SEO can be intimidating when you’re just starting out. Seeing big-name media brands in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) doesn’t help either. You may feel that your tiny blog could never compete with brands like Entrepreneur, Vogue, CNBC, and the like.
But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The good news is that small, niche blogs perform much better than large media brands in the search results. Why?
Because they establish authority through SEO.
My Best SEO Tips
Today, I will share my best SEO tips for both new and advanced bloggers to make sure their blogs are in the best position to succeed in the SERPs.
So, what do I mean by ‘establishing authority’?
Well, you need to show Google that you are an expert on the topic you’re writing about.
Think about it:
If you’re building a house, would you want to read home design and construction articles by a staff writer at Better Homes & Gardens who earns a good salary by writing about different home topics according to what his/her editor assigns?
No, you’d probably rather read a dedicated construction blog written by an experienced contractor who spends his days working on people’s homes!
The same applies to just about any niche.
Establish authority and knowledgeability on your blog topic, format your site properly, and watch your SEO grow.
Let’s get started!
Create a Blog With SEO in Mind
Let’s talk about the first steps to creating a blog with SEO in mind. This post pertains to bloggers using the WordPress platform.
Stick With One Niche
‘Lifestyle’ blogs have a much harder time ranking in the SERPs than niche blogs (focused on one topic like beauty or fashion). Try to stick to one niche on your blog. You can always branch out and launch a second blog later on.
Pick a Keyword Rich Domain
Your domain is a ranking factor in the search results so pick a good domain that has at least one of the words that your blog will be about. For example, if you start a beauty blog, you might consider naming it “Brunette Beauty” blog and go with the domain brunettebeauty.com. This will help you rank for search terms related to brunette hairstyles and beauty tips because those words are in the domain.
That being said, many of the most popular and high-volume search terms are already taken as domains. Instead, you can use a creative domain that combines a more unique word with a keyword. I did this with my blog name: Blog Ambitious. Blog is the keyword search term (since I write about blogging tips), and Ambitious is a more creative, unique word I added to the domain.
Get Solid Hosting
A reliable host with at least a 99% SLA uptime is a must-have so Google knows it can rely on your site to be available and present when readers need it.
A couple years ago Google decided to favor sites that were secured with an SSL certificate. Previously, this was only important for e-commerce sites that were accepting payments, but nowadays it’s standard to make sure your site is encrypted from end to end.
Get a Fast Theme
Your theme should be fast-loading and mobile-friendly. Most Google search traffic happens on mobile devices so your site should load easily and quickly on mobile browsers.
Set the Permalink Structure
Your permalink structure (found in Settings) should be yoursite.com/blog-post-title
The Categories of your niche site tell Google what your blog is about. Be sure to use 5-20 targeted categories to file your posts under.
Then, create a navigational menu in your header that lists all the major categories your blog features. This helps Google understand what types of information readers can find on your site. If you can make a dropdown menu, you can include links to top posts within those categories to boost their visibility on your site.
I recommend disabling the indexing of Tags by Google using the Yoast SEO plugin. Categories should be indexed by Google, as long as a description has been written and appears on your site.
On-Page SEO Tips
Let’s talk about ways to improve your SEO at the page level once your blog has been set up.
It’s crucial to do keyword research before you write your blog posts. I use the Surfer chrome extension to help me find keywords, analyze search volume data, and determine the correct variation for a keyword I want to write about.
Put the Keyword at the Beginning of the Blog Post Title
The keyword should appear towards the first part of your blog post title, rather than at the end.
Put the Keyword in the URL slug
Your exact keyword should be the slug of your post. For this post you’re reading, I’m targeting the keyword “SEO tips” so that’s why the URL slug of this post is /seo-tips/ which you can see in your browser!
Use Short URLs
Keep your blog post URLs down to 3-5 words. The slug of this post is “SEO-tips” because that’s the keyword the post is trying to rank for. Even though my title is much longer, I don’t need to include the full title in the URL of the post. Google prefers short URLs that get straight to the point.
Write the Best Possible Content
Every post you write should be as comprehensive and complete as possible.
Aim For Long-Form Content
Writing long-form content has been proven to be effective in ranking for competitive search terms in Google. Aim for a minimum of 500 words, but ideally 1,000 words for each post.
Break Up Your Text With Headers
Long-form content must be broken up with HTML headers so it’s easy to follow and digest. Format your Headers properly as you blog. Remove any additional H1 tags in the body of the text and make sure you have H2 and H3 tags to break up the text. Read more about how to structure blog content for SEO here.
Write a Good Blog Post Title
It’s hard to teach someone how to write a good blog post title, but after reading a lot of blogs and seeing plenty of google search results, you should have a pretty good idea of the types of titles that work well.
The blog post title is important because it determines your click-through rate. The click-through rate (what percentage of Google users actually click through to your blog after viewing it in the search results) will determine the posts’ rank and position in the Google search results.
Internal linking is incredibly important for your SEO. Try to link to other posts on your site at least 2 times in each blog post. Be sure to link to the keyword that the other post is trying to rank for.
Blog posts with images enhance the reader’s experience and thus improve your SEO. Make sure they’re not too big (max 1000px width) and change the name of the image file before uploading it to your WordPress media. (ie. Change ‘DSC_2763.jpg’ to ‘Best-Beaches-in-Florida-DSC_2763.jpg’) Write a keyword-rich image description in the “Alt” tag of each image you upload.
While it’s tempting to only include internal links on your blog posts to keep readers on your site longer, linking to established authority sites can actually benefit you. High-quality external links (especially to .gov or .edu sites) from your blog post show Google that you did research on the post at a reputable website. They also show that you’re not a spammer who just wants to keep people on their website. You genuinely care about providing your readers with the best resources on the topic, even if those are external!
Embed Relevant Videos
Video content is becoming ever more important in social media and the web. By embedding relevant videos from YouTube into your blog post, you enhance the reader’s experience. Ideally, you’ll embed your own videos, but if not, you can grab one that’s already been made from YouTube. The author of the video will be happy to receive the additional video views!
Write a Meta Description
While meta descriptions are no longer a ranking factor in the Google search results algorithm, they help entice readers to click through to your post. You can fill this in using the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress.
Add Important Footer Links
Add a footer to your site with links to popular posts, key categories, and important page links. This is one of the often overlooked SEO tips. Do not include more than 5 links in your footer, otherwise, it can appear spammy.
Keep an Active Blog
Posting at least once a week shows Google that you are actively managing the blog. Add new posts to your blog regularly for the best SEO results.
Google rewards fresh content, so it’s important to update your blog as often as you can to ensure that the latest relevant information is present.
Fill Out Your About & Contact Pages
Don’t overlook the About and Contact static web pages of your blog. Google likes to see that you are an authority on a subject so including your background, degrees, and awards on the About page can show them that you’re an expert! On the Contact page, you should have a physical address if possible, and a phone number. This helps add to the professionalism of your website which in turn helps your SEO.
There are several ways to improve your SEO outside of your website.
Build Relationships with Other Quality Websites
Regarding off-page SEO, the best way to improve your site’s authority is by receiving quality backlinks (links pointing to your website) from authoritative websites in your niche. You should never buy backlinks. It will only hurt you in the long run.
Instead, reach out to other bloggers in your niche and ask to complete a guest post for them. Most bloggers will allow you to input a few links back to your website in exchange for the original content.
Otherwise, if you’re writing high-quality content, you’ll get backlinks naturally from other sites that find your content valuable!
Share to Social Media
Social signals are a ranking factor for blog posts. I had an image go viral on Pinterest once and sure enough, that post went to the top of the Google search results a short time later. While you don’t need to be active on all social media sites, I recommend having a profile on all of the major platforms and automatically sharing your new blog posts with each account. Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter are the basic social media networks where you should be active from time to time.
Track Your SEO
These tools will help you keep track of your SEO progress.
Google Analytics is the premier solution for keeping track of your website page views. Perhaps the most valuable insight is getting to see from which sources your traffic comes. Good SEO means you’ll see your Google traffic increase steadily.
Google Search Console
The next tool you’ll need in your SEO arsenal is Google Search Console. This tool will give you key insights into the search terms that your site is ranking for.
Install Google Site Kit
The Google Site Kit plugin has been a game-changer for my on-page SEO. It provides page-level data for you to see exactly the keywords that each blog post receives traffic from. This can in turn be used to optimize your existing content or spark your creativity for new article ideas.
Install an SEO Plugin
A good SEO plugin will help you optimize your content as you write it. I use the Yoast plugin to help me count the number of times my keyword appears in my blog post text, add a meta description, and much more.
Improve Your Page Speed
Google has a free page speed insights tool where you can measure how fast your site loads on computer browsers and mobile browsers. Since page speed is a small but present SEO ranking factor, this can give you insight into what must be changed to speed up your site. You can then install a caching plugin like WP Rocket or Cloudflare on your site to help it load faster.
Those are my best SEO tips to make sure your content is optimized for Google search! SEO takes time but with some solid effort, you’ll be able to see results within 6-9 months. The work will last you years if done right.