Over two million blogs are posted each day. This may seem like an unimportant number until you start thinking about what it really means. There are over 2 million blogs that are feeding content to various audiences on a daily basis!
Content is being posted every minute. This, unfortunately, means that it is extremely difficult to stand out from the crowd and make people notice you. Subsequently, it is very hard to ensure the success of your blog, based on luck and content alone. While it is important to spend a good amount of time making sure that you create quality content, you should also spend a few minutes optimizing each post so that people will be able to find them easily.
This is, in essence, something called search engine optimization, or SEO. Millions of people are constantly learning how to use it in order to increase their reach and make their content easier to find and access.
In the modern, always online world, almost all information is found through the use of search engines and ensuring that your brand or company name will show up on the first page of results on a search engine like Google. This can make all the difference in the world, when it comes to success or failure. This means that if you do not actively look for ways to increase your online visibility, you may be headed towards bankruptcy.
If you are reading this then you probably already know what SEO is. However, the question that most people are asking themselves is: How does it work and how do I get better?
In SEO, several things must be optimized such as design, the content itself and the links that you use.
Before moving to how you can optimize your blog, let’s first define SEO.
SEO is the process through which you optimize your online content, in order to make it easier for search engines to read and classify it. If these engines understand your content, then they will place it in the top results that users see when searching for certain keywords.
A good example would be the optimization of an article. If you want to write about french toast, you will want the search engine to show the article as a top result to all users who search for “french toast”. SEO is what will help Google understand that your article is relevant to french toast and that those searching for those keywords would rather see your content before that of other websites. When Google calculates your article is ‘the best’ – your blog will show up on the first results page that the search engine displays.
In order to be more specific, let us look at the following numbers:
Over 90% of all online experiences start with people using a search engine in order to find content. 68% of these people choose Google in order to find information.
Just as interesting is the fact that the first 5 results that Google displays in a results page get 67% of all the clicks in that query!
This means that you won’t be able to have any kind of online visibility as long as you are not at least on the first paget. Websites that rank on the second pages are rarely noticed.
If your blog post, article, or content, in general, does not rank on the first page, then it is practically equivalent to not being ranked at all.
In order to understand what you must do in order to have your content rank on the first results page, or even in the first five positions, it is important to first understand how search engine algorithms work.
Having said that, let us take a closer look at some of the components of SEO.
The fact that Google keeps the search engine’s algorithm secret is not a surprise to anyone. And while there is no way of finding out all of the 200+ determining factors, the SEO industry has managed to create a large list in what a lot of those factors are.
The first thing that you will need to understand about SEO is the fact that there are two sides to this kind of optimization: White Hat and Black Hat.
You will have to choose one of these two, in order to define what principles will guide you and what tools you will use.
White Hat vs. Black Hat
Those who have been in the entrepreneurial game for some time will know that in order to survive, one must focus on long-term plans in order to be successful. Well, the same strategy applies to search engine optimization. You must plan ahead and understand that it may take a while until you can reap the rewards of your work.
Those who want fast results, and to take advantage of any possible opportunity that presents itself in order to have their blogs rank higher, will probably go for black hat SEO.
This type of optimization implies optimizing your content only for search engines, and not for users. People who want results fast usually pick this one because its strategies rely on finding and exploiting various ways to bend or break the rules in order to rank as high as possible.
Keep in mind that this approach usually creates a lot of of spam and leads to pages that are usually banned in a matter of days. This, in turn, may lead to dire consequences for the marketer and may ruin their chances of developing a long-term plan.
While you may make a quick buck or more, you will also have to endure the stress of having to keep up with various search engine updates that come up, in order to evade them and find new ways to work around their rules.
White hat SEO, on the other hand, is an ethical, reliable way to build a sustainable online business. This type of search engine optimization will allow you to focus on your audience, and on creating high-quality content in order to create a loyal following. You will essentially have to play according to the rules of the search engines and beat others in a fair competition.
In this guide, you will only find the information required for white hat SEO, as this one is the most reliable and offers the highest value.
Two types of SEO: On-Page and Off-Page
There are two large categories of search engine optimization, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. These are both required in order to rank high in the result pages.
On-page SEO. This consists of modifications that can be made on your website, in order to make it easier to understand by search engines. These include, but are not limited to, changes in terms of headlines, page structure, and content.
Off-page SEO. This category is a bit more abstract, in the sense that it refers to all the variables that the Google algorithm analyzes outside of your site. Unfortunately, some of these are somewhat out of your hands, as they include social networks, the personal history of the searcher, as well as other blogs in your niche.
These require different skills in order to master and they are extremely important if you want to successfully rank your blog in the top searches.
The best way to explain the difference between these two types of SEO is through an example.
Imagine that you own a building that you want to show people, and that it can only be accessed through an alleyway.
Now, let us look at two different scenarios:
- The interior of the house looks great, but the alleyway is a mess. In this case, people will not come near the building, because they will be put off by how the alley leading to the house looks.
Now let’s look at your page in the same way. If it is well-optimized on-page, it has quality content and beautiful visuals, but nobody points to it in any way, then people will never know that it exists and will not be able to find it. You will not get much traffic, due to its lack of visibility.
- Now consider that the building looks great on the outside, as well as the alleyway, however, things are out of order on the interior. People will know of the house and will want to see what it is inside of it, but they will leave once they see the mess inside.
When you do a lot of off-page SEO optimization, but you don’t work on how the page itself looks and feels, or on what kind of content you offer your audience, most of those who discover and open your website will leave instantly. This is known as the “bounce rate”, and you can view it in analytics and it will show how often this occurs. The higher this number is, the worse your page will rank in a search engine.
This is why you need to do both types of SEO. If you don’t take care of both of these aspects of optimization, you will have a hard time driving traffic to your website.
Fortunately, you have several tools at your disposal, for both on-site and off-site SEO optimization. Having said that, let’s take a look at on-page SEO first.
There are three types of on-page SEO that you have to familiarize yourself with in order to successfully optimize your website:
The first and most important item on this list is content. Whatever you post on your website is analyzed by Google in order to ensure that it will offer users the information that they need.
The search engine has been built to constantly look for the best source of information for your searches. For example, if you look up “DIY plastic flowerpot”, Google will go through all the websites that it has indexed and will ensure that you don’t simply get results that show you how to make flowerpots, but ones out of plastic. In other words, it will always direct users to the best content that it can find.
This means that you will have to do the best you can in order to produce great content. You will have to work hard in order to write well-documented and easy to understand articles, or post detailed tutorials, etc.
Keep in mind that SEO is a skill which you must hone like you would any other, in order to see great results. However, the best optimization in the world won’t be able to make your website more attractive if you don’t pay attention to what content you offer your audience.
There are a few factors that Google uses in order to classify content:
Nowadays everyone is creating quality content for their audiences, and it is extremely difficult to stand out from the crowd, however, you still have to do this before thinking of any other ways to optimize your website.
If you look around, you will find several great guides that will walk you through the process of creating quality content that will attract a lot of people.
The important thing is to remember that everything starts with a good title. Think of a compelling headline that will convince individuals to actually read the article, and then focus on the body of text itself. Make sure that you write the article in a manner that you would like to see, as a reader.
Format your blog posts and make sure that they are easy to read and understand, and don’t forget that you need training in order to write great material. Practice every day, by writing short, interesting posts, and you will see the quality of your content rise.
You should spend some time before writing the article, and look for keywords that you should include in your post.
This will help you include your targeted keyword in the headline, as well as in various paragraphs throughout the article, however, you must do the research before you start writing, in order to choose only the word or phrases that work for your content.
Those who do not know how to keyword research can find many guides on the internet. A good starting point for beginners would be “Backlinko’s definitive guide to keyword research.” Do not skip this step, as it may very well be the on-page SEO factor that demands the most time in order to master.
These keywords are essential in ensuring that your content is properly understood and delivered by the search engine to interested people.
Use of keywords
Google, as well as other search engines, have been continually improved over the years and have now reached a point where their algorithms can understand content on a basic level. This means that they are able to see when a keyword is used naturally in an article and when it is forced, just for the sake of using it. Use the word or phrase in a spot where it does not fit, and it may hurt your rankings.
Furthermore, avoid keyword stuffing. Don’t use it in every heading and subheading of the post, or in every paragraph. If your article has 10 paragraphs and 10-15 instances of the keyword, then you may find that you could be penalized.
The interesting part of how Google reads keywords is that it also looks for synonyms of it, in order to discover if what you mean when you type a particular phrase.
Let’s say that you want to find information about the Four Seasons hotels, you would type “four seasons near me”. The search engine is smart enough to understand that you aren’t referring to Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, but to the hotel. In order to do this, it will analyze similar searches and try to guess what information you are looking for.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure that your chosen keyword is properly inserted in headlines, URLs, and meta descriptions. This will eliminate the need to use it too much in the text itself.
When actually writing the post, focus on the reader and use the keyword only a couple of times.
Freshness of content
Research has shown that posting frequently does improve the rank of a website. This means that you always have to focus on posting new content in order to let Google know that the information that you have to offer is up to date and will be useful to its users. You do not necessarily have to post a new article each day, you can just make a habit out of adding content to the ones that you have already posted, including new information that you come across.
It should also be mentioned that you can get great results in terms of ranking even if you post one a month; however, your content must be of exquisite quality. You have to write articles that are easy to understand, thorough and in-depth, in order to have them established as a reliable source of information.
The last factor refers to how well your content provides search engine users with direct answers. Google will read your content and look for an answer. If you have written it clearly and the algorithm recognizes it as the answer to a particular question, then it will rank it immediately underneath the search bar.
The former leader of Google’s spam team has stated the fact that content that is free of any kind of jargon will likely rank higher. This has lead to the creation and popularization of a large number of guides and tutorials regarding proper content creation. Don’t use jargon, avoid using complex sentence constructions and you should be alright. Just imagine that you are writing content for both native speakers, as well as for those who have limited knowledge of the language.
Another aspect that you must take care of is HTML optimization. Many people think that working with computer code requires a great deal of knowledge; however, you don’t have to be a coder to take care of the HTML optimization aspect of your website. This does not mean that you should ignore this aspect, as it plays an important part in the overall optimization process.
You can look for help on websites like Codeacademy or Khan Academy if you aren’t sure where to start. There are many online places where you can learn the minimal amount of HTML required in order to get your site ready for Google’s algorithms. The best part is that most of these websites offer free lessons, so you won’t have to spend a dime.
Now, there are four parts of HTML that must be optimized for all the content that you post.
These are online versions of newspaper headlines. You can see them when you look at a tab in your browser when you open a new webpage.
While the tag used for titles is called “title”, this turns into an “h1-tag”(“h” is heading, and the number indicates that it is the first one) in the case of blogs.
Every page that you have should contain one h1-tag in order to clearly communicate the title to Google. Look around and you will find many free online resources that will guide you through this process.
Meta descriptions are basically short descriptions that can be seen under the name of your page when Google displays it in a results page. The difference between an optimized meta description and an unoptimized one is easy to spot. You simply have to look at how they end. If a description is cut off by “…” then, or doesn’t seem to have an end, then it requires some optimization.
Another way to identify the ones that need some work is by looking if the keyword is displayed at the beginning.
Again, you can find great tutorials regarding meta description optimization in places like Quicksprout University, or Backlinko.
Keep in mind that you only have 160 characters at your disposal. Write it with the searchers in mind, as they will see and click on the link based on this description.
Schema is essentially a subset of specific HTML tags that has been developed by several search engines working together, with the purpose of improving how content is displayed on search engine result pages.
You will find all the information that you need to use Schema properly on websites like MOZ. Also, keep in mind that you should always test your page in order to ensure that whatever changes you make keep it running smoothly.
Subheads are one of the most important elements of any great landing page. These help you format the text and give it whatever structure you want, but also give readers easy reference points.
You may wonder how these subheads fit into your SEO optimization strategy. Well, while they do have less SEO power that h1-tags, h2, h3, h4, and other subheadings to have an impact on how your page ranks in search engine result pages (or SERPs), you should not ignore them. Especially if you have a WordPress based site since they can increase your visibility without requiring much effort.
The third element of on-page SEO that you must pay attention to is the website’s architecture. Unfortunately, this part requires a bit more technical knowledge than the others. Those looking to improve their SEO rankings can do several changes to their site, without having to go too much into the difficult technical aspects.
First, keep in mind that good website architecture is also essential to a great user experience. It includes things like fast loading times, a safe connection, and optimization for mobile devices.
You could even establish the website’s architecture even before buying a domain, as this gives you the opportunity to set things exactly the way you like, and to optimize your pages specifically for your target audience. You can find guides that will walk you through ways of optimizing your site in order to guarantee a great user experience (UX).
Apart from the user experience, you will also have to optimize your architecture in order to work great with search engine algorithms. The more you work on making sure that the website can be easily understood by Google, the better it will rank.
Spiders that analyze your website
Google uses programs called “Spiders” that “crawl” from one page to another through links. These are the primary tools that the search engine uses to index pages on your website. The easier it is for these programs to navigate through your website, the better are the chances that they will establish the fact that your website is a good search result.
In order to do the job of these spiders easier, you will have to create a thick page of links between the pages of your website. This will enable them to better understand its structure.
To do this, you have to create a sitemap using either a WordPress plug-in or an online XML sitemap generator.
Most people do not fully understand how, why, or when duplicating content can make your website rank lower. The fact that you should do your best in order to always create original content is important; however, not everything that you put on your page should be original.
You can always re-post your content on other websites, or share things created by your guests on your own website, without hurting your SEO in any way. Be warned, however, that this does not mean that you can spam that content. Doing so will affect your rank.
Furthermore, make sure that you post content on your own website, before sharing it on someone else’s. If you post content on another website before doing so on your own, then you may see that your blog will rank lower, as Google indexes content where it is first published, considering it to be a more authoritative domain.
Be careful regarding where you share what you create and you will be fine.
Optimization for mobile devices
Nowadays, most people surf the web using their phone or tablets, and if your website isn’t optimized for these devices, then you are doomed.
To better understand why you should focus on making your website mobile friendly, consider the fact that more than 500 million Facebook users only access the social network using their phones, on a daily basis.
Now, you can start this optimization process by using Google’s Mobile-friendly Test tool in order to determine how much work you have ahead of you. Most WordPress themes are mobile-friendly out-of-the-box, and if they are not, then you can always find plug-ins that will fix this issue.
Once you run your website through Google’s tool, you will be presented with suggestions to improve your compatibility. You can make these changes yourself, or you can hire someone to do it.
Do not ignore the speed with which your website loads up. This is an important factor when it comes to both SEO, as well as user experience.
Time is a valuable resource for all of us and we hate losing it by staring at a display, waiting for a website to load.
Google also offers a tool that you can use in order to measure how fast your pages load, however, you can find other apps online, if you ever want a second opinion.
Using Keywords in URLs
It is important to always include your targeted keyword in the URLs of your posts if you want search engines to understand your content. For those using WordPress, you may have to change the structure of permalinks; placing the targeted word in your URLs will also help users remember the addresses to your posts.
Security – HTTPS and SSL
Google has recently transformed the security of websites into a ranking factor. In other words, the search engine will always choose secure websitesover those that may put users at risk.
There are two security protocols that you should take into consideration when talking about your website. These are HTTPS and SSL. You can choose either one, as they are both equally reliable.
While you may not see a big increase in terms of rank, securing your website will ensure that the search engine understands that users can safely navigate your pages.
Take into consideration that the transition from a non-secure connection to HTTPS or SSL is somewhat difficult. However, if you are just buying a new domain, securing it right from the start is the best option.
A bonus tip would be to use tools for on-page SEO. If you are using WordPress as a framework for your website, then consider using Yoast SEO in order to more easily set things up.
Now that we have finished everything that you can do in order to optimize the pages and the website itself, it is time to move to off-page SEO. Again, there are several things that can affect how your website ranks:
While the PageRank algorithm created by Google is the most well-known formula of its kind, it is not the only thing that dictates if a page ranks in the top 10 search results or not.
Trust is one of the of the ranking signals that is becoming more and more important as time passes, due to the fact that it protects searchers from spammy or unreliable websites.
You can use TrustRank in order to find out if Google considers your website trustworthy or not. For example, if your blog looks like a big, established brand, then the search engine is more likely to trust you.
Another thing that controls how much Google trusts you is the number of quality backlinks from authoritative sites that you have.
There are 4 elements that control if your websites is marked as trusted or not:
This attribute refers to the general authority of your website, and is formed from two types of authority:
- Domain authority – This indicates how well people know your domain name;
- Page authority – As you may have figured out from the name, this one is linked to how authoritative the content of a single page is;
There are several authority checkers online that you can use free of charge. Most will give you a result on a scale from 1 to 100.
Your website’s bounce rate shows you how many people leave your website after viewing only one page, essentially indicating how many displeased visitors you are getting.
There are many things that influence how much time people spend on your website. The type of content that you offer, the loading times of your page, and the target audience are all important when it comes to keeping your bounce rate under control.
A good way to keep visitors for longer periods of time on your website is by using video content in order to stand out from the crowd and get their attention.
Google favors older domains when it comes to ranking pages. While it does not improve the rank of a website by much, you should try to find an older, expired domain to use when creating your site, in order to get some extra points with the search engine.
As stated before, having an established brand can help a lot. This is due to the fact that personal identity is a major indicator of how much search engines should trust you. Creating your online identity can take a while, but it does wonders when it comes to off-page SEO.
Try Googling your self and if nothing relevant comes up, then it may be time to create a personal brand. Furthermore, the identity will also protect you from future penalties through Google updates.
While backlinks are not everything, it is important to understand how the quality of your links can influence how the website ranks.
Also, waiting for people to link to you is generally tedious and unproductive. Sometimes it’s better to take initiative and try to get them yourself.
You should keep three things in mind when trying to do so:
Quality of links
Quality is extremely important when it comes to links. It is often more important than the number of links that you have.
In order to get quality backlinks, you have to focus on reaching out to proper, well-established sources, and to offer something in exchange for a solid link.
Anchor text refers to the text used to link back to you. This is important due to the fact that if the anchor text seems forced, the link will be less effective. The more natural the text sounds, the more impact it will have. You should do everything that you can in order to get contextual backlinks. These should not be confused with the ones that appear whenever someone inserts an infographic on their website. Contextual backlinks are the “by InsertNameHere.com” types of links that are seamlessly integrated into the text.
Number of links
The total number of links that you have also play a part in off-page SEO, and it is important to devote a good amount of time to building high-quality backlinks in large numbers.
The last type of off-page SEO refers to personal factors. While these are mostly out of your hands, there are a few things that you can do in order to increase your ability to reach your targeted audience.
Consider the fact that users only receive search results that are relevant to the country and time zone that they are in. Furthermore, there are language differences between US English and British English, and it is important to pay attention to the various meanings that some words and phrases may have.
Include the names of the countries that you want to target in your content, as keywords, in order to help the search engine understand what you want.
Apart from the country, Google also looks at the city where you live in order to offer the best search results to searchers. Think about how if you search for “Sushi restaurant”, the results will primarily show the restaurants near your location.
Just as with the country, you can use various city names as keywords in order to let Google know that you want to target a certain audience.
Google collects a lot of data regarding the websites that users visit, and if someone has accessed your page before, then the algorithm is more likely to offer it as a top search result when the individual performs a similar search.
Popularity is important when it comes to how Google perceives your website, due to the fact that the search engine looks for signals that users like a particular brand, and then tries to include that brand in the top results. You don’t necessarily need a brand name. A personal brand is just as useful.
- Social networks
The last aspect of off-page SEO is the way in which social networks affect your ranking. Apart from being popular on social media, there are two other social network factors of influence that determine how your website ranks.
Quality of shares
The first one is similar to the quality of backlinks concept . Who shares your content is more important than how often it is shared. Google keeps an eye on the influencers in various niches and puts an emphasis on the content that they share, as a result of them having more authority in a particular field.
You can get these people to share your content by letting them know that you are about to publish something new, or by interviewing them. It is also a good idea to tell various interested internet celebrities that you are about to post new content, in order to make them notice your new posts.
If you ever come across an article that is similar to your own, you can use Topsy, in order to find out which influencers shared it. You can then inform them that you have content on the same topic and that they should take a look at it.
Number of shares
The second important aspect of social networks is the number of shares that you’re getting. While many hope to make content that will go viral, there is more to this than just luck. In most of the cases, having content go viral is simply a matter of being consistent. Keep creating content and do your best to satisfy your audience, and you may find that one day one of your articles is a viral hit.
Also, remember to constantly promote your brand and your content in order to reach as many people as possible.
Everyone can create a site nowadays, and this means that SEO is a requirement if you want to be noticed.
Optimizing your website isn’t particularly difficult, however, it does require that you invest some time and energy into it. Follow this guide and properly optimize your blog and you will see that your online presence will improve.
You may have attempted to optimize your website in the past but found it too difficult, or considered that it wasn’t necessary at that point. Well, now it is. Fortunately, pretty much anyone can do it, and there are a lot of resources online that can help you.