I get a lot of questions about how to work on search engine optimization (aka SEO, aka Google Traffic) because SEO really is the holy grail.
If you can get people on your site via SEO, then you can make a lot of money. Why? People who Google are ready to buy. The conversion is SO MUCH higher. So, if you show up (rank) first for a specific search, then the vast majority who search that specific term will visit your site, and potentially gain you an affiliate commission.
When people come to your site via Pinterest or through other social media avenues, they are usually on their phone and are just browsing. Browsers don’t typically buy.
Now that you see how wonderful search traffic can be, how do you actually go about obtaining it? It is a long process and one that must be worked on diligently before you even start to see any results.
Since it takes a long time, you should work on it from day one. But you can’t just work on SEO. You need to complete tasks in a certain order to eventually be able to rank, so here is how you level up your SEO game to start ranking on Google.
Disclaimer: Through no additional cost to you, I may be compensated from affiliate links included in this post. Learn more here.
Level 1: Site Basics
You can do these once you start your blog
Https basically means that all communication between the browser and your website are encrypted, aka “secure”. This is really important for sites that utilize online transactions. While your blog may not directly deal with financial transactions, it’s still important to use https instead of http. Why? Simple. Google prefers sites with https installed, therefore doing so will increase your chances of ranking.
How do you install https?
The answer to this varies greatly depending on your webhost. Regardless, nearly every WordPress-centric webhost should be able to install https on your site at not charge. To learn more, just Google “Install https with [your webhost]”
Site speed is another element that Google looks at when evaluating where to rank your site. Google prefers fast sites over slow sites. Additionally, up to 40% of would be readers will leave if your site takes longer than three seconds to load. So, improving site speed will not only help you improve Google traffic but Pinterest traffic as well.
How do you improve site speed? It mainly comes down to plugins and your webhost. For more information, read my post on 7 ways to boost site speed.
A key early step to gaining search traffic is telling Google that you exist. The way you do this is by registering your site in Google Search Console. When you’re there, simply enter your blog URL and it will provide five options for you to verify that you own the site. I find the easiest to be adding an HTML tag. All you have to do is copy the provided text into your <head> section. I use the Install Headers and Footers plugin to easily do this. Some themes have this functionality built in, so check there first before using the plugin.
YoastSEO Site Map
Once you’ve linked with Search Console, the next step is to submit a Site Map. The Site Map tells Google the layout of your site and thus where to find new posts. The free version of YoastSEO does a great job here. Follow this tutorial to access your sitemap, and then go into your Search Console and submit it.
Highlight your Credentials or Expertise
When you visit a blog for the first time and read a post that gives you advice, you probably read about the author to see if you should trust their advice. Google is the exact same way.
Google looks at a metric called Expertise, Authority, Trust (EAT) and it’s up to you to score high here.
Highlight your expertise in your about page or in an about the author box at the end of each post. If you have any specific credentials or work experience that give you the authority to write in that niche, be sure to highlight them.
Lastly, showcase the Trust that you have established with your readers by highlighting positive reviews or even positive post comments in a Testimonials page.
Set the Correct URL Structure
This tip isn’t critical but is just more of a best practice, in WordPress you can choose how you want your URL to appear. To access these options, in the left sidebar in your WordPress dashboard, click Settings and then Permalinks. There you’ll have six options. The best options are Post Name or Custom Structure.
These two options are best because it allows you to include keywords in your URL as well.
If you opt for a Custom Structure, you could use: BlogName -> Category -> Post Name
Here, I simply use the post name because I know my category names are likely to change as this blog grows and evolves, so I don’t want the hassle of worrying about all of my old posts if any category names change. However, if you are pretty sure of what your main categories will be, then this is a good option.
The options you definitely want to avoid are “Day and name” or “Month and name”, this is because when readers eventually stumble upon an older post, they will instantly know it was written years ago and may seek out content that’s more “fresh” and up-to-date. If you keep dates out of your URLs, you can update posts and their post date without having to change the URL and worry about setting up re-directs to ensure that previous links still work.
Level 2: Groundwork
Once you’ve accomplished level one, it’s time to just grind away and build your blog. But make sure you do so in a way that allows for future SEO success.
Create quality content
Everyone says create quality content, but what does this mean? You want to write content that goes so in-depth into the topic that it puts competing posts to shame. Research shows that on average posts which rank in first position on Google are on around 2500 words long. Whereas the average length of posts in 10th position are less than 2000 words.
Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that every post should be 2500 words. But when in doubt, include more detail and try to really exhaust the subject you’re writing about. Read my post about writing great content for more information.
Link to your Other Posts
While internal links aren’t nearly as important as external links, Google still gives weight to posts which have a high number of interlinks. Why is this? Each time you link to another post on your site, you are telling the reader that the post is important, and they should pay attention to it. Google interprets this the same way.
Increase your Social Shares
Increasing your social shares, in general, is a worthy goal simply to increase your traffic, but this is also important for SEO as the number of social shares are also used as a ranking factor by Google. Not sure how to do this? Check out my post on 10 genius ways to increase social shares.
Maximize your Click Through Rate (CTR)
Your click through rate (CTR) is the percentage of times the link to your site is clicked out of all the times it is viewed. Google uses CTR as a major ranking factor in their algorithm. You want to ensure that when people finally start to see your content on Google, they will click at a decent rate.
You can maximize your chances by always setting your meta title and meta description. Your meta title is what users will see as your title on google and the meta description is the little snippet below that they will read. Your title should include the keywords you’re trying to rank for while also enticing the user to click. And the description should do the same, but here you have more words to work with.
The easiest way to do this is with the YoastSEO plugin, which I mentioned above as a useful resource for submitting sitemaps, which are necessary for Google to be able to crawl your site.
Level 3: Grow your domain authority
Once you have content, you want to boost Google’s impression of you, otherwise known as your domain authority.
What is a domain authority?
Domain authority is a metric that evaluates the quantity and quality of all of the backlinks that point to your site. Websites with a higher domain authority tend to outrank sites with lower domain authorities. This is because Google sees that these authoritative sites have been linked to thousands of times, meaning they must be reputable.
How do you check domain authority?
Checking your domain authority is easy, simply go here and copy in your blog’s URL. The results will show your DA (Domain Authority) and PA (Page Authority), which is similar but rather than a score that’s broadly for your whole site, PA provides a score for the specific page you copied in.
How do you grow your domain authority?
The best way to increase your domain authority is by acquiring dofollow backlinks from a broad variety of reputable sites (i.e. sites with high domain authorities).
Dofollow Links vs. Nofollow Links
If you’re new to SEO, you may not have heard of dofollow and nofollow links before.
Dofollow links are the standard link type in WordPress. With dofollow links, Google is able to crawl your site and “follow” the trail to the site you linked.
Nofollow links require you to use a special plugin or edit the html to change the link type. With nofollow links, Google does not crawl from your site to the linked site, and therefore it doesn’t help build Domain Authority.
In general, you should use dofollow links unless you are being paid for the link, or have the potential to be paid for the link. This means that all links in sponsored posts and affiliate links should be nofollow.
How to check for nofollow links
Unfortunately, in the uber competitive world that is SEO, many sites will almost exclusively use nofollow links because they don’t want to help their competitors’ chances of outranking them on Google. When looking for guest post opportunities, or when reaching out to brands, do a scan of their site and check if they use dofollow links or nofollow links. If they only use nofollow links, then move on to other sites or brands.
To check for nofollow links, on your computer, right click on one of their links, then click “Inspect”. This will bring up a window on the right side of your screen that shows a lot of code. The highlighted code will represent the link that you right-clicked. When you look closely, if you see rel=”nofollow” then that means the link is a nofollow link, and won’t benefit your site from an SEO-perspective.
How to get dofollow backlinks
The simplest way is to just write great content so when others stumble upon it you might get a link. On my last blog, some of my best links came with absolutely no effort needed on my part. Sometimes people will find your post on Pinterest and then find it so resourceful they will cite it as a resource in a post that they write.
An active way to work on finding dofollow backlinks is by joining Facebook round-up request groups. In these groups, people will post that they are looking for specific content to include in a round-up they are writing for their own blog. If one of your posts meets the criteria they’re looking for, drop your link and hope for the best. These groups are great because the rules often stipulate that people writing round-ups must use dofollow links.
Here are some of the best Facebook groups that do round-up requests:
- Bloggers Sharing Links for Roundups
- Blogger Roundups
- Blogger Round Up Requests
- KBN Content &Round-Up Requests
When is your DA high enough to start getting google traffic?
Once your domain authority reaches about a 15, you should start exploring the idea of writing for SEO. By this point you know what your blog is about and what your readers are likely to search so you can start learning about the next steps.
However, I wouldn’t really start to pursue the next steps until you are around a DA of 20. A DA of 15 will give you a chance to get into the top 20 for a search but you really want to be in the top 5 to get any search traffic. Very rarely does someone click past the first page of Google.
Level 4: Learn how to do keyword research and start writing
Once you reach a high enough domain authority, it is absolutely worth your time to start writing posts that target specific keywords. Before just sitting down and writing though, you’ll want to do some keyword research.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of finding keywords or phrases that get searched often and have relatively low competition. There are a number of tools on the market to assist you in this process. They all have different scoring systems, but basically each will you show you how many times per month that the specific phrase is searched and give a score for how competitive the keyword is, or in other words, your chances of ranking well for that search term.
Best Keyword Research Tools
The best free option is probably Ubersuggest. You basically just enter a keyword and it will give search suggestions along with search volume and competition for all the terms. You can set filters to only show terms that have a low competition score.
With my last blog I used AhRefs. It’s a bit pricey at around 100 bucks per month, but it easily paid for itself each month due to the conversions I was getting from my organic visitors. AhRefs has the same features as Ubersuggest but also a ton more. You can track your ranking position for 100s of search terms, you can track your backlinks and snoop on other sites to see where they’re getting backlinks, and in general I just liked the feel of the keyword tool much better.
How to write a post targeting specific keywords
YoastSEO actually does a really good job here. You can set your focus keyphrase and then it will give green, orange or red lights based on a number of criteria. Once your domain authority is high enough and if you target a keyword with a relatively low competitiveness, and get all your lights green, there’s a decent chance you’ll rank in the top 5 for that search term.
The premium version of YoastSEO gives you the option to enter secondary keyphrases, this is kind of a neat feature as you don’t just want your posts to rank for one search term but rather multiple.
You’re ready to take over Google!
No matter where you are in your blogging journey, a fundamental understanding of SEO is critical so you can know when is the right time to take the leap and start building organic traffic. To recap, in the beginning, focus on essential steps like increasing your site speed, then just grind away at producing high quality content and increasing social shares. Once the foundation of your blog is established, work on increasing your domain authority by pursuing backlinks. Then finally, once you reach around a 20 DA, start conducting keyword research before every post and start really writing for Google.
If you have any questions, I’d love to help you out in the comments. Did I miss anything critical or was something confusing? Let me know.