You’ve probably heard of SEO (search engine optimization) before, many times. At a basic level, SEO is just the process of optimizing your website to show up in relevant search results.
SEO essentially involves a list of tasks to complete in order to make your website more “searchable” and “shareable”. Some of these tasks you can do once and forget about, but a lot of SEO tasks are things you’ll have to do for each blog post you write.
Some parts of SEO can be more technical, but there’s plenty of helpful steps you can start taking to improve your blog’s SEO without hiring a professional!
If you’ve been avoiding learning about SEO because it seems too technical, don’t worry. You can easily become familiar with the basics and start setting your blog up for better organic search power in the future. Let’s get started!
The SEO stuff you can do on your blog without investing too much time:
Do keyword research
There are hundreds of tools out there that you can use to conduct keyword research. Google’s Keyword Planner is one of the most recommended tools. It’s free to use and doesn’t take much time to learn about. Dedicate a couple hours to learning how to use it for keyword research and you’ll be able to determine keywords for each of your blog posts.
You should be targeting at least one keyword or keyword phrase per blog post, but it’s recommended to target 3-5 per post. Avoid having multiple blog posts targeting the same keyword phrase. This can lead to keyword cannibalism, where your pages compete against each other to rank for the same phrase.
FAQ: Do you need to pay for a premium keyword tool to get results from keyword research?
Ultimately, this is up in the air but I don’t think you do. The only organization who knows the real keyword volume numbers is Google itself, and they don’t release that. There’s a lot of fun and helpful things that you can do with paid keywords tools, but unless you’re working with SEO on a daily basis, you can for sure get away with using free tools. Here are some options.
Write meta descriptions
You can use the WordPress plugin, Yoast, to craft meta descriptions in your blog post editor. Meta descriptions are what will show up in the search before anyone clicks on your link. Try to write something that has relevant keywords and hooks the reader in. You can use a meta description as a short summary of your article, or you can ask a question and try to pull the reader in that way. However you choose to use your meta description, be sure to at least use your main keyword phrase once.
Be deliberate about your post titles
This SEO tip is as simple as it gets. Use the main keyword phrase in your post title if at all possible. Create titles that you would want to read. If possible, put your keyword at the beginning of your title. Try using CoSchedule’s headline analyzer to get an idea of how strong your post title is. Learn about how to create catchy blog post titles that get clicked and consider whether the post title would catch your eye or if you would scroll past it. Writing powerful, intriguing headlines is a big part of whether your blog will actually get read.
Use keywords naturally and don’t keyword stuff
Especially if part of your readership has blogs of their own, they will be able to tell when you keyword stuff. It’s better to sacrifice the use of several keywords than to create posts that don’t sound natural and seem focused on keyword usage. Creating compelling, shareable content is much more important than keyword density. Here are some places to add your keyword, if it sounds natural.
- In the first paragraph of your post
- Within the last few sentences of your post
- In a header (H1, H2, H3, and so on)
Include your keyword in your image ALT tags (but only if it makes sense)
ALT tags’ main purpose is to help with the accessibility of your site. They’ll be used for anyone using a screen reader to access your site, so it’s important to have them filled out mainly for that reason. That being said, Google can see these and uses them to determine what your image is about.
So, if your keyword is part of a natural description of your image, include it. If not, try putting it in another image ALT tag where it fits better.
You can use URLs to rank for an additional search
You can change your URL to rank for a slightly different search than your title if you choose. For example, your post might be about how to change a printer setting. Some people might search for “change x printer setting”. Others will search “changing x printer setting” instead.
These two groups of people are searching for the same thing but in a different way. You can have your post title set as Change X Printer Setting in 8 Easy Steps and your URL set as changing-x-printer-setting-how-to. It’s up to you how often you want to use this trick, but you may want to begin employing it in future posts.
Use images and video on your website and in your posts
Google likes images and video. If you and your competitor have the same number of backlinks and credibility and your post has video while theirs doesn’t – your post will come out on top in searches. It’s a small boost, like most parts of SEO, but each small boost adds up over time.
Have a sitemap
You can use Yoast again for this. You’ll need to generate a sitemap for your blog. You can wait for Google to crawl your site and find the sitemap by itself or you can submit it to Google today. Sitemaps help search engine spiders understand the layout and architecture of your site and crawl anything they may have otherwise missed.
Link to other relevant posts on your blog
In each of your blog posts, try to link out to at least three other posts that have something to do with to post topic. This is called “internal linking” and it helps to make sure that your readers stay on your website for longer because they will discover other relevant content.
Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
A large majority of your blog visitors are probably viewing your blog on their phones. Especially if you get a big portion of your traffic from Pinterest, like a lot of successful bloggers do. See what your blog looks like on your phone and test it out on more than one small screen size, if possible (use a family member or friend’s phone to check) Google has a simple mobile-friendly test that you can use as well – just plug in your domain name and run the test.
If your blog looks strange on a smaller screen or if the Google test is coming back with red flags, you’ll need to make some fixes. If you didn’t create your blog design yourself, reach out to the web developer you used or find one who will make your site mobile-friendly. (P.S. – the term “responsive” means essentially the same thing as “mobile-friendly”)
Check the grammar and readability score of your posts before publishing them
Fixing grammar and spelling mistakes and verifying that your post is easy to read before hitting “publish” is always a good idea. Search engines will penalize content with excessive spelling and grammar issues.
You can check for readability using a tool like. If you have the Yoast plugin installed, it will automatically detect and report the readability score of your content. Shoot for a readability score of 60 or above. This is not an end-all be-all, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to make an attempt to write easy-to-read articles – your readers will appreciate it and ultimately get more value from your content.
Keep your posts at a suitable length
Write and publish posts that are at least 300 words long. It’s even better if you’re able to publish longer content – think 800 words for a shorter piece and 1500+ for a longer post. Why? Google enjoys helpful content and boost it in search results. When your posts are longer, they have more potential value to your readers and more potential to get shared, commented on, and read. That’s not to say that shorter posts can’t be valuable – they absolutely can – but try to make a point of keeping your posts on the longer side, as long as you aren’t including any “fluff”, or filler information that doesn’t add to the value of the post.
Moderate your comments
Remove spammy comments. Any short comments left on your blog similar to “Nice work,” or “Thanks for the post,” are probably placed there by people looking to gain an easy backlink to their own blog or website. Don’t allow comments on your blog posts that don’t contribute to the conversation. Google is good at detecting spammy SEO practices and it won’t help your rankings if your posts include a lot of spam comments.
WordPress blog SEO tips that take a little more work, but aren’t super-complex:
Reach out to other bloggers in the same niche or community and see if they’re accepting guest posts. Often times, a blog will link back to the guest poster’s blog, giving you a reputable backlink. Preferably, you should build up as many high-quality backlinks as you can.
Comment on other blogs
You can get your name out there in the blogging community by commenting on other blogs. You don’t want to go around posting short, meaningless comments like “nice post” or “Thanks for the info” – if you pay attention to other blog comment sections, you’re sure to see several meaningless comments. These kinds of comments don’t generate interest.
Post something thoughtful. If you don’t care about the blog post you’re reading, don’t comment! But if you have something helpful to add or the post resonates with you or taught you something new, leave details for the other readers and the blog owner to see. People will click through to your blog from the comments section and you can end up with new readers and email subscribers that way.
Start a Medium account
Medium is a popular, super-simple blogging platform. Repurposing your content for Medium can get you a steady stream of readers – Medium is quite large and well-established. People browsing Medium are people who love to read. Take advantage of Medium’s traffic. Readers will click on the link to your blog if they enjoy your work and want to get more information about you and your blog.
Start answering questions on Quora
Quora is a great way to position yourself as an expert in your niche. Follow topics related to what you blog about and answer s many questions as you can. Try not to give canned answers – be compelling and give people a reason to click on your profile to get more information about you. Simply plugging a link to your blog in your Quora bio can be a source of traffic if you’re someone who consistently gives interesting and thoughtful answers to questions related to your niche.
Build out citations and get your website listed in local directories (if you have a local business)
If you have a local, brick-and-mortar business, get your business listed on as many high-quality and relevant business directories as possible. Here is a massive list of business directories that you can delve into and find ones that will work for your business. Every business should start by filling out their Google My Business profile and information. Then, consider claiming your Yelp page. From there, you can move on to more specific directories.
Check for keyword cannibalization
Read more about keyword cannibalization to get a better idea of how it works, but in short, no two posts you create should be competing for the same keyword or keyword phrase.
Assess the usability of your blog
How easily can your readers find what they’re looking for on your blog? If they don’t find what the need or want, they’re likely to leave quickly. Make sure that you have clear call-to-actions placed throughout your blog and that the user can navigate easily around the site. To get a third-party analysis of your blog, you can use a site like UserTesting or hire another blogger to do an audit of your blog.
Track your bounce rate, exit pages, and average time users spend on your site with Google Analytics
Tracking these important metrics will help give you insight related to areas of potential improvement for your blog. When you understand more about why people are clicking away from your site, you’ll be able to fix these issues or experiment with new ideas.
Check your blog for broken links
Broken links are frustrating for readers. Search engines don’t like them, either. The technical SEO tool, ScreamingFrog, will let you do a full scan for free if you’ve got less than 50 pages on your site.
Remove excessive ads from your blog
If you host ads on your blog, consider removing some of them. Are the ads placed tastefully throughout your site or could they be deterring people from reading your posts? When readers are bombarded by ads, they are less likely to finish reading your post or to come back to your blog. You may be better off earning money through your blog by other means – like affiliate marketing or offering your services.