Are you wondering how to do SEO? If so, you’ll love this guide. SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization, which is merely ensuring your site shows up on the first page of Google whenever a user searches for the kind of content or product(s) you offer.
If you’d like to get more traffic from Google, then you must spruce up your SEO.
But, since SEO is a broad subject shrouded in myths and technical mumbo-jumbo, where do you even start?
What to do?
How do you rank on the first page of Google for your keywords and get more organic traffic to your site?
Unlike what many SEO programs will have you believe, SEO is easy; you just need a little elbow grease and some patience. Take it from us; you can learn how to do SEO and rank well for any keyword you desire.
Many other online entrepreneurs just like you do it all the time, and if you stick with white-hat SEO techniques, you needn’t worry about foul Google penalties.
With this preamble, let us dive right in and learn how to optimize your website for free.
What Search Engines Look for When Ranking Your Site
We’ve already said SEO is the process of improving the visibility of your website on Google, Yahoo, and Bing among other search engines. With Google dominating the market, we shall optimize for only that search engine in this guide.
A search ranking factor is what Google uses to rank your website, and there are hundreds of these factors. Covering each in details requires an entire post, so we shall keep it short just the way you like it.
Here are a few factors that Google uses to rank your site in no particular order:
- High-quality content – Fluff takes you nowhere in the SEO landscape of today or the future. In the past, you could merely stuff keywords on a page and win high rankings, but you need some high-quality content nowadays.
- Keyword density – While it’s not as effective as it was a while back, keywords are still vital in how Google ranks your website. Don’t overdo it though, or you will catch a penalty.
- Link profile – How is your linking partner? Are you linking to/from spammy sites that tarnish your SEO rankings? Or are you connecting to authority domains in your niche that send you good SEO vibes?
- Image/Video SEO – Now more than ever, you have the golden opportunity to optimize your media content. You can tune images for your site or the videos you upload to YouTube (the second largest search engine only after Google, the parent company)
- Speed – Who is your host? Are you comfy with their performance or do they leave you a lot to desire? Good page speed is a critical Google Ranking Factor because it ushers in fantastic user experience.
For an extended list of Google ranking factors, feel free to check out Brian Dean’s Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List.
In the next section, we cover a couple of basic SEO techniques that comprise the bulk of optimizing your site for Google. Let’s begin with On-Page SEO techniques you should invest in right away.
As you learn how to do SEO, you’ll come across terms such as On-Page and Off-Page SEO. So, what is the difference?
Off-Page SEO represents all the SEO techniques you apply externally with a good example being external linking.
On the other hand, On-Page SEO involves optimizing a web page (or pages) on your site to shine in Google among other search engines.
Below are a couple of things that should concern you as far as On-Page SEO goes.
1.1 Title Tag
The title tag is a vital ingredient in perfecting the SEO formula that works for your site. Why? Because the title tag offers you a unique advantage regarding usability, recognition and search engine indexability.
Whenever you search on Google, you get a search engine result page (SERP) that lists clickable titles. These are title tags, and they help Google and readers find your content.
For starters, a title tag gives your page or post a title. You don’t need a degree in rocket science to see just how hard it is to find content without a title. Plus a great title always results in more clicks.
Apart from showing in SERPs, your title appears in your browser alongside your favicon, which boosts usability since any user with multiple tabs open can easily find your content.
That’s not the end of it. Titles look great in social media posts. By default, social networks grab your title tag and some description to create the social post you share. Without a title, your post would be, well, broken, which isn’t how to do SEO.
1.1.1 How To Write a Good SEO Title?
Firstly, strive to keep your titles short; 60 characters or less. Long titles don’t show in full on search results, which might hide essential words. Think of newspaper headlines; short and snappy enough to draw attention.
Secondly, add your keyword in the title, preferably towards the beginning. Readers perform searches using keywords, meaning including one in your page titles boosts your visibility.
Furthermore, Google bolds keywords in search results. Just don’t go overboard with your keywords, stuffing the title with keywords. Nope, that isn’t the way; Google penalizes this as spam and a black-hat SEO trick.
Thirdly, avoid duplicate titles on your site. Each page or post must have a unique title. Remember, we said Google uses titles among other factors to determine the topic of your page. An exclusive title is the best way to go.
At the same time, write your titles for human beings, not search engines. Lest you forget, you are doing all this so you can get more clicks on Google. Yes, we understand you’re learning how to do SEO, but hard and bone-dry titles just won’t cut it.
For an extended overview of the title tag and how it affects your SEO, feel free to read What is a Title Tag by Moz.com.
1.2 Meta Description
A summary of your page that you write for search engines is a meta description. We say this because meta descriptions do not show alongside your post/page on your site.
For best results, it’s advisable to keep things short and include your main keyword in your meta description.
All the same, Google does not factor meta descriptions into SEO ranking algorithms. Still, the search engine shows your meta description alongside the clickable title tags in SERPs (see image above).
If you write a fantastic meta description, it will garner you more clicks from Google. If these people click-through to your site and find your content useful, it will reflect well on your SEO profile.
A meta description is shorter or equal to 160 characters, meaning you have to spur well in this area. Regardless, you can write meta descriptions like a pro in no time – you just need a little bit of exercise.
As a WordPress user, you probably know of Rank Math SEO, one of the best WordPress SEO plugins in the industry. Well, if it does nothing else for you, this plugin allows you to write helpful meta descriptions inside the post editor.
You should write your meta description like advertising copy, but hold your horses mate. Jamming keywords into your meta description is overkill, and comes across as spammy, which does the opposite of what you intend.
Angle for enticing but not pushy. Remember your one keyword keeping in mind how searchers consume the results in Google. Then make a promise. One that you fulfill within the post. Hook them long before they’re on your site but don’t deceive.
Most webmasters still learning how to do SEO usually forget one crucial thing: writing meta descriptions for all of their pages and posts. Don’t make the same mistake, but make sure the meta description moves your visitors to click through to your site.
According to an article about How to Write an Effective Meta Description written by Ramesh Ranjan for HubSpot, a meta description “…is one of your last hopes on search engine results pages (SERPs) to attract a searcher to come to your site.”
1.3 Internal Links
Without links, the internet itself would cease to exist. Creating relevant links in your content is one of the best search engine optimization tips you’ll learn here today. Why? Google and readers use links to find your content.
But you might be tempted to think linking internally merely means adding a link to another page/post on your site. While this is encouraged, there is more to internal linking than meets the eye.
A good internal linking strategy can help you establish content hierarchy, boost the authority/link value of essential pages and help Google understand the relevance of your content.
Moreover, internal links help Google to determine the architecture of your site and discover more related content. Links are so efficient, which made the bad guys game links like madmen in the past until Google caught up with them.
Your homepage has the most link value, considering it gets the most backlinks. You can use internal linking to pass this link juice to other pages on your site, directing the most juice to popular pages of course.
That said, a correctly built navigation is a must-have. That, and a sitemap as well. We say this because you can have the best of content that Google never finds because there are no links to it from your homepage.
In essence, you should ensure there are a few steps between your homepage and any other page. SEO experts recommend comparing your site to a pyramid, with the tip being your homepage.
Link value will then trickle down from the homepage to other pages under it. Due to its success, this structure is conventional in high-performing websites such as eBay, Amazon and so on.
With the right linking structure, Google can find more of your content straight from your homepage. Without wasting a second, link to your most popular pages and posts directly from the homepage, and you’ll grasp what we mean.
The success of internal linking bore many related posts plugins, widgets, and the works. Since it is so simple to implement, always add “related posts” widgets to your blog posts to get Google and readers to more of your content.
If you add a WordPress post to a category, it automatically creates a link to that group, where Google and readers can find more of the same content. On top of that, you can add links to your tags because, why not?
To point you in the right direction, we found The Seven Commandments of Internal Linking that Will Improve Content Marketing SEO and Internal Linking SEO – What, Why and How?
1.4 Now, The Warnings
Google search spiders follow about 100 links on any page, so avoid adding thousands of links on any single page. It’s horrifying just thinking about it, but adding an excessive number of links means your internal pages will get little if any PageRank. However, this is only a recommendation by Google.
Anchor texts are great, but they suck if they aren’t natural. So avoid stuffing keywords in your anchor texts. The anchor text should feel natural within your blog post. The preceding internal link is an excellent example of a suitable anchor text.
Then we have the rel=”nofollow” tag you can add to your links to discourage Google spiders from crawling unimportant links. It works, but you should consider adding fewer links as opposed to “no-following” them.
We all know a picture is worth a thousand words, and a barrage of text is a burden to read. You need images to spice things up, which results in better aesthetics and – wait for it – SEO!
To point you in the right direction, you want to avoid adding images for the sake of adding. You need the proper photos; clean pictures that are relevant and valuable to your page.
You can take professional photos of your team, face, office or product.
The best image is one that’s in tune with the content surrounding it. Remember, your readers can see the pictures, even if Google won’t. If the image rubs the reader the wrong way, it hurts your SEO since other signals (such as higher bounce rates) are triggered.
Once you have the perfect image, begin by optimizing the size in dimensions (length and width) and bytes. For instance, if you need a 700px x 300px image, upload a file with that width and height and not a pixel more.
Cut out extra data such as EXIF or metadata that makes your images heavy. Aim for less than 100Kb for best results. Image size has everything to do with page load speed. The lighter the photos, the better.
With your images cut to size, it’s time to name them appropriately. If your picture shows “how to do SEO,” you can name it how-to-do-seo.jpg. Doing this offers you the opportunity to add your SEO keyword to your titles.
Additionally, ensure your images are responsive to avoid breaking the user experience on mobile devices. Bad user experience leads to higher bounce rates, which is nasty for your SEO. Good thing the latest version of WordPress comes with this feature.
Next, use the alt attribute to describe your images. The alt text (alternative text) is displayed in case your image fails to load for one reason or another.
Make sure your alt text contains your SEO keyword and describes the image accurately. Why? Because the browser, screen readers, and Google search spiders use alt text to “see” your pictures.
Alt text helps you to offer better user experience and put your SEO keywords out there.
Remember also; social media sites pick an image from your post when you hit the share button meaning the right image will lead to more shares and better SEO ranking, which translate to more traffic.
Lastly, quality overcomes quantity as far as image and SEO go. Get amazing images (i.e., photos, infographics, graphs, animated GIF, etc.), but don’t kill your pages with an excessive number of images.
You can edit your images using a tool such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP or Pixlr.
There is more to say about optimizing images for SEO, which would require a lengthy post. To save you the trouble of looking around, here is The Ultimate Guide to Image Optimization for WordPress by Marko Prelec.
Your URLs play a role in SEO, but the URL itself is a minor ranking factor. Including your keyword in the URL can boost your ability to rank any given page, but that is just about it.
URL, short for universal resource locator, is merely the address of a page/post on your site.
While it is not much of a ranking factor, good URL structure is great for usability, which is fantastic for your overall SEO campaign. That said, the more readable the URL is to human beings, the better.
There are well-written URLs that will entice readers to click-through to your site, but other URLs will have your visitors running for the hills. Note that shorter URLs that contain your keyword work like magic.
Moreover, canonicalize URLs that point to the same page. If page X and page Y provide the same kind of information, you can canonicalize them by redirecting one to the other. Alternatively, you can use the rel=canonical tag.
Avoid using dynamic parameters in your URLs. For instance, yourdomain.com/page/redirect.aspx?type=banner&id=2 is awkward compared to yourdomain.com/page/redirect. One is more comfortable to share and recall.
WordPress ships with a fantastic permalinks feature (go to Settings -> Permalinks in your WordPress admin) that helps you to create impressive URLs automatically. Alternatively, feel free to use a plugin such as URL Shortener by MyThemeShop to generate and track pretty URLs on your WordPress site.
Endeavor to match your URLs to your titles, but remember to keep things short. For instance, if your post is “How to Do SEO: Optimizing Your Site for Google,” your URL could be yourdomain.com/how-to-do-seo or yourdomain.com/optimizing-your-site-for-google.
In a nutshell, write short human-readable URLs that include one keyword only. Stuffing keywords in your URLs will likely result in a lower click-through rate because – come on – who can’t see all that spam?
Let’s move on swiftly.