There are plenty of sources you can get traffic to your blog from. But far and away the best source is still Google (and search engines in general). Free search engine traffic (as opposed to paid search ads), otherwise known as organic traffic, remains the largest source of traffic out of all channels. In fact, did you know that 53% of all site traffic comes from organic search alone?
Organic traffic isn’t just the largest, it’s also long-lasting and consistent. And did I mention it’s free?
Knowing all that, it’s important to make sure that Google (and other search engines) knows that your blog exists. And not just that. You also want Google to think that what you have to offer is the best possible there is. You want Google to promote your blog, to show your blog posts on page one, at the top search results, at the number one spot if possible. Because the first position on Google’s page one alone already gets 32% of all clicks.
And that’s where SEO comes in. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of improving your blog, page, or post so you can rank higher in organic search results.
Now, SEO is a difficult thing to master. It can be overwhelming, especially to beginners. Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert on SEO to reap some of its benefits even while you’re still building up your blog. In fact, there’s plenty of quick tips and actionable steps you can do early on to ensure that your blog has the SEO basics covered. Here are the best ones:
Wait… I don’t have a blog yet.
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1. Install a good SEO plugin
One of the easiest and savviest things you can do, SEO-wise, is to install an SEO plugin on your blog. A good SEO plugin helps you optimize your content, keywords, and readability, and over all improves your site’s rankings on search engines.
As it stands, Yoast SEO is the most popular and most recommended WordPress SEO plugin out there – and for good reason, too. It comes with tons of features to optimize your website, including built-in content analysis and sitemap management. Most of what Yoast SEO does is automated, but it still requires plenty of input and decisions from you.
2. Make your site mobile-friendly
As of the latest figures, mobile devices now account for nearly 55% of all web traffic worldwide. While desktop devices remain important, particularly in the US (where total web traffic is 50% desktop and 46% mobile), mobile web traffic is only expected to grow in the future.
Google knows this, and that’s why it has updated its algorithm to prioritize mobile-friendly sites. In fact, mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of your site’s content for indexing and ranking.
And now that you know this, you in turn need to make sure that your site is mobile-friendly. For starters, you need to ensure that your site is responsive, which means it will automatically adapt to the size of the screen used, especially on mobile devices. Keep your web design simple and functional. Make your fonts and buttons large enough. Compress images and huge files. And avoid ads and popups that block your content.
3. Improve site speed
Everyone hates slow websites and pages that load too long. That includes Google (and other search engines). In fact, page speed is a ranking factor in Google searches.
To improve your blog’s speed, you need to choose the right web hosting provider (like Bluehost), use CDN (content delivery network, like the one Bluehost provides), pick a fast and lightweight theme, compress and optimize images, minimize plugins and widgets, and reduce the number of ads displayed (if you do have ads), among others.
4. Create a sitemap
A sitemap (or XML sitemap, with XML meaning extensible markup language) is simply a list of all the pages (including posts) on your website. It’s meant for search engines, not people. It’s there to help Google (and other search engines) find and index all of your site’s content and understand your website structure (what pages link to what, etc.) for easier navigation.
While a sitemap is a must-have for huge websites with lots and lots of pages, it’s also beneficial for small beginner blogs. It helps Google find your newly created pages and posts quickly and allow visitors to find your blog in the search results.
Fortunately, you don’t have to create a sitemap on your own. Yoast SEO does it for automatically. Simply click SEO on the lefthand menu on your WordPress dashboard, then FEATURES, and you can see that the toggle for your XML sitemap is turned on by default. If you want to take a look at your own blog’s sitemap, click the question mark icon, then click SEE THE XML SITEMAP (Note: all the links you’ll see on your sitemap are clickable).
5. Link a lot
One of the most effective things you can do to improve your blog’s SEO is to build links, and to build a lot of it. You want links within your blog, from your blog, and especially, to your blog.
Links within your blog are known as internal links. You’re basically linking related pages and posts within your own site. Internal links connect your content and help Google understand the structure of your blog. The more links a page or post of yours gets, the more important it seems to Google, and the more chance it ranks higher.
External links, or outbound links, on the other hand, are links from your blog to other websites or online resources. These links are used when you quote information from pertinent websites, refer to related online materials for further reading, and credit your sources, among others. Linking to high quality and relevant sources helps build trust and authority, and helps Google understand your blog better and how to rank you.
Finally, backlinks, otherwise known as inbound links, are links directing towards your blog from other websites. Every backlink is like a vote of confidence – it shows you that your content is valuable and worth referring to. The more backlinks you get from relevant, trusted, and authoritative websites, the more important you seem to Google, and the better your chance at ranking higher.
6. Follow a simple and logical URL structure
A URL (Uniform Resource Locator), also known as a web address, is a reference to the location of a specific website, page, or file on the Internet. It’s the link on your browser’s address bar when you visit a website or a webpage.
For best SEO, you want to choose a simple and logical URL structure for your own blog. That just means your URLs should be understood by people. To help you do that, you want to:
- Use lowercase letters. Most URLs on the Internet are in lowercase form (as opposed to mixed or uppercase). It’s what people have come to expect and it’s easier to read. And keep all your URLs standardized in that form.
Not recommended: https://www.eXAmPle.com/SamPLe-pAGe
- Use readable words rather than long id numbers. You want your URLs to be simple, intelligible, and descriptive.
Not recommended: https://www.example.com/ index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1
- Separate keywords with punctation. This helps users and search engines identify concepts in your URL easier.
Not recommended: https://www.example.com/samplepage
- Use hyphens (-), not underscores (_). It’s difficult to see underscores when the URL is published as a bare link (there’s a line underneath links, remember?).
Not recommended: https://www.example.com/sample_page
- Consider removing dates. Future-proof your URLs. Past dates on URLs, especially on evergreen content, make them look obsolete and irrelevant.
Not recommended: https://www.example.com/sample-page-2020
You can check your blog’s default URL structure by going to the lefthand menu on your WordPress dashboard, hovering or clicking over SETTINGS, then PERMALINKS, which opens a panel where you can customize your URL settings. Note: you can change your URL structure only if your blog is newly created from scratch. But if your blog has been around for a while with lots of posts, absolutely do not change anything – it can ruin your site!
You can, however, change your pages’ and posts’ URL by going to that specific page or post and editing the URL SLUG.
7. Use the right keywords
While keywords aren’t as important as they were before to SEO, they still do matter. So you still want to pay them close attention.
That means it’s still important to carefully research for the right keywords and build relevant and engaging content around them. It’s still essential to prioritize long-tail keywords over short-tail keywords. And it still matters that your keywords appear in your post titles, URLs, headings, subheadings, meta descriptions, alt texts, etc.
But keyword stuffing should be avoided at all costs. There’s no value in cramming keywords to your article to the point that it becomes altogether unintelligible. It won’t improve your SEO. You’ll only be creating a negative user experience. And you’ll even be penalized by Google.
Instead, your goal should be to write naturally, and your keywords (or synonyms) should fit in logically and organically with your content.
The bottom line: yes, keywords still matter to SEO, but don’t get hung up on them. Focus instead on creating helpful and meaningful content that provide real value to people – now that’s much better for SEO.
8. Use the meta description tag
The meta description tag is a brief summary or snippet of a page or post in your blog. It’s the short text displayed beneath the title of an article or post in the search results. It’s meant to help people decide whether to click on your article or not. If it contains helpful information relevant to their query, it sells the click, and the more clicks you get, the better your ranking.
But if you haven’t prepared a meta description tag for your page or post, then Google will simply come up with its own – and sometimes, it’s a hit or miss. At times, the snippet it displays from your article is helpful to people, and at times, it’s not. So it’s always better to have your own meta description just in case.
You can craft your meta description tag for each of your page or post through Yoast SEO. Just open the editing interface for a particular page or post, find the Yoast SEO panel at the bottom, and input your meta description where it says so.
When crafting a meta description, keep it short and sweet – you can write as long as you like, but Google only displays a max of 160 characters. So make sure your meta description is concise, clickworthy, and contains your keywords in a natural and non-spammy way.
9. Don’t forget your alt text
Alt text, a contraction of alternative text, is just a written description of an image on a webpage. It appears in place of an image when that image fails to load on your reader’s screen.
Alt text is meant for people who can’t see the images on your blog, including those who use screen readers or have low-bandwidth connections. It’s also used by Google (and other search engines) to understand what the subject matter of your images are, and to better index and rank your blog.
So if you want to rank higher on search engines and gain more traffic, don’t forget to optimize your images with alt text. When choosing alt text, focus on creating helpful and information-rich descriptions that use keywords appropriately and naturally. Avoid stuffing your alt text with keywords – it results to negative user experience and to your site being seen as spam.
10. Optimize for people first
Although SEO is concerned with fine-tuning your website so it gets found by search engines, its ultimate goal is to connect people with content that’s helpful, engaging, and valuable. And that should be your goal, too.
So yes, by all means, learn SEO. Master it. Apply it to your blog. But don’t forget that still the best way to bring people to your blog is create content that matters – to you, to search engines, and most of all, to other people.
Remember, these are just a few basic tips to help you make your blog SEO-friendly, to help it be seen and win in search engine results. As already mentioned, SEO is difficult. It takes a lot of time to learn it, and even longer to master it. And even then, you still have to contend with the fact that SEO is always changing even as search engines continually update their ranking factors, reconfigure their algorithms, etc.
Still, it is in your best interest to understand – and eventually master – SEO, as doing so will reward you with a large, long-lasting, and free traffic to your blog.