Have you been struggling with SEO for a while now?
If you’re looking for a step-by-step blueprint to get your first 10K visits from natural, organic search then you’re in the right place.
I’ll be sharing with you a high-value approach to blogging and we’ll be implementing 9 pretty cool SEO techniques to rank on Google.
By the end, you’ll learn how to SEO optimise a blog you love and consistently attract natural organic traffic month after month.
That said, as every niche is different and how long it takes to see the results of your efforts depends on how dedicated you are to trying out a new approach.
In SEO Demystified, I shared a 90-day plan to nail your first keyword ranking on Google, its a more detailed step-by-step process that will teach you the ins and outs of SEO fundamentals.
Alright, let’s get to the meat!
- Choose niche topic that has search potential
- Discover the search demand of your topic and keywords
- Create strategic content that provides value
- Build authority with natural link building
- Egobait: How to add value when you have nothing to offer
- Get your own domain name and self-hosted WordPress blog
- SEO Factors to consider when choosing a domain name
- Make sure your WordPress theme is SEO optimised
- How to make your page speed lightning fast with simple fixes
- Improve user experience factors
- Participate in online communities and comment on authority blogs
- Read, study and keep learning!
#1. Choose a niche topic that has search potential
The first thing you want to do is come up with an SEO strategy by finding keywords to target and a niche to enter.
One common mistake with when it comes to blogging is trying to cover all your bases. You feel the need to write about everything and anything under the sun, in fear of missing out (FOMO).
Being too ‘general’ usually leads to poor content and lacklustre engagement from your readers.
So, when you’re researching topics, make sure you’re super clear on what you want to talk about.
Find a unique angle that targets a clearly defined audience group and their needs. That’s how you can gain clarity into choosing your blog topic.
It’s very important to be very specific on who you have in mind when you’re writing and how your content is going to make a difference.
Think about what impact/change your content will have on potential readers.
Pain is more effective than benefit:
- what problem will your content solve?
- will your content provide more in-depth information?
- will your readers feel relieved, less frustrated after reading your content?
When researching on keywords, its worth checking who your competitors are and how saturated the market is.
There are some niches that are very, very, very hard to compete in.
But don’t let that discourage you just yet, because if there’s anything I’ve seen again and again – it’s that passion and hard work always win.
But what’s worse than a highly competitive niche?
It’s a niche that no one is talking about.
The last thing you want to do is spend half a year blogging about something that has zero to little search demand.
Discover the search demand of your topic and keywords
Find the search volume of your main topic and 20-30 related keywords. Brainstorm as many keyword variations as you can.
One good place to start is Google’s Keyword Planner tool.
There are 3 things you can look out for in keyword planner:
- avg. monthly searches: shows you the search demand for that specific keyword phrase. Notice how adding a few modifiers to the keyword makes a huge difference in search volume.
- suggested bid: shows you the cost-per-click that advertisers are paying for that keyword. This metric tells you how much a keyword is worth in terms of traffic value. If you can rank for a highly bidded keyword term, you’re nailing your keywords strategy, my friend.
- related search terms: this list of keywords by relevance is very helpful to brainstorm long-tail and related keyword ideas.
Note: you can only get the exact numbers for avg. monthly searches if you have an advertiser’s account – if you’re running an Adwords Ad.
If not, you’ll get a range instead. And that’s totally fine – you can still gauge how much search demand your keyword has.
At this stage you also want to use a keyword research tool to analyse your competition.
SEMrush is the industry leading tool to find out who your competitors are, and what are their best keywords.
When it comes to competitive analysis, there are 4 things you need to know:
- the no. of backlinks your competitor’s website has
- who are the referring domains that link to your competitor’s
- what are the pages that are ranking for the most number of keywords
- what are the keywords used in their anchor text
Instead of diving into a full SEMrush tutorial here, I’ll point you to some great resources:
#2. Create strategic content that provides value
One of the biggest mantras you’ve heard about blogging is, Content is King.
Well, what is quality content?
Quality content is a highly linkable asset.
It’s content that’s so good, people who’ve read it just can’t help but share it with their social following and link to you in their own blogs.
But having a blog and creating great content is not enough.
What’s the point of getting 100,000 monthly visits to your site if no action is taken to forward your goals?
You need strategic content. Such that it helps your business grow and improve your bottomline in the long-term.
2 effective ways to build strategic content
Strategic content does not stand alone. It is part of your overall blogging strategy to contribute to your business goals.
(i) Create blog articles that benefit your product or services
Use your blog to promote your products or services.
This can be in the form of tutorials, step-by-step guides, checklists, infographics.
If you have a blog about email marketing, then your blog content can focus on the problems and frustrations of building an email list.
Your content should in someway relate to a product or service you’re targeting to your audience.
Perhaps an e-course about email marketing, or a personal coaching service that you offer inline to your blog posts.
This is a dual-benefit strategy that provides value to both your readers and moves your business goals forward.
(ii) Offer content upgrades to build an email list
Content upgrades are free products that you offer for free on your blog.
These are usually:
- pdf downloads
When someone downloads your free goods, they give you their email and contact details in exchange.
Offering content upgrades within a blog post is my most effective list building strategy to date.
Try to create a timely and relevant resource to complement your blog post. You’d be amazed at how rapidly it’ll drive up your subscriber base.
Most importantly, your email list is your most valuable asset and loyal source of referral traffic.
#3. Build authority with natural link building
In an ideal world, backlinks will come to you naturally. Because if you’ve got bangin’ amazing great content that everybody just can’t resist sharing, then you wouldn’t have to break a sweat building inbound links manually.
But that just doesn’t happen. Even if it does, it doesn’t happen every time you publish a new piece of content.
Content needs to be deliberately promoted to get in out in the world.
Backlinks are an important ranking factor on Google, if not the most important.
One of the most effective strategies of building backlinks naturally is using Egobait.
This strategy encourages people to notice your content and potentially share it with their network, because you’ve featured them on your own blog.
Egobait Link Building: How to add value when you have nothing to offer
(a) Reach out to everyone you’ve mentioned in your article and featured their work. Send them an email saying, “great job, thanks for writing this amazing content, I absolutely love you” note of appreciation.
(b) Write a roundup post and find at least 5 influential bloggers in your niche. Give a short writeup about their articles which you’ve selected, and add your own take on it.
Make sure to also link to their respective blogs. Then, contact them individually through email, and mention them in a tweet about your blog.
The key here is to not ask for a backlink, but to focus on promoting their content and build a relationship.
Start off small and look for bloggers, smaller editorial sites and micro influencers who are in similar position as you.
Chances are they’d be very happy if you shared their content. This way you’ve built a relationship and got your blog noticed in a subtle way.
#4. Get your own domain name and self-hosted WordPress blog
How often do you see free sites like .blogspot or .tumblr rank on page 1 on Google?
Probably very rarely.
Having your own domain name and self-hosted WordPress blog is very low cost and easy to setup.
When it comes to domain names, one of the most frequently asked question is – “what should I name my website?”
I’ll breakdown the most important factors when choosing a domain name and a hosting provider.
SEO Factors to consider when choosing a domain name:
- Keyword relevance: make sure to include one keyword that is relevant to your blog niche.
- Even though exact-match keywords in domain names are not as effective anymore, it still adds relevance to what your website is about.
- URL length: pick a domain name that isn’t freakishly long. Google does prefer shorter URLs.
Picking a good hosting provider is the most important part of setting up your website.
To date, I stand by strongly with Siteground.
- One-click WordPress installs
- Free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate install
- 100% customer satisfaction, with a very effective customer support help chat who don’t rest until your problem is fixed for good.
- Lightning fast server load speed
There are plenty of mixed reviews about Bluehost, but so far I haven’t seen one bad review about Siteground.
#5. Make sure your WordPress theme is SEO optimised
Picking a WordPress theme that is SEO optimised is just as important as getting a good hosting provider.
There’s a whole lot of articles out there already about this, so I’ll keep it brief.
Here are three of the most important aspects of an SEO optimised WordPress theme:
(1) Mobile responsive
Google announced in 2010 that site speed is a factor in their ranking algorithm.
After the 2015 Mobilegeddon update, Google has signalled that they will be prioritising mobile-friendly websites when searches are made from mobile devices.
Meaning if your website is not mobile responsive, your rankings will hurt. This is really happening, folks.
Because more searches are done on mobile devices than on desktop. Nearly 60% more searches on mobile!
First, make sure you’re using a mobile-responsive WordPress theme.
Second, check how your site looks to Google with the Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
(2) Fast load speed
One of the biggest factors in having a good user experience is how fast your site loads.
Ideally you want to get it under two seconds, one second if possible.
I’ll get into more detail on site speed optimisation fixes in the next section.
(3) Supports rich snippets
Adding rich snippets to your site helps better communicate your website to search engines.
Rich snippets improve the appearance of your page listing on search results.
The technical term is called schema markup.
Rich snippets are especially useful for food bloggers, product review based websites.
Further reading: Beginner’s Guide: How to Use Rich Snippets in WordPress
Time-tested WordPress Theme recommendations
- Highly raved about WP theme, for its clean and modern code
- Secure and advanced customisation options
- Fast load speed
- Very expensive (starting price $59.95)
- Highly raved page builder plugin
- Comes with dozens of website templates for easy setup
- Costly ($89 per year)
- Easy to set up, plenty of options for demos
- Compatible with many popular WP plugins
- High performance and fast load speed
#6. How to make your page speed lightning fast with simple fixes
Increasing page speed is one of the hardest and complex aspects of technical SEO.
But its definitely a critical concern to rank well on Google.
Because page speed is officially a ranking signal on Google.
Here are four easy fixes that can drastically improve your site loading time:
1. Shrinking your image sizes
- Another tip is to use JPEG files as they are smaller but not as high quality as PNG.
- The best option is to use SVG files which can scale image sizes without loss of quality.
2. Use a plugin for browser caching
A popular free caching plugin is W3 Total Cache.
If you have some budget, investing in a premium caching plugin is worth it – I highly recommended WP Rocket.
Omg, what is minification?!
If you’re using WordPress, Autoptimize is a free plugin that works really well too.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN delivers cached version of your website’s static content on its own servers based on the geographic location of the user.
So when somebody visits your web page, the static content is loaded from the sever closest to their location.
For example, if your website is hosted in USA and when a visitor from Finland visits your site, without a CDN, that user will have to wait for the server to load all the way from USA.
With a CDN, your website will be loaded from the server closest to the user.
Engage a developer to move static files from your website to a CDN and keep only the HTML file on your main server.
If you’re using WordPress, simply install a plugin like MaxCDN (Premium) or set up Cloudflare (Free CDN) on your WordPress site.
#7. Improve user experience factors
So far we’ve been focused on improving how our site looks to search engines.
Now we’ll look into how we can make our site appeal to humans.
What’s interesting is that improving user experience actually improve ranking performance.
Because Google just wants to serve up websites that are most relevant and useful to users.
When it comes to user experience, we have to prioritise mobile experience and site speed.
We’ve covered this earlier.
In this section, we’ll look at another important user experience factor: user signals.
User Signals: Dwell time, Bounce Rate, CTR
There’s a strong correlation between SEO performance and user signals.
Nick Forst, head of Google Brain implies the importance of dwell time with SEO:
Google is now integrating machine learning into [the process of figuring out what the relationship between a search and the best page for that search is]. So then training models on when someone clicks on a page and stays on that page, when they go back or when they and trying to figure out exactly on that relationship.
Okay, he’s saying that the longer someone stays on your site, the more relevant your page matches a query.
It’s no coincidence that the top ranking pages on Google also tend to have lower bounce rates and longer dwell time.
When it comes to improving dwell time and bounce rate, content is key.
How do you keep readers engaged on your site, instead of bouncing off without clicking on another page?
- Answer their search intent by making your content solve their problem
- Provide in-depth, long form content
- Use images, infographics to keep readers’ attention
- Make use of easy navigation (reduce distractions like pop-ups, broken links, poor site structure).
#8. Participate in online communities and comment on authority blogs
There has been significant backlash against blog commenting in the past few years.
For fear that they’ll get penalised by Google for low quality user generated content or links.
In terms of ranking signals, comments have no real effect on SEO.
Because blog comments usually have the attribute, rel=no follow.
This tells search engine bots not to follow that link, thus passing no link juice from it.
But commenting on authority blogs can be a great way to build exposure.
If you’ve been keeping up with industry news and authoritative blogs, try dropping a few legitimate comments about your thoughts on the article piece.
This helps get your name out there and engage with other contributors on the same platform.
When I first started blogging, I’d spend 2 hours everyday just participating in Facebook groups.
Out of all the social media communities, I found Facebook to be the valuable in getting client prospects and finding valuable insights about my target audience.
These activities have helped me come up with new content ideas that resonate, and also land a few freelance gigs.
Facebook groups are also a great way to get targeted referral traffic to your blog posts.
When it comes to dropping your blog articles on Facebook groups, be very careful.
Do it in a non-desperate, non-spammy way.
Only drop your article where its 100% relevant, and when you’ve already warmed up to the group by participating for a week pro bono.
#9. Read, study and keep learning!
Lastly, keep at it.
Here are some valuable resources I’d recommend to further your learning on SEO and getting traction online:
How did you find the strategies listed here?
I’d love to hear how your journey with Search Engine Optimization and Blogging has been so far, my friends. Share your thoughts in the comments below!