sitemap on your site is an easy way to give your site a little SEO boost and help your readers find what you are looking for.
- Create a new page on your site and call it “(site name) Sitemap”.
- Create an outline of all the pages (not posts) on your site, preferably in the order of your menu items. For example, a typical site outline may look like this:
- Home Page
- Our Story
- Travel Articles
- Contact Page
Note that for the “Travel Articles” item, you list the subcategories underneath, as they would appear in your drop-down menu. Be sure to include all the pages on your site, even if they are not listed in your Main Menu. You do not need to include any pages that you have set as “noindex”, because you do not want search engines to crawl these
- Add internal links to each page. That is, for each page listed in your outline on your sitemap, be sure to actually include a link to that page on your site. At the end, every item in your outline should link to a different page on your site.
- Include the link to your sitemap in the footer of your website. This way, every page on your site should be accessible by simply clicking on the sitemap, no matter where the user is on your site. This ensures that users and search engines can find any page on your site with ease.
- Fix Broken Links, Page Depth, and More
To make sure that your site is easy to navigate by users and search engines alike, you want to get rid of any broken links (404s) and reduce page depth. You also want to make sure that you aren’t missing any elements, such as title tags and descriptions.
There are a variety of ways to find these elements, but my favorite is to utilize the tool, Screaming Frog. This tool is free up to 500 URLs, so it is perfect for smaller sites. It simply crawls your site like a search engine would, and highlights any possible issues. You are able to filter by Response Code in order to find 404s, examine page depth (how many clicks way your content is from the Home Page), and more.
Fixing Broken Links
If you discover any broken links (404s) on your site, your best bet is to contact your website host and set up a 301 Permanent Redirect. Many hosts, such as Siteground, will do this for you via Support. Others require you to do this manually, which is a bit more advanced, albeit not impossible. A 301 redirect redirects a broken link to an existing, live page on your site. This way, if a reader stumbles upon a page or post that no longer exists, rather than seeing a 404 page, they will be redirected to another page on your site.
As a general rule, the majority of your content should be within 3 clicks away from the Home Page of your site – but preferably 2 clicks away. That is, if someone gets to the Home Page of their site, they should be able to access most of your content by clicking on a menu item, or a sub-category. If finding your content sends your readers down a rabbit hole of 4+ clicks away, this is far from ideal. Not only can this be frustrating to a user, but it indicates to search engines that your content must not be very important (otherwise you would make it more accessible). To fix this, there are several things you can do:
- Include internal links to important content within your pages and posts
- Add more categories to your main menu
- Include your categories in the sidebar
- Create a “tag cloud” of topics to include in the sidebar
This way, users can easily navigate your site without having to dig for information. This also helps search engines crawl your site, making you more likely to rank.
8. Make Your Site User-Friendly
Much like the previous point, user-friendliness has a lot to do with the organization. Your site should be easy to navigate and well-organized so that readers can find the information they are looking for. Having only a couple of menu items with too much information into broad categories makes it hard for users to find more specific content.
For example, rather than just having 1 “Travel” category, you may want to include a drop-down menu by location, or by items such as “Travel on a budget”, “Travel guides”, or “Travel reviews”. You also want to make it easy for readers to find you on social media, find out more about you, and contact you. Be sure to include these items on the Main Menu, link to the internal, and organize them in a way that makes sense.
9. Site Speed and Mobile Friendliness
These last two elements greatly depend on the website platform you use and what your resources are. If you are taking the ultimate DIY approach, it may take you a while to learn about site speed and mobile-friendliness to be able to implement these yourself. However, they are super important, so if you find yourself struggling, I recommend reaching out to an expert for help.
First, you can check the speed of your site and it’s mobile-friendliness by clicking on these corresponding links. These will tell you how your site fairs in terms of load time and mobile user-friendliness.
Some of the main factors that affect site speed are :
- Image file size
- Website design elements
- Clunkly plugins and widgets
Most of these things can be fixed by simply removing them, or redesigning your site. Again, this depends on what platforms you use and how advanced your design is. If your site speed is abysmal, you may want to consider a different theme, or hiring a web developer.
More and more, search engines are prioritizing sites that are fast and user-friendly. This is perhaps one of the more advanced elements on this list but, again, not impossible for a beginner. If you suspect that your file sizes are too big then the that Instagram feed widget may be slowing you down, these are all simple elements to fix. Check the above PageSpeed Insights to address these specific issues.
SEO Basics for Blogging Beginners: Takeaways
I hope you have found this guide helpful in providing you with some basics tips for boosting your blog’s SEO. All of these tips are relatively easy to implement, though I am confident that your skills in SEO will improve over time. What’s important is that you remember that at the core of SEO, is the idea that your site is there to provide value to readers. Create content that your readers are looking for, and you have a good chance of ranking well over time.
Great ideas shared in this post! I agree, links (rather internal linking or backlinks from other high-quality, industry-relevant sites) are very important to get that link juice and positive signals of trust in Google’s algorithm. To add on to your Organization idea, I’d recommend also looking in to applying schema markup as it can improve search engines’ understanding of what certain pages are about (and be rewarded in SERPs) as well as writing content for humans! Great post, though, thanks for putting this together!
Wow, this is actually very informative! Thank you for sharing all of this information! As a blogger myself I’m a little lost on the SEO so this actually helped me understand a lot!! Thank you!!
Great tips!! It’s crazy how as you keep blogging, you let some of these major details slip! I needed this reminder!
Marie, Mamma's Cooking says
Thank you for the info! This is something I definitely need. I pinned it for future use!
Ayanna @ 21FlavorsofSplendor says
These are great tips!! I need to get better about adding external links and researching the competition.
Great information! I am new to blogging and the way you have explained things is easy to understand. Even for me! I will be using this information to improve my site!
I think the biggest mistake bloggers make is ignoring SEO. It is so important to organic traffic growth.
Lorelei Romey says
This really helps me a lot. Thanks!
This was very helpful. I am new to blogging and while I mostly blog for fun and for my own fulfillment, I would like to see it grow. Thanks!
Thanks, awesome! Great tips as always. And your website is cool. Nuff said 🙂
These are great tips! I am trying to focus more on SEO and making my posts more searchable. Sierra ~Beautifully Candid
Krista from KristaConway.com says
Hi gal! Just stopping by from M2M. You’re so right on these. The first being the biggest. So many people write for the content and not the consumer. If you get that right, the search engines will reward you, for sure. I probably need to call about a 401 on a site I recently acquired as it’s a hot mess in terms of over 800 deleted posts. Whoops. Great post, thanks for the tips!
Gina G. says
Thank you for sharing all of this invaluable information! I’m so new to blogging and all of this SEO business is so confusing!
Sylvie Anne Hanes says
Great information. I constantly wonder what makes certain posts do very well, and others, not as much. I’ve already incorporated many of the elements you mentioned, but I need to work harder and being cohesive throughout the post, and to leverage the H1-H3 items. Thanks!
awais qarni says
Hello ,very good article thanks for sharing, keep up the good work ,best of luck for your future projects
Genard Hernandez says
Great tips, indeed! As long as you’re using the right techniques for SEO definitely you will be safe in the Google’s eye. Some just like to spam whatever they want without thinking the consequences of what might happen on their website. Thank you for sharing this and it’s well-informative too! Looking forward to more of your post. 🙂
Latisha Boone says
Thank you for writing a informative posts. Some of these things I have never heard before!
Joyce Blass says
I’ve been anxious when I had my blog. I’ve been all over the place. But eventually, I got my way around it. That’s why I totally agree with all of the tips above! All of them have significant roles in starting in a blog. Keep inspiring newbies!
SEO Cleveland says
Website and other online marketing strategies is a good way to promote your business.
Thanks Latasha for writing such a good article in the form of tips for SEO of a website. It is not clear how many ways a SEO can be possible to viral a Domain or URL like carved wooden furniture. People always try direct method but most of time these trick don’t works for SEO. Your tips are helpful for the person to make good website optimization for me and my websites or blog. This content is so valuable and surely unique that people are happy and really helpful for them. any pressure from your side, neither in the form of request nor hint or reminder in any ways.
These tips are definitely really helpful! I’ve been wanting to update my old posts lately for better SEO. Glad I stumble upon this post!
Tiffany Plummer says
Jessica, I needed to read this, it was so insightful. Thank you! I have been researching and looking for ways were I can increase my blog traffic based on SEO strategies. Can’t wait to implement some of the points you suggested here on this post. 🙂 x
Loved the tips!
Latasha Peterson says
Thanks so much! 🙂
Jen Dodrill says
The information in #7 about the site map is new to me. I’ll have to look into that. Thank you! Great tips!
Latasha Peterson says
Thank you so much for stopping by and so glad to hear these tips helped. 🙂