Recently Kelci asked me over on my Facebook Page about SEO for idiots. I decided to do a full post on it (isn’t she lucky?) because it is such a cool and expansive topic.
So what exactly was her question? Here it is:
Found your blog the other day and have learned MUCH more than the previous 100 blogs I had found combined. I see that you have an article about SEO secrets below but I was wondering if you can direct me to like an “SEO for idiots” type of thing… I really need to understand the basics.
So here you go Kelci, here are the 10 basics of blogging search engine optimization.
Oh, and this isn’t really for idiots. None of my readers are idiots. And if you are learning about SEO so you can grow your blog you are a long way from being idiotic. Follow this guide and you’ll be well on your way to getting over 100,000 visitors from Google per month.
A crude illustration of how SEO works
Let me start by giving you a crude example of how Google SEO works.
Google has developed automatic algorithms that rank your site. They send out what are called “spiders” to “crawl” your site and check it for over 100 indicators that determine whether your site is valuable or useless. These indicators include things like backlinks, domain age, traffic, fresh content, etc.
SEO is the art of making sure those spiders are happy with that they find. It is an extremely complex field that is constantly changing but in all that chaos there are a few constants that have remained true since the beginning. I’ll talk about those here.
The 10 basics of blogging SEO
As always guys and gals, if you have any other tips please leave me a comment and add to the fun. I absolutely love reading the huge comment-essays that you all tend to write.
1. You need your own domain and hosting
The first thing that beginners need to know is that you need your own domain and hosting. Free blog set ups do not do any favors for your SEO efforts.
Why is that?
Well many people speculate that if you were really serious about your website you would get your own name and host it yourself. And Google only wants to point to websites that are considered serious and trustworthy.
I recommend all new bloggers get their own domain and hosting setup right from the beginning. You can read more about why in my blog hosting reviewthat I did recently or check out my 9,000-word guide on how to start a blogand dominate your niche. It has lots of details and tips.
2. Solve problems with original content
You have to remember that Google’s whole purpose is to provide their customers with relevant and useful search results. Everything they do is built around the premise.
And, to be realistic, the most important thing you can do for your SEO is create massively useful content that solves people’s problems. If you are solving problems that people are searching for then it is likely that you are going to get shared on social media and ranked in Google.
The phrase “original content” means so much more than just blog posts nowadays. You should start expanding into:
Get on Flickr or Photobucket and use original images on your blog. Even better if you take them yourself.
Make tutorials or do video posts with your webcam. This builds links and traffic from Youtube and does well on mobile devices.
iTunes is growing fast as people get better smart phones and spend more time plugged in. You can check out my podcast right here.
- Tools and plugins
If you can develop an original tool and install it on your website you can be assured of top Google rankings for a long time. Google absolutely lovestools and helpful plugins that people can use in their lives.
The idea is to build a relationship with your readers by helping them out. This will mean more sharing and faster results on the SERPS (search engine rankings positions).
3. Build relevant backlinks in a natural way
If you are just getting started with SEO you might know a little about backlinks. A backlink is when another website links back to your site from their site.
Not all backlinks are created equal though. Some things to know:
- Never buy them
I once heard about a guy who was the head SEO guy for an investment company. He bought some cheap backlinks on a domain name with millions of dollars and got the thing banned from Google. Never buy backlinks. Google is on to them.
- The source matters
The blog that is giving you the backlinks makes a huge difference. If it is an old domain name with excellent rankings itself then the backlink counts for more. One good link from an authority domain name (.edu and .gov ones are amazing) and your rankings change more than hundreds of little ones.
- The anchor text matters
The anchor text is the words that are used as the link. For example, just then I used “anchor text” as the anchor text. You want this to be relevant to your targeted keywords.
As mentioned, the best way to build quality backlinks is to write amazing quality content and then guest post on the best blogs in your niche. Here’s a blogging strategy that has worked well for me.
Remember, backlinks to your OWN content is also really important. See how many links I have to my own articles in this blog post? Those count too!
NOTE: Using plain keywords as anchor text is no longer the recommended method. There needs to be a natural mix of keywords in your links. Read more about it all here.
4. Make sure your theme is SEO optimized
This is the topic of a whole series of posts so I’ll keep it brief.
Think of SEO as having two components: the off-site stuff like social media and backlinks and the on-site stuff like optimizing your theme.
Optimizing your theme is important because it helps give Google indicators that you are a trustworthy site. It also helps Google find your content. Some of the things you can do include:
- Cleanly coded
Make sure your theme is coded with the latest and greatest techniques so that it is easy to get around.
- Fast loading
A fast loading site is good for user experience and thus good for Google. Make sure your theme is pulling its weight and loading quickly. You cancheck out its speed here. You can use cache plugins to help speed things up.
Some people disagree but I still reckon that my original themes do better than themes that thousands of other people are using. A newly developed and original site also comes with dozens of other benefits.
- No broken bits
Make sure you clean up any broken links and make sure your navigation all works smoothly.
The best paid themes for SEO at the moment are those made over atStudiopress. Yep, Brian Clark again.
Having a well designed theme is also important for your brand. Separating yourself from the competition is a very important thing to do.
5. Fix your permalink structure
Permalinks are how people locate your blog and its internal posts and pages. They are made up of a root and an extension.
For example, on this post we have:
Now, it is very important to have a good permalink structure. You can change this in WordPress by going SETTINGS > PERMALINKS and tweaking the options. The best option to have in there, in my opinion, is just the post name. So you should select CUSTOM STRUCTURE and then add /%postname%/
However, even better than that is to research what keywords you are trying to rank for and then shorten your URL to match those keywords. Take a look at this post and have a guess what key words I was trying to rank for.
Be warned! You don’t want to change the old permalinks because then any backlinks you have will be broken. Just new ones.
6. Install a sitemap
One of the easiest things you can do is install a Google Sitemap plugin that gives a full map of all your posts, pages and archives. The most common one that people use is this one and it seems to work quite well.
This automatically generates the sitemap for you at regular intervals and then submits it to Google, Bing, etc. on your behalf. Its literally giving them a map of your site so they can index it better.
7. Comment on other blogs
For a long time my SEO strategy consisted of just commenting on other authority blogs. Not only does it get you more traffic, exposure and new relationships, it also counts as a backlink.
Now, some blogs you can leave target anchor text because they aren’t real worried about user names. But on most blogs you need to use your real name. That’s fine.
Try and use Market Samurai to see where your competitors are getting their backlinks from. You might just find a bunch of them come from comments on well ranked blog posts.
8. Build your social media profiles big time
As I mentioned in my post on SEO secrets you want to now have a big focus on social media for SEO purposes as well as traffic building purposes.
Well because Google is now looking to social media as a signal of an article’s authority and relevance.
If thousands of people are tweeting about it then chances are you have written something pretty good. And the best way to get tweets is to build a loyal following and write killer content that they just love to promote for you.
Some things you need to start doing:
- Tweeting big players
Get to know the big players in your niche by casually building a rapport with them on Twitter. Down the track you can hit them up for re-tweets.
- Add separate value
Tweet and Facebook information and facts that don’t appear on your blog. Think of it as a separate resource for people to tap in to.
- Share others
The more content you share from other bloggers the more likely they are to share your stuff. Give and then get later.
Neil Patel (one of my blogging heros) has just written a really cool list about how to use Twitter like a boss. That is a good place to start if you want to really amp up your social activities.
NOTE: Google+ is now a huge factor in SEO rankings. Here is a post I did withsome important Google+ tips to get your started.
9. Use SEO plugins
There are lots of WordPress plugins out there that you can install to get some help with your SEO. One of the best ones to start with is the All in One SEO Pack which does so many of the nasty little things for you.
There are a lot of other good SEO plugins out there so I thought I would open this one up to the audience and see what everyone else is using. Please leave a comment and let me know.
10. Read, study and use SEOmoz
As far as I am concerned the absolute best resource for SEO related material in the world is over at SEOmoz.
And their tools are even more amazing.
Now, the content on their blog might be a little over your head to begin with but you will slowly start to absorb ideas about trends, tactics and best practices over time. Even if you only check in every couple of weeks and read one or two articles you will find that your SEO knowledge just grows and blossoms.
Rand does a Friday Whiteboard session which, perhaps, is the most valuable video series I have ever watched. And he is a super cool guy.
What have I missed?
Okay guys. Hit me with it. What beginner SEO tips have I missed? Please leave everything and anything that you can think of in the comments section. I’m hoping we can come up with a nice sized list to help out all the newcomers.