When people start their first site they are facing countless decisions: Which WordPress theme to use? What about the plugins? What is this, hosting?
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Well, unless you don’t have a budget for this and you can afford to pay an agency to take care of everything for you.
But most of the people aren’t that wealthy. That’s why we need to figure out stuff the hard way. The long way.
Key factor of the infrastructure of your site is the SEO. If you want to make money blogging, you need traffic to your website.
Fortunately, we have this guide. In this post, it’s actually more of a guide, I will explain how you can boost your site so you can reach the top position of Google. This is my SEO for beginners step-by-step guide.
Before we get into more details, let me first explain the basics of SEO.
WHAT IS ACTUALLY SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results – I literally copy paste the previous sentence from moz.com.
In other words, SEO is a process that makes your site more likable from the search engines, which ranks it higher in the search results. And if you’re not sure what are the search engines, let me give you one example: Google. Currently, Google, Yahoo, and Bing are the top used browsers in the world.
The process we all use when we search something online is as follows:
We open Google > We type what we want to find > Google brings results > We click on one of the links.
Nearly 90% of the people who search online don’t click on the second page of the results Google brings. So, if your site is not ranking on the first page of Google of the desired keywords, you’re losing a lot of customers because you’re not getting any traffic. A site without traffic is simply a waste of time.
Search Engine Ranks Pages/Posts
One more thing before we continue with the SEO for beginners guide:
Google, and the other search engines rank pages and posts, not the main website.
A lot of people think that they should do something magically about their site in order to rank high. They think SEO works like this:
People get to your main page: domain.com > From your home page they go to the other pages > They buy something from you.
The truth is different. You need to optimize your individual posts in order to gain traffic:
People get to a particular page/post on your site > From there they can check your other posts > They buy something from you.
So, what we need to do?
Well, there are several things, actually, these things are more like rules, that you need to consistently follow and do when you add new posts to your website. Before I show you how to write a post that is optimized for the search engines, I will start from the beginning:
The Domain Name
A couple of years ago, it was vital to have a domain name with the main keyword of your website inside. For example, if you wanted to sell flowers online, it was a really good practice to buy a domain name with the word flowers inside.
Now, this is not considered as something that will boost your rankings. Also, getting a domain name that includes the desired word is something really hard. Most of the good domains are already sold out. So, don’t think about this. But do consider the following things when you’re choosing a domain name:
Make it short and memorable
I still see domains that are like really long. Something not really cool for two main reasons:
People won’t remember your domain name if it’s too long;
If your domain name is long this will make the links of your site long as well. For example, if this is your domain name: thisismyreallylongdomainname.com, a link to it will be that long: thisismyreallylongdomainname.com/category/my-new-blog-post-about-content/.
Social media influences a lot on the length of our links. That’s why there are so many sites that allow us to shorten our links. Strive to keep things simple and get a short domain that people can actually remember.
Avoid numbers and hyphens inside your domain name
In addition to what I mentioned above, we should avoid using hyphens and numbers inside our domain names.
The explanation here is simple: this will make it hard for the people wanting to visit your site because there is a lot of room for error. Keep it simple.
If possible get the .com extension
One last thing: try to get the .com extension of your domain name.
Everything after the dot we call it domain extension. The most popular extension is the .com one. People are so used of typing .com after a domain that if you have a .net extension they might end up visiting someone else’s website.
I personally use the following sites when I’m searching for a new domain name:
Once you choose the domain name, you will need hosting:
Get a reliable hosting
A lot of people don’t think that the hosting matters a lot. But it does matter, a lot.
A large portion of the way your site behaves online is thanks to what the hosting provider. There is a good chance that your site will be slow and down, for most of the time, if you end up getting cheap and unreliable hosting.
If the above happens Google will drop your site in terms of rankings. Remember, the real purpose of the search engines is to show the most relevant results of the search query of the people typing. Obviously, no one wants to end up opening a blank page.
The number one hosting provider for hosting a WordPress site is SiteGround – hands down. There are a lot of reasons you should consider them when you’re searching for a place to host your website but I will name just a few:
24/7 outstanding support;
99.9% uptime for your site;
Fast, optimized servers for maximum performance;
In-house caching tool that will boost your site performance even more;
Anti spam-bot system that will save you from the nasty spam bots;
Free SSL provided by Let’s Encrypt;
If you’re interested in knowing more about them you can simply start a sales chat by going to their official website and clicking on the Help section on the top.
General SEO Settings
Once you install WordPress on your hosting provider, head towards the admin panel of your website and more particularly, go to Settings > General:
Add your site title and tagline. Make the title brief but informational. Make sure to include words for which you want to rank for. I’m using “WordPress reviews” in my tagline because that’s mainly what my site is about.
Next, go to Settings > Permalinks:
Here, you need to define the structure of your URL’s. I always use Custom Structure with the following:
This simple actions will add the category of your post along with the URL of the post. This is the most used URL structure. In addition, I will suggest creating categories that include the purpose of your site. If you add a lot of cooking tips, name your category cookings tips. This will tell Google that your site is mostly about this and it will rank it higher in the search results for that particular keyword.
Install Yoast SEO Plugin
The next important thing you need to do is to install the most used SEO plugin: Yoast SEO.
This extension allows you to add short descriptions of your blog posts that are later used when Google is crawling your website.
Go to Plugins > Add new > Search for Yoast and install the following plugin:
When you activate the plugin a setup wizard will be triggered so you can follow the steps but I want to mention one important thing: You need to absolutely enable the Sitemap functionality of Yoast. The sitemap is used from crawlers to index your website. The option is available for activation from inside the newly appeared menu SEO > General > Features > XML Sitemaps and enable this:
That’s it for now with this plugin. I will later show you how to use it with every post.
Create Google Webmaster Account
Creating Google Webmaster account gives you a lot of benefits: You can monitor the overall performance of your website; How it ranks; Potential issues that are blocking your site from the search engines, and more.
The next screen will ask you to verify that you have ownership over that account. To do so, you simply need to upload a file inside your file manager. Click on the link you will see above – option 1.
Now, access the cPanel of your hosting account. It might sound a bit confusing but bear with me. You can access the User Area of your hosting account and search for the cPanel access button or simply type: yourdomain.com/cpanel into your browser. Once you’re inside, go to the File Manager:
Upload the file inside the folder of your website. In my case, this is inside the public_html. Simply click on the Upload button above to upload the file.
Once the file is uploaded, go back to the previous screen and Verify.
Keep in mind that you need to do the above 3 more times. Basically, you need to add all available versions of your website:
Once this is done, go to the little wheel > Site Settings > Choose how you want your site to appear. I will personally recommend using the version without www. mainly because this will make your URL shorter.
Next, go to the Search Traffic section > International Targeting > Country > Choose in which countries you want to focus on. This is really good if you’re focusing only on one particular market.
The next thing you need to do is to submit your sitemap. This will force search engines to crawl your site, which will basically update your position in Google.
To do this, go to Crawl > Sitemaps > Add/Test sitemap button on the top right > type your sitemap. This is usually the following:
You submit it and also test it if you like.
Ok, we’re done with the configuration of our site for more traffic. Once the above settings are done, you won’t have to touch them again. Except for the last part about sitemaps, you might want to update this if you’re making changes to the configuration of the map of your site.
Before we start our next post, we should first find good, long tailored keywords for our copy.
The main two reasons we write blog posts are the following:
We want to say something;
We want to bring more visitors to our website. More visitors means more potential buyers for the things we sell.
Here is not about choosing one or the other, it’s about combining what you want to say with bringing more traffic to your website.
You need to access with your Google account. I’m sure you have such. Once the screen loads, click on Tools > Keyword Planner:
Let’s say that you want to write a blog post related to cooking tips. Type cooking tips into the field and click on the word showing:
Next, click Get Started:
You will see results related to that keyword. As you will see, what we typed appeared on the top and it’s showing a volume of between 1k – 10k searches per month.
The competition for this keyword is low but we want something less generic. If you type cooking tips you will see millions for results:
Actually billion of results and the first result is a video.
Go through the pages till you find something interesting:
I found two really good results with large monthly search volume and low competition: Indian food recipes; easy chicken recipes.
When you’re looking for a keyword, search for expression that’s at least 3 words long. This will narrow the choices and you’re more likely to rank higher for something really specific than something broad.
For example, here we can use something like this as a title: 11 quick Indian food recipes.
Writing Your Post
Ok, we’re ready with the title. We can now start writing our post around the keyword we found.
Your post should look something like this when you’re finished:
So, let’s start from the top to button, what we have:
The category is tightly related to the content I will be regularly publishing: cooking tips.
The URL of the post itself is the keyword I’m targeting;
My title includes the focus keyword;
I have the keyword inside my copy;
I use it inside a heading;
I also use similar words to my focus keyword;
Using synonyms of your keywords is called LSI keyword.
You no longer need or have to stuff your blog post with the same keyword to rank higher in the search results. Actually, the later will make your site look spammy and Google will notice this.
It’s best to use synonyms to your keyword. This will help crawlers better understand your topic, thus give it a ranking boost.
Additionally, you can use the Google Keyword Planner. Simply copy-paste similar words to what you’re writing about.
Set Your Meta in Yoast Plugin
Ok, let say we’re ready with our new blog post. Before you hit publish you need to do one more thing: You need to make sure that your Yoast box is properly field. To do so, simply scroll after the content you’ve just written. You will see a box and the process to correctly fill everything is as follows:
Type your targeted keyword. In our case “quick Indian food recipes”;
Add your title;
Type catchy meta description. The title and the meta description are really important because this text here is what will convince people to click and access your website;
See how it will appear.
The above things are the basic SEO techniques I use when I’m setting a new website and when I’m updating an existing one.
Before we wrap up the post, I wanted to share a couple of writing tips that will help you move your post to the front page of Google faster:
Headings and bullet list: Using your target keyword in H2 headings is also really important for your on-page SEO. Additionally, use bullets and numbered lists to make your copy easy to read.
Content length: Strive to write in-depth articles that are covering specific topic. Statistics show that articles that are around 2000 words long are ranking higher in the search results. That’s the main reason I write detailed themes and plugin reviews.
Proper grammar and spelling: Proper grammar and spelling is a quality signal. I will personally suggest installing Grammarly tool on your PC. It’s free and easy to use software and it will help you write spelling free articles: Grammarly.com.
Add links: Internal linking should be like a habit. Add links to your old posts when you write new ones. Do the same thing with the old posts. Linking to relevant articles in your website will increase your page views. Also, make sure to add links to outside sites.
Anchor Text: When adding links to your site don’t use the “click here” text. Rather, use the keyword for that specific posts. For example “If you are not quite sure which WordPress theme to use, make sure to check my best WordPress themes section.” In the sentence above the anchor text is “best WordPress themes section”, which is relevant to the main keyword in this article.
Extra SEO tips for beginners
Comment on other blogs: A commonly overlooked method for building traffic is adding comments on blogs. I don’t mean spamming here. Simply to share your thought on sites that are in a similar niche as yours. Engage people. Start conversations. It might sound strange at first, but soon you will see results.
Build backlinks: The hardest, but the most effective strategy for increasing your organic traffic is building backlinks to your site. This usually happens organically. When you have nicely written articles people will want to connect with your content. Still, this happens over years. If you’re just starting, you might wanna contact famous sites and explain how your content can help their readers so they can link to your posts.
Add social media buttons: Make it easy for people to share your stuff. The more shares you have the more people will end up reading your posts and buying your products. I will also suggest adding click to tweet buttons.
It’s not that hard, right?
Once the initial setup is done, you only need to make sure all of your posts and pages are SEO optimized. The Yoast SEO plugin makes the heavy lifting here.
Smart SEO is all about optimizing the experience people have on your website. If people like the design of your website, the content, the images, they will trust you and they will buy from you. Then, they will share that with other people. Google will see these positive vibes and will give you better ranking for your targeted keywords.
In short, the SEO of the future is pleasing your visitors.