Welcome to this SEO for beginners step-by-step guide. Search engine optimization or SEO is like a magic word. You’ve heard about it, sort of know what it is about, understand that it is crucial in content marketing. However, when it comes to explaining precisely what SEO is, it is radio silence. Search engine optimization or SEO is “the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine“. Basically, it is the improvement of unpaid results and direct traffic to your website.
Truth is, search engine optimization is a lot of research, time and work. SEO for beginners or for experts requires dedication and looking for informations, guides and other tips right and left. The goal remains the same for you and your business: increasing organic traffic, improving unpaid results, ranking higher in Google search. That’s what optimizing your blog posts for SEO does. And it can be quite confusing when you are a beginners at search engine optimization, just started your blog or do not know where to look. I know because I was in your shoes not so long ago. However, with this SEO for beginners guide, I will show you how to optimize your blog posts for SEO and ensure they rank higher in Google search!
SEO For Beginners: How To Optimize Your Blog Posts For SEO
1. Install the Yoast SEO Plugin
Yoast SEO is a free plugin that all bloggers or businesses should install upon starting their activity. The basic plugin is free and offers great guidelines on how to write SEO optimized blog posts. Once you have uploaded the Yoast SEO, start writing a new post and scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find the Yoast SEO tab.
The plugin mostly offers a check list of things to do to ensure your blog post is optimized for search engine optimization The plugin will list “problems” and “good results”. The problems are essentially things you can improve on to make your blog post SEO-friendly. Keep in mind that it is just a check-list acting as guidelines. Of course, writing a blog post that is optimized for SEO goes beyond ticking all the boxes but it offers a great introduction to SEO for beginners.
Yoast SEO has a premium version of the plugin which offers more functionalities that you may find useful. For example, with the Yoast premium, the tab will allow you to put in synonyms for your key-phrase and related phrases, which will allow you to optimize your blog post for multiples keywords. My favorite feature however remains the “insights” tab which shows you what words and word combinations occur the most in the content. These give an indication of what your content focuses on and what Google will think your content is about. If the words differ a lot from your topic, you might want to rewrite your content accordingly.
2. Decide on a topic
This may go without saying. When picking a topic, you will have to make choices. The SEO best practice is to pick a topic that is already popular to ensure that your audience already exists. That’s how you can guarantee traffic to your website. However, sometimes you may want to write about a topic that is not as popular and whose audience is much smaller. And that is fine. After all, your blog is your creative space.
Some topic are indeed more niche than others and not the type of search that people type in everyday. However, if it is a topic you are really keen on writing on, go for it. Even though the audience will be much smaller, chances are the competition will be too, so you will rank higher more easily. Ideally, you want to pick keywords with a medium to high search volume and a low to medium competition.
You may pick the topic of your article based on many things and ideas: what you like, something you are experiencing, a question you have been asked, etc. Once you have chosen your topic, you may do research around that topic to find keywords to optimize your blog post for SEO. This will be stage 3 of this little SEO for beginners guide.
3. Find related keywords
You have chosen the topic of your article and now you want to type it down. If you want to increase the chances of your content being picked-up by search engines, it needs to be SEO-optimized and keywords rich. The first step is to do a keyword search. You can find keywords ideas using different online free softwares such as Google Keywords Planner, Ubersuggest, or Wordstream.
When you type in your topic in the search bar, they will each suggest short-tail and long-tail keywords and keyphrases that you can use in your blog post. Each will come with the search volume, which is an indication of popularity. Even though it is great to have a very popular keyword as it shows that people are looking for that particular keyword, it also means that your content will compete with a lot of other content on the same topic and may not get seen.
Just like you would pick different hashtags with different popularity on Instagram, you will pick related keywords and keyphrases with different search volumes. The audience might be smaller but you will increase your chances of ranking high in the search result. Furthermore, sometimes, changing the order of the word in the keyphrase might totally change the probability of ranking higher. That is where search intent come into place.
In my blog post on how to write killer blog post titles that convert, I talked about the importance of putting yourself in your reader’s shoes. What would you type in Google? You may make the same research a few times using the same keywords but in different order. And that may make the difference. Which is why it good to come up with synonyms and related keyphrases as well. Now, let’s move onto step 4 of our SEO for beginners guide.
4. Use keywords across your blog post
Use what you have just learnt in the previous section. You have your topic, then your main keyword and you have found synonyms and related phrases. Now, the Google algorithm needs to understand what the content is about and that those keywords are its pillar. The best way to ensure that is to use keywords across your blog post. Yoast SEO will tell you in real-time how many occurrences of your keywords, synonyms or related phrases there are in the copy.
The plugin will also let you know whether the keywords are evenly spread out in the copy or if you have big chunks of text lacking them. As a matter of fact, the recurrence of your keywords, synonyms and related phrases are very important as they send a signal to Google on what the text is about. The algorithm is also smart and will detect synonyms and related phrases, which will allow your text to rank for more keywords, or at least more variations of the same topic.
For example, here my keyword is “SEO for beginners” and I set up a synonym as”optimize your blog post for SEO” and two other related phrases as “SEO-friendly” and “Search engine optimization”. Thus, this piece of content will be ranking for those four related terms instead of just for my first keyword.
5. Format your post for SEO
The Google algorithm likes structure and adding titles to the copy will help break down the content. The title tag (or H1) goes at the top of the blog post. It is the title that shows on your blog and at the top of the tab. The H2 heading usually announces the main topic of the content and the lower subheading help to break the content in smaller sections. Make sure your heading are keywords rich.
The Search engine optimization best practice wants paragraphs with 150 words maximum. The length of paragraph has no impact on SEO. However, it has an impact of the readability of the content for Google. Google likes paragraphs that are shorter because they help break down the content and because they are easier to read. Nobody likes to read massive chunks of texts.
The readability of your content impacts SEO because in its quest to show results to search requests, Google wants to display the best most useful easiest to use results. However, if a text is hard to read according to the algorithm standards, chances are people will not want to read it. That is why Yoast SEO also has a tab for readability and lists things that can be improved on.
Avoid using the passive voice too much. Make sure you use the active voice and that your sentences are shorts. Better have more shorter sentences and break down the text rather than 20 words and over sentences that are long to read and that Google does not like. Google likes structure, hence use transition words to help the algorithm understand where the content is going.
6. Curate your snippet preview
The snippet allows you to preview what your page or post will look like in Google’s search results. It has a mobile and desktop view and shows elements like the slug, title and meta description.
The SEO title
The SEO title is the first thing people see in the search results for your posts and pages. In many cases, it is the only thing people will see so it needs to attract the eye right away!
The SEO title is the title that you will see in the Google’s search results. It is not the title tag nor H1. Even though search engine optimization title and title tags should be similar, they can be a variation from each other, especially to fit SEO purposes. Make sure your SEO title includes your keywords and that it reflects the topic of the content.
The meta-dada description
The meta-description is the second most important item in the snippet and it is just below the SEO title. The meta-description is a quick concise description of your content. In one sentence, you sum up what the piece of copy is about. When you perform a search, Google will look for the particular keyword in the content and highlight it in the meta-description. If your meta description doesn’t contain the keyword searched for, it’ll grab a “random” snippet from the page that does.
It should accurately describe the main content of the post or page, include the focus keyphrase and entice people to click on your result. If you want to avoid repetition, you can also play with synonyms or related keywords in your meta description. When a search is performed, Google will highlight the focus keyword on the meta-description, showing to the person that they can find an answer to their question there.
The permalink & slug
The URL is the link that you will use to reach the content. It is the address. The slug is part of the URL that you can optimize for SEO and change to reflect the topic of the content. The slug should be kept short but include a focus keyword to tell Google what the link is about. Including the keyphrase will help Google and users to identify the topic of your post or page.
7. Optimize your images for SEO
Images are essential to content creation. They bring the article to life and can contribute to SEO. Let’s also be honest, with social media today, it is good imagery that are all the rage. There are a few things you can do to help optimize your images for SEO and contribute to improving the overall performance of your website.
First of all, pick images that are relevant to your content. Make sure they are JPEG and compress them before uploading them to the website. Reduce the size of the image wherever possible. Speed is essential to good SEO and quite often images slow a website down. You can add a title and caption to your images. People look at images first and scan them to get a better idea of the content. Always add alt text and to use keywords, so that it can be found in Google image.
8. Internal linking
Internal links are hyperlinks that point to pages on the same domain. It help Google find, index and understand all of the pages on your site. Internal links can also help to send page authority to important pages. In short: internal linking is key for any site that wants higher rankings in Google.
Internal linking is also great to improve blog visit duration, traffic to your website and decrease bounce rate. If you link blog posts between them, you may encourage a visitor to click on another post and spend more time on your blog.
When linking internally as part of SEO, pay attention to the anchor text your are using. The anchor text is the visible, clickable text in an HTML hyperlink. Although using an exact match anchor text to the page you are liking to will not hurt you, it is better to mix anchor text to avoid looking spammy. Do not use the same anchor text for two different pages and make sure that the anchor text you are using is relevant to the page you are internally linking it into.
9. Social media promotion
Social media links help SEO. Indeed, Google uses links shared on Facebook and Twitter as a ranking signal. Social media links do not count individually but there is still a correlation with search ranking. If you create good content, people will like and share it, thus linking to it and boosting its ranking. Correlation.
Social media isn’t a direct Google ranking factor, it is one of the best ways to promote content and be found online. Which is, ultimately, what SEO is all about. Furthermore, social profiles definitely influence the content of your search results. And people are just as likely to click on a social media as on a website. Social media are search engines too (Youtube, Pinterest, Twitter) and people may find you through a hashtag or a targeted search.
Social media can still help you boost your SEO since it create awareness, allows for link building and is great for promotion.
10. Make it sharable
Last in this SEO for beginners guide. Social media is not a direct SEO ranking factor. In reality, it is a bit more complicated as the correlation between social signals and ranking position is extremely high. Social media can amplify the ranking factors that Google does consider, since sharing adds up more visibility to your content.
You want to encourager your readers to share your content and optimize your website as much as possible. Enable social sharing buttons at the top and button of your blog post. The easier it is to share, the more likely people will do it.
People can easily share your content on Facebook, Twitter or Mix but a social media you may want to pay attention to it Pinterest. Create two pins for each one of your blog posts and add them at the end of the post. Thus, people have the opportunity to pin your content straight from your blog. Pinterest is different from Facebook and Twitter. It is a search engine, not a social media. Content on Pinterest is also evergreen. A pin may travel around a lot before going viral and bring a long flow of traffic.
We reached the end of this SEO for beginners guide where I give you all the you need to optimize your blog posts for SEO and improve it’s ranking in Google search. How you optimize your blog post for SEO is a process that never ends as Google changes all the time and factors affecting ranking change too. SEO requires constant work and attention but it is worth it when it helps your business.
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