Perhaps the most asked question I receive in my inbox is “how can I improve SEO on my site?”. There is no simple answer that is one size fits all, but there are a few actionable tasks that can vastly improve SEO for almost anyone.
SEO is not a scary monster in the world of websites and blogging. In fact, it is one of the most rewarding and easiest ways to see more revenue happen for your website. Not only does it drive traffic, but it brings the right traffic that will convert for what you offer.
Improve SEO for Free Traffic to Your Site
Over the last 7 years, I spent thousands of hours focused on understanding how search engine optimization works to your benefit in owning a website. While most of us are looking for help with blogs, these same principles apply to almost any website.
I have made the mistakes and seen the changes happen. At the center of how Google views SEO, some core things have always remained the same, and those are things that I want to share here to help you take those actionable steps toward improving the overall reader experience for your blog.
P.S. If you haven't started a blog yet, make sure to begin with our How to Start a Blog tutorial.
Find the niche you love and stick with it
I have found one of the biggest problems bloggers have in gaining traction with SEO is that they just want to keep their websites too broad. I can't begin to tell you how many times I hear things like, “I am passionate about all of these subjects, though”.
A solid niche is a must for ultimate search engine optimization success!
Sure, you are passionate about a lot of things. We all are. The reality is that the Google bots and algorithm they follow do not understand your need to share cat memes while also creating elaborate recipes and backpacking through the Himalayans. Instead, that algorithm says, “this site doesn't know enough about cats, recipes, or backpacking so I am going to show another site to answer this question instead”.
I watch this happen in every blogging group I have been a part of over the years. Lifestyle blogs became a hugely popular thing to many. While they had a time and a place, Google has always and will always prefer the websites that offer the most value and knowledge about a subject. That is why niche sites will almost always be in the top of results pages when you do a Google search. There are even lists of the top niche sites out there to show you just how important it is to follow a single topic.
Stop watering down your content! Find a singular focus and stick to that for better profitability!
This means that while you started blogging 10 years ago and covered coupons, your kid's antics, recipes, crafts, and even travel, it doesn't mean that you should continue doing things that way. Not for the original blog, or the one you are starting. You cannot expect to excel in all topics with SEO. While you may find varying levels of success, you will find much better organic traffic when you limit the topics you cover.
Once you've decided on your niche, check out Sadie's tutorial on how to name your blog.
Note: If you truly do want to write about a number of topics, you still can do that. Simply separate into different blogs, or alternately ask around to see if you can guest post on those topics with other blogs.
Research keywords for your topic to Improve SEO
Keyword research? What exactly is keyword research? It is simply what it sounds like. You need to look for the most commonly searched terms related to your blog post topic.
Yes, it really can make a difference, and no, it does not have to cost a lot of money. It doesn't really even have to cost any money. There are tons of ways to effectively find keywords for a blog post. While some work better for more specific traffic, all work to find better topics for you to cover.
How do I know what to look for in a keyword?
- Start with chocolate chip cookies. You know that is one of the most popular cookies ever made, so it would be pretty impossible to rank for that on page 1 of search results. You could, however, rank for a unique type of cookie people are looking for instead.
- Consider the recipe you have created and if it is already being searched for by cookie lovers. Is it too unique so nobody will have thought of it? If so, consider building on an existing option.
- Go to Google and search for your idea. Maybe it is a chocolate chunk cookie with mint. When you look, how many delicious recipes do you find on that first page? Are their videos on those posts? Are the images showing in the search? Maybe you should target something different. How can you make your recipe stand out?
- Settle on a keyword that is being searched, offers something unique, and that has shown in Google search, but those results do not offer what you can for the reader. A better image, video in the post, or even extra tips for freezing the cookies, making them chewier, etc. can make a difference in what gets shown or clicked.
Best free tools for keyword research
Free appeals to everyone, so offering some great free resources is a must. While I pay for some keyword research tools, I do so because this is my daily work and what I get paid to do by companies. For your singular blog, paid resources are probably outside the budget and unnecessary.
- Google Keyword Planner: This is part of their ad account, but you can use it free of charge once you sign up for an ad account. Searching here will give you good ideas of popular keywords on your topic.
- Answer the Public: This site allows you to ask a limited number of times per day about your niche topics. It then spits out related questions being asked online that can be used as keywords or post topics.
- Keywords Everywhere: This is a browser extension that can be useful for learning about what is currently being searched and what is popular. You can learn what other sites are being seen for, and then use this to your advantage in creating better posts.
- Google Search Console: If you already have a blog/website and have installed Google Analytics and set up your sitemap with search console, take advantage of what it is showing about your site. The results in your search traffic will give you ideas of keyword phrases to target.
- Google: Search what you want to write about, and check out those autocomplete options. Also, look at related topics at the bottom of your search. These will give you great options for what is already being looked at by readers.
- Keyword In: I have not personally used this but have seen it listed by hundreds of well-known SEO strategists as a source to help find better longtail keyword ideas. Definitely worth checking out.
- Soovle: If you like the results you get from Google and the autofill feature, then this is going to be a hit. This tool shows you the auto-fill results from multiple search engines at one time.
Best paid tools for keyword research
There is a multitude of paid options for keyword research. I personally use 3-4 of these at all times when I am working. The comparisons and different results have been informative and each resource provides something unique. I do not recommend that you pay for any when you first begin. When you are ready to move to a paid option, research well, and start with the lower price options first to get more familiar.
P.S. Some of these are affiliate links of mine, but I truly don't share unless I believe it is a worthwhile product.
- Keysearch: This plan is one that is most affordable with plans as low as $17 per month that offer up to 200 searches per day. Keysearch offers a lot of variety in results and is easy to use and understand. If you are just starting, this is the ideal choice.
- KWFinder: Mangools offers KWFinder along with a few other great tools. They have many plan options that can go as low as $34 per month. You can search a single keyword and get hundreds of related options that can easily help you narrow down your longtail keyword. What I love is how this is more affordable, but also offers me a variety that is designated easily by competition level. Tip: If in green, it is great and easy to rank. Yellow is next best on the list.
- Jaaxy: I have used this option in the past with some success. It is reasonably priced and has a lot of options, but I found the dashboard a bit more difficult to get used to than others. For a low budget option, it is excellent and has produced good results. The current starter plan is free for up to 30 searches per day with limited information. The next plan upgrade is $49 per month.
- Moz: For many years, Moz was the best and most well-known keyword research tool and SEO resource. When you first start learning about SEO, they have hundreds of videos, posts, and free resources. Their plans are reasonable considering all of the options offered. Starting at $99 per month, you have a variety of options to choose from for your needs.
- Ahref's: Another longtime SEO authority, Ahref's has some unique options that I love. If you plan to use Amazon to sell products or utilize YouTube for videos, they have special areas on the site for keyword knowledge dedicated to just those sites. You can do a 7 day trial for $7 to see if you like the platform. After that, the lowest pricing package is $99 per month.
- SemRush: This tool while pricey, is one of my favorites for in=depth research on how my site is already working for me. At $99 per month minimum, it is one of the more expensive options. If you have multiple websites or have a team to share expenses, it is well worth your time and money.
Answer a question your readers are asking
While probably the least in-depth part of this post, this may be the most important. Answer a question that your readers have about something. Every blog post should target your reader and their needs.
As mentioned above, when you niche down, you will find it easier to rank because you build authority in that topic. The way you build that authority is by being a resource that your readers need.
I have shared in our Easy Blog School Facebook group about this concept a number of times already. It is vital that your posts provide something that someone out there is looking for on the Internet. Otherwise, your hard work is just for you, and that isn't a way to make money or bring traffic.
When people do searches, they are looking for something in particular. You want to be the one to answer their need.
This varies depending on your niche, but all blog posts should have a resource or answer
Food blogs answer the need for a recipe, measurement, or substitution
Craft blogs answer the need for a new decor item, tutorial, or specific crafting style
Mental health blogs answer the question of “am I the only one”, “how do I cope” and more
Virtual assistant blogs answer questions about how to earn money, track invoices, manage projects, etc.
Blogging blogs answer questions about layout, style, development, plugins, best practices, traffic, or in this case, SEO.
er for the person reading.
- Food blogs answer the need for a recipe, measurement, or substitution
- Craft blogs answer the need for a new decor item, tutorial, or specific crafting style
- Mental health blogs answer the question of “am I the only one”, “how do I cope” and more
- Virtual assistant blogs answer questions about how to earn money, track invoices, manage projects, etc.
- Blogging blogs answer questions about layout, style, development, plugins, best practices, traffic, or in this case, SEO.
Various types of blogs and websites answer a variety of questions and needs – but that is the #1 thing they will all have in common.
- If you want to show up in a search engine – you must answer the question or need of a potential search.
- Rants, personal journey, pictures of kids, etc. are all well and good, but if you want someone to see that on your blog – then you need to make sure those rants and journeys are also connecting with a need or question in a readers life.
SEO begins with this -without this – your keywords and writing style will do nothing for your overall traffic success.
Not sure where to begin when writing? Sadie has great tips on how to write better blog posts in less time!
Format your posts to Improve SEO
I love when Sadie says she has been working on a blog post and she just “brain dumped” her ideas. That means she is feeling passionate and excited about a topic. This is a big part of writing quality content. However, you need to format that brain dump into something, not just readable, but in a way that Google sees your focus.
While many blogging courses will give you a writing template or tell you that you need to follow a specific layout, there is no perfect method. There are, however, some standard suggestions that seem to please the Google algorithm more than others.
Use Headings appropriately
Headings are a great tool to not only break up text for easier reading (which is super important), but to signify to Google “this is what the post is about”. While the bots crawl the site and pick out certain things, the first highlighted things are headings. This is like a giant sign to them that your blog post is about that subject. So, when you are creating headings, make them relevant to the post itself and use keywords within them when appropriate.
- H1 is your blog post title – it is not necessary to use within the body of your blog post
- H2 signifies the core keyword phrase and should be the first heading used in the body of the post
- H3, H4, H5, H6 are all to break up the body of the post.
- When using headings, always go in numerical order of the heading. H2, then H3, H4, and so forth. Don't go H2, H5, H3, H1. Just like a bulleted list, you want it to be orderly. Main keyword (H2), subheadings that break up the overall text into different pieces (H3), subheadings within those pieces (H4).
- When using headings, don't repeat your core keyword in every single heading. This looks spammy. Mix it up and use alternate keywords around the subject.
Write long enough posts to be considered strong in the niche
Sadie and I love to write long posts that offer tons of detail. That is great for many subjects. You do not have to write a 3,000-word post on how to make cookies, but you should be offering a minimum of 350 words to be seen at all by Google. 500 words are vastly preferred, and the sweet spot for most blog posts is often between 800-1500 words.
Just like not every post will be pinnable to Pinterest, not every post will require a large word count. Use your best judgment, but do consider how much value and information you are offering the reader. Give as much as possible.
Don't keyword stuff the blog post
Include your core keyword phrase throughout the body of the post, but do not stuff it to look spammy. In a post of 500 words, the keyword can be used 3-4 times and still be plenty to gain traction. Make sure it is in the post enough to be seen, but not in an overly spammy way.
Tip: Install Yoast SEO plugin to your site to help you learn how to write and format posts in a Google-friendly manner. This plugin does not improve your SEO by itself, but it does teach you better writing skills and will warn you when you have added the keyword too much or not enough.
Always add alt tags to images
Alt tags are a way for your website to be disability-friendly to those who are vision impaired. They also offer another way to add your keyword phrase in a search on Google. This is a very important part of your writing process.
Do not make the alt tag the post title or just the keyword. Describe what it looks like so a visually impaired individual can understand. If it is a plate of chocolate chip cookies, say that. A good example would be, “A blue plate sitting on the wooden table with baked chocolate chip cookies stacked on the plate”. Simple, but thorough.
Check out how to make great Pinterest images in Canva to help make those pictures pop in searches!
Don‘t neglect social media
One of the key ingredients to a successful SEO plan for your blog or website is to make sure Google sees you as knowing something about the subject. While your content is the focus of this process, social media plays a huge part in the search engine ranking.
Social media has become another set of search engines within themselves. Pinterest is the most visual search engine, and YouTube is another video search engine. All of these options are used separately but are connected to your core Google search.
Find the social media best suited for your niche!
Simply put, the larger your social media sharing of a blog post, the faster it will be seen by Google as rankable for the keyword. This is why I always say that you can only do so much on the website itself before you have to look off-page for SEO improvement.
Pinterest is a wonderful tool for visual websites like recipes and crafts. Facebook is excellent for more conversational websites like support, mental health, or teaching on specific subjects. Instagram is ideal for things like fashion, makeup, and food. YouTube is obviously a big part of those doing videos, recipe tutorials, crafts, or information sharing.
We will be sharing more in the coming months about each social media channel and how to utilize it for traffic and to build authority with Google to improve SEO rankings. Until then, you can start by checking out Sadie's post on How to Get Traffic Using Pinterest. This is a perfect starting place to kill that social media game!
Educate yourself to Improve SEO
Finally, as a bonus tip, I recommend you start educating yourself. This is just a beginning step, and as we share more you will have access to my personal tips and thoughts. In the meantime, start digging into available tutorials. Moz SEO Tutorial and Ahref's SEO Tutorial are both great series on SEO. SemRush has tons of tutorials on using their program, alongside how to effectively build SEO. Start learning NOW to have more success in the future.