Simple SEO Guide

What is SEO

This guide will help you learn SEO for your blog. SEO stands out for Search Engine Optimization and it is the process that optimizes your pages and posts on your website to show up as high as possible in the Search Engine Results of various Search Engines. While there are several Search Engines out there, most of the website owners are focusing on showing on the first page of Google. If you are optimized for Google, most likely you will perform OK for the other Search Engines

How to start a blog

Before spending any money on blogging, you have to read this. There is a reason courses and services are pitched to you. Don’t fall for it. Read my No BS guide to starting a blog

What is a Search Engine

Think of a Search Engine like a librarian. It knows where to find all the books based on an index system but most importantly it can recommend you the best books on a certain topic. If you go to the library and ask a librarian what are the best books on Microsoft Excel for example he or she can recommend you a few titles based on the knowledge of what are the most common titles that are checked out and based on people’s recommendations when they bring them back in.

What is Organic traffic

Traffic from search engine can be paid or organic. The paid traffic is being generated from the ads that websites pay for and that show up on the sidebar or at the top of the page.

The organic traffic is the traffic generated by good quality content.

If you write the best post on a specific topic, Google and other Search engines will reward it with a top spot on the first page of search results and if people are clicking on it and follow through to your site, it will become organic traffic. If that is not a good reason to learn SEO, I don’t know what is.

White Hat vs Black Hat SEO

You may have heard the term “white hat SEO” or “black hat SEO”

The White Hat SEO represents all the techniques that follow the rules of Search Engines and optimize content based on the the quality of content. White SEO techniques take time.

Black Hat SEO are techniques that take advantage of various loopholes in the search engines algorithms or use massive technology to provide fake signals to the search engines that your site have value. These techniques may work in the short term but may result into de-listing or banning from the Search Engines.

You should be very careful about paying money for “fast results”. It is typically Black Hat SEO and it may end up with your website being blocked in the long run.

Read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines before you start doing anything questionable regarding SEO

5 Reasons to Learn SEO

SEO traffic is better than Social Media traffic

It’s all about your state of mind. When you browse social media, many times you want to relax, to socialize etc. You are not action driven. So you may see a link but you are less likely to put everything aside and take action.

However, when you search something on Google, you most likely want to take action, to learn something, to purchase something etc.

Social Media traffic is not bad but it does require way more effort for less rewards.

For this blog, I count mostly on SEO. I tried Pinterest and other social media channels and it is just too much work. If you have the time to do that, Social Media can be a good source of traffic too.

SEO traffic is targeted

SEO traffic is the best because it is an answer to a search. Visitors are searching for something, an answer to a question, a product review, a discount code. They want to visit your page because they hope they find their answer.

SEO traffic converts better

Visitors acquired through SEO are much more likely to buy something (your own product or an affiliate products you recommend) and show more engagement (read the post, stay on page longer, join a newsletter, bookmark, comment)

SEO is consistent and reliable

Once you start getting SEO traffic AND, most importantly, provide a quality answer, you’ll be getting more of it with little or no effort. Google algorithm recognize your page for providing a good quality answer and will keep promoting it.

SEO traffic is mostly passive

Once you have organic traffic, it can last for a very long time with very little maintenance. Quality is key. Make sure the content is still the best and update when something changes. The more evergreen your content is, the more passive the traffic. For example, if you write about the best plants to plant in the spring in a certain geographic area, things are not changing much year over year (evergreen – pun intended). But if you write about the latest cell phone, you have to keep up with technology to stay at the top.

5 SEO Myths

SEO is hard, I need a professional

Achieving results with SEO is hard. Doing a Search Engine Optimization of your pages and posts is not.

Getting good results is hard because you did not write with the intention to fill in a gap. You rinsed and repeated the same posts of other websites with the intention to beat them

The idea behind every piece of content is to answer a question. If you search for something and you don’t find it, you need to write a good piece of content about it. That is easy SEO.

If you search for something and you find tons of good content in the first 2 or 3 pages of Google, let it go. It will be much harder to compete with that.

My site is SEO optimized, I have Yoast

No, an SEO plugin is more like a coach. Absolutely install an SEO plugin, you don’t have to go for paid versions. (Yoast, MathRank). The SEO plugin will help you understand how your pages and posts perform in terms of internal SEO by following certain rules.Sometimes, because it’s purely based on formulas, it will give you bad advice. 

Read the suggestions to understand the rules and focus on offering the best user experience with your content.

I would say, as a golder rule, try to write the content as you would write it for someone you care about. How would you provide the answer to the question if the person asking would be a member of your family that you care about.

I need to buy an SEO Keyword Research tool 

No. Although they can be helpful.

To find the best keyboard use Google Search. Use the autofill option in Google to understand what are other people looking for, use the related searches section.

When you find the right question or phrase that you can answer with your content, search it, see what Google offers on the first page, read all 10 results, and try to “beat” them with a better piece of content. 

Now of course it matters if the keyword you optimize for is searched for 100 times a month or 1,000,000 times a month. It also matters what you are competing against.

That’s what keyword tools give you. But there are always some free limited tools to help you achieve that.

My best performing posts are the ones I wrote when I spent more than 1-2 minutes finding an answer. If you have to go to the second or third page of Google to find some answer, there’s a good content opportunity for you.

Meta data doesn’t matter, I’ll do it later

Meta data is the title and the few lines of description that shows on the Google Search page. They are as important as the Thumbnail Pictures are for YouTube. Go to Google and search for something now. What you see is a list of pages with titles and short description. You are most likely to click on the one that promises to give you the answer the fastest and the cheapest.

Think about that when writing Titles and Descriptions for your pages in the Meta section. Your goal is to get the click through first. Only after that your goal becomes to keep the reader reading and take action. First they have to choose you.

This is a skill in itself. 

I post on Social Media, I don’t need SEO

Social Media is a great source of traffic for your site but you are putting your content on someone else’s platform. Remember MySpace? Remember Google Plus? These were Social Media sites that disappeared. All the content shared there disappeared with them

Social Media is not passive. You have to always post, engage, comment and “pull” each visitor to your site when they may not be in the state of mind to visit your site and take the action. 

Social Groups (like Facebook Groups) may be a bit different, but again, even there, you are constantly fighting the algorithm that fills a user’s stream.

In contrast, SEO can provide targeted, consistent, reliable and mostly passive traffic to your site. That will allow you to focus on other aspects of your website, business or life.

I need to write posts with minimum 2000 words to rank on Google

This is simply not true. User intent is important. New Bloggers are always asking “How many words should my blog post be to rank of Google“. A lot of the experienced bloggers will rush to tell them it is over 2000. This can create a tremendous pressure for a beginner and may even cause them to give up.

I have posts with 300 words that rank very well on the first page of Google. I have Featured snippets that come from posts with 200-300 words. Why? Simply because they answer the user intent.

If the user is asking a very specific question that has a very short answer, they will not appreciate a long page or post that will give them tons of words just to find the answer in paragraph 15.

Answer the question as soon as possible. Then, if you have relevant information, and make sure it is really relevant, you can add that information down the page.

Dive deeper into this topic in the post about the ideal number of words in a blog post.

SEO Keywords

New bloggers are often confused about how a keyword works with search engine optimization. Let’s explore some of the terms.

What is a keyword

A keyword can just be a word or a descriptive phrase used to describe what you are searching for. 

Case Study Example

Let’s say we are in the flower business and we have a website that sells flower arrangements.

Base keywords

The first words that come to mind as base keywords are:

  • flowers
  • arrangements
  • bouquet

These types of words represent the root of a keyword and are often called base keywords

Yet having a base keyword doesn’t tell us much of what the search user is looking for. By adding more information to the keyword, we can quickly understand more of what the user intent is.

Keywords Modifiers

The sort of words which provide additional insight are commonly called modifiers. Modifiers further develop and clarify the meaning of the keyword. 

Some examples of keyword modifiers for the base keyword flower are: 

  • flower arrangements
  • flower bouquet
  • flower pot
  • flower garden
  • growing flowers

Adding these types of modifiers can clarify the user intent. As you can imagine, there is a different intent between each of the queries above.

Keyword Extenders

To further clarify the intent you also have the so called Keyword Extenders. Words like “buy”, “review”, “top”, “best” are extending the search clarifying what kind of action the user wants to take.

What is the user Intent

As you can see, based on the action the user intends to take, the results offered by the search engine can be different. 

A “buy” extender may suggest the user is ready to purchase so a good online store selling those products would work.

A “review”, “top”, “best” extender may suggest that the user is in the research phase so a good review site or video or article might be the best result.

All three of these elements, the base keyword, the modifier and the extender are used to help dig deeper into understanding the purpose of the keyword, the search intent.

Order of keyword elements

It’s important to note that search engines don’t need the base modifier and extension to be in order. Search engines are robots so language has a different meaning to them. Saying “buy flower arrangement” or “flower arrangement buy” will provide a similar set of results.

Before you start any keyword research for your website, think about user intent. What action would you like your visitors to perform on your site. What would they search so that finding your site would provide the desired result.

Long Tail Keywords

When you list all possible keywords for your site with all modifiers and extenders you have a long list of keywords. The keywords that show most in the searches are the base keywords. The keywords that show less are the keywords with modifiers. The keywords that show the least are the ones with modifiers and extenders. At the end of this tail is where you find the so called “long tail keywords”

Look at this example from SEMRUSH to better understand long tail keywords.

These keywords may have a reduced number of searches but also a reduced competition. They could represent the entry door for a visitor to your site.

For a garden center the keyword “flower garden” may have a lot of searches but also a lot of competition. But the Long Tail Keyword “how to grow a flower garden in the dry soil near Las Vegas” may have less searches but it could put a post on that topic on the first page of Google and it could invite a visitor to your site. That visitor may sign for a newsletter, bookmark your page or buy something. That all depends on the quality of your content.

Actions for your blog

On a piece of paper or into a document answer the following questions. If possible, brainstorm with friends, family or partners on this.

  • Who are the visitors that I want on my site
  • What is the intent of these visitors
  • What kind of questions would they ask Google
  • What are some of the long tail keywords you can think of for your site.

On Page SEO

You can read a lot more details in the FREE courses referred below but here is the basics of it. The On Page SEO represents how well is your page organized and how well is it answering the user’s question.

Quality before Quantity

You may hear many bloggers or webmasters that you need to write 2000 words in a blog post to be considered by the Search Engine and promoted to the first page. This is false.

Always consider the user intent first.

If your visitor is looking for a pancake recipe, you do not need to provide a 2000 word post with the pancake recipe. What would you like to see if you would be looking for that? Maybe a list of ingredients, short instructions on how to put them together and perhaps a video of the whole process. So that is what you should write. In fact, don’t believe me. Go search for that keyword and see what Google puts on the first page.

However, if your user intent is to search for a tutorial, a guide to SEO, then 2000 words may not be enough.

Again, the best test is to see what Google offers on the first page for the keyword you are interested in.

Page Structure

Keep your page organized. Make it easy for a reader to read and to skip to what is important. For ex, someone may look for an SEO guide but only wants to learn more about keyword research part. Offer a table of contents or a guide on the page on how to get to what they want.

Use headings and subheadings to allow scanning of the page and focusing on what is interesting for that user.

Make the best content

Here’s the basics of content creation that is SEO optimized.

  • Search for the keyword you want to write about
  • Read the first 10 results
  • Make your content better than all of the 10 results combined.

Not only you’ll rank high very soon but you’ll make the internet better as a result.

Technical SEO Optimization to consider

  • Use Title Tags
  • Use Header Tags
  • Use internal linking
  • Use proper anchor text for linking
  • Link naturally, only if it brings value
  • Use redirection for already established pages/posts
  • Avoid 404 pages
  • Optimize images for size
  • Use Alt Text for images
  • Use a sitemap – and submit to Google Search Console
  • Format for readability (bullet points, headers, supporting media)
  • Use keywords naturally in the text (avoid keyword stuffing)
  • Use meta descriptions (use a plugin like Yoast or MathRank to preview)
  • user clear permalinks
  • use keywords in URL
  • use human readable URL’s
  • use HTTPS
  • avoid excessive ads, distractions, tricks click-baits and other things that annoy you when you browse other websites
  • optimize for mobile

For more details on how to implement these techniques read MOZ’s Beginner’s Guide to On Page SEO

Link building – backlinks

Backlinks are links to your site from other websites. The more popular the other site is, the more weigh the link has in Google’s algorithm.

If you are a beginner, do not focus on this. It take time OR effort to build quality links to your site.

If you write quality content that will get shared and read it will get backlinks in time.

The other option is to collaborate with other bloggers, build relationships, write them to beg for links (maybe in return to another link).

This is just my opinion but, depending on the time you have of course, it is better to use the time to build more content than to promote it. At least in the beginning.

To read more about the methods of link building read more of the Moz’s Link Building Guide

10 steps to SEO your site

There are a ton of FREE SEO courses online. I’ll post a few at the end of this post. But I want to tell you about my Easy Simple Smart SEO strategy that worked for me and it will 100% work for you. And the best part, it’s short and easy to follow.

One important aspect to understand about SEO is that you don’t optimize your site for SEO. You optimize each post and each page. Every piece of content, every page/post needs to represent the answer to a Search Engine query. Therefore you could have pages that will show up on the first page of Google and you could have pages that will never show up in the search results.

Step 1. Study your competition

Either you want to dominate a niche or just write a great post on a topic tangent or outside of your niche, study what is out there. Who writes about that, what are their top, most commented posts. If you can, use some of the SEO tools to find the most viewed pages on their websites. 

Step 2. Determine what you want to write about

Out of all this research, pick a topic to write about. Search the top 10 posts that show on the first pages of Google on that topic. That is what Google thinks will answer that topic or question the best.

Step 3. Find the relevant keywords for your topic

Start searching on Google various keywords related to your topic. Use “How to”, How Many”, “What Kind” type of qualifiers in your search. Collect all the Related Searches and suggested searches that Google auto populates in the search box. Put them all in a list in a text file or Excel file. Look through the list and find common questions.

Step 4. Structure your post

While studying the competition (Step 1) collect Headers, points of view, lists and other ideas from your competitors and create a structure for your post. Do this is a Notepad, or a Google docs, not on the website. Type in major Headers of your post, the major chapters, ideas you want to cover etc. Make sure you cover all or most of the answers to all the related searches you collected. This is a high level structure of your post. Feel free to use the keywords collected in Step 3 in headings and sub-headings

Step 5. Fill in the blanks

Now that the structure is complete, fill in the text, add pictures, links etc. At this point this can start to be edited directly on your website.

Step 6. Set a Title and a Description

Title and Description are the most important elements of your post. These are what any user would see and decide to click on your link in the Google Search page. Make it interesting and honest. The last thing you want is for someone to be tricked

Step 7 Set a permalink

This is the part of the URL that should contain a keyword, the most relevant keyword for your post.

Step 8. Optimize your images

Optimize the images on your post for size and also add meta data. It will help with SEO searches

Step 9. SEO plugin check

Read the recommendations from your SEO plugin. Remember, they are just that, recommendations. Try to understand the suggestions and do what makes sense to you and your readers.

Step 10. Publish and revise

Once you hit Publish, it’s not the end. You can always come back and add more content to your post. Do not change the permalink but you can keep optimizing the content with additional information, better title and description, social media metadata, images etc. Remember, it may take days or weeks to get that content re-indexed by Google and other Search Engines.

Conclusion

As you can see, this is a lot of work but it is pretty basic. You can learn more about SEO, take a course, watch 100 hours of video but you’ll learn the best by taking action and writing a lot of content. Nobody can do the work for you. 

Monitor your performance in Google Search Console and improve it. This process will eventually become second nature. 

Bookmark this post because I’ll update it with more information, tools and references as I learn more.

Reference section

Here are some free resources that will help you understand more about SEO.

Google Webmaster Blog

This is the Official Blog where you get first hand information on the Google Search Algorithms and changes that are coming to the Search Engine.

MOZ’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO

MOZ is one of the most trusted SEO website. This Guide is completely free and it goes into a lot of the technical aspects of SEO

SEO like a CEO

A simple and straightforward guide to SEO in a blog and video format presented by Mediavine’s CEO Eric Hochberger.

Miles Beckler’s – Learn SEO in 1 Video

If you prefer video, this is the video to watch. I found this video to be very clear and provide you with the fundamentals of the SEO