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The number one complaint I hear from bloggers is they just aren’t getting enough traffic to their blog. That’s an understandable frustration. Without a lot of traffic, you’re not likely going to make a lot of money.
In the course of one year, my blog traffic has increased by 108%! My blog traffic is more than DOUBLE what it was one year ago.
In the blogosphere, everyone is talking about Pinterest and its amazing ability to send you LOADS of traffic.
But…here’s the thing:
- I’ve purchased 3 paid Pinterest courses/ebooks (Pinfinite Growth, Pinterest Traffic Avalanche, and Pinteresting Strategies).
- I’ve been a Pinterest power user for over a year now.
- Pinterest STILL isn’t my number one driver of traffic.
Wanna know what sends me the MOST traffic?
SEO. Search Engine Optimization. Google.
Here’s a screenshot of my Google Analytics dashboard just for the last 30 days. Even with all my Pinterest course knowledge, even with my paid Tailwind scheduler, even with my CONSTANT pinning…Pinterest still makes up only a 10% slice of my traffic pie.
*This blog post has affiliate links, which means I get a commission if you choose to purchase through some of the links I provide (at no extra cost to you).*
My Google Analytics: How SEO Helped More Than Anything Else (Including Pinterest)
Organic Search (mostly Google) increased my traffic by 162% vs. only 23% for social.
Why You Should Care About SEO As a Blogger
- Social networks come and go. Google is PRETTY stable. Remember Myspace? Yeah, me neither. And then look at how the whole #DeleteFacebook movement took off, and how Facebook started making it extremely difficult for businesses to have their content show up in the newsfeed without paying for ads. I’m not a big fan of social networks. Google, on the other hand, is a giant and has been around for a long time. I think it has better staying power.
- Other bloggers (your competitors) don’t know squat about SEO. Unlike Instagram and Pinterest, which EVERY blogger wants to master, no one really talks about SEO as much. It’s not as in-your-face or sexy as a pretty photo on a social network. It’s a little more technical, too, so it tends to get ignored. This is YOUR advantage. Become an expert in something other bloggers are weak in.
- It draws high-quality traffic (AKA those who have a problem that your blog post solves). When you have a question about something, where do you go? Google, of course! Google sends highly qualified traffic to your site because it’s the world’s go-to for information. It’s also excellent at matching people’s search queries to appropriate answers.
- Though it takes longer, it also lasts longer. A post on Facebook or Instagram might get you a boost of traffic today or this week, but in 1 year? Yeah, no one’s gonna be looking at it. With SEO, however, my most popular blog posts are posts I wrote four years ago! THAT is staying power.
SEO for Bloggers: Learn the Vocabulary
Before you even try to understand SEO for bloggers, you need to learn the language. Here are some terms you should know and understand:
- DA (Domain Authority): Domain authority is a score from 1 to 100 that Moz created to try to guess how “authoritative” Google sees your website. The higher, the better. DA is typically boosted when high-quality sites link to yours. You should see your DA gradually climb as you build up your blog. Why is DA important for SEO? Well, the higher your DA, the better chance you have for getting to that #1 spot. It doesn’t work like this 100% of the time, but typically, if Google has two equally high-quality blog posts competing for #1, and Blog A has a DA of 29 but Blog B has a DA of 55, then Blog B is going to get that #1 spot.
- Crawl: Google has “spiders” that “crawl” websites trying to read their information, figure out what they’re about, and then rank those web pages.
- Index: You’ll often hear people say things like, “Oh, my new blog post isn’t indexed yet.” What that means is Google doesn’t list their new blog post in its search engine yet because it hasn’t crawled that page since it’s so new.
- Keyword research: Keyword research involves looking up certain words and phrases that your blog can use to rank well in Google. You can use free tools or premium tools like KeySearch (what I use).
- Buyer keywords: This refers to the keywords people type into Google search when they’re ready to buy something. Obviously, if you want to make money from your blog, these are the keywords you want to target! What’s the difference? For example, a regular keyword might be “travel backpacks.” Sure, lots of people search that, but are they looking to buy? With something that generic, no, probably not. Now, what if someone types in “Minaal travel backpack review”? That’s a buyer keyword! It’s specific, for one, because it includes a brand name. And second, it’s looking for a review. When people are about to buy something, they search for reviews of that product.
- Competition: In the context of keyword research, competition refers to how many other websites are trying to rank for that same keyword. Many premium keyword research tools will also give keywords a “competition score;” the higher the score, the harder it will be to rank for that keyword. With competition, the lower the better.
- Volume: Typically, in keyword research, “volume” refers to how many searches per month there are for that keyword. With volume, the higher the better.
- Interlinking: Interlinking is when you link to another page on your own website. I learned this awesome SEO tactic from this course.
- Backlinks: Backlinks are links from OTHER websites to your OWN website.
- Nofollow: When you “nofollow” a link in your blog post, you essentially tell Google NOT to pass on any “SEO juice” to that link. You might do this for a couple reasons: 1) If someone paid you to place that link in your blog post (such as for a sponsored post), Google requires that you “nofollow” it; if you don’t, you might get penalized by Google. 2) Maybe that website you’re linking to is spammy or bad. Maybe you only linked to it to give an example of what NOT to do. In that case, if you fail to “nofollow” it, Google might see your website as spammy too.
- Dofollow: This is the default of any of your links. “Dofollow” means you’re telling Google’s spiders to follow that link and pass on “link juice” to it. You’re telling Google, “This is a good and trustworthy site that I am linking to.”
SEO For Bloggers: 14 Things You Need to Know to Get More Traffic From Google Search
#1 Yes, your blog needs to be self-hosted.
I know it’s cheaper (free) to use yourblog.wordpress.com, but guess what? Google doesn’t like it. Google sees that and doesn’t think it’s very professional. You NEED to be self-hosted, as in yourblog.com, to boost your SEO. I highly recommend going with self-hosted WordPress. WordPress has a great track record for ranking well in Google because it’s very SEO-friendly. You can read about how to start a self-hosted blog here.
#2 Yes, your blog needs a premium theme.
I know it’s cheaper (free) to have a FREE theme, but Google doesn’t see that as very professional either. Just as WordPress helps you with SEO, getting an SEO-friendly WordPress premium theme can help you rank better in Google too! I use themes from Solo Pine (which I highly recommend).
#3 Make sure your blog is HTTPS.
From the mouth of Google itself: YES, HTTPS IS a ranking signal! That means having a secured site (versus a non-secured HTTP one) can help your blog rank better.
#4 Understand Google Analytics.
I know, every blogger hates Google Analytics. But I have learned to LOVE it. Google Analytics can tell you so many things about your blog and your audience. Learn to love GA!
If you haven’t yet, PLEASE set up a FREE Google Analytics account.
If you haven’t yet, here’s how to link Google Analytics to your blog the EASY way (no coding required!)
The Basics of Google Analytics Vocabulary
- Sessions: This is the number of visits to your site. One session, to Google Analytics, times out at 30 minutes.
- Pageviews: This is the number of pages viewed on your site. So, for example, if one person visited your About page, homepage, and bird feeder blog post, then that one person accounted for 3 pageviews.
The important things to look at in Google Analytics:
- Visitors Overview for last 30 days
This is the best overview of your stats for the past month. Here you can see pageviews, sessions, bounce rate, pages per session, and more. This is a great way to do an overall health checkup on your site’s traffic.
- Acquisition Channels for last 30 days
This shows you which channels are sending you the most traffic—Google (organic search), social media, etc. “Direct” usually means someone entered your blog’s URL in their browser and went directly to your site. “Referral” usually means someone clicked a link on someone else’s site that led to your blog. That means other sites are “referring” traffic to your site.
- Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
This shows you your top 10 most popular blog posts. This is helpful because you should always be tweaking and optimizing your best posts.
- Acquisition > Search Console > Queries
This is EXTREMELY important for SEO! This Google Analytics view shows you which “queries” (AKA “keywords”) are sending you the most traffic! This means you can see the top keywords people type into search that lead them to your site.
#5 Know how to do keyword research.
Every blog post should be preceded by keyword research. While you don’t want keywords to dictate everything you write in your blog post, they should have some weight in determining what angle you will take.
How to Do Keyword Research With KeySearch
KeySearch is what I use (use KSDISC for 20% off!). Of all the paid keyword research tools I’ve tried, KeySearch is the CHEAPEST and it works great, so I can highly recommend it.
Step 1: What do you want to write about?
Pretty basic, but it all starts here. Let’s say you decided to start a gardening blog. You want to write about gardening, homemaking, and landscaping. All right, we’ve got some very broad topics.
Step 2: What problem are you going to solve?
Your broad topic is “gardening.” Now, what problem can you solve with a blog post about gardening? Maybe you want to write a blog post about bird feeders. So now you’ve narrowed it down a little bit to bird feeders. But…what problem can you solve regarding bird feeders? Well, my parents have a bird feeder, and I know that those pesky squirrels often climb the bird feeder and eat the bird seeds! So now we have a problem to solve: how to keep squirrels out of the bird feeder.
Step 3: What type of person has this problem?
If someone is reading a blog post about keeping squirrels out of a bird feeder, you can assume a few things about them:
- They have a yard.
- They have a bird feeder.
- Squirrels get into their bird feeder, and they do not like this.
Step 4: What questions does this person type into Google to help solve this problem?
All right, so now we have this person who has a bird feeder that squirrels keep getting in to. This person opens up their laptop and goes to Google to solve their problem(s). What would they type? Maybe “how to stop squirrels from eating my bird seeds,” “squirrel proof bird feeder,” and “how to keep squirrels out of bird feeder.”
Step 5: Type all your keyword ideas into KeySearch.
So we have our problem: keeping squirrels out of the bird feeder. But if we want to use SEO to skyrocket our blog traffic, we have to make sure this is a problem A LOT of people have and are trying to solve. How do we do that? We go to KeySearch and check those keywords.
- A. Keyword: This is where you type your keyword you want to research.
- B. Competition: This is where you find out how competitive your keyword is, which means how hard it is to rank for it. The lower the score, the better the chance you have of ranking well in Google for it. In this example, the competition is moderate at 44. It’s not ideal, but personally, I’d still try to rank for it. I try to stay away from any “high” competition keywords which are denoted by red scores.
- C. Volume: This is the number of monthly searches a keyword gets. 1,600 is pretty good! I try to go for any keywords with at least 300 monthly searches. Obviously if it has 0, don’t go for it at all.
- D. Top-ranking blog posts for that keyword. This is your competition! These are the exact blog posts that are already ranking for that keyword! Analyze these. Click the URLs to read the posts. You will see information in a chart in KeySearch. What does it mean? DA is important. The higher the DA, the more authoritative that website is. If that DA is HIGHER than your DA, you’re going to have a hard time outranking it. Not always, but usually. Also check “Title, “Desc” and “URL.” If it says “No” underneath those, it means that website has NOT optimized to rank for that keyword. That means you have a leg-up if you DO include keywords in the Title, Description, and URL of your post.
- E. Suggested keywords. KeySearch will suggest other keywords for you to check out that are related to the one you typed in. This is a GOLDMINE. You will probably find great keywords you hadn’t thought of.
- F. Click “Check” to load the competition score for the suggested keyword.
Step 6: Look at competition and volume.
- You want COMPETITION to be LOW.
- You want VOLUME to be HIGH.
Step 7: Explore the other suggested keywords.
Hot diggity! Here’s an example of a GREAT keyword for our example blog post: “squirrel proof bird feeders.”
This is why it is worth typing in a few keyword ideas and exploring other suggested relevant keywords. You might strike gold!
Step 8: Choose a primary keyword and some secondary keywords.
All right, so for this example, our primary keyword for this blog post will be “squirrel proof bird feeders” and our secondary might be “how to keep squirrels out of bird feeder.” That means we want the words “squirrel proof bird feeders” to be prominent throughout the post.
#6 Install Yoast SEO.
Yoast SEO is an extremely basic plugin (and it’s free), but I still use it. It’s a really quick way to ensure you’re including the right amount of keywords in your post.
#7 Place keywords throughout your post.
Here are the places you NEED to put your target keyword:
- A. Title
- B. URL
- C. Heading 2
- D. First line or paragraph of your post
- E. Metadescription
- F. Body
- G. Image file names
- H. Alt tags
#8 Put keywords in your file names too.
Whatever your primary keyword is, be sure to put it at the BEGINNING of your image file name. I usually name my image files “[primary keyword] + brief image description.”
Here’s an example of what that might look like in WordPress (now, obviously, that’s not an actual photo of a bird feeder, but this is just an example!):
While writing your blog post, be sure to link certain words in your post to other relevant blog posts. This helps Google know what your blog is about and can give you an SEO boost. I learned this tactic from this SEO online course.
#10 Link to other quality blog posts that are not yours.
With one caveat: Do NOT link to a blog post that is targeting the SAME keyword as yours. That’s a competing post, so to link to it would be counterproductive.
This is territory that can get VERY spammy. I don’t actively seek out backlinks, though most SEO experts will tell you this is where you should spend most of your time.
Sharon Gourlay of DigitalNomadWannabe has a helpful email course on how to get more backlinks.
While there’s no hard proof, it’s likely that social media helps SEO. So the more likes, tweets, and shares you can get on a post, the more of a signal you are sending to Google that, “Hey, this is a great blog post!”
#13 Your blog’s loading time matters!
If it takes your blog a long time to load, it could be hurting your SEO. There is a lot that goes in to speeding up your blog, so if you want the quick-and-easy way to fix your blog load times, I recommend hiring iMark Interactive to do it for you (I’m a long-time customer of theirs!).
#14 Ignore EVERYTHING I just said and try to write THE most thorough and helpful post in the world.
While many people try to game the system (some using really spammy tactics), the key to remember is that Google is VERY smart. The algorithm knows when you’re being a spammer. Google has created its algorithm to find the BEST quality content that BEST answers a user’s search query. With that in mind, the best thing you can do as a blogger is write the most helpful and thorough blog post possible. Do that, and you’re sure to rank better than if you simply try to stuff a blog post with keywords.
How to Write a Blog Post Google (and Readers) LOVE
Step 1: Identify a problem.
It’s simple, but bloggers don’t think about it enough: The ONLY way your blog post will be HELPFUL to readers is if it solves a problem.
Step 2: Imagine a person who has that problem.
To know how to write the most helpful blog post possible, you have to know who you’re helping.
Step 3: Imagine you are sitting down with the person who has that problem. What questions are they asking you?
If it helps, you can write your entire blog post as a question-and-answer format. The questions your reader is asking should be H2 headings. Your answers can be the paragraph body text beneath each H2 heading.
Step 4: Google your keywords and see what others have written about this problem.
Time to scope out the competition. What are the top two posts in Google search on this exact keyword? Read them.
Step 5: Do NOT copy their info—instead, find out what they LEFT OUT, and add that to your post!
Now, do NOT plagiarize. What you’re doing here is trying to find their weak spots: What are the things these top two posts left out? Which questions go unanswered? It’s your job to one-up them by hitting them in their weak spots—answer the questions they failed to answer! That will make your blog post better than theirs. And therefore, that will make your blog post more likely to outrank theirs.
The True Power of SEO for Bloggers: The Ability to FORECAST Traffic!
There is something you can do with SEO that you CANNOT do with Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook: Forecast how much traffic your blog will get in, say, 3 months.
How? Well, with keyword research tools, you can see the volume (monthly searches) a keyword gets. If you know SEO and you’re confident you can get the #1 spot for that keyword, then you have some very valuable data.
Let’s look at an example of how to forecast with SEO:
- Let’s say you need 10,000 more visits this month to reach your traffic goal.
- Do the math: That means you need to write 10 blog posts that target keywords with 1,000 monthly searches each. Or, you need to write 5 blog posts that target keywords with 2,000 monthly searches each. You get the idea, right?
- So now you have a specific and measurable way to forecast your traffic—something you cannot do with any other channel! (Unless you pay for ads.)
You see, with SEO, it’s all a numbers game! You can reverse engineer your blog traffic goals.
Tracking Progress: SEO Is a Long-Term Game. You’ve Got to Keep an Eye on Your Keywords and Posts
You have to track your blog posts to see how they’re performing. Sometimes a blog post I write doesn’t reach the #1 spot in Google until 6 months later! But once it does, oh my gosh, the traffic is insane. Plus, it’s quality traffic. Be patient. Keep tweaking.
That’s why I track my keyword rankings in KeySearch (see why I love this tool??). Here’s what that looks like based on our bird feeder example:
There IS a Downside to SEO
Just as Instagram and Pinterest can change their algorithms and cause you to lose traffic, Google can do the same. In fact, it’s common for Google to release an update and some sites to completely lose their rankings or be “deindexed,” meaning they don’t show up in search at all. Now, typically this only happens to spammy sites that were trying to game the system (Google is smart, remember?), but the take-home message is this: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. While Google is my favorite traffic referrer, it’s best to have your traffic spread out in multiple channels. That’s why I recommend focusing on Pinterest second. That way, if you lose your Google traffic, you still have a good chunk coming from Pinterest and vice versa.
Things You Should NEVER Do: These Are Things That HURT Your SEO and Could Get Your Site Penalized By Google
- Buy links. This was an old “black hat SEO” tactic that Google now penalizes. Basically, people would email a blog and say, “Hey, if you link to my blog post, I’ll pay you $50.” That was a way to guarantee they’d get backlinks, but it’s unethical and Google doesn’t like it because Google doesn’t want to be “pay to play.” Some people still do it, but again, Google will likely penalize your site if you do this.
- Get paid for links. Now, on the other end, people might email YOU and ask for you to link back to their site for payment. You CAN do this WITHOUT getting penalized by Google if you make those paid links “nofollow.” However, most SEOs who email you about this will NOT accept a “nofollow” link because then they don’t get SEO juice. Turn these spammers down.
- Write spammy articles. If you write worthless articles that are just stuffed with keywords in the hopes of ranking well in Google…yeah, it ain’t gonna work.
- Plagiarize. This should go without saying, but you should NEVER plagiarize, as in, copy other people’s work. If you do this, Google will penalize you because it doesn’t like duplicate content.
- Fail to disclose sponsored/affiliate work. You risk getting penalized if you do not disclose affiliate links or sponsored posts. Basically, you need to say something along the lines of “This blog post was sponsored by [brand name]” if a company paid you to write that post about them. The same with affiliate links. You’ll notice I disclosed them in this post. You have to say something like “this blog post has affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you purchase through my links.”
Let’s Recap: How to Master SEO for Bloggers TODAY
- Make sure your blog is self-hosted. If you want to make money blogging, you need to invest in a self-hosted blog, not a free one.
- Make sure your blog is HTTPS. You can switch to HTTPS in 5 minutes.
- Get an SEO-friendly premium WordPress theme. Same goes for the theme. Free ones are fine for hobby bloggers, but if you want to be a professional blogger, get a professional theme. This is the theme I use.
- Improve your blog’s speed. iMark Interactive will do this for you.
- Invest in a keyword research tool. This is my secret weapon! A premium keyword research tool will help you outsmart the competition. Use KSDISC for 20% off my favorite keyword research tool.
- Get to know and love Google Analytics! It’s FREE and it tells you SO MUCH about your blog’s traffic. You can get tons of free educational resources about Google Analytics from Google itself.
- Write long, thorough, high-quality blog posts. Forget trying to game the system; just try to be the most helpful person out there! DO NOT worry about posting every day or even every week! Go for quality, not quantity. I sometimes went months without posting.
Phew! What a post! I hope you walk away with some actionable advice on SEO for bloggers. Remember, SEO is a long-term game; it takes time, but it also lasts longer and is more reliable than fickle social media.
You might want to read these next:
- How I Grew My Blog Traffic to 67,000 Pageviews a Month
- How to Monetize a Blog
- 6 Best Affiliate Programs for New Bloggers