I feel that one of the biggest hurdles with learning SEO (search engine optimization) for most people is that everyone thinks it’s harder than it really is. It can be a very daunting subject when you start doing research on it, but it doesn’t have to be.
Most experts recommend you get certain tools (often costing money), spend hours doing keyword research, and spend hours doing on-page SEO for your articles. That’s not something the average blogger is interested in doing, and luckily you don’t have to.
I’m going to show you some very simple things that you can do to improve your SEO without putting in countless hours of work. You don’t have to know HTML, be in the tech industry, or spend any money. Every single one of you reading this can do SEO.
Something is Better Than Nothing
The world of SEO is something I’ve been familiar with for a very long time. However, it wasn’t until recent years that I put any real effort into it.
See, I started a blog where I write about tabletop miniature wargames I play. So, it’s a very niche site that caters to a small demographic.
I had noticed that none of the other bloggers, barring a select few, were actually doing anything with SEO for their articles. So, I started doing some very basic SEO work on my blog. Prior I hadn’t done anything.
Within a matter of weeks I started seeing my efforts pay off. I wasn’t doing anything amazing with SEO, just setting up the basics with a good title and description, but that was more than almost every other blogger in my niche was doing. Just by doing something I was ranking higher in search results and getting more traffic.
That’s the point I really want to stress – doing something is better than nothing. That’s the focus of this article, not how to optimize every single element. The idea is to get you motivated to try something.
Unless you’re writing about very large topics, in which case you probably aren’t reading this article anyway, you’ll probably find the competition is a lot easier to topple than you think, and all you have to do is put in a little effort.
Where Do You Start?
This is where many experts will tell you to do a lot of keyword research, and they’re right, however, you don’t have to spend forever doing it and you don’t have to spend money on research tools either.
What I do when I’m starting an article is to go to Google and type in searches related to what I want to write about. I do this for a few reasons.
I want to see how people are trying to find information on the topic I’m writing about. By knowing that then I can write my article to more directly address that subject.
The easy way to find that out is to start typing something into Google and it will offer suggestions. Those suggestions are offered based on popular terms people have used to find that info.
Once you’ve done your search, look at the bottom and Google will offer up related searches. These are more suggestions that are related to what you’re looking for. Sometimes they will be related topics, and other times those related searches will refine the topic, help you narrow down the results.
I will very often use those related searches as points within an article. They can give you ideas to help flesh out an idea you have and expand on its depth.
The related results can also give you ideas for entirely new articles related to the topic. Definitely check them out.
Lastly, doing these searches will let you check out the competition. Check out the results on the first page, see what they are writing about, get ideas from it, and apply it to what you’re writing.
The Very Basics of SEO Everyone Can Do
Regardless of the blogging platform you use, be it WordPress, Blogger, Wix, etc., there are some fundamental things that everyone can do.
Search engines will see the title of your article and use that as a ranking factor. As such, it should contain the information you’re writing about in some context.
If you’re writing an article that’s about dog training tips, but the title of your article doesn’t mention “dogs”, “training”, or “tips” then that’s not going to help you in search engines.
Make sure the article’s title clearly conveys the subject.
Also, having a catchy headline will go a long way to getting more readers. I’ll talk about this a bit more below, but headlines are like a first impression – they’ll determine if your article gets read or not.
The Article Itself
This goes without saying, but your article should contain the information you want to be found for.
Same as the title section I just mentioned, if your article is about “dog training tips” and you don’t use the words “dog”, “training”, or “tips” then Google isn’t going to know it’s about “dog training tips”.
Now, you may have heard the term keyword density before. If not, it’s how frequent in an article that a keyword is found. This used to have a lot more value back in the dark ages of SEO optimization, but today things have changed.
Once upon a time you would aim to have a certain keyword density. So, I wanted “dog training tips” to appear in my article a certain percentage. However, now Google is much better at understanding context and knowing what your article is about without hammering it home non-stop.
You really don’t have to concern yourself with a particular keyword density. In fact, the more natural your writing the better. When we all for a certain keyword density we would often have to crowbar it into places, known as keyword stuffing. As a result, the flow of a sentence, or even the article, could feel wrong.
It’s All Different Now
Now, however, Google rewards articles that are written naturally, and flow well, while containing the subject in a contextual way. So, you don’t have to constantly write “dog training tips” to get picked up for those keywords.
A sentence like, “Today I’ll teach you easy ways to train your dog,” will work because it contains the keywords “dog” and “train” in a natural, contextual way. Google knows “train” and “training” are contextually related as well.
The point, just write great content about your subject and Google will figure it out.
That being said, do make sure to include your keywords where appropriate throughout the article. If you’ve got a 3,000 word article, and only use your keywords once, then you probably won’t rank as well as you thought. Again, just be natural about it.
This is another very simple thing that everyone can do, and something most people don’t think about – their images.
The name of your images should be relevant to what they are and what you’re writing about. If you’re using images off your phone, or camera then the image name will be something generic like IMG_0918794.jpg.
An image name like that doesn’t help you with SEO. Instead, you want to rename that image before you put it in your article.
Naming for SEO
Going back to the dog training subject, the images would be named in relation to that subject. So, I would have an image named dog-training-tips.jpg. I might have one called dog-walking.jpg, crate-training.jpg, etc. You get the idea.
By using relevant image names you will boost your SEO. Google now knows your wrote an article about dog training tips and it contains images relating to dog training tips. If you leave that as IMG_0918794.jpg then Google has no idea that image is about dog training tips at all.
This is also how Google determines the images it shows in its image search.
Alt & Title Tags
Images can contain something called an alt tag and a title tag. This is going to be dependent on your blogging platform as to whether or not you can set it, or where you set it.
Here’s what they are.
An alt tag (alternative text) is used as text to represent an image. Mostly this is used by search engines to understand what the image is, and with screen readers for visually impaired people. This alt tag will explain to someone who can’t see your image what the image is.
So, an alt tag might be “Here’s me training my dog in my backyard”. This explains what the image is, and it also contains the relevant information we want for our SEO – “dog training”.
Having a properly named image with relevant alt tags will really help push the SEO value of your article, and it’s simple to do.
You also have an option for an image title. The title tag isn’t relevant to search engines, but it does pop up as text when someone mouses over an image.
Generally this is information you will set when you add your image to your article within whatever blogging platform you’re using.
Internal links are what they sound like, links inside an article that point to other articles of yours. There’s this whole thing called link juice, which gets a bit advanced, but the short version is that by linking to other articles of yours, you will increase the SEO value of the articles you link to.
See, when search engines see that an article gets linked a lot, they realize that the article must be important, so they place a higher value on it.
If I had this article on dog training tips, and in other articles I linked to the dog training tips article when talking about dog training, Google would see that article as having a lot of value regarding dog training tips. Simple enough, right?
So, be sure to link to your other articles when it’s relevant to what you’re writing about.
A word of advice, mix up the links a bit. A link like this is called an anchor link. Search engines don’t want to see the exact same anchor link used over and over.
For example, say I had 50 articles on my blog, and in ever one of those articles I linked the word “dog training tips” to my dog training article. To search engines that looks spammy and artificial. You can actually get penalized for it and lose ranking.
To avoid that, you want to change-up your anchor link. Maybe on a few articles you link “dog training tips”, but on other articles you spread it out to encompass more words, and even different contexts.
The bolded part would be the link in these examples:
“Speaking of, I wrote a great article where I talk about training your dog.”
“Training your dog can be hard, so learn some tips and tricks to make it easier.”
You see how I’m not linking the words “dog training tips”, actually I don’t even use those specific keywords, but instead I’m creating a longer anchor link. This not only helps avoid having spammy looking links, but it also gives search engines more context to the article you’re linking to.
A Step Beyond
This area delves a bit into some technical areas. If you aren’t comfortable with that then you can definitely skip over this.
That being said, these things are foundational elements to SEO and will have a very large impact. Also, if you use WordPress then you can find plugins that do this for you. That will save you from that technical element I mentioned.
I can’t say anything for other platforms, as WordPress is all I use, but with a little hunting you may find this stuff.
Meta Titles & Description
Any of those plugins will give you the ability to manage your meta titles and descriptions.
Again, as a WordPress user, I can’t say where you might find these settings in other platforms. Last time I used Blogger it didn’t offer the ability to set this information. With some hunting though you may find it though.
Anyway, to quickly explain these. The meta title and description provides search engines with the information you see when you do a search.
So, when Google gives you search results and you see the title you can click on, that’s the meta title. The description of the article you see is the meta description.
As you probably have guessed by now, you want to set these up to contain information relevant to what your article is about. People need to see your result in a sea of other search results and decide your article is the one they want to read.
Make it Interesting
As I mentioned with the article title previously, the meta title should be catchy and interesting. A meta title can be different than your article title, and often they are. I tend to use more concise article titles, like “9 Tips for Dog Training”, but for a meta title I would expand it to something like “9 Easy Tips for Learning to Train Your Dog”.
That might not be the greatest example, but you can see how I expanded on the meta title a bit to be more catchy by including the words “easy” and “learning”. There’s no reason that couldn’t also be my article title too. In fact, it probably should now I think about it.
Regardless, the meta title is a separate thing from the article title. So, it’s something you have to set, and you can choose to make it different if you’d like.
Now, the same applies to the meta description. You want to draw the potential reader in with something that intrigues them. You don’t want to do something like “Learn how to train your dog by reading this.” Instead you might do “I can show you how to train your dog in a few simple steps. I have step-by-step instructions to guide you through the entire process. It’s so easy!”
Basically, you need to market your article and give a sales pitch without sounding cliché and annoying.
A sitemap is a guide for search engines that tells them all the articles you have on your site. It’s a list of every article, and what search engines do is follow that guide and index your site. Once an article is indexed it then appears in search results.
Now, if you’re using WordPress and Yoast SEO, then you’ll have this as an option in the General settings. Just make sure the XML Sitemaps feature is on.
The other SEO plugins I mentioned will also have a sitemap feature as well.
I apologize, because again I can’t say where you will find this feature with other platforms.
Either way, having a sitemap is crucial to search engines indexing your site and articles. It speeds up the process of Google knowing about everything on your site.
The robots.txt file relates to the sitemap. What a robots.txt file does is to tell search engines where your sitemap is.
See, a sitemap can be called many different things and come in different forms. However, a robots.txt file is a standard. Every search engine will look for it on your site. When they find it they will learn where your sitemap is at.
To setup a robots.txt file in WordPress, if you’re using Yoast SEO, you would go to Tools->File editor. If it’s your first time in here then you should have a button to create the robots.txt file.
Once it creates the file, you want to add a line of text into the file for your sitemap. With Yoast SEO the sitemap is always http://yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml. So, for this site I have this in my robots.txt file.
Note, you’ll already have some information in the robots.txt file once you’ve created it. Leave that info in there and add our line below it. So, my entire file looks like this:
User-agent: * Disallow: /wp-admin/ Allow: /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php Sitemap: https://blogplayground.com/sitemap_index.xml
Other Platforms & Manually Adding It
Other plugins may create this file for you automatically, they may even include your sitemap entry.
You can also do this manually by creating a robots.txt file that you save using something basic like Notepad, or TextEdit, and uploading using an FTP program, like FileZilla.
Odds are you won’t have to do it manually but it’s an option.
My biggest piece of advice is not to be afraid of SEO. Understand that it’s basically a way of marketting your site and your articles to search engines. It doesn’t have to be a big overwhelming experience.
Also, a little effort goes a long way. Start small, work on doing some SEO for a few articles. Once you start seeing those articles get more traffic from search engines you’ll be motivated to improve other articles.
Lastly, it takes time and patience. Even though you can write an article, hit publish, and have it seen by the world, it takes search engines much longer to see that same article. Sometimes Google will see an article within hours. Sometimes it takes weeks and weeks. Expect the latter and you’ll be less frustrated.
Also, there is something you can do to help boost your SEO as well. It’s a great approach for new sites to help you gain traction with Google quicker, but it does also work well for older sites.
Hopefully you found this information useful and I look forward to hearing some success stories.