This is something I was planning to do for awhile and after receiving many questions on the subject, here it is – SEO 101, the beginner’s ultimate guide for on-page SEO.
According to some e-mails and comments I get, SEO seems to be one of the hardest obstacles bloggers run into. The good thing is, when you learn the basics right, you will find SEO to be a breeze compared to some other stuff.
Before I start explaining this, although some will disagree with certain tips, I am writing about what worked for me! It helped me rank high in Google, get PR and receive thousands of visitors every day (talking about niche sites too, not just this blog).
What about SEO am I going to show you in this post
- on-page SEO (what you need to include in a post for it to rank good in Google)
- how to apply it to WordPress
- extra tips and observations
The very beginning
What is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it basically means that you are optimizing the visibility of your page for the search engines. I will skip the mumbo jumbo about the search engine spiders and other things that you don’t really need to worry about too much.
Just follow the simple steps and you will be good :)
Start with a keyword
Optimizing means that you will make your page just about perfect to be found for a keyword. For best results you should always be focusing on writing posts for a single specific keyword.
A single keyword can be made of several words, so some examples would be: “YouTube traffic generation”, “free Twitter tools”, “cheap vacation rentals Florida”, etc.
Do some keyword research and choose which one you want your post to rank for.
IMPORTANT: I will not go into keyword research here, as it is a topic for itself but the main things is – choose keywords that are not too competitive. They are easier to “win” (rank for).
And this is where all the fun starts…
Parts of the page that matter
This is what you will focus on:
- Page content
For the sake of this SEO 101 – ultimate beginner’s guide I will imagine our targeted keyword is “social media icons“.
SEO for URL
Your URL is the address of your page. The URL of this page is http://onlineincomestar.com/seo-101-beginners-ultimate-guide/.
The URL of our example page would be http://yourblog.com/social-media-icons/
How do you create a URL?
The main thing is to get rid of the default WordPress URL which is something like http://onlineincomestar.com/?p=123. You want your URLs to be simple, pretty and at the same time tell people what will they read about, if they click it.
To change this go to your WP dashboard > Settings >Permalinks. The image below shows my settings. I prefer having post name without my blog name attached to it. So to get the simple but optimized URL like the ones I have, just set your permalinks settings like in the image:
After you set this up let’s go to the post editor. When you are writing a post this is one of the things that can happen:
If you don’t put a title and save a draft, WordPress will automatically create an URL. In this case it assigned the number. Because there is no title.
If you put a title, your title will become a part of the URL. So if you title the post “Social media icons”, your URL will look like in the example – http://yourblog.com/social-media-icons/.
NOTE: This title, although SEOed, needs to be written for humans as well. If you read the title, you will know what it is about, but will it get the click?
So while you are optimizing for the search engines, do some human optimizing as well. In this case, in the title field, I would put something like “Social media icons | 30 free icon packs you must have”.
If you put all that in the title, it will become your URL. You don’t want all that in the URL.
- You should always aim to have only your keywords in the URL.
- If there are more words included, you should aim for the keyword to be at the beginning of the URL.
- Always delete “stop words” from your URL (in, at, from, to…)
So to fix this, click the edit button (on the right of the URL) and edit it. Just leave “social-media-icons” and delete the rest.
- URLs can not contain spaces and the best way to create them are dashes separating the words.
You can use the underscores as well, or put all the words together. I never do, no matter how simple the words are.
SEO for the title
I started to talk about titles above, how to make them SEOed but written for humans as well.
The main thing is to include your specific keyword “social media icons” in the title. Put it at the beginning or as close to the beginning as you can. The second or third place is the best, the fifth is the farthest you should go.
One more reason why you need to pay attention to your titles is that your title is the link to your page in the Search engine results.
I pointed the arrow to the second title to stress how good it looks for humans, compared to the first one. It might get the click easier.
In this second case I would have written the title like “Social Media Icons | The best freebies all in one place”. You get it?
The best length for titles is 64 characters. Some say 70 is the max, some say 80 characters is the max. Try to keep it up to 70 and you will be on the safe side.
SEO for keywords
Meta keywords is a spot where you are supposed to write down the keyword you are targeting your page for. You should list no more than 5 keywords.
In our case, you could write only “social media icons”. But you could also write it like “social media icons, vector icons, free icons”. The main thing is to include your specific keyword. If you include additional ones, make sure they are describing what’s on the page.
The point of this is telling the search engine what your page is about.
Some say that the search engines are not reading this info any more because people stuffed keywords for better rankings before so this part of the on-page is disregarded.
I still put them and I always will. I ranked some of my sites very, very high doing this and don’t see why would I stop.
NOTE: I have heard some bloggers suggest that you should not put your keywords in the Meta keywords because that way your competition can see what you are targeting. Bulls..t!
There are paid and free tools that can check everything and not putting your keywords there won’t save you from competition.
Here is how one of those blogger’s strategy works for a blog… I used some of my paid tools (and did the same with free ones) to find out the following — I run a spider-make-believe on the blog and saw what keywords are potentially targeted (by the way they were located on the pages). All the keywords matched the blogs topic. Then I ran rankings check and saw that the blog is not ranking great for any of those words. It was ranking for some pretty non related stuff. So now I know what are they trying to rank for and I know they are not doing a great job. I can apply my standard SEO practices, build a few quality links and skip them in SE rankings.
Extra note: Be careful when you take tips for granted (even on my blog). Not everyone knows what they are doing and not everyone can make the same things work with the same results. You always need to try things yourself and see if they work on your blog.
SEO for description
Meta description is a place where you will describe the page. Think of it as an ad for your page. People coming to your blog won’t see it on the blog itself. But they will see it in search engine results and that is where you need to “sell your page” good.
Again, the main thing is to include your specific keyword in the description. Don’t just copy your title in the description of the page.
Include the keyword once so you don’t stuff your description with keywords. Great thing to do, when it comes to the description is write one that will include the specific keyword, a related keyword or a synonym, tell people what the page is about and what’s in it for them.
A great description for a travel page, i.e. would be “Rome, Italy, can be a very expensive place. If you are looking for cheap Rome hotels here are some great ones.”
You should keep your description up to 150 characters.
SEO in WordPress
It is very easy to do this in WordPress cause you can use a plugin that will show you the fields you need to fill in. This blog ran on Thesis theme (at the time of the writing) so I am used the Thesis SEO options:
For those who are not using Thesis, the best option is All in one SEO pack plugin. Here is how it looks for those who are using it:
<update>Thesis theme SEO is not the best way to go. A better option would be WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, however, Thesis theme is developed in such way that you can’t make both work together. Although Thesis theme is a nice looking theme, after a lot of research, I would have to say that my current theme – Genesis framework – paired with the mentioned plugin, makes a much better SEO package. </update>
SEO for page content
Page content is the post itself. The stuff you write :)
Start your post with your specific keyword, in different words put your specific keyword in the first sentence. Try to include it in the first 90 characters (space counts as a character as well).
Of course, you will mention the specific keyword in the post again, that is what natural writing requires, but never stuff your post with keywords.
Some keywords you want to rank for sound weird, because often people will type them in Google like that. For example “buy laptops London”.
You can’t write like that and not sound funny. But you can write “Are you searching for a place to buy laptops in London?” In this case “in” is the stop word and Google will, most likely, disregard it. So you can still target the words that are weird but have great numbers.
SEO for images
Images can be optimized as well. What you need to optimize in this case are ALT tags.
Here is how it looks in the code:
src=”img URL” alt=”keyword”
Put your specific keyword in the ALT tag. This is how I was first found for the first site I have ever built. By Google Image Search.
Of course, it would be the best if the image is actually the keyword :) If the keyword is “puppy training” the best image to use is – puppy training.
How to add ALT tags in WordPress?
SEO for links
There are two things I will tell you about this.
First, I want to say that this might not be considered on-page SEO but since it is on your blog, I will include it here.
Link to your post from other posts you have on your blog using your specific keyword. Also, use a synonym or similar keywords to link to the post, from time to time. Still, make most of your links, on your blog, link using anchor text that is your specific keyword.
Anchor text is the word that you link through to get to a post. Example would be: Learn what is a nofollow attribute. In this case “nofollow attribute” is the anchor text I used to link to a post about – nofollow attribute (good read for basic SEO, as well).
The second thing is something you might have never heard of. I learned it the first time I built a site and have been using it since. It might not help, but it sure looks like it is helping :)
Basically, lets say you have a website about dogs. Your main overall keyword is dog training. On your puppy training page, at the bottom, you will put a link saying “Go from puppy training to dog training home page” or “Go from puppy training to dog training”. And link to home page.
First of all you are putting the anchor text linking to the home page, hence giving the good anchor text link love to it. Then, you are not letting the visitor just click out but offering more links to check out.
Well, this is the main thing about the link – include your specific keyword in a link going out of the page. If you ask me why, I am not sure, but it seems to give the keyword strength to the page. I know this will be a topic of disagreements, but I am repeating, this is what I am doing and it helps me.
I am not doing it on this blog, though. Interesting observation is that the blog is not ranked as good as the sites I use this strategy on :)
Is this all?
Well, I did write down everything I think is important to know when writing a post and trying to optimize it for the search engines. This is SEO 101- the ultimate guide for beginners so I tried to give as many details as I can. If I missed something, I hope you will ask a question about it.
These simple steps are only a few minutes of your time when you write a post. Yes, they are simple. Read the post a time or two and it will all be clear. If you are not doing this, you will see a big difference when you start doing it.
Add some backlink building and you are on a roll.
Answers to your SEO questions
I sent out a newsletter yesterday, asking you to ask SEO questions so I can include them here. I got several of them, and here are the answers:
1. Eric from http://blog.thinkmarketact.com/ told me what he is doing regarding SEO and asked if there is anything I could add. Basically, I think I answered his questions here, if not, Eric, please ask more in the comments.
2. Jan asked “What’s the best sort of hosting for SEO?” Not sure I understood the question and what it has to do with SEO, but wild guess will be that the question is related to free and paid blogs. If I guessed right, the best thing to do is host your own blog.
3. Bill Dorman asked “How to get to the top of the stack as a non-commercial/part time blogger”. Bill, part time is what most bloggers are. If you want to rank for some words, the best thing is to move your blog to self hosted domain, choose a focus and start blogging when you have time. To get ranked you will have to do some SEO. If you want your current blog noticed, you started great, by connecting with other bloggers.
4. Sanjeev Sharma sent me an interesting observation:
“Barring the top few 100 or so sites, I find that in majority of the cases the pagerank and alexa ranks are completely out of sync – sites with high alexa ranks have low pagerank and sites with high page ranks have equally low alexa ranks. Also in the serach results, pages with lower pageranks show up before pages with higher page ranks. If that be so, why worry about PR and hence SEO? Why not put greater energy in the promotional activities. PR will in any case climb up with age.”
Doing SEO for ranking good in the search results is not the same as getting a PR. In the simplest words I can think of (cause this is a guide for beginners), you get PR because you are an authority, you have a lot of backlinks. You do SEO to be ranked in the search results page (not all is this simple, but this is an overview).
Alexa rank again, has nothing to do with PR or SEO, it is only counting the visitors. But there is one important thing about Alexa. It counts visitors with Alexa toolbar installed (or scripts running in the blog). So it is not the most perfect count…
I had more questions but they were not related to the SEO topic in this manner so I didn’t want to mix it all together :)
That’s it. Your SEO 101, the beginner’s ultimate guide for on-page SEO.
Hope you will like it. Hope you will share it. And hope you will vote for it using the shiny buttons on the left :)
Please, comment and ask any additional question about this post!