What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is basically everything you do to make sure your site shows up on Google, Bing, and whatever search engines people are using nowadays. SEO is part-science and part-art. The ideal SEO strategy for you and your site is going to be personalized for you. There is no one-size-fits-all SEO strategy, and this is not a winner-take-all game. Let’s get started.
Why Care About SEO?
Let’s start with a few statistics:
- 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
- 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engines
Most of the traffic on searches goes to the top 3 results. Don’t believe me? Next time you are with someone who Googles something, watch them. See what options they click on. Watch how they scroll and read the options. Do they even get past the first few options? Probably not. Do they go to the second page? Absolutely not. If it’s not on the first page, it doesn’t get seen. Period.
Therefore, we need to get as close to the top of the search results as possible. It is key to get into the top 3, as that is where most of the clicks happen!
To Start, Some Nuts and Bolts
On your website, you need to get a SEO plugin. This is going to help you optimize your site for a search engine, and is going to help you through the process. We use Yoast, which integrates extremely well with WordPress. We highly recommend Yoast, but if you have a preferred plugin, go ahead and use that.
Tell Google and Bing who you are. This is a necessary step for search engines to understand that you are a legitimate website. You will verify using the links below that you are owners of your site. Once you confirm your ownership of the site, you will get a verification code from Google and Bing, which you will give to Yoast to help with the SEO improvement (on Yoast this is under Settings → Webmaster Tools).
Note, as a part of this, you will probably have to insert some code into the header of your site. To do this in WordPress, first download the ‘Insert Header and Footer’ plugin. Once the plugin is installed and activated, go to Settings → Insert Header and Footer, and paste in the correct code into the Header section. If you don’t want to follow the ‘Insert Header and Footer’ option, then you can insert the code directly into the code of your theme.
Keywords and Keyphrases
What is a Keyword?
A Keyword is the word or phrase that a user will search, for which you want your page to show up in the search results as high as possible. For instance, if you are writing about your new dentistry business, a good Keyword for you to use could be ‘new dentists in my area’. That way, when someone searches ‘new dentists in my area’ your page is going to be shown more prominently on Google.
Note: Keyword and Keyphrase are going to be used interchangeably for our purposes. Essentially, a Keyphrase is just a longer version of a Keyword, however Yoast or any other SEO plugin won’t limit your Keyword to one word. And in many cases, limiting a Keyword to one word would be a big mistake, which we will see.
Keyword Selection is a KEY part of SEO, and outside of content creation is the number 1 SEO skill to sharpen. Keyword Selection could be the reason your blog post gets 10 views or 10,000 views. It seems like a small exercise, but the implications are profound!
What we will call the ‘Tail’ Concept is going to be CRITICAL as we move forward. This beautiful graph explains it very well.
Short Tail keywords are words that are searched often. Think ‘restaurants near me’ or ‘how to cook chicken’.
Medium Tail keywords are searched less often. Things like ‘vegan thai restaurants near me’ or ‘how to bake parmesan chicken’
Long Tail keywords are searched very rarely. Things like ‘vegan thai restaurants near me that cater for large groups’ or ‘how to bake parmesan chicken with panko bread crumbs for 10 people’
When choosing keywords, we will strategically choose whether to use Short-, Medium-, or Long-Tail keywords based on your specific site and content!
Select For Your Site
You have to consider what website you are writing for, and choose your Keyword appropriately. If you are writing for a powerful online presence like Buzzfeed, your page will rank on Google more easily, and therefore you can choose a Keyword on the Short Tail. If you are a small blog, then choose something on the Long Tail. If in between, maybe choose something on the Medium Tail. If you are on the Long Tail, you should choose a keyword for which your page will absolutely answer! If you are writing about a vegan thai catering company, go ahead and make the Keyword ‘vegan thai restaurants near me that cater’! That way when someone searches that Keyword and clicks your page, they will find what they are looking for, and Google will consider that a success and rank you higher moving forward!
Create a Keyword Map
Generating and selecting keywords, outside of content creation, is the most effective skill you need to develop when it comes to SEO. It is a seemingly small part of the process, and only requires writing a few words into the Yoast section of your post generator in WordPress, but can have profound implications.
Come up with a list of one-word Keywords that define your site. Words that you and anyone else working with you believe wholeheartedly, and want to convey with your site and content strategies. Make the list somewhere between 8-10 words long. Ours are:
For each one-word keyword, generate a set of phrases (a couple words long) that a user might search online, which your site identifies with, and therefore would want to rank highly on Google. For instance, for lolglobetrotting’s Travel keyword, we have:
- How to save money while traveling
- Maximizing travel time
- How to pick my next destination
- How to pack for my vacation
- Traveling as a couple
- And on and on and on
Once you have this list created for every one of your one-word Keywords, create a Keyword Map that ties each Keyphrase to its associated Keyword. At the end, you’ll have a giant map of potential Short-, Medium-, and Long-Tail keywords! Essentially, it should look like a giant spider web of awesomeness.
We are now going to take each and every Keyphrase and put them into a tool to test their viability. We use SEM Rush. In theory this is a very simple exercise. Just put the phrase into SEM Rush and see the output. You’ll be able to understand recent trends, competition, cost-per-click, and so much more about that keyword. What’s more? You’ll get related keywords!
In practice, this is more art than science. Remember your site’s strategy and strengths, and choose a Short-, Medium-, or Long-Tail Keyword as appropriate. Really this step is to sharpen each Keyword and tweak them to align with your strategy AND ensure effectiveness considering your Keywords’ search statistics.
Drum roll… here comes a big reveal… Take a look at that giant spider-web on the wall. You’ve created an awesome list of keywords that your site aligns with directly. You’ve put these keywords through SEM Rush and optimized the keywords for your site’s strategy, ensuring each Keyword’s viability. What could all of this be used for?
This is exactly what you should build your content around!!!!!! (There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world for this)!! Is ‘Traveling as a couple’ one of your top Keywords? Seems like you had better write a blog or record a video on how to travel as a couple! Your Keyword Map is your Content Creation Guide and an exceptional idea generation tool, as you create amazing beautiful content for your audience that all aligns with the goals of your site generally!
Optimize Your Site for SEO
- 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site.
- Bounce rates increase by 50% if your website takes 2 seconds extra to load.
If your website is not optimized people will not trust it. Optimization can mean many different things. Optimized for mobile? Optimized for load speed? Optimized for content? What is the answer? It is ‘YES’! You must consider your audience, learn how they are using your website, and optimize your site accordingly!
Optimize for Mobile
In WordPress, click Appearance → Customize. As you can see, your homepage is brought up. However, WordPress defaults to a website view, as if someone were on a computer. We want to view the site as a smartphone would. On the bottom left of the screen, you’ll see the below options. Click on the tablet or phone icons to see how your site looks from a tablet or smartphone. On these views, click through your entire site. Make sure your posts look beautiful. Make sure your pages look beautiful. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, people won’t take it seriously, and they’ll leave, which leads to bad SEO results and bad results generally. Spend some time making sure you have a beautiful site that is mobile friendly, it’ll be worth it!
Optimize for Speed
People seriously care about website load times. Try to think of the last time you sat on a slow webpage while it loaded, and had a good overall experience with that site. Our guess is that you got frustrated and left. Don’t do this to people! If you have slow load times, there is a reason. Perhaps there is a bug in the software, maybe your pictures are extremely high-resolution and take a while to load. Whatever it is, we need to find it and get rid of it to speed up your site and improve your user experience!
If picture size is the problem, we suggest trying out a WordPress plugin like Imagify, which will optimize your site’s images in bulk. Fair warning, this will decrease the resolution slightly, but in our opinion it is better to have a high-def picture with good load times than a super-high-def picture with bad load times.
If there is a bug in your site, we suggest enlisting WordPress to help out. Their engineers have been able to sort some things out for us and drastically improve our speed. Just get in contact with them through the Contact Us portion of WordPress and let them do their jobs!
Slugs and Meta Description
Slugs are the words, numbers, symbols in the URL that come after your site name. Check the URL bar, the Slug for this page is ‘SEO-made-simple’. As you can see, this comes right after https://ruhlsoftheroad.com/.
Your Slug is important because it shows up as the link in a user’s search engine results, therefore the search engines pay attention to it! In general, the smaller your Slug is, the better. Ideally, it should be a couple words long, and should tell the story about what content is in that page or post.
Meta Description is the description of the post/page that shows up in search engine results. Like your slug, this is also critically important. Make sure your Keyword is in the Meta Description, because Google bolds that Keyword, which helps you stand out.
With Yoast on WordPress, you can edit the Slug and Meta Description towards the bottom of each page and post. Do NOT forget this step! Seems small, but can be detrimental to miss!
Domain authority is a measure of how search engine’s view your website. It is based on many metrics: how long you’ve been around, how many inbound and outbound links you have, how your site is setup, and more.
Remember our goal is to rank in the top 3 for every Keyword we have! That is going to be a challenge, especially at first, and understanding our Domain Authority will help us choose the appropriate Keyword.
We use Moz, which allows you to create a free account and understand your Domain Authority. Using Moz, you will be able to get insights about any website, including your own.
Tip: View the Domain Authority of other sites like yours
Your Domain Authority will be key to your Keyword Strategy. Here’s what we’re going to do, pairing Moz with SEM Rush:
- If your Domain Authority is less than 30, choose Keywords and Phrases with around 100 monthly searches
- If your Domain Authority is between 30-50, choose Keywords and Phrases with around 1000 monthly searches
- If your Domain Authority is between 50-70, choose Keywords and Phrases with around 3000 monthly searches
- If your Domain Authority is over 70, you are kicking butt and probably know all of this already! And don’t put a limit on the monthly searches of your Keywords and Phrases.
Note: If you have a small Domain Authority score, it is nothing to be disheartened about. This takes time and conscious effort to build up, and nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy! A great way to build up your authority is by building your Keyword strategy around your current number.
Understand How Google Ranks Sites
Understanding how search engines rank search results is a key to optimizing your SEO strategy. We can take these lessons and put them into practice on your own site in order to move your page/post up the rankings! Each search engine ranks sites using proprietary algorithms, but here is what they care about most:
- Other sites linking to your page/post
- How many times the search Keyword appears on your page/post
- How recently your page/post was published
- Past ‘success’ of your page in answering a user’s question
What does that last one mean? Let’s think about it for a second. A ‘success’ as measured by Google is when a page answers the question or concern of the user. So, let’s look at these two situations:
- Johnny searches ‘how to pack for a trip to Italy’ and your page shows up in the search result. Johnny clicks your page, reads your thoughts, but doesn’t find exactly what he’s looking for. He goes back to the results page and clicks another link. Google considers that a failure, and is therefore less likely to show your page next time someone searches ‘how to pack for a trip to Italy’
- Kim searches ‘tips for getting around Vietnam’ and your page is near the top of the results. Kim clicks your link, finds everything she needs to know, and proceeds without returning to her search results. Google considers that a success, and is now more likely to show your page the next time someone searches ‘tips for getting around Vietnam’
What does this mean for you? Your page/post had darn well better answer the questions posed by your SEO Keyword!
Google and other search engines love sites that have inbound links. This means that the more outside websites that link to your content, the better. So you should put some effort into trying to get other sites to link to you!
The number one way to do this is by creating awesome content! Content that people love and will actively link to. The second best way to get inbound links is by asking!
- Find a site whose mission seems to align with yours. A site your own audience loves and uses.
- Comment on their posts, adding tidbits, tips & tricks of your own! Link to their content on your site.
- Then send them an email! Here’s an example: ‘Hi! I loved your article on ___, and absolutely agree with ___. I just published some content myself in which I say ___, and would love if you took some time to read it! If you love it, I think it could be something your audience would really enjoy!’
Of course, this is not going to work every single time. The message might end up unread a third of the time, and ignored a third of the time. But if it works a few times then this will be a huge boost to your site’s SEO!
Having outbound links can also boost your SEO performance. However, these outbound links must be to sites that Google and other search engine’s trust and value. As a rule of thumb, try to links to site’s that themselves show up in the top 3 of search engine results.
Content is King
Confession time: we buried the lead. All of the strategies we have talked about so far are key, and will help out enormously with your site’s traffic from search engines. However, none of it matters without content. C-O-N-T-E-N-T. content. CoNtEnT. No matter how you put it, content is KING when it comes to SEO.
The number one thing you can do is to create ridiculously beautiful, show-stopping, ‘holy-crap-you-have-to-check-this-out’ content for your audience! The buck stops here, friends.
- 72% of online marketers describe content creation as their most effective SEO tactic.
Are you an online marketer? Whether you know it or not, the answer is yes! Now… are you a good online marketer? That is a separate question.
Good online marketers understand that content creation is the number one thing you can do to improve your site’s SEO! However, this also has to be sustainable. You cannot spend a week creating 3 awesome blog posts, then wonder why your traffic hasn’t spiked. This will take time, we’re talking 6 months to a year at least.
Implement a sustainable approach. If you can publish one fantastically awesome piece of content per week, then do one piece of content per week. One amazing article is SO much better than two average articles!
- The average first-page result on Google consists of 1,890 words.
You NEED to target 2,000 words on each and every written piece of content you create. There is just no way around it! You will not be able to have an effectively sustainable SEO strategy if your content is 200 words.
Shoot for 2,000 every single time. Sometimes you’ll end up at 1,800, sometimes you’ll be at 2,200, and that is just fine. Do you have writer’s block at 1,200 words and just want to publish it and call it a day? DON’T! Take a walk around the block, give your mind a break. But PLEASE only publish content you are TRULY proud of! Your audience will be able to tell.
SEO is like a giant flywheel. You are going to have to put blood, sweat, and tears into it at the outset. Getting that giant flywheel moving is not going to be easy. However, it will get easier as you move forward. All of the hard work, late nights and early mornings, that you put into your content creation is going to pay off. All of the conscious effort around selecting your keywords is going to pay off.
Another aspect of SEO that is critical to understand is that it takes time. You are not going to put all of these actions into practice, and see your traffic double overnight. However, the results are extremely sustainable. If tomorrow, Facebook crashes, and Facebook is your main source of traffic, then you’re out of luck. That will never happen with SEO. SEO is sustainable and repeatable. Once you are ranking on Google, you will get traffic every single day. And if you continue to use these principles, pushing out great content all the while, then your traffic will consistently increase!