Does your SEO need some SOS? Check out this post for some basics on SEO to help your site get the attention it deserves. There is also a free SEO checklist for beginners!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
What the heck is SEO?
First of all SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is all about tuning up your website so that it ranks better in search engines. You want your website to show up on the first page of Google (or Bing or Yahoo) when a user types in a query. If you are looking up gardening tips for beginners, how many pages are you going to scroll before you click on a website before you check it out? The vast majority of people never click past the first page. That page is prime real estate and where you want to be.
When I started, I had absolutely no clue about SEO. It takes time to optimize a website. Don’t worry about this or burn yourself out. Just work on a little bit at a time and it will come together. Unlike traffic from other sources, gaining search engine traffic is a long-game. I myself am slowly going back and fixing my first posts so they are better optimized.
You know that SEO is important, but how do you do this?
There are many details that go into optimizing a website for search engines. I have grouped them into these three categories:
- On-site optimization
- Get social
This post will go into detail about each of these categories, and give tips for each heading. These tips are all aimed towards beginner bloggers! There are courses out there on SEO and some of them are very good. But if you are a total newbie and don’t want to invest in a course yet or want something a little simpler, this is a great post for you. There is no reason a beginner blogger just like you can’t start simple SEO techniques. You work super hard on your blog too and deserve to be seen. At the end of the post I have included a bonus SEO checklist for beginners that you can download and print off to help you as you improve your site. This is the SEO checklist I use to improve my pages.
Who am I and what can I teach you about SEO?
I am a newer blogger – I have been blogging for about six months. Because I am not years into this process, I know exactly how overwhelming it can be in the beginner blogger stages. There is so much to learn and everything is new. It helped me keep this post on SEO for beginner bloggers simple and clear. I also have a degree in computer science but I think more importantly than that is I am a beginner and I used the exact techniques outlined here to get several new blog posts ranking on the first page of Google.
It is generally thought that new blog posts and new websites take between 6 months to a year before you will start seeing your pages rank on Google.
Here are a couple of examples of articles I wrote that ranked on the first page of Google only a few months after they were posted. I did these searches in incognito mode so they weren’t influenced by my search history.
Search term: latte factor calculator
I was super excited to see that my post is right after articles from Forbes (Forbes!!) and Lifehacker and before an article from Business Insider.
Search term: free guided meditation for pain relief
With this search result, I published the post on meditation for pain relief on July 9th 2018 and the date that I did the search is August 27, 2018. In just over a month and a half, this brand-new post ranked on the first half of the first page in Google.
Okay, let’s get into this.
Related: If your passion is cooking or baking I have a post that will help you start a food blog.
SEO Checklist for beginners first steps: Keywords
The first step in the SEO checklist for beginners is keyword research. We will get to plugins and how they can seriously make your life easier when it comes to optimizing your posts, but first we have to start with a little bit of thinking. When you have an idea for a post, before you even start writing, think about the purpose of your post. It could be to share your favorite keto dessert recipes, it could be to give tips on travel hacking with credit cards, whatever. Once you know your topic, think of what a user would type in a search engine on that topic. Play around with the words, change the order, and just brainstorm. Some people keep a spreadsheet of keywords that they have brainstormed, or you can keep a document file on your computer for keywords or even write them all down on paper.
Basic keyword research
There are simple and free tools you can use to help with your keyword research. Let’s start with Google since it’s the easiest. For example let’s say we decided to use ‘favorite keto dessert recipes’ from our brainstorming session.
Google gives you other search terms which will pop up as you type:
- Favorite keto dessert recipes easy
- Favorite keto dessert recipes with cream cheese
- Favorite keto dessert recipes quick
And if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there is a list of related searches:
- Keto dessert recipes
- Keto desserts to buy
- Keto desserts cream cheese
- Keto friendly desserts
- Easy keto cheesecake
- Keto desserts with heavy whipping cream
- Keto recipes
These are all keywords you could use as a base for the post you will write. From the list above you will see that some are more general (keto recipes) and some are more specific (keto desserts with heavy whipping cream). This leads into the next point…
What are long-tail keywords and why should you use them?
Long-tail keywords are search terms that include more words and are more specific. ‘Keto recipes’ is not a great long-tail keyword. It is super general – think of how many keto recipes there are. Your new site would be trying to compete with huge websites and blogs that already have their ‘keto recipes’ ranking on the first page of Google. It’s not completely impossible but make things easier on yourself and make your keywords much more specific than this.
For visual people, you want this:
Now onto some plugin assistance. I am very choosy with my plugins (see how to backup your site without plugins) but Yoast makes an amazing plugin for WordPress and this is one I definitely wanted to have. Many, many bloggers use this as a first step in SEO. If you don’t have it installed yet, go ahead and install it. There is a free version for you frugal folks (which is the one I use).
This plugin gives the post that you write in WordPress a readability score and an SEO score. You’ll either get a green light (yay!), a yellow light, or a red light. When I first started out and had no clue what I was doing I got a few green lights, some yellow lights, and even some red (oops!). It will get easier and you will get the hang of it the more you write and the more you learn (including from this post right here that you are already reading – go you!)
At the bottom of the page when you start a post, there will be a place where you type in your keywords. Yoast will guide you as you type up your blog post with hints for optimizing your use of the keywords you entered. It makes it super simple!
Other free keyword research tools I like:
SEO Checklist for beginners second steps: On-site optimization
Just as you are learning to optimize your blog post for search engines, you also want your website overall to be optimized. There are a few simple steps you can do as a beginner that will help improve your site.
Show your authority
A step that is sometimes overlooked but is important for SEO is making sure you have a strong About Me page. This is partly to highlight your unique personality and all-around awesomeness, but it goes further than that. You want to be clear about what your background is and why you are should be trusted to write about your topics. The About Me is a great place to show your authority.
I initially had a pretty weak About Me page. I didn’t know how to talk about my background and accomplishments and so I just didn’t. My first version ended up being a bit fluffy. So I revamped it and it now talks about my degree in computer science and have created websites which can relate to my posts on the slightly more technical side of blogging. I mention that I owned a local organic bakery which ties into writing about entrepreneurship and also the recipes I post. I also talk about my side hustle as a search engine evaluator (and detail how you can do this too if you’re interested!)
When you look at your own About Me page, make sure you talk about why you are an authority on the topics you are writing about. If you feel uncomfortable with this, know that it isn’t bragging. It’s part of telling people your story and will help them trust what you write about.
Show that your site is secure
Another important step in on-site optimization is having a secure site. Many bloggers have already switched their site over to https from http. This is something you will want to look into if your site is still running http. I have a post that shows step by step how to do this yourself (it’s not scary, I promise!): how to convert your site from http to https.
SEO Checklist for beginners third steps: Get social
Once you have your post written with your keyword optimized in all the good places, you can start promoting your awesome content. Promote on Facebook threads, promote on Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram. Depending on your niche and who your readers are, you might want to concentrate on certain platforms over others. You’ll find this out over time.
Comment on other blogs that are in your niche and that you like reading. Leave a genuine and thoughtful comment, not just “thanks for the post!” That is boring and won’t entice anyone to click over to your site to read more of what you have to say.
For some people and some niches, Reddit and other forum sites can be a great place to boost your reputation. Don’t just drop links to your blog posts and run. That is super spammy and won’t be tolerated on the social networks or forums.
Backlinks and guest posting
Guest posting has long been considered a good way to gain backlinks to your site. Backlinks are simply when someone links to your site from theirs. Some links are better than others though! There are ‘nofollow’ links and ‘dofollow’ links. If you are promoting anything or using affiliate links, these should all be nofollow.
A dofollow link from a website that Google likes, will give your site some link juice. If a page that ranks well links to one of your pages, this will give some authority and trustworthiness to your page.
How do you get backlinks?
Some people buy backlinks but you should never do this! This is considered very shady and you will be penalized if caught. It is not worth the risk, plus you want to start your business off in an honest way so just don’t do it.
A good way to get a link to your site is to do a guest post on another site. You will often be offered a link in exchange for your guest post. Make sure you use a relevant one to what you are guest posting about. Don’t link to your post on slow cooker recipes if you are guest posting on a travel site. You want it to make sense. I have heard of some guest posters thinking they were getting a dofollow link but then they found out later it was a nofollow link. You might want to clarify with the owner of the site where you are guest posting.
The main thing to remember with social media is this:
Be helpful. Give more than you expect to get.
If someone is asking a question and you know the answer, help them. Be courteous and build connections online. When you socialize and participate online, people will start to recognize your name. This will help build your authority and trustworthiness which are important components of ranking.
This doesn’t mean you have to be an extroverted super-social person online if this isn’t you. Be genuine and be only as social as you want or feel comfortable being.
- How to make money with a website without selling anything
- How to use Pinterest for business – what works now
- 3 things you need to know when you’re new to MailChimp
- Are bloggers even real writers anyway?
Two bonus tips in the SEO Checklist for beginners:
I personally would not consider these two steps beginner tips, BUT they can be important and very helpful to SEO.
If you feel comfortable with the earlier tips and you want something more, here are a couple things to consider.
Submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools
A sitemap in simple terms just tells a search engine how to search your website. It shows how the pages of your website are linked together. If a search engine has a copy of this map, it helps it crawl your site faster and possibly rank faster too.
If you haven’t set up Webmaster Tools (which is now called Google Search Console fyi), you can do it here. Once your website is set up and verified, click on your url in the Search Console. On the menu on the left side, click on Crawl and then Sitemaps.
Click on the red button on the right that says Add/Test Sitemap.
Remember that handy Yoast plugin? It also has a feature where it creates a sitemap of our website. This is already a really long post so I will write a separate post that breaks this down and link to it when it’s done.
Check out your web pages using PageSpeed Insights
Page speed is important for people to like your website. It’s simple. If your site is super slow, even if it has awesome, useful content, people will not come back because they will be annoyed at the speed. With PageSpeed Insights you can type in the url of one of your pages and it will analyze the speed for you. Better yet, it will give you tips and solutions to improve your speed. This is a part of SEO I’m working on now. My site speed is decent, but I want to make it better 🙂
Final thoughts on SEO and snag the free SEO checklist for beginners
You worked hard on your site and it deserves to be seen. But don’t leave that up to chance. Even a beginner blogger can use simple SEO techniques to help your site rank better and get more eyes on your pages.
You can use this as a handy reminder of some of the main steps to improve your site. I hope it helps you!
⇓ Make sure you pin this post to save it for later ⇓
I’d love to hear how this SEO checklist for beginners helps you!